Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist is a 65 page d20 adventure for four characters of levels 5 to 7. This is the second adventure in Dream Machine Productions' Mini-Adventure line, the first adventure being The Complex of Zombies. In this adventure the PCs are challenged by a city wracked by a deadly plague, and must attempt to deal with the city's terror, or flee the quarantine imposed by the city officials. The adventure is suitable for easy insertion into any campaign world, and in particular any large city in that campaign world. This adventure is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.
The product comes as a single pdf file. There are no bookmarks, but there is an extensive table of contents (which unfortunately refers to actual page number rather than pdf page number, and in this instance they're about 6 pages different). The product is decently formatted and presented, barring the odd blank page and the occasional white space, with some good art from a variety of different sources, and good use of boxed text, useful playtest tips, good handouts and well-identified subsections. Writing and editing is good as well, with some solid mechanics for the new material and the various statistics provided. Overall, a nice looking product, although probably something that could've been condensed into less pages with better formatting and layout.
This adventure is an event-based and location-based adventure taking place in a large city. Given the nature of the adventure, it's probably best to set this adventure in a city that can support the adventure, in particular the nature of the city defences (number and level of NPCs), and the large number of people needed for riots and mobs. The adventure background is fairly simple - a city is affected by plague, a deadly one, and the PCs are drawn in, willingly or unwillingly, to deal with it and the effect that the plague has on the city.
As such there is no specific format to this adventure, being loosely presented, with major and minor events highlighted within a specific timeframe, and additional random encounters and ideas given. The city itself is not detailed at all, and, given the intricacy of the adventure, one must probably have a decent city map with well detailed information and locations to make this adventure work well. This includes, of course, city personalities, shops and other locations. To run this adventure smoothly, would probably require a fair amount of work, but work that will most likely be worth it.
The adventure is all about a deadly plague affecting a large city. The PCs have the choice of either helping to combat the plague or attempt to hole out and possibly flee the city. The latter will be quite difficult given the city's defences, and most PCs will be inclined to do the former, but both options are dealt with effectively. Threats that the PCs will face include dealing with mobs, catching fleeing city folk to avoid spreading the disease, fires, necromancers raising the dead in the city, and of course the deadly plague itself.
The plague is something quite akin to the Black Death, and I often wondered if it wasn't too deadly given the timeframe of the adventure. While the plague is staged, a few poor saving throw rolls can easily spell out the death for a particular PC. The restrictions on magical aid against the plague make it particularly difficult for PCs to deal with it and the effects of the plague, such as ability score loss. A few failed saving throws can really hurt. Over large timescales, the plague can almost not be avoided, and PCs will have to hope they survive and can help the city in their weakened state.
The adventure provides plenty of new material to add some spice to the game and make things run smoothly. These include the rules for the plague, new templates for diseased undead, various new necromantic magical items, new spells, rules for running mobs and large crowds, and rules for handling large fires in a city. As such there's plenty of new material to digest, and plenty of new things that will challenge the PCs as they try to survive the plague and defend or flee the city, both tasks that will require the utmost care and a little luck to avoid the worst of the plague.
Overall, though, I find this a refreshing change from most adventure that you find on the market these days. While it is by no means problem free or won't require some work and possibly some tweaking, it's a challenging and different adventure that will both terrify and challenge the PCs. Having to deal with mobs, armies of undead, fires and a deadly plague make for a chaotic scenario that can be quite breathless, for both players and DMs (who need to keep track of everything in the adventure). The lack of a city plan and details means DMs will need to come well prepared to throw the players and the plague into the city, and to make the adventure come to life with real people and lasting consequences. I was pleased with the adventure, and would certainly recommend running it if you're after something different.
[4 of 5 Stars!]