DMs Guild Review – Lake of Secrets

Rescue the missing leader of a city, who had made a dark pact to save their kingdom.

D&D

A review copy of “Lake of Secrets” 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: Sebastian Yūe

Most one-shot adventures center around a single dungeon crawl. Lake of Secrets is no exception, but its emphasis on story-telling, role-playing, and exploration sets it apart from most D&D one-shot adventures.

Lake of Secrets is a 20-page tier one adventure designed for levels 3-5. Once again I’d like to gently remind designers that there is a huge power spike at level five!

The story takes place in the city of Atarata, which has recently lost a war with an invading army of demons. The demons have mysteriously vanished, however, thanks to a dark pact made by the city’s ruler, Eyust. Instead of using a familiar evil trope, Eyust is a martyr, agreeing to sacrifice their life to save the kingdom. The adventurers have a chance to rescue Eyust from their fate.

The adventure is organized into four parts, but like most one-shots, centers around a single dungeon, the literal dungeon beneath the castle in the city. It’s a small area of only eight rooms, plus a final unmapped chamber for the final encounter.

Black and white maps are provided for the first two levels. They’re a noticeable step up from the Dyson Logos style, but not quite good enough for a virtual tabletop – though we are given separate DM and player versions. The designer also provides player handouts and VTT tokens for each of the major NPCs.

For a dungeon crawl, Lake of Secrets provides very little combat. There are several traps to discover and loot to find, and information to uncover on Eyust’s sacrifice. The bedroom scene in particular is well-designed, using illusion magic to recreate Eyust crying over their decision to accept help from the Twisted Novissimites, mages from the Elemental Plane of Water.

dms guild

The party can also encounter Eyust’s wife, Laquea, now reanimated and trapped in an arcane circle. The purpose behind her reanimation is a little fuzzy, but it offers the party a nice role-playing sequence – or a fight (though she won’t provoke one).

The party can plumb the dungeon with an accompanying NPC, who reveals herself as one of the three Novissimites at the end. It’s a fun reveal, though could be challenging to pull off for particularly insightful or paranoid PCs.

In staying true to the adventure’s emphasis on role-playing, the final battle doesn’t have to be a battle at all. The adventure includes seven (!) epilogues depending on how the party handles the final confrontation, as they find the three Aquan mages draining the life of Eyust to replenish their own in a ritual at the lowest level.

The party could choose to reason with some or all of the mages, turning some of them to their side with a Persuasion check. After all, the mages suffered from the demons as well, and are draining Eyust to heal their own afflictions. And having one of them accompany the party could endear her to their pleas.

The mages might escape in battle, they may be defeated, or the party could even side with them to help drain the kingdom even further.

It’s a rare D&D adventure that features little to no combat, and it’s important to know if that’s going to work for your group. Despite its short run-time, Lake of Secrets is a satisfying story of a fallen kingdom and the desperation of its leader, with satisfying emotional beats, fleshed-out characters, and an intriguing little story.

Pros:

  • Effectively focuses on story, characters, and exploration.
  • Maps, tokens, and player handouts.
  • Multiple epilogues and endings depending on the final confrontation.

Cons:

  • Why did the main villain reanimate Laquea?
  • Maps are black and white only; no map for the final encounter (the most likely to be a combat encounter!).

The Verdict: Lake of Secrets is the rare D&D adventure that focuses on story-telling and exploration rather than hacking and slashing, much to its benefit.

A review copy of “Lake of Secrets” 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s