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December 3, 2018

Beastmaster’s Daughter – D&D 5e Module Review

Beastmaster's Daughter D&D 5e Adventure Module

Beastmaster’s Daughter is a D&D 5e one-shot module written by Dave B. Stevens recommended for a party of 3-6 3rd level characters. The party responds to a job advertisement posted in a tavern not far away from the Aldritch Research Centre & Zoo. The job description is mysterious, but pays extremely well!

What comes next is one of the most fun monster hunting adventures in D&D 5e I’ve ever played. See, the party’s job isn’t to hunt down and kill creatures, it’s to subdue them and put them in their proper exhibits in the Aldritch Research Center & Zoo. This creates its own set of unique challenges for the party.

The module is completely free which is amazing considering how much effort has gone into creating such a unique, engaging, and well-balanced module that will take your group around 6 hours to finish.

There are puzzles, unique encounters, secrets, role-playing opportunities, and a fun and interesting story all in this one-shot. Basically, everything you could possibly want in a D&D adventure module.

If you’re a player be warned – there are spoilers ahead!

Pre-Game Preparation

Formatting

The formatting, in general, was great. On average there is a paragraph of description for the DM to read out loud and the whole module is well-written and easy to understand.

All of the relevant creature statblocks are included in the module for ease. There are even some statblocks that are moved next to their relevant room in the module which was a great call since it was a gauntlet-style encounter they were involved in.

There are a few homebrew mechanics that were created for the module such as the chess game and the shields for the exhibit enclosures. There’s at least an entire page for each of these mechanics dedicated to breaking them down and explaining them thoroughly.

I’m generally a little worried when I see homebrew mechanics, but the module does a great job of explaining them. I had no issues with either mechanics, and we had an especially fun time with the chess game.

Time Tracking

There are also a fair number of DM notes that track the time elapsed for the playtesting group. I hadn’t seen this tracked and included in a module before, but I honestly really appreciated it.

Typically when I run an adventure module for a one-shot I want the module to last about one session. Most of the time I estimate incorrectly and wind up using 1 or 2 extra sessions to close out the module.

With Beastmaster’s Daughter, you know what sections take more time and you can add or remove parts of the module to fit the number of hours you’d like to play for pretty easily thanks to these estimations. In fact, there are even some suggestions in the module for parts to remove to speed up the module or additions to make to extend the module.

The DM notes say that the module takes a bit under 6 hours to complete cover-to-cover. My group ran the whole adventure and it took us roughly 5 hours, but they were able to bypass the random encounters in the swamp.

dnd beastmaster's daughter

How much time you spend in the swamp depends on how good your tracking skills are. Art by Adam Paquette.

Background Info

There isn’t a lot of background information needed to run the module. It essentially drops the players in a position where they’ve already accepted the job and are en-route to the Aldritch Research Centre & Zoo. It’s a one-shot. Cut to the chase and get to the action. There’s no need to roleplay the party taking the job from the board at the inn.

That being said, Beastmaster’s Daughter is easy enough to drop into a campaign as a side-job. You could put the request up on a job board and change a few things around to fit your setting and call it a day.

It’s a neat story that wraps itself up nicely. There are some plot hooks after the completion of the quest, but they’re also not demanding enough for you to further explore them should you choose not to.

Well, that is unless the party steals the amulet from Raven. That’s a good way for your party to make an enemy out of an all-powerful archmage.

Battle Maps

Depending on what happens when the party tracks down the gibbering mouther you may only need to make a single map for the swamp section. This is easy enough to make as it’s basically just a small island surrounded by water. It’s nothing fancy and easy enough to do yourself.

If your party is not fortunate enough to find the gibbering mouther’s slime trail they’ll find themselves have to run through a few random encounters. You may need a small map for these encounters as well, but this is just a simple battle map with maybe a few trees for flavor.

beastmaster's daughter D&D 5e

High-resolution map of the Aldritch Research Centre & Zoo by Dave B. Stevens.

The big map that you’ll need is the map of the research center. This is included in the PDF of the module for you to print out.

Originally when we played through this, the only copy of the research center map was included in the PDF. Dave has since given us a separate copy of it which you can find above. It perfectly fits a 60×43 map in Roll20 and looks great!

A good tip for those of you that would like to include dynamic lighting is to use the shape drawing tool and make a circle that encompasses the zoo areas (10-16) in the dynamic lighting layer. As a whole, it wasn’t difficult to add dynamic lighting to the new version of the map.

World Map

beastmaster's daughter dnd 5e

“The Aldritch Research Centre & Zoo is the group of buildings to the left of The Fen.” – Dave B. Stevens

Originally, the module was missing a world map. However, Dave also gave me a copy of a draft of the world map for where Beastmaster’s Daughter takes place (see above). The party starts their journey in Carlin Town and travels west down the road between the forest and The Fen to the Aldritch Research Centre & Zoo.

Version 1.2 of Beastmaster’s Daughter will be available on DriveThruRPG and the DM’s Guild soon. This updated version will include some graphical edits as well as separate image files of the module’s maps.

Running the Module

Encounter Balance

We played with a party of 6 people using point buy to keep everyone at an average power level. With 6 being the maximum number of recommended players I expected to have to rebalance the encounters a bit. I was gladly mistaken!

Dave does an excellent job with not only balancing the encounters but scaling the encounters. I’m confident that I could run this module with any number of players between 3-6 and not need to tweak anything for it to be both fair and challenging.

Part of this is because of the ingenious encounter design of both the chess puzzle and the gauntlet. These are two encounters scale and balance themselves naturally. This is significant for balancing the module as a whole considering they’re two of the bigger encounters.

A big theme of the module is “choose your battles”. Not everything has to be slain, and combat isn’t the only solution to every encounter. There are creative solutions and many options for all of the encounters and it’s refreshing.

Storytelling

The story is simple, but fun. Raven Aldritch, the daughter of Wizard Aldritch, has been left as the caretaker of the facility since her father and some others went off to aid in a war effort. The facility is used to observe and learn about rare creatures that handlers capture from the surrounding area.

There are magical shields that are powered by switches that require her father’s amulet to control. Unfortunately, Raven is physically unable to retrieve the amulet herself due to protections that Wizard Aldritch installed. So, she sent out a notice after the thunderstorm and has been nervously waiting ever since.

There are guards, but Raven is the only real character that the party will be interacting with. Even then, she only has a small number of interactions with them. Mostly just giving them their quest, completing the quest, and she’s there to answer basic questions, but she doesn’t know much about the facility as she’s only able to enter very few rooms.

The image of the wizard will pop up every so often, but these aren’t roleplaying moments as it’s just the wizard taunting or warning the intruders.

If anything, most of the story is told by the setting and the encounters. Why has an archmage set up all of these protections? There are so many mysterious goings-on in the research center that the story is able to unfold on its own. It’s great!

The ending does provide the party with some choices when they hand in their quest. They have the option of handing everything in to get their reward, keeping the amulet, or giving the amulet and then stealing it. The party will make an enemy for life, though, if they do anything other than giving Raven the amulet.

DnD beastmaster's daughter WoW

You best believe I played some Kharazhan music during the chess encounter. Credit to Blizzard Entertainment.

The Chess Puzzle

The chess puzzle in room 2 of Beastmaster’s Daughter has got to be one of my favorite encounters of all time. At first glance, it looks pretty complicated. It’s got about 3 pages of rules, descriptions, and diagrams to explain it.

That being said, in one read-through I was confident that I understood the rules enough to run the encounter. Essentially, each character steps on a spot on the chessboard. They become the piece that resides in that space on the chessboard. You can be a rook, knight, bishop, queen, or king.

When a character has chosen their piece a copy of themselves is magically created on the opposite side of the board. They share all of the same stats, spells, features, and weapons. The two characters also share the same turn in the initiative order, but the copy that the DM controls goes after the PC.

Regular D&D 5e movement rules are thrown out the window. Instead, you play as your chess piece.

At first, I didn’t allow the players to use the Dash action, I realized about halfway through the encounter that they are actually allowed to do so. Admittedly it didn’t change a ton, but I actually preferred the encounter without the use of the Dash action. The map felt a little more intense with less movement being allowed.

The party does not have to kill the opposing pieces to complete the encounter, though they may certainly do so. All they have to do is get to the other side, but they won’t know that at first.

The Gauntlet

The gauntlet is a room that has 4 5×5 rooms in each corner that spawn a skeleton, zombie, or ghoul at the end of each turn. The party simply has to make it to the other side before they’re overwhelmed by the undead.

The catch, however, is that there’s a 13 ft. gap over a 60 ft. pit between the entrance and exit of the room. This means that a creature or character needs to have 13 strength to even attempt the jump naturally and they’ll need to make a second check to see if they land upright. 14+ strength allows a creature to clear the jump without any issues.

Considering my party only had 2 characters with sufficient strength they had to take some risks, use some rope, and be quick with their choices. One character had a very close call since the party tried to fight the creatures their first time around.

As I mentioned, the theme for this module is “pick your battles”. This is by far the best example of the theme. You’ll never be able to outmatch the undead head-on so you’ll need to either stall them or take some risks to get out of the room.

The creatures do not follow you outside of the gauntlet room, so you can keep resetting it if you’re having a tough time! The encounter will still drain your resources pretty heavily regardless.

The best part about the gauntlet isn’t the fact that there are so many choices to make and risks to take in a short amount of time. No, the best part is that you will have to go through it a second time because it’s the only way to enter and exit the room with the amulet.

owlbear beastmaster's daughter DnD

I don’t know how you could hurt one of these cute owlbears. Art by Chilier17.

Corralling the Hydra and Owlbear

Once the party has retrieved the amulet to power the enclosure shields and has returned power to the facility they are ready to capture the hydra and owlbear. Even though the hydra is wounded, the owlbear is still by far the easiest of the two to deal with.

The primary way to capture the creatures is to knock them unconscious like with the gibbering mouther earlier in the adventure. I say primary because my group was actually very clever with how they went about corralling the beasts.

Using magic, a solid Performance check from the bard, and great Animal Handling checks all-around I ruled that they were able to calm the owlbear. They were then able to basically lead it back into its enclosure and lock it in there easily enough.

Either way, for 6 players this isn’t a particularly hard combat encounter either. In fact, one of the suggestions to make the module more challenging is to have the petrified owlbear join its mate in the handler facility. This is up to you, but I wouldn’t do that unless you had a group of 6.

The hydra is much trickier. For starters, it is in the wrong enclosure so you’ll have to figure out a way to lead it out of there and into its proper place. Not only that, but its necks are long enough that they can reach inside of the handling station so trying to kite the creature around is very difficult.

A hydra is a nasty encounter, especially for level 3 characters. This one is wounded to a varying degree depending on how many players you have, but it will still give them a run for their money.

Final Thoughts on Beastmaster’s Daughter

Honestly, the only negative part of Beastmaster’s Daughter is its cover art. Though, if that’s turning you off from running the module you’re missing out on an extremely fun one-shot. Dave has also said that he’s taking the cover art into consideration for a future release he has in the works.

This module was really fun. It had some unique homebrew mechanics like the chess encounter that have seriously made a lasting impact on how I go about thinking up unique homebrew encounters and mechanics. I really cannot praise that encounter enough. It was by far the highlight of the game for everyone.

The module is well-written, well-formatted, and very creative. A DM of any experience level could pick this free module up and play with very little prep time required. I highly recommend playing it your group and checking out Dave’s other work on his website!

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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