Khatogon has an interesting concept: a 4-5 hour tournament adventure where each of the four characters has hidden motivations and objectives. The adventure comes with four pregenerated characters, each of 4th level, who are attempting to break free a crime boss they’re indebted to from the remote prison of Khatogon. It’s a good set-up for an adventure, although I note with some trepidation that the adventure is set in the Forgotten Realms. Legal problems may ensue.
The first section of the adventure is devoted to setting up the situation and describing the player characters and their motivations. The encounter descriptions begins on page 9 of 25, and fill the remainder of the document; separate files are provided for the PCs, their secret motivations and the monster statistics.
The adventure begins outside the prison, and the PCs face their first challenge in entering it. Two different options are given, each which presents a number of quite difficult challenges for the players – tricks, traps and monsters.
The actual prison is inventive, with a jailor observing the characters’ progress through mobile sensors (that can be avoided) and triggering traps and taunting them as they proceed. (This gives me a real B-movie feeling). Some of the prisoner locations are fixed on the map, otherwise the traps and prisoner locations are assigned as desired by the DM. I don’t really care for this approach myself; I’d much prefer a properly keyed location, especially in a tournament adventure. Some of the PCs need to find specific prisoners, either to free them or slay them, and it is here that the conflicting motivations of the group will shine, as the players attempt to persuade each other what side-goals need to be met.
The adventure ends when the group discovers the crime boss, and is intended to be a big battle between the PCs as each attempts to fulfil his goals.
The text is occasionally confused as to which edition the adventure is written for; there are references to “spot” checks and “fortitude” saves. I’m sympathetic to this sort of error, as I still have to think of the correct names for things. (I caught many of these when doing a second pass through The Book of Lost Spells, where I’d unintentionally moved back to the older terminology).
The adventure would be greatly be improved if an editor cleaned up the text. Although the spelling is mostly good, the word choice and grammar are often poor. Sometimes, there are some unintentionally hilarious passages. “One day, an emissary of the Severed Hand’s guild approached him and offered him a proposition. Unfortunately, the emissary was beheaded. The head of the Severed Hand’s guild…”
For some reason, the entire adventure is also formatted in italics on a pale brown background, which does not aid its readability. Incredibly, the font moves to even more italic for some sections! There is some mediocre black and white artwork to illustrate the characters, and the map has problems: no scale, it is smaller than it should be, and it’s not immediately apparent what is a room and what is a corridor.
A separate document lists the statistics of the monsters. I was delighted to discover that they weren’t all written in italics, but completely astonished to discover that some of the monsters took up more than one page to describe. This is not because the descriptions are complicated; it’s because the layout wastes a massive amount of space.
The adventure gives opportunities for role-playing, combat and exploration, and has a lot going for it. However, I would have much preferred a more fixed structure and – especially – a much better layout of the adventure. The text could be a lot clearer, and the formatting is a significant problem. The price of the initial offering of this adventure – $ 10 – is also higher than I’m comfortable with for what is a relatively short PDF.
Ultimately, Khatogon tries something ambitious and, if it doesn’t entirely work, it does show the potential to be an entertaining adventure.