I have to be honest, I don't play e5 much. People cry over it. There should be no crying in D&D. I wouldn't have noticed this adventure except for the hue and cry people put up over it.
The free adventure is called 'No Tears Over Spilled Coffee!' and is available at D&D Beyond
Allow me to throw up the standard stat block before I get into the review.
Title: No Tears Over Spilled Coffee
Author: Michael Galvis
Pages: 6 pages
Rating: 2 of 5 stars
The hue and cry over this adventure revolve around the premise of a band of characters working in the Firejolt Cafe, a coffee shop. Let me tell you, every person who offered this criticism is wrong. Flat wrong.
There is a long history of landing adventures in the wrong role for the rule of funny. Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures come to mind rather easily. If Asprin can have Skeve walking into an Expy McDonalds in search of a trollop and finding trolls waiting tables, then so can you.
I have to put an ad in here to honor the late author Robert Asprin. His characters, much like the characters in Coming to America, know their version of Mcdonald's is treading dangerously close to some sort of infringement. It is the rule of funny.
The setting is not where this adventure falls apart.
The character's mission starts with a call from Ellina, the owner of the Firejolt Café. She has lost all of her staff and the party of new hires is her last chance to stay open. Unfortunately for all, Ellina is starting to get sick, so this first day will include some training, then Ellina will absent herself from the rest of the adventure.
Literally. Like her employees, she never comes back for the rest of the adventure.
There are a couple of problems with this scenario, beyond being snatched from the headlines, possibly right from your player's typical workday.
Some of the problems could be reworked to be funny as opposed to problems. For example, it seems the author thinks there are cell phones in this world. "Called..." Yeah, if you accept some sort of anachronistic coffee shop, then you get cell phones.
But imagine the contrary. Metron the Mercilous is lost, at sea between campaigns. He hires a band of criers to advertise his willingness to cut on people and burn villages. In response, a crier approaches him with an excellent, turn-key opportunity with Ellian. Metron orders his henchmen to assemble as he reaches out to his assassin and thieving friends, plus a cleric of dubious intentions to seal the deal. He and his warband march off to the Firejolt Café to claim the prize appointments, prepared for the obvious campaign of bloodletting.
To his surprise, he finds a gang of union members around the Café trying to get him to join. They promise Metron and his boys a minimum of 15 coppers an hour. Metron reaches for his battle-ax as Ellian quickly runs out to separate the gangs before anyone is separated from their heads.
Yes, the whole premise could be seriously funny.
Anyway, back to the actual adventure.
Ellian (and the DM) walk the players through the game mechanics for play. Some characters can gain an advantage by being observant and utilizing the offered materials in the Café. Eventually, the party breaks common tasks down and gets to work.
The day progresses without offering the players and their characters any option using strategy or tactics or any bit of creativity to succeed.
Finally! A challenge presents itself. The party has to work together to deal with a particularly difficult task. Ok. This is fine.
The party has to come up with a perfect drink for a difficult customer. This is where the whole thing unravels.
Up to this point, the characters have had an easy time of it. In order to complete this challenge, they must pass 5 successive DC 11 skill rolls. And here in lies the problem.
Do you know the chances of rolling an 11 or higher on a 1d20? It's 50-50. A coin toss. Players generally know how to measure their chances and this one will ring out as carney style game. 50-50 sounds pretty great. That's easy.
But 5 in a row... ah... That works out to be a 3% chance. That's exactly like flipping a fair coin 5 times in a row and getting tails each time.
Worse than 3%
But it's worse than the numbers hint at. As each player attempts to roll an 11 or higher, there will be a crystal clear point where someone's failure will screw the party.
Essentially, as the party rolls, someone has a 50-50 chance of blowing it and that failure will land on a single player and their poor die rolls. Even if the characters have a skill that pushes up their chances to say 12 in twenty, the chances rise to a mere 7%. The check would have to push to 18 in 20 to give a better than 50% chance of success.
It is one thing where a party snatches victory from the jaws of defeat by careful application of skills and talents. It's something different when you have some to roll less than an 18 which sounds like a challenge until you flip it around and ask them to roll over a 2 on a twenty-sided die.
As you can see, under 18 and over 2 sounds like two different things because of the presentation. This adventure's saving grace is the slick presentation where it sounds like the party can do something together. But the math shows otherwise.
While the premise could be interesting, the given purpose and tasks offer little or no reward to the players and are actually crocked to ensure the party fails.
I gave this adventure one star for being free and a second for being creative. It is an excellent learning experience for DM to learn how not to create an adventure.