DMs Guild Review – Tales from the Stonehill Inn

A collection of ten straightforward side quests built for Phandalin, but suitable for any small starter town.

A review copy of “Tales from the Stonehill Inn” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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

Designed by: Matthew Ashcraft

As you may have forgotten, as I have, Stonehill Inn is the name of the inn from Phandalin, made famous from the D&D starter adventures Lost Mine of Phandalin and Dragon of Icespire Peak. Tales from Stonehill Inn is a collection of low level, straightforward side quests that all begin at the Inn, aimed at newer DMs and players.

All ten quests are designed for levels 1-5, and feature a variety of styles and objectives, including running into a burning building to save a family, recovering stolen treasure from bandits, investigating missing persons, and following a treasure map to a dungeon crawl.

The quests are designed to be straightforward and easy-to-run, making it difficult to criticize their simplicity. But I will criticize their ambiguity. Too often the designer narratively throws up their hands and leaves it up to the DM to figure out, which is the opposite of what new DMs are looking for in published content.

For example, “Inferno” presents the classic burning building scenario. A wife’s husband has run back inside their burning home to save their children and hasn’t yet emerged, prompting our heroes to (hopefully) charge in after them. What should have followed was either a room-to-room dungeon crawl with hazards, or a series of traps or skill challenges to convey the dangerous gauntlet they run through.

Instead we’re given a bunch of notes and suggestions, like “make sure the fire spreads,” and “perhaps the stairs burn away, trapping everyone upstairs, and forcing them to go out the windows.” That’s a great idea – design it! Don’t just leave it up to the poor newbie DM to figure how to design and rule these scenarios.

Likewise “The Round Up” starts out with another excellent hook, as a traveling entertainer shows up at the inn asking to help round up escaped animals from his traveling road show. But because this is D&D, the animals are an allosaurus, a red dragon wyrmling, and half a dozen cockatrices.

round up

Each creature is found in a different situation, such as the allosaurus threatening a farmer, or finding the wyrmling captured by a nearby village, but we’re not given any rules or notes on how to handle these situations or how to recapture these creatures, leaving a lot for DMs to figure out (or hope that their players are incredibly proactive).

The worst offender is “The Wizard,” a quest that isn’t a quest at all but an adventure hook, as the party is told an old man needs to return home before the next dawn, for reasons. We’re not told why, we’re not told where he lives, or what kinds of things happen along the way. That’s the definition of an adventure hook, not a quest.

Not all of the quests are that frustrating, thankfully. “The Halfling Bandit” is an awesome, well-designed little dungeon crawl in an old fort with a Rug of Smothering, Helmed Horror, and Spectator, and ending in a satisfying betrayal from the quest-giver himself.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the maturity of “The Runaway,” which begins as a missing persons quest and ends with a dark twist involving some teenage runaways and an abusive father (which definitely needed a content warning label).

Although the artwork supplementing the quests are all public domain art pieces, Tales from the Stonehill Inn includes 19 full color grid battle maps. That’s one map for nearly every single quest and combat encounter, which is incredibly impressive, though it’s odd that we’re not given a map of the Inn itself. The maps are a welcome addition, but doesn’t absolve the anthology of its lack of details and more scripted events.

 Pros:

  • Ten* simple side quests that take place in and around Phandalin.
  • Excellent variety of quests, including investigating missing persons, capturing escaped animals, and a good old fashioned dungeon crawl.
  • Full color grid maps for nearly every single quest and encounter.

Cons:

  • Too many suggestions and ideas in place of actual content.
  • *One of the quests is literally just an adventure hook.

The Verdict: Designed to easily slot into the D&D 5e starter adventures, Tales from the Stonehill Inn offers a welcome variety of simple side quests along with a frustrating amount of ambiguity.

A review copy of “Tales from the Stonehill Inn” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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