The follow-up to the well received Blood Moon Rising, The Inn of Lost Heroes places the party in a well realized location of horror and madness. As shown in his previous release, our author knows how to bring a "stage" to life with well thought out details and happenings and like his previous module, Mr. Spahn has created an adventure here, that's fun to read and one in which DM's will find much to appreciate. I do have some issues with the execution, as we will see.
The format is double columned and I only noticed one typo. The maps are serviceable and while there's a scale bar, I alway prefer graph-paper squares or hexes, which aren't given. No big deal, as the maps are of fairly small areas and we're not talking about a dungeon here. There are a few B&W illustrations, which are workmanlike but pleasant. I like the dog, in particular.
The adventure takes place at the Inn, which was once the kind of warm, pleasant refuge from cold, dank dungeons, which any adventurer would welcome. Cheery surroundings, good food and drink, other adventurers and the proprietor, an ex-adventurer himself and his family. When the party first encounters the Inn, this is indeed what they find. Of course, the Inn is actually a haunted location and all this warmth and light is going to twist into a nightmare in short order, as the Inn in the Living World changes into the Inn in the Ash World and finally, the Inn in the Burning World.
Once this happens, the characters will be trapped within the Inn, along with some NPC adventurers, doomed souls and the very angry spirit of Evelyn Mortigan, who formerly owned and ran the Inn with her family. The PC's must find a way to escape the ghost-world they're trapped in and if successful, they'll have a chance to free the souls of dead adventurers, trapped within the Inn.
The characters' task hinges upon the failed designs of a cleric, who is now trapped within the nightmarish Inn himself. They must find and restore the parts to a magical medallion, that will allow them to escape and has the potential to set things to rights, once and for all. The cleric flat-out tells the party what they're looking for and why.
In both this and his previous module, the author takes strict steps to maintain the integrity of the sandbox and insure player agency. But giving them the wherewithal to work out what their choices are is also important and always preferable to having an NPC repeatedly show up and give them their formula for success. As a plot device, it feels a bit clumsy and I would prefer other methods of providing the characters the clues they need. But, there's a second bit of clerical exposition, which would be harder, but still possible to replace, given the nature of what the characters are going to be asked to perform.
The Inn and its inhabitants, the weird goings on, supernatural encounters and elements of horror are mostly well designed and come together nicely. The author gives the DM a lot of material to work with, with random encounters, keyed encounters and situation based ones. Like Blood Moon Rising, you're given a nice, varied, palette of material, with which to work. All in all, the author's approach gives the DM not only plenty of options, but elbow room and a DM who's into this kind of adventure will have a lot of fun. Also like Blood Moon Rising, the depth of the material means repeated readings will be required by the DM, as well as some note-taking. A plus, in my book.
Accomplishing their first objective will be a little tricky for the players, as individual party members may have to undergo some fairly stiff penalties in order to progress, though there are ways to avoid those.
If successful, they can choose to simply escape but may instead, try and put all those tortured souls to rest. Again, the helpful cleric tells them what they must do, which feels even more awkward this time, because this whole last bit feels so artificial.
It's revealed that ghostly Evelyn seeks a consort and the players must fight each other to the death, so one of them can prove their worth and get close enough to Evelyn to use the Medallion to defeat her once and for all. If the characters balk at this, our helpful cleric makes some intimations, meant to reassure the party that everything will work out for the best. Of course, if the characters go through with it, any PC's killed by their fellows find that once the dream is over, they are indeed allright.
As the author mentions, this gives the party a chance to have a battle-royal, without consequences and might indeed be a lot of fun. But the first thing needed here, is some foreshadowing. The whole "ghost seeking a mate" thing, tacked on suddenly at the end, rings rather false. Part of this is probably because there was no foundation laid for the reader of the module to expect this. When combined with the battle-royal idea and the cleric coming on stage to tell the party what to do, the whole set-up of this part feels more than a little contrived. Some excellent horror could be brought into play, by foreshadowing Evelyn's ghostly desires.
If you like the idea of a far-out, ghostly adventure, then I would recommend The Inn of Lost Heroes, but with the caveat that I would feel it necessary to make some changes. There's a lot of really good material here, which I would like to and probably will use, but I would want to smooth out those rough spots.
[4 of 5 Stars!]