A review copy of “The Secret of Stranglelight Hall” was provided by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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

Designed by: M.T. Black Games

I’ve reviewed several of M.T. Black’s adventures and supplemental material over the years. He has a very distinct style: smaller, e-zine pages with black and white art, and fun, well-detailed dungeon crawls.

As much as I enjoyed the well-laid out magic mansion dungeon in The Secret of Stranglelight Hall, the lack of a compelling story left much to be desired.

The Secret of Stranglelight Hall takes place in Black’s original fantasy world of Iskandar, but can easily fit in any small town. It’s designed for D&D 5e parties of around 3rd level, and includes encounter adjustments for levels 1-4.

In the marsh town of Stranglelight, a local wizard has gone missing, along with the servant she typically sends into town. A few adventure hooks are provided, but it boils down to: please find this missing person.

The first stop is the village itself. The small town is given a cursory description and a handful of NPCs and locations. You know the drill: the inn, the blacksmith, the village elder, the sheriff (or warden, in this case).

I like the brief yet effective descriptions of our notable townsfolk, but the entire chapter for the village is only three pages long. Then it’s on to the only lead we have: exploring the wizard’s home, the titular mansion of Stranglelight Hall.

The rest of the adventure is a dungeon crawl inside this large, 21-room mansion.

stranglelight hall pic

The wizard’s manor is chock full of fun little details and interactive stuff, almost like an old-school adventure game. A 3D map with buttons that produce weather effects. A chandelier that turns into a swarm of snakes. Secret doors behind bookshelves. Magic food appearing at a dining table. People trapped in paintings. A medusa door knocker that, well, you can probably guess what happens if you try to break in.

There isn’t a single wasted space on the map. Every single room has at least something notable about it, whether it’s a hidden monster, a secret door, or some minor treasure.

The PCs are free to explore the mansion top-to-bottom, eventually hitting the finale when they wander up to the attic and find the wizard, magically trapped by the trickster god whom she was trying to sever ties with.

On the other hand, there’s no real story development here. There are no NPCs to talk to or notes to find, other than the servant who’s trapped (and unable to speak) in a painting. We learn next to nothing of the plight of the wizard or her story until the final room.

As much as I enjoyed the balance of combat and exploration, the adventure completely drops the ball in story and role-playing opportunities.

It doesn’t help that the designer doesn’t use map art beyond black and white graph paper drawings. As someone who primarily plays with a virtual tabletop, few things annoy me more, especially when your entire adventure revolves around a lengthy dungeon crawl.

It’s a shame as there’s a lot to love about The Secret of Stranglelight Hall. A trickster god magically enchanting a wizard’s house creates all kinds of fun chaos that breaks the rules of dungeon ecology in fun ways, and should give DMs a lot of fun dungeoneering ideas, even if they don’t want to run the full adventure.

Pros:

  • 20+ room mansion dungeon with something interesting in every room.
  • Unique boss battle against a trickster god.
  • Encounter summary table provides an easy at-a-glance of all the creatures and treasures in the dungeon.
  • Encounter adjustments for levels 1-4.

Cons:

  • Black-and-white, graph paper dungeon map.
  • Bare-bones story with little development.

The Verdict: The magic mansion in The Secret of Stranglelight Hall is stuffed with fun ideas and interactive elements, but the lack of plot development and social encounters holds it back from being a more memorable dungeon crawl.

A review copy of “The Secret of Stranglelight Hall” was provided by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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