Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What Do I Know About Reviews? The Rakshasa’s Roost (D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guild)




I have a fair amount of material from the Dungeon Master’s Guild, but, to be honest, I don’t pick up a lot of adventures. I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere that published adventures aren’t usually my thing. I get the big ones, and when systems have a slower release schedule (like the Star Wars FFG games), I’ll pick them up, because I like to see how the designers intend the game to work.




But The Rakshasa’s Roost is from Encoded Designs—the folks who brought you The Book of the Tarrasque, among other things, so how can I not pick this one up?

How Does It Compare to the Library
The PDF is 28 pages long, and the appearance of the book reminds me of old school 1st edition AD&D modules. Not the ones with the colorful borders and the band at the top. Older. 

The product has mainly black and white art, although red text denotes section headers in the document. There are a few pieces of original art which do a good job of portraying some of characters and elements of the adventure, and some stock art to fill out the pages.

Overall, it’s easy to read and the art does a nice job of breaking up the text and illustrating what is being described. The final page has a full page shot of the adventure location.



The Body of the Adventure
This adventure isn’t set up with the normal structure that you might see in some adventures. Essentially if the PCs go to this location, there are several plots that trigger based on who the PCs interact with. Because of this, the body of the adventure is describing NPCs, locations, and ongoing plans that various NPCs have in place.

To sum it up, this is a monastery in the Endless Wastes with a well-known oracular figure. The religion practiced is a heretical spin on the worship of Bane, Myrkul, and Cyric, but while it’s still sinister, the overall tone isn’t overtly evil. 

While going to see a creepy oracle might be an interesting enough experience, there are also other beings, in the form of a rakshasa and a clan of doppelgangers that are using the monastery for their own ends. Even among that block of conspirators, there is some dissent, so what exactly happens when PCs arrive at the site is going to vary based on who the PCs interact with first, and how long they poke around the monastery.

Just mentioning the word “doppelganger” brings up some clear ideas of what is going on, but there are some twists and turns to these plots that go a little beyond the “kills someone, take their place” standard operating procedure.

Tools for Running the Game
After the wider description of the location and its inhabitants, there are a few pages dedicated to using the adventure in your campaign. These include plot hooks to get your PCs to the monastery in the first place, and a list of doppelganger names, in case your PCs interact with an NPC before you had a chance to come up with your own names.

Stat Blocks
One of the things I like about the formatting in this adventure is that each of these stat blocks is formatted to take up a page. If one were inclined to print out the monster/NPC stats, this makes it way easier to do so. Additionally, all the information in the stat blocks has room to “breathe.”

While the body of the adventure explains who the NPCs are, where they are found, and what their larger plots are, it is worth reading through their individual stat blocks to pick up on some nuances to their plans. In particular, the oracle has some interesting, tough roleplaying choices to present a PC that wants their advice on happiness and success in life.

There is also a mechanical twist should the PCs get into a fight with one of the NPCs that I enjoyed. Essentially, you aren’t defeating this NPC without figuring out a “combat puzzle,” for lack of a better term.

Special I’m An Old Forgotten Realms Nerd Section
I’m a long term Forgotten Realms nerd. That having been said, I have always gravitated towards products that “feel” right, rather than products that were good at citing canon dates and genealogies and the like, but seemed to miss the feel of the setting.

Some things I like about this adventure:


  •  Loose ties to established power groups in the backstory
  •   Death gods that aren’t always about raising undead armies to kill the living 
  •   Heretical sects of gods that don’t need to be mechanically explained (“they really get their power from X,” or “they took the [plot] feat that lets them break arbitrary alignment rules”)    
  • Potential political wrangling and in-fighting among the villains


Dawn Breaking Over the Mountains
This is a good “location based” adventure that lets you unfold the plot as the PCs interact with the adventure location. Most of the important NPCs have strong roleplaying hooks. Depending on how they approach the situation, this adventure might resolve when the PCs first visit, or this could become a known “place” in the campaign. This is a good “in-between” adventure that can serve as a break from the ongoing plot of your game.

Ashfall
If you aren’t the type that likes location based adventures, this might not be your thing. While the GM can push the plot forward, it’s much more fun to give the PCs time to interact with the NPCs to trigger events. 

There are a few powerful NPC monsters that don’t have much in the way of personality or roleplaying hooks. They essentially just serve as muscle to one of the other NPCs, and that feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, given how many interactions the other major NPCs provide. I guess that might have made things more convoluted, but in that case, perhaps the “muscle” creatures should be less interesting brutes rather than creatures that imply more interesting interactions.

The Secret to a Good Life
This is exactly the kind of adventure I like. Its site based, so once the characters are there, things happen as the PCs interact with NPCs. They can easily drive the plot as they investigate, and the GM can easily determine when enough is enough and have one of the more “martial” NPCs start a fight.

I think anyone that knows they have PCs that will interact with the NPCs on some level, or even someone interested in location with some built in history, would be happy picking up this product.

**** (out of five)

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