The Carver’s Cave is a short adventure by R.M. Jansen-Parkes for characters of levels 3 or 4, although it provides notes to scale it to second or even third tier parties (levels 11-16). The adventure takes a simple, unsettling concept and explores it well. It’d also really like an obliging party of characters who could get captured when you wanted them to, but the adventure works even if they’re unco-operative in that manner.
The villain of the adventure is Elias, a halfling sculptor. He is extremely good at creating life-life statues of his subjects. I’m glad to say that the statues are, in fact, statues. They’re not the petrified bodies of his subjects. No, his villainy is far more sophisticated: He extracts the life-force of his subjects and instils it in his statues so they come to life. Sure, his subjects die, but you can’t make an great work of art without some sacrifices, can you?
The adventurers are unaware of this, of course, and know only that they’re going to investigate some disappearances in the area. The heart of the adventure is a six-area dungeon where the adventurers must deal with both the animated statues and Elias himself.
As mentioned above, the most amusing play of the adventure (for the DM, at least) would be if the adventurers started in investigation mode and, after talking to Elias, were caught unaware and captured by him, thus leading to a situation where they must escape and free one of their fellows before his or her lifeforce is extracted and used to animate another statue. The author allows for this situation and offers suggestions for how the adventurers could escape, including the one who is the direct object of Elias’s attention. The adventure works fine without this occurring, however. It turns into a dungeon delve in that case, though one underlined by some challenging encounters.
The adventure works because it has a strong central core and doesn’t try to overcomplicate it. Most groups would easily be able to complete it in a single session, and it has the potential of being appropriately horrifying once the players work out what is going on.
The formatting of the adventure has a couple of odd spots where the text boxes are just slightly out-of-place, and a selection of full-page art feels odd when reading it on an iPad – it probably works better in its printed form.
Overall, this is a solid adventure with a great concept. Recommended.