Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review of Dark Sun Vignette: "Red Well"

Jesse Heinig wrote this short adventure for AD&D 2nd Edition Dark Sun. I am going to review it. Just to let readers know: I do not know Jesse Heinig, except through the vignettes he's written, and have no reason to have an opinion of this vignette before reading it. You can read it yourself: Download it here.
Red Well is a good vignette. It introduces some characters that can be reused again and again. It also adds some more intrigue to the battle for control of Tyr after the fall of Kalak. The TL;DR version of the review is that Red Well is worth a read and can be used in a post-Kalak Tyr quite easily. In fact, I believe it could be run right after the official adventure: Freedom, if you so choose.
Read the full review after the jump.

The vignette starts off with explaining that it takes place after the fall of Kalak, when Tyr is in chaos. It gives suggestions for party structure and dynamics. Unlike Heinig's previous two vignettes, Red Well cannot be dropped into any city or location. It makes the most sense, as it is written, in post-Kalak Tyr.
The introduction continues with an adventure background that explains the chaos in Tyr after the death of Kalak. This background doesn't just setup the adventure, but the mood in the whole city. However, it focuses on the warrens, where the adventure take place.
The adventure synopsis explains how the adventure starts and how the player characters will fit into it. It does not, however reveal what will happen next, which I believe is a missed opportunity for to enlighten dungeon masters. Next, it introduces some of the major non-player characters the player characters will encounter in the first scene of the vignette. It again ignores the latter part of the vignette, almost as if Heinig is keeping it a secret to the dungeon master, as well as the players. I find it an odd choice, but it doesn't ruin the adventure.
The last part of the introduction gives some tips for running the vignette, which is always helpful for new dungeon masters. Of course, it could also be a good reminder to veteran dungeon masters as well.
Part One
This section gets the player characters involved in the vignette, whether they want to be or not. A spell-less Templar runs up to the characters asking for help. Whatever the player characters decide, they've either sided with the Templar or the gang that is chasing him. Either way they are invited back to the red well that the Templar or the gang controls, based upon who they sided with. If the players refuse to go they can derail the adventure a bit, but a dungeon master can provide a small reward from the victorious group to entice them if needed.
Part Two
This section is a real bonus, if your players enjoy roleplaying. The player characters are introduced to the major non-player characters in this section of the warrens. The vignette details six of the residents, but it would be easy to add a few more if needed. These non-player characters are used later if the dungeon master wishes to expand the adventure into multiple adventures. If your players don't like role-playing, then you can easily give them a condensed version of the resident descriptions and continue the adventure. My only problem with this section is that some of the non-player character names are very difficult to pronounce.
Part Three
This part introduces the next part of the adventure, as a merchant comes rolling in and asking for a place to store his goods. He also need some guards and it's obvious that the player characters are the best ones for the job. This is the place where the vignette is most likely to go off the rails. If the player characters aren't interested in the work and leave the area, things will happen without them. The merchant is offering a very good wage to encourage the group to work for him, however, so hopefully they accept.
Zombie by PeachieKeenie
Part Four
Surprise, the whole thing is a setup and the player characters are really there to keep people out of the warehouse. The two guards and the merchant are really Templars of Balic, or really any other city-state. They have a bunch of zombies hidden in their merchandise that will wreak havoc in the warrens, unless the characters can stop them. The merchant who set it all up disappears, so there's a recurring villain possibility.
Part Five
This section deals with complications that the dungeon master might encounter. Although, the players would have to really work to mess up this vignette too bad. Last, there are some really good ideas for expanding the adventure and allowing to become quite important in the neighborhood. Then, a map, non-player character write-ups, and per-generated characters wrap up the nineteen page vignette.
I'll be running this adventure when my players are at a much higher level, but it seems easy enough to beef up the Templars and switch out the zombies for something more dangerous. Even though I'm going to play for awhile, while Kalak lives, I think this is a good adventure for low-level player characters who start the game after Kalak's demise. It'll get the characters some allies and a safe haven to hide out in, if they successfully save the neighborhood.
Jesse Heinig did a good job and worked to provide all of us Dark Sun fans with a really good vignette that can easily lead to more adventures. I encourage DMs who can use this adventure to download and read Red Well. I am also looking forward to Jesse Heinig's next project.
May you always find water and shade.

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