B11 King’s Festival (1989)
Carl Sargent (TSR)
Summary: (Caves of Chaos)^.25
King’s Festival was the late 80s introductory module for DnD Basic, following in the giant footsteps of B1, a daring raid into the stronghold of two fearsome heroes of renown has been replaced with a minor quest to rescue a cleric from the clutches of several orcs. But wait! There’s more! As they fight the mighty Orc chieftain, they discover that below the dungeon level is a second level with an evil cleric. Yeah! And the adventure lays down the law on killing Orc women and children. Are you excited yet?!?!?
There’s a misconception that I sometimes encounter when people are making adventures for starting characters and players and its that since the characters are of low level their tasks should be minor and unremarkable. Nothing gets the blood going like being told that you must clear out “some bandits” that the NPC that promises you a reward is “too busy” to handle. Even if you are introducing players to DnD, this is a fucking horrible approach. Instead, your adventure should probably be more awesome then average, since its going to be the first experience people have with DnD and they are most likely going to base their decision on whether or not to continue with their game on that experience. Game takes a fucktonne of time too.
B11 is, in many ways, a lobotomized approach at the starting adventure. Gone is the excitement of B1, where a brand new GM is given the tools to go and stock a dungeon together with Mike Carr, and the PCs are given shiny new PCs to fuck around with in the perilous stronghold of their peers, adventuring men that have a long career of exciting adventure long behind them. Instead B11 is frontloaded with pages and pages of GMing advice, which explains in no uncertain terms how to apply the various rules of the game so it doesn’t suck. In this it succeeds excellently, but there is a noticeable drop in the expected age of the player. Still, the hints on using description would benefit some GMs I have known in my time and the admonition to use reason and occasionally use common sense to overrule erroneous results seems apt. Carebear DnD creates the worst of lolrandom, lazy players (and hideous characters) but you probably don’t want your players to die because of a minor error in the first session if you want them to ever come back, unless you do a proper session zero.
All in all, there’s some weaksauce advice on handling your players going off the map, coupled with decent pointers on drawing out shy players, trying actions not covered in the rules and how to backpeddle in case you fuck up. True damage is inflicted when the GM is adviced to handle dysfunctional gamers In game, which is a mistake since dysfunctional play is an indicator of an inability to understand the social contract. Just tell the player that its a team game and if the problem persists try increasingly stringent methods of coercion  until they either fall in line or you remove them. On the plus side, even Carl Sargent is against bullshit resurrections and tells you dead is unfortunately dead.
We are at page 11, get a short primer on Karameikos that is, frankly, superfluous for this adventure and we are off.
It is the King’s Festival when people celebrate the death of the Immortal King Halav. Unfortunately, Orcs capture a cleric! The town guard that could presumably guard against such an assault in the town of Stallanford are led down the wrong path and our heroes are asked to follow an old tracking man to a cave 3 hours away from the city…why don’t we get horses and follow the town guard, and bring them with us?
The dungeon proper is 30 rooms divided across 2 levels. This is a starting adventure and it FEELS like a starting adventure. Endless advice on how to handle every encounter, explanation upon explanation for comparatively little.
The map is limited essentially two or three forks with rooms branching off them. Inhabitants consist of often a single Orc, possibly with a pet, in the process of doing something. No random encounters, no rumors, no mystery. DnD in lobotomy mode. There’s a room with a giant Ferret and a baby Giant Chameleon. Even at 3 HD, anything with multiple attacks is a fucking nightmare in DnD. Almost the only scary encounter in the dungeon.
There is one good thing in this dungeon and it is that every inhabitant is either doing something or has some sort of strategy and notes on behavior. Orcs will be drunk, try to circle back, warn others, or surrender if they reach a certain number of hit points or have their pet spider stalk a captive halfling. Its a boring dungeon but its not entirely brainless.
But there’s nothing memorable or standout about the whole experience. No puzzles. No riddles to solve, things to negotiate. A secret door might cause some momentary excitement as it leads down to a lower level, catacombs, skeletons and a carrion crawler. Is this the DnD that we want to showcase to our peers? Where’s the magic fountains, the idols with gemstone eyes, the buried sleeping abominations worshipped by the degenerate remnants of ancient cultures?
In the boxed text? Here is your boxed text.
This bare, undecorated chamber has a few rocks and stones on the floor.
The only unusual thing here is a pile of rotten wood and material of some sort by the south wall. The pile of sacks moves and a creature that looks like a hobgoblin races toward you
That’s really where this thing goes wrong. I can’t recognize a hint of the travels of Faffhrd & the Grey Mauser, the savage fury of the Cimmerian, the ancient decadent civilizations of Merrit or Lovecraft or the wonder of Dunstany in King’s Festival. Nearly all of DnD’s concepts are borrowed, referrals to bodies of fantasy, history and myth, aimed at the emulation of the adventure and fantasy tales of yesteryear. B11 is the DnD you get if you remove all those references and just read the DMG. The evil cleric Petrides is devoted to evil and chaos and has two zombie guards. Gee.
Its a functional adventure, the treasure is boring but not poorly described, gold pieces and potion flasks and boy oh boy there’s a pit trap.
Listen, you aren’t dumb. Even if you are a Gen Z kid reading this you aren’t stupid and GMing isn’t hard. Get a copy of B1. Go to town on it. Read a book. Watch a youtube video on GM tips. Experiment. Learn. Be bold. Challenge yourself.
B11 is an introductory dungeon that feels like the type of dungeon one would make if one was a beginning GM. That’s fucking wrong. Give people something to strive towards. There’s DCC funnels where you take on fucking deities of chaos with a band of illiterate peasants and there’s this. I know what I’d be into.
This is one I reviewed mostly for the sake of completeness. A module so bland I can’t even muster righteous fury, only weary disgust.
It kills the Orcs in the room or else it gets the hose again. **
 I like to keep a cup of molten gold that I can throw over players that defy my whim or act out of character next to my GM Screen but different strokes for different folks