Doorway to Darkness, an adventure for four 2nd-level characters by James Desborough and M.T. Black, takes a solid idea – a mine being overrun by zombies – and adds enough unusual features to it to provide interest and entertainment. It’s very easy to just have a parade of combat encounters. Having features to mix them up, to engage the players and tell a story, is important. And this adventure achieves that.
The final encounter is a good example of that. The authors take a standard shadow, triple its hit points, and have it animating zombies as the players desperately attempt to destroy it and rescue the miners. That’s enough of the unusual and challenging to entertain the players. This is what you want to see.
There are a few design and editing oddities in the adventure. The characters get a chance to see the final encounter through a crack in the wall before they reach it – an excellent design trick – but while the description notes there are two young miners struggling against the zombies, only one is described once the players reach the final chamber. There’s no body on the floor to provide a moment of tragedy; the other miner just vanishes.
Another oddity is that there are two side-passages leading to additional encounters, but, as both appear after the crack, and are obviously not leading towards the proper chamber, they’ll likely be ignored. It’s not a major problem, but it’s something that I noticed.
There are a few clumsy phrases, and it feels like there are too many introductions (something I’ve occasionally fallen prey to…) but these are redeemed by lovely incidental touches – the miners have accidentally built their camp on consecrated ground, so they’re protected from the worst of the attacks. Of course, the mine is another matter!
Doorway to Darkness presents an entertaining scenario, playable in a single session. It has a few rough edges, but the core is sound. It is available individually or as part of the Collected Adventures of M.T. Black package.