Hello everyone, hope those of you who celebrated anything have had a good week! Well, I hope that everyone had a good week. Today I have a review for you all! Written by David Flor of Darklight Interactive, this 96 page adventure is the first of what will hopefully be many parts. The adventure is titled The Coming Dark and this is the first chapter of that: Into The Light. As a little bit of background this product was Kickstarted for art and editing and it seems David had some issues figuring out exactly how to go about things. Long story short, it seems it was meant to be on the DM’s Guild and, due to the legality of that venue, turned into an OGL product. If you ask me, that was the right direction to go. Sure visibility might be a little higher on the DM’s Guild for 5E, but unless you really need/want to use Wizard’s IP or text that isn’t in the SRD then OGL is the better bet. Especially for larger projects like this. Anyways, let’s get into the review, shall we?
The Start Of Adventure
I want to start by discussing what you can get from this product as a group. This is an adventure that is designed for a party of level 1 or 2 adventurers. It is, in fact, explicitly stated that characters should be level 2 if you want to lessen the danger of the contents of the book. After going through the adventure, I would say that you could even get away with level 3 characters though it is likely they get to that point during the adventure itself. The idea is that the PCs are coming to Solis and the surround land as adventurers, mercenaries. Pretty standard fare, but that is just fine because it leaves us some wiggle room. Want to pick up a group and start your campaign here? Go for it and start between 1 and 3 depending on the amount of challenge your group wants. Want to do a little bit of party meet and greet first? Need to train new players a bit? Get the group started on a level 1 adventure wherever in the world you want and move on to this at level two! Either way you do it will not really affect the way this adventure runs.
That being said, the adventure is very well done. As always I will avoid spoilers, but this adventure offers quite a lot. It is written in a way that makes the narrative of it pretty clear. It is divided into different acts, three to be specific, and each act has its own set of events. The first involves getting to Solis and learning about everything that is going on, digging for information, surprises, and combat. All the good stuff that gets the party involved with a town and makes them want to take part in the adventure. Act two involves travel and any number of side quests and encounters you want to involve. What is nice about this is that you can adjust the pacing of the adventure for the group. Want to get right to things? Skip most of the second act. Want to explore and learn and earn some extra gear/XP? There is plenty available. Finally the third act involves combat, weird situations, and stopping evil plans. There is resolution, but questions. Hopefully, we can see chapter two sooner than later.
Scenes, Quests, Hooks, & More
Whenever I read adventures like this I try to find what writers are doing. How do they present it for the DM? How do they aid the DM in their job? There are so many ways and some things work and others do not. Some are made for specific types of adventures. What I see in David’s book are some excellent aides for the DM. First off, we have information about the background of the game, NPCs, and why PCs would be coming to Solis. Beyond that he has dedicated some space to set the table for the DM. How to handle a base of operations for the group, hand out experience, deal with traps and lock picking, buying spell-casting services, and more. This is very helpful, especially to the new Dungeon Master or the one who has trouble coming up with certain things on the fly. The first 10, or so, pages are dedicated to not just informing the DM, but helping make sure they are prepared to run what follows.
Throughout the adventure itself, the layout is pretty standard but very well done. Headings are peppered throughout the entirety. These are amazing because, well, first off they are not at all obtrusive. Secondly, they are descriptive and helpful. Developments from what has happened, handling experience, playing NPCs involved in the scene, skill checks, and more. It is almost as if this was written as an introductory adventure for new DMs. I love it. I know not every DM wants to be handed everything or told how to run every aspect of the game. Different DMs have different needs in helping them prep. This adventure covers A LOT of the bases and does it well. Add to that the explicit headings and a DM can use or not use whatever they want or need. I couldn’t ask for more in an adventure.
Without continuing on about every single great thing that this adventure includes, lets talk about a couple highlights. First are the random tables. This adventure makes good use to randomize some of what happens from encounters to effects. Secondly, there is a portion near the end of the first act where David asks the DM to figure out how the town views the players. Based on different actions and events that the individual characters take part in, the town views them with variable favor. The table is well laid out and broken down in order of events. This is a very basic system too. The higher the score, the greater the favor. It is a simple but crunchy method of figuring out how the court of Solis looks upon the PCs. My third highlight is the breaking down of each act into scenes and / or quests. Scenes are good because it helps give a judge of where to end a session or how to pace things. Quests are labeled as such and, while you don’t have to use the word at the table, it is a good concept by which to treat things. Finally, of course, are the appendices: monsters, maps, handouts, and magic items. These are all here and it is great to have these references in an adventure like this.
Okay, now that we’ve talked about the contents a bit, let’s go over how those are presented a little more. You already know a bit about the layout. Sections, scene breakdowns, and headings are all here and all helps out. We also have appendices that include all the things that might need to be quick referenced or printed alone. Great start. Keeping with the great way this book is laid out, we have simple but effective sidebars and tables. These designs always pull me for two reasons. This is because they need to be seen, they need to be clear, they need to be separate, and they need to be useful. Those within Into The Light are all of the above. The designs stand out without being glaring, separating them from the rest of the text without distracting you. The tables. Oh gods thank you Darklight Interactive, you used simple colored tables. You didn’t try to hide that they were tables. You didn’t get fancy. You picked a color scheme that worked with the product and made clear table headings and separated rows with alternating shades. My eyes praise you for it! Beyond that the right text is bolded, italicized, or both to delineate what needs to be differentiated throughout. Additionally there is read aloud text which is different (yes!) from the sidebar text. It is not self contained, but it is set apart by being red and put between two red horizontal lines. It is just the right amount of standout.
All in all this book looks amazing and I would love to see a hard copy, would love to use a hard copy if I were running the adventure. There are a few things I feel would make this product even better though. The first, basic mistake is the utter lack of a table of contents. This adventure is almost 100 pages long and includes 4 major sections with multiple appendices. A table of contents is virtually required for something this size. Perhaps it seemed a bit arbitrary or they needed to shave back pages, but a TOC is one of the most useful things in any book you use to reference…anything. Second, I am a little disappointed by the lack of art. There is a real opportunity in this adventure to highlight more of the copious descriptions and ideas. Spoiler alert but an image of the angry king squaring off against skeletal warriors despite the adventurers or the unconscious form of the queen in an escape tunnel would have been great images to hold up to players. There is room for plenty more as well: the ghostly bard, the dark alter, the burning skeleton, disembarking a ship loaded with adventurer types. I would love to see this book moved up to 110-120 pages by adding some more artwork. As for the maps included, they are very well done but they aren’t big enough to print to scale despite looking like they were designed as such. This isn’t much of a problem, it happens with print books. However, pulling those into individual PNGs for the digital version for the virtual table top? That is a missed opportunity.
All in all this is an incredibly well-done product. I can’t imagine that the hard or soft cover versions aren’t even more impressive. While the adventure itself doesn’t do much to rewrite the book on fantasy adventures, it is incredible and looks like a lot of fun. David seems to know what he is doing and have a lot of experience as a DM. As a product all I really want is to see more. I wish they had shot for a higher Kickstarter goal and additional art and truly hope the next chapter includes more. As for that chapter, there is little I would change. They have begun to build a little world around Solis complete with history and personality. Hopefully the next chapter pulls on those threads and adds some more and I look forward to seeing it.