Adventure Review: Party of One: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach by Matthew J. Hanson from Open Design

Many moons ago, when I was but a lad, I think I read every single Choose Your Own Adventure book at the public library and my elementary school library. Once I got to junior high, I discovered D&D and I was off to the races -but those CYOA books offered a great introduction to some of the sometimes disjointed storytelling (and multiple options) that gaming provided.

So when I heard the kobolds were working on a new series of one-player adventures, I have to admit to a bit of nostalgia for those CYOA days. And lo and behold we started to see this new Party of One series of modules start to appear in March with Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach and Elgar Fletch and the Dark Army and Alosar Emanli and the Creatures From the Fallen Star which is out in April.

Not only is this series meant as a good way to get your gaming fix with no gaming group or GM needed, but it’s also a great way to become familiar with some of the different concepts that appear in Pathfinder and D&D such as attack rolls, ability checks, and skill rolls. This could offer a good way to get new gamers involved by breaking them into the jargon gently and offering a safe approach to explore tabletop RPGs on their own. And all you need are a few dice (or a die roller for your phone, tablet, or computer), a pencil, and some paper to get started.

Kalgor Bloodhammer deals with a young dwarven warrior in the Bloodhammer Clan by the name of Kalgor who is trying to become one of the Iron Shields, a group of elite guards who protect the city from outside threats. Of course as all adventures go, things are never as simple as that and Kalgor must discover what’s going on when a group of ghouls invade the city. Weighing in at 14 pages, this is a short PDF that offers quite a nice mix of elements: combat, key choices in what to do, where to go, and what to defend, and a solid ending that should offer a satisfactory ending to the story.

Now, funny enough… I didn’t survive the adventure. Poor Kalgor died on my watch and the world dissolved into darkness. (I swear my dice are cursed – even the virtual ones!) And though I think I could play through it again, I worry about the replayability factor for anyone attempting it. Sure, you might make different choices, but ultimately it’s like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray… Eventually you’ll get tired of it and move on.

My other big issue is with diversity in this adventure and the others I’ve played through. When my daughter (age 11) played through Elgar Fletch, she wanted to know why the hero had to be a guy. And when I looked at the three Party of One adventures so far, they’re all from a male perspective. In a world where we’re seeing many women gamers, wouldn’t it be good to start early and offer that choice? Alternate male and female perspectives in these different adventures or build in options for the player to select a gender in each.

Lastly, usability-wise I’m wondering why these PDFs aren’t hyperlinked. Why not hyperlink between the various numbered stages? I ended up printing out the adventures to go through them more easily, but including links would make me much more likely to try them on my iPad directly rather than killing trees. (A map of locations probably would have helped too, but I think the lack of a map gives it a bit of a Zork feel…)

Beyond that, I like the layout by Rick Hershey and the art from Hugo Solis. There are a good number of images throughout the adventure and the layout uses white space well. My one nit here is the use of color coding in the text. Color (especially for a large number of color-blind male readers) is a tough way to distinguish things on the page. And when you print the books on a black and white printer the colored text fades in places making it more difficult to read. Perhaps the use of a graphical element (box or icon) would work instead of the text color?

Do I like this idea for a series of single-player adventures? Heck yes! Do I think there are some issues? Yeah. But at $3, I think there’s a ton of potential for using these to introduce new recruits to the wonders of tabletop roleplaying games. Great work Wolfgang and company!

Pick up Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG or at the Kobold Quarterly store today!

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