5E Adventure Review: Tales of Good and Evil

Tales of Good and Evil begins the second series of level 1-4 adventures produced by Baldman Games set in the city of Melvaunt for convention play. Written by James Introcaso, this is a role-playing investigative scenario, where the adventurers are sent by an officer of the law to investigate a number of people who have drawn the attention of the authorities in the unsettled conditions after a failed invasion of the city by a nearby orc lord.

The adventure consists of five short scenarios covering each investigation. There is a recommended order of scenarios, guided by links in each, but they can be played in any order. The adventure, as the first in a trilogy, primarily foreshadows future threats, although each scenario has a situation that the adventurers must defuse. Despite the structure being somewhat similar to Shawn Merwin’s introductory scenarios to the main D&D Adventurers League seasons, these are not written for brand-new adventurers. The baseline is for a party of level 3 characters. Balance is generally good, although one battle against eight thugs is, in my experience, too difficult for many groups, especially when the goal of the encounter is to capture them rather than kill them; without access to the area effect damage spells, the thug’s pack tactics and high hit points can quickly overcome the adventurers.

The joy of the adventure comes from the interesting situations the characters find themselves in. All of the scenarios have secrets that the adventurers can uncover; the secrets aren’t that hard to find, but discovering all the details helps the players get a sense of accomplishment. There’s not much exploration, but there’s the opportunity for a lot of role-playing and a number of combats. The NPCs are well-described, and provide excellent opportunities for varied role-playing; I particularly like the one-armed mage. The scenarios also don’t have “one true way” of being completed; there’s enough manoeuvrability so that each group can conclude them in a different manner.

The adventure tends to run long, and if you have a group of players who really enjoy role-playing, could take significantly longer than the four hours suggested. If you’re running it under a time limit, you’ll need to pay attention to the passage of time and adjust encounters so they finish in a timely manner.

Although the editing is mostly good, there are a number of errors within the text of grammar and spelling. One other note: Tiger comes after Thug when sorting monsters… this caused me a couple of problems when looking up monster stats in the appendix.

Overall, this is an excellent start to the second series of Melvaunt adventures. Highly recommended.

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5E Adventure Review: Death on the Wall

The final Tier 1 adventure of the Rage of Demons series for the D&D Adventurers League is Death on the Wall, a two-hour scenario where the adventurers, through a series of unfortunate events, end up being the only ones who can stop the xenophobia, tyranny and madness afflicting Hillsfar.

In the previous adventure, Hillsfar Reclaimed, the adventurers stole a set of plans showing the First Lord’s schedule. In this adventure, the Harpers send a force to intercept the First Lord and his court, but a last-minute change to his plans means the force won’t intercept him. The only people who can? The adventurers. It sets up an entertaining adventure, but trying to explain to the players why they are the ones who must do it is very tricky. The original plan isn’t explained that well in the first place – so why are a group of level 1-4 adventurers now doing it? It requires a lot of hand-waving on the place of the DM (and hoping the players buy the explanation).

However, once you get into it, the adventure is very interesting. This is one of those adventures that sets up a complex situation (in this case, the camp of the First Lord) and allows the players to decide how they want to handle it. The adventure addresses the challenges the players face if they use stealth, an all-out attack, or try to persuade important people in the camp to help them. This variety of approaches that can be used makes for a fantastic finale to the Tier 1 storyline.

Some of the approaches aren’t obvious. How does a group learn that the camp’s commander doesn’t like the First Lord and could be persuaded to help? It’s the best solution for a group that likes role-playing; as such, the DM must take an active role in crafting this adventure to appeal to the players they have.

I believe you need to reward your players if they come up with a reasonable plan. Don’t just throw roadblock after roadblock at them. If a plan has a chance of success, work within the guidelines of the adventure to enable it. If you’re got a group of novice players, this is especially important.

There’s a lot of opportunity for role-playing in this adventure, and its bulk is likely to be spent planning. It’s quite possible for there to be only one combat – but that one to be quite complicated. Exploration elements are confined to scouting the First Lord’s camp.

The strength of the adventure does allow wonderful moments to occur. During the initial stages of the adventure, my most recent group got into chatting with a greengrocer about how avocado and watermelon were the most popular fruits being sold in Hillsfar. It was just off-the-cuff improvisation, to display the madness that had taken hold of Hillsfar. However, in the final stages of the adventure, the group planned to poison the First Lord’s food. Talking to the camp’s cook (who didn’t like the First Lord much), they learnt that his favorite meal was a concoction of avocado and watermelon! The first conversation of the adventure suddenly became relevant in the adventure’s climax!

The adventure requires a lot of work and improvisation from the DM, but the results can absolutely be worth it. The Tier 1 adventures of this season have had problems – especially Shackles of Blood – but I’ve had a lot of fun running Death on the Wall. Highly recommended.

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The Living World: Consequences

There are, sad to say, a number of players you will encounter while playing Dungeons & Dragons, that do not properly think through their actions before committing to them. They believe the world was created solely for their enjoyment, and they can do whatever they like without ever feeling the consequences of their actions. Well, as part of the League for Responsible Play of D&D, I’m here to tell you that this must stop now!

Well, perhaps not.

Dungeons & Dragons gets played in a great number of ways. I began with a lot of games that took place in the dungeon and didn’t care that much about the rest of the world. However, when you want to move into a campaign which deals with more of the world, the concept of the players’ actions having longer-term consequences comes into play. You can certainly have these consequences in dungeon-based campaigns, although they’re often ignored in the basic forms of the game.

In my Friday night Greyhawk game, the adventurers were hired to recover some scrolls. Instead of giving the scrolls to their patron, they instead gave them to the local university and church. They were rather surprised to see their faces on “Wanted!” posters as they returned to the Free City after their latest expedition to Castle Greyhawk.

Players often don’t really rate the NPCs in the game. They don’t understand that even if an individual NPC is much weaker than any individual adventurer, that NPC can have friends. However, using the blunt force of combat seldom ends well. Players are really good at killing the NPCs you send to apprehend them, or just dying themselves, which isn’t so good for the continued health of the campaign. Sending assassins after the PCs sounds fantastic; not so good in reality!

So, instead I’ve used what will be more of a social constraint. Imagine what happens to an adventuring party when no-one will sell to them, the temples won’t heal them, the master wizards won’t instruct them in new spells, and no-one will offer them quests. If they start using superior firepower to take out the guards and force the NPCs to help them, the populace will begin to leave. The Free City of Greyhawk as a ghost town? It could happen!

Of course, this does require a breakdown in the social contract with which we play these games. For most groups, there’s an understanding that the law is to be respected, and – even though there will occasional blemishes – potential consequences are to be respected.

In a brilliant move, when the PCs returned to Greyhawk and saw these posters, the paladin (a Lawful Neutral bounty hunter) handed himself in to the authorities. As he’s respecting the law, his church – the church of St Cuthbert, which is quite powerful in these parts – will be attempting to aid him. It will be very interesting to see where the campaign develops from there.

For, not only are there negative consequences, there can be positive consequences. If a group aids a tribe of orcs in the dungeon against their enemies, the orcs can provide a safe place to rest and pass on interesting rumours from the Underdark. Titles and commendations may follow from the local authorities. Perhaps land or a small keep? The parameters of the game can change and adapt as the world is developed, with actions of the players having ongoing effects on the world.

PCs make friends and enemies. As a DM, keep track of what they do and how it affects those they interact with. It helps provide more adventures as you develop a living world.

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5E Adventure Review: The Mad Dance

Sean Hynd’s The Mad Dance caught my attention because it had a really good blurb. I read a lot of the advertising copy for adventures on the DMs Guild, and seeing one that was short, to-the-point, and giving all the important information about the adventure was much appreciated. For those unsure about what a blurb needs, the basics are: What the adventure is about, the level of the PCs, and how long it will take to play. In this case, it’s a 3-4 hour adventure for level 1-2 adventurers.

This adventure takes the characters to a mansion which is magically sealed after a farewell party from which none of the guests returned. The mansion has four areas that can be explored, each of which is well detailed.

It’s an interesting, creepy adventure. The events that the characters investigate are unsettling, and there’s more going on than first meets the eye. All of this makes for an adventure where the players have a good time working out the true details of what has occurred.

The formatting of the adventure could be much better: the space between columns is not wide enough, text boxes don’t break over pages, the fonts are erratically deployed (and once again, the problems with the Wizards template not using the fonts correctly appear – whenever a monospaced font appears in a DMs Guild product, it’s because the font is wrong). A few inline headings could be called out with bold and italic fonts; as such, they tend to be lost. The rules terminology used is occasionally non-standard; we say a DC 13 Intelligence (Medicine) check, not just a DC 13 Medicine check.

However, the formatting problems don’t detract from the strength of the adventure material. It’s a fun adventure, slanted towards role-playing and investigation. Recommended.

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D&D Terminology: Turns and Rounds

One of the slightly more confusing things in this edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the distinction between a “turn” and a “round”. I’ve seen many players not quite understand how they are different and, as many abilities refer to them, it seems appropriate to just remind people what they mean.

Unfortunately, “round” is used in two or three different manners, so it isn’t as easy as it first looks.

The simple definition:

Combat is divided into rounds. A round consists of each combatant taking one turn. Once each combatant has had its turn, the round is over, and the next round begins.

Here’s a couple of examples where the definition of turn is important:

The Rogue’s sneak attack ability can be used once per turn. This means that if a Rogue hits twice on their turn, the sneak attack damage can only be applied to one attack. However, if, on the Fighter’s turn, the Fighter uses an ability that allows the Rogue to make an attack, the Rogue gets sneak attack on the damage even if they used it on their turn. The reason? Despite being in the same round, the Fighter and Rogue have separate turns.

The Cleric/Wizard casts shield of faith on their turn using a bonus action. By the rules of spell-casting, the only other spell they can cast that turn must be a cantrip with a casting time of one action. However, when the Ogre attacks the character on the Ogre’s turn, they can cast shield as a reaction – it’s no longer the same turn.

Pay attention to what the ability actually states: round or turn.

Now, for the bit that confuses people.

A round has two meanings. Its basic meaning is the round of combat where everyone gets to act once (Let’s call this a “battle round”). When used in a spell duration, it typically means “until it is your turn again”, although whether it means “until the start of your next turn” or “until the end of your next turn” depends on the spell’s description. (Let’s call this a “personal round”).

Thus, guiding bolt has a duration of “1 round” and lasts until the end of your next turn. Chill touch has a duration of “1 round” and lasts until the start of your next turn.

The strangest example is shield. It has a duration of “1 round”, but ends at the start of your next turn. However, as you typically cast it on an opponent’s turn, it won’t last an entire round. Imagine a turn order of Ogre, Rogue, Fighter, Goblin, Orc, Wizard. The Wizard casts it to defend herself against the Orc’s attack… and then the spell ends. However, if the spell were cast against the Ogre, it would continue through the goblin and orc’s attacks, until the Wizard had her turn again!

So, be aware of the difference between the two uses of “round”.

Two other things of note:

In previous editions, we’d often say “At the start of each round” or “At the end of each round”. It’s a usage that, if you’re writing adventures, you shouldn’t use for 5th Edition adventures. Instead it’s clearer to state “On initiative count 20” or “On initiative count 0”. (See Lair Actions in the Monster Manual).

One example when the definition of “round” tripped up the designers is in the definition of “Ready”; they state “you can only take one reaction per round” meaning the personal round of spell-effects. However, for a “battle round”, which is the way they’re using the word throughout the rest of the chapter, you can use a reaction twice; you regain your reaction at the start of your turn, so if you take a reaction, then have your turn, you can use your reaction again within the space of the “battle round”. Obviously, you can’t take a reaction twice during your “personal round”.

So, that’s a bit of clarification as to the difference between “turn”, “round and the other sort of “round”!

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5E Supplement Review: The Book of the Tarrasque

The tarrasque was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in 1983, appearing in the Monster Manual II book. A huge, lumbering reptilian beast, its hunger was legendary, its bite possessing the abilities of a sword of sharpness, so that there was a chance that any attack would sever a limb of the target, and its metallic hide would reflect spells such as lightning bolt and magic missile back at the caster, while negating any fire damage at all. This was a monster to be feared.

Or, at least, that was the theory.

The main trouble players have noticed with the tarrasque has generally been a simple one: it doesn’t fly. Thus, many gamers, upon encountering this “ultimate” monster, have engaged their various methods of flying, and pelted with magical arrows it from the air. The Tarrasque is a fantastic melee monster, but – even with its defenses – loses a lot of its interest if the players can just avoid it. The other trouble is in finding the right scenario in which it makes an appropriate enemy. It deserves a place as the final enemy, but it isn’t an intelligent foe; it won’t be the one planning the Ultimate Destruction of the Entire World™.

Encoded Design’s The Book of the Tarrasque endeavours to provide answers to these issues, bringing the tarrasque into the toolbox of DMs everywhere. It does this by discussing how best to use the tarrasque in combat, the adventures in which you might employ the tarrasque, and a suite of optional rules you can use to make the tarrasque an even more formidable foe. The book ends with a sample adventure about a doomsday cult who wish to use the tarrasque to bring about the Ultimate Destruction of the Entire World™.

The current version of the tarrasque lacks some of the traits that the original version has; I miss the severing bite, even though it gains the ability to swallow characters. John Arcadian, who wrote the advice in this book, provides a few more abilities you could give it: a lightning breath (taking inspiration from Japanese monster movies, such as Godzilla), the ability to fling rubble from ruined buildings at characters trying to fly, and restoring the regeneration ability that was rather significant in previous editions. Quite frankly, it needs them.

John is very obviously someone who loves the tarrasque, and the challenge it can present to higher-level characters. However, as he notes, some groups are just going to defeat the tarrasque in a short period of time, while others will experience the epic encounter wished for. A lot of the advice is based on his experiences through running battles against the tarrasque in convention play, although he also provides a few notes for campaign play. I very much appreciate the selection of twenty plot seeds that can be expanded into adventures or campaign play.

Chris Snieziak’s adventure, The Machine of Unmaking, is quite unusual in form. It is very obviously influenced by the other games Chris plays, podcasts about and occasionally writes for. Let me give you an example of its presentation:

The characters are summoned by a patron who reports that a friend from a neighbouring region has asked for help in dealing with the mythic beast known as the tarrasque. The patron wants the characters to see if the friend is telling the truth.

This way of providing iconic or important concepts – and emphasizing them in bold type – which can be replaced by specific people and places is a feature of a strand of games I’m not that familiar with; I know the Gumshoe system games have used it, I presume that others have as well (especially FATE). For a D&D Dungeon Master, used to having all the specific details written down, with names and places predefined (even if we then change them later to fit our campaign), it feels odd.

The adventure is presented using a short, four-act structure. In the first act, the players investigate a ruined city that the tarrasque has moved through. In the second act, they research in the library of the capital to discover what they’re up against (and might be attacked by cultists), the third act has them faced with challenges on the way to the final boss, and the fourth act, in the World’s End Mountains, sees the final confrontation against the cult (and, likely, the tarrasque).

It’s an effective adventure, and the use of a structure alien to existing D&D adventures allows us to see how else an investigation-style adventure can be formatted. The early D&D investigation adventures, such as The Assassin’s Knot, would have very much benefitted from a better structure. The rise of investigative scenarios in, primarily, tournament play has seen D&D expand its horizons beyond the dungeon adventures of its original form, and experimenting with the structures used by more investigative-led role-playing games in the D&D system is something well worth doing.

So, what do I think of the book? That’s a hard one, mainly because, as an experienced DM, a lot of the advice are things I already know about. The sections that focus on using the tarrasque in a one-shot adventure just designed to defeat it rather than in regular campaign play leave me cold, but I can see that they’ll be very useful for DMs preparing to use it in such a form. There are bits that I find pointless or problematic, such as the advice that says a party with items that confer flying is better equipped to fight the tarrasque – well, yes: those items actually create a major problem when using tarrasque-as-written. But there’s plenty of useful things in the book as well, and the addition of variant abilities (especially the throwing-rubble attack) does a lot to move the tarrasque back to the foe a well-prepared and equipped party will find challenging.

I really, really liked the notes on how the tarrasque has been used throughout the history of D&D, and its background as a French myth.

Ultimately, this is a book for a specific purpose: to encourage you to use the tarrasque in an exciting session or campaign. The fact that it includes an adventure that shows you one way to use the monster is a definite plus; the usefulness of the rest of the book will depend on the needs of the individual DM.

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Running Curse of Strahd: Ezmerelda d’Avenir

The rider who greeted the adventurers as they descended from Argynvostholt was Ezmerelda d’Avenir, a gift to DMs everywhere.

One of the major things that you’ll often need as a DM is a non-player character who can drive the plot and give information to the adventurers that they can’t otherwise obtain or, more frequently, have missed. In this game of Curse of Strahd, that character was Ezmerelda. Once a Vistani, now a monster-slayer, she’s got a great backstory, interesting personality, and – most importantly – wants to get things done.

There are several characters in Curse of Strahd who can fulfil this role. Indeed, I could have used either Ireena or Davian Martikov as such. However, it is Ezmerelda who really grabbed my attention. You should trust your instincts; trying to force Davian into that role when I wasn’t that interested in role-playing him would be a mistake. He’s an excellent character in the right hands. For this adventure, they weren’t mine!

The adventurers were immediately charmed by Ezmerelda, and – having finished their exploration of Argynvoltholt (at least for now), were accompanied by her, first to her wagon, then on expeditions to the Amber Temple and Castle Ravenloft… She didn’t take away their agency, but was ‘merely’ there as a source of useful information on where the group might want to go next. So, when the group found Castle Ravenloft just too difficult for them, a quick trip to the Amber Temple was a source of some important information and valuable XP. How did they find out about the Amber Temple? She told them about it, suggesting that it might provide some clues as to how to defeat Strahd.

Ezmerelda’s wagon, of course, can be the source of many items the characters find they need. It’s also useful for moments of comedy. (“I wouldn’t go in there without me.” “Why?” “Well, if you enjoy melting, I guess…”) My group didn’t interact with it overmuch – they basically visited it, explored the tower it was parked beside, then left. But, if needed, it can be used.

Ezmerelda also has a fascinating relationship with an old circus performer. I didn’t play this up. There’s a lot in Curse of Strahd to provide fantastic character moments, but, for the most part, you shouldn’t use them too much. Now, if you can get the characters really involved with Ezmerelda (perhaps as a love interest), then her story can be brought to the fore, especially as she confronts her one-time mentor about his abandonment. However, if you’re not careful, it can bring the ongoing story to a complete stop. The story isn’t about the NPCs interacting with each other, it’s about the players interacting with the NPCs. So, use backstory with care.

The immediate benefit of introducing Ezmerelda was that I could finally run the Tarokka card reading, and let the players know what they needed to defeat Strahd. This was actually quite late in the adventure, normally I would prefer to run the reading long before this, but this was how the adventure played. The reading indicated that Davian was the ally they needed against Strahd, Strahd would be found in his tomb, two of the Items of Power were in the castle, and they never, ever worked out where the final object was. (It was in the monastery).

This was not new information for me. I’d drawn the cards when we began the adventure proper. When we did the reading, I just stacked the deck with the cards I’d drawn previously. (And using the Gale Force 9 Tarokka deck). While it might be fun to find out as the DM halfway through the adventure, having the PCs discover that an item has mysteriously appeared where it wasn’t before can be a bit disconcerting…

As we proceeded through the adventure, the players had a lot of trouble with the clues. What did they mean? Eventually, I had Ezmerelda confirm that, yes, those two items were in the castle (and the third wasn’t that important). It would take almost the entire adventure before the players found the items – they explored every area of the Castle except the ones the items were in!

For now, the group had found a “safe” place for the citizens of Krezk to stay, and were now going to talk to a dressmaker about a wedding dress – catching up on the Abbot’s quest!

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5E Adventure Review: Hillsfar Reclaimed

I’ve recently been rerunning the Tier 1 Rage of Demons D&D Adventurers League adventures. Hillsfar Reclaimed is the penultimate adventure in the series, and it does an excellent job of setting up the finale, while being an entertaining adventure in its own right.

The adventure sees the characters being sent into Hillsfar by the Harpers. There, they need to discover the identity of spies who have been corrupting the First Lord, and they must also steal a copy of the First Lord’s itinerary. Disguises are in order!

This is an adventure that requires quite a lot from the DM. The DM will have to invent many details about the First Lord’s Tower and the other locations visited, although the adventure gives enough material for the DM to have a starting point. I’ve run it three times now: each time more interesting than the last, because I’ve had more experience with the scenario and a better idea of what to emphasize to make it more engaging.

The adventure references events occurring in the other strand of adventures for this season, particularly those revolving around the fiendish conquest of Maerimydra in the Underdark. For players and DMs who haven’t played the higher-level adventures, some of these references will be hard to understand. Thankfully, this information isn’t needed to play this adventure, but it does put the events in context. I do advise becoming familiar with the Tier 2 adventures before running this one.

As to the play of the adventure: it’s very enjoyable. There’s a lot of potential for role-playing here. Although it’s billed as a two-hour adventure, a group that really enjoys role-playing could spend hours on it (although the DM would need to spend some time creating people for the players to interact with). The adventure needs some massaging from the DM to ensure the characters are in the right place at the right time, but it mostly flows well. There are also clues in the early part of the adventure that allow the players to better anticipate the ending; this is handled very well.

Overall, Hillsfar Reclaimed is a good adventure. Its name may not be very indicative of what happens, but, regardless, this is an excellent scenario. I do advise you immediately follow it with Death on the Wall, so your players finish the storyline while the plot is fresh in their minds.

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5E Supplement Review: Books of Knowledge

J. Benjamin’s Books of Knowledge is an intriguing supplement: a collection of magical books that adventurers can study and thereby gain various magical benefits. The author suggests using this supplement in a campaign where permanent magic items are rare; the books described tend to have lesser magical effects, and thus allow a hint of magical ability without overwhelming the campaign.

For instance, the book Art of Axe-Throwing requires three days to read and increases the reader’s normal range with thrown axes by five feet. Eyes of the Kobold allows the reader to reduce the damage they take from a trap by their Intelligence modifier, and False Impressions allows the reader to gain advantage on an attempt to forge documents.

Many of the effects are trivial or extremely specific. Take, for instance, Flumph Grammar, a book that grants you advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks you make against flumphs! Is this a problem? Not exactly. I delight in the flavour these books give the world. The trouble comes when too many of these effects are gained by a player. Remembering conditional bonuses is hard, especially when they come up rarely. It’s a major problem I have with the Pathfinder feat system, which delights in conditional bonuses.

However, when I come across Secrets of a Repentant Thief, which grants the reader an understanding of some of the markings used by thieves to warn of danger, good targets or other matters, then I’m enchanted again.

The book has a few flaws when it comes to the correct expression of the rules. “You may add your proficiency bonus to Insight checks” is a bit problematic. Do you get this bonus if you are already proficient in Insight? And surely it should be to Wisdom (Insight) checks? There are also more than a few missing apostrophes, and the phrasing is tortuous at times. Consider: “You may add your proficiency bonus to all Deception checks you make against humanoid creatures you are actively engaged in reading their fortunes to, and doing so at their request. Additionally, while you are actively reading a humanoid creatures fortune at their request, whenever you make a Deception check against that creature, you may make an Insight check and use that result instead.”

Instead of using the regular attunement rules, several of the books use “minor attunement”, a parallel system that works in the same manner, except you may have three minor attunement items in addition to your three major attunement items. Given the minor effects of most of these books, this is not a bad way of balancing things. I would have preferred to see this limit applied to all the books, just to limit the number of strange effects in play.

Overall, whilst I’m not certain of the game implications of this supplement, I greatly appreciate the inspiration it gives for using minor magic treasures in my game.

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5E Adventure Review: No Foolish Matter

No Foolish Matter is the sixth adventure of the third season of D&D Adventurers League adventures. It’s designed for level 1-4 characters, and sits as a rare stand-alone in a series of adventures detailing the effects of Hillsfar’s “Great Law of Humanity” on the land. Instead of dealing with the injustice of the Red Plumes and the quest to replace the First Lord of Hillsfar, No Foolish Matter concentrates solely on some of the madness created and enhanced by the exiled Demon Lords.

It does this with a carnival.

The basic premise of the adventure is that a strange sickness has been affecting villages in the area. A travelling carnival visited each of the villages just before the sickness started, and this is considered (rightfully) as suspicious by those paying attention, and the party is sent to investigate by their contacts in the factions. However, the adventure also allows for an alternative starting point, with the adventurers being in a town as the carnival arrives, and are then recruited to investigate the carnival by the village healer.

This is an adventure that needs a lot of additional invention from the DM. It is very role-playing intensive and, to be successful, needs the Dungeon Master to convey the chaotic scenes of the carnival and provide evocative descriptions of the various attractions and terrors the adventurers find. The adventure doesn’t lack descriptions for what the adventurers can find, but some DMs are likely to find them inadequate. The descriptions are a spur to the imagination; they don’t do the work for you.

As a two-hour adventure, the plot is quite straightforward: the adventurers are introduced to the situation, they investigate the carnival and discover some unsettling information, and then they proceed to the final confrontation. The bulk of the wonder and excitement comes from the investigation of the carnival, but this is likely going to require some shepherding of the characters by the DM: there are a couple of encounters that make the adventure work much better if they occur, but – as the adventure stands – the players could miss them. There are only two combat encounters in the adventure, and these are quite challenging, with a fair number of special features and monsters to keep track of. This is a consequence of the shorter play-time (and the tournament format); the combat encounters need to have more impact.

Despite these niggles, I found this a great adventure to run. It’s got a strong theme, and some particularly memorable encounters. Yes, it requires the DM to do more work, but I don’t mind this when the basic material is so inspiring. It’d be quite easy to use this adventure outside of the D&D Adventurers League storyline as part of a homebrew campaign.

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