By Brett Bloczynski Encoded Designs 5e Low levels
… With this hope Marion searched the dusty library in her home and found the long-forgotten diaries of Samuel. Marion learned that Samuel did indeed imprison a Lamplighter with the intention of forcing it to grant him a wish. Unfortunately, the final pages of the journal were blank, and Marion never learned if Samuel got his wish fulfilled. Grief-stricken Marion, however, is certain it happened. It must have happened. She would MAKE it happen… and her daughter would live again.
This twenty digest page city adventure is a short investigation in to a murder and a couple of combats along the way. Simple, but with some unexpected flavor, it does an ok job with a short one-night adventure format. A little more work on it and it could be a decent short little adventure. Also, remember, I like adventures.
I was predisposed to not like this adventure. It’s got a project manager attached. And two art directors, and someone in charge of development. I see that and I think “ought oh!” Further, it’s about a woman trying to bring her kid back. That’s another warning sign: treating your D&D game with modern morality. What was the child mortality rate back then? Like 30%-50%, I think? Actually, that gives me an idea. People MOB the party for cash and raise dead. The entire campaign. Talk about high level world problems! Actually, that doesn’t sound like fun for more than a session or two. But, anyway, predisposed thanks to the marketing and the ilk to not like it.
But imagine my surprise! The woman “Once the work was done, Marion drugged Horace, chained him to his anvil, and cut off his hands while collecting his blood in a copper
bowl. Horace died as a result of this process.” Well no fucking shit he died! Brutal! That was unexpected! And then the city portion comes in to play “The Griffins were called and, after a hasty investigation, labeled the tragedy as a “robbery gone wrong.” WooHoo! Police procedural callback where they are all incompetent! God I love city adventures!
So, that got me interested in this adventure in a hurry …
In short, you’re at a wake for the dead smith. There are some people to talk to. You investigate his shop, find some clues, go to the womans house, and find her in the basement torturing a lamplighter to get a wish to bring her kid back to life. Along the way are some shadows to fight, attracted to the evil. (The lamplights are some kind of a Charon-like entity/group, I gather. No much info on them, I assume it’s in some setting book. A couple of words on adapting this adventure to a non-lamplighter world, or a bit more info would have useful for those of us blind buying without the setting book.)
The Lamplighter is weird and cool. It’s a mystery Charlie Brown! She’s torturing this THING for a wish. They are some kind of weird hive mind entity that lights the lamps I guess. But the imagery … There’s only one lamp lit on the characters street, in front of the smiths, with a lamplighter solo in front of it/under it. It talks in archaic form. At the end a bunch fo them gather in a circle around the building and take the woman away to deal with. Creepy fucking imagery! Good Job! And an excellent example of why less is more when it comes to mystery. Explaining things ruins the magic.
The NPC’s in the tavern/wake are presented on pne page per, with personalities and quirks easily summarized at top and clue/info to relate in bullet form. This makes it pretty easy to run them. Likewise the clues in the two other locations (the smithy, womans house) and other important points are also bullet related.
The shadows, a “normal” book monster, are handled … ok. A little creepy, but it could have been handled better with their sliding under doors, attacks, etc. There’s been a small attempt at more flavour, but more in this area would have really heightened the adventure.
On the down side …
The location descriptions don’t work well. Yes, the clue data is done well, but the general descriptions, etc. are not done very well. I feel like this a formatting/[resentatin decision, since the floors of the buildings ares summarized. That might be an ok way to do it but I would suggest it wad not done very well. It’s not easy to scan at the table and relate. Somehow concentrating more on the environs and less on the commentary, while keeping the flavour, is needed.
A lot of information is also presented in italics. I like to beat this point to death, but let me try again: large sections of italics are not easy to read. More than a word or two is bad. You need to find another way. Shaded background, something, but don’t use italics for large sections of text: it’s hard to read and makes eyes tired. Some brief research indicates that this is a well known fact in the editing/typeface world.
It’s also the case that the digest format is a little limiting in this case. One page per NPC in the tavern meet & greet is ok, but the ability to summarize them on a one page would have been even better. Digest is a fine format … but not for all adventures. If you need to REFERENCE things then digest can be challenging and requires some extra effort to help usability at the table.
Finally, and I can’t believe I’m saying this … some of the descriptions are not adequate and don’t have enough detail. Quick! Think of a forge! Because that’s the description of the Forge area of the blacksmiths shop. IE: it’s a forge. That’s about it. Now … how many of you thought about a quenching bucket/tub? I didn’t, and was surprised to find one in the text. Likewise the coals. Yes, in retrospect, once mentioned, they are obvious. But when the party first comes in and I describe it … I didn’t think of either and the text doesn’t mention it … the description overview is non-traditional and therefore leaves that out in it’s more “overview than description” format. Normally, I would suggest that a bedroom or kitchen doesn’t need a contents list. And that remains true. But if an element is a key point of an adventure then it should be mentioned. And both the tub and coals are key points in this. Key elements should be noted previously.
But, hey, still a workable adventure and much better than almost every other 5e adventure I’ve seen! Good Job! And I applaud the designer for avoiding the DMs Guild nonsense!
This is $3 at DriveThru.The preview is the first four pages. The last two kind of give you an idea of the organization of the text with bullets, heading, indents and the like. Including a page that shows an encounter would have been much better, but the preview DOES give you an idea of what to expect.