Hello and welcome back to Deconstructing Dungeons! If you’re new to this article series, it’s essentially me reviewing my own products, realising all the flaws and making me want to rewrite them! Sometimes I manage to find a few good things to say about them though. I also talk a little about some of the resources that I used to create them, and what inspired me to write the adventure.
The adventure in question this week is Shattered Souls, one of my earliest works on the DMsGuild, first published way back in September 2016! Since that time, it’s actually received 6 ratings and 5 reviews, which is quite a lot for one of my products. It’s sat currently at a 4.5 star rating, which I hope, given future work, I might be able to push up to a full 5 stars.
Essentally, Shattered Souls is a relatively large dungeon crawl adventure, set up by a few hooks, that involves a number of different factions and their interactions with each other inside the dungeon. The dungeon is primarily the lair of Skruul the Reaper, a demilich whose failed attempt to achieve lichdom left her with a broken psyche. Because of this, she is extremely hostile to all who would dare invade her domain. Skruul does have a phylactery, but she’s unable to make use of it properly, and thus the souls are leaking out, becoming ghosts, spectres and the like which haunt the demesne. These undead attracted a cult of orcus to Bodach Ridge, who are dedicated to trapping to escaped souls, and using them to help bring back Skruul as a full lich. They believe that doing so will elevate their own standing in the world, and also please their demonic patron. Caught up in this is a night hag named Sister Scorn and her green hag sisters Mistress Mog and Granny Throttle. As it stands, Sister Scorn is the slave of the cultists, who force her to use a soul bag to capture the spirits. Neutral to the whole process is Melandri, a powerful mage who has been conducting research in Skruul’s library for years. Depending on the actions of the party, she could become a useful ally, or a dangerous foe.
The hooks for the adventure are rather generic, save for the Whitepeak Inn introduction, in which the characters end up staying at a haunted inn. The staff are all rather jumpy and on edge, which might give the characters some suspicious vibes. During the night, the party are ‘attacked’ by a poltergeist (because throwing stuff around is great), who they might be able to ward off. Through this, they come to learn that strange folk have been visiting the mountain (something something Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head something something Gorillaz something something that track always freaked me out). With the arrival of these people, the spirits of Bodach Ridge have been escaping, and tormenting the folk who live on Whitepeak Mountain.
When this adventure gets into Print on Demand territory, I’m definitely going to be expanding this section. I think that I could do a really sweet entry to the adventure, where perhaps one of the family who own the Inn has joined the Cult of Orcus, creating even more tension in the place. I could write up some potential events that occur while the characters are there, and give the intro of the adventure much more detail and narrative.
Once the characters find themselves at Bodach Ridge, they’re faced with a two layer dungeon that turns from natural cave to lich lair, to re-purposed cult hideout. I’m actually quite proud of the dungeon layout, even though the maps are shoddy ones I produced in photoshop. The characters have the chance to interact with Faldir the ghost, the separated Hag Coven, and fight off a bunch of rogue spirits in the first half of the dungeon. Really, this part is designed to set the scene for the second level, which is accessible only by solving a riddle.
Once we get to the second level, the variety of room starts to chill out a little. The location ceases to be so fantastic, but we get to meet some of the crazier NPCs, and the interactions between the party and the various factions will truly start to heat up. Eventually the party end up confronting the Cult, possibly with the help or hindrance of the hags and Melandri. Once the party rout the cultists, led by the enigmatic Torment and the disturbed Talren, the party might think about destroying Skruul, but will only succeed if they pick up on clues planted earlier in the dungeon.
As with the majority of my adventures, the layout here was created in Homebrewery! I’m looking forward to moving over to InDesign for the PoD layout though (I feel like I say that a lot). I’m also looking forward to getting new maps and art! I did all these original maps in Photoshop and whilst they’re good enough to run with, I’d love some more artistic ones that look like a grown adult created them. Cover art comes from Joachim Barrum, which I love, but I think needs an update for PoD. On a similar note, I’d love to get portraits of all the major NPCs commissioned, I think it would bring a lot to the production quality of the adventure, and help to create a more immersive experience for players. Thankfully, I’ve already got a portrait of Sister Scorn, as she rears her ugly head once again in the Dragon Relics series (currently in production, but you can find some of it in Beneath the Sands and The Theocracy)!
What I did well: I think I did a great job in the adventure creating memorable NPCs and factions that can bounce off each other in interesting ways. When I’ve run it in the past, the party have thoroughly enjoyed trying to suss out who should be their ally, who their foe, and who to betray when. The adventure lends itself to groups that like a lot of roleplay, and those who enjoy a good fight too, as there’s a real mix of combat and social interaction. I’m also quite proud of the dungeon design.
What I did poorly: As is often the case with my adventures, there’s no real start. I usually preface my products with adventure hooks that DMs can use to try and guide players to the start of the dungeon, but I think going forward I need to make a greater effort to weave a narrative from start to finish. When I update this adventure for PoD, I’m also going to tweak a few things with the factions, probably making Sister Scorn a slave of a hag’s bargain gone bad, rather than a literal slave for example. I’ve also got the chance to update some monsters and really turn this into a Tier 2 adventure, especially with the release of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, which would allow me to give the cultists some awesome abyssal abilities.
GIVEAWAY! I’ve noticed recently that the giveaways are getting less popular, and although people seem to retweet a lot on twitter, the blog rarely gets shared on facebook. Because of this, I’m going to change how we do things a little. If you LIKE the post on social media, you’ll be entered into a draw to win one of five copies of Shattered Souls. If you retweet or share the posts, you’ll be entered into a draw where one lucky individual will win my Adventure Compendium Vol I, which contains Shattered Souls and six other JVC Parry adventures! The results will be announced on Sunday 23rd September 2018. Good luck!
Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. We’re currently only $1 away from our next goal, which will see 5 new pieces of 5th edition D&D content uploaded to the Dungeon Filler drive!