Haunting at Rybalka Lodge
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Adventureaweek.com is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
One year ago, the most luxurious place in Rybalka, the lodge, burned down and took ambassador Kor Valdritch and his whole retinue to a fiery death. Investigations showed evidence of Vikmordere terrorists and concluded thus the investigation. One year later, the reconstruction of the famous lodge is complete, in spite of the weird occurrences happening around it, the strange lights, the sabotaged endeavors to recreate it. 3 days from now, the Klavekian prince will visit Rybalka – that’s the time-frame the PCs have to stop the lodge’s hauntings. Suurmaja Samson, owner of the lodge and mayor as well NEED this issue resolved and especially the latter’s weird dreams about an imminent assassination of the prince should drive home that the PCs should not squander their precious time. Furthermore, a mysterious undead-hunting agent from the nation of Mohkba approaches the PCs and asks them to look for a crystal ball while investigating, as well as providing further rewards.
By the way: This module really deserves being called an investigation: The neighboring families, dialogue with them, perceptions, sense motive – many clues can be unearthed and should be – for example the rather interesting miniature carvings of the lodge that seem to be in quite a variety of houses. After initial surveys, the PCs can find aforementioned agent wounded and telling them about Vikmordere waiting at the lodge. Sooner or later, the PCs have to explore the lodge, possibly multiple times, for daylight and night feature different apparitions and potentially dangerous combats: The Vikmordere and spirits in the lodge turn out to be the culprits of the hauntings, masterminded by the supposedly deceased ambassador, who has been gathering information and manipulated the people of Rybalka in a brilliant, yet sadistic infiltration that feature the clever use of specially treated crystals and baby mimics (!!!). As a highly intelligent opponent, his tactics as well as HOW he could generate such a vast deception should make for the truly rewarding finale when the PCs confront him and hopefully manage to pierce the vast amount of nasty tactical tricks and escape plans the ambassador has. If they fail, he may not only get away with important data, the lodge will also burn down again to cover his tracks. On the interesting side, he is also an illusionist and for a long time, perhaps the first one I’ve read about who actually has tactics worthy of a) his Int-score and b) his status as the BbeG. What his mission is about, though, remains a mystery, at least for now.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches, just a few minor typos here and there. Layout has been revised and refined further from AaW’s previous standard and is easier to read, more concise in its presentation and makes reading the module quite easy on the eyes – kudos for the continued improvement! The pdf comes with ok artworks and a drop-dead-gorgeous map of the lodge, also in a player-friendly version. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. As per the writing of this review, the herolab files for this module have not yet been provided. With the new layout, no printer-friendly version is part of the deal, but the module is still printer-friendly enough in its layout to not require a downgrade.
I really liked this module for its clever antagonist, his brilliant plan and how his strategy is described. While DMs should definitely read again what his array of magical options can do, in the hands of a capable DM, this module can be a truly memorable experience, also thanks to the rather detailed social investigation in the beginning that helps DMs weak in that regard. The night/day-difference also is rather cool and concise in its presentation, offering several interesting scenes that could be easily be further enhanced by DMs that can wield the main antagonist well. All in all a cool investigation with a smart BbEG that I haven’t seen done this way before. Hence also a hearty recommendation with a final verdict of 5 stars, only omitting my seal of approval since I would have loved to see the initial investigation expanded slightly more. Still, one of the best, most uncommon AaW-modules I’ve read so far.
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