What Do I Know About Reviews? In The Lair of the Night Thing (5e OGL)
Whenever I see a game or setting, I like to see an example adventure to show how the designers intended to see the setting used. Even if the consumer decides to use the product in a different way, it provides a baseline from which to make an informed deviation.
When I wrote my review for The Star-Shaman’s Song of Planegea for Gnome Stew, I noted that the setting material does a really good job of providing examples of plot hooks and campaign frameworks. These are executed in a manner that feel more table useful than a lot of campaign settings that I have seen. But it didn’t include an example adventure.
Have no fear, however, because there is a starting adventure available for the setting. Today on the blog we’re going to take a look at In the Lair of the Night Thing, an adventure for 4 to 6 1st level characters.
I was a Kickstarter backer for The Star-Shaman’s Song of Planegea, and received this adventure as part of the fulfillment. I was not provided a review copy of this adventure. I have not had the opportunity to run this adventure, but I am familiar with Dungeons & Dragons 5e both as a Dungeon Master and player.
In The Lair of the Night Thing
Author: David Somerville
Developers: Adam Beckwith, Avalon Palmer, Daniel Gable, Fin Prindle
Cartography: Brian Patterson
Layout: David Somerville and Michelle Nephew
Producer: Justin Alexander
Publishers: John Nephew and Michelle Nephew
Special Thanks: Woody Eblom, Jenae Floerke, Jackie Sue Lozano, Heather O’Neill, Travis Winter, Justin Woodall, Casey McDonough, Nicole Ketz, Chris Martin, and our Kickstarter backers who made this book possible!
Art: Daniel Mallada, Cory Trego-Erdner, Douglas Deri, Michelle Nephew, Ari Ibarra
The (Digital) Manuscript
In the Lair of the Night Thing is a 38-page adventure. This includes a title page, a credits page, and a table of contents. There are a few reused images from the setting book, but this adventure contains several pieces of original art depicting characters and situations from this adventure, as well as maps of the locations detailed within.
Unfurling the Scroll
The adventure is broken up into the following sections:
- Summons of Skarna
- Whispers of Nod
- The Two-Axe Clan
The last ten pages of the adventure is essentially a sourcebook on the Two-Axe Clan. It provides a gazetteer of their current encampment, NPCs that are likely to be encountered, but not critical to the plot, and local gods and supernatural events.
The spoilers are going to come pretty quickly, so if you are likely to be playing in this adventure, you may want to skip this summary. Now on with the show.
Skarna Two-Axe is the dwarven woman who leads the Two-Axe Clan, a clan composed of many different kinships working together as a community. Her son was recently killed by a marauding monster, and her daughter was injured in the attack. Because Skarna must observe the traditional days of mourning for her son, she needs someone to hunt down the Night Thing before it can harm anyone else in the clan.
Unfortunately, there is a lot that Skarna doesn’t know. Elves from the Nightmare side of Nod are working with a hag to eliminate the leadership of the Two-Axe Clan. The elves have made a deal with Adaki, Skarna’s daughter, who is trying to kill her family. To this end, the elves and the hag have helped Adaki transform into the Night Thing. The wounded Adaki that is present in the camp is a disguised elf, waiting to assassinate Skarna.
While the Dread Elves are working with the hag, the hag has her own agenda. In tracking down the Night Thing, the PCs may encounter the hag, who is potentially willing to help them find the trail to the Night Thing. It’s a potentially dangerous negotiation, but she’s done her part in this scheme, and her real allegiance lies away from the Throne of Night that the Dread Elves serve.
The Dread Elves guard a portal to the Nightmare side of Nod, the land of dreams, and the origin point of elves. In their lair, the PCs will encounter waking nightmares, manifestations of creatures that have crossed over from the other side of the gate. They may also find out about Adaki’s duplicity, and square off against the Night Thing.
While the adventure is fairly straightforward, I don’t think that’s a bad thing given that this is a 1st level adventure that is introducing unique elements of a setting. There are many details for the PCs to interact with that seem like they will provide a lot of fun, like the hidden path to the hag’s lair, and the torches that negate invisibility in the Dread Elves lair. While the PCs will have a chance to rescue Skarna from the assassin either way, the PCs can find a way to take the tentwing dinosaurs that the Dread Elves use as mounts to fly back to the Two-Axe Clanfire more quickly and give themselves more breathing room to reveal the assassin.
The biggest potential issues in the adventure are the places where the PCs need to avoid attacking everything on sight. There is a T-Rex that is way out of their league, but the adventure provides a way to trap it, as well as a way to escape it. If the PCs escape it, it can show up later to do the T-Rex versus Raptor Jurassic Park last minute savior move. It’s also fairly important for the PCs to at least attempt to negotiate with Mother Hush to help them along their path.
There are two plot details I like in this. In the original draft of the setting book, Dread Elves were equated with drow. This adventure introduces that the elves that are affiliated with the dark are split between those trying to grant ascendency to Nightmares and those trying to make the darkness a safer place. There is also the opportunity to connect Mother Hush with one of the big campaign villains presented in the setting book, making this even more of a gateway to the setting material.
The Sourcebook Material
The section on the Two-Axe Clan is very similar in presentation to what we received in the campaign setting book. By that, I mean that we don’t just get a list of people and places in the territory, but also plot hooks tied to different NPCs, random events and actions that might be taken by different NPCs, and what the camp looks like at different parts of the day. We see who is gathered around the Clanfire at what time, and why they are there.
In other words, like the setting elements in the campaign setting, all of these items have a great deal of table ready content attached to them. There are few entries in this section where a DM will read about something and wonder how that could be utilized in an ongoing campaign.
This adventure introduces the setting very well, and also provides a strong answer to “what does this setting look like in play.” Not only does it use elements of the setting in a way that highlights them, but it also ties into the larger campaign arcs mentioned in the setting book. It also provides material for the DM to use before and after running this adventure in the form of the Two-Axe Clan information.
Long Cold Winter
I love the idea of introducing a T-Rex early in the campaign, but this could go wrong really quickly, and additionally, using the T-Rex to save the PCs if they need it later in the adventure could be awesome, but some DMs may not pull it off as well as others. It all depends on how well the DM can frame this as a setup/payoff situation. It is possible for PCs that really want to “go it alone” to have a hard time finding the path to the Dread Elves, and Adaki could have used a little more backstory detailing how she went from “generally agreeable but prone to jealousy” to full on “I need to murder my family for power.”
Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
This is an easy recommendation for anyone that picked up The Star-Shaman’s Song of Planegea. Even though it touches on a lot of setting elements, I think the Two-Axe Clan material in the back fleshes out the starting point for this setting well enough that a group could easily use this adventure to try out the wider setting, rather than getting the campaign setting book first (as long as they say their stuff is made out of rocks and bone and such to fit the aesthetic).