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Designed by: Legends of Athelu
The Haunt of Erminsk is a character-focused murderer mystery for levels 3-5, set in the original campaign setting of Legends of Athelu. It’s a short adventure designed for levels 3-5, and will be available for D&D 5e as well as Pathfinder 1e. The mystery leans a bit too hard on its intricate web of NPCs, but provides an advanced challenge and a satisfying conclusion for fans of the genre.
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Like an Adventurer’s League module, the 40-page adventure is organized into scenes and encounters. The opening scene describes the titular logging town where most of the adventure takes place.
The town was built when the human empire burned an elvish community to the ground. One elf martyred himself, cursing the soldiers and rising again as a ghostly apparition that stalks the town.
Now, the party has been hired to investigate a rash of disappearances, and rumors point to the ghost.
If you’re thinking this sounds like an episode of Scooby Doo — you’re not wrong!
I don’t see that as a negative: Scooby Doo is full of excellent story structure for TTRPG adventures. This adventure even features a Scooby Doo-like twist in the end, where the villain is revealed to be mundane (followed by another twist with the real Haunt!).
Unfortunately, we’re given no background information on this fantasy world within the adventure. I had to go to the Athelu website to glance through the history and get some proper context, like the fact that only two races exist (elves and humans) and they don’t exactly see eye to eye.
On the plus side, it would be trivial to drop this town and adventure into the Forgotten Realms, or any other setting.
The party is given a list of four missing people and their last known whereabouts, and this door-to-door investigation takes up the bulk of the adventure.
Our heroes are given the reigns to freely explore the town and its many occupants, in an attempt to piece together what happened.
The adventure is almost entirely focused on role-playing and investigation. If your player character doesn’t care about whipping out a notepad and interviewing suspects, following leads, and gathering information, they’re probably not going to enjoy this adventure.
Over a dozen NPCs are included, including the blacksmith, the alchemist, the innkeeper, and the parents of the missing people. Every single person at least one important clue or fact to drop, leading to a rewarding fact-following journey for the players. Plus, everyone has full color portraits and easy-to-read sidebars of case information organized into bullet points.
I love the way this mystery is organized. Keeping track of what happened, what the motivations were, and what each character knows is made extremely intuitive thanks to the layout. We’re also given full color battle maps (for the very few battles) and immersive player handouts. Even custom VTT token borders are provided — nice!
As much as I enjoyed the open investigation around town, the story fumbles when transitioning to the climax. At one point it literally says, “They should somehow figure out…” Yikes! Our heroes need to catch the murderer with his latest victim at the right place and right time, which is a tricky thing to pull off, and the designers don’t offer any help in executing it.
Thankfully the actual climax is a lot of fun, catching the murderer (who was “beset by a calamity of errors”), only to be confronted with the true Haunt of the forest!
I love the layout and all the extra bells and whistles this adventure includes. It’s not without flaws, but if your players (and you!) enjoy a social-focused investigation, The Haunt of Erminsk is a challenging and satisfying mystery.
- Non-linear mystery investigation that focuses on social role-playing.
- Twist climax that plays with player-haunt expectations.
- Over a dozen detailed NPCs, each with lovely portrait art.
- Full color battle maps, immersive player handouts, and custom VTT tokens.
- Awkward transition from investigation to climactic scene.
- Very few skill checks (Insight, Investigation, Perception, etc).
- No background information on the Athelu setting.
The Verdict: The Haunt of Erminsk is a flawed but interesting murder-mystery investigation, enhanced by an excellent suite of art and VTT-ready material.
A review copy of “The Haunt of Erminsk” was provided by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.
Support my work by pledging via Patreon.