From the Shadows
Author: Bruce Nesmith
Other notes:Level: 9-12
Summary: The PCs are killed by Azalin the Lich or die horribly in some manner before they are awakened as heads in his laboratory with their bodies preserved elsewhere. Azalin wishes to recruit them for a time travel experiment to Pre-Vampire Strahd Barovia to retrieve the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. The players then must get themselves out of Castle Avernus with Azalin's phylactery to fill the final part of the Hexad.
From the Shadows is what I call a "Dragonlance" module. It's somewhat of an unfair criticism but I consider From the Shadows to be little more than a map of a location in Ravenloft that you pop the PCs in and more or less let them fight their way through until the end. As a joke, I actually ran this after House of Strahd and called it "House of Azalin" (and had the players killed by the dragon in the first five minutes in the ONLY time I've ever done the resurrection cliché of Ravenloft).
FYI for anyone interested. My Hexad is 'Feast of Goblyns', 'Evil Eye', 'Bleak House', 'House of Strahd', and THEN 'From the Shadows' to 'Roots of Evil.' Strahd's temporary death was a huge climax to the series)
This is where the fairly infamous Ravenloft railroading of killing all the player characters in the first five minutes begins. In this case, it leads to a fairly effective moment where the PCs heads are re-animated by Azalin who has a conversation with them in one of those peculiar moments for RPGing where everything can be spoken of freely because it's just THAT bizarre.
I more or less ditched the entire 'escape' element of the plot and had Azalin hold them to their 'honor' that in exchange for resurrecting him that they'd do a mission for him that was not serving the cause of "Evil" (I did heavy mockery) and gave them the illusion of choice. Of course, in Azalin's opinion, what he's doing is not evil at all. I let them wander around Castle Avernus unmolested for abit and got plenty out of the weird environment than I ever would have if they'd been trying to fight their way out.
The Time Travel bit of the story is a bit weak honestly but it's a great idea to tie the PCs to the origins of Ravenloft. I made the adventure far longer by running House on Gryphon Hill as one of Azalin's experiments in time travel. I also made the most of the time travel adventure by having Azalin's goal change. Instead of just a minor bit of petty theft, I had Azalin send the PC's back in time to prevent Strahd from becoming a vampire. My rationale was that Azalin figured it would cause a paradox and in combination with the Hexad would result in the Grand Conjunction as Strahd was the fabric of the land and the lynchpin of the Demiplane (already severely wounded in it's borders by his 'death' in my game).
This climax seemed to be much better than the "we take Azalin's phylactery over the border" though the ONE opportunity to fight Azlain mano a mano makes sense in the context of the storyline and it's a pity to miss it.
4.0 out of 5.0 blood drops, great setting for adventures even if the adventure is weak.
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