Billing itself as a 'dark fairy tale character-driven dungeon-crawl for characters of 13th level'... it then goes on to say that it's actually for 5th-level characters (?) and sets the scene of a popular temple being invaded mid-ceremony by an evil warlock pronouncing curses left, right and centre. Understandably, everyone fled (or tried to) and the cry has gone up for some brave souls to venture in to the now-dangerous temple to set matters to rights.
The adventure is set in the Soralic Lands, publisher Unicorn Rampant's own campaign world, but despite some detailed background ought not to be too difficult to transplant elsewhere if preferred. Whilst detailed, the background can be retooled, and as it sets the scene admirably, do make the effort if you are running this in your own campaign setting. It gives good reasons for everything that's taken place and is going to happen, and motivations to the main players... overall a beautiful piece of work.
Various suggestions are given as to how to get the characters involved in the action. Once they're hooked, their first task is to get in to the temple, rescue those trapped therein and restore order. The temple in question is located in a small village, minimally described although there's a list of inhabitants. Or at least, the ones who are still there - most of them were attending the ceremony and never returned, and now there is a great tangle of thorns preventing access to the temple! Once the characters have got inside, there's quite a mess to clear up as well as some intruders to defeat. This part of the adventure is combat-oriented in the main, but with some interesting features and good reason...
Once order has been restored, the characters will be able to find out what took place, and that their task is not yet done - there are kidnapped people and stolen items to recover, not to mention dealing with those behind the whole sorry affair. In true traditional fairy-tale style, this will involve a journey to several locations. A nice feature is that there are several incidental (or are they?) encounters and quests along the way, each clearly if briefly described.
The three primary locations are also detailed, and give the impression that they are there anyway, rather than just for the purposes of the adventure, with inhabitants going about their own affairs. This adds to the air of alternate reality, that this whole adventure is occurring in a real place, disrupting the lives of the locals just as much as it's providing an opportunity for adventure to the characters. There are opportunities for action other than combat, such as a chance to persuade one of the perpetrators to seek redemption, some of which are set up as formal encounters to aid in resolution.
The final climatic encounter is just that, and should prove fruitful inspiration for many a bard's tale to come. The good thing is that, again, it's not just a set piece brawl with the big bad guy... there's a complex to explore and all the other denizens, happy about their own business, to deal with before you get to him... and even then there are opportunities to do other than attack (although it will probably come to that in the end).
Overall, it's a well-presented adventure, which will let the characters feel that they have really accomplished something and done some good to a community that has the potential to come to life as a part of your shared alternate reality. Although you have all you need to play this out, including plenty of detail on characters, background and motivations, it is a little short on 'atmospheric' descriptions, so it will be up to you to make the setting come alive - but well worth the effort to make this well-construted and rounded adventure become memorable!
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Reviewed: 18 October 2012