DMs Guild Review – The Struggles of Stelmane

A Tier 2 urban mini-adventure features an illithid hunting one of the ruling Dukes of Baldur’s Gate.

dms guild review

A review copy of “The Struggles of Stelmane” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Matthew Whitby, with JVC Parry

UPDATE APRIL 27: The Struggles of Stelmane has been updated by the designer with expanded content and three new scenarios! 

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[Original review] The Baldur’s Gate 3 cinematic trailer got me super excited about illithids, one of the coolest of the classic D&D baddies, and criminally underused in Fifth Edition. The Struggles of Stelmane features an intriguing illithid threat in the city of Baldur’s Gate, though it’s over far too quickly and easily.

The Struggles of Stelmane is a relatively short outing, clocking in at fewer than 20 pages, but featuring a professional layout and design that resembles the official 5e books and products, including a rather dashing illithid on the cover.

The mini-adventure takes place in Baldur’s Gate. The Foreword mentions tying it to Descent Into Avernus. But it’s a solidly tier 2 adventure for level six parties, so I’m not sure where it would fit, as a DIA party would literally be in hell at that point. The urban adventure could take place in any coastal city, and it would’ve been nice to see notes for adapting it to others such as Waterdeep or Neverwinter to allow more flexibility.

The party is summoned to the Blade and Stars tavern to meet with one of the four Dukes of Baldur’s Gate, or at least her loyal Aide Ollin. There they witness a scuffle between patrons that results in a dead Intellect Devourer (or the aftermath). Ollin confirms that his boss is being hounded by something, and wants the party to investigate.

The party ends up in a beach cave near the city, where its former werewolf occupants have been killed or enslaved by an illithid who wants to finish what it started – enthralling Duke Belynne Stelmane, and controlling one of the rulers of a major city in the Sword Coast.

That’s a neat hook for an illithid, and I’m thrilled to see them (or at least one) doing vampire-like secret social intrigue instead of crawling around the Underdark.

dms guild review

In the cave the party meets an apprentice wizard whose mentor has been enthralled, and engage in a fight with the mind controlled mage and a bunch of gestating intellect devourers – Nice! A tunnel leads to Duke Stelmane’s villa in the city, where…..the illithid is currently crouched in the cellar waiting for nightfall. The party fights and kills the illithid, The End.

Huh!? All that for a simple fight in the basement? Even worse, the party could choose to Nope out of the tunnel, meet back up with Ollin, get a direct invite to the villa, then march downstairs to the cellar and, yep, there’s the illithid.

It’s a crushingly lame finale considering the build-up and potential that illithids and intellect devourers could bring to an adventure, such as turning the mansion into a horror-movie scene with dead guards with holes in their heads, or making it an eerie Body Snatchers scenario where all the guards have been replaced by Intellect Devourers and everything’s perfectly fine, thank you adventurers, no need to investigate any further!

The maps are another disappointment. We do get maps of both the cave and the Duke’s villa, but they’re the basic graph paper, Logos style that doesn’t work well with virtual tabletops. There’s a lot of potential within The Struggles of Stelmane, and it’s  well-written and produced, but ultimately dissatisfying.

Pros:

  • Intriguing premise of illithids and intellect devourers in an urban adventure.
  • Solid organization, layout, and artwork.

Cons:

  • Disappointingly straight-forward, easy finale.
  • Basic graph paper maps.

The Verdict: The Struggles of Stelmane sets up an intriguing Urban Illithid mini-adventure, but falls flat in the third act.

A review copy of “The Struggles of Stelmane” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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