DMs Guild Review – The Feather of Aka’Ayah

Delve into a unique vertical prison inside a dreamworld to unwittingly free a terrible evil.

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This review has been sponsored 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: Leonardo Benucci

Judging The Feather of Aka’Ayah by the shadowy visage of a certain infamous horror villain on the cover may lead you to believe you’ve stumbled on a D&D adventure ripped from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

While the evil nightmare deity Phobetor is certainly based on Freddy, this one-shot for level five PCs is a wholly original adventure into a towering prison complex located in the Dreamscape.

The relatively massive 40+ page one-shot begins with a local wizard offering the party a job: to nab a magical, legendary deva feather from an island located in the middle of an ocean half a world away. That’s only half-true – the island is actually located in the Dreamscape, which the players enter after drinking the tea served by the wizard.

They all drank the tea, right? (Protip: never assume your players are anything but completely paranoid about everyone and everything).

The dream-tea transports them into a gigantic, 3,000 ft high, octagonal tower jutting out of a perpetually stormy sea in the middle of utter blackness. The tower is an abandoned prison built by Danika, a deity of dreams, and serves as our awesomely immersive dungeon crawl for this adventure.

The party begins on the top of the tower, which features a marble guardian with a neat magical device that can see inside each chamber (pass phrase required, which the party can discover in multiple chambers).

Metal ladders next to numbers lead down the hundreds of feet to eight chambers, cut along each side of the tower. The party can freely explore the prison, though the final chamber has no ladder, and multiple trapped doors should encourage the players to explore other chambers first.

The party has two tools at their disposal. One is given by the quest-giving wizard, a double-sided glove of red and blue. Knowing when to use the glove, and what color side to use, will be an important component to later puzzles.

The other tool is one they get to discover organically as they explore the Dreamscape: they each have the power to reshape reality, as per a limited version of the Wish spell, with as many uses as their CHA modifier (minimum 1).

The party should discover this power accidentally, as if wishing for something specific to happen, and the DM should allow it to happen if they pass a DC 15 CHA check. Done well this could be a very fun element for the party to discover, and hopefully not an abusable headache for the DM (there are a few safeguards in place – no teleporting to the feather, for example).

Some of the chambers are completely empty. This is a one-shot and time should be a factor. Literally – the designer suggests setting an alarm clock for three or four hours and starting the countdown with they arrive, letting the party know they only have so much time before their escape window closes.

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One of the chambers holds Danika’s former lover, who has since been spurned and transformed into an allip (from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes). Instead of a standard combat encounter, the allip could be an intriguing social encounter. She has important information and background exposition, but she’ll also posses a PC and incur exhaustion as she babbles and writes down secrets. Really cool use of the creature.

The combat-optional approach is seen throughout the adventure. An encounter with a gargantuan crow on the top of the tower can just as easily lead to a skill challenge or even a social encounter, while a horde of over a hundred zombies chained up in a room could be mollified by opening their dying genie master’s bottle.

It’s disappointing that the climax devolves a gimmicky and fake combat encounter. Despite being based on the very talkative and Charismatic villain Freddy Krueger, Phobetor is absent from the entire adventure save the final chamber. After battling a Black Pudding and solving several door riddles and puzzles, the party enters his chamber to find a grand illusion as he attempts to convince the party that he’s an evil witch and they’re here to steal the feather.

In truth it’s the feather that’s keeping him a prisoner, and he wants the player characters to “beat” him and take the Feather, thus freeing him. Unfortunately it’s very awkward to run a fake combat encounter (he looks like he’s casting spells, but they’re all supposed to miss, for example), and nigh impossible to do in a VTT like Roll20, where everyone rolls publicly. And at fifth level, most parties should be capable of seeing through magical illusions, and paranoid enought to check for them – especially in a dreamworld!

The correct choice is to leave the feather behind, exit the room, and leave the entire dungeon, which isn’t exactly a narratively satisfying ending. If the players do nab the feather, the villain thanks them and disappears. As an evil deity, his statblock is way outside the scope of this adventure.

Despite the awkward climax, the one-shot still manages to end on a high note thanks to the optional dream sequences that occur at the end. Half a dozen different nightmares can occur depending on the choices made during the adventure (such as if a player retrieved Phobetor’s clawed glove, which reside in Chamber five), some of which are definitely based on actual scenes from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Overall I’m impressed with the unique design of the dungeon, and the extra attention given to each encounter, as well as the surrounding environment. The designer hits a nice balance between combat, exploration, and role-playing, and provides plenty of notes and details (and original art) without any extra bloat.

Pros:

  • Original artwork, including maps of the prison and its chambers.
  • Nearly every confrontation can be solved without combat.
  • “Diabolical Options” for increasing difficulty and tension.
  • Half a dozen optional epilogue dream sequences.

Cons:

  • Final boss “fight” is disappointingly simple and gimmicky.
  • Bare Logos-style maps.

The Verdict: With its unique vertical dungeon design and detailed encounters, The Feather of Aka’ayah provides an immersive and memorable one-shot adventure.

This review has been sponsored 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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