Drawing primarily on two earlier Raging Swan offerings - the original Dark Oak adventure and Village Backdrop: Thornhill - this product stands proud as an excellent example of adventure, challenging to the 5th-level characters for whom it is aimed. There are a couple of pages of introduction, about reading stat blocks and running encounters, before the adventure background sets the scene. This is followed by a synopsis describing the intended sequence of events. By now, the entire situation should be clear in your mind, embedding history and current events within the setting - which is compact enough that the whole (history and all) could be transplanted into your own campaign world if you are not using the default Lonely Coast setting.
Should you be running this adventure as part of a campaign suggestions are made for 'foreshadowing' rumours to seed into your campaign long before you reach this point, the result being to embed the events of the adventure itself into the ongoing story you and your players are creating rather than having it appear suddenly. Yet despite this, the adventure will work equally well as a one or two session stand-alone game, if that is preferred.
Next come three detailed adventure hooks, to draw the characters in to what is to follow... or you can just have them arrive in Thornhill by chance and unleash the adventure upon them. Several of the locals have a particular interest in what is going on and may well approach capable-looking adventurers anyway.
The next section introduces Thornhill in considerable detail, and there is a small plan. If needed, there's a larger version available as a standalone map (Village Map: Marsh Village) wherever you purchased this adventure. A rather dour place in the middle of a dank marsh, it is a credible and realistic village which you may wish to return to even after this adventure is over.
This is followed by a section titled Into the Mire - as that is where the party must go if they are to complete the adventure. There's a rough map of the swamp and plenty of notes to help you set the scene as the characters splash around. Should you wish to add to this, consult the product Wilderness Dressing: Swamps.
The final part of the adventure proper describes the Caverns of the Dark Oak, which must be explored to deal with the problem... an excellent (if squelchy) crawl around some caverns which again are mapped out in full coupled with detailed descriptions. The characters ought to feel wet and smelly by the end...
Replete with appropriate illustrations, and all the detail you will need to make this adventure come alive within your shared alternate reality, the conclusion offers both rewards and suggestions for further adventure, and a whole section of Play Aids including new items and some pre-generated characters should you wish to jump straight in.
A fine example, now to round up some players...
Return to Dark Oak Collector's Edition page.
Reviewed: 26 September 2013