This is a review of the adventure module “The Inn of Lost Heroes”, published by Small Niche Games, written by Peter Spahn. It is marketed as an adventure for 3-5 characters of levels 3-5 on the cover (though the introduction says 4-6 characters instead). Its presented as an adventure for Labyrinth Lord, but of course we know that means its very easily usable in almost any OSR game. This adventure is about 30 pages long, with a handful of appropriate artwork throughout; nothing spectacular, but nothing amiss either.
I’ve reviewed many of Spahn’s adventures at this point, and they are always pleasant surprises very far afield from the typical OSR-dungeon-crawl. Spahn’s adventures always have plots, chronological timelines, and a wealth of NPCs and background, all without falling too far off from the old-school aesthetic. The Inn of Lost Heroes stays true to this mold, and tries to add a new twist: an OSR horror story. To make this work, though, I find that the module relies on a somewhat more heavy-handed tactic than usual for his adventures.
As usual with adventures, I am wary not to reveal too many details in order not to spoil the fun for potential players. What I have chosen to tell about this adventure is that it is based on a cursed/haunted Inn, and can thus be very easily introduced to most any campaign. Part of the horror of the Inn is that it is a kind of trap for those who enter, moving the hapless travelers into a demi-plane full of silent-hill style creepiness. In order to escape, the PCs must solve the mystery of what terrible event occurred at the Inn in the first place, who is responsible for its curse, and go through a series of very difficult trials to break the curse.
When I talk about “heavy-handedness”, I’m referring to various elements of the adventure that are made to limit the PC’s abilities and to ratchet up the pressure. But I should note that strictly speaking, the adventure is not a railroad; it is even possible to avoid being trapped in the Inn based on PC choices, though if you do that, in essence the adventure is over.
Once the PCs are trapped in the Inn, the rest of the adventure is very much a micro-sandbox; there’s no particular order in which PCs must act, investigate, or interact with the Inn. What happens from there is entirely in the hands of the PCs. There are a series of setpiece encounters in this stage of the adventure, which depend on what rooms the PCs investigate, and a number of random encounters that are generated by a table. Its quite well designed in that sense.
On the other hand, the adventure is set up so that no level-appropriate magic or items can allow premature escape from the Inn’s curse. And the adventure is set up, as far as I can see, to seriously tax the PCs’ resources, unless they’re really quick to figure things out and act. What’s more, the “solution” to the curse depends on a number of individual challenges, each of which is better suited to one character class over the others, but that solution also results in a curse that affects said character from that moment until the end of the adventure.
The culmination of the adventure involves confronting a truly fearsome enemy (for that level), and then the PCs are faced with an easy way out versus a much more challenging (and seemingly fatal) one that is nonetheless the “right thing to do”.
I could see some players, while not being railroaded, nevertheless feeling somewhat forced by the moral implications of certain choices.
On the whole, like all of Spahn’s adventures I’ve reviewed thus far, this is a very worthwhile adventure. In spite of some potential problems and the challenges that could be faced by certain groups, the overall plot and ambiance of the adventure is fantastic. If you think that the theme of this adventure is the sort of thing you or your player group would enjoy, then it would certainly be recommended.
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(originally posted July 6, 2013; on the old blog)