5E Adventure Review: Jungle Treks

Jungle Treks is a collection of six short adventures for character levels 1 to 10 by Teos “Alphastream” Abadia and Eric Menge. Although set in Chult and designed to supplement the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, the scenarios could easily be used in any jungle-themed setting.

The scenarios are as follows:

Tavern Trouble – In this adventure, a gang of scoundrels curse someone the party need to talk to, and they must defeat the gang and uncurse their friend while chaos erupts in the bar.

If Looks Could Kill – A catoblepas hunt causes trouble for an expedition in the jungle, and likely the adventurers!

Ambush from Above! – A grung (frogman) attack that could turn into something quite bizarre.

Mystic River – some obstacles on a river journey, some mundane, others mystical, challenge the adventurers.

Mudslide! – The rain in Chult can make travelling in the hills or mountains quite dangerous, especially when elementals are also involved.

Beautiful Plumage – Harpies lure the adventurers to an undead-infested ruin.

Each adventure is inventive and presents a different set of challenges to the players; they are certainly not homogeneous exercises in killing monsters! The combats tend to have additional complications: finding a lizard who has swallowed a glowing gem while holding off a gang of ruffians; fighting mephits while caught in the middle of a mudslide and being dragged down a slope; and harpies luring characters up a tower and then unhelpfully removing the ladders are just three of the situations the adventures can find themselves in.

Mystic River is notable for not having any combats; the challenges faced by the adventurers must be overcome by skill use and quick thinking. It’s an excellent example of how the environment can challenge the players.

The adventures are short, and each should typically play in under four hours. Some are just a single encounter, others are more complex and thus require more time.

One interesting decision made by the designers is to provide scaling charts for levels 1 through 10 for each adventure. So, a group of level one characters might face four mud mephits, whilst the level ten characters would face seven mud mephits and three earth elementals. Further scaling the adventure to deal with varying number of characters is left in your hands. I’m a bit conflicted about this approach. While I appreciate that having advice for each level is very desirable, it does ignore the differences in play between first and tenth levels.

Another effect of this is that the boxed text is very good at leaving out monster descriptions. Occasionally, this is combined with an unusual clumsiness of describing the encounter for the DM to leave the reader in some confusion over what is happening; this was very true of the first encounter, where “nearby patrons” are in fact gang members. Even then, the adventure neglects any mention of how they are dressed, something that would have been very valuable for the DM setting the scene.

Skill checks are likewise scaled, with suggested DCs for low, medium and high-level parties. I don’t like this at all. Skill bonuses, except those related to the primary ability score, are mostly static in this edition. The adventure presents an “easy to climb” wall which goes from DC 10 (for level 1 characters) to DC 14 (for level 8 characters). Meanwhile, everyone with a non-Strength-based character has not increased their Strength (Athletics) bonus; it keeps it the same difficulty for a character whose Strength score has increased by 4 and is also trained in Athletics, but makes it significantly harder for everyone else.

The product is formatted in the form of old AD&D 2E adventures, albeit with some modern improvements. The fonts and illustrations are very attractive, and the maps are clear and excellently stylised.

My chief problem with this product comes from the times where the writing doesn’t properly describe a situation to the Dungeon Master. The adventure Ambush from Above! also relies heavily on the Dungeon Master’s shoulders to make it run as intended; this one can too easily devolve into a simple combat. How to run it effectively is not clear to me.

Despite these niggles, I consider this a superior product, well worth buying. Highly recommended!

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2 Responses to 5E Adventure Review: Jungle Treks

  1. Pingback: Tomb of Annihilation comes alive with Jungle Treks! | Alphastream

  2. alphastream says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent review, Merric! I love your blog’s reviews and really appreciate your reviewing the adventure.

    Our approach on levels was based on the approach used for the D&D Open to support 10 levels of play. I thought it worked well here because Tomb of Annihilation supports levels 1-10 and moving to and from locations happens throughout the adventure. This makes the encounters useful across the life of the ToA adventure.

    The decision to use varying skill levels is also from the D&D Open, where we try to challenge players appropriately for their tier. Yes, it does create a sense that there is no “truth” to the difficulty of something… the characteristics of the wall are strangely changing depending on the level of the party! However, I think most adventure authors (even at WotC) are actually scaling the challenges anyway… otherwise the wall has very little meaning and becomes clutter in a scene (and the space is better used on a different challenge). Here we are providing multiple realities for the ease of play. In most cases, checks are being made by characters who excel at the particular task and the challenge plays better when the DC is scaled.

    I’ll think more on your thoughts around Ambush from Above. Some of this is due to trying to keep encounters concise, but some of it reflects my intention (at least in my encounters) to create evocative scenes where the DM calls the shots. A DM has a lot of control over the pacing in Ambush from Above and when and if they want to telegraph what is taking place. I was okay with the combat being a quick combat with the fun vine mechanics. If the party kills all the foes, that’s okay. When looking over the bodies they might have several questions, and the DM can perhaps run with that in interesting ways. (Were these all of the members of the team? It doesn’t have to be the end.) I like the idea of unraveling the story of the team, but it doesn’t have to be the case. And, sometimes as players we have to miss something to realize we can approach future encounters differently.

    Anyway, huge thanks for the review and for provoking so many cool thoughts!

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