5E Adventure Review: The Ghost

DDAL04-06 The Ghost is the mid-season finale of Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts, the fourth season of D&D Adventurers League adventures. Or, at least, it could be if you squint really hard. Honestly, it’s hard to know what to make of it. Somewhere in the writing process – either in initial conception, its writing, or the editing – something went badly wrong with the story.

This is a pity, since the individual encounters in The Ghost are actually quite good.

The adventure suggests a number of adventure hooks for the players. For groups who have been playing through the series, it’s most likely that you’ll use the one where they’re sent to look for a missing Vistani, Donali. I wonder what happened to him? We started referring to him as “Sir Not Appearing in This Adventure”. He actually fares better than the Gur seer, Sybil, who is another person the players could be sent to find. She doesn’t get mentioned at all. Donali, at least, gets one mention – the players can find the dead body of one of his friends.

The intention of the hooks is to get the characters to visit the hag, Jeny Greenteeth, who was transported – along with the characters – from Faerun. With one exception, they’re not bad hooks. Unfortunately, most are never resolved. The adventure completely fails to mention what happens when the characters reach Jeny and ask her “Do you know where Donali is?” or “Do you know what this ichor is?” or “Where’s Sybil?”

It’s just incredibly incompetent.

The only question Jeny does get to answer is “Do you know where we are?” The adventure also allows her to answer “Do you know the way out?” which is the one hook that is directly answered in the adventure. But if you’re looking for missing people, they’re going to remain missing and you’re going to be none the wiser.

The bulk of the adventure concerns the road trip to find Jeny. The encounters are enjoyable, though they not particularly deep. They’re just challenges to overcome rather than pieces of a greater story. There’s some role-playing with Jeny, which – as noted – ignores the reasons players may have come to see her. And then there’s a quest that Jeny gives the players, which is the best bit of the adventure. It’s short, but creepy and well-judged.

The adventure is notable for giving characters their first way back home. It isn’t particularly well handled. The problem is that the choice between going home or staying is not a good one given the current state of the season. The adventure doesn’t set forth the reasons the characters would choose to stay. The meta-gaming one “Because we want to play the other adventures in this season” doesn’t make sense from a story perspective.

An explanation that only you could get home this way, as all of your other friends would still be trapped, would have been nice. At least, for good-aligned characters, that’d provide a moral dilemma. But, honestly, this really should be handled on the meta-game level. It’s too easy for the proper role-playing decision for the character to be wrong for the player’s needs. So, instead of framing the decision in the adventure as “you find a way home, do you take it?”, the players (not characters) should be given the option of leaving, and then those that choose to leave would have the encounter that gets them out of the realm.

Although billed as a 4-hour adventure, it took all three of our groups about two hours to play through the encounters. This is not because the adventure time was wrong (although it’s probably still short), but it’s a reflection of how much shorter adventures can run when you have 4 players at a table rather than 6 or 7.

I’d consider The Ghost, under most circumstances, to not be a bad adventure. It’s got some good encounters and a structure that mostly works. However, the complete disconnect between the hooks and the rest of the adventure is bad. It displays some woeful editing and development. If the adventure properly resolved the hooks, I’d consider it an average one, without a really compelling story to elevate it, but, as it stands, this is one of the weaker releases in the series.

2 comments

  1. Víctor Ocampo

    I’m seeing these AL modules getting pummeled by critics in their writing and editing. I really wanted to purchase them so I could have some guidance on my home CoS campaing, but the way I see it, I’d rather stick to my own experience as a DM.

    Thanks for the reviews! And shame on people who dare to charge money for poor products.

    Like

  2. Cassandra

    So I definitely agree with this review. I’m running this module in a few days, for a group of friends, to get their characters to 5 in order to participate in the Origins release modules which are all tier 2. Due to the release of content so close to the convention, we won’t have had time to play through the story-line leading up to 4-10 and are forced to play this module to get our characters the mid season Exp reward to qualify for the convention modules at all, This means that we’re all skipping The Seer due to time constraints, which apparently negates one of the more likely hooks for this module.

    Based on what’s happened in the last module we played with the S4 characters (Marionette for most of us) the hooks for this module feel like a cop out. Someone asks you to find someone… or convinces you to talk to Jenny to learn…something that has nothing to do with the music box or lazslo or any of your other mysteries you’ve been investigating up until this point. And I get that this is bound to happen when you lose the continuity by playing this season out of order, but the ‘so and so is missing’ hook has been done into the ground in the modules this particular group has played so far this season and I’m sure we’re not going to be the only ones in a similar position.

    So the one hook that would appeal to all of them, how the hell do I get out of this place, is the one that can actually be resolved and then they run into the problem you stated….with finding a reason for the characters to STAY in Ravenloft. And that’s the whole point of running this module. Getting them to 5 so they can play the rest of them. And there’re notes about Jeny’s reaction to being asked about what happened in Phlan, but no guidance about how to answer questions relevant to this season? When /most/ characters playing this are likely going to be new to S4? Anyone knowing about her involvement, or lack there of, in Phlan’s problems will be few and far between, but EVERYONE is going to want to know WTF is going on around them.

    Reading through it, I also expect the module to run short. Each encounter says it should take about 45 minutes? But most of them don’t really allow for much in the way of RP and low level combat goes fairly quick. In all, it feels like a rather weak mod that doesn’t really connect any dots or help tie up any loose ends, until you get to they very end/get the bonus XP dream sequence and finally start to understand the obsessions. And even that just feels kind of like it’s tacked onto a weak module.
    It’s sad, because the combats themselves could be fun, the pretenses interesting, but they feel sort of pasted on.

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