It’s been a long time since I wrote an adventure review. Well… to be fair, this is a re-write of a review. I read this adventure last year and wrote a review for it, but lost that when my hard drive died. I think that reading it through a second time before my final review was actually beneficial. So let’s get to it, then.
This is the first adventure in a short series of adventures published by Green Ronin Publishing under the title Bleeding Edge. These adventures are only loosely connected by the fact that they all take place in the campaign setting of Freeport. Mansion of Shadows did a fine job of pointing out that playing in the Freeport world is not required so long as some strides are made to keep the local geography roughly the game. Mansion of Shadows is suitable for four to six characters of 1st to 3rd level.
The adventure begins when the PCs hear the sound of a fight going on just off the road. If they investigate, they have the option of assisting a mounted knight in a fight against some devils that while weak, do outnumber him severely. If he survives the battle, Sir Staufen invites the PCs to his family’s mansion nearby, a place he hasn’t seen since he left for military training. This is where the adventure might split. If the PCs go with him, they discover that his family is much changed since his departure. If they decline and head to the nearby village, they discover the place in ruins and the townspeople gearing up to go on a Frankensteinian burn-out to kill the corrupt and evil Staufen family.
Should the PCs join the march on the mansion, it plays out much like any other combat might. Should they instead go to the mansion with Sir Staufen, the adventure takes a surreal turn that will challenge the players and the DM. As it turns out, the Staufen family has fallen and the majority of them are simply empty bodies harboring the souls of fiends, with each of them being a play on the seven deadly sins. The chance for meaningful roleplay opportunities is rampant during a dinner scene with the family, but things really heat up when the family tries to clandestinely take Sir Staufen to a fiendish shrine and entomb his body with the last of the fiendish souls, a process that no one knows will permanently create a gate between the Prime Material plane and The Nine Hells. To compound the issue, the villagers come battering at the doors, with or without the PCs.
I thought this adventure was very well written and would provide a different backdrop to a game than the normal go to dungeon, kill everything there, bask in honor, glory and women scene. The region is well detailed and the adventure provides information on a few new feats and a new template to represent the fiendish family. The one noticeable drawback I see is that even though full stat blocks are included for all the NPCs, some of them include levels in classes that are specific to the Freeport setting. That being said, each of them is comparable to a core class and could be run directly from the NPCs chapter of Dungeon Master’s Guide.
At the end of the day, I do recommend Mansion of Shadows. It has a high production value, it’s easy to follow and it has a gritty, dark story that sets what I think would be a wonderful scene for any serious gaming group.