DMs Guild Review – The Surrounded

In this one-shot adventure with pre-made characters, the biggest danger is your fellow party members.

dms guild review

A review copy of “The Surrounded” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Erdem Acır

D&D is a team-based game. DMs often ban evil or “chaotic stupid” player characters to mitigate in-fighting, and players are typically discouraged from stealing from or thwarting each other.

The Surrounded turns all that around by providing a one-shot with premade characters, each of whom has a secret. They have a shared goal, but once they reach the end all hell breaks loose.

The Surrounded is a 10-page one-shot featuring stock art and a mostly plain layout – but does include full color region and non-gridded battle maps. The adventure takes place in Cormyr in the Forgotten Realms, as the Queen has summoned heroes to recover a stolen gold dragon egg from a red dragon lair.

Before the adventure begins the players are assigned four different pre-built characters, ranging from level 10 to 14. Most importantly, the DM privately tells each player their character’s hidden secret.

Sir Gawain’s secret is that he really doesn’t have one; he is who he says he is, a stalwart Purple Dragon Knight. His goal is to follow the Queen’s commands, and recover the egg for the good of the kingdom.

Sir Robert and Father Tristram were ambushed on their way to the summons, and replaced by Zhentarim agents. They’re a bit lower level than the others, but they’re also working together toward the goal of recovering the egg for their faction and selling it to the highest bidder.

The wizard, Varius, is actually an ancient red dragon who has been transformed into a wizard. He can break the enchantment, but only by using a dragon egg as a material component.

Thus each adventurer has reason to work together to recover the egg, and the right motivation to keep it for their respective faction (or in the red dragon’s case, himself).

dms guild review

It’s an intriguing setup, though the bulk of the adventure is fairly mundane as the party sets off toward the red dragon lair, crossing a river and fighting off some lizardfolk minions before reaching the lava-filled cavern.

The adventure presumes the PCs will cooperate all the way to the end, including fighting the Adult Red Dragon together. I have to imagine some bold players may try to shove someone in the lava, or otherwise signify their betrayal during the big dragon fight – if not before!

When the dragon is defeated, an illusory bridge leads the party to the dragon’s hoard, including the stolen egg. From here the adventure just sort of stops, handing the reigns over to the duplicitous player characters.

I found this final section lacking in information and detail. For example, the wizard/dragon character needs to cast his ritual spell for two rounds to break his enchantment and turn back into an Ancient Red Dragon. Does he require Concentration that whole time? Does he need to be touching the egg? Can he do any other actions?

In the best case scenario the players all turn on each other at the same time, creating a thrilling moment that gives everyone a chance to shine. But the story could just as easily devolve into a cruel and petty conflict as some players are knocked out or defeated through no fault of their own. The adventure doesn’t try to prepare or plan for any of these issues.

The included character “sheets” are also woefully lacking. I put sheets in quotes as they don’t use the standard NPC statblocks or player character sheets of 5e. They’re just thrown together templates that list ability scores and equipment. No saves, no spell-list for the cleric, etc. If you’re going to give players specific premade characters to play you need to provide fully completed character sheets.

The idea of a twist PvP ending is interesting, and one that can probably only be accomplished via premade characters and hidden secrets. But I wish more attention and care could be paid to the actual betrayal and the steps the PCs can take to help or hinder their fellow party members along the way, rather than leaving it all up to the players at the very end.

Pros:

  • Intriguing PvP setup features pre-made characters with dark secrets.
  • Full color region and battle maps (grid-less).
  • Monster tactics sidebar for combat encounters.

Cons:

  • The climactic betrayal is left entirely up to the players.
  • Pre-made characters are incomplete.

The Verdict: Player infighting is typically discouraged in D&D, but The Surrounded offers an interesting twist on PvP D&D courtesy of a shared agenda and dark secrets.

A review copy of “The Surrounded” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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