I have to admit to being a bit of a sucker for a one-shot adventure. It breaks you out of campaign mode and allows you to recharge your DM batteries. It’s also great for the players, who get the chance to play a different character for a session.
Recently, when looking for a one-shot to run, I stumbled across Horror at Havel’s Cross by Winghorn Press. Now, I must admit to already being a huge fan of Winghorn Press, and in particular their “Basic Rules” D&D adventures. I should also say that this is an independent review and I’ve received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Winghorn Press for reviewing this.
These “Basic Rules” adventures are intro adventures, designed to be played using nothing more than the free Basic D&D 5th Edition rules available from the Wizards of the Coast website. Usually they fit into a single session of play and are relatively short.
Horror at Havel’s Cross is no exception to this rule. It fits neatly into 6 pages (4 for the print only version, which you also get when purchasing the adventure). The full colour adventure is beautifully illustrated. There are some issues with the document structure and the fact that it is landscape orientation rather than portrait, but I’ll come to that later on. The adventure is designed for 2nd level characters and from the three times I’ve run it, it presents a decent but not insurmountable challenge to characters of that level.
The basic premise of the adventure is simple. The party are contracted to meet a group of archeologists at the eponymous Havel’s Cross – a coaching inn – and escort them back to town with a relic that they have found at a nearby dig site.
As you would expect, the job turns out to be nowhere near as simple as this, and the party arrives at Havel’s Cross Inn to find carnage, and a group of Goblins and Hobgoblins looting the corpses of the patrons. This should result in the first encounter which is the classic intro battle beloved of any one-shot DM. It breaks the ice and offers the players the opportunity to become familiar with their characters abilities.
Afterwards, it soon becomes apparent that the Goblins were simply opportunists who arrived on the scene after the violence which was clearly perpetrated by something much bigger and more vicious than they were.
The party will then proceed to the dig site, which is at an old temple a short journey from Havel’s Cross. What the party don’t know, but hopefully will soon find out, is that the violence was perpetrated by one of the archeologists, who has been corrupted by an artefact the team discovered. Killing all of his colleagues, he has used an ability gifted to him by way of the artefact, to turn them into Ghouls. The adventure then continues through a battle with some ghouls, a secret door which is opened by solving a clever, but not insurmountable little puzzle and a final showdown with the Big Bad Evil Guy.
All in all, it’s a nice little romp that has taken pretty much bang on three hours each time that I’ve run it, which is ideal for a one-shot.
What did I like?
- The adventure fits neatly into a three hour window, which I always think is the one-shot sweet spot.
- It’s “Pay What You Want” on DM’s Guild which means you can try before you buy.
- It’s a great blend of combat, exploration and puzzles.
What did I dislike?
- Layout. I think this would have been easier to flick through as a DM if it was in portrait layout. Landscape layout means a lot of lateral “scanning” caused by bad labelling.
- The three main areas of the temple are badly labelled. Descriptions for them are simply contained in a single, long stretch of prose. This made it really difficult to quickly reference information about the three main chambers. In fact, the first time I ran this I got the life and death chambers the wrong way around. That’s not a game changer by any means but it could easily have been avoided by giving each chamber a clear heading of it’s own.
A great little adventure. Perfectly balanced and perfectly timed. The archeology aspect adds a welcome twist to the standard temple/tomb delve. It’s aimed at beginning players and DMs and does that job really well. The adventure is fairly linear but never feels that way in play which is perfect. Even experienced DMs and players (which was the case with my groups) really loved it. A great little adventure. Pick it up now.
I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.