Cry of Ill Omen
By Thilo Graf
This module from Adventureaweek.com is 79 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with 74 pages of content – quite a bunch, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? The PCs in this module enter the town of Prince’s Folly as guards of a caravan, bringing supplies to the prosperous town of Prince’s Folly – a model of wealth and efficiency, overseen by the McDonegal family from their cliffside mansion – only that from the very first glimpse, the place turns out to be anything but idyllic, providing an almost apocalyptic vista which is further solidified by the first challenge the PCs will face: A throng of famished villagers running accross the vitality-drained desolation to the caravan in dire need of food and water. Hopefully, the PCs can distribute food fast enough to prevent an escalation and unnecessary deaths that will result when forcing the town’s militia to intervene.
Worse: Some of the town bravos have decided that the McDonegals should pay and try to ride up the funicular that represents the only regular access to the mansion, potentially resulting in a interesting battle on the funicular. The problems in the town are massive indeed – the old well, for example is not by chance now lethal – the old well is now home to a black pudding. They may also encounter a rebellious scion of house Donegal with a coin that can purify a limited amount of water and purge it of the lethal plague that besets the town or the guise of the McDonegal’s messenger of death, the local river banshee, who is washing the prince’s jacket, which is stained with blood. By foreshadowing and encounters, there are a lot of options to point the PCs towards McDonegal mansion and towards the necessity of uncovering what exactly is the reason for the village’s blight.
Finally reaching the manor grounds, the PCs are in for rather interesting sights – An old woman slashing her arm (the other guise of the banshee), turning the river’s waters as black as the blood dripping into the water.
A second example would be the manor’s gardens, which consist of a gamut of potentially lethal carnivorous plants that have been domesticated and heed the call of the Leprechaun gardener – who turns out to not be a killer, but actually a pleasant fellow who provided the water purifying coin to young rebellious Cara Donegal. Hopefully, they are friendly to the mischievous fey, for the garden conceals one of the entrances to the dungeon, into which the plague victims have been thrown – bloody bones, ghoul wolves, giant boring beetles and finally, a gallows tree will challenge their mettle when they explore the dungeon. Have I mentioned the behir? Lost in the dungeon lies a comb of a young maiden, one Eluiwaue’s, who was the banshee when she was among the living. Prince Elian, who had a tryst with the peasant girl, killed her and threw her body in the river, thus creating the keening spirit that is ruining the town. When the PCs take the comb, they are transported back through time and can prevent said act of murder, assist it or prevent at least the rage demon transforming the poor wench into an undead spirit of vengeance.
Oh and then there’s potentially still the issue of proving the Prince’s guilt and the loose end of the fact that the McDonegals ALWAYS has a banshee…there should be another one out there…
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. I noticed some minor glitches here and there, but none too significant. Layout adheres to the 2-column parchment-background style and the cartography is top-notch (4 maps, which also come as player-maps sans map-keys). The pdf comes with a printer-friendly version and herolab-files (which by the writing of this review have not yet been added, but will be asap). The pdf also has nested, extensive bookmarks.
This is an interesting module in that we don’t see that many of this kind around anymore. While having a clear beginning, the module is a sandbox in the truest style – the locations are provided alongside the symbolism that should help the players decipher what has truly happened. The NPCs are there, but how confrontations, encounters etc. play out is up to the DM, as is whether the players will have to get a confession from the true culprit, change the past, simply slay the culprit or vanquish the undead spirit besieging the town. Everything is possible and whether you play this as an action-filled romp, a fast-paced series of combats or instead would enjoy a slow investigation in a desolate area – this module accommodates all of these play-styles and more while harkening back to a very old-school type of feeling and atmosphere…and I love it. Yes, this module requires you as a DM to do some work (though not much) and make it your own – but it works like this in a great way and offers you nice ways to customize the individual experience of running through it. In 5 minutes I had determined how I would connect the dots, items etc. to craft a slightly more complex intrigue/aim and determined that the players would have to actually find evidence/confessions etc. and had a grin on my face. An iconic locale, a cool sandbox and battles/foes that are a joy to behold – all in all, a great module that falls only short of my seal of approval due to one fact: I would have liked more (and less obvious) clues to unearth, more guidelines for example how the McDonegals receive the players/power-structure in the village etc. -again, something you can do yourself, but it would have been the icing on the cake. Congratulations to author Ronald Corn!
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