5E Adventure Review: The Darklake Strikes Back

Tony Petrecca’s The Darklake Strikes Back is the second of his Journey Through the Centre of the Underdark adventures. Designed for four to six 4th-6th level characters, the product presents a set of encounters to use during play of Out of the Abyss or any campaign set on an underground water system.

There are four short encounters and one longer encounter setting (an island of kobolds and a dragon) in the product. The short encounters are very nicely done, providing structure and interest to what, in less capable hands, could just be fights against groups of monsters. They make very good use of the environment, adding in unusual features and allowing each situation to challenge the players in different ways.

The lair of a zombie beholder is particularly nicely realised.

The final section of the adventure describes an island fortress. It presents the DM with a number of challenges, as it is a reactive dungeon where its kobold defenders attack the party using hit-and-run tactics. With such a situation, the formatting of the area descriptions is incredibly important. Here, it doesn’t quite work. The room descriptions are fairly verbose, which is great for exploration but not for quickly determining what you need to know when the party moves into them in the middle of a fast-flowing combat, and the use of bold text to indicate what monsters are found in an area isn’t done in the manner I prefer.

To wit: you should only use bold text once per area for each monster group present. Thus, if there is one group of kobolds in a room, you bold only one instance of their name (typically the instance that gives their number) and leave the rest in normal font. If a monster isn’t present (such as the Drow Mage whose spellbook can be found), don’t use the bold font at all.

There are some very good pieces of description and well thought out encounters in the fortress; it uses the history of the fortress well, with elements of its original inhabitants remaining and providing trouble for the players.

The adventure has a good amount of art, and some effective maps. There are odd editing glitches, but it reads pretty well.

Overall, The Darklake Strikes Back is an excellent product, and one I recommend.

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