First off, I would like to disclose that I received this module for review purposes.
Domain of the Nameless God is a 5E adventure designed for level 3-4 characters. This will appeal to players and GMs who enjoy challenges, atmospheric horror, and the potential for character death. If your group is not into sanity loss (for characters, not players) and mature themes, you may want to take a closer look before purchasing. Even if you may not run it, there are ideas in here that you can certainly use in my own homebrew: especially how the antagonist starts in the periphery and worms its way into the forefront.
I rated Domain of the Nameless God five stars due to the quality of presentation, concepts, and how the mature themes are handled. I have listened to the Dark Dice and White Vault Podcasts, so I enjoy media that uses atmosphere to create a sense of dread and foreboding horror. This adventure fits that mould and it is the one used in their Dark Dice podcast.
There is a lot of artwork that helps set the tone of horror. When I gather first impressions, artwork can help drawn me in; I felt pleasantly surprised by what was included. Most of it is black and white, with some colour pieces mingled in. There is a mixture of original pieces and stock DM’s Guild, Creative Commons Works. What is used, is used well. The Cover art is very evocative and showcases what the party has in store for them, with hues of green and purple to indicate the presence of otherworldly creatures (and further showcased on the ceiling). Considering the asking price, it was great to see so much artwork.
The layout is professional, crisp, is easy to read, and does not need a “print friendly” mode. Be warned that two of the pages (cover and back cover) are mainly black, with the second page totally black. Personally, I avoided printing the second black page and wonder why that was included.
Domain of the Nameless God runs 86 pages in length, with a cover, black second page, table of contents, two blank ages at the end, a back cover. The proper module starts on page four and ends on page fifty-five. There are then three appendices. Appendix A (Magic Items) – two pages, Appendix B (Creature Stat Blocks) – nine pages, Appendix C (Additional Rules) – nine pages. I sincerely appreciated the new creature stat blocks had artwork associated with them. These could be used to create tokens if you are using an online platform such as Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. The magic items are unique, and the additional rules include tables/ detailed description for nightmares, sanity, and options for “A Bad Place”.
The introduction covers some key topics, including “what is horror?”, “ways to die”, sanity, and a general overview. Sanity is one of those elements that not everyone enjoys using. However, in this adventure, it plays a key role in keeping your players on edge. There is even a suggestion that you include some of the player’s fears. I was also pleased that they didn’t go into a discussion about the X-card. Travis Vengroff, instead, mentions that communication is the key and the DM needs to ensure the players realize what they are getting into. This module goes into dark and disturbing topics, so it may not be for all players. Knowing what everyone is diving into is important for the enjoyment of your gaming group.
The adventure is broken into ten chapters, with specifics given for each chapter. The flavour text is especially detailed and can help the DM shift from the passive aspects, to active, sensory descriptions. There is a good balance between plot points and choice for the players. While generally there is a progression, a DM can always improvise and add other encounters. There are suggestions in several chapters for this to happen.
Yes, this adventure does use a common trope of “save group X” as a hook. That being said, it goes far past the expected journey quite quickly. There is also an option if you wanted to use this as a starting point for a new campaign.
I enjoyed the sequencing of the adventure. It has a slow build, moving towards a horrific climax. The new creatures in Appendix B, the main antagonist, and the supporting NPC encounters are very well crafted. Each helps build that dread within the players. In the case of the main protagonist, it is written with such detail that I can understand its motivations and how it would interact with the party. Death is possible and there are several times when a character could go insane at the worst possible time for the party. All these parts make this an exciting journey.
I have yet to run this, but this is on my Must DM list. It will clearly take multiple sessions and the 10+ hours; I gather depends on the pacing of each DM. Given standard four-hour sessions, I can envision completing this in 3-4 with my group. The potential roleplay opportunities are numerous and interesting. There are times when it pays for players to have in-character discussions as well. There is also a balance between various types of encounters, with traps, monsters, and otherworldly beings all being added to the mix. The adventure could be run as is or embellished with more puzzles if your gaming group leans that way. This is not a sandbox; however, I feel there is enough flexibility to make this adventure fit a variety of player archetypes.
I have played a variety of horror-based games and campaigns, so I usually chuckle when warnings are included. These warnings are important to note. Perhaps there is a sense of verisimilitude in the writing, but I was more impacted than usual with the feel of the adventure. This adventure has disturbing themes that can be either played up or made more subtle. I feel the author navigated this very well, and if a DM is not so inclined, the horror can be muted. Some of my past players would not appreciate the visceral details. While that would be negating one of the best aspects of what this adventure can offer, it does make it more inclusive for a variety of gaming groups.
The DM is going to need to do some prep. This adventure has quite a few nuances and may require an additional read or two. The more theatre of the mind you play, the less prep will be involved. For certain encounters, there aren’t stat blocks included. I would have preferred having a few of these, especially for some of the key encounters. The map of the town is small. For the DM, it is well crafted, although I would want a version without the legend on it. That is a personal quibble I have: I like using player maps that do not have large numbers on them, so it saves me time making player maps. While not necessary, it is just something I give my players. Also, I would suggest finding atmospheric music to play in the background. The author has a link to their Liberty Podcast Patreon site on the back cover, but if you have run horror type games before, you probably have a small digital collection to pull from.
I highly recommend this adventure. For the price point, this is clearly is a labour of love; the concepts, the content, and the quality all point to a writer who has a vision to share. If you have a group that is looking into more grim dark type of games, or is yearning for more challenges, look no further. Domain of the Nameless God should be at the top of your must get list.