Curse of the Blood Moon

By John Cavalcante
Self Published
Level 1

In the borderlands of a dying empire, in the Duchy of Gauvadan, the village of Braildorn now cowers in fear. This is the birthplace of the Blood Treatment: a miraculous Panacea created by the arcane scholars of Liardnia University with otherworldly influence. However, the days of prosperity and miracles would end soon. With the mysterious fall of the University, came a curse: The surrounding forest, once blessed by the fey, was transfigured into a cursed and dangerous swamp. People now are disappearing in the dead of night, and the noble house is the prime suspect to be behind everything, arousing anti-empire separatist sentiment. In these dangerous times, only one question remains: What will you do?

This 48 page adventure (riffing on Bloodborne) uses around eleven pages to describe about fifty rooms in a three level mansion in a “gothic with some firearms” setting. The writing is terse and well formatted. It does not make me hate my life. It also brings me no joy, lacking interactivity and evocative descriptions and scenarios.

Ok, so, I feel like maybe I need a new category: “Obviously, you tried.” Because dude tried. There is a certain “spirit of the OSR” present in this adventure, a kind of kit-bashing that was prevalent in the early OSR days. Dude has grabbed some house rules from other OSR products, and, perhaps, even some room ideas. The map is easy to read and there are AT LEAST four ways from the first floor to the second in the mansion. The keys start with a bolded room name “Living Room” and are followed by a short description and then some bullets for things going on in the room. The mansion tropes are here. Body in the chimney. Dude tried. 

There are a couple of things that are pulling this adventure down. Well, more than a couple, but two major ones. There need to be more cross-references in the text to make locations data, especially named NPCs, easier. The rumors are pretty generic, like “The house is now haunted because a wizard did it.” and so on. And the layout, the size of the map, is relatively small, at twenty rooms for each of the main levels. It’s just hard to get a really good environment going with that without some really good situations. The major issues, however, are interactivity and descriptions. 

The descriptions here are terse … and minimal. Nothing wrong with terse, that’s what they should be. But, also, they are minimal. We don’t really get the flavour of the room. The pantry says that it has naked walls with shelves full of rotten ingredients, and also kitchen and dining tools. Sure. That’s a pantry in a haunted house. We’re starting off pretty well with “naked walls”, but then it drags to just a standard description of a pantry. Peeling wallpaper. A jumble of collapsed shelves. The smell of old cinnamon. . A jumble of beaten up pots? We’re really looking to bring this room alive, and it’s just not going there. The kitchen next doors has “A central cooking table with a mutilated corpse in it, and 5 Ghouls in chef’s garb using rusty tools to prepare the meat and hurl it into a boiling suspicious soup.” So, the same kitchen in just about every haunted house adventure. A boiling soup can be great, but suspicious is a conclusion rather than a description. Mutilated is a little abstract for the horror that the kitchen scene is supposed to be conveying, and our ghoul friends are rather perfunctory with no description to speak of at all. The place abounds in “religious frescoes” with little more to go on. And by “little” I mean “nothing”. The rest of the adventure is more of the same. A degree of writing that is is trying, but the words choice, or the ability to convey the imagined room via the written room, in order to convey it to the DM, just isn’t getting there at all.

Interactivity is about the same. We’ve seen the ghouls in the kitchen. The rest of the rooms pretty much fall in to this same category. You can stab things, of course. And there are, to it’s credit, a decent number of things to talk to, especially among the servants. The interactivity, though, is fairly lacking. You get a body in a carpet of smoothing, the kitchen ghouls, a poltergeist playing a piano to summon specters (at level one!) and so on. Thus, our interactivity is somewhat related to combat, and generally to how combat starts. That’s not bad, in and of itself, but it’s lack of interactivity beyond this that drags the place down. We want things to investigate, leverage, figure out, discover, and so on. A challenge beyond merely what’s on the character sheet. 

This is, at its heart, a pretty standard haunted mansion adventure. We’ve got the undead running around, a couple of barely functioning servants, a ghost butler, dead-ish family members, and so on. Shadowbrook and Xyntillian remain the gold standard in this genre, towering above everything else. This is an also ran, but a good first effort for the designer!

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is 24 pages … more than enough to get a sense of the product and the the rooms. So, good


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14 Responses to Curse of the Blood Moon

  1. It’s he shame he didn’t ask me for some description assistance. I speak a small amount of conversational haunted house.

    It sounds worth looking at though. I don’t really care for descriptive text one way or the other. The body in the chimney makes me hmmmm

  2. Kubo says:

    A lot of talk is made about multiple stairs/paths to other levels in the dungeon as part of OSR, like Jaquays’ Caverns of Thracia, which is cool. However, that was not my old school experience per se. In dungeons I played in the early ‘80s we had big levels (maybe 50 rooms) with only 1 or 2 sets of stairs down, and the players would be hunting for the stairs down because they were special. I read that Gygax experienced a race down to the lower levels for better loot in Castle Greyhawk, often skipping a lot of the early levels. (Castle Greyhawk was huge and had multiple stairs down when he reworked it, but he also had 50+ players in several parties so the design made sense). So, in a typical game with only 1 party, fewer sets of stairs in dungeons helped a smooth level progression and players were less likely to miss some good prepared encounters in the early levels. I know the objection to fewer sets of stairs is railroading, but that’s not what players feel at the game table and never complain about it.

    • Dave says:

      The OG conversation around multiple paths was in comparison to straight-line “dungeons.” Where however much the corridor turns right or left, a flow-chart diagram is basically a straight line, maybe with rooms off it, maybe not even that much if it’s caverns. This is the backdrop to the whole years’ long conversation in the OSR about jacquaying/multiple paths.

      Then stairs/multi-level connectivity is a subset of that conversation. It’s another tool to use, but the mere fact of multiple stairs is not the point.

      I believe you about dungeons back in the day, but you’re missing the forest for the trees. If you had to hunt for the stairs in the first place, then the dungeon level you were on must have been more branching and less linear than a modern dugneon like, say, Keep on the Shadowfell (one of negative examples used in the original conversation).

      And as an aside, another use of multiple level stairs, or multiple dungeon entrances, are the ones most likely to be found from the inside, or perhaps with a map. Then they become shortcuts or at least strategic choices later, but without shortcutting the kind of play you’re looking for on the way in or down.

      • Kubo says:

        Yeah, Dave, agreed. There has been bad stuff arising from 5E game play in the name of a 6 encounter adventure day. Small, cramped, unoriginal symmetric and linear dungeon maps being the result.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Drive thru link is broken

    I was actually interested, fixed the link, went to the drivethru page, clicked more info, clicked back, ended up back here because drivethru mobile is one of the worst sites on the internet, gave up. Sorry author

  4. Prince says:

    How is it compared to Tegel Manor?

    TM has been riffed off of more then even B2. Very influential.

    • John Cavalcante. says:

      Well, i tried riffing off of Castle Xyntillan, which was riffed off of Tegel Manor. However, Curse of The Blood Moon is smaller. I would like to think that you can make interesting stuff with the random encounters, rather than 100 denizens of the Rump family. But then again “i tried”. Tegel manor is a Classic, hard to top or compare

    • Prince says:

      Yeah Tegel is a good candidate for re-imagining because it is many ways incomplete and just under the threshold of minimalism. The way it all hangs together is rather nice though.

  5. Dave says:

    I’m reminded I’ve always liked that gothic/flintlock/evening dress not plate armor and backpacks feel, but I don’t think I’ve pulled it off across even a full adventure, let alone a campaign. D&D players are too committed to having their best armor and weapons on at all times, and even more importantly there’s a couple orders of magnitude less adventures for it than for dungeon crawls, which is to say couple orders of magnitude fewer cream of the crop adventures for it.

  6. John Cavalcante says:

    Hey! Thanks for the review. I was HEAVYLY influenced by Castle Xyntillan while making this dungeon. I tried to make interactivity a little higher in some treasures, like making a piano one of the treasures, making Gold Foiled things, etc.

    I think most of my time focusing in this Project went to the random encounters, so the denizens ended up more interesting than the mansion itself. Welp, i tried, better luck next time. At least i didn’t make you want to gourge your eyes out!

    • Maynard says:

      This is a good review for a new author. I look forward to your next adventure.

    • Jeff V says:

      Always good to see an author on here. Seems like a decent haunted house adventure, and it’s not the author’s fault that Bryce has read loads of them!

      I like the idea of a Carpet of Smothering with a body already inside it.

  7. AB Andy says:

    I think this adventure fell victim to Bryce having read a gazillion adventures. And i don’t mean it in a bad way. If you’ve read, I don’t know, 20+ haunted mansion adventures, then of course you’ll compare them. But any person reading it as their first haunted setting ever would find it exceptional. Good job John.

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