Screams at Sunset is an adventure by Jeff C. Stevens. The level of the adventure is not specified but I believe it’s meant for low level characters.
While traveling, the characters hear someone screaming. If they decide to investigate they will discover something more than just raiders.
The story of the adventure is pretty good. It contains enough backstory so you can easily continue it if you want. Also, it can be combined with another adventure by Jeff, called The Throne of Bone.
The characters are thrown into action with a combat encounter right from the beginning. I like that because it’s a good way to turn the focus of the players into the game when the session begins. While it can be difficult sometimes, this solves it pretty easily.
The adventure provides chances for roleplaying as well as combat. And what should be mentioned is that these chances are spread evenly in the adventure so the players won’t be bored by one or the other.
The combat encounters are fairly balanced and make good use of the environment they take place in. The roleplaying can be easily avoided if the players are not into it but it can award them with information and inspiration. A few NPCs are provided, with enough detail to give the DM an idea of their personalities but not so much that would tire them. Moreover, the trap/puzzle provided is quite fun. Depending the actions of the players, it can be quite easy but also can kill them.
The final area the characters will visit can be approached with a couple of ways. If they try a head on approach it may end up being a combat heavy situation. Sneak is also an option but the characters should be careful who they don’t confront since there’s always the chance the enemies can hear them later and they may end up surrounded.
What I liked the most, however, is the fact that the “boss” can too be approached with a number of ways. In this situation negotiating is an available choice. And that becomes even better since the “boss” is a bugbear. Jeff fleshed out an interesting NPC that not only can be used elsewhere if you want but will also make you think outside of the box when creating NPCs from now on.
But the negotiations do not end there. Since the treasure found in the end is an inheritance belonging to one of the NPCs, there’s a chance they may claim all or part of it. What will the characters do? Will they negotiate for a bigger cut, leave it all for the NPC or follow the good old “kill and loot everything and not necessarily in that order” path?
The layout and editing of the product are good. The maps provided are simple and depict the areas the characters may visit with enough detail. Also, they are provided individually as image files in case you want to print them.
I can’t help but talk about one more thing, since I’ a really big fan of lore. The adventure features goblinoids, meaning goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears. It is known that usually the leader positions are filled by the industrial hobgoblins. In this adventure, the leader of this group of goblinoid raiders is a quite sophisticated bugbear. I don’t know if that was a conscious decision by Jeff but I liked it. In D&D, rules and story are there to help us and not hold back our imagination.
So this creates a series of questions. Is this just a world where bugbears are on the top of the goblinoid family? Is this the only raid party lead by a bugbear? If yes, did it force itself on the top or did it use other, more subtle, ways?
Ultimately, Screams at Sunset is an excellent adventure. I consider it one of Jeff’s best products.