Module Review: Step Right Up (Justice Arman): 5 Stars
Ahhh, yes, you must be wondering what wonderful libation it is that I am drinking whilst I write this wonderful review of the spectacular adventure, Step Right Up, by Justice Arman. Let me tell you, it’s simply milk…delicious sweet milk unlike any I’ve had before.
In any case, you aren’t here to listen to my diatribe about milk, you want to know about Step Right Up and you’ve come to the right place! This adventure is designed for four to six characters of 5th-to-7th level and takes approximately 8 hours to run. It takes place in the city or town of your choosing as it is not setting specific and easily modular for use in any campaign.
The adventure begins with “Mr. Bone’s Big Top Euphoria” coming to town, a carnival full of clowns, oddities, rides, and attractions that will delight your senses! Oh, and milk, lots and lots of exquisite sweet milk. The carnival is funded by Leland Bone, otherwise known as the “Milkman”. Leland is a libertarian type character who developed “Sweet Milk” and intended to sell if as an upstart entrepreneur, I see him as a mix of Ron Swanson with Mark Hamill’s “Joker” voice.
Like any good libertarian story, the evil local bureaucracy crushed his dreams after Leland failed to file proper paperwork to obtain a permit for selling milk. In Leland’s defense, we all can relate to filing paperwork to obtain permits, most filings require you to succeed on a DC 35 Intelligence check, am I right? Unfortunately for Leland, all his milk spoiled, and he was chased out of town, left to a destitute life of poverty. That is, until he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, continued to develop “Sweet Milk” and returned to the very town which shunned him. He is now a rich businessman ready to enact his devious revenge upon the city council that stood in his way so long ago!
Justice provides several adventure hooks for Dungeon Masters to engage their players from the onset. These hooks include finding missing persons whose faces are on milk cartons, acting as security for the carnival, or being guests of a local politician seeking to gain favor and votes for an upcoming election. Throughout the carnival, Leland and his workers are handing out sweet milk to everyone in sight–women, children, babies, the elderly all seem to enjoy it!
Excuse me one moment while I stir my own sweet milk with this ladle, it’s getting a little chunky here near the end, miniature cottage cheese milk curds are forming, but alas it tastes so good…yum!
I digress, back to the adventure and how the characters explore the carnival only to discover it’s a trap! Set by the Milkman himself to take his revenge on all the poor people of this town. The sweet milk turns innocent everyone into milk thralls, an event which spoils the entire carnival and creates an atmosphere of dread, despair, and disgust! The characters must seek out others to help them, such as the alchemist Harrietta Fulcanelli, to develop a solution to turn the milk thralls back into their normal selves before the town is overrun and destroyed by these creamy monstrosities.
I’ll close with my final thoughts and some extras that make this adventure all the more valuable to any Dungeon Master. Within it are modular encounters that change before and after Leland springs his trap. Justice designs a very interesting method of making attractions and the appearance of the carnival appear “Sweet” before the sweet milk causes havoc, and “Spoiled,” after the trap is sprung and the sweet milk turns everyone into milk thralls! Any designer or Dungeon Master can take some tips here on how to accomplish the feel of a living environment. In addition, Justice includes an entire primer on using horror within your Dungeons and Dragons games. This alone could be its own product as it provides very detailed information on how to handle horror and fear respectfully for those at your table and includes cues throughout the adventure on how to throttle up or down the level of fear. Now on to what works and doesn’t work, followed by my verdict…but not before I take another swig of this lumpy, warm, pungent sweet milk…wow this is good!
- Excellent primer on running horror themed sessions at your table. I urge Justice to consider making this a stand alone excerpt, its that good!
- Beautifully designed product, full of art and little details such as the pages of the book turning spoiled as you go further along in the product. Masterfully done!
- Innovative and engaging adventure design and story! Extremely modular with lots of replay ability that will surprise both the Dungeon Master and players on future playthroughs. The story is relatable and can become extremely horrific or dark and comedic.
What Doesn’t Work
- The agnostic nature of this adventure prevents it from really digging into the lore of established settings. While not a horrible thing in general, it would be nice to see how this ties to specific established settings.
- While the adventure has the capacity to be very dark and serious, I’m sure some groups might find the concept of chasing down the “Milkman” to be a little too humorous for their tastes.
Highly Recommended: Step Right Up earns 5 stars due to its innovative and engaging adventure design and story. I highly recommend Dungeon Masters pick up this gem to run for their groups and also for adventure designers to examine Justice’s approach to modular design concepts and the creation of a living breathing word that changes over the course of an adventure. Lastly, the primer on using horror in your games is a must read if you intend on running a horror themed session or campaign, I can’t recommend this enough. Pick it up by clicking on the picture below.
Hmmm, would you look at that…it’s time for another glass of sweet milk, “Hey Pickles! Bring me some sweet milk would you! Yes, I’ve written the article, looks like I’m sending some players your way for a nice little tickle.”
About the Author:
Anthony Joyce is an ENnie Nominated best-selling DM’s Guild author, creator of the highly acclaimed “Heir of Orcus” adventures series for the Dungeons and Dragons Adventurers League and has created many other well received adventures on DM’s Guild. He is a husband, father of three boys, and is an active duty U.S. Army Strategist with masters degrees in Political Science, Policy Management, and Higher Education Administration. Follow him on Twitter @Thrawn589 and check out his DM’s Guild work HERE.