It’s review time! Feels like it’s been a while because I’ve been releasing adventures (The Wizard of Zo, Grimm Encounters II etc.) but I’m back! Going forward these reviews might be shorter and more sporadic because I really need to finish my Masters degree! This week we’re taking a look at The Priest, The Witch, & The Lost Temple by David McDonough. The adventure promises the chance to save a town beset by undead, and explore the mystery of an evil witch, a strange priest and a relic in an ancient temple. Title tells you all right?
Each product I review is given a rating out of five in each of three categories: Design, Writing & Production. Design focuses on mechanics for player and DM supplements, and on the narrative of adventures. Writing focuses on the style of the writing, including how well it has been edited and how comprehensive it is. Production takes into account layout, artwork and the general flow of the document. Also, despite receiving a free copy of this product to review, I’d like to stress that all views are my own, and I’ve not pulled punches where I feel improvements should be made.
This title was first published October 27, 2018. It’s already a silver best seller, and is currently on sale for the Christmas period – down to $0.95 from $2.95! The adventure is around 40 pages long, has a rating of 5 stars from 12 reviews, is designed for Tier 1 (2nd & 3rd level) characters, and has been updated several times since release to make sure the final product is as polished as can be!
Part 1 – Intro & Whitehaven’s Welcome
The adventurers get into a standoff with some zombies on the road to Whitehaven and hopefully save some townsfolk. When they arrive, they learn that the town is being run by a vigilante group called the Warriors of Torm who are led by a priest named Kosef. They blame the zombie attacks of a local wizard who they’ve named the Witch of Whitehaven. Characters have the chance to bust the bigoted organisation.
This first chapter is essentially a prelude to the adventure, describing in sometimes exhaustive detail the town of Whitehaven and its inhabitants. We get given a lot of background for the adventure, and for each of the characters within the town, which I personally think is too much. Normally, a few sentences of backstory for important NPCs will suffice, rather than a few paragraphs. The NPCs are interesting, but I think a lot of the information provided will go unused.
The initial encounter and adventure hook are great because they’re grounded in the Forgotten Realms setting, and give a sense of urgency to the adventure – something which is often lacking. Because the zombies are literally killing people on the road, the adventurers will feel inspired to act sooner rather than later. My only issue with this, and the later encounters in this chapter, is that they are blocks of text. Subheadings would greatly improve the digestibility of the text. It would also be useful to split plot points and clues from the general lore of the adventure.
Part 2 – The Witch of Whitehaven
This part starts with a goblin ambush on the road to the Witch’s House. The encounter seems mundane to begin with, but when the bodies of the dead goblins reanimate, the characters are given some insight into what might be going on in Whitehaven. The characters can also visit several other locations on their way to the Witch’s House which might provide further info about the locale.
The house itself is a mini-dungeon, packed with weird and wacky creatures, traps and features. The characters eventually get the chance to interact with the Witch and her companion. This could go ahead as a combat encounter or a roleplay encounter depending upon the party.
In general the design of this chapter is good, giving characters the opportunity to find out more about the local area, and begin to get a feel for what’s causing the undead to rise. I’m not sure enough clues are necessarily given, but it’s a good start and is sure to drum up some mystery. I think the house is likely to be a lot of fun, no matter what choices the characters make.
Chapter 3 – Epilogue & The Lost Temple
When the characters return to town, their reception and the events that occur will change slightly depending on whether they rescued a prisoner in part one and what they did in the Witch’s House. Either way, there is a combat encounter with more undead assailants. It transpires that these are coming from the crypts near Whitehaven.
The crypts themselves are a relatively straightforward dungeon crawl with plenty of undead to fight, some fun treasure and a handful of traps to keep characters on their toes. The spoiler behind all of this is that Kosef the priest has made a deal with a dark power and used that to create a wight and other undead in the crypts. They also uncover a portal to a Temple of Azuth in which Kosef is searching for an artifact which is sure to make him an extremely powerful villain.
At the end of the document the author provides an epilogue which attempts to tie up any loose ends the adventure might have, and provides some appendixes with new statblocks for the NPCs and magic items.
Conclusion – 4/5
The adventure should be a great introduction to D&D for low level characters, with a twisting plot that should keep them guessing, and several fantastic locations and NPCs that will continue to breathe life into the adventure. I think the work needs editing in some places in order to distil the important information, but this shouldn’t deter you from purchasing the adventure!
Design: 4/5 The introduction and hooks are sure to spur the characters into action, and the narrative is complex enough to keep players interested, without too many false clues and side-quests that it might become derailed. There are interesting NPCs throughout which will help to keep characters invested in the adventure. The presentation of false villains is a good trope that the author displays well here, giving the chance for a real villain to arrive in style. The design of the dungeons is basic, but that’s no bad thing for a Tier 1 adventure.
Writing: 3/5 The style of the author is good, if a little verbose. They are clearly keen to create a fully fleshed out adventure and setting, but this is probably to the detriment of running the adventure, as it’s difficult to distil the important information. The adventure would benefit from having the text cut down a lot in several places to ensure that the important elements are clear. It’s clear that the author and editor are the same person.
Production: 4/5 The production is almost flawless. The artwork is sparse but full colour and fits well with the text. The maps are Dyson style but very functional. My only concern is a lack of sidebars and formatting to help make important information distinct from description.