5E Adventure Review: The Witchfire Curse

The Witchfire Curse is an adventure for first-level characters that, at its heart, presents a dungeon crawl, but also presents a story that engages the players and makes it much more than “just” a dungeon crawl.

The set-up for the adventure is this: the town of Durgon’s Rest has been cursed and the witch responsible for the curse has fled. Thus, the adventurers are hired to find the witch and break the curse. However, not everything is as it seems.

Hints as to this can be discovered early if the adventurers investigate the witch’s house. This isn’t an in-depth investigation scenario and the adventure is mostly linear in form, but groups will likely delight in discovering secrets the townsfolk don’t know. However, there isn’t much room for error here; if the players miss a clue, you’ll have to improvise to get them back on the right track. The redundancy of clues required in a good investigation scenario is missing. It’s a flourish on the main adventure, not the adventure itself.

In addition, things are muddied by a rumour chart that has several false rumours which are not addressed by the rest of the adventure. The thing about false leads is that they do have to lead somewhere. Watch an episode of NCIS: most of the clues turn out to be nothing, but they all explain where they came from – the investigators discover why the clue was present. Saying that the burgomaster has been seen on a hill practising witchcraft when there is no alternative explanation for why he was on the hill is poor design. Give an explanation in the burgomaster’s description; it eliminates the false lead and allows the players to concentrate on the real leads!

However, this downplays all the good work that links motivations of allies and enemies. The dungeon is well constructed. It uses a few monsters that have slight variations from the standard, and the dungeon is also pleasingly non-linear. It includes a couple of new magic items, and manages to have a personality that isn’t just “here’s another monster to slay!” Your goal as the DM should be to guide the players to the dungeon, allowing them to pick up some information beforehand, and then see what happens next.

The NPCs and monsters are going to be entertaining to play; the villain is well-motivated, and things tie together very well.

The adventure may be a little difficult for first-level characters to complete; CR 2 monsters are extremely dangerous, and the party must fight two of them. There also seems to be a misapprehension of the rules: you can’t cast a 1st level spell and a bonus action spell in the same turn (misty step then thunderwave in the same round is not allowed); which is probably just as well for the party. Writing for level one characters can be hard.

The presentation of the adventure is very good, with copious art and nicely-drawn maps. The art can tend towards being a little basic, but it works well enough.

Despite the various issues, this is a superior adventure that I recommend. Most of the problems can be fixed by the DM, and the good ideas outweigh them.

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