Beastmaster’s Daughter, by Dave B. Stevens, is a free “adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game” and is “5E compatible.” But since I’m not the one marketing the adventure, I’m pretty sure that I can just say that it’s compatible with Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition. Beastmaster’s Daughter is a one-shot for 4-6 third-level adventurers. It’s available for the low price of free on DriveThruRPG.
The eponymous “beastmaster” is a potent wizard who has assembled a small zoo of sorts, which is being watched over by his daughter while he’s off dealing with other matters. Things go awry (as things tend to do), and the party responds to a request for assistance in recapturing the specimens.
Beastmaster’s Daughter presents a fairly straightforward and concise mission (definitely playable in one session), and flavors that up with some clever-but-not-too-clever puzzles (of course, as with anytime you have any sort of puzzle, I would always suggest being prepared for your players to just miss the solution completely and need some help, because they never make it easy). There’s a room set up as a chess board, where players take on some of the characteristics of the applicable chess piece when they enter the board (e.g., enter on the Knight’s square and you can only move in Ls). There’s a talking door that the players have to get to open itself. The players need to figure out how to operate some force fields to recapture specimens.
I thought one particularly nice bit of design was the “pre-mission.” In order to “prove themselves” worthy to deal with the real mission, the party must first capture a less exotic beast to add to the zoo’s collection. When I was first reading through the adventure, this pre-mission seemed pretty silly. Why not just let the characters start the real quest? Why give them a pre-task that they “have” to pass, but then let them do the quest anyway if they fail? Why the tired “prove yourself” trope? But then when I was finished, I realized that the pre-mission was there to make sure the players know how to fight without doing lethal damage. Capturing the weaker critter earlier on gets the players comfortable with a style of combat they’ll be required to use when it really matters near the end of the adventure.
The adventure also has a lot of helpful information for the DM, such as expected times to particular checkpoints, thorough explanations of how all the areas work, suggestions for helping the party recover if they’re messing things up, and adjustments for more players or if you have more time available to extend the session (e.g., if you have six hours instead of four).
Oddly, the biggest negative I have about the adventure is the cover. I get that, since this is a free adventure, the designer is working with stock photos and creative commons material, but so there are very real limitations, but the cover feels more like something one would find on a romance novel than on a D&D adventure. Note that Raven (the daughter), as described in the adventure, is not wandering around the enclosures in a summer dress, but rather is pragmatically clad in pants and a smock.
Overall, Beastmaster’s Daughter is a fun one-shot for players who like puzzles and understand that “smash and grab” is not the best way to approach things.