Hey all! Today we’re looking at Target Run by Geoffrey Golden, a low-level adventure for D&D 5e inspired by classic sports comedy films. It’s an ambitious concept, and while it might be a bit rough around the edges in certain spots, overall it executes well on some exceptional ideas!
Let’s dig in.
The blurb tells us that Target Run is inspired by Caddyshack and Mighty Ducks, but the film that came back to me the most while going through its pages was Cool Runnings. At its heart, it’s a story about overcoming social norms and prejudice to follow your dreams. This can be a hard concept to fit into an RPG adventure, as we’ll discuss below, but it remains a very enjoyable one that manages to provide a satisfying resolution about overcoming adversity while still remaining relatively light in tone.
However, for this story to work then there must be some form of adversity to overcome. In this case, it’s social exclusion due to fantasy racism (quite on the nose in places), which might be uncomfortable for some tables, especially if you want to keep the tone light. You might want to spend a bit of time thinking about what sort of prejudice or preconception your group would enjoy facing and adapting as needed.
The plot itself revolves around the childhood dream of Tasvan, a dwarf that wants to join in the elven archery-based sport of Alligan 1. The PCs will meet Tasvan outside an elven resort which is also the home of the Alligan championship team, and accompany her on her quest to join a team and prove herself. To do so they will have to beat the elven champions in a match which forms the climax of the adventure and is one of its strongest aspects. On the way, they will have opportunities to explore the spa resort for a bit of fun and social interaction.
Creating a mini-game within the confines of D&D that actually works well is no easy feat, but Alligan comes close. It’s is nicely interactive, and is rooted in D&D’s combat mechanics which are among its more robust rules, whilst still remaining very accessible to players who will grasp the concept quickly. As written, there is also room for a DM to add extra rules or tests (especially when it comes to the ‘pixie trick’ table, where I would have liked more concrete impacts rather than a purely narrative description) should they want to add a bit more depth.
The social dynamics are another strong part of the scenario, with plenty of characters to interact with, including some that are more sympathetic to the PCs which helps balance out the rather disagreeable main antagonists. Talking about the opponents: they’re so good. The author has provided quite a bit of dialogue that you can use (as well as for Tasvan, the protagonist) that is perfectly in theme with a comedy sports movie. I would advise taking some time before the game however to think up some good insults to use on the player characters, and to work out the relationship between the main antagonist and Tasvan.
This leads us to some of the limits of the adventure which boil down to two main problems I have with it: the importance of the NPCs and a general lack of polish. For the first point, it’s important to understand that Tasvan is the protagonist of this adventure, not the player characters. Now, helping an NPC can be a great catalyst to an adventure, but it’s fragile, especially when the party has only just met them. If they fail to hit it off with Tasvan then there is very little reason for them to feel invested in the result of her quest. There is also the very real risk of the PCs feeling that they are secondary to the plot, rather than its main actors. The DM will have to balance carefully the need to make Tasvan an interesting character against the party’s agency (and avoid the pitfall of making her a DMPC).
The second point is that the writing lacks polish (as is often the case in smaller projects), notably in its technical aspects. There is nothing major (despite what the style guide says, few people will be confused about what is meant by ‘making’ a check, rather than ‘succeeding’ one), but the Alligan rules could benefit from being more precise in their wording and I’d be careful with the opening fight against the Guard Hawks which would prove fatal for a level 1 party (the adventure is written for a tier 1 party, but there is a quite a difference in survivability between a level 1 character and a level 3). There are also points where some of the text assumes a certain order of events or player reactions which isn’t always guaranteed, or where it refers to something particular that doesn’t seem to actually be referenced elsewhere in the document. As I said, nothing major but I highly advise that the DM reads the entire adventure before playing so as not to slip up on anything.
Target Run succeeds in its goal to create a fun and relaxing adventure in the style of a sports comedy. It provides a surprisingly deep zone to explore and an actual functioning mini-game within the confines of D&D 5e rules which is no easy feat, all accompanied by a striking and evocative art style. It’s not flawless, and I wouldn’t suggest it for a first-time DM, but there is nothing here that can’t be overcome with a bit of prep and knowledge of your players’ preferences.
While it’s billed as an adventure for a tier 1 party, it can easily be adapted for higher-level characters thanks to its non-combat nature. It can easily slip into many campaigns as a one-shot to add some levity, though I can especially imagine someone using the rules for Alligan in Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos in the form of a campus sports activity.
You can find Target Run on the DMsGuild here, and you can follow Geoffrey’s on Twitter here. You can also sign up for his newsletter to keep up with his work and get some very cool “choose your own adventure” emails!
Until next time, be more kind,
- Which for some inexplicable reason always makes me think of aligot, which is a French cheese and potatoes dish.
Review copy provided by the author.