5E Adventure Review: The Donjon

The Donjon is the eleventh adventure of the Curse of Strahd season of the D&D Adventurers League. A four-hour adventure for character levels 5-10 written by Ash Law, it has the adventurers rescuing the leader of an orc tribe from a slither of yuan ti serving a dracolich.

If you were wondering what this has to do with the ongoing storyline for Curse of Strahd, the answer is this: not much. It represents a side-quest away from the main storyline of the Obsessions, and, although it does link into earlier adventures in the season, such as The Ghost, it is eminently skippable as part of the storyline. My understanding is that it was a preview for the fifth season of the D&D Adventurers League adventures, but plans changed when Convention-Created Content was introduced and the main DDAL adventures left the Moonsea area. This leaves The Donjon in the unfortunate position of setting up things that would never occur.

There are many good things about the adventure. It is packed with incident. The first half has the players making their way through the Glumpen Swamp, where branching paths allow several different routes and encounters along the way. The second half is the characters rescuing the orcs and their leaders from the yuan-ti, which requires them to descend into sunken, trap-filled ruins and disrupt a ritual before the yuan-ti can sacrifice the orc leader.

The adventure feels very much like a rerun of The Ghost, but with less relevance to the overarching story. It could easily be played without reference to Barovia at all, and that’s a weakness in this season.

Both halves of the adventure provide many encounters for the players and DM to use; optional encounters abound, and each play of the adventure can be different. There’s a lot of invention here.

However, the adventure relies very heavily on the skills of the DM to pull things together. Many encounters are described very briefly, and the final dungeon is distinctly underdeveloped.

I wish there was a map of the final dungeon. There are example encounter areas, plus a lot of potential encounters described in the book, but the adventure’s form is determined entirely by the Dungeon Master and not by decisions made by the players. If there are traps along a passageway, give me a map so that the players can decide to go left or right… and if they choose the trapped path, allow them to determine that the traps are there and make another decision. There are times when you can do without a map; this isn’t one of them.

Mind you, the nature of these encounter mean it’s very easy to adjust the adventure to be longer or shorter if needed.

It’s not a bad adventure, but neither does it achieve greatness.

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