Jean Lorber’s Volo’s Lost Encounters is a selection of five small adventures designed for a variety of levels, which are likely best employed to break the monotony of travel. I’d estimate most of the adventures shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours to run, although Jean suggests 2-4 hours; I tend to run games quicker than most. The adventures use monsters depicted in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, hence the name of this collection.
I was instantly charmed by the first adventure, Roll for Inspiration, which sees a stone giant creating “art” by rolling rocks down a slope. Each rock creates a path, and the resulting design is quite attractive. Unfortunately, the path the rocks take pass over a road along which trading caravans travel. This, as you might imagine, causes some trouble, which the adventurers will have to deal with. The concept behind the adventure is extremely strong and creative; it makes perfect sense once I read it, but I’d never have thought of it.
The second adventure, By the Power of Hyena!, details a gnoll raid on a village. The adventurers come upon the raid in progress, and must stop the gnolls from completing a ritual that transforms hyenas into full-grown gnolls. It’s a simple scenario, with a few nice touches, such as a time limit before the ritual is completed.
The third adventure, An Army Marches on its Stomach… or Yours, has the adventurers meeting a goblinoid warband that is seeking food but not trouble. The resolution to this adventure could require combat or role-playing.
The fourth adventure, Noble Hearts Break Best, has a very strong story: the adventurers meet a knight who is being corrupted by an elven woman. All the knight must do to secure the love of the elf is sacrifice a village girl to the fey spirits. Unfortunately, he’s been mostly beguiled to follow the elf woman’s suggestions. The adventurers will need to persuade the knight to be true or otherwise defeat the elf – and her friends.
The fifth and final adventure, Think of the Children, places the adventurers in an unusual place: witnessing the children of an orc encampment being kidnapped by raiders. The choice of aiding the orcs or not is left up to the players; it’s the most problematic of the adventures and the one I’m least likely to use.
These are strong adventures. They are well-written and formatted, and the maps are very good. I’m not particularly fond of the stylistic decision to have “STEALTH checks” or a “a DC12 SURVIVAL check”; the normal D&D styling is “Dexterity (Stealth) checks” and “a successful DC 12 Wisdom (Survival) check”. Having a standard format for writing rule elements in adventures is very important to aid your readers (DMs) understand what you mean. I’m not quite sure what to make of the “Challenge Ratings” for each encounter; 5E uses an Easy, Medium, Hard and Deadly system paired with the level of the adventure to rate the difficulty of encounters. For such short adventures as these ones, with few combats, you want combats on the Hard or Deadly end of things.
Overall, I highly recommend this product. It isn’t flawless, but it’s got a lot of good ideas and interesting situations to play with.