DMs Guild Review – The Mansion of Duke Brago

A gruesome evil has taken hold of a noble family and a creepy mansion in this horror adventure for levels 7-8.

A review copy of “The Mansion of Duke Brago” 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: G. S. Brooks

My tolerance for the horror genre increases as I grow older and fears of demons and monsters are replaced by bill payments and my family’s safety. I’m also increasingly fond of a good horror adventure –  exploring classic horror tropes and letting players act as the non-stupid investigators rather than hapless teens (of course if you want to role-play hapless teens – go for it).

The Mansion of Duke Brago is a classic haunted house, with effective environmental storytelling and a well-constructed dungeon crawl, for levels 7-8.

Like all good haunted houses, the titular mansion is place tainted with evil. Instead of demons or ghosts, however, the Brago family has been inundated by an extra-dimensional creature known as The Vivisectionist. Recently the Duke has passed and his son, now a grown man with his own family, has returned home only to be corrupted by the vile creature.

The adventure barely makes any pretense for proper adventure hooks, laying the call to adventure at the feet of the DM and their party. The dungeon is already very low on social encounters and a proper opening act could have gone a long way to balancing the subsequent combat and exploration, and perhaps given the PCs are more personal (or monetary) reason to explore the mansion other than a vague sense of heroic duty.

Thankfully the large dungeon crawl of the two-story mansion plus basement and hedge maze is well-designed and intriguing. The servants are barely sentient flesh golems, and rooms are filled with bloody bodies and classic scenes of horror, like rooms filling with blood (only major content warning is when finding a child’s body).

dms guild review

I love the non-linear structure of the mansion, allowing parties to explore rooms at their own pace and discover the Duke’s journals. The primary goal is to collect four gems that were used in a recent ritual. Taking a page from adventure games, each gem is tied to an element, and can be found in bodies that were killed by each of the four elements, such as finding a ruby in a blackened body inside an oven.

Once all four gems are found, the party can access the basement where Eddrich Brago himself, now a warlock, can attack the players via secret passages. While it’s only briefly mentioned in the sidebar, I would lean hard on the redemption angle, letting PCs shake him out of the control the Vivisectionist holds over him, perhaps by showing him his wife’s ring from the banshee they’ll probably face in the west wing.

The final ritual involves killing the older (and quite undead) patriarch, Ed Brago’s father, which opens a portal to the Vivisectionist’s realm and a final showdown.

The adventure includes full color maps that were clearly built in Roll20 using free assets. I have zero problem with this approach, but I do have a few complaints. The maps are embedded in the .PDF and are very low resolution. And while I dig the dungeon design, the rooms are way too large, leading to lots of empty hallways and overly huge rooms when using tokens.

The adventure also has some organizational issues, such as not detailing the exact number of enemies in a room (“several ghouls”), and not annotating rooms with the numbers that correspond to the dungeon maps. These quibbles aside, The Mansion of Duke Brago is an excellent adventure that showcases an effective story within a well-worn genre.

Pros:

  • Non-linear haunted mansion dungeon design – with hedge maze!
  • Effectively creepy theme that balances exploration, combat, and environmental storytelling.
  • Full color maps.

Cons:

  • Maps are low-res and embedded in the .PDF.
  • Some organizational issues and missing details, such as exact number of enemies in certain rooms, or where to find certain notes.

The Verdict: The Mansion of Duke Brago features a checklist of horror tropes within a solid narrative foundation and compelling dungeon design.

A review copy of “The Mansion of Duke Brago” 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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