5E Adventure Review: Blackstone Tomb

Blackstone Tomb is a significantly large (59 pages) adventure for first-level characters by Rowan and Doug Schultz. The adventure describes a forgotten tomb of heroes that has been desecrated by a necromancer; the necromancer was caught and killed, but his undead creations remain. The first part of the adventure sees the characters recruited to do various tasks for the soldiers who man outposts throughout the kingdom, which leads to them discovering the information about the forgotten tomb.

The adventure is a struggle to read. Quite frankly, the writing style is poor, and is badly in need of a good editor. Sentences just run on and on. Judicious pruning – and a better grasp of grammar – would do much to improve it. That said, even the suggested dialogue is extremely clunky.

This isn’t to say the adventure is without merit. Once you wade through the text, there are some nice encounters. The opening of the adventure reads in a very rail-roaded fashion, unfortunately, but I’m partial to any adventure that includes an encounter with some travelling gypsies. (Unfortunately, they then speak, but the problems with the dialogue have already been noted).

The dungeon at the heart of the adventure has some major conceptual problems. The background of the adventure describes a dungeon that soldiers have sealed because they’re too afraid to clear out the undead in it. The actual dungeon is for first level characters. Rooms contain “1 zombie” or “2 skeletons”. I’m not sure why it was ever sealed in the first place, because it really isn’t that dangerous and it wouldn’t be a problem for a party of well-trained soldiers who wish to avenge their lost ones. There’s a disconnect between the idea behind the adventure and the adventure itself; the idea would work far better if the dungeon was for higher-level characters and had tougher undead. It’s a good idea in the wrong place.

What’s good about the dungeon is how much description the rooms get. There are a few good tricks and traps, and the adventure also gives some good notes as to the actions of an NPC paladin who is likely to be accompanying the party through the tomb. The biggest flaw is in the distribution of the monsters: I don’t think there are enough of them. 3 skeletons is about the most dangerous encounter.

The map for the dungeon is hand-drawn and moderately clear. The formatting of the adventure is good, although the use of different colours for read-aloud text and yet another colour for dialogue feels a bit too much. It’s mostly an attractive product.

Ultimately, for such a long adventure, it feels quite slight in material. It’s often badly-written, and the dungeon feels entirely too mundane. There are good descriptions, but it doesn’t quite make up for the other flaws in the product.

2 comments

  1. Jason Hatter

    So, a little confused. If the monsters in the module are 1-2 skeletons, zombies, etc, how is htis an appropriate adventure for 5th level characters? Do the creatures get more powerful further in?

    Like

    • merricb

      Ah! No, it doesn’t have tougher monsters. The point I was trying to make is that the setting (a tomb overrun by undead) would work a lot better if it had tougher monsters and more of them – and thus for higher-level characters. Sorry about the confusion!

      Like

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