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Friday, 23 September 2016

A Haunting Encounter

Although there is no scenario in the rulebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord, the first RPG released by Schwalb Entertainment following a successful Kickstarter campaign, one of the excellent decisions upon the part of the designer has been to release support—and release it early—in the form of scenarios for the game. This way a gaming group can get playing quickly, even if they are just using the core rules presented in Victims of the Demon Lord: Starter Guide and an adventure. In addition, the publisher has also released Tales of the Demon Lord, a complete mini-campaign that takes a party of characters from Zero Level up to Eleventh Level. In the meantime, the thirteenth adventure is The Huntsman’s Isle.

The Huntsman’s Isle  is the third adventure written for characters who have entered their first or Novice Path, that is of First or Second Level. It is written by Skip Williams, co-designer of Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition, regular columnist in both Dragon and Kobold Quarterly magazines, and author of the boxed campaign supplement, The Rod of Seven Parts. The scenario also marks a reteaming of Williams with Kim Mohan, the longtime editor at TSR, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast and now editor on Shadow of the Demon Lord, their having worked together on Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. It comes as a five page, 12.13 MB PDF. Physically, The Huntsman’s Isle is decently presented with a nice piece of cartography and one good illustration. The GM needs to give the scenario a careful read through, primarily to understand how its big monster works.

The scenario is almost, but not quite setting neutral, requiring a wide, fast flowing river where Stocesa Island can be located. The island was once the home of the Stocesa family, but since the death of the last baron, the family castle has fallen into disrepair and the island has gained a poor reputation. It is said that the island and the surrounding lands are haunted by a restless and greedy spirit who demands a toll from anyone using the river. Monsters are also said to infest the island.

The Huntsman’s Isle is an exploration adventure, one with just eight locations and encounters. Most of these are nicely detailed and not all of them are combat related. Some of them though are a little odd—exactly why are some of the locals giving tribute to the island and its inhabitants? A more pressing issue is that of getting the player characters involved. Two means are suggested, either the locals hiring them to bring an end to the dangers emanating from the island or their visiting it in search of treasure, but these are underwhelming given that the scenario is really just an extended encounter. Of course, any GM worth his salt should be able to come up with a stronger hook, but it is disappointing that no such hook is given. Especially given that there is just enough room for it in the scenario’s five pages. The primary foe in The Huntsman’s Isle is also quite tough for a party of characters in their Novice Path. The GM may feel that he needs to adjust the abilities of this foe, especially if there are fewer numbers in the party. He may also want to add a little more treasure or other reward as what is included is decidedly scanty.

The scenario may also be perhaps a little too short to warrant the player characters going up a Level as with longer adventures. So the GM might want to use it as a side encounter rather than a full scenario. Nevertheless, The Huntsman’s Isle is a solidly written encounter that should provide a gaming group with a single session’s worth of play.