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A Mishap of Ill Portent $2.96
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Jakob S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2019 17:24:24

My group and I were on the brink of starting a new campaign in the deep jungle of Gamulganjus but decided to instead give this new campaign a try. We played A Mishap of Ill Portent this evening and it was a mixed experience.

Generally, the adventure is straight forward with a McGuffin, a few enemies and a setting to make it interesting. I found the adventure to require some adaptation from the gamemaster in order to work smoothly. My review will start from the beginning of the adventure and work its way though, so it might contain spoilers.

  • The adventure starts with an introduction including an adventure synopsis, background for the adventure, and the seemingly mandatory small parapraph on how to read he various boxes and understand the references that appears in the adventure. All great. Then comes the "involving the PCs". This is not a section on suggestions for why the PCs are in the village or what could motivate them to begin this perilous adventure. This is instead where the adventure starts as opposed to the first chapter where I might have expected the beginning to be.

  • Next is a table for Mesos' Bane which is triggered by an epic event in the story (and I like epic events so that's great). However, I am unsure if I should treat this table as a handout to my players who play arcane casters or if the table will be present in the next installments of the campaign. Also, if it is supposed to be information revealed to the players, is it then a spoiler that the name of the table is Mesos' Bane?

  • Durgan's Rest. Small village with a population of 220. 10 of which work as guards not including the sheriff. That's a lot of guards.

Chapter one

  • The last paragraph in the first plain text section seems like something that should not be read out to the players.

  • The burning house and the zombies. My players' characters were absolutely decimated by this encounter. The adventure introduces a new type of zombies that are very offensive. While their hitpoints are greatly reduced, their offensive capabilities have compensated for this. A normal Zombie deals 4 damage on a hit. These zombies deal 6 damage on a hit and a melee attacker takes 2 damage when hitting a zombie. That is the recipe for a dangerous encounter for level 1 characters. The 3 zombies constitute a hard encounter for 4 level 1 PCs if we accept the assumption that these altered zombies are challenge rating 1/4 each. Add to this the initial roll for a level of exhaustion (and every 6th round thereafter - does a second fail apply a second level of exhaustion, and so on?), the burning surroundings which easily adds 3 more damage to a character and steals an action from either the character on fire or one of the allies (and with the possibility of snowballing), and add the damage (10-15% of the spellcasters maximum hit points) that Mesos' Bane inflicts on arcane spellcasters. Oh, and there's two of these encounters. And some environmental hazards. And no time for short rests.

  • The encounter was also a strain on both the players and me as the gamemaster. For the players it was the amount of saves, damage and conditions that was inflicted on them without any chance of effecting the outcome. For me, it was all the bookkeeping on squares that was on fire, rounds before the mage dies, saves for the zombies when they caught fire, informing the players of all their saves and the consequences of failed saves, and running the combat. I understand that the adventure wants to make the encounter interesting, but it was too deadly and needed some steamlining.

  • Area A4 states that the stairs require a succesful dexterity check to navigate safely. It says nothing about what happens if that check is failed.

  • I had one character death from the first encounter (he was on fire so the death saves were rapidly building up) and the group had to retreat and let the building burn down. Upon investigating the smoldering remains they failed their DC 15 intellligence (investigation) or DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to find the McGuffin. Without succeeding one of these checks, it looks like the campaign ends here.

Chapter two

  • My group were able to get the information from the townsfolk about the female elf which is something I guess. Other than that, the mage's body was lost to the flames and I presume that goes for his spellbook as well. As such, judging from the adventure alone, my group shouldn't have any clue on where to go next.

I really think that this adventure could benefit from some more playtesting and then a revision to streamline it. The encounters are too deadly for a 1st level group, a skillcheck decides if the McGuffin is found or not, and if the place burns down then there's no clue on where to go next. All these things need to be handled by the gamemaster, and quite frankly, this level of meddling is not what I expect when I pay for an adventure for low level characters.

3 of 5 stars. One of them just because it's Scarred Lands. Looking forward to the next part of the campaign.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Jakob,

Thanks very much for your detailed review! As you mention, your review contains some spoilers, so my responses here may as well.

First off, let me thank you for pointing out a few formatting errors, which I will address in the version 1.1 update, which should be live later today. If you find any subsequent errors or omissions, please let me know!

Regarding the Mesos' Bane table, I do not think this is a spoiler. Mesos' Bane (in the SLPG p. 127) is an established part of the setting. This adventure simply ups the stakes and effects, while introducing chaos and unpredictability in future installments). Though the Mesos' Bane table is not specifically created as a player handout, there is no reason not to provide your PCs with that information.

Regarding the number of guards: Durgan's Rest is on the edge of a dangerous forest. Furthermore, I envision Ghelspad as a fairly dangerous place. I would think any settlement would have a high proportion of guards to keep the peace and protect the populace.

For Chapter One
Your first point is correct. I shall address that formatting error. Thank you!

Regarding the burning house and the zombies, the encounter is absolutely dangerous. If the party does not put out the fire (or convince the townspeople to resume the bucket brigade) as detailed on page 8 they are in for an extremely difficult, potentially deadly time. The ongoing risk of catching fire and gaining exhaustion from smoke inhalation should drive this point home, giving the players several opportunities to rethink their strategy. Some parties might make it through without incorporating firefighting into their strategy, but many likely won't. This is designed to convey the dangers of running into a burning building. The map assets are there to reduce the bookkeeping on the GM's part in terms of tracking the fire's movement. If used, and the players take care to avoid the flames, the need for saving throws can be reduced at GM's discretion.

While dealing with the fire, I highly recommend the use of the included map assets to track the fire. Combat inside the fire is complicated, but the GM can absolutely simplify at their table. Not everyone's play styles gel well with complex encounters, so I would recommend reducing the number of saves to once per six rounds, once per minute, or once per room. I would also say making the zombies not make saves would be a way to reduce complication, but that also removes the possibility of a zombie burning itself up, so do that at your own risk.

Regarding Area A4, I will reword. Failure is meant to indicate you are unable to make it up the stairs at that level.

Either of the McGuffins are handy to find, but neither is necessary to carry the plot forward. I'll elaborate below.

Chapter Two
It would seem to me that Tsendur's body being lost to the flames would only occur if the party (and the townspeople) do nothing to stop the spreading fire. Having said that, there is language that allows for that possibility, so I shall adjust it. Regardless of the outcome, there should be enough of Tsendur's body to perform speak with dead. The sheriff should suggest taking the body to the Bridged City if no one else does. While these seemed pretty obvious to me, I could see where they might be missed as opportunities and will alter the text to reflect that.

Thank you very much, again, for the detailed and thought out review. I appreciate the feedback and will be processing the V1.1 document tonight. I hope you find the remainder of the campaign enjoyable and I appreciate your support of Scarred Lands!

Travis


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