DDAL04-04 The Marionette continues the D&D Adventurers League storyline, “Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts”, with an adventure that draws together storylines begun in previous adventures. It might also have just a little too much content in it; not really a problem for home games, but certainly one for convention and in-store play. It has been reported that a DM whose group has a more leisurely playing style than my own took nine hours to complete the adventure! It didn’t take us that long, but many groups will have trouble running this in four hours.
The Marionette also highlights all the problems that The Executioner has. Key information you need in this adventure is meant to be revealed in The Executioner, but its original version fails to highlight or even allow the players to discover it. However, we can take heart in that a revised version of The Executioner is currently being prepared for release; I’ll review it when I get my hands on a copy of it to see if the revision fixes its issues.
Back to The Marionette. The adventure is basically two parts: an attack on the village, followed up with an exploration of a deserted manor. There are many revelations here about what’s going on in Oraşnou, some of which are revealed in a creepy dream sequence that is a highlight of the adventure; it’s presented as an environment that the players get to interact with during the vision. This is superior writing.
The village attack consists of four scenarios. As far as I can tell, it is intended that the group splits up and handles each scenario at the same time; with success or failure at the tasks affecting the course of this and future scenarios. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite clear by how it’s structured. This section would have been greatly improved if there had been one (short) section of boxed text at the beginning of the attack describing the four scenarios and explicitly telling the players that they can’t deal with everything without splitting up.
This section could also be quite dangerous, especially if, as intended, the party split up. There’s a definite possibility of one or more PC deaths. The situations are good and evocative, however.
The manor is very nicely constructed, with a selection of tricks, traps and monsters with which you can challenge your players. What it lacks are tracks for party trackers to follow. With most adventures, I wouldn’t mention this as a flaw, but there are a number of features here that make me very curious as to how the NPCs enter and leave the house.
The description of the surrounds is also a little lacking. The front door goes into the ground floor, but the side doors enter the basement! How does that work?
The house could vary wildly in length depending on the route the players take. It’s a boon for home players, but if you’re limited in time, guiding the players to the more important encounters should be considered.
What The Marionette has is a lot of invention. It has a few issues with its structure and I’m concerned that (once again) players might not learn enough about what is going on, but at its core it is a very solid adventure.