The third adventure from EN5ider, Don’t Wake Dretchlor, is a fascinating product. Designed by Kiel Chenier, it manages to present a trap-infested mansion with a good reason for why it’s trapped. Unfortunately, it’s likely the players don’t know that reason, for otherwise they’d never go inside the place! No, the players know that there’s treasure in there, and either they’re hired to retrieve some, or they’re looking for a friend who has visited the place and not returned. The reason why the mansion is trapped – to stop people releasing the demon imprisoned in the basement – is a mystery to the players.
Amusingly, the traps don’t seem to have deterred others from entering and living in the mansion, and now many of the traps are deactivated. The mansion is full of whimsical and entertaining characters. A troupe of goblins putting on an entertainment. A noble seeking his lover. A dwarven big-game hunter. The initial stages of the adventure are full of exploration, trap-discovering and role-playing. There is remarkably little combat in the opening sections of the adventure, and so it’s likely that the players are going to be quite surprised when they release a CR 10 demon that then begins to hunt them down (after giving them a 2-minute head start: it’s got to be fun, right?) Oh, and to make things even better, the house is then surrounded by a forcefield that traps everyone inside!
I sort of feel that I’m seeing the D&D equivalent of Betrayal at House on the Hill, one of the more interesting board games I’ve played. You start by exploring a house, discover its dark secret, and then spend the rest of the game trying to deal with the dark secret (or just escape!)
The problems with Don’t Wake Dretchlor derive from its structure: it’s quite likely the players will release Dretchlor without knowing about the relics that will allow them to defeat him, and at the point when he’s released they’ll no longer have the luxury of time to discover what they need. I can see where this adventure could make a really memorable session, with the group racing to retrieve the relics, but it feels like the adventure has a really good idea but is a little flawed in its execution. As a DM, I’d need to do quite a bit of tinkering with the adventure to make it run properly.
It doesn’t help that there really isn’t much advice as to how to run things after Dretchlor is released; you’re pretty much on your own.
Ultimately, I really like the ideas behind the adventure, but I think it doesn’t quite come together. If you can DM around the flaws, this could be a lot of fun.