King's Festival was an adventure module for the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game (more specifically it was designed for the "Red Box"/"Rules Cyclopedia" version of the game, but it works well with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and should convert to Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition with little trouble). This adventure is best used with first or second level characters.

This particular module was written by Carl Sargent and featured art by Clyde Caldwell and Valerie Valusek, and of course the world famous "Diesel" did the maps. The adventure was originally published in 1989 (ISBN # 0-88038-746-7, TSR product number 9260), and has subsequently been republished in pdf format and is available at the Wizards Online Store for $5. It is also theoretically available on the gnutella network, (in theory the search string "TSR9260" would find it, but don't ask me because I have no knowledge of such things).

The story begins

The adventure takes place in the town of Stallanford in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Our intrepid heroes find themself at the "Hungry Halfling" inn and go to sleep for the night. But they are awoken by a commotion! There has been an orc raid, and the town cleric has been kidnapped!

This is far from the worst opening scene ever published, but it really isn't that great. Sticking closely to cliche allows to the players to quickly identify with the game and the mission. But I would have liked to have seen an adventure that did not start in a tavern and didn't involve rescuing a princess (this time it was a cleric instead of a princess, but plotwise it is identical).

An old woodsman quickly steps forward and claims to be able to track the orcs. This woodsman (Janner) will lead the player to the orcs hideout, but will not go inside with them. "Head for those caves. That’s where the orcs’ll be. I wish I could come with you, but an old man like me would slow you down." Once inside the players quickly encounter drunken orcish guards along with a few twists (such as a giant ferret, a hunting spider, and a bugbear who is merely visiting on business). Eventually the players will get to the throneroom of the orcish chieftain and rescue the cleric along with a halfling that no one even knew was missing. The cleric (Aralic) will need to be escorted back to town, but he points out a hidden door to a lower level of the dungeon complex, and suggests the players come back and check it out.

I like what the designers did here. They put in lots of little details that can actually be used in the game (what the orcs in each room are doing, etc), without going to the extreme of providing ungodly detailed histories about everything, which is the route that so many AD&D modules tend to take. The final battle of this chapter leaves something to be desired, as it can be conquered with a simple sleep spell (which is the one spell that any smart low-level mage will memorize).

The second chapter

The players then return to the dungeon to brave the second level. This second floor is far more dangerous, with zombies and skeletons around every corner. They eventually encounter (and hopefully defeat) an evil cleric who had been making the undead in the first place. They should find a note on a corpse that leads the directly into the next module in the series, Queen's Harvest.

The second half of the adventure is short on plot, but long on action. There are simply more creatures to battle. Sadly enough the final battle with the evil cleric (Petrides) is a cakewalk, and even damaged characters should defeat him easily (if he loses iniative the first round, then he will probably end up dead before he ever attacks).

What is good about this module?

First off this module is very easy to run, and should be playable in a single session, unless you have the kind of players who take hours to do anything. Secondly, this module sticks to fairly common types of enemies and should convert to your system of choice with very little work on your part.

What is bad about this module?

This module needlessly introduces two new monsters when there were already equivalent monsters in the game to begin with. They introduced the "Giant Hunting Spider" when the "Crab Spider" would have been fine. They also added the "Red Worm" when there were already plenty of giant insects in the pre-existing stable of D&D monsters.

This adventure also casually rewards the players with an artifact level magic item, the Staff of Healing. This item is one of the most powerful items that exists in the "Red Box" D&D universe, and this module just tosses one out for first level characters to find. The Staff of Healing can heal an unlimited number of people per day, but can only affect a single person once per day. It may not seem all that powerful, but give one to an army and see if that army ever loses another battle.

My overall impression

This is a fairly decent release. I would probably remove the Staff of Healing from it, but otherwise I would run it as written.

sabby suggests leaving the staff of healing in, but changing it to a special one that will only function six times a day.

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