Mithgarthr Entertainment has already released two free adventures for 5E; The Mines of Valdhum is their first actual purchasable adventure. I bought mine from DriveThruRPG. The Mines of Valdhum has been released as a 37-page black-and-white PDF and is an adventure for 4-6 characters of levels 5-7. A previous version of the adventure was released for the Labyrinth Lords system, a variant of BECMI D&D. The adventure’s author is Matthew Evans.
The adventure is set in the company’s own world, Mithgarthr, which I’ve been consistently misspelling, not being properly up-to-date with my Norse mythology. Mithgarthr is the Norse spelling of what we generally call Midgard. (Tolkien used Midgard as well, just giving it its proper English translation: Middle Earth). Although the adventure doesn’t include a lot of world information, it provides enough to make the adventure and setting distinctive. As you might expect from the company’s name, the setting takes its inspiration from Norse mythology: Odin and Loki are named as gods, the adventure takes place in Der Nordwald, and the race of bear shapeshifters important to the opening of the adventure are named the beornverr, literally “bear-men”. These touches really help sell the world to me.
The adventure begins with some early role-playing encounters before the adventure proper begins. It’s a little vague as to why the adventures would be travelling to the town of Valdhum, for they’re only offered their quest once they get there. However, the actual encounters, which depict a fascinating relationship between humans and the beornverr, are well done and add to the feel of the adventure.
The bulk of the adventure concerns the group exploring an abandoned mine to slay a dragon. The layout of the mine is mostly linear with a few optional routes or side paths. The maps have been drawn on a computer and are fairly clear to use.
Unlike Mithgarthr’s two previous free releases, the monster statistics are presented in the text using a stat-block not dissimilar to those in old D&D games and the original 3E, before we got the expansive stat-block of 3.5E, 4E and 5E. In general, it takes about eight or nine lines of text to give the key stats of a monster. Some of the abilities are perhaps too briefly described, but for the most part I like these functional stat-blocks (although I would dispense with the colons after the ability score abbreviations; instead of S: -1, D: +2, C: +0, I would use S -1, D +2, C +0. But that’s a minor point).
A few of the encounter descriptions display the rulings style of original D&D: giant spiders that automatically surprise the party unless the party say they look up! However, this occasionally works to the adventure’s advantage, as some of the monsters have a percentage chance of being asleep when found. And yes, there is a chessboard puzzle!
However, the adventure has a very nice mix of encounters. I very much like how the mines and caverns fit together and how each section has its own theme that makes sense; there are a lot of lovely touches in the adventure. It is hard at this point of the new edition’s life to properly assess the difficulty of the encounters, but it seems that there is a wide variance in their difficulty levels. Matt Evans makes note that although the major hook for the adventure is about slaying the dragon, actually facing the dragon is likely to be a TPK! Another quest the players receive is far more achievable and opens up another, smaller dungeon for the players to explore.
The artwork in the adventure is by Glen Hallstrom and is primarily of a cartoonish, comic style; it doesn’t always fit the adventure, but most of it works quite well.
Overall, I quite like The Mines of Valdhum. It’s a nicely constructed adventure that is very evocative. I look forward to seeing what else Matthew Evans and Mithgarthr Entertainment can come up with!