The first publication to feature the city of Freeport, it opens with an outline of the city's history from 2,000 years ago to the present. Although the history of the city itself is detailed, the context surrounding it is loose enough that it will fit - as intended - into whatever campaign setting you wish to use. Or, should you prefer, this can be the base for your campaign, and other parts of the world can be fleshed out later as the need arises.
Designed for low-level (1st-3rd) characters, and suitable as the beginning of a campaign, they are thrust into political and religious intrigue as an ancient cult attempts to gain control and bring back their deity - who is, naturally, on the unpleasant side! The underlying storyline is clearly set out for the DM, with plenty of potential for side plots if he wishes to spend more time in Freeport than is necessary to deal with the main adventure.
The opening of the adventure deals nicely with one common problem: how do you cope with your characters having far more knowledge of the location they are in than their players do. So, the scenario opens with the characters arriving in Freeport for the first time, leaving a merchant ship in the dock area. How you get them there is your problem. They are immediately beset with a plethora of job offers - a press gang and then a scribe who wants some help in locating a missing person, a fellow priest at one of the local temples. (To continue the 'portability' of Freeport, it's merely billed as the temple of the 'God of Knowledge' so that you can insert an appropriate deity from your campaign world.)
The ensuing investigation, as well as serving the purposes of the scenario, provides an excellent introduction to the city and citizens of Freeport; and some idea for the characters of the sort of things that go on there. Several locations for the characters to visit are provided (including a tavern, the missing man's home, his temple and a pirate ship largely crewed by orcs). There are a few notes to cater for those characters who decide to go someplace else - your scope will be improved if you have other Freeport products or wish to extemporise - but following the trail as laid out is by far the best way to actually solve the mystery so you may need to steer characters in the right direction.
What is good is - having read the next 2 Freeport adventures - the amount of incidental material that is going to feature later on. If you choose to use the rest of the series, the background is already set here in the first adventure... which always makes for a good epic feel as players look back on the campaign. Many of the characters and locations provide opportunities for other things to occur if the characters are going to stay (or revisit) Freeport after this scenario is completed. Everyone they meet has his own agenda, is busy about his own business: which builds up a wonderful picture of a living city that will continue whether or not the characters are there.
Of course, the characters' poking around will sooner or later attract the evil cult, the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. They naturally boast both bully boys and some well-placed citizens amongst their ranks, and once they realise that the characters pose a threat, they will want to do something about it. When the characters are attacked, they in turn ought to realise at least in part what is going on, and a couple of routes are provided for them to find their way into a temple of the evil cult, where they will find their missing person and a few more interesting little tit-bits... and more foreshadowing of later adventures in the series!
The book ends with a note about the Serpent People, the original inhabitants of this area, a couple of handouts to photocopy, and 4 sample PCs if you want to jump into action straight away. Thoroughly recommended both as a stand-alone frolic or an introduction to Freeport as a base or recurring point of call in a long-running campaign.
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Reviewed: 8 June 2003