5E Adventure Review: The Unliving Light

What happens when an Archmage who reveres Kelemvor, the god of Death, starts experimenting with ways of prolonging life? To some in Kelemvor’s church, this was anathema – heresy that flirted too close to the necromantic arts of undeath. However, the scorn of her fellows didn’t stop Elean Mera, the archmage in question, from continuing with her efforts. A small cult formed around her, and she created an underground fortress in the Earthspur Mountains where she pursued her experiments. Forty years ago, she disappeared from mortal knowledge when an earthquake destroyed her stronghold.

The Unliving Light allows a group of 6th-8th level adventurers to explore her ruined stronghold. The author of this adventure, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, worked as an editor on the 5th edition core rulebooks and has contributed to many other books over the years. In this adventure, he’s presented us with a very well-designed dungeon environment, where exploration, problem-solving and combat are emphasised. Role-playing is not a focus of the adventure, with almost all of the opponents being incapable of coherent speech.

The adventure doesn’t use boxed (read-aloud) text, but it is not short on detail. There are plenty of things to discover, and all are well-detailed. Players who use a healthy amount of caution should prosper here, as the dungeon is filled with interesting tricks and traps; reckless adventurers are likely to find themselves dead. It’s rather nice that Scott includes the remains of a few adventures who made it to the dungeon, but didn’t make it out again.

Those who follow my reviews may be wondering what I think of the writing and editing. Well, it’s brilliant. This is a professional-level product, far above most of what you can find on the DMs Guild. The artwork is excellent – the cover is by Jack Kaiser and many of the interior illustrations are by Claudio Pozas. I think Claudio’s done some stellar work here, with the style of his artwork very nicely complementing the adventure.

The adventure includes one new monster – a water creature known as the Aballin – one new monster template, and several new magic items. Two new spells are included, which have been converted from previous editions. One oddity that betrays this is that they both have durations of “1 round/level”; a more standard 5E construction would be “1 minute” or “Concentration, up to 1 minute”.

Monster stat-blocks are not included in the text, but a few of the monsters have modifications to their statistics. For the most part this isn’t a problem, but I would have much preferred to see the archmage’s spell list in full rather than just the modifications. Dealing with the spells of high-level casters is already challenging enough without having to determine whether or not the caster has a spell listed in its standard stat-block. This is a relatively minor niggle, however.

Overall, The Unliving Light is an excellent adventure, well worth purchasing. It’s quite challenging to even enter the complex, but players who enjoy finding interesting things to investigate – as well as facing a few dangerous monsters – should find much to entertain them here.

One comment

  1. Ian

    Definitely sounds like an interesting adventure. I enjoy the little twists and turns that have been presented for the adventure in your review. I do have a small quibble. The Aballin is an older edition monster, originally appearing in 2nd edition. I look forward to checking this out.


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