GamingMadness in Freeport

This is the third entry in the Freeport trilogy, a series of adventures revolving around the return of the Unspeakable One to a pirate-type city called Freeport. Please note that this review contains spoilers, so don't read further if you intend to play it.

A word on Freeport: It's part-Cthulhu, part pirate city, minus any actual oversea adventures. It's also very much based off of the actual city of Freeport in the Bahamas (or more likely, Nassau), from the pirates themselves to the idea of a mythical town known as Libertyville (AKA Libertine). In short, this is a fantasy version of a real place…or rather, an idealized version of a real place with some creepy stuff thrown in. Like a lot of campaigns, it doesn't always have a cohesive consistency, but then that can be said of Dungeons & Dragons too.

Where last we left our heroes, they discovered two major plot points that simply can't be ignored: 1) that the high priest of the Temple of Knowledge is, in fact, a serpent person, and 2) that the Sea Lord is actually a Brother of the Yellow Sign. These two revelations are so disturbing as to be difficult to ignore: heroic player characters (PCs) should want, at the minimum, to deal with both antagonists in a very direct fashion, probably with something pointy. Cowardly PCs would probably leave town. PLEASE NOTE: This is a play test review.

As the saying goes, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Milton Drac, the Sea Lord, does just that, inviting the PCs to a formal ball. As a DM, this was fun stuff; the role-players had a great time chatting the various non-player characters. For an inexperienced DM, role-playing so many NPCs (18 in total!) can be daunting. I dumped the boring characters and let the PCs mingle freely for an hour or so. There's nothing quite like putting your fighter-types in an awkward social situation. Fortunately, the bard sang, the rogue danced, and everyone else managed to keep their noses out of trouble.

From there, a mysterious stranger announces that the only way to stop the Unspeakable One is to find the Jade Serpent of Yig. The PCs are expected to investigate. That investigation leads to a sunken Temple of Yig. But first they have to find it. The Temple happens to be where the dreaded pirate Black Dog buried his treasure, and only one old coot remembers it. The party bard charmed him into telling them the location, and off they went.

Bumping around in partially flooded tunnels is tough. Dealing with what amounts to a long series of incorporeal monsters is tougher. My PCs were higher level on average (5-7th), but they didn't have much in the way of offensive spells, which means a 50% miss chance in combat. Combats take a looooong time as a result.

After destroying the ghost of Black Dog (and assuming he was an illusion, oops), the PCs made it to the Sunken Temple. They rolled their eyes as they were told to find four artifacts. This they did; there were several rooms that were completely empty and served no purpose other than, well, to give adventurers a reason to tear every room apart from corner to corner. That might be fun in old-school games, but we play with a time limit, so the PCs quickly got tired of checking each room for anything of value. What did matter is that the rogue picked up an egg, "just in case." Then he promptly forgot about it.

Upon successfully retrieving all the widgets, someone has to sacrifice 2 Constitution points permanently to claim the Jade Serpent of Yig. To clarify, that's a permanent loss of 1 Hit Point per level and a penalty of 1 to all Fortitude saves. How does the adventure deal with this? "Although the PCs may understandably balk at this idea, there is no other way for them to obtain the Jade Serpent. This may be a good adventure hook for later in your campaign, as there may be a way for the PC to regain the lost points of Constitution."

Gee, thanks. Fortunately, the dwarf fighter took it all in stride. The temple then collapses in rubble behind them…but not really, as it shows up with the EXACT MAP AND EVERYTHING in another adventure.

Ahem. By the time the PCs return to Freeport, Drac's got a warrant out of their arrest and he's about to unveil Milton's Folly, a lighthouse that will project the Yellow Sign into the sky above Freeport. Viewing the Yellow Sign will drive people mad, so it's up to the PCs to stop Uncle Milt.

My PCs made it through several floors, only to be pounded into the ground by the dreaded flying serpent sorcerer known as N'Tal. They survived, barely, and then rushed to the final level, where they faced down Milton Drac himself. It took four rounds in total to kick the Yellow Crystal off a pedestal and replace it with the Jade Serpent of Yig. The catch is that if the PCs leave the pedestal without anything on it, a wave of concussive force blasts outwards, which gets progressively worse each round. Milton and our rogue played hot potato with their respective artifacts, until the rogue got the Jade Serpent onto the pedestal and BOOM! Things end in suitably dramatic fashion.

The PCs are expected to high tail it out of there, because they've effectively killed the leader of Freeport without a reasonable explanation. That's exactly what my PCs did, but not after the aforementioned egg hatched and the rogue discovered he was the foster father to a baby serpent person.

This adventure has an interesting mix of heavy role-playing, pure dungeoneering, and then a reverse dungeon (going up the lighthouse instead of down into the Temple of Yig). It makes effective use of the environment (sunken caverns) and forces the PCs outside of their comfort zone (adventurers…at a formal ball). As a DM, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, and my PCs rose to the occasion even when I thought the adventure was being a bit unfair. It brought out the best in them. As a bookend to the trilogy, it makes for an excellent denouement. If you want to shake up Freeport and your players, Madness in Freeport will get the job done.