Review - The Graveyard Shift
The last 6 episodes have focused on an adventure called ‘The Graveyard Shift’ by Emmet Byrne.
This is a great adventure.
That’s really all the encouragement you need, yeah?
Considering this is my first review and you don’t know who I am, perhaps I should elaborate a little…
I’ve run this adventure twice, once for the podcast, once for a bunch of newbies which has given me two very different, but positive, experiences.
This is an excellent introductory adventure that can slide into any campaign. Take your party en route to a peaceful town that has had 'a number of strange disturbances of late: grave robbings, disappearances, and recently a spate of murders.’ I mean… if you want it to. It’s your game, after all.
This little adventure takes place in the city of Stonewood and boy, does this adventure give you a lot to work with. There are detailed character descriptions to help bring it to life. Shops and locations of interest have been described in enough detail to let you play but not restrain you. There is also a whole section on Lore & Rumours that is just bubbling with possibility. Plenty of little tendrils that could turn into whole new adventures.
The adventure is structured well and gives you three (or four including Stonewood itself) locations to throw your rag tag group of misfits in to. And they’ll love it. The graveyard has huge amount of content for them to interact with; zombies, tombstones, weird clues for them to find, Maisie the Ghost is particularly fun for them, and the broke-leg zombie with a shovel in its neck was a nice touch. This Chapter is laid out well, as is the subsequent ones, and it provides just enough to get on the trail of the woman in blue. From here this adventure can go anywhere. Both adventuring parties I put through this had their own ideas about how to find her and where to go, but they got there.
I could just recount what both groups did, but you know what players are like, am I right?
So, lets focus on some of the highlights.
The Standing Stones are a wonderful encounter. No combat. No social interactions. Just pure puzzling and investigation. The riddle is great, but what’s even better is that they actually need to figure out it’s a riddle, and before that they have to find the clue that leads to the information that leads to the riddle! And then they use that on the stones and it’s great. They get trapped, they get zapped, and they gotta use their brains. (And on side note: As much as this is an RPG and we roll dice for everything, character driven, yadda yadda, I am 100% ok with the players figuring out the puzzle for their characters. We’re playing a game for fun. If you want everything to be role played, that’s cool, but as a DM I’m there to facilitate a fun game for the players.)
Anyway. The puzzle is good. But read it thoroughly first. Cause I didn’t the first time and got confused and had to change it and looked like an ass. A DM who is flustered and confused is not as fun as one who is not.
The last chapter is a mind bender, so I won’t reveal much. But be prepared for any eventuation. Luckily, our guy Byrne has done the work for you. The adventure outlines a bunch of different possibilities for the ending to help guide you through it. My first group were really stuck morally on who to help by the end of this adventure and that’s what you want! Make those socially awkward sprites of characters think! That’s exactly how they start to turn their pencil etchings into living breathing heroes.
So, what doesn’t work well with this adventure? Not much really. But if I had to nit-pick, which I suppose I do, a new DM may get a little lost at the beginning, trying to push their players in the right direction. There is some awkward phrases and wording, however, this is D&D and Gygaxian is a term. You can’t 'lazy DM' this too well, as there are some complex aspects, such as the traps and the backstories of the NPC’s. But, really, if you are being lazy, don’t use a pre-made adventure.
So, final thoughts
This is a good adventure for new and experienced DMs and can be used on parties of varied experience. It’s got all you need to get you started, including a fairly fleshed out little community. There are a plenty of options for continuation, for example, one group have become part-time vampire hunters. But that’s just one little idea. If you’re not big on running published adventures this is still worth it for the NPCs and the puzzle.
Byrne has done a great job with this adventure, it’s definitely worth checking out. As well as The Graveyard Shift, you can find Bynre’s other adventures The Beast of Bastion Bay and Ring out Wild Bells on the Dungeon Masters Guild.
Thanks for listening.