Author: Lisa Smedman
: Level: 4-6
This adventure is a stand-alone adventure set in nova Vassa, which also doubles as a source book for adventures within that realm. The book is split into several parts. The first is a brief introduction to the adventure, which includes the various states for the main protagonist (see below). The second is a description of Nova vassa itself. The third is the ‘Meat and potatoes’ of the adventure. For the purposes of this review, I think I will deal with each of these sections in turn.
This book differs somewhat from the standard DnD method by placing the statistics of the main antagonist at the front, but I feel it works in this case. The history and the story of the main antagonist is bound up with the history of the adventure, which is very well written and thought out, and having the two in the same place is very convenient. Regarding the history and setting of the adventure, some might feel that placing an Egyptian tomb in a realm based on medieval England is something of a desecration, but I would disagree. I feel that the fact that such things are possible is one of the strengths of Ravenloft as a setting. It is possible to mess around players’ expectations, and unexpected touches like this can be really memorable. As long as this is done sparingly, of course.
A 2-page section describes the land of Nova vassa, and its people. It pretty much covers the same ground as the gazzeters, but obviously in less detail, and is all in all an interesting read. If one takes this book together with the information in the gazetteer, I feel that one would gain a good grounding in the land and would provide a good basis for the DM to start fleshing out the pieces to suit his own needs. The adventure certainly facilitates this. Since we are on the subject of the background, one significant change however is Hiredaards relation to his wife. Here she is said to genuinely love him, though he does not reciprocate. This is key to the other change, the addition of another way to destroy Malken other than chop your way though Hirregards children, grandchildren, illegitimate children etc, an act which would probably land you as lord of a domain yourself (and 3 guesses what the curse of a being who’s greatest wish would be to destroy Malken would be, or I am I being too evil here.. :D). I’m not sure why this was dropped, except to try and make him more ‘invincible’ as a bad guy. I think this is silly, frankly. Ravenloft is about tragedy, and there is nothing wrong with having an end that tugs at your heartstrings, which is all the sweeter when you know the victim is truly evil. And that’s the case here. (No I’m not going to spoil it for you. Read the book! J)
Synopsis: The players are asked to discover why Cats have begun to act oddly. This draws then into a conflict with a strange undead being that not only comes back later when killed, but seems to grow more and more powerful every time it does so. The players travel around Nova Vassa, becoming enmeshed in the Byzantine politics of the land as they do so, and must search for a way to defeat the creature permanently before it becomes too powerful and kills them all.
This adventure takes the players all around Nova Vassa and introduces them to some of the major players, including Tristan Hiiragaard (though Malken himself is not involved). It makes an excellent jumping off adventure for a campaign, or to hook on various side quests with a bit of alteration. However I feel that the central bad guy is not very well used. For instance at one point the PC.s just wander out of a room and she (and I quote) “Hops over a wall” ready to be fought (for no obvious reason, but I guess that is part of the clues in the adventure, but its badly done) and in another instance she simply runs into their tent for no apparent reason at all. This is especially bad as she has thief abilities, and there are no attempts to use them in the encounters as they are given. In short, they are “dial a stand up fight” encounters, which is a damn shame. If you use this adventure I would highly recommend that you alter the encounters, because with a bit of work they could become truly memorable (and could have the PCs looking scared at every shadow and running away from every innocent cat.)
I don’t mean to sound like I’m giving out about this adventure. On the contrary, I really enjoyed reading this adventure, and I feel this could lead to a fantastic series of sessions for the PCs. The ending when they are wandering through the tomb is especially creepy. In short, I recommend this adventure for those DMs planning a series of adventures in Nova Vassa, and for those looking for a weekend in hell.
Just don’t have the PC’s bring their mouse costumes....
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