Hey Folks, we’re putting together a first for our mystery box series. Today we’re looking at a DM’s Guild adventure created by a community member. This adventure, written by Wes Cordell, features a quintessential dungeon crawl full of traps, treasures, and a pile of spooky magic. Let’s dive into Last Flickering Light, and see what new and inventive ways we can die.
The Adventure is written for characters between level 5-10, and is expected to take about eight hours (give or take). The premise is simple enough, the adventurers are pursuing marauding humanoids and stumble across a hidden cave. The cave turns out to be a complex dungeon full of trouble and treasure, and can kill every last one of them. This adventure is heavy on puzzles and traps, so it’s going to require some pretty deliberate thinking and deductive logic. This isn’t an adventure you can barrel through, and trying will have disastrously bad outcomes.
Once the action kicks off, the adventurers are in for a rough day. The adventure follows a fairly straightforward linear path, with one area leading to the next. This adventure is infatuated with puzzle and traps, and while it may not seem like there’s a way out of anywhere, there are very definite solutions to the puzzles and the mischief. The adventurers have to push their way through all of these pitfalls and come face to face with the villain of the story.
Realistically, this is a pass/fail adventure. Either the adventures figure out what the big evil boss is and how to deal with it permanently, or they are going to succumb to the traps and the monsters operating inside this lair. If you’re injecting this into an existing campaign, you may need to change a few names to protect the innocent, but you can use this as either the middle point of a “What’s the secret spooky Cult up to?” plotline or you can use it as a starting point for a higher level group that’s finding its way into a deep dive into the machinations of a dark god of madness.
What I like about this adventure
This adventure takes a hard look at how puzzles and traps work, and uses some interesting techniques involving lighting and other visual effects. Wes has put together an interesting array of visual imagery to engage the players, and it works at an immersive level. The dungeon feels very much like a spooky place full of things trying to kill me, and it’s a thinking adventurer’s dungeon.
The puzzles are clued up enough that most groups should be able to figure them out without blind guesses, and that’s a detail i like about puzzle heavy adventures. I personally find puzzle centric adventures to be irritating, most of the time, but this adventure avoids most of those issues.
Issues with the adventure
There are a couple of design issues i have. They fall into two main categories, layout, and plot. I’ll cover the layout issues first. The font that the author has used looks like courier new, and it’s just jarring to my eyes. The entire adventure is written in this font, and i would encourage the author to select a different font for his next caper. The more critical issue from a layout standpoint is that the map that comes with the adventure uses a ten foot square instead of a five foot square. What this means is that translating it over to a battlemat or other map surface requires a little bit of thinking, because every square in the mini map takes up four square on the playing surface. Again, a suggestion for the next time would be to add a five foot square version of the map in the back of the adventure.
The Plot has a couple of issues. The lead off to the adventure assumes a lot about what your party of adventurers are willing to do, and i can see where at least one player in any given group might start to feel railroaded. There’s a lot of things happening in the establishing shot, and it may not be how some adventurers might handle the situation. The other story element that i have a more concrete issue with is the way the final boss is handled. It’s a serious threat, complete with lair actions and a host of options to handle enemies in combat. The only directive that the adventure gives is basically, “The bad guy’s a cat playing with a bunch of mice, he probably doesn’t go for the throat.” With something this complex, i would have liked the author to give me at least an idea of how this particular monster is going to wreck people’s faces for the first couple of rounds of combat. A minor concern are some treasure elements that are listed as recipes or formulas for specific magic items, but those aren’t typically referenced in the larger D & D game environment.
This is a thinking adventurer’s dungeon crawl, and it rewards clever thinking and smart plays. It doesn’t pull punches and it can straight up kill an unready party. The level range swings fairly wide to allow different level groups. It even includes a lesser version of the big bad boss monster for groups between levels 5 and 7. I like the complexity of the adventure and the level of detail used in the imagery and the puzzles. I’ve said it before that puzzles are hard, and finding the right balance for puzzles is tricky.
The Layout issues that i have with this adventure are fairly straightforward, and my suggestions for fixing them will make a difference for the author the next time he puts one of these together. The plot elements are easy to handle for a DM, it just requires a little bit more research for the monsters and some story work for the introduction. You might also need to change a few names.
I give this adventure 4 stars, and i enjoy Mr. Cordell’s work. I want to see more of these. The issues that i have with this adventure do not make it unplayable, they do mean that the DM is going to have to put a little more work into it, and they may detract from the original adventure envisioned by the author.
[4 of 5 Stars!]