Vathak Adventures: The Shrine of St. Mina of the Dust (5e) (priority review)
This adventure clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my supporters.
This module is intended for 4 characters of 1st–3rd level, and takes place in an obscure shrine in a forested area, preferably near some water. A variety of hooks are provided, and while intended for use in the Vathak-setting, the module is easily transplanted into other settings, if desired. The module does explain commonly-used abbreviations, and also sports a couple of full-color maps. These are serviceable for the low price-point, but aesthetically stick out a bit from the otherwise impressive full-color layout. To my chagrin, no player-friendly versions of the maps are provided. Not cool. The module comes with read-aloud text, but its formatting is sloppy: The first read-aloud text for the shrine’s interior, 3 paragraphs long, has its regular area text included in the read-aloud section. The term “PC” is also not used for characters in 5e.
On the plus-side, we have a list of treasure and a named spellbook; things I certainly appreciate. What I did not appreciate was that there are instances where the rules syntax for 5e skill checks wasn’t properly implemented. The pdf also e.g. has phrases like “See Animated Armor at the back of this book”…and no duplicated stats for these armors there. I don’t need them, mind you; MM has the stats…but why does the pdf say they’re there, when they clearly are not?
Beyond the referenced standard creatures, the module also features a total of 4 new critters/NPCs with full stats. The stats are, quality-wise, okay; they can be used, but do contain hiccups: a weapon attack that is either off by +1 or -1, but either way, definitely off. Same goes for e.g. a Stealth value. Two of the creatures lack the italics for e.g. “Melee Weapon Attack” and “Hit” in their attack sections. The BBEG’s AC, HP and speed are not bolded in the statblock, one save is incorrect; a once per day ability does not have its frequency listed in the feature name (and no average value for its effect), and the ability DCs of the BBEG are incorrect…you get the idea. If you’re, like me, particular about that sort of thing, this’ll be a bit grating. This also applies to trap formatting, by the way, which does not adhere to either the default 5e-formatting, nor does it adhere to the Unearthed Arcana formatting.
Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? The module kicks off when the party reaches the eponymous shrine in a woodland area – and it’s guarded by deep ones. No context, fanfare…they’re just hanging around. The deep ones, if they notice the party, attack or “use a full-round action” to sound an alarm. There is no such thing in 5e. Drinking from the nearby well can cause a sickness (phrasing includes an apostrophe-s-glitch); the verbiage of the disease notes that Wisdom (Medicine) can be used to help characters recover, but guess what? No DC. We also have issues like “poison condition” (should be “poisoned”) and stuff like “Thieve’s Tools”. I usually don’t harp on stuff like that to the extent I’m doing right now, but DAMN. These are rules terms and syntax.
And yes, I’m talking about rules…because, frankly, the module? Where do I start. Essentially, it’s a brief dungeon-crawl in the shrine, with spooooky stuff, and not that much to contextualize everything. It’s certainly a lot of things, but a horror module? Not one of them.
The setup is…at best decent. The adversaries…are not. There is no real atmosphere here, and the plethora of glitches eliminate all immersion I may have felt. For example, in the boss-section, the text talks about a ghast that’s not there. The editing and formatting are so BAD they crush all of my desire to even attempt to further analyze this mess of a module.
Editing and formatting are BAD on a formal and rules language level; glitches in math, atrocious formatting, typos that render even simple things ambiguous…this is not an acceptable amount of glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with neat artworks. The full-color maps are serviceable, but the lack of player-friendly maps stings. The pdf has no bookmarks, making navigation a pain.
Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari dropped the ball big time here; this module is barely functional, rushed, and shows that it’s, at best, a minimum-effort conversion to 5e. Worse, it’s also a total failure as a horror-module; exchange deep ones with orcs and you lose nothing; this module isn’t creepier than any generic, short dungeon-crawl. At this length and low price-point, I certainly don’t expect the Ulysses of adventure modules, but this one? It is painfully generic, uninspired, and also badly-executed in the mechanics.
The authors can do so much better. They have done so much better.
This module is a disservice to the amazing Vathak setting.
I can’t find anything positive to say about this module. 1 star.
You can get this module here on OBS.
…I’d rather recommend you get any of the other Vathak-pdfs, though! Vathak’s worth supporting, just not this pdf. You can find the Vathak material here!
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