More Like This Please: The Ring of the Battle Maiden

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 03 March 2019

Recently the DMs Guild offered a number of bundles to raise money for RAINN. I bought all of the bundles and started going through the content offered. One of the first items to stand out to me is an introductory adventure called The Ring of the Battle Maiden by Ashley Warren. It’s a 5e adventure for 2-6 first level characters set in the Moonshae Isles.

This isn’t a review exactly but my response to reading through the adventure. It will contain spoilers about the adventure.

At a high level, it’s a rather straightforward adventure. Ashley provides a number of adventure hooks to give ideas on how to get the player characters interested the ring of the battle maiden, a reference to the famed battle maiden Dagmar the Unyielding, and currently protected by the Daughters of the Gray. As the adventure points out pretty quickly, the ring isn’t an ornament to be worn on a finger but rather an arena for combat and proving one’s worth. The ring is located on the northern coast of Norland and so options for travel to the location are also provided.

So, at its core it’s a tournament adventure complete with bracket and some additional opponents. That’s not typically my style but there are a lot of items within the adventure that I really love.

Most obviously, it’s full of female characters. I only noticed one character that is described with male pronouns, and that was in one of the adventure hooks. Ashley writes at the end of the module that she wanted a female-dominated adventure because why not? Which I happen to think is pretty awesome.

To get a full understanding of what I mean when I say it’s full of female characters, here is a list of said characters:

Non-player characters:

  • Dagmar the Unyielding
  • Baron Hossenfeffer
  • Helmi
  • Korina Kodex
  • Tora Hrafnkelsdottir
  • Sarya Skaya
  • Gunnar
  • Korja Kodex
  • Noel
  • Freya
  • Honey
  • Petra
  • Ayla
  • Marya
  • Gritte
  • Kas the Cutthroat
  • Ariadne the Demondancer
  • Eliana the Keen-Eyed
  • Baywar the Stormbringer
  • Fela the Fiery
  • Mazoga the Doomslayer

That’s 21 named NPCs, at least 19 of which are women.

For the monsters, we have:

  • harpy
  • troll

Harpies are female by definition in D&D. The gender of the troll is unknown.

And for the gods, we have:

  • Umberlee
  • Selûne

What’s interesting to me about this module is that nothing about it is stereotypically gendered. There’s a diverse number of women and even their depictions in the art are fairly diverse. The adventure itself could easily also be full of men, but it just happens to be full of women this time. Given the sheer number of women, the sheer number of roles that women fulfill in the story, etc, we’re not risking reinforcing most stereotypes about women.

In fact, the strongest argument along those veins that I could see, is the common complaint that women have to be "like men" in order to be seen as strong. But even there, I’m not sure the module falls completely in that trap. For instance, Freya and Honey are also there in town and are not directly part of the tournaments. It’s unclear that Freya is a Daughter. And to be a Daughter, one just needs to prove bravery, not necessarily martial strength.

Another thing I enjoy about the way it is written is that while the ring is intended to test folks so that they can see what they are made of, it’s also a nurturing and supportive community where folks give to each other what they can and try to make it as safe as possible for that exploration of self.

I also super enjoyed the song list and other advice given to run the adventure. And, the art. Let’s talk about the art.

There are 14 different depictions of women in the 24 pages of the pdf. Let that sink in for a moment. We get a fairly awesome cover.

The Ring of the Battle Maiden CoverThe Ring of the Battle Maiden Cover

Ok, so this might take a moment to explain and why this is not a review, but my reaction to the adventure. Yes, I noticed what could be called the "panty shot," the uncovered hip and thighs, and what reminds me of garter belts. Yes, the cover made me nervous about the rest of the content since it’s the first adventure I read from this author.

I sat with those reactions for a moment and then also noticed the abstraction to the art, the amount of muscle, and the fact that her face is determined and fierce. I also went through the rest of the art. While Ashley calls the adventure campy, it doesn’t feel exploitative to me and just seems comfortable and fun.

The cover wasn’t the only piece I enjoyed. In particular, I’d like to call attention to the Kas the Cutthroat.

Kas the CutthroatKas the Cutthroat

Finally, sitting back and taking a look at the adventure as a whole (which I get is short and intended to be simple), I love the fact that Daughters can be of any gender but the terminology centers on women and that by using it as an introductory adventure, the players will start out with a strong group of women that they can potentially ally with throughout the Realms.

The only thing I might say that is more critical is that some of the read aloud text is fairly long so DMs might want to consider how they want to handle those. I only bring it up because I get super self-conscious when I speak for too long, especially when it’s due to read aloud text. But that is the smallest of issues and is a matter of opinion and style.

I highly suggest checking out the adventure and keeping it ready to run whenever you want something simple and straightforward for folks to check out. You can find it here (affiliate link).

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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