Though The Haunting of Larvik Island has been out since June 2011, I’m coming very late to the party. Written by Stephen Newton and published by Thick Skull Adventures, this adventure for a group of five 1st level D&D 4E characters is not just a solid adventure with an old school feel. It also manages to offer plenty of hooks for GMs to fit it into their campaigns without a ton of effort.
So what’s it about? There’s an island off the coast rumored to have a treasure hidden in a cave, but the cave is only accessible for a small window of time every few decades. What’s the treasure? Who left the treasure? Why hasn’t it been found by now if folks have known about it for centuries? Who cares! As adventurers just starting out, do you really need reasons to seek fame and fortune? Heck no!
Honestly that’s part of the fun of this adventure. It really feels like some of the first modules I ever played with AD&D way back in the early 1980s. One part Lost and one part Indiana Jones, players are thrust into the action from the moment they set foot on the island. Is it a bit railroad-ish? Sure. But some adventures are meant to stay on track from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a good adventure to introduce a new group to D&D 4e, this is a great way to get a feel for everything from skill challenges and combat to some good old sleuthing and puzzle solving.
And I really like the way the players are forced to piece together how to get to the true cave from clues left on the island. They may have a few days to accomplish their task and get off before the island is submerged again… But unless they pay attention and put 2 and 2 together to get 4, they’re just going to find themselves harried by various creatures intent on their destruction. This isn’t a railroad with obvious posted signs, which is great to get folks thinking from the very beginning.
What surprised me is how easily The Haunting of Larvik Island can be integrated into an existing campaign world. Though it’s been written as part of a series from Thick Skull Adventures, there’s a collection of hooks to get the PCs involved immediately. Even better than that, there’s an entire section on “Customizing the Adventure” summarizing the locations, people, and deities that can be tweaked. Want to move the island to your own world? Cool. Just change a few names and you’re off and running. I wish more publishers would take the time to add this type of detail into their products.
Is it perfect? Not exactly. But it’s close enough. I had issues with some of the writing being a little unclear in spots and I could have done with a bit more white space between paragraphs, but it’s all there. Make sure you also grab the free Encounter Maps: The Haunting of Larvik Island product at RPGNow so you have usable maps of the various areas you can print out. As I was reading I wished I had single page copies of the maps I could refer to, but the multi-page maps in the map collection offer more than enough detail.
For a bit more detail and some other reviews, check out The Haunting of Larvik Island‘s product page at the Thick Skull Adventures site, but I definitely recommend checking it out at RPGNow and investigating the mysteries of Larvik Island yourself. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find the treasure!
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