So, having finished playing the Rick and Morty dungeon module, I have quite a lot of thoughts on both playing the module and playing it solo. Of course, minor spoilers for the module ahead:
As a stand-alone dungeon, this is one of the more unique dungeons I have ever played in. Not every room is a straight forward “kill all the bad guys” scenario and in fact some of the rooms actively discourage you from killing or otherwise have a heavy emphasis on roleplaying being the solution. The writing is also rather humorous (it helps that meta humor is my favorite type) and, in the hands of the right DM, has the potential to be the funniest officially published D&D Adventure for the Fifth Edition. Maybe even just D&D in general.
The tone is definitely a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the Gygaxian days of D&D modules, from the large dungeon map with that authentic blue anti-xerox coloring to some of the rooms having a puzzle where you don’t know if the consequences of failure will either be non-existent or catastrophic. I think the latter is the biggest feature of this module by far, since a lot of the rooms aren’t strictly combat orientated and it encourages the players to think outside the box. One of the rooms contains a tried-and-true puzzle but gave it a unique spin to make it different from the other dungeons that employed this room.
I mentioned before how comparing this to the Stranger Things module would be night and day. Playing through both of them, I can say that this is definitely true. Though, if you think about it, you can realize why this is the case. This module is written in the tone of Rick Sanchez, a cynical mad scientist who has a lot of years under his belt. Meanwhile, the Stranger Things module was cribbed from information surrounding the in-universe game, a game that run for kids by kids.
The Stranger Things module was a straight forward “go into a cave and slay the beast within” quest because that was probably what Mike Wheeler, the DM for that in-universe game, thought was a compelling enough narrative to entertain his fellow friends. The Upside Down segment possibly being a later addition in their in-universe session after encountering it. Even the flaw of it being too short is accurate to what the boys thought after playing the campaign.
The Rick and Morty module, meanwhile, is a lot more of a thinking man’s game. To say it feels like playing a feature length episode of Rick and Morty would be an understatement. A lot of the rooms feel either subversive of a typical dungeon or don’t have a straight-forward answer, mostly befitting of a Rick and Morty episode. The only way it could be even more authentic is if it did the story circle.
However, there’s an added weight to the rooms when you remember that one of Rick’s roles is, oddly enough, a mentor figure to the Sanchez family. Usually during the adventures, Rick would, intentionally or otherwise, end up educating Morty and/or whoever else was accompanying him on his adventure at the time. Most of the time, though, the group will be coming out of this lesson with a body count in the double digits at least.
Thankfully, the consequences for failing the puzzles aren’t that harsh and the harshest consequence for failing a puzzle has some Gary Gygax elements to it that, if you really think about it, is actually a slap on the wrist. Often, these rooms would teach you that there’s more to D&D than just killing.
Though, I think what makes me feel like this is in Rick’s voice is the cynical meta humor. What really sets the tone for that is in Room 3, the Statue Room, where there’s nothing really there, but because the previous rooms were combat encounters, it primed the players to expect a battle. Not only is this not a combat room, but it’s also not a puzzle room. Instead, the players would read a plaque that said “get to the next room already”. In the module, the fourth room is a more traditional puzzle room where you have to solve a riddle, where its consequences are rather mild.
Though, part of the humor also comes in the form of self-referential humor. You’ll get a Meeseeks box here, some pickles over there, even a floating head who wants you to “SHOW THEM WHAT YOU GOT!”, the latter even having Rick bring up that the reference needed to be made. There are so many rooms with fun scenarios that I have not explored and I absolutely recommend you all to play it if you’re into Rick and Morty or comedy in general.
Though, this isn’t really a review on the Module itself, but rather how the Module plays solo. For the most part, it does its job quite well. I think due to the majority of puzzle-focused rooms, the scaling in question doesn’t seem to be too problematic if you decide to explore it as just one player, especially since the module brings up that the DM is encouraged to reuse the sheet if the character is to die.
If you’re a narrativist, there isn’t really much to chew on. A few rooms have a coherent plotline, like several rooms making reference to the Cult of the Buttless, but it requires you to plan out your travel so you hit every room if you’re looking for that plot. Or do what I did and give everyone a backstory before heading into the dungeon and looking for opportunities to flesh it out, though even I didn’t manage to finish a single plot thread outside of the Buttless cult story.
Like with other modules, you may need to find a means to separate character knowledge from DM knowledge, so while this will work for the NPCs you encounter and the plots that occur, there’s another snag that I think is what kills the potential for this module to be played solo and ironically enough, was also its greatest strength: The puzzles.
I think you all know where I’m going with this, but a major problem will be how you tackle puzzles. Contrary to popular belief, a DM isn’t just someone who commands monsters and tells the story. It is, very true to its name, a master of the dungeons that the party explores. This includes ruling how puzzles are solved.
Since you as the DM already know the answer, it’d be hard to try to make it a challenge for you as the player. The only way I circumvented this sort of problem is by having the players roll relevant rolls to figuring out puzzles, such as intelligence. However, I am aware this might not be the preferred method for other players, as this comes off more akin to simulating players than being the player yourself. If anyone knows of a better way to tackle this problem, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
But I think that’s the only problem I had with this module. Everything else was rather great. If you’re looking for a comedic romp through a dungeon, the only precaution I recommend is that you find a means to address the problem with the puzzles. Bon Voyage, Gamers.