5E Adventure Review: Mad Mage’s Mansion

Vladimir Arabadzhi’s Mad Mage’s Mansion is a four-hour adventure for two characters of levels 1-2, and is presented as a 33-page pdf file. He describes it as a “small party adventure”, and such things are a rarity – and useful for a DM who has a couple of players who want to play a game, but can’t find more players! In the case of only having a single player, the suggestion is made to play a second adventurers, either as a DM PC, or have the player control both characters. I fully support this decision; playing adventures with just a single character is extremely difficult, mainly because a run of bad luck will take the character down without anyone to back them up.

The adventure also has a page of useful tips for playing with small parties, well worth considering.

The adventure describes the small hamlet nearby and the road to the mansion, which employs the fun trick of having a pair of rogues saying they’ll guide the party to the mansion, only to try to rob the party. That’s something I haven’t seen since The Village of Hommlet, although in that case, the rogues waited until after the players left the mansion with loot!

This is primarily an exploration scenario; there’s little role-playing in it. It does include number of combat encounter, although the combats will likely run very quickly. Low level and only two characters? Yes, combats should speed by. And there’s probably going to be some running involved. The inclusion of a cockatrice is just mean! A few CR 1 combats could be tricky if the adventurers meet them before gaining a level.

What Mad Mage’s Mansion does really well is the exploration aspect. It describes every room, and has numerous clues and areas of interest. Some of the areas are just mundane and as described, others have secrets that the players can prise out.

The formatting of the adventure is excellent, with appendices containing much useful information for the DM. The proof-reading is, alas, erratic. There’s a lot of clumsy phrasing and numerous errors. I also noted that many of the ability checks required are quite difficult for first-level characters.

Ultimately, though, this is a very entertaining adventure. I would not find it difficult to scale up for a larger party of adventurers, but it’s nice to see something written for the very small group in mind.

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