5E Halloween Mini-Dungeon: The Horror of Ochre Grove (5e)
All right, the first thing you’ll notice upon opening this mini-dungeon would be that it’s twice the usual size – that means we get 4 pages of content instead of the usual 2 pages. Mini-dungeons are super-condensed scenarios that deliver a small adventure. As such, I am not going to expect epic storylines or the like here – I’m rating these according to the virtues they display within the confined space available.
The second thing you’ll notice would be the evolution regarding layout: The pdf is laid out in the same way as the massive Mini-Dungeon Tome: Color-coded for swift reference. Statblocks are not included, and instead, the module links towards the respective SRD-page with hyperlinks. This particular mini-dungeon has no read-aloud text, but it does offer a nice, full-color map as well as a piece of quality artwork. Somewhat puzzling to me would be that there, as per the writing of this review, is no high-res jpg.-map included for VTT-play. In this particular case, that is not as big an issue as it would be for most mini-dungeons, though. The module is intended for 3 – 4 PCs of levels 6 – 8.
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by one of my patreons.
As always, this is an adventure-review, and as such, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may want to skip ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great! Ochre Grove is a small village, with the Rusty Mist Distillery, owned by the Cornelius family, being its main source of income. This changed somewhat when Hammond Gresham founded his own distillery and began cutting into Victor Cornelius profit margins – and as such, Cornelius presented forgeries, attempting to evict Hammond. Revealed as forgeries, the claims were dismissed – and Hammond still disappeared soon thereafter. In the absence of an heir, Victor Cornelius evicted Margaret, the mistress and sister of Hammond’s late wife from the property in retribution for her accusations of foul play.
Unfortunately for all involved, Margaret is a sorceress (oni statblocks are used) who proceeded to bide her time, finally managing to summon both an incubus (nice touch for 5e re enemy choice!) as well as the spirit of her erstwhile lover. She plans to have Hammond’s spirit take care of Victor and his son, while she kidnaps the Cornelius daughters to sacrifice them and invoke a curse upon the land.
It is into this tangled web of deceit and vengeance that the PCs stumble – and while the village may seem quaint, this quickly ends when the grain dust in the Cornelius distillery’s bins explodes! The PCs and villagers hurry to the site, but the only bridge crossing the stream has taken serious damage and has been destroyed, with only the framework offering for a rickety means of crossing the stream.
After managing to cross the stream, the PCs will witness a dark rider with a kid towed up, Victor Cornelius in hot pursuit. From the burning distillery, though, there is a sound – and guess what, the module actually features a small, branching plotline here: It has consequences if the PCs immediately pursue the riders, and same goes for checking out the voice at the burning distillery. Victor’s wife Amelia is currently bleeding out, claiming that stick figures (animated scarecrows that use the stats of animated armors) have abducted her girls…and if the PCs visit the site later, they will only find a corpse and a trail. If the PCs instead follow the riders, they’ll arrive when a desperate Victor, half smashed below his horse, is forced to watch the wraith that once was Hammond, who has strung up his son. Without intervention, the wraith will first kill Victor’s son and then Victor. If the PCs split up, they will have a tough time dealing with both threats. (In an ironic twist, this is where Hammond’s bones lie – Victor indeed did kill his competitor…)
Ultimately, the paths converge once more, and the PCs will have a final fight against Margaret and her servants in the dilapidated former Hammond homestead. Once more, time is of the essence here, at least f the PCs want to save the Cornelius daughters…
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to clear and nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none. Cartography and artwork are in full color and rather nice.
Justin Andrew Mason provides a nice, brief sidetrek here – the instance of a branching path is a pretty sweet inclusion for such a small module, and while the revenge-yarn featured herein isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it doesn’t have to be. The 5e-version, to me, actually works a bit better than the PF 1 version; if you have the luxury of choice, then this is the slightly superior version. As a whole, this is a fun sidetrek and thus should be considered to be worthy of a final verdict of 4 stars.
You can get this fun little scenario here on OBS!