I justed wanted to give some praise to what I consider the best adventure of issue #128, "Shut In." It has many of the qualities that I consider essential to a good Dungeon adventure: it is site-based, but open-ended; it has a good mix of intrigue, roleplaying, and combat; features interesting NPCs; a nice, creepy vibe (not all adventures have to creepy, but I appreciate a vivid atmosphere); and it is easily adaptable (I plan on using it in a future Eberron campaign, where I think it will fit perfectly). I even liked the artwork. Congratulations to F. Wesley Schneider and James Sutter.
I'd agree, although technicaly, it's the only one I've read so far, but still: color me impressed. I think this will make a great one-shot for one of those times when all of the players can't make it.
|James Sutter Contributor|
Wow, guys. I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for all the extremely kind comments. Between this and Servant of Decay (the bonus feature adventure on the D&D2:WotDG DVD), Wes and I have had a blast collaborating, so you can expect to see more in the future.
And those adventures will probably be creepy as well, 'cause it's, you know... Wes.
|F. Wesley Schneider Contributor|
|James Sutter Contributor|
|Amber Scott Contributor|
Well I hate to be the discordant voice here but ... I read this thread before reading "Shut In" and so I confess I was geared up to be impressed. Sorry, but I didn't think it was all that great. I think the motivations for interogating the old woman and her daughter (or the butler) seemed a little weak. I was under the impression that the adventure hook set the PCs up for an assignment to pretty much "guard" this old biddy from an escaped murderer, not question everyone in the household thoroughly and rummage through the entire house (past numerous locked doors) to prove she's lying and ultimately culpable. Maybe I missed something during my search to be impressed by this adventure, but I felt like the plot flowed under the assumption that the PCs already suspect the woman of foul play (or at least SOMEONE in her house as being involved). I'm not saying that the adventure is inferior; only that it didn't meet my (perhaps unfairly inflated) expectations. And not to sound shallow and old-fashioned but murder mysteries aren't as appealing to me personally as other adventure types; unless, as I previously stated, the PCs are provided with powerful motivation to uncover this mystery. I liked the adventure background and the whole idea of the escaped murderer, but as I was reading, I kept thinking "I think my character would just kinda be sitting there, maybe chatting with this strange old lady, waiting for the murderer to show up and making sure I protect her/kill or capture him when he does".
I'm happy and a little surprised this thread has lavished praise on this adventure. I must confess I finished reading it with a shrug. I guess you can't please all the people all the time.
Yeah, I see what you are saying. I never like to criticize anyone's work because obviously tastes vary, and
writing/making art is really tough; I definitely get a vicarious sense of satisfaction from reading other people's work. Anyone who gets into the magazine should be praised and congratulated, I think, cause it takes a ton of imagination, hard work, and persistence, and because getting published must be awesome. Of course, if it's a really cool mag you've been reading and dreaming of being in since you were a kid, that's even cooler. (Do you sense that I'm about to rip this poor scenario to shreds?) But, this scenario seemed like one of my ideas, i.e., a cool setting and story, cool characters, but somehow not quite satisfying as an RPG experience. Yeah, definitely good setting and characters, but I agree with you, SirMarcus, didn't quite hit the mark with this reader.
Think of it as a PC would while playing. You are guarding the "old biddies" when the first night you start hearing strange noises. These noises would immediately bear investigation as, well, you are a guard, that is your job. You would likely mention these odd noises the next morning to the "old biddies" who would give you unsatisfying answers to their origins. You would grow curious and a repeat performance might draw more interest for you.
Would there be PCs who miss out on this stuff and don't investigate further? Sure! In that case the DM is free to do several things such as simply say that no murders happen after a couple of days and they move on. You could then have them start back up and have the PCs investigate the murders themselves (won't they feel dumb when they eventually lead, sherlock holme's style back to the place they just were). Or, of course, you could just take it as one more time that PCs chose to ignore a carefully placed DM plothook (happens all the time, right?)
Overall I loved this adventure. To be fair, I am biased toward any non-dungeon-crawl adventure and even more so to an investigation or special scenario type adventure (chase scenes are great for instance). It struck me that the tone would work great in a city that contained similar "dark" adventures... of course now I am spacing on names, but there was one investigating the true source behind a spree of murders (cultists of an insane god) and investigations into a befouled garbage dump ("the stink?")
I would not give this adventure a perfect score. The mystery itself is not very deep at all, and there is really not much for the PCs to do, as everything revolves around talking and the situation can be resolved easily and quickly.
That being said, I have to congratulate Schneider and Sutter for creating an incredibly original setting and a vivid, fascinating atmosphere. Congratulations also to the artist (I don't know which artist did it, too bad...) who drew the "family portrait" on p.21. This is such an inspiring piece of art. It really enhanced the atmosphere of the adventure for me.
I think that what made me fall in love with the atmosphere is the little things here and there that made the location and the protagonists feel so real, yet fantastic and original. Lady Auraluna, with her dogs, wheelchair, bad temper, old-person habits, craziness, and obssession with regaining the glory of the past, is a wonderfully rich and original NPC (and her portrait is just amazing!). And the strange and twisted relationship between these two murderous minds (she and Peck) fits perfectly. I just love the idea of the old lady crazily re-living her early motherhood by dressing up the halfling like a doll, while he lets her do as she pleases because it reminds him of the warmth of a mother that he never had. Nice twisted touch! I also loved how the old lady keeps her victims captive: gruesome!
Originality also comes from the stats blocks. Both Lady Auraluna and Peck have very unorthodox stats, which is very refreshing in a sea of "long sword+1, 18 str" types of NPCs. I also enjoyed the diplomacy check modifiers table which, while not not very useful from the standpoint of the game, adds so much to the realism of the atmosphere.
Overall, I think that the atmosphere of this adventure is one of the best I have seen, but the other aspects are a let down. Actually, if I DM this adventure, I will probably keep the NPCs and the setting, but add a lot of elements to the mystery and to the plot. This adventure will mostly appeal to those who care about atmosphere and who love to play a more civilized urban game, where PCs are expected to talk to NPCs and think in non-action mode. It also helps if you love the type of atmosphere that you find in murder mysteries, Agatha Christie style. However, if you approach this adventure like a dungeon crawler would, you won't like it much.
|Jeremy Mac Donald|
I'm a big fan of this adventure in a lot of ways but there are some strange plot holes that I'm surprised not to see mentioned on the message boards.
The really big one is that the plot described in the introduction to the adventure and what we actually find in the adventure don't really line up.
The whole intro to the adventure talks about the Swan Street Slicer. The psychotic halfling that murders people - presumably by slicing them in some manner (I suspect that manner is even mentioned).
Then we get to the adventure itself and it turns out that the basement is full of no less then 11 victems that have all been captured by Peck and are in the basement - most now expired - where they suffer and die.
What the heck is going on here? How come these kidnappings are mentioned nowhere in the background? Why did the slicing end? None of this lines up.
|Jeremy Mac Donald|
Busy doing a final edit on a conversion of this to 4E. One of the benefits of that is that its meant I've done a whole rewrite so plot issues tend to be made stark.
*) A couple more that have dawned on me during this process. There is a tone of meat in the basement (area #13) for the Death Dog Riter.
OK but how the heck does the meat get to the death dog? Lady Auraluna can't get into the basement. Does Barnsworth bring it up? If so then why lie about it being for Lord Dromadal's diet? Also that death dog has been around for awhile. Presumably historically Lord Dromadal brought the meat up - but if so why and how was the existence of the death dog kept a secret from Ceseli in her youth?
*) Ceseli is hearing funny noises from the basement...why are these new - was the death dog always quite?
*) On a slightly different note the adventure notes that Lady Dromadal likes to visit her prisoners during tea time each day. Does she do this with Peck? Does she do this while the adventurers are present? A little direction here would have been nice.
*) Ceseli mentions that no one in the house east the meat in the basement - what does Baron and Sasha eat?
*) The house has no bathrooms. Possibly accurate for a real medieval manor but outside of the norms for most standard D&D buildings.
- most of these can be fixed pretty easily but the meat in the basement with no way to get at it kind of has me stumped. I'm going to go with Lady Dromadal has Barnsworth bring up a ton for Baron and Sasha and then takes 1/2 of that down to Riter but it blows the whole element of this being a clue of some kind out of the water...an issue with an adventure that is a bit weak on getting players to do actual investigations...this was the best early clue they had that something was amiss.