5E Adventure Review: Fear of the Dark

Karl Resch’s adventure, Fear of the Dark, is set in the time of the Rage of Demons, where madness and fear stalk the Underdark. The plot of the adventure is simple: A Zhentarim caravan has gone missing underground, and the adventurers must find out what has happened to it by exploring an outpost overrun by invaders. For the most part, it’s a standard dungeon crawl, but it has a few features that make it notable.

The first of these is the chief villain: an insane kenku, who is written to be an ongoing threat throughout the adventure, using hit-and-run tactics to confuse and injure the adventurers. This is a strong use of his abilities, and means that finally dealing with the threat is likely to make your players very happy.

The second is that it plays with the idea of mixing potions. Throughout the adventure, the party can find remnants of full potions – what happens when only part of the potion remains in a shattered vial. These remnants can be mixed for unpredictable effects, which may help or hinder the adventurers in their quest. In addition, the style of potions gives clues as to what occurred at the outpost. It’s a nicely realised idea.

The third is that it gives a good amount of attention to the major allies and villains, who get significant descriptions of their histories and personalities in the appendix.

There are a few editing glitches, and a number of formatting problems related to the fonts selected. It should be noted that the default Wizards template provided for DM’s Guild authors doesn’t properly use all of the fonts – you need to manually set some of them. This is particularly noticeable in this product’s text boxes, where the font is the monospaced one that the template incorrectly defaults to. The adventure is presented in the D&D Adventurers League format and includes all relevant monster stat-blocks, making it very easy for a DM to use. One note: it refers to a potion of resistance (poison). My initial reaction was this was a potion of poison masquerading as a potion of resistance! I guess I’m too fond of the old cursed and deceptive items of AD&D…

The adventure can be easily completed in a single session, as the outpost consists of a total of nine encounter areas, many of which are exploration or role-playing encounters. The maps are hand-drawn, but very nicely realised, although I would have appreciated a key for some of the features and a map scale. (My introduction to D&D map-making in the 80s interprets the symbol as a pit trap! I think it’s meant to be a crate in this instance…)

This is an enjoyable adventure that allows the players to have a bit of fun in the Underdark. It requires a bit of work from the DM to properly portray the villains, but I believe the effort is worth it. Recommended.

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