The Stop is a small town on the Trade Way as it nears Hillsfar. Life has been tough for the people of the Stop after the overthrow of the previous ruler of Hillsfar, and they haven’t been helped by the hold the Hillsfar Merchant Guild holds over their town. What happens when the representative of the Guild gets murdered? That’s the focus of Murder at the Stop, the first adventure in a new series of D&D Adventurers League-legal adventures set in that town. It is designed by Robert Alaniz.
This is an adventure that revolves around the search for the murderer. Convention scenarios for D&D in this current age are often investigation scenarios. I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that they allow role-playing and puzzle-solving in addition to combat. It makes them a different experience to many home games that don’t really leave the dungeon, and they pose a challenge to Dungeon Masters who aren’t used to their flow. Robert Alaniz is a good designer, so the adventure provides options for progressing the story when the players aren’t getting far with the investigation.
The early part of the adventure has a lot of role-playing, and – as I found – it’s quite possible for a party who don’t like questioning people to walk away from it. The Stop, in Alaniz’s hands, has several interesting characters and various storylines taking place, of which the players can catch a glimpse, or more than that if they talk to the right people.
This complexity of interactions does cause problems. A lot of leads point towards the Hillsfar Merchant Guild – which is properly named the Hillsfar Alliance of Merchant Representatives, a name I have trouble remembering – but they’re a nebulous faction that isn’t really present, and thus can prove a frustrating dead end. There are clues that point towards the real culprit, but they point more to the method rather than the person. The final revelation of the culprit leads to a fantastic final encounter, but is likely to be something forced by events rather than revealed by the actions of the player characters.
There’s a strong horror theme running throughout the adventure, which comes through strongly in the two main combat encounters. A DM can really play this up, exploiting the contrast between the normal life of the trading village and the darker forces that are now attempting to subvert it.
With a combination of interesting NPCs, memorable combats and a intriguing storyline, Murder at the Stop is a superior DDAL adventure. It’s not without flaw, as I believe the investigation could be more cleanly handled, but investigations are very tricky to write well. At least this adventure provides encounters that will entertain those who don’t like investigating. Recommended.