By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Headless Hydra Games is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving 13 1/4 pages for the adventure, so let’s see how it holds up!
This being an adventure, the review contains spoilers, so potential players beware.
At the Heart of Evil is a free adventure by Headless Hydra Games for characters level 6 to 8 and revolves around the PCs exploring a ruined keep of the Order of the Sanguine Star. The keep has been corrupted and the order slaughtered by a paladin of said order turned blackguard. The adventure centers around battling mostly incorporeal undead, collecting gems they leave behind and ritually laying their souls to rest to prevent them from respawning.
The adventure per se is a very straightforward little crawl. Where it stands out, is in the beautiful b/w-artwork I didn’t expect in a free product as well as the maps provided for the keep – cover & interior artists as well as the cartographer did a great job.
The adventure also features two new magic items: A magic saddle and the banner of the order.
There is not too much to comment on story-wise, but I’ll mention some peculiarities: This adventure actually feels like a prequel to the REAL adventure, e.g. holding the keep against an undead army led by the blackguard Sir Gareth Strongfist etc. I especially got this impression due to the focus the background story has on said Sir Gareth, the fact that his name is always written in italics and the distinct lack of his stats in this book.
Which brings me to my next little gripe: There are no stats in this book, only references to other books and not even the page numbers where we can find these critters. Looking the numbers up would have taken 5 minutes and been a great service to DMs. More importantly, some enemies have the fiendish template. While I learned to apply it on-the-fly, I don’t know whether every DM out there is willing to do that.
On the other side, this adventure is FREE.
Editing is nice; Although there are some awkward sentences, none hampered my understanding of the adventure. The are some strange formatting decisions like putting Gareth’s name always in italics. Layout and artwork are absolutely top-notch and deserve high praises. The crawl itself is short, sweet, uncomplicated and yet exciting and not too easy. While I would have loved to get the stat-blocks and a great final encounter with the often-alluded-to Sir Gareth, I’m hoping for a sequel. That being said, I’d usually rate this lower, but come on – it’s a free adventure, it’s a fun little crawl and it’s got great artwork and cartography, so even if you only scavenge one part, what can you do wrong? My final verdict will thus be 4 stars.
At the Heart of Evil is available from: