Review of A Night in Seyvoth Manor by Darklight Interactive

From my perspective, one of the more unexpected offshoots of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is Fourthcore. While tournament-style adventure modules have been part of the D&D experience since the earliest days of the RPGA Tournaments, D&D 4E always seemed to stress balance both among character classes, monsters, and encounter design. But with Fourthcore, balance takes a backseat to creating a gaming experience which tests the players even more than it does their characters, throwing them into a module so filled with deathtraps and deadly encounters that only using meta-knowledge does the party have any chance of “winning” the day.

For those unfamiliar with Fourthcore principles, there are several examples of these dungeons available by SVD Press (with SVD standing for Save Versus Death). The Fourthcore modules Crucible of the Gods, Revenge of the Iron Lich, and Fane of the Heresiarch are all available FREE for the download, and might be considered the progenitor modules of the Fourthcore movement.

A little over a month ago, Darklight Interactive created a new style of D&D 4E adventure module invoking some the main principles of Fourthcore, but tempered down a bit. But still, A Night in Seyvoth Manor is not for the faint of heart, and is deadly to heroes when players rely too much on their character’s might instead of their own wits!

A Night in Seyvoth Manor
  • Designer: David Flor
  • Editing: Jeff Dougan & Matt Jackson
  • Publisher: Darklight Interactive
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (43 pages)
  • Price: FREE (PDF available from the RPGNow)

A Night in Seyvoth Manor is a D&D 4E adventure by Darklight Interactive for a tournament-style gaming experience for a group of 6th Level Characters. The adventure module comes with a 43-page booklet containing all the information required to run the module, including guidelines for the creation of a 6th Level party by the players. In addition, there is a PDF with supplemental materials used as handouts and props during the course of play, such as over one hundred cards representing treasures, rumors, and other features which effect play. Finally, A Night in Seyvoth Manor presents all the encounter maps in JPEG format, properly sized for printing and use during the gaming session.


Production Quality

The production quality of A Night in Seyvoth Manor is simply spectacular, and I rarely use that term to describe a game product in my reviews. The format and layout of the module is beautifully done, and the author has an engaging and user-friendly writing style. All monsters, traps, and hazards are in standard 4E formats, easily recognizable by DMs. The PDF does not have a table of contents, but has a very precise set of bookmarks for easy navigation from one area to the next.

The cards are very nicely designed with evocative artwork and color coded for easy reference. And while there is no artwork in the module, other than the haunted house on the front page, the designer was clearly devoted to making interesting and unique maps for the adventure. The author shows mastery in using ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3, and the 20 maps for use as “tiles” look polished and professional.


And the clock is running…

As previously mentioned, A Night in Seyvoth Manor is designed to be run as a tournament-style dungeon experience, rather than as a part of a long-term D&D 4E campaign. The adventure is designed to be run in a single 4-hour session, with a scoring system at the end used to measure the level of success of the players.

Before the adventure begins, the players are asked to create a 6th Level character of their choice, using standard character creation rules, but without having access to setting-specific boons, backgrounds, or themes. Their equipment is also standard for their level, but may only have one rare item among their gear.

As for the plot of the dungeon, it’s a bit of search-and-rescue, a bit of search-and-destroy, and a bit dungeon-crawler all mixed together. For references, I’d say there are elements of both classic horror movies, with some nods to current horror films tossed in for good measure.
Regretfully, due to its tournament style nature, and in the interest of allowing as many gamers who read this review to play or run A Night in Seyvoth Manor, I cannot discuss much about the module without giving away spoilers. But there are some attributes about this adventure that make it really stand out as a great piece of work.

First off, this adventure is what my friends and I used to call a thinker’s dungeon – if you’re not thinking, the dungeon will kill you. If you’re depending upon character generation to create an uber-munchkin so you can bull your way through challenges, you’re going to be really frustrated really fast. That’s not to say that fighting is not involved here, but the party needs to pick its fights carefully, and only after some thought. But remember… the clock is ticking!

Encounters, traps, and hazards are tough, and from what I’m seeing without playing through the module itself, push the edge of what a 6th Level party can handle. This also means that healing surges are a limiting factor here, as only short rests are possible, with extended rest prohibited. So again, thinking one’s way through an encounter or trap is optimal, and the designer made sure that in most situations that is a possibility.

Another thing I enjoyed in the modules design was the use of a variety of cards to enhance the play experience. The hundred-plus cards provided with the module are used as props, unique items, boons, rumors, and other facets of play. They not only speed play (no need to copy item stats onto a character sheet), but are also used throughout the adventure in ways that would make each time running A Night in Seyvoth Manor a completely different play experience!

I also really liked how the author added design trivia and notes for the DM in boxes scattered around the module booklet. It shows not only some insights into the design process, but also mentions influences from movies, books, and video games which some players might pick up on if they are sharp enough.

And as for running the adventure, A Night in Seyvoth Manor uses a perfect design format for each location, with area features, points of interest for exploration, events that can occur there, and possible threats, hazards and encounters given their own sections on the page. It’s organized, tidy, and assists the DM in making sure the specifics of an area in the module are easy to pick out and implement.

As for scoring, the party gains points for certain enemies defeated, solving specific puzzles and hazards, and for succeeding in the “search-and-rescue” part of the mission. On the other hand, the players are penalized for failing to resolve certain issues, for incorrectly solving a puzzling situation when presented with the clues, or for letting their character die. And this last one can add up to quite a lot, especially when players are encouraged to bring in another 6th Level character if their first (or second, or third) hero succumbs to the dangers of A Night in Seyvoth Manor.

Overall Score
: 4.5 out of 5.0


Conclusions

In the opening page of A Night in Seyvoth Manor, the author claims that the module is not Fourthcore, but uses the style of that movement to create something unique – and in this, I think they were totally successful in in reaching the goal. The adventure module is exciting, challenging, scary, and suspenseful all at the same time, and has a solid story behind it to drive the action forward. The design of A Night in Seyvoth Manor invites players to be problem-solvers first and foremost, and does so in a way that many D&D 4E gamers will doubtless find both appealing and refreshingly new.

By making the module available for FREE, Darklight Interactive created a spectacular vehicle to demonstrate their design prowess, and offer the gaming community a taste of what might be expected from their other products. Certainly, I’m curious to see the other 4E products from Darklight Interactive, and I’d definitely love to see more adventures using this “Fourthcore-Lite” design.

And in the meantime, D&D 4E gamers get a chance to participate in an excellent module, and experience a tournament-style adventure with their favorite DM and friends – for FREE!

So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!


Editor’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

Presentation: 4.25
- Design: 4.5 (Excellent writing, layout, and design!)
- Illustrations: 4.0 (No illustrations; but excellent graphics on cards; “beautiful dungeon tile” maps!)
Content: 4.25
- Crunch: 4.5 (Awesome dungeon design; stunning traps and encounter; addition of cards inspired!)
- Fluff: 4.0 (Good dungeon story and plot; logical and imaginative)
Value: 5.0 (It’s amazing - and it’s FREE!)
 

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DLIMedia

Hero
I find it necessary to point out that I only use the CLIP ART and textures from ProFantasy's Campaign Cartographer 3... but not the actual application. The maps were actually created entirely in Adobe Fireworks CS6.

And thank you for the wonderful review!
 

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