Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Hall of Echoing Screams
A recently rediscovered fortress is home to a cabal of mind flayers.
As ever, I support using rumors to draw PCs into adventures based on the players’ own motivations.
Barring the entrance against intrusion is a nice bit of subtle manipulation to get the players invested in exploring the fortress by making them work to enter it.
The skeleton in area 2 being useless for any of the creatures in that encounter is a nice touch to lend a sense of history to the location.
While I do complain at times about the adventures adding unnecessary features just to suit the tile art, the sidebar about letting the tile art inspire extra features is a good principle when using stuff like prerendered tiles, geomorphs, or someone else’s maps for adventure design.
The priest’s spider link is an interesting way of increasing their durability without simply giving them more HP or defenses.
There is no need for the fortress to be underground, nor rediscovered recently; any isolated location can do. The dry well provides a possible entry to a surface installation for the current inhabitants, but they can also be replaced fairly readily.
The umber hulk’s grabbing double attack is structured strangely compared to other creatures with grabs built in to their attacks. The optimal use is to land both claw attacks on a single target, deal the ongoing damage, then release the target to repeat that tactic on the hulk’s next turn. I’d have the claw attacks hit automatically while the grab is maintained to avoid that odd workaround.
The tunnels dug out connecting to the dry well are a natural opportunity to expand the adventure.
As usual, if the creatures in area 2 could use the magic item, one of them should use the magic item.
There should be some indication when PCs are in the mastermind’s aura (persistent yet unintelligible whispers, difficulty focusing thoughts, a sense of dissociation, etc.).
There is no apparent reason why the creatures in area 3 would have left the potions in the bone pile.
As ever, I dislike ideas for expanding the adventure where a third party just happens to show up and conflict with both the PC party and the area’s inhabitants.
The blademaster’s stat block is all over the place. Each piece is fine individually, but the whole feels like it’s trying to do too much for what should be a simple mobile fighter with a single utility spell.
Why do the drow thralls in area 3 not benefit from a bonus to their Will from the mastermind?
The bit about what the arrow slits should mean is unnecessary, and the mention that “deductive reasoning is sufficient to realize” it seems condescending at best.
I like that the creatures in the adventure are clearly not responsible for the fortress, which presents opportunities for worldbuilding and general greater context. I like the creatures chosen; mind flayers are iconic monsters, and the other creatures are reasonable thralls for them to have. I like the escalation of danger through the adventure, even if it wasn’t done as well as in Planar Bandits.
That all said, the adventure doesn’t bring anything remarkable to the table. Each encounter is a fairly straightforward fight, albeit with annoying status effects like dazed or immobilized being thrown about. The invitations for greater context aren’t more than what could be achieved by stocking random creatures in an area and then thinking through justification for them. The sense of escalation suffers a sudden jump from upgrading the resident mind flayer to a mastermind and including supporting creatures in the last encounter only.
All in all, the map can work as a generic location, and the creatures can work as generic encounters, but the two don’t really fit together well. The end result in an adventure that feels disappointingly generic, as if it was all thrown together without much subsequent effort. It’s not bad, and there’s a case to be made that just roleplaying the creatures well can make up for the generic design, but it just lacks the sense of polish that I expect from a good published adventure.