Feast of Goblyns
Authors: Blake Mobley
I recently ran this oldie-but-goodie for my players and it seemed to go over well. There is a LOT to work with in this module. It took us two full weekends of realtime to finish (about 50 hours of playing), and that was with several parts ripped out or de-emphasized. The module serves up a near-Gazetteer level of detail on the major towns of Kartakass. The NPCs are devious and entertaining to play, and the land feels almost like a character itself. The musical influence and the theme of hidden danger beneath a friendly exterior pervade every aspect of the adventure. The plot hinges on NPCs and 'town' adventures, but there are several opportunities for dungeon-crawling to balance out the politics as well.
There also some great moral judgements to be made by the PC's. "Do we give something as powerful and evil as this crown to someone we don't know? Is one woman's happiness worth risking life and limb? Now that we've rescued the maiden, what do we do with her? What do we do with the inmates after killing the undead that cared for them? Now that we found out we helped one evil creature wage war on another, who do we side with? Do we risk our lives again to stop a war, or just wash our hands of it?"
Feast also delivers on the scares. The Old Kartakan Inn is a playground for all those childhood fears of monsters under the bed or in the closet. Dr. Dominiani's feeding habits are just downright creepy, and discovering rats and cobwebs in the kitchen will make your players want to forget about the rice pudding they ate the night before. And goblyns are one of my favourite monsters to roleplay. Just be careful not to spit on anyone when acting out "feasting."
That said, the adventure is not without flaws, and many of the flaws run deep. First, as I noted, it is a LONG adventure, and a lot of it can be repetitive. There's a lot of running from place to place on missions from this NPC or that NPC. Unless you are running this as a stand alone campaign, or your characters have some personal stake in Kartakass, some parts simply must be cut.
Secondly, the NPCs and their plans are very interesting, but they are terrible liars. You will need either very gullible PCs or a quick wit to make them believable. Akriel's story in particular is pretty hard to swallow. I've seen several people on-line attempt to patch it up, and I took the best of those, mixed with a few of my own ideas to come up with something that worked, but barely: The 'woodsman' is politically and financially a good match, and her father won't let her see Heinrich because he is Gundarakan. Heinrich attempted to use Kartakan ways to sway him by asking for a 'labor' to prove himself. Akriel's father agreed, telling him to find something he would value more than his daughter and the wealth a marriage to the woodman would bring. Akriel saw the crown of her ancestors in a dream, and believes it is a sign that this heirloom would be acceptable to her father. If pushed, she reveals that she may be cursed, since everytime she tries to flee Kartakass to be with her love, she falls asleep and wakes up at home. (Implying to those in the know that the woodsman is darklord of Kartakass.) The flaw in this patch was that the PCs were reluctant to hand over the crown, since Heinrich would give it to Akriel's father, who was evil enough to force his daughter to wed a man who whipped her. There's got to be a better cover story, but I couldn't find it.
To further muddy the waters, a note from Dominiani to Akriel implies that their true plan is to turn his inmates into a goblyn army, and use the crown to open the border to invade Kartakass. But the list of the crown's powers seems to omit this one. This is one of a few editing errors, including undetailed rooms on the map of the doctor's keep.
The adventure itself suffers from being the first module for a setting that was very different than traditional D&D. The balance is definitely more towards fantasy and less gothic than many modern Ravenloft fans might like. Radaga's cavern and the village of Daglan are both full of ludicrous things from the "bones and blood are scary" school of design that resurfaced in Circle of Darkness. They also contain a larger portion of "instant death" and random magic items than I'd like. (As does Dominiani's keep). When I ran the adventure this most recent time, I skipped a lot of this, and explained away a lot of what was left by agreeing with one of the PC's who stated the obvious: The witch is clearly crazy. Who builds a staircase in a giant skeleton in a bottomless pit? Who builds a giant ziggarut with a rotating raven statue on top just to freak people out? It's just silly.
It also has the risk of leaving the players unsatisfied at the end, since a lot of the story will remain a mystery unless the DM makes an effort at exposition whenever he can (With the conversations with Harkon and Hardock-Cann, the elf, for example). They also will need to know or learn quite a bit about the darklord concept to understand why certain things happen. And of course, while DMs love manipulative NPCs, players tend to hate them, so be warned. All in all, Feast of Goblyns is a great module, albeit one that needs quite a bit of work on the DM's part to cover up the flaws.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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