The Doom of Listonshire: A great RPG adventure
Necromancer Games are one of the best publishers when it comes to all things D&D. Partly that’s down to their dedication to the premise of “First Edition feel, Third Edition rules.”, but mainly it’s thanks to their ability to write stuff which is immediately appealing. The jewels in their crown are the three Tome of Horrors critter books; there’s barely a dud monster in the whole series and they’re all downright fun to throw against your players.
Doom of Listonshire proves this wonderfully. It’s a 98 page adventure designed for characters of 5th level and above split into 13 chapters. Each chapter should fit neatly into one gaming session so there’s at least 13 sessions-worth of gaming fodder making it more of a mini-campaign than a simple adventure. Each section covers a different location within Listonshire and can be played in any order meaning the players have more freedom of movement (and freedom of plot) than in many other adventures. What makes it special is that it uses many monsters from Tome of Horrors mixed in with the usual suspects (orcs, trolls and the like). You don’t need Tome of Horrors to play because all of the monster stats and details are provided in the appendix, though it’s a good excuse to own both These “new” monsters aren’t just dropped in to showcase their own monster manual though; they’re intelligently placed and used to great effect. The fact that these are creatures unfamiliar to either the players or their characters adds to the isolated feeling of the setting and keeps the players on their toes. A favourite scene of mine involves a Hangman’s Tree which plays beautifully. That scene alone is worth the price of entry.
The plot itself revolves around a missing heir to the Duchy, an assassination, a curse and a ring. To say more would be to spoil the plot. There’s a good balance between interaction, detective work and combat so there’s plenty to satisfy most gamer styles. The locations themselves are failry staid (you won’t find any cities on volcanoes here), but cover all the classic fantasy sites. There’s a village, a castle, a ruined keep, a crypt and much more. I’d argue that while it harkens back to the style of many wilderness settings from Expert-level OD&D modules, it’s better than anything from that time. Yes, it’s that good.
One unusual element in the adventure is that there’s a random table to set where two of the key plot elements are located. That’s good from the perspective of the DM; he can play the module through for different players with a slightly different end result. I’m not sure it’s all that useful in itself though. The idea feels half-baked to me; I’d rather see a big table with lots of different plotlines so the setting itself can be re-used with the same players. It’s a very minor niggle though and doesn’t detract from the overall quality.
As a setting itself, Listonshire has a lot of potential beyond the scope of the adventure itself. My temptation would be to use this as a base for future wilderness adventures. Once it’s cleared out, the Old Liston Keep could become a base for the adventurers to protect the river and roadways. Give it to them around 9th level, crack open the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and you’ve a ready-made Dominion with the players answerable to the Duchy. It would also make a great country retreat in your characters are normally locked inside an urban setting such as Ptolus.
All in all, Doom of Listonshire comes very highly recommended. It’s in my top 20 all time greats.