Review: To Light the Shadows

Adventure: To Light The Shadows Author: Chris M. Robert Labyrinth Lord adventure for 4 to 6 characters, Level 1-2. Synopsis: Characters are hired by the Ever Bright Order, to retrieve a relic from a sinister dwarf who is a follower of the Shadow Queen. The party is slated to enter a tomb, kill the dwarf, and recover a relic—The Masque of the Tomb King. The party can light candles at some shrines while in the tomb to help them on their quest (i.e. it provides benefits). SPOILERS Improvements/Suggestions: The story is a little long to my tastes. It’s a 17 room tomb, but it has a background and boxed text to read to the characters for almost 2 pages. I do like a little background but the long boxed text seems like players are going to lose attention pretty quick and start grabbing their phones. 2-3 sentences of boxed text or read-aloud is all you get to keep people’s attention. I’m not a huge fan of boxed text, but the author did a good job of NOT controlling the characters too much (i.e. ‘you feel this or ‘when you open the door’, etc.) so that’s alright. Some of it, usually the last sentence isn’t needed because you can glean things off the map. For example: “You can just make out a small alcove in the middle of the north wall, and a door in the far wall to the east.” My problems with this sentence is: 1. Author is controlling the character….”You can just make out a….” What if my dude is guarding our back, can I still see it through all my companions and facing the other way? 2. The map shows the alcove and door… 3. This sentence just takes up space. Every word and sentence should be important so that it doesn’t clog up the writing for the DM. Clogging makes it harder to skim over while playing. 4. Trust the DM can ad lib a bit….Even better, by not saying that last sentence, players may ask—"is there any other exits out of the room?” BAM-- there is the interaction you are looking for as a DM. The tomb was once part of the Ever Bright Order and there are some shrines in there that if you light a candle, you get some beneficial boons to happen within a 50’ radius. Evil flees from this (or most do). The guy who hires the party gives them 25 gp to get supplies and some magic cloth to wrap the masque in. Since this is a introductory adventure….I think it would of made sense for the guy to give the party some candles since they really need to light a candle on these shrines to even have a chance of survival. I liked the candle/shrine idea. The characters know they are supposed to do that though so it loses…something. Exploring a tomb, finding an altar and lighting a candle and having something happen without knowing you are were supposed to do that would be way cooler in my book—but regardless, that’s part of the point of the adventure and the idea is cool. This is a introductory adventure—what if the party forgets to bring candles? Oh oh… One room has 5 shadows plus the possibility of more (up to 8 total) against a party of level 1-2 party. There are shrines to bolster the party but still…that seems pretty rough. And the shadows aren’t affected by the shrine’s magic…. There is one room where there is a test. It has 24 illusory skeletons. The party has to do a specific thing in the room or they die….only to re-awaken….and the room starts over again, until they figure things out. I wasn’t a fan of this. I think beginning players could be very frustrated by this room….and that frustration is enhanced as they finally find the big bad guy—the dwarf……. Ok, the dwarf is wearing the relic—a masque. It has a cool power as it can summon skeletons (but the players are encouraged never to wear it…). But this encounter could be really frustrating to a new player, and I fail to see the purpose of why the author set it up this way: The dwarf summons skeletons, d4 per round…ok. There is a zombie that the party has to slay first BEFORE they can even fight the dwarf (because reasons…). Once the dwarf is in melee he stops summoning skeletons. But this is the part that baffles me: “Once his mask is removed or he falls below 15hp, Unukalhai will retreat, drink his Potion of Gaseous Form, and make good his escape through a small crevice in the ceiling that leads outside. The PCs will be unable to stop him.” Ouch. That’s REALLY frustrating for any player. Their moment of glory is lost. And for what purpose? I was hoping there would be a conclusion where this dwarf might come back and be a re-occurring villain with some ideas…or something. Depending on the ruleset you use, with Gaseous Form potions—either you drink and all your stuff hits the ground, or your equipment stays with you. I don’t have my Labyrinth Lord book in front of me, but that could either be a cool or lame thing to happen in regards to getting the masque an fulfilling the quest. Another part that bothered me: “PCs may use this opportunity to try to remove the Masque of the Tomb King from the deranged Dwarf, and should be encouraged to do so since killing him will be very difficult.” As a DM, I don’t like suggesting or encouraging any type of action to my players. I want to describe the scene as best I can and let them play their game—not a game that I have envisioned. It’s like the author wants the scene to play out a certain way….or else! The map is pretty linear. There isn’t any loops or options for characters. They walk down a hall, enter a room, get attacked…rinse and repeat. Having loops or other access points to different areas of a dungeon gives players options—maybe they want to try and avoid an encounter, or have more freedom to explore…more options to get lost…etc. Last gripe: “The two PCs deemed most helpful in securing the tomb complex and defeating Unukalhai will each receive either a Minor Mending Charm or a Refreshment Token (the LL decides who receives what, see New Magic Items for more details).” I would of preferred not to see this. The new magic items are cool—maybe splash them inside the tomb somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I do reward players once in awhile with some bonus XP if they do something awesome (like save the party) or creative (solve a puzzle or complex trap) but this puts the DM or LL in a position that could easily play favorites—by giving certain players a magic item? It’s one thing if the guy who hired them was inside the tomb with the party, saw everyone’s actions, and then did something like this….but how would he know without going? It’s just a set-up where if I was a player, I would immediately become suspicious of the DM for playing favorites or being unfair. So basically—DM giving bonus XP—that’s ok. The DM having a NPC give out a bonus item or boon when they weren’t there to witness anything—not ok. The Good First of all, the layout by Chris Gonnerman is sharp and looks great. The Wandering Monster table inside the tomb is good—simple notes for a DM to run a little easier than just stats. There is a room where there is notes about the party getting attacked immediately when they enter a room—BEFORE the description of the room. This is the correct placement. It’s the first thing characters are going to see. There is a damaged shrine with a table of random effects when the candle is lit…I love random table effects. Usually I like it when the players don’t know they are supposed to do something and want to try it themselves—like testing out a potion or a pool or whatever. Here, they know they are supposed to light the candle on the shrine, and then random effects happen—which isn’t quite as good, but I appreciated that it was in there. There is some new magic items which is always great to see. A dwarven necromancer……or thinks he is a necromancer because of the cursed masque. This gives me some stuff to work with when roleplaying the villain so I liked that part. The adventure also contains some pre-generated characters—which makes sense for an introductory adventure for new players. Conclusion: Overall, this adventure didn’t really hit the mark for me or stand out. There is a few cool ideas and I liked the Light vs. Shadow theme. I could see a DM expanding the idea quite a bit (i.e. Part 2—going after the Shadow Queen), but I just wish there was a bit more going into this adventure and some more thought for new players so that they will want to return to play again.

You can download this free adventure here:

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