Thursday, November 24, 2022

Sins of Our Elders Review

Now that I'm running the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, I'm going to be writing reviews of them informed by my actual play experience, much as I did previously with Candlekeep Mysteries. Next up, "Sins of Our Elders." Warning for those who plan on playing these adventures: spoilers ahead!

Sins of Our Elders

Written by Stephanie Yoon

"Sins of Our Elders" does a lot right. I love a ghost story, and having the heart of the haunting in this scenario be a spirit who is angry at how she has been erased from the historical record and not given her due is a strong motivation that feels unusual and unexpected. 

I also really appreciate that the characters are given a number of leads that they can tackle in any order they want; unlike some of the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, this gives the players the room to guide their own involvement in the adventure and gives them variable ways of piecing together what's going on with the ghost, its attacks, and the strange effect of the populace not remembering the ghost's assaults on them after the fact.

Speaking of that effect, here's how it works: the angry ghost has been attacking the populace, even leaving corpses behind, but the people cannot remember the attacks after they've occurred. There's a nice symmetry there; since the ghost is angry that her good deeds have been forgotten, she is afflicting the people with selective memory loss. I'm of two minds about it in practice, however. On one hand, it's clearly a contrivance to make the scenario work, but on the other it makes the characters special since they can remember the ghost's predations. It does give the players a good reason to get involved since they're one of the few parties who can effectually investigate the haunting.

I do have a few minor criticisms of the adventure. The ghost has multiple ways of attacking the populace--appearing in its own form, manifesting gargoyles bearing the ghost's anguished face, and...giant blue tigers. The tigers feel thematically disconnected; it may not be immediately obvious how they connect to the ghost the way the gargoyles do. My solution was simple: give the tigers the ghostly woman's face too! That's both uncanny and connects all the imagery.

Additionally, I wish the "gwishin" (the name given to this particular kind of ghost) had its own original stats instead of just using the standard-issue ghost stats from the Monster Manual.

Overall, though, this was a strong adventure as written and it was a ton of fun to play. The cast of nonplayer characters is varied and interesting, and this is one of the adventures where negotiating with the villain, instead of slaying them in a climatic "boss fight," works particularly well. Because the players have to propose a solution to the ghost, rather than just talking it down from villainy, it feels more like they did something creative rather than simply succeeding at a well-timed Persuasion roll.