Great Location with lots of possibilities
Lots of interesting NPC's
High quality layout, maps, and illustrations
Unique Sanity system
A lot of value for the money
Requires a LOT of DM preparation
Inconsistencies in NPC descriptions, motivations, etc.
Prewritten adventures have lots of gaps to fill in (again, LOTS of DM preparation)
Incomplete/illogical maps (no exterior location maps, no kitchen, asylum doesn't have enough beds for all the patients)
I just finished taking my family through the "Apotheosis of Nightmares", which is the largest of the included prewritten adventures - it took 11 sessions to complete (we usually only play for 2-3 hours at a time, and they spend a lot of time arguing). The party consisted of a wizard, cleric, and a rogue, all 5th level.
I am an experienced DM, and this adventure definitely challenged my organizational and improvisational skills. If you're not comfortable juggling a lot of quirky NPC's in a relatively open environment, this is not for you! Also, if your players prefer adventures that are a bit more linear or structured, this may not be for them. Our first couple of sessions were a bit dull as the party went around the asylum interrogating NPC's and looking for clues. I don't think we had any combat until the 3rd session, and that was an encounter I invented just to spice things up.
To be honest, I invented a LOT for this adventure:
- Stronger character hooks - The wizard's best friend is a patient at the asylum, who has mysteriously stopped corresponding (she got possessed by a demon!). The rogue was secretly hired to assassinate one of the asylum doctors!
- Stronger villain motivation - Rose's reasons for hiring the party are inconsistent as written. I positioned one of the other doctors, Quintus Hahn, as a foil for Rose, who was keeping her from summoning the BBEG. Not coincidentally, Hahn is the assassin's target!
- More adventure - I added some caves below the sanitarium that could be accessed from a secret door in the basement. These caves have a tendency to intersect with the Abyss, which explains the recent demonic influences on Lamps Light's inhabitants. They are also filled with some beasties that Dr. Renwick uses in his experiments, like Gibbering Mouthers and Intellect Devourers
- I added a workshop where the PC's can experiment mixing potions, just for fun
- I created a quick NPC generator spread sheet because I was constantly needing names and descriptions of new patients and orderlies
- I changed the BBEG's name to "The Ollmareg", because "The H’awouahoua" sounds ridiculous and would just make my players laugh. I also buffed his powers and changed him to a shadow-based fiend rather than a "Frankenstein" creature made of different animal parts
- I added LOTS of foreshadowing, which is essential to build tension in a horror game. The players had visions of the final BBEG in their dreams, and saw drawings of it in the patients' quarters
- I added a kitchen because food
- I converted a room in the West Wing to a large dormitory with many beds to increase the asylum's patient capacity
- For the final summoning ritual I had Rose restrain the PCs with straightjackets (Prosper’s Camisoles) instead of just having them standing there in robes, ready to fight.
Of course my players did lots of things to throw me for a loop, and I was constantly writing new stuff to keep the adventure on track. My wife figured out that Rose was the villain by the end of the first or second session, so I had to find reasons for the party to stay. Having an assassination job and a friend in danger were essential for keeping the PCs invested!
There is a pretty robust sanity system built in to Lamp's Light, but we were all disappointed that none of the PCs ever suffered from more than transient madness. They could never retain insanity long enough to build up to Short or Long Term. I would probably revise the sanity rules if I had to do over again.
In retrospect I would have also invested more prep time in pre-generating NPCs for the tertiary patients and staff, and assign them to specific locations and times.
I played a lot of music during the campaign, which really helped set the tone. Any time they explored the sanitarium at night, ventured into the basement, had a bad dream, or battled a monstrosity, I played music. TabletopAudio.com has great choices for this, and it's free. I also played tracks from the film "Alien" for the final BBEG battle.
In the end the party was able to kill Rose before she could summon the BBEG, but they still had to figure out how to save their possessed friend. I had Renwick rig up a Revelans Mallum for two, so the PC had to go into the possessed friend's mind and try to draw the demon out. I used the BBEG for the exorcised demon battle, so they ended up having to fight it anyway! Good thing too, because I had built a custom lego miniature for the creature. I had Japhi the cat show up to help in the final battle when the party got desperate - he was probably our favorite NPC.
Looking back I'm glad I ran this adventure, though if I had known how much work I was making for myself I may have reconsidered. I'm looking forward to running a much simpler adventure next time!
ALSO: While prepping this adventure I contacted the authors with questions, and they were very responsive. Thanks again!