A few years ago, Paizo Publishing released a horror-themed series of adventures for their Pathfinder system. To augment that series, Legendary Games released two short adventures that could be used as additional scenarios during its play, describing them as “Gothic Adventure Path Plug-Ins”.
Legendary Games has now released rewritten versions of these two adventures for the new edition of D&D. Neither of the adventures are dependent on using the original Adventure Path, although the adventures do note that GMs could convert Paizo’s adventure path if they desired.
The Murmuring Fountain is by Jason Nelson and Clark Peterson, both designers with a number of products to their credit. Peterson is much better known as one of the people behind Necromancer Games, one of the more important publishers of the 3E era, although he has generally been quiet since 4E was released; he is also the founder of Legendary Games. Jason Nelson is the publisher of Legendary Games and has done a lot of work for Paizo with the Pathfinder rules. The adventure has been converted to 5E by Alistair Rigg.
The adventure draws upon the traditions of Gothic Horror and Lovecraftian Horror for its inspiration. At its heart, it is a mystery: Why is the town being plagued by ghostly manifestations?
The biggest problem I have with the adventure is due to its writing style. I am not a great fan of the elaborate prose style used in these forms of horror to begin with, and its employment here is done badly. Long, tortured sentences with many clauses do not make for easy comprehension. In this case, the grammar is often incorrect as well. For instance:
“Fleeing into the swampy woodlands wild, the locals now know him as Antrellus the Mad, a phantom figure creeping around the outskirts of town, gibbering and ranting about the robed priests and the many-legged beast which he saw feed that night to any disbelieving townsfolk or traveler patient enough to listen to his demented ravings.”
(Did the locals really flee into the swampy woodlands wild?)
It’s rather a pity that there are so many problems with the way the text is written, because the adventure contains a number of excellent encounters. The tension between what the players think is happening and what is really occurring provides material for the DM to work with, and the adventure uses the tropes of horror well to provide an evocative experience. My chief concern is that it may be a little too difficult for the players to discover the real story behind the events; as a DM, I would attempt to play up the role-playing elements so that it could be discovered. I would prefer it if there were more ways of discovering the actual story behind the adventure.
The conversion to the new rules is not without flaws; the monster stat-blocks have a number of problems; in particular the attack and skill bonuses are often not calculated correctly. The Challenge ratings do not seem too far wrong.
The adventures were released soon after the Player’s Handbook was released, then made unavailable for a month or so; they are now available again through DriveThruRPG and other PDF retailers for a small cost.
The Murmuring Fountain is a short adventure of only 12 pages in length and would likely be played in a single session. The artwork and maps are of good quality without being spectacular. Unlike several other recent releases, it has no additional rules material. Ultimately, I think The Murmuring Fountain has some really good ideas behind it, but the execution could be better.