5E Adventure Review: The Tempter

The ninth adventure in the fourth D&D Adventurers League season, The Tempter, has a lot to recommend it. It makes use of a number of gothic horror tropes that I adore, and it ends with the players having to make a decision that properly evokes the major theme of the adventure: Temptation. The characters might be sent to a Lady’s manor to bargain for supplies, but, of course, things aren’t that simple and a pleasant setting soon turns into one of horror.

This isn’t an adventure for a poorly-prepared Dungeon Master, nor for one who is bad at improvising. Some of the details in the adventure are lightly sketched, with a number of areas getting only a sentence or two of description. A section at the end of the adventure provides more information; details that can be used to extend the adventure in the event of a group having more than two hours to play it. Personally, I wouldn’t want to play the two-hour version, as it loses most of the contrast between normal life and horror that is at the heart of what I enjoy about the Ravenloft setting.

The middle section of the adventure works a lot better if you’ve been introduced to the inhabitants and rooms in the manor first; in the shorter form, the players may end up wandering blindly around as they try to find the clues that lead to the main confrontation. There are a few incidental encounters here that are properly horrific, but the investigation relies a lot on the players performing specific actions; it doesn’t have much leeway for error. Imagine playing Betrayal at the House on the Hill without the initial exploration phase – the balance feels off.

What I appreciate most about the adventure is its ending. The players attain a treasure, and must decide what to do with it. Being Ravenloft, the choices have consequences, good and bad. Taking inspiration from this adventure for use in a home game could allow you to fully explore the consequences; something organised play can’t do: there isn’t the opportunity to see what effects the treasure has on the land over the months or years following the players’ decision.

I would have liked to see a little more emphasis on NPCs to interact with before the haunt starts, but I understand why they were omitted; they aren’t relevant to the main thrust of the story.

Make no mistake about it: The Tempter has a strong concept behind it. If the execution occasionally wanders into more standard D&D terrain, it’s mostly due to the form required and the limitations of time and space. To really explore the ideas it raises, you’d need the entire group to want to explore them, and that’s something you can’t assume in organised play. So, this is an adventure that will work moderately well as written, but can also can work as a spur for a creative Dungeon Master to use as the seed of something special.

Ultimately, I find The Tempter to be somewhat mixed. It has some memorable encounters amidst a problematic structure, and finishes with a fascinating ending.

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