Most adventures are designed a certain way.
That is, with the PCs eventually steaming into an unknown dungeon and laying waste to anything before their swords. Rarely do adventures veer from this formula, instead, they lull players into a boring dungeon routine.
This formula is the main reason why most adventures, even the best ones, need to be tweaked somewhere to introduce moral decisions and story telling. Green Ronin sought to change the format with its Bleeding Edge series, and, with the final adventure Escape from Ceranir, they diplay the proof that different is always better.
Ceranir is a 32-page adventure that traps the pcs in an expansive academy where a great tragedy has taken place. As the PCs travel five different levels of the building, they unravel one of the best included mysteries in D&D adventures. To say that the PDF is well written is like calling Gary Gygax a decent game designer. The authors have a strong understanding of adventure writing and developed a product that feels very non-linear. They know that players do not move along a straight line. Throughout the book, there are break out boxes to provide help for likable and unlikeable decisions by the players. But that is not the best thing the writers did in the book.
Their best feat, was making an adventure that requires fairly little combat for a smart group. Rarely does a module commend the player who wants to go about the adventure head first. Most modules feel like the author is screaming at the reader to hurry and get the players into combat. Not so true with Ceranir. Instead, the writers make combat optional for just about every combat outside of the last one. In some cases, not finding produces helpful allies and items.
For the Dungeon Master
The traps and puzzles of Ceranir are impressive. Normally the one thing I do to every adventure is replace the traps with traps that require more than just a simple role. With Ceranir, I found myself leaving all the traps in. They are either well placed simple traps or well designed complex traps.
The Iron Word
Escape from Cerenir is reason enough to buy the past issues of Bleeding Edge. It is a diversion from traditional adventure writing. One that provides an engrossing story, savory mystery and challenging traps and puzzles. Even the combat encounters are thought out well, utilizing a lot of terrain situations. If you are looking for a not so combat-only oriented adventure, work your way through the Bleeding Edge series to Escape from Cerenir.
[5 of 5 Stars!]