Stranger Things wasn’t the only franchise to get the D&D crossover treatment. In the exact same year, we would get a second crossover starter box, this time focusing on the Rick and Morty series. The difference between the two boxed sets are night and day, and that’s going beyond the obvious fact that the two shows are of different tones.
Stranger Things’ Boxed Set gives you a rather cut and paste recreation of the Player’s Handbook from the previous starter box. It’s mini-adventure did a little better at tying to the source material beyond just including the Upside Down and the Demogorgon by including plot elements from the in-universe campaign and piecing together what they think the adventure was.
Rick and Morty, however, has its signature, cynical humor written throughout the entire box as Rick riffs on the normal Player’s Handbook. Obviously, whoever made this knows that there’s already three starter boxes that have a player’s handbook (The first one with the Lost Mine, Stranger Things, and Essentials Kit) and decided “Okay, I doubt anyone’s gonna buy this as their first product in D&D so I might as well have some fun!”
Hell, the writing is so authentically Rick that I’d be surprised if it was one of the writers of the actual show behind the pen. This is made all the more hilarious because instead of just screenshots from the show, the images are drawn comic panels with jokes relevant to the topic they’re attached to. Honestly, it’s worth hunting down a copy just for this alone if you’re a big fan of either Rick and Morty or comedy in general.
Another major difference is that whereas Stranger Things was primarily a short, one-shot adventure not unlike the ones you’d see for D&D Encounters, the Rick and Morty spin-off has an entire dungeon, filled with 40 rooms for the party to explore, making it more akin to something like Dungeon of the Mad Mage than, say, Dragon Heist.
But you want me to get to the part where I play a game and make up a story with the assistance of dice tables that determine yes or no questions and occasionally create plot twists. Well, before we do so, allow me to establish some backstory for these characters since the game, still being written in the humor of Rick and Morty, throws us into a dungeon with nary any detail in contrast to the Stranger Things crossover where we have a bit of backstory as to why we’re hunting the Thessalhydra.
- Ari Strongbow lost her brother to a raid by Orcs and wants revenge. Her mentor and father figure, Kiir Bravan, sticks with her because he believes she might go down a dark path.
- Keth Silverson was an orphan who steals everything from everyone. Lyan Amaranthia, instead of arresting him for a bounty, chooses to instead take him in and teach him how to live his best life.
- Matthias Fabian was a prince of the Fabian Family before a curse placed on him by the Colonel turned his family into mindless barbarians. Matthias survived the bloodbath, but escaped with his mind scathed, now being only known as Meatface.
- Kiir met up with Lyan and the two pairs became one as Lyan put her faith in the wizard father figure. Ari, while the appearance of Keth reminded her of the raid, also reminded him of her brother and decided to treat him as though he were her brother. Meatface just joined because they were gonna smash heads in.
And now, we can begin. Now, the module gives us a rather elaborate dungeon done in the classic blue and white color scheme commonly associated with old D&D maps. Fun fact: the reason they were blue is to prevent photocopying back then. However, it’s more of a layout. Most of the rooms are vacant appearance wise save for a few that have evocative designs.
For the first room, however, there’s only stairs and stirges. Though, the characters do not know they’re stirges but rather harmless bats and so, because they aren’t prepared, the stirges all around to themselves.
Unfortunately, only one of them hits with a natural 20, latching onto Keth and draining his health until he fell onto the ground. Lyan healed him as the gang kill the stirges because they were rather easy to kill. Though, they weren’t pushovers, as they downed Meatface and Lyan while weakening Keth and Kiir. They need a short rest.
In the rest, Ari dug her hands through the fe… Oh boy. Well, time to roll the Markdown Table.
[Roll: 20, the character must suffer tragedy]
… So the Stirges are already dead so that’s tragic.
[Q: Were they the last of their kind? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 97]
Yes, and unexpectedly…
[Unexpectedly: 8, Set Change]
Already on it. So, Ari gets 35 silver pieces but her hands are dirty and so she gets disadvantage on charisma checks. Things got chaotic, so the Chaos is increased by 1.
[Scene Roll: 5]
So, we have an altered scene. The scene is two goblins shit talking Jerry… So that means Jerry is on the offensive. Keth tries to sneak past them, but trips over and falls on his face, alerting the goblins. The goblins split their attention, but the two goblins lost and get killed. Kiir, misunderstanding the situation, magic missiles one of the goblins and Jerry. Jerry is hurt.
[Q: Does he try to explain his case? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 25]
No, so Surge increases as he tries to get his revenge… Well, he’s gonna roll insight to see if he can win this one.
[Insight Roll: 9]
Nah, he doesn’t make it and chooses blood. But Lyan smashes his head in with a mace. The group sit and ponder the damage they have wrought onto this community. Chaos becomes 7, Turmoil becomes 3.
[Scene Roll: 4]
Random scene time.
- Event Focus: 41, Move Toward A Thread
- Thread Focus: 2, Curse of the Golden Chicken
- Event Meaning: 69 & 9, Ruin Evil
The group find themselves in a rather unique room with three statues. One of them seems to be named Rick with spiky hair, another is an armored woman whose description implies that she has been turned to stone, and lastly, a golden chicken.
Meatface recognizes the last of these. We get a little bit of his past now:
[Detail Check: 12, Focuses PC… Locked To Meatface. Details: 30 & 39, Break News]
He remembered how he had to break the news to someone and whatever happened led to him being cursed. Perhaps it was in retaliation? We’ll see.
[Q: Does he also recognize the armored woman as someone from his past? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 34, Surge knocking it to 32. Surge goes up to 2.]
Not that he knows, or perhaps he forgot… Hmm… Add a mark to this. Ari rolls a natural 20 in perception and finds two secret exits that are basically room skips. In the interest of time (and because the rooms turn out to not be as sequential as I would believe it to be), I pick the one that gets me to Room 12. Chaos goes down since one of the PCs was able to find out something about their past.
[Scene Roll: 1]
Another altered scene. The scene has it that Orcs gathered around for dinner, the dinner being a goblin. Altering the scene… Let’s flip the script. It’s goblins eating an Orc.
[Q: Is Frumfle still a goblin? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 54, surge bumping it up to 58. Surge goes up to 3.]
[Q: Are the goblins welcoming? Purpose: To Conflict. Odds: Likely. A: 42, Surge knocking it down to 36. Surge goes up to 4]
They see the group and get their daggers ready to fight. Goblins rush in and get their licks in on the fighters while Kiir puts three of them to sleep. However, try as they might, the goblins managed to overwhelm the group and defeat them.
However, that’s when the Orc breaks out of his confines… but is only able to kill one goblin before he too is knocked down.
[Q: Was one of the dead goblins Frumfle? Purpose: To Knowledge. Odds: Likely. A: 74, Surge making it 82.]
Frumfle is dead and the goblins leave us for dead in the next room.
[Q: Including the Orc? Purpose: To Knowledge. Odds: Unlikely. A: 64. Surge goes up to 1]
They also decide the Orc is not worth their time and toss him with us. The scene ends with Chaos getting bumped up twice and Turmoil going up thrice.
[Scene Roll: 1]
The alteration we have is that there’s a gift room that has been ransacked. As the group comes to, the Orc explains what’s going on. Namely, there was a revolt by the goblins and now his friends are most certainly dead. He offers to join their side temporarily, but Ari rejects. She’s going to make a Wisdom save of 13, since otherwise she will give into her flaw of hating Orcs and go into a rant.
[Saving Throw: 20]
She succeeds and calmly explains that Orcs killed her brother and she can’t trust Orcs again after the last time… Keth hears this and it hurts him.
[Q: Does he make this hurt known? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 16, Surge reduces it to 12]
No, and he internalizes it so it’s going to be a problem down the line. I think the others are inclined to agree, after all, the more the merrier as Kiir always says. So, they journey on. I’d say things are relatively in control, though Turmoil stays as is.
[Scene Roll: 1]
They find a mage who had unfortunately died in a pit trap. At this point, it’s time to roll out an incident:
- Incident: 16, Obstacle
- Incident Type: 7, A nearby scheme
- Trihex: 612, 664, & 535; successful wondering room.
It seems the next room in question will be wonderous. Perhaps it has a wonderous item? In any case, things have calmed down. Onto the next room.
[Scene Roll: 7]
It fell under the Chaos Factor so it happens as normal. So, like the labyrinth in the Stranger Things game, this is mostly a “everyone is stuck until a certain number is rolled” type of puzzle. To tie in with the themes of this being a wonderous room, I’m going to tweak it so that instead, the doors lead people to different planes. Each of them have to find the right door that leads them to the exit (the door leading to the Material Plane), but if they open two doors that are in conflict or the Elemental Chaos door, they’re in for a bad time.
Ari opens a door to the Shadowfell… But Grutok manages to find the right door before anyone can open the Feywild Door so they go through.
[Q: Did Ari close the door on her way out? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 90]
Yes, and even if she didn’t, the door would close automatically when they all rushed to the exit. Chaos lowers back to 5.
[Scene Roll: 4]
- Event Focus: 91, NPC Negative.
- NPC Focus: 5, Orcs
- Event Meaning: 74 & 88, Divide Illusions
Grutok, the Orc that joined, notices some of his kind killing each other over a large red button as the clock ticks down from 60. Each time the button is pressed, it resets. In the middle of it all, there’s a sign saying “Rapture”.
Given this is an old trick in D&D books, I’m gonna have the smartest character roll history and the wisest to roll survival. If any of them succeed, they know how this room is designed.
Kiir rolled a Natural 1 on History and Lyan rolled an 11, not high enough. Ari knows the answer (she rolled a 15), but lets the Orcs kill each other. With Keth’s 7 on Insight, he’s none the wiser.
Combat begins with Kiir putting one of the Orcs to sleep while Grutok tries to plead with the others on what is going on. Despite having advantage since he’s an Orc, Grutok can’t get people to listen. Lyan uses Bless on Kiir, Ari, and Keth. Keth tries his best to go in, but is unable to convince the Orcs. In the midst of their panicking, they explain what they’re afraid of.
One group of Orcs want to let the Rapture happen while the other don’t want to. They assume that resetting the clock prolongs the Rapture by a minute. I color coded the Orcs so that the red Orcs want the Rapture and the blue Orcs don’t. Meathead, true to his name, just attacks the closest Orc. One of the Orcs just smashes the other into pieces.
The group make short work of the Red Orcs and begin to continue pressing the button.
[Q: Do they keep doing this for an hour? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 40. Surge goes up by 1]
No, they don’t. Let’s see if they figure it out before the timer runs out. Lyan rolled a 14 on survival and she immediately realizes what the room is. She uses her Thaumaturgy to announce that the room is a sham and that they should let the timer run to 0. She rolled a 7 on persuasion, and the Orcs think she’s just trying to get out of pressing buttons for all eternity.
Kiir responds by blasting magic missiles at them, killing one of them. The rest of the group follow in turn, attacking and killing the rest of the Orcs. Grutok realizes that they had to do what they had to, but Keth is broken at having to kill his own kin simply because of a misunderstanding. Lyan comforts him while Kiir goes over to Ari.
There, they have a brief conversation about what’s happening with Keth. He rolled a 19 on his insight so he knows that the Orc issue is eating at her. He makes a natural 20 on a persuasion check, which has me believe he gave her a long speech about how what happened to her brother was tragic and that the Orcs that killed him specifically don’t deserve her forgiveness, the same shouldn’t apply to other Orcs, especially her fellow party members. This causes Ari to tell him that she knew about the room puzzle but let the Orcs kill each other because of her hatred towards them.
Kiir comforts her. Given how fanatical the Orcs were in either letting the “rapture” happen vs. preventing it, it’s safe to say that there was no convincing them to hold off. However, he does use this to warn her that there will come another time where Orcs will need her help and that will be when she’ll have to decide whether to let that hatred consume her. I’ll add that as a thread. They move on, ending the scene. The conflict was not in anyone’s favor and as such, increased the Chaos Factor by 1. The Turmoil doesn’t increase.
[Scene Roll: 8]
No scene interrupt so we continue. In the next room we meet a Bugbear with two butts who is being helped by two goblins, Flerp and Greeble. They aren’t interested in fighting the heroes, rather they want them to help with something.
The Bugbear, Tommy Two-Butts, asks the group to help him destroy a trap that was made by a cult known as the Order of the Buttless.
[Q: Does Grutok know Tommy? Purpose: To Knowledge. Odds: Somewhat Likely. A: 61, Surge bumps it up to 63. Surge goes up to 2]
Grutok knows Tommy as a helpful scientist in the dungeon and offers his help. Out of the goodness of their heart (and really to help clear out the dungeon), the others agree to help as well. Oddly enough, only Grutok and Ari know, after reading from Two-Butts’ blueprints on a trap destroying blaster, how to make the weapon. So, they spend the next hour or so instructing the group on how to build it.
Finally, with the item finished, the group go on their way to destroy the trap, which means backtracking and exploring three new rooms as we bypass two of the previously explored rooms. Chaos goes down by one as we begin the exploration.
[Scene Roll: 2]
- Event Focus: 79, Ambiguous Event
- Event Meaning: 36 & 48, Imitate Success
Hmmm… So, at some point, there has been an imitation of success… I’ll mark it down as a thread. So the group goes to the next room where five zombies have tied up a ghoul and are accusing it of eating their butts. Immediately, Tommy Two-Butts brings up a plausible defense for the zombies: that the Order of the Buttless actually stole their butts and, being zombies, they wouldn’t remember that happening.
I’m going to roll insight for the zombies to see if they accept Tommy’s offer to allow them a chance to free their butts.
[Insight Roll DC, 13: All of them failed save for one]
One of them decides to let them prove the ghoul’s innocence, but warns that if they take too long (i.e. they take a long rest), they’ll assume they’re full of shit. I’m kinda liking how this room tied into the previous room.
So they go, Chaos goes down by one but Turmoil goes up by 2, one for the successful imitation and one for the whole zombie thing.
[Scene Roll: 3]
An altered scene. And I think I know what the successful imitation is as they enter a room and find five characters that look exactly like the party sans Grutok and Two-Butts’ group. A woman is at a desk, cacking to herself as she has written their demise and gloating on how she wrote this room to be a battleground against her mirror creations.
Now it’s initiative. Ari is the first to strike and attacks her mirror counterpart… Only to find that the wound she inflicted damages her as well (conversely, healing the injured will also heal the mirror). Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that brute force won’t help with this.
So Grutok and the goblins bum rush the writer, since it’s clear that she’s the one behind these mirrored copies. At the same time, the group notices that most of the mirror party is taking careful consideration in targeting other people rather than themselves. I’ll have everyone make an insight check.
[Insight Roll, 13: Only 5 members of the party of 9 managed to not figure it out]
Some of the members figured out that the mirror figures do get hurt with the attacks and that, should their HP go to 0, they are just dead.
… Though because of how small brained the goblins are, they do the simple solution of just killing the writer. The copies go away and the group relaxes, healing up before they head over to the next room. They gained 200 experience points for going through that. We had a bit of chaos here, but given how easily the heroes handled it, I’ll reduce the Chaos Factor by 1.
[Scene Roll: 6]
No interrupts so we go in as normal. There they see a tiny D&D session happening right in front of them as there’s small adventurers in a small dungeon. Meatface, being Meatface, tries to interact with the dungeon with his fingers… Only to be zapped with lightning.
[Q: Wait, do people play D&D in the universe of D&D? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 90, surge bumps it up to 94]
Yes, they do play D&D in this universe, but the rules are less dungeon crawling and more miniature war game. Knowing this, Keth, the youngest and most likely to have played it due to his upbringing, looks to four small figurines of monsters and places them around the dungeon… These tiny adventurers were about level 1 and he placed a green dragon and an ogre on them. I feel like making a Wisdom Saving Throw for Keth.
[Wisdom DC: I’ll go with 14. He fails with a 9]
Yeah, this traumatizes Keth as he just thought they needed some monsters to fight. The group gain 100 XP for this, but I’m going to have it so that Keth can’t concentrate for the next room. The scene ends with Chaos… Not really going to move both Chaos or Turmoil for this room since technically the group retained control but Keth is scarred from this experience.
They do get a tiny wand of magic missiles though, which they give to Keth.
[Scene Roll: 9]
Alright, so this scene is also normal. The group enter the Butt Trap room where they find the Order of the Buttless waiting for them, having caught wind that Tommy Two-Butts intended on destroying the trap. The group choose to stand their ground while Tommy Two-Butts goes to fire his weapon.
During the skirmish, Tommy does exactly that, firing his weapon and destroying the butt-stealing trap, which restores the Order of the Buttless’ butts back. As per the instructions of the book, the group stops fighting (no one has dropped a body, so they behave as usual) and they rejoice, thanking Tommy Two-Butts for saving them. The heroes are confused, but hey, at least they don’t get to take a life.
They still get the XP because they did stop the combat, which levels them up to three.
[Q: Does Tommy Two-Butts join the party? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 81.]
Tommy is thankful for helping him with this and proposes he journeys with them, as he warns that the rest of the dungeon is just as chaotic as the first half they explored. He’ll also bring his two Goblin buddies with him. That was the ‘And’ part of Yes And. I’m going to work on their characters, but for the long story short, Tommy is an Artificer (because he made that weapon) and his Goblins are Sidekicks. The team goes back to the zombies, with the Chaos Factor and Turmoil reduced by 1.
[Scene Roll: 6]
No alteration so the group return to the zombies, who now have their butts back. The ghoul’s name is cleared and is freed from the seat he was tied up on. For solving this side quest, the group gets 100 experience and find a Ring of Protection underneath the seat. As Kiir is the squishiest next to the goblins, he gets the Ring. They mozey on over with the factors not shrinking because this was just a short scene.
We’re more than half-way through the dungeon and our characters have gained quite a few party members, as well as levels. As much as I would love to continue this, at the time of writing, something had come up which drastically cut my production time. Not to mention that this is already a long post as it is, so we’ll two-parter this, with the next part posting some time in November to coincide with Solo Gaming Appreciation Month. Until then, bon voyage, Gamers.