RPG Review: Following the Tracks by Wilderling

Welcome back to our series of reviews of some of the works from the Fall 2020 RPG Writer Workshop. Each review will be followed with a brief chat with its author(s) where we will be delving a bit deeper into some of the aspects that most intrigued me. Every two days there will be a new review and mini-interview out, so keep tuned to discover some of the amazing things that these bright new authors are coming up with.

Spoiler warning: It is simply not practical to review a product without mentioning anything about it. I have attempted to remain vague where possible, however I can not guarantee that you will not learn something about the adventure by reading this review.

Declaration of interest: I am part of the affiliate program for OneBookShelf. If you use the links provided in this article to purchase a product I get a small kickback from it.

Cover image of Following the Tracks by Wilderling

Following the Tracks by Wilderling

An adventure for Pathfinder 1e, included in the DriveThruRPG RPG Writer Workshop bundle.

Review

The mission is deceptively simple: find and return the absolutely adorable escaped lilipotamuses, but all isn’t quite as it seems. Will your players heart’s melt for these flowered hippos? Or will the impressive rewards on offer tempt them into more dubious choices? This adventure takes the characters through several captivating biomes, whilst forcing them to make a tough decision between what is right and what is profitable. The adventure follows a Y shaped path, with a singular starting point that splits into two possible branches, and therefore two possible endings. These two paths provide a considerable contrast between them, both in themes covered and encounters… encountered, making for an interesting choice for the players.

The module starts with an optional opening scene introducing the players to the savanna environment that the adventure takes place in. This is a nice way of letting the players know that this isn’t the traditional “medieval European countryside” setting that is often the default in adventures, though it can be skipped if time is of the essence. After this the adventure proper gets started with a well though out scene that provides the players with all they need to know, whilst instilling a sense of urgency and adventure. The quest givers are likable, which should help in not only making the players more willing to take up their quest, but also make the future moral choices even harder. The author leaves no stone unturned however, and provides you with hooks to continue the adventure even if you’re running the module for a group of murders, an always helpful “just in case” tool.
The rest of the adventure involves tracking down the lost lilipotamuses (hence the title), but most of the meat will be found in what happens next, as your players have to decide what to do with these critters, and their “captors”, once they have them in their sights. It’s at this point that the adventure splits into two parts, with two very distinct sentiments.

The characters are faced with the choice between keeping their word to the quest giver, or renegading on their deal for what appears to be a better moral choice. If you have someone that really loves roleplaying Lawful Good characters, or even if you have a mix of characters some lawful and some good, then this is going to be a very interesting choice. More morally dubious characters won’t be left out however, as doing what seems right will mean sacrificing a considerable reward.
The “lawful” path will lead to a very satisfying in-depth fight, which should make for a very exciting climax to the adventure, but will require the DM being able to control multiple NPCs. The adventure then winds down nicely, providing a few fun little activities to let everyone cool off after the fight and ends on a high note which should satisfy your players.

The “good” path is much more whimsical in nature. There is less fighting involved but the exploration elements are at the fore, with the discovery of an entirely new biome (no spoilers) and and some very interesting mini-games and activities. These are delightful and make for a very nice change to traditional more combat orientated gameplay.

In conclusion, this adventure really activates the roleplaying and exploration elements of the game, and adapts well to the personalities of your group. It has some really innovative ideas, and the descriptions of both the locations and the NPCs are well-written and memorable. This adventure should stick in the mind of your players long after they have finished it.

Behind the Screens

Hello Wilderling, thanks for agreeing to this interview. To start, we really need to address the hippo in the room. Lilipotamuses.They’re just so adorable and creative. Where did the idea come from?

Hehehe, short answer: from hippopotamuses.
There is a lack of creatures for non-European fantasy, so I often have to create new creatures to address this gap for my games. Sometimes I base them in real creatures from folklore, but other times, I just create something myself. The lilipotamus is the fey version of the hippopotamuses found in the material plane. I wanted something “small” like pygmy hippos but that could still defend themselves. And of course, with a touch of fey.

In addition to the Lilipotamuses, you’ve also fleshed out your world with some really great animals and beasts that fit the setting. It was great to be able to Google them and discover animals that I’d never heard of before (the Jewelled Drongo is perhaps my new favourite name for an animal). You also provide random tables that flesh out the world with some atypical encounters on them, and you’ve really worked at making each of the NPCs stand out, with distinct personalities and back stories. Have you always been an avid worldbuilder, or was their something particular about this adventure that brought it out in you?

Thanks, I’m really glad that you enjoyed the creatures!
After my childhood, I had honestly not done much worldbuilding or anything similar if you do not count creating characters for ttrpgs. But then, a couple of years ago I started having an idea for a fantasy world to play Pathfinder in. I tried taking some notes to take it out of my mind, but then more and more ideas started sprouting… So I decided to take the leap, get a WorldAnvil subscription, and pour all my ideas into my homebrew world. Two years later, I am still worldbuilding and creating! I have players who get to enjoy the world I created, and I participate in quite a few worldbuilding challenges that take place in WorldAnvil. It’s definitely never too late to start! This adventure is just one of the many things I have created these last couple of years.

One of the most striking things about this module is the environment. The characters discover plains, thickets, lush woodlands, and possibly even more. There really seems to have been an effort made to show all the different aspects of the savanna. Was this a conscious decision on your part to confront players with a less traditional setting?

Most definitely! Our world has so much more to offer than northern-hemisphere inspired environments. As a biologist, I have had the privilege to study and work in a variety of environments, including African savannahs. I use this knowledge to inspire me when building adventures and the world in general.

There is a quite clear pivot point in the centre of your module, where the characters make a choice that sends them down one leg of the trousers of adventure or the other. It can be difficult when designing an adventure to say “well, there is part of this adventure that you’ll never see because you made a different choice”. It’s a bold choice to make from a design point of view. Why provide this choice, rather than a more linear adventure, or just tell the GM that it’s up to them to decide what happens if their players go off book?

I did not want to assume what player’s characters will decide. During the design of the adventure, one of the core “tenets” was decision making. As a player, I like it when my actions have consequences (even if I don’t like the consequences themselves). It makes the world feel a lot more real; the actions of my character that much more important. As a GM, I also appreciate more rather than less guidance. So, I tend to design, or at least prepare, for likely character decisions.
That said, the GM running the game has the last word, so they can run this adventure whichever way they want. I have provided alternative hooks and suggestions, but probably each GM will run the adventure a bit differently, probably tailored to their player’s preferences. Hopefully, my suggestions will mean that the GM has to do less work on the fly. The adventure also includes things that not all GMs may think about, such as including a little clue in druidic, which only groups with a druid will get to experience, for example. That paragraph is not a lot considering the whole adventure, but it may mean a lot to a person playing a druid who has never had the chance of spotting druidic in their games.

To follow up on the different paths in your adventure, how did you go about making them “balanced”? We’re you worried that one path was more interesting that the other, or that the players would be disappointed by their choice?

I tried to make each path unique but satisfying to play. The truth is that the players will most likely only experience one path, and only the GM will know what they missed. So I focused on making both branches interesting and rewarding in their own way.
I was not overly worried about it, but I did get a comment from someone who read a draft of the adventure which worried me. It basically said that one branch was more interesting and that I could remove the other path. Other people that had read the adventure did not seem to share that concern necessarily, but it still made me examine both paths more thoroughly. I ended up adding a little mechanic in the other path which I think works well to reinforce it.

You’ve kindly decided to donate 10% of the sales from this module to a hippo sanctuary. Do you mind telling us your favourite hippo fact?

Yes, I have. Hippos inspired me for this adventure, so it seemed right. Even if it is not a lot of money, I hope it will help in their conservation.
My favourite hippo fact has to be that hippos are not only found in rivers and lakes, but also on the sea! In coastal areas where hippos are still around, hippos may go down to the beach for a swim in the waves! It is something I would love to see with my own eyes one day…

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

If you like including wilderness and planar things in your games definitely check out Following the Tracks. And if you want to see more of my worldbuilding, you can check out my world here.

You can find the adventure on DriveThruRPG here, and more work by Wilderling here, you can also follow her on Twitter!

Untill next time, be more kind,

TTFN,

Sam

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