Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Review: In the Mists of Manivarsha

When I was running the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel last year, I jotted down my thoughts on them informed by my actual play experience, much as I did previously with Candlekeep Mysteries. Next up, the last adventure we played through from the book: "In the Mists of Manivarsha." Warning for those who plan on playing these adventures: spoilers ahead!

In the Mists of Manivarsha

Written by Mimi Mondal

"In the Mists of Manivarsha" has an unusual premise, which I always appreciate: during a kind of mini-Olympics, a contestant (and the trophy!) are swept away by a clearly magical wave from the nearby river. 

Beyond that initially premise, though, I think the set-up lacks bite. When I ran "In the Mists of Manivarsha," I added an element of potential violence to light a fire under the characters: the people of the towns invited to the competition are apt to blame the host town for the loss of the trophy, which could further inflame already existing factional differences between the townsfolk--if the sacred trophy isn't recovered, there very well could be mass violence and local warfare.

"In the Mists of Manivarsha" suffers from another problem common to the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel: it's an extremely linear scenario. Any time an adventure calls for the characters to be ferried around on a boat by an NPC, you can bet that the players won't have much say over where they're going or how they investigate the situation. Also, this adventure suffers from a lack of site-based exploration; although there are places to go and things to do in this adventure, the layout of the sites the characters arrive at are very basic and feature few opportunities to make meaningful choices.

I will give "In the Mists of Manivarsha" credit for introducing a new monster: the riverine, a fey creature who is something like a dryad, but connected to a river instead. They really aren't meant to be fought in the context of the adventure, but I may have played up the idea of these creatures masquerading as gods a little too hard as my players picked a fight with one of them. Having played through the encounter, I can report that riverines are pretty bad-ass, with a good variety of legendary actions and lair actions. They'd make for a good villain if you wanted to use them that way.

Unfortunately, I also have to report that "In the Mists of Manivarsha" doesn't quite work right according to the rules of the game at the climax. The adventure's Big Bad is supposed to use their Hypnotic Gaze ability to turn two NPCs against the characters, but if you read what the villain's Hypnotic Gaze attack actually does on a mechanical level it only prevents the target from attacking the creature and stuns them. It doesn't "turn" them in any way; it doesn't allow the gazing creature to take over or impose their will on the target!

Although I have some pretty strong criticisms of this adventure, we did have a good time playing it. I'd rank it as a fairly middle of the road adventure for a WotC anthology.