5E Mini-Dungeon: The Cackling Madness of Umberstone Manor (5e)
This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes both a GM and a player-friendly version of the area depicted, all ready for VTT-use. Kudos!
Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
So, first thing you’ll notice is that this mini-dungeon is actually no dungeon – instead, it is basically an adventure sketch of sorts, presenting the basic set-up, plot and providing guidelines to run this adventure, all on two pages. The eponymous Umberstone Manor is the ancestral seat of the Valniboom family, antique dealers of some renown; the manor is situated in the shadow of a massive mountain and, indeed, is the private playground of the family and, indeed, the entire umberstone hill carries a really, really potent global effect that will have PCs struggle, even at high levels. Really nice: Not only the small details, but this curse in particular have been properly adjusted for 5e-gameplay, making good use of the system’s mechanics.
Now, the PCs have been hired to investigate the strange curse that has befallen the local populace – 2/3rd of them have developed a cackling mania, with more affected by the strange cackling curse daily. Weirdly, though, no one seems to be dying from the curse…
The resolution is actually really cool and a plan befitting of PCs in how wickedly cool and over the top it is: You see, the Valnibooms are actually vampires – and they can, obviously, control the living, right? So, what’s a good vampire hunter gotta do? Well, Nicoletta Vasille’s response was to dump a boatload of specialized poison into the local water supplies; harmless to mortals, but it temporarily renders their blood unpalatable for the undead. Oh, and gibbering mania as a side-effect, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? Well, that’s not all. She also hired dwarves to create a tunnel into the mountain, planning on BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN, thus exposing the manor to sunlight AND letting a huge avalanche/rock slide crash down. And you thought your PCs have a tendency for overkill…
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.
This is but a sketch of a full scenario, but the amount of details it provides in scant few words is AMAZING. How the PCs interact with the factions, what they do – it all depends on you, but this makes a great 1-page adventure set-up that is more interesting than many that I’ve read. Yes, it needs some fleshing out, obviously, but Justin Andrew Mason’s angle here works admirably well. My one complaint here is that I’d have loved to see this fully developed as a big sandbox; you know, fully depicted villages, progression of everyone becoming ever more manic… the scope feels almost too ambitious for even the sketch-formula of this MD. The 5e-version is just as efficient as the PFRPG-iteration. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this adventure-sketch here on OBS!