Review: Sickness in Springdale
With our usual weekly campaign on hold last night, we took the opportunity to play “Sickness in Springdale,” a new adventure by Tracy Hurley (aka Sarah Darkmagic). It’s the first 4E adventure in an interesting line that publisher Postmortem Studios calls “6-Pack Adventures.” The quests are designed to be easy to run and play in just a few hours. It’s a very beer and pretzels style of D&D that worked well with only a few setbacks.
What I first noticed about the adventure is that the PDF comes with two maps, tokens for every character and monster, and several pre-made characters. This is the first time I’ve seen my players excited about a pre-made character because each PC has a compelling background page that hooks the player’s interest. A lot of the information in the backgrounds isn’t necessary for the adventure, but it is great for the DM to know if the characters were going to be continued in further adventures.
The quest was lot of fun because of the focus on exploration. The players had to trudge through an enchanted forest in search of a special plant, and they needed to earn the favor of the woods’ mystical protector. They earned this favor by completing several little tasks to aid the forest and not harm it, which seemed like a session long skill challenge without the skill checks. It’s a concept I’d love to explore more in my own games. Our favorite encounter was with a white stag that reminded me of something from Princess Mononoke.
My one gripe with the adventure is that some of the setups are vague. I share a little of the blame because of poor preparation, but I think the adventure should prod you more when the package bills itself as something that can be run in a sitting. Basically what happened is that the final encounter begins with a misunderstanding and ends with an ambush of monsters. You can be diplomatic about the first part of the encounter, which sort of negates the rest of the combat. There is one brief sentence in the setup that mentions when the monsters appear during the fight, but I think that it should have been written as a separate encounter.
I also didn’t notice when we came to the conclusion because there is no closing dialogue. I would have at least appreciated a “THE END” tag on the last page. But once I realized my mistake, I was able to wing a proper epilogue involving a feast, a new town holiday, and much rejoicing.
Overall, “Sickness in Springdale” is an entertaining story and adventure, and we had a lot of fun with it. While it is designed for a full party, we had no trouble with only two players. It’s a great level 1 adventure for small groups, and the players remarked that it felt a like an old school module. We worked around some of the setup issues, and I think it is flexible enough for an intrepid DM to add more encounters or use it as the catalyst for a full campaign. The PDF is a steal at $2, and I’m looking forward to more adventures in the series because you can never have enough D&D one-shots.
A copy of “Sickness in Springdale” was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.