This week I'm taking a look at a collection of short (2-3 page) adventures published by Kobold Press and entitled: "Prepared! A Dozen Adventures for Fifth Edition" Billed as a supplement for those who were unexpectedly pressed into running an adventure, or who didn't have enough time to prepare for their ongoing game, or perhaps those who just want to run a one-shot game on-the-fly, this book (or PDF) presents the reader with several short adventures that can be played through with very little preparation. Let's dive in and take a closer look, and I'll tell you what I think.
A lot of the time I start these reviews by talking a little bit about production quality, but I usually don't dwell on this to much when it comes to well-established publishers like Kobold Press. That's because I don't feel like I have to tell you that the production quality and artwork are top-notch, because that is exactly what you should expect from a publisher of this caliber.
That said, allow me to rave a little bit about the production quality here. I love how concise each of these adventures are, and how each is laid out in a logical and consistent manner. Each adventure provides a little bit of plot and background information and then presents all of the "Adventure Elements" (Labelled: Adventure Element A, B, C...etc.) under their own headings which provided relevant details about that particular element. Everything is very easy to understand and the internal consistency from adventure to adventure is really appreciated. Also, the artwork and maps that accompany each adventure are just outstanding. All of the maps are full color, unique, and easy to understand. Were it not for the fact that one of these adventures (A Bad Night For Betting) makes references to locations in the "Adventure Elements" section that are not present on the map all of this would be perfect. As it stands, the aforementioned omissions are only a minor inconvenience.
Moving beyond artwork and on to the adventures themselves, I'm happy to say that there is still quite a bit to like.
First, there is a good range of difficulty presented here, with four of the twelve adventures being designed for levels five and under, four being designed for levels six thru nine, and four being designed for levels nine thru fifteen. Most of the adventures are designed for a one or two level range (levels 1-2, 6-9, 11-13, etc.) and could easily be adjusted up or down somewhat if necessary.
Second, for the most part the adventures do a good job of not being too generic while also not being so specific as to make them difficult to insert into an ongoing story. While a few of the adventures presented do cross this line and beg for a bit more backstory or follow-up adventures, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. So whether you are looking for an episodic side-trek or something that provides some inspiration and ideas that you could flesh out into an ongoing story you can probably find something here that you can use.
If there is a downside to this mixture of generic and specific, it's that the higher level adventures mostly tend towards the latter, and of course the higher level your characters are the more likely it is that they are already following a specific story arc, so you won't necessarily need or want an adventure with the potential to send them off on a different arc. To be fair, the onus for this lopsided distribution isn't even entirely on this publication, since it is generally more difficult to design generic encounters for higher level parties.
Most of the adventures presented here should probably take about one game session to get through, which is perfect, but a few of the more straightforward scenarios can probably be completed in much less time, which might be a problem if you are unprepared and need an entire session worth of material (i.e.: the exact situation that the product claims it was designed to address). Still, it probably wouldn't be too hard to stretch out the shorter adventures, and doing so would still require less preparation time than designing an adventure from scratch.
All in all, this is a fantastic product that delivers what it intends to deliver, and it should provide a wealth of high quality adventure options to dungeon masters who are either in a bind or want to dive into something with little or no preparation. At only $4.99 picking up the PDF by itself is almost a no-brainer, but before you pay $14.99 for the 24 page print copy and the PDF you'll want to decide for yourself how many of these adventures you'll realistically use. If (like me) you're frequently unprepared, or you and your group enjoy running a lot of one-shot adventures you probably can't go wrong with the hard copy, but also it probably still isn't absolutely necessary.
One final caveat: a few of the adventures (at least four?) present monsters that are only available in the Tome of Beasts (also sold by Kobold Press), so if you don't have that book you will either have to get it, not use those adventures, or come up with a suitable replacement for the monsters presented. I can't fault Kobold Press for making use of the rest of their product line in their supplements, but this does make "Prepared!" potentially less useful for those of us who don't already own the Tome of Beasts, so I felt I would be remiss if I didn't make mention of this fact.