Go-to module writer Harley Stroh is at it again with this adventure designed for level 5 characters. I think Beyond the Black Gate is the first one I’ve read that’s meant for higher level characters, and I was curious to see what that would look like from an official book.
What does a level 5 module look like? Honestly, kinda like a level 0 or a level 1 module, except the antagonists hit a lot harder. That was, perhaps, a bit disappointing. I’m not sure what I expected, but I guess I thought there would be some deeper complications or something, that would set higher level play apart from lower level stuff. Instead, using only this example, it’s a bit more of a simple arms race. My PCs have bigger weapons, so my villains have bigger weapons.
That said, I do like this module. It has a good set-up. I especially like the rumor charts tailored to specific character classes. What a Cleric hears would likely be different from what a Thief hears. The meat of the scenario is fairly straight-forward. Get to a place, figure out how to get through several encounters, face off against a big bad, potentially win the day or get killed trying.
If this were part of a longer game, not only would the rumor charts be even more useful for setting things up, but I think it would be extra cool if one of your PCs had the Horned King as a patron already. You could foreshadow some of the problems that become the crux of this module by having the patron be less and less helpful over time, perhaps not coming through in a pinch, or demanding some odd service that seems out of character.
As an added bonus, the printing of this that I acquired has another shore adventure by Terry Olson called Crash of the Sky People. Lately, I’ve been on a genre-bending kick, looking for scenarios to mix into a DCC campaign that might eventually lead to Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and this one fits the bill. It might fit the bill a bit too closely, as it has a fairly similar premise, though is on a much smaller scale. Still, I like it, and I will be putting it on my list of possible tie-in scenarios to throw at my PCs. I also love a scenario where one of the PCs could easily come out permanently altered by what they do.
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