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Review: Peril in Pinebrook

By Jason Campbell

Peril in Pinebrook is an introductory Dungeons & Dragons adventure for new Dungeon Masters and new D&D players, published for free in PDF form by Wizards of the Coast in late 2023. It’s important to note what this adventure was created for. It is NOT intended as a replacement for starter adventures such as Dragon of Icespire Peak or Lost Mines of Phandelver. Peril in Pinebrook is an adventure to introduce new players AND new DMs to Dungeons & Dragons. Although it could be used by players of all ages, it’s focused on younger players.

The ideal use of this is for teachers or other leaders who may not be familiar with RPGs to run games with younger students. The designer, Shawn Merwin (with consulting designer Dan Dillon), explains the rules and tips for how to run the game for DMs completely new to RPGs. The PDF is only 22 pages, and gets the DM and players into playing the game very quickly. The adventure is estimated to take 60-90 minutes, which would likely fit well into an after school session or similar. There are four pre generated characters to be used in the game, suggesting the ideal group is a DM and four players. 

The purpose of this adventure is for the players to have fun. The adventure experience will hopefully get players interested in RPGs and Dungeons & Dragons, so that they might then dive into the complete rule set and continue learning the game. In order to do this Peril in Pinebrook uses a simplified version of the 5e rules. For instance the cleric and wizard characters have only a single spell, listed as a “special ability”. Each character sheet lists only the skills that each PC would be proficient in. These rules simplifications make it easier for a new player to understand what their PC can do so that the game can start the adventure right away with minimal rules explanation.

There's some great advice for new DMs in this adventure. The two paragraphs on narrating successes and failures are invaluable for emphasizing that the game is about a group telling a story together. Even some experienced DMs could benefit from reading this. Rule 0 is stated as “have fun”. This is perfect for a group experiencing an RPG for the first time. If you’re a believer in the rule 0 of “the DM is always right”, this does NOT overrule that. This is an introductory set of rules to get people interested in RPGs, so having fun above all fits that concept. If the players continue to play more games with the core D&D rules, they’ll soon learn that what the DM says goes, but for this very first adventure, what could you want more than to have fun?

The adventure is broken into four encounters, each with a suggested time to run. This could be valuable in a situation where the session has a limited time frame, so you can estimate if you have time to run this encounter, or if you need to pause the game and resume at another session. It could also give new DMs the impression that they might be not running the game well if an encounter takes too little or too much time, hopefully that doesn’t happen. 

The adventure includes a baby dragon, which is a great addition so players feel they've encountered a dragon, without having combat that’s too deadly. It’s great to have a dragon in a new player’s first session, - it’s in the name of the game after all! This adventure is a great addition to D&D for teachers, leaders and students who want to enter the world of RPGs.

Have you read or run Peril in Pinebrook? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.