Manor of Deceit: Zombies and Spiders and Pirates, Oh Yeah!

Blackbyrne Publishing has released the second adventure in their Dark Veil Campaign, Manor of Deceit. Designed for a 4e party of 3rd level characters, it’s a major leap forward from the series’ first installment. Fun combat, interesting skill challenges and an intriguing, creepy story make for an excellent adventure.

At the end of their last Dark Veil adventure, the PCs found a mysterious book. They travel to Gull’s Port to find out what it is. There, they end up entwined in family conflict, working to help one brother against another who’s turned the family manor into a rotting house of horrors, replete with undead, evil insects and worse. Funnily enough, the adventure starts out with an ambush (one of my chief complaints about the last adventure was too many ambushes), but this one is perfect. Fighting on a stalled barge in the middle of a river, beset by a tribe of lizardfolk, the PCs will really have their hands full and have some very interesting tactical decisions to make.

The town scenes are handled with a mix of skill challenges, role-playing and combat, with a nice tavern scenario that combines all three. Once you head into the manor, you’ll find a nice mix of foes — an assortment of monsters with plenty of variety, but thematically linked so they don’t feel arbitrary. There are cool 4e touches in abundance, too, like the old house’s hazardous floors, which act as difficult terrain and become even more difficult if you move too quickly across them. By the time you meet the bad guy’s backers (spoiler alert — a band of local pirates), it will be obvious you’re moving up the food chain and setting things up for the next chapter in the Dark Veil campaign.

The art is well-done, far above what you expect in independent RPGs. The last section of the PDF has full-scale 1″ grid maps of every encounter that you can print out. You don’t have to try to draw the barge and river, just lay down the tiles that depict it. I love this feature, and it really puts Blackbyrne’s modules a cut above. I should also point that fans of the classic first edition adventure U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh will get some extra enjoyment out of Manor of Deceit. It’s not a direct 4e conversion, but author Jeff Gupton explains in the foreward that this module is inspired by the older one, a favorite from his early D&D days.

You can get Manor of Deceit from RPGNow. They have a Pathfinder version available as well.

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