Bleeding Edge #1: Mansion of Shadows is a 49 page d20 pdf adventure and the first in Green Ronin's new Bleeding Edge line of adventures. The Bleeding Edge line of adventures is designed for the modern player, and aims to offer good story, flexibility, self-contained scenarios and easy drop-and-play material for any campaign setting. Mansion of Shadows is Green Ronin's first d20 adventure since the last of the Freeport Trilogy. Judging by this adventure, it's definitely good to see Green Ronin back, and I'm already looking forward to next installment, Beyond the Towers, coming in the summer.
Mansion of Shadows comes as a single pdf file, fully bookmarked but without a table of contents. The layout and editing is excellent, as are the mechanics and stats, and I dare say even flawless throughout. Artwork is good and there are a good number of pieces included in the product. Maps are very good as well, and clear, and it's easy to find any given location on the map. The maps are logical as well in their detail, and not just random elements thrown together in a nonsensical arrangement.
I really liked the organisation of this pdf and the way it is structured - each chapter provides a clear and logical goal or theme, and multiple sidebars offer useful additional information of the DM, particular with regard to handling various options or events that may not have been foreseen. As such it succeeds admirably at its goals of being both flexible and easy to use in any campaign setting.
From an adventure point of view, Mansion of Shadows delivers exactly what Green Ronin intended - a good story driven plot, lots of excitement, interesting encounters, and enough useful advice and information to run the adventure smoothly. The background story is dark and foreboding, and unlike many adventures, this one actually caters for those cases where the adventurers don't succeed at the adventure. A strong point of this adventure is that it allows for a wide variety of possible scenarios within a strong structural framework, should characters act or react differently than what the main adventure envisages.
To that end there are a number of different ways that this adventure can run, and a number of different ways in which it can end, making for a strong overall gaming experience where the decisions and actions of the players all have consequences that impact the eventual outcome of the adventure. On that same note, while the adventure can be run in different ways, it's possible that the adventure can be run quite quickly as well, all depending on the actions of the players. In that case, characters may miss out on some elements of the plot.
This adventure offers a number of elements that make it good - story and atmosphere, roleplaying opportunities, challenging (and potentially very deadly) encounters, mass combat, and a number of other game elements. The pdf draws from material from a number of other Green Ronin products, including the Book of Fiends and the Advanced Player's Manual, and includes elements from these into the game, such as the mass combat system, the cultist class, various monsters and more. As such it's quite an eclectic adventure for those not familiar with Green Ronin's other products.
The adventure achieves a good balance between roleplaying and combat. However, having said that, this adventure can be very deadly for 1st level adventurers that don't handle the different roleplaying or combat encounters carefully. The PCs are pitted against a number of strong and deadly villains in a short space of time, and will need to act carefully if they are to survive. Certain scenarios can be very deadly, and it's unlikely that the PCs can handle everything thrown at them by taking a heavy handed approach. This adventure requires craftiness and skill in the presence of very real and dangerous threats.
And speaking of threats, the adventure provides a number of different avenues for the PCs to learn of the nature of the threats and the villains they face. Perhaps not everything included in say, the DMs background, but as the adventure progresses the characters will learn in stages what is going on and what their involvement may be, should they choose it. Should they not, the entire area in which the adventure is situation is fully detailed as well, from locations to weather, making the surrounding areas useful as a seed for other adventures.
The adventure is divided into five chapters - each containing a certain section or element of the overall adventure. Depending on how the adventure runs, players may be required to run through some or all of the sections of the adventure. However they do it, it will make for an interesting and tough game. The two appendices provide all the stat blocks, largely due to the non-linear nature of the adventure making it impractical to constrain the stat blocks of active and moving villains to one area. In addition to all the stat blocks, the pdf provides a new template, new feat, as well as pregenerated characters.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Mansion of Shadows is a very good adventure that combines strong elements of story, roleplaying and combat together in a well-structured adventure framework that offers excellent flexibility. The story is challenging and compelling, the roleplaying required skillful and often dangerous, and the combat sufficient but potentially deadly. I think this is a very good start to the Bleeding Edge line, and a strong adventure.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Perhaps not an adventure for inexperienced players or even DMs may not be able to cope with complex personalities and interactions, but that's more a comment than a negative. The adventure can be played through very quickly, perhaps ending in a less than satisfying experience for players since unless they are pro-active, they may not enjoy the adventure as much as it can be enjoyed. This is very much a player driven game within a DM driven framework, and the two need to work together to get the most enjoyment. The combat encounters can be very difficult, particularly the final encounter, and given that it may not be their first encounter for the day, it can be deadly.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>
[4 of 5 Stars!]