DMs Guild Review: From Ancient Grudge

From Ancient Grudge is a short adventure for a party of levels 4-5 from Winghorn Press.

The adventure takes place at Averon Castle, near the town of Yarvar in northern Faerun – but the actual location itself is not important, and you can use it in any setting or place with minimal fuss. The setup for the adventure is quite simple: the Lords’ Alliance – or any other organization you want – want to repair the castle and use it to defend the area. However, the surveyors sent to assess its state returned claiming it is haunted by vengeful ghosts. So, someone’s got to take care of that, and who better than -insert your adventuring party here-.

Most of the story behind this adventure actually took part hundreds of years ago, when the heirs of two rivaling families, Ricardo Tomagune and Jaleta Talpuce, fell in love and decided to marry. Unfortunately, Ricardo’s uncle decided to take matters into his own hands and started a massacre at the wedding, leading to the death of pretty much everyone, though he later regretted it. The two lovers now roam the castle as ghosts. The players find all this out by exploring the castle, and of course getting into trouble with the various specters, ghosts, and various other synonymous creatures that now inhabit it, eventually figuring out that the only way to help the couple pass on is to complete their marriage. With the assistance of another ghost, a cleric of Sune who originally supported their relationship in hopes of ending the ancestral feud, they set up a ritual to do so. However, there are several complications to this plan, primarily that two of the players must allow themselves to be possessed by the ghosts of the lovers and take part in the ceremony – and that other inhabitants of the castle aren’t so keen on the whole affair, and the rest of the un-possessed party defends the ceremony from the vengeful specters of the two families.

The adventure relies heavily on the story, which requires some delicate handling. Since almost everything happened way in the past, it can be hard to convey the details and get the players to care about the ghost couple, which can be another obstacle since their cooperation is needed for the wedding ritual. The authors do a good job giving you the tools to do so, but I still know how tricky it is to give information to players without relying on an exposition dump that bores them. Most of the time will be taken up by exploring the castle, and though there aren’t many combat encounters, they are memorable. The climax of the story is, as I mentioned, the recreation of the wedding, something I found a very interesting and creative idea – although I have some concerns about how it will play out in practice. Two players being completely occupied by the possession might make them feel like they don’t have anything to do, and smaller parties might have serious difficulties with the combat, if there are only one or two combatants left.

Finally, there are several pieces of very nice art throughout the book, as well as a comprehensive map of the castle to help with the exploration. There are also several pages with notes and letters found that you can print out and hand to players for that extra immersion, statblocks, as well as information on how to scale the difficulty up or down depending on the party. Also, I feel it would be amiss if I didn’t note the obvious Romeo and Juliet inspiration – it doesn’t really change anything about the adventure, but if you’re a Shakespeare fan it might be an extra hook.

Overall, From Ancient Grudge is a fun adventure with some very interesting and creative ideas, although its focus on the plot requires some extra thought on how to approach and handle it.

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