One of the most consistent writers of enjoyable D&D adventures is Dan Coleman. Every so often, he runs a Kickstarter for another four or five dungeon adventures, it funds, and he quickly releases them to the world. We’re in that period now: his Kickstarter finished a few weeks ago, and we now have four more adventures available through DriveThruRPG that we can download and play.
Out for Blood is one of their number: an adventure for 15th-level characters. The adventurers are invited to a party at a manor where, during the night, a group of vampires tries to kill everyone. A bit of a surprise for the vampires that the adventurers were present, huh?
The reason for that seeming coincidence is at the heart of what makes this adventure so fun for the DM. It’s also something that doesn’t have to be revealed during play. Perceptive players may figure it out, and from there their choices can cause the story to progress in entertaining ways.
The adventure does run into a few problems in its structure. Dan Coleman derives his adventure layouts from the 4E Delve format, which works well for presenting groups of related rooms, especially in traditional dungeons. In this case, the chaos of the vampire attack ends up being presented more as a bunch of static – rather than interacting – areas. The adventurers deal with each situation as they move from area to area, but the adventure doesn’t consider the vampires fleeing and then alerting the others to what is occurring. It’s just not that dynamic.
So, you get a lot of very entertaining encounters, but not the free-flowing mayhem that the situation might generate. Honestly, I’m not sure what the best way to present such an adventure. The fact is, it’s very easy to overwhelm the DM with Too Much Information. This adventure already has a lot of information in it and each individual encounter is quite complicated. So, instead of a freeform approach which gives the actors, the location and lets the DM invent encounters based on previous occurrences, Out for Blood uses a much more structured technique that makes it much easier for the DM to run.
The formatting of the adventure strains under the amount of information in each encounter, although Dan Coleman employs various icons and visual cues to guide you to relevant portions of text. Of the various adventures of his that I’ve read, this is the one that has the most problems – things don’t quite mesh as well as I’d like. Is there much that is good? Absolutely, and the concept behind the adventure is fantastically good. However, the concept grabs me much more than the execution.
As it stands, you can have an enjoyable evening playing this adventure. It doesn’t quite ascend to greatness, but Out for Blood possesses many elements that are worth investigating.