Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Fear the Night
Some townsfolk pay off the party to deal with a vampire nest, unaware that a necromancer has usurped control.
As always, I like a horde of minion cultists.
The cobalt serpents have an interesting and very unique feel in combat, being mobile, durable, fairly damaging when they have combat advantage, and capable of inflicting disabling statuses from a massive range.
Despite my general misgivings about boxed text, I do approve of area 2 breaking up its boxed text into two chunks depending on how much of the room is visible and of area 3 having different boxed text for each entrance.
The retreat condition for the vampire lord is appreciated, especially because its high defenses and multiple healing abilities make it a rather durable foe that could take a long time to wear down otherwise.
The drama between the vampire lord and the necromancer is both amusing and flavorful.
Having two connections between area 2 and area 3 makes this one of the most interesting maps in the book.
Since the corpse marionette is dressed to resemble the vampire lord, it implies the vampire lord wears a human-skin cloak. Always a fashionable accessory.
With a strong summoning ability and multiple ways to inflict dazed, immobilized, or both, the necromancer is finally a successor to the hexer in The Broken Tower as a good controller. The HP value is excessive, though.
Although I’m sure it’s detailed just because of the tile art, the silver bust in area 3 providing cover with a chance to be ruined if struck is delightful.
While I normally like it when encounters come to the party, the first idea for expanding the adventure is contrived if the negotiation with the townsfolk hasn’t lasted long enough for the vampires to know about it. Either instituting a minimum time limit (until a cultist in attendance can leave to inform the vampires) or having the vampires attack another part of the town (as part of their ongoing predation) can alleviate the issue, though there is still the other issue of this “expansion” being just one more encounter.
Even if the sarcophagi in areas 2 and 3 contain no treasure, they should have some flavorful contents.
If the vampire lord can use the magic item hidden in the water bowl, it should do so.
The necromancer’s aura should have a flavorful description (surrounding the necromancer with a swirl of shadowy ephemeral faces, causing a sense of physical dislocation when entered, etc.).
There may be more ideas presented for expanding this adventure than usual (five, compared to two or three), but they can be summed up as an extra encounter, a skill challenge where there’s no reward for succeeding aside from avoiding the penalty for failing, an extra encounter (credit where it’s due, this one does have an option for parley), an extra encounter, and an additional area with an incoherent mess of three extra encounters. I’d rather have one good idea for expanding than two flawed and three bad ideas.
The cobalt serpents’ stat block mentions a recharge for poison the mind under the guard area ability but has no recharge on the poison the mind ability (most likely a typo from modifying the iron cobra stat block in the Monster Manual).
The vampire lord’s short sword is entirely useless compared to its spiked chain.
The lack of meaningful interaction with the altar in area 2 is disappointing.
As much as I’d normally like the creatures circling around to flank the party, the wights have too far to move (the shortest path from one entrance to the other takes two full rounds at 5-square speed) for it to be an effective tactic on this map.
No information is given on what it takes to destroy the corpse marionette and trigger its explosion.
The page reference for the crevice is wrong; it should be page 66, not 56.
This seems like a pretty nice adventure at first glance, but the general composition of many weak creatures supporting a durable focus in each encounter can be repetitive, with area 3 in particular being susceptible to becoming a tiresome grind due to the necromancer’s HP total (it exceeds the three cobalt serpents and the vampire lord combined, albeit lacking the latter’s healing). Add on that it’s missing any real traps, puzzles, or impactful terrain, and it suffers from a severe lack of variety.
It’s disappointing, really, because the premise and the built-in drama feels like such a fertile ground for putting together an awesome adventure where the party might get to ally with a vampire lord (at least temporarily), but this just ends up being a bit of a dud.
The hook provides a basic framework for tying this in with greater context, and the reasonable likelihood that the vampire lord escapes can set up future consequences. The necromancer should also have a fairly easy time escaping, potentially providing multiple recurring villains from one adventure.
All in all, this adventure puts on an impressive front, but it’s built on a bland foundation. It can be fun with a group who just wants to roll dice without much thought outside of tactical combat, but for anything else, it needs enough of an overhaul that I’d rather build something new.