Adventure Review: Dark Oak by Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood for Raging Swan Press

Whenever I think of a swamp, I think of the swamp in South Carolina I visited as a child 30 years ago and then again this past summer. It was very green and overgrown, hot, muggy, buggy, and there were tales of alligators upstream. I could easily imagine wandering through the swamp and getting lost or eaten…

So when I started reading Dark Oak from Raging Swan Press, I had a pretty good picture in my head of what such a swampy land might look like. Designed for a group of 5th-level PCs to play in a four to six hour session using the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules, I could easily see how such a tight little adventure could be dropped into an existing game with very little preparation needed. But it was what Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood have put into that swamp that makes it intriguing…

Populated by the lizardfolk of the Dark Oak tribe, the marsh surrounding a river that “wends its way through the mire” is anything but inviting. This is a place seldom visited now that better, easier trade routes exist that don’t have to deal with such unpleasant conditions. But the disease and occasional attacks by emaciated lizard folk have prompted people in the area to ask for help. All the PCs have to do is go in, see what’s going on, and try to rectify the situation. Sounds simple, right? But we all know it rarely is…

**If there’s a chance you might play through the adventure, I’d suggest you stop reading now to avoid the spoilers…**

The beauty of this adventure is in its simplicity. At its heart, it’s about a corrupt lizardfolk druid, Ssjarlith, whose one shot at power was crushed years before at the hands of a different adventuring party. Now she has the last of her tribe enthralled with drugs as she hangs onto what little power she has left by her fingernails… There’s no huge setup needed. Perhaps a little foreshadowing as to events in the past can be dropped here or there, but that’s about it.

Added to the mix is a treant, Luhalianna, who was drawn into the fray by Ssjarlith and used to create a wake of death and destruction through the human settlements surrounding the swamp before he fell at the hands of the adventurers and blocking the entrance to the lizardfolk’s lair in the swamp. Since then, the druidess has gone more and more off the deep end, seeing threats in every shadow as she decides to make one final push to destroy the humans near her domain.

If the PCs can stop Ssjarlith and her partner S’Kar, a tough lizardfolk warrior who fights by her side, they will have done the people in the area a great service. If they manage to do that without slaughtering innocent lizardfolk, even better. There’s plenty of leeway for the PCs to decide what to do when
presented with the encounters included.

**End spoilers**

Everything you need is here in this 39 page PDF. Maps of the marsh? Check. Encounter descriptions? Check. Player handouts? Check. New magic items? Check. It even includes a set of six pre-made characters in case you want to run this adventure as a one-off.

The artwork for this book is great, especially since the book includes pages you can just hand to the players to help them “see” what’s going on. The images of the lair entrance, the lizardfolk and their pet crocodile are great. Artists Paul Daly, Darkzel, Je Young, and Maciej Zagorski did a great job and the maps from Simon Butler and Steve Hood are simple, but effective.

As per usual, Creighton and his crew at Raging Swan Press have done a great job with Dark Oak. The writing is top-notch and I love seeing words like fulsome, odious, implacable, and indefatigable used in modern works. If you’re on the hunt for a well-constructed adventure sure to see your PCs slogging around in the mire, look no further!

For more about Dark Oak and Raging Swan Press, check out their website and their ever-increasing list of products at RPGNow. Grab Dark Oak from RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, e23, Paizo, and Your Games Now.

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