Want to play a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) but don’t have a gaming group or maybe you have a group but always have to GM? Maybe you’re like me and enjoy RPGs but just don’t have time for regular gaming sessions. Langston might just be the place for you.
The Wolves of Langston (Wolves for short) is a solo role-playing adventure based on the rules of Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition (5e) by way of leveraging the Creative Commons licensed version 5.1. It was written by Daniel Howard and published by Obvious Mimic following an extremely successful Kickstarter (a little less than 3500 supporters and just over $85,000). I know I usually review gamebooks; however, I think you will find that Wolves does a great job of riding that fine line between gamebooks like Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf and traditional tabletop RPGs.
Obvious Mimic includes a basic introduction on how to play, but familiarity with the 5e rules will help. You also need a 1st or 2nd level character and a set of regular polyhedral RPG dice. You can find several mobile dice-rolling apps if you don’t have or want to use actual dice. The publisher provides a link in the back to pre-generated characters if you don’t want to make your own. It would have been nice if they would have included these in the print edition.
Wizards of the Coast provides a free copy of the basic 5e rules online (https://dnd.wizards.com/what-is-dnd/basic-rules). Honestly though, if you have even the most basic understanding of how most RPGs work, I’m not sure you need the full rules because the adventure includes such good directions.
You begin the game as a low-level adventurer making your way to the town of Langston. There is a little trouble on the road but you arrive just in time for a funeral. A young woman was recently murdered (cue “dum dum dum” music). As an outsider, your character is recruited to help solve the mystery. This is not your traditional hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. You spend most of the time interviewing a cast of characters and looking for clues. Several characters seem suspicious in one way or another. You will need to piece the clues together to figure out exactly who did it and possibly uncover some other dark deeds along the way.
Along the way, you will find a few different plot threads and opportunities for combat. I didn’t find the combat to be overwhelming but there are some opportunities for your character to get seriously injured or killed. Making smarter or better choices from a heroic perspective can also earn points of inspiration. Inspiration can be used to help improve your chances of success.
There were sufficient choices to feel like you have some level of control over the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the writing. It was quite engaging. The text descriptions and characterizations were well-written and long enough to provide great flavor without being too wordy. The non-player characters you encounter are well thought-out and have their own personalities and backstories so they seem three-dimensional.
If you are familiar with 5e then this will seem like a cakewalk. If not, rest assured they do a good job of telling you exactly what to roll and how to interpret the results.
The fifth edition game mechanics are primarily rolling a twenty-sided die and adding your character’s bonuses or subtracting their penalties. If the result is greater or equal to a given target number, then it is a success. That same basic rule applies to combat, athletics or persuasion checks, and almost anything else that requires a roll.
Depending on the class of character you choose to use, you may have to just decide for yourself how to handle the choices they provide. A typical encounter might result in a few different choices for you to select between. The D&D rules are so large with so many different types of characters with their own skills and spells for magic-user, they couldn’t possibly cover every potential outcome. Most of the time it’s fine but occasionally you will just have to do your best to decide the outcome.
I mentioned that characters can earn Inspiration points. They do handle this a little different than stock 5e in that you can basically bank these and earn more throughout the game to help in different situations. If you fail an important roll and have earned Inspiration, you can use a point to re-roll your die. Since this is a single character adventure, you don’t really have any backup so it helps improve your chances of success.
The game looks great overall. There is some dead space that could have been filled in (possibly with more art, hint hint) but I thought the layout looked nice and easy to follow in general. There are some important differences between the PDF and the printed version I received. More on that later.
I liked the art quite a bit. My only complaint is that I wish there was more of it. There are not that many unique pieces in the book itself. The cover is a composite of one of the background pieces with the character pieces blended on top of it. The interior pieces are reused in some ways as token images etc. If anything was a little disappointing for me – given that they raised so much during the Kickstarter – it was that they didn’t spring for more art.
The PDF version looks much better than the printed copy I received. The paperback copy appears to be printed from Lulu. The color saturation isn’t great. The art itself lost much of its vibrance somewhere in the printing process. It’s hard to tell if that’s a printing issue or a printing preparation issue. Print-on-demand processes like those used by Lulu and DrivethruRPG can be tricky – especially with color. If someone out there is reading this and has a better-looking copy, please let me know how it looks. The PDF edition’s colors are much more vibrant and the pages have a nice background. FYI – they provide their own PDF editions so you won’t find it in your DriveThru library. See the PDF (top) compared to the printed copy (bottom) below for the map. I suspect this may have been part of the reason they opted to not include the page backgrounds in the printed copies.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing The Wolves of Langston. It was an interesting and relatively quick adventure to work through. In terms of solo RPG modules, this was one of the most engaging that I have ever played. I look forward to seeing more like it in the future. Even though Wolves was literally just released a couple months ago, Obvious Mimic is working on another solo adventure called The Crystals of Z’leth. They have a Kickstarter for it here. I have already backed it. If you are an avid solo RPG adventurer or interested in giving it a go, please check out The Wolves of Langston or their new Kickstarter – or better yet, both!
Obvious Mimic also makes material available to run Wolves as a traditional GM-led adventure if you would like to do that after you’ve worked your way through it yourself. They provide a link to this in the adventure itself for the Kickstarter edition as well as links to digital maps, tokens, etc. if you would like to use them on a virtual platform. The party edition is available as a separate purchase on their website too as well as PDF and printed copies of the solo adventure.
This 100-page adventure is available as a PDF ($16) and a color paperback edition ($31) on the Obvious Mimic website. There is a Kindle edition on Amazon as well for $9.99 that looks promising because it includes hot-linked choices so you click on the number you pick and it jumps there. Way too few solo games include this feature. The PDF I downloaded did not seem to have the links on. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be that way or not — they can be inserted in PDFs as well. The sample I saw on Amazon looks great too.
Obvious Mimic Website: https://obviousmimic.com/
Kickstarter for The Crystals of Zleth: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/obviousmimic/the-crystals-of-zleth-a-5e-survival-solo-adventure