(5e) Temple of the Nightbringers

By M.T. Black
Self Published
Level 1

A tribe of goblins are raiding travelers on the Long Road, and our heroes decide to help. After a dangerous overland journey, they enter a mysterious abandoned temple where they encounter terrifying monsters, deadly traps, dark magic and a shocking secret. Will they survive the Temple of the Nightbringers?

This eleven page adventure feature a twelve page dungeon and is not a terrible 5e adventure. It’s not particularly good, either. Given the dreadful state of 5e adventures I think you can understand how excited I was to see this one. You should even be able to run it without having read it. I know! It’s like the designer gave a shit!

Dude gets in and get out with his DM text. The innkeeper is Seth Grimhill and he is a bit short tempered. The elven hunter happily tells the party what she knows. There’s enough NPC detail to roleplay them without us having to hear their entire life stories. Thanks. Fucking. God. Further, and get this, elf chick lives with the butchers family and won’t unlock the damn door after nightfall. One sentence. That’s all it fucking takes. One sentence. “If the adventurers try to see her that night, the butcher will tell them to come back the next day and refuse to unlock the door.” That scene builds in your head as you read it. Not a page or a column or a paragraph. A fuckton of designers could learn from this example. Sure, it could be better. The NPC’s could have two aspects, or the butcher a personality, etc, but I’d sure the fuck wish people err on this side of the terseness spectrum; at least it’s still usable as an adventure when they do.

The dungeon shows some similar thought. There’s a bit of read-aloud (more on that later) and then a small DM notes section. If there’s something important then it appears BEFORE The read-aloud. Room noisy? Door spiked shut? That’s the sort of shit you need to know before you get to the read-aloud and it’s actually placed before the read-aloud. It’s as if someone thought “what information will a DM generally need first?” and then they went ahead and put that information first. I know it sounds obvious, but the vast majority of writers don’t do that. The DM text tends to be short as well, just a couple of sentences. PERFECT! Give me the TOOLS to run the room rather than obfuscating the room by hand holding.

As far as the content, proper, it’s trying pretty hard and DOES use several aspects of good encounter design. First, you can talk to a few things. That adds IMMENSELY to adventures. After all, it’s a roleplaying game, and that doesn’t mean we take turns hamming it up. You can always stab something, talk to it first, have some fun. Throw those worgs some wagyu and bribe that bugbear.

There’s also this thing in better dungeons where you can fuck with things. Glowing pool of water … wanna fuck with it? That risk-taking OUTSIDE of combat is one of the hallmarks of good D&D. Yeah, yeah, the dungeons dangerous and bad DM’s put in pit traps, but FUCKINGwith something. That’s tension baby. The players debate. They conspire. They come up with stupid plans. That’s D&D.

There’s also a nice magic item, a mask. Wearing it gives you a +1 bonus to a few things and lets you take a short rest immediately. And the effects last an hour … minus one minute for each time you use it. And it slowly shifts your alignment. That’s a decent magic item. Maybe a little too mechanical, but it is still 5e after all. It’s not just a +1 sword

The read-aloud is also too long. Three sentences, that’s all you get. And putting in the room dimensions and where the doors are is lame. Let the players ask. Remember, that WOTC study showed that no one pays attention after 2-3 sentences.

I also noted that I have a REAL problem with “storyteller” style text. “You know the mud from your boots as your cross the threshold” makes me want to retch in my mouth. The story belongs to the players, just be a neutral judge.

There’s also a level of abstraction I’m uncomfortable with. We’re told that this is a particularly savage goblin tribe. B O R I N G. Details. Heads on pikes and blood angels made of entrails. That’s still short and NOT abstract. Likewise the rumor data is abstracted. The key is to make it flavorful while still being terse. That’s powerful writing. That’s what we should be paying for.

I can quibble with a few more things. ‘How many goblins are there’ is a natural question for the players to ask while investigating, but there’s none of that information provided anywhere by the NPC’s, or easily by the adventure, for the Dm to look up. The ELven Hunters information would be better in bullet form, as the rumor table is. It makes it far easier to find information.

There’s some bullshit skill checks also. DC10 to be let in to town. Some Religion roll to know something is related to some god. Neither of them actually have an impact. The Religion stuff is trivia (and besides, I think the party is told the goddess straight off? Weird that a statue to Shar in the temple of Shar, right?) Who did that/those article on good vs bad skill rolls? Hack n Slash or Finch maybe? It should be required reading for designers AND editors.

Finally, it engages in history in a few places, why zombies are in a room or the EHP backstory. Stick it in an appendix if you must, but keep the damn shit out of the main text where it clogs up running the adventure.

I’d say this one is on the low end of what I might find tolerable. It’s got nothing much special going for it, content wise. It IS one of the few traditionally formatted adventures that you could run 5 minutes after buying. That’s not a trivial accomplishment. Compared to most 5e adventures this thing kicks ass.

This is $2 at DriveThru. Ye Ole Previewe doesn’t seem to work?https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/171272/Temple-of-the-Nightbringers–Adventure?affiliate_id=1892600

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12 Responses to (5e) Temple of the Nightbringers

  1. Bigby’s Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    A shocking secret? Holy cow, the BBEG is Sting!


  2. M.T. Black says:

    Thanks Bryce – this almost feels like high praise from you. 🙂

    This was actually the first adventure I ever published, and I like that it is pretty tight. It’s only about 3000 words in length – as I got more experienced at writing, it perversely became easier write too much, so the last few adventures I’ve been trying to recapture the old terseness.

    Your point about weak adjectives is well made. “Savage goblins” says very little, and I like your counter examples.

    Other comments you make we are in general agreement about. I spent many adventures playing around with boxed text of varying length, but I’ve largely disposed of it in recent adventures except for the introduction.

    One area I think you’ve gone to an extreme is your aversion against ANY mention of the dungeon history. I get that you don’t want three pages of backstory for the adventure. I get that you don’t want two paragraphs of history for a single location. I’m on board with that.

    But now you protest about a single line of history text. A single line! In my adventure, you are crawling through a goblin den and you come across a locked room full of zombies. There needs to be some explanation for why they are there, or we are just playing in a “monster hotel”, where the goblins live next door to the zombies next door to the gold dragon etc.

    I rather suspect if I hadn’t included that line, you would have said, “There’s a room full of friggin zombies next to a goblin barracks. No rhyme nor reason why they are there. You just open the door and there are zombies. Spoils suspension of disbelief.” But I’m not sure.

    Bryce: Yes, MT. But who is the information for? The players can’t read it, and it doesn’t help the DM.

    MTB: It does help the DM. Having a tiny bit of backstory helps answer ad-hoc questions, and also gives grist for social interactions.

    Bryce: You know I hate abstractions, MT. Give me a concrete example.

    MTB: Well, it’s possible that the PCs might not kill all the goblins in the barracks. They might keep one for questioning.

    Bryce: That is both possible and also consistent with a style of play I endorse.

    MTB: Imagine if they ask that goblin what is behind the locked door with the “Keep out” sign. Under interrogation he might end up sharing the whole story.

    Bryce: That is entirely reasonable. It’s possible I’ve pushed my aversion to backstory to an illogical extreme.

    MTB: I’m glad we had this chat.

    • M.T. Black says:

      Actually, the zombie story takes more than a single line – I was thinking of a comment he made in his review of “Beneath the Ruins of Firestone Keep”. But the general comments stands that some backstory is useful. I agree we don’t want too much, but a little bit helps the DM understand how everything ties together, and gives some grist for any improv needed.

      • Evard’s Black Tentacle says:

        First of its great that you are evaluating and taking the feedback crritically MT. That’s a great quality in anyone who wants to get better at their craft and something that we should never stop doing.

        I believe your points all to be fair. However there is a better way to put the story component in front of the players for it to be meaningful. Rather than tell you, what I would say is to go read Deep Carbon Observatory.

        As a GM it’s absolutely fantastic (other than the maps which Gus “fixed” for which I am ever thankful for.

        Those 70 or so pages has turned into a 4 plus year campaign for me. Probably the best I have run. The history is not explained but there to feel and see as you interact with things, and it leaves the GM the mindspace to make and fill in those gaps just by what is “active.” The history, which is much involved, is summarized in bullet points in less than a page in the back. And the NPCs….

  3. Crusader V says:

    I recently ran this for a new group, and everyone had a good time. Its a great little starting adventure, with a nice balance between presenting a structure to follow while giving plenty of room to make it your own. More adventures like this, please.

    • M.T. Black says:

      Thanks Crusader, and I agree with you. As designers we like to “move on” and try new stuff, but sometimes you need to return to the old tropes, and just try and execute them really well. I’ve got an adventure called “Blue Alley” coming out really soon, which I hope achieves that.

  4. Bryce, what exactly do you mean by, “You should even be able to run it without having read it.” Do you mean one should be able to pick up the adventure and run it cold without reading it through or doing any preperation ahead of time?

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Yeah, I think you can pick this one up and run it without ever having read it first. That is not something I would EVER expect to be able to do, with any adventure, even a one-pager. But in this case it might be possible.

  5. Thank you Bryce for going back to review this one and thank you MT for your thoughts. I wish Bryce had offered the comparison I was originally asking about but appreciate that is not standard.
    I found Nightbringers really easy to work into my campaign. Many village bits MT outlines can be used as a hook. The real village constable was a slave in the complex, in my version, and my BBEG was an earlier arch-enemy of the hunter-guide, who in turn was established early on.
    What really impressed me was how well what looks like a simple set of tunnel works into an adventure length session. My players are neither dim nor super, and wisely avoided traps and concentrated on speed of assault. It was tough but not too tough.
    Shar – No, pretty sure her identity is not a gimme.
    Traps and bonuses – to be fair, players who avoid the traps are also not going to find the bonuses. Maybe place obvious clues if you want your players to discover.

  6. M.T. Black says:

    Thanks Andrew – I’m so glad to hear you had a good time!

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