Tabletop Review: The Curse of Hallas Reach (OGL)

The Curse of Hallas Reach
Publisher: Assassin Games
Cost: $2.99
Page Count: 30
Release Date: 08/24/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

The Curse of Hallas Reach is an OGL adventure, meaning it can be used with Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder. It’s a fairly straight forward adventure consisting of two dungeon crawls and a decent amount if investigation/NPC interaction between each hack and slash affair. The adventure is designed for characters between Levels 3 and 5 although there is no recommended party size.

Now, from the cover, you might be expecting a Ravenloft style fantasy horror adventure. While supernatural beasties are at the root of this adventure, it’s more in line with the very traditional D&D adventures, so don’t be expecting there to be an emphasis on horror or terror. Unless the GM decides to crank up those factors. Instead The Curse of Hallas Reach is very reminiscent of the adventures we played in the 80s and early 90s where you are given a quest and then dungeon crawl to find the root of the problem. The adventure plays it very safe and sticks to a formulaic and linear progression. This isn’t a bad thing. A linear adventure is only bad if players feel they are being railroaded to a specific destination and have no real control over the plot or even their characters. The Curse of Hallas Reach offers some minor Call of Cthulhu-esque investigation options but a lot of the plot progression will come from talking to and learning about recent events from the NPCs within the town. This means that The Curse of Hallas Reach has something for every type of gamer and it does a nice job of balancing the aspects. Sure the dungeon crawls will be the most memorable and take up the most time, but it is nice to see the gamers who like to solve mysteries or engage in intrigue have not been forgotten.

As you might imagine, The Curse of Hallas Reach finds the PCs in the small town of Hallas Reach. Perhaps they are there on a longer journey to stock up on supplies or perhaps they just needed a place to sleep for the night. How and why the PCs are there is up to your respective Dungeon Master. Once there though, several packs of ghouls erupt from under the earthen floor of the town and the PCs have to help the town guard fight them off. The town’s guard is depleted in the attack and the PCs are asked to trace the ghouls; footsteps to see where they came from. An initial foray of the caverns below Hallas Reach combined with post dungeon crawl conversations with townfolks will lead the characters to a much larger dungeon crawl event and the true culprit behind this ghoul attack. The time between both dungeon crawls is padded with three different random encounter charts (wilderness, night and mire), each with very different events and creatures to encounter. The Nighttime list is my favorite as it offers some spooky bits to flavor up what would otherwise be a pretty humdrum adventure.

The second dungeon crawl is quite large, with twenty six locations and three levels to scour. Here you’ll find the adventure’s big bad, along with foul beasties to slay and treasure to take. Again, what’s here is fairly pat and standard. That’s not to say The Curse of Hallas Reach is generic, because it offers some story depth and interesting antagonists. The adventure does play things safe by providing the same type of adventure (flow-wise) that you’ve probably played dozens of times before. That’s okay. Not every adventure needs to be some incredible mind blowing affair that changes how you game. The Curse of Hallas Reach sticks to tropes but it also does them very well. There’s a good amount of flavor and descriptive text to help make the adventure seem spookier or eerier than your normal dungeon crawl, but don’t be looking for some sort of deep story or even real plans from the Big Bad on what is he doing other than “Go team evil!” Still, it’s a fairly fun adventure, especially for new or casual gamers and I have to admit the tactics and battle strategies for the final boss were really well done. He’ll definitely pose a challenge.

The Curse of Hallas Reach doesn’t have much in the way of art or fancy schamncy layouts. It is what it is – a solid fun third party adventure that doesn’t waste time with frills. This is certainly reflected in the price point of the piece. I’m kind of glad that the adventure included a mini monster manual with all the creatures you can encounter, along with descriptions of several traps and diseases the PCs can encounter. I’d rather have the substance than art, you know?

All in all, The Curse of Hallas Reach is a formulaic piece that some gamers might get déjà vu from, but it’s also a fun adventure and worth playing or at least reading – especially since it’s only $2.99. For the cost of a comic book, you and your friends can spend a few gaming sessions doing battle with ghouls and investigating ominous locales. That’s a pretty good deal in my book.

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