FIVEY Playtest: Justice for Neverwinter!
I ran my homebrew ruleset FIVEY for the first time using the first adventure in the Justice for Neverwinter series, originally (sorta kinda) written for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. It turned out to be a lot of fun! Though not because of the adventure.
I feel like I need to explain what this adventure is and justify using it. Justice for Neverwinter is a series of mediocre railroaded adventures that try their very best to model political situations through a gushily rad-lib lens (“peaceful protest!”). The first adventure in the series is about a factional dispute between a mining company (called ForestCo, obviously), its overworked employees, and a tribe of kobolds whose land the company stole to build their mine and company town.
The adventurers are sent by ForestCo to deal with the kobold problem by whatever means, but soon they realize the plight of the kobolds and the workers (who are somewhat overeager to work together, even unprompted by the party). The storyline culminates in a grand quest to collect signatures from the workers and establish a union, which the company’s security guards oppose by violence but are instead overcome by reason and peaceful protest (and non-mortal combat, because killing people is illegal).
This adventure became infamous in my friend group for its stupid grasp on politics and its excess of anime girl feet art (?). I’ve actually threatened to run it for a while, using D&D proper or otherwise, but it wasn’t until lately that I felt like my homebrew heartbreaker FIVEY has been decently fleshed out. So I offered to run our most least favorite adventure for funsies and also to give FIVEY a test run. It was the first adventure by someone else I have ever run, actually; I don’t read adventures for the same reason I don’t write them!
Enebish (Nova of Playful Void) and Danesle (Sandro of Fail Forward) are new employees of ForestCo tasked by regional manager Angward Stonemar to deal with a “rat problem” in a recently established company town. Both characters have past experience exterminating vermin, with Enebish being a lightning mephit catcher and Danesle once being trapped in a dungeon for six days to kill rats. The evening before they began their week-long journey to the town of Animals Crossing, Enebish decided to take advantage of a ForestCo free sample vendor to upgrade her weapons for free (don’t ask); Danesle, meanwhile, hustled himself a ForestCo brand blunderbuss by putting it on Stonemar’s card. That’s what family is there for and, here at ForestCo, you’re family.
Enebish and Danesle hitch a ride with Manyr, a stoner wagoneer contracted by ForestCo. Their first day of travel is uneventful (okay…) until the party is interrupted at dinner by a pack of ravenous werewolves desperately tearing apart curry packets in the trunk of the wagon. Enebish prepared extra curry for the werewolves while Danesle went fishing to make up for the lost food. However, because the plot demanded it, the werewolves overate and the party had only one day of food left for the journey! We fast-forwarded to whatever day they would have run out of food (I was being generous compared to the adventure as written), and both of the characters spent their evening foraging mushrooms and herbs from the forest. I went through what was supposed to be three nights’ worth of plot-dumping as Manyr, paranoid from being high off their balls, trauma-dumped their work situation and begged the characters to not kill the kobolds (“We were told they were rats…”) who are just peacefully protesting ForestCo.
The wagon makes it to Animals Crossing the next evening (because everything happens in the evening), and the characters are introduced to local head of security Galunder Terson who is apparently a big macho man with he/they pronouns—so I also gave him blue hair and made him kinda faggy with it. Galuner sizes up Danesle by initiating a macho manly handshake but Danesle’s hands were full, so Galuner brushed his hair to the side and called Danesle some kind of slur. That night, the party split up: Danesle to (unsuccessfully) help Manyr unpack the wagon (which, the book says, Manyr is totally not mad about because it’s such hard work), and Enebish to sneak into and explore the mines. She broke one of the gaslights with her boomerang, and then snuck into the mine to explore; every six squares she traveled had a risk of her being caught and escorted out by security, but she was pretty lucky and escaped unnoticed—and after having discovered the kobolds’ abandoned homes underground.
The next day, Galunder sends Danesle and Enebish into the mines to suss out and deal with the rats however they see fit. He fucks off to do something else without dealing them where to find the rats (it’s a quantum encounter in the book that I was just going to trigger via wandering monster check as the characters explored the mines), but they find an overseer named Salunder and convince him to show them where they last saw the rats because it’s important to help family—and here at ForestCo, you’re family. Salunder is brought to tears and he weepfully guides the party through the mines, meanwhile I’m rolling and desperately trying to get a random encounter to happen. Eventually, they come upon a party of kobolds, and as Salunder unsheathes his sword Enebish knocks him out with her club. The characters talk with the kobolds who convince them to go deeper into the mines to see their leader, Kobold X. Galunder meanwhile catches Danesle carrying a faint Salunder, which he convinces Galunder was because Salunder was drinking on the job. Galunder, seemingly betrayed by this, takes Salunder off Danesle’s hands and tells him and Enebish to keep at their job.
Enebish and Danesle wander deeper into the kobold territory until they find Kobold X, who infodumps about the political situation of the area. Danesle, using his business degree, explains to Kobold X that if the kobolds can present a case in court that the kobolds truly own the land—and convince the workers who live on the land to sign off on the kobolds’ ownership—then they can surely win it back from ForestCo (the plot demanded all of this). The kobolds are happy with this arrangement. Suddenly, they hear a guttural scream from the mines, and a worker caught his hand in a big ore grinding machine (that Enebish actually discovered the previous night but opted not to disable). Galunder rushes in and shouts at the worker for being stupid, not following his training, and abandoning his ForestCo family with his stupidity. The characters free the worker from the machine, and begin preaching against ForestCo by explaining how it would have never happened if the kobolds—with their traditional and time-tested mining methods—were in control of the mines. The workers begin to chant “Land back!” and the characters collect signatures from them to form a union.
The plot demands that the characters collect more signatures from the workers, as well as evidence that ForestCo stole the land from the kobolds who were there first. They split up so that Danesle can arouse the workers into (peacefully) rioting against the security guards, and Enebish can meanwhile sneak into Galunder’s house to find official ForestCo documentation of the town’s true history. While the workers are gathered in front of the house shouting at the guards, Danesle tries to shoot his gun into the air. However, Sandro rolled a natural 1. The gun shot out, the crowd went silent, and one of the guards fell over with his brains scattered on the ground. Thinking quickly, Danesle and Enebish (yelling from inside the house) declare that this was an act of the gods who are angry with ForestCo. “In all my years of war, never have I seen someone’s head explode except for that the gods were angry with them.” Camera drones record the entire incident, which Enebish saw on the television inside Galunder’s house, so the two characters hold up their collected signatures and secret ForestCo documents to declare the kobolds the rightful owners of Animals Crossing on live television.
The kobolds come out and there’s a big party where they celebrate with the workers, and the werewolves even come back, as they make tomato soup with cheese crackers that Enebish found inside Galunder’s pantry. Kobold X rewards Danesle and Enebish with more money than ForestCo would have originally paid them (when asked how the kobolds have that kind of money, I said they mined it—but the text of the adventure says that it was collected from the new union’s membership dues!). The end?
This adventure was even worse to play than it was to read, but I seriously had so much fun running it for Nova and Sandro whose willingness to go off script made it way more bearable. It also seemed like FIVEY was perfectly serviceable to run this 5e adventure without feeling overbearing on the players or the referee (myself). Nova and Sandro said that it felt very quick and easy to make their characters, especially both coming in with preconceptions of what kind of character they wanted to play (a mephit exterminator and a bog-standard human knight, respectively). It also felt easy and straightforward to play, especially in the typical 5e style where you roll to do everything for funsies. I expect that it would work just as well if less rolls were made, but the adventure wanted everything to be one ability check or another, so I stuck to that to preserve the vibe.
We also did not have a single combat encounter, which is ironic enough since even the adventure assumes you’re going to go through two or three fights (which, on paper, you can only avoid by making sufficiently high ability checks). Nova and Sandro played smart and in a much more interesting way than the adventure anticipated, so they were able to bypass most direct encounters by… interacting with the non-player characters and taking advantage of their (geographical and social) surroundings. Says a lot about society. Lol.
Nova and Sandro tweeted about their experience as well (along with some super fun art)! Again, I’m so grateful for their willingness to try out a new ruleset by playing through an adventure that we all knew was really quite bad. I’m really excited to run more games, and hope I get the chance to play as well sometime!
I also didn't get to use my Liberal NPC Generator, which included detailed feet descriptions. It was a fun concept, though. View the HTML source if you dare!