The tenth adventure of Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts is The Artifact by Teos “Alphastream” Abadia. This is a fascinating adventure, which rewards players who like role-playing and investigation as opposed to straight combat. It’s also based on the classic game of Clue. (Did you know they once produced a D&D version of Clue? They did! Really!)
This is not to say that The Artifact doesn’t have combat in it. It does, with its final encounter being a real crowd-pleaser. It certainly made the day of the players at my local store! However, the heart of the adventure resolves around a murder mystery (and a locked-room mystery at that!) Typically, these sorts of adventures cause problems for groups that don’t like investigating, and this is also true of this one, although I note that the investigation isn’t really that hard when you get down to it. Basically, it sets up all the guests… wizards… as suspects, with there being one clue that leads to the true perpetrator. In truth, the investigation doesn’t play very much like Clue at all, but that’s an easy way to describe the adventure those who haven’t played it.
The clever bit is that all the suspects are dead, but their ghosts remain. And – if everything goes to plan – each ghost will possess one of the player characters, and give that player the opportunity to role-play the possessing wizard. A set of hand-outs provide personality traits and the clues that wizard can impart. I can say from personal experience that this part of the adventure is a lot more difficult to run if you haven’t prepared the handouts beforehand. With a group of good role-players, the investigation can be exceptional. With a group of poor or disinterested role-players, it’s less so.
The Artifact is also notable for introducing some extremely important elements of the overall arc, which will become very relevant as the storyline comes to its conclusion. One of the significant problems with the Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts storyline is a lack of player agency. This is an unfortunate fact of organised play adventures, each of which that must be written in advance of them being played. So, with the ultimate Big Bad collecting artefacts, the adventurers typically fail to stop each artefact from being collected, although they may be able to gain a lesser victory. (It’s notable that the weakest adventure in the series, The Executioner, doesn’t allow the adventurers much of a victory at all). In The Artifact, thankfully, you are able to accomplish what you set out to do – and learn things about what the Big Bad is doing in the meantime.
With a four-hour playing time, The Artifact has the time to actually explore its concept. Two hour adventures, as a few of the designers have found this season, need to be very focused indeed. Due to the role-playing focus of the central mystery, the time taken to play this adventure can be greatly variable; a group of strong role-players who wish to explore the possibilities can extend it significantly, meaning that a DM with a time limit will need to guide them towards an earlier conclusion. Meanwhile, players who prefer action to role-playing may finish the entire thing more quickly – perhaps in as little of two hours!
The fact is that this is a fascinating adventure, and one that sees Teos, once again, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved by a D&D adventure; much as he did with The Howling Void. It demands a lot from your players, and, due to the role-playing elements, may not be a good fit, but it has ambition – and that I prize highly.