Into the Belly of the Beast is an adventure for 4 to 5 characters of levels 5 – 8, by Jeff Stevens.
The heroes come across a map of a swamp that possibly contains treasure. It’s a simple enough hook that can be presented to the players in various ways, a few of which are included in the product. Also, the adventure can easily be added in your world just by deciding where you want to put a large swamp.
While the end goal is set, there are various ways to get there. The players can interact with a few NPCs and factions, and these interactions can have multiple outcomes. Also, most of these creatures are not known for their willingness to peacefully cooperate with adventuring parties. For example, there are Goblins and Lizardfolk opposing each other, but willing to negotiate with the players in order to achieve their goals.
The structure of the adventure is pretty straightforward. It’s divided into three chapters and each one contains a few encounters. Depending on the actions of the players, some of them won’t have to take place, while others will become necessary. Moreover, there is a collection of extra encounters the DM can use in order to enrich the adventure. Also, there are are two random encounter tables that can be used while the characters travel inside the swamp or traverse its deep waters.
In general, the encounters seem balanced. However, there are some that, if the players aren’t careful, could prove to be rather dangerous. Every situation doesn’t have to be resolved through combat and this makes sure that there will be consequences, if the players decide to go full mindless killing machines.
The art in general is excellent. The cover art is amazing. There are a few pieces depicting NPCs and also enough maps to make sure that all the important areas are covered.
There are a few appendices included in the product. They contain the extra encounters mentioned, as well as some stat blocks of new or modified monsters. There are also battle stat trackers that make managing combat much easier and printer friendly versions of the maps.
A couple of things before you go
While the editing and layout are very good, there’s an error on where Chapter 2 starts. In the contents it’s mentioned that it begins after encounter E, but in the adventure it begins right before it. I’m fairly sure that will be fixed soon.
The second thing I’m worried about is that the characters have a map with an X on it. They may decide to take a boat and go straight to the X, missing all the things in between. This doesn’t mean the adventure can’t be ran. It’s a really interesting adventure, but the DM will have to do some work. Give a reason to the players to decide against a direct route. The deep water encounters could be helpful, especially if you boost them a bit. Also, the map could contain some hints, leading them from one island to the next.
Overall, Into the Belly of the Beast is an interesting adventure. It provides combat with a good level of difficulty, exploration, and interesting social interactions. It may just need some extra work from the DM to make it run perfectly.