Quick Look: The Hallowing of Ground
AUTHOR: Paul Lytle
Year Published: 2022
A vampire spawn is loose in town. Help is too far away. And it’s way too strong for your party to beat it. But that is exactly what you need to do. Somehow.
The Hallowing of Ground is an adventure for 1st level characters that will pit your party against a villain that has the advantage in every way. Except that you have an entire village as your resource, and there must be some way to even the odds.
Designed as a puzzle with multiple solutions, your party will search for ways to weaken the vampire spawn before the inevitable confrontation. And then they will learn if their efforts were enough.
For those of you who are into DMing 5E DnD, you may have encountered a problem similar to what I have over the past few years, namely a lack of good content for level 1 characters ; Many campaign source books / downloads offer a somewhat restricted recommended starting level for PCs.
This includes even “official” source material from WotC, using a base level of 3 for starting characters often times, with limited plot loops for players under this threshold.
Consequently, DMs are offered one of two choices :
- A) Find a fun entertaining way to get new PC’s up to level in an engaging manner, or
B)Automatically have players start at the minimum recommended level.
Option B is never fun for me. I will always take the former alternative to the latter.
The problem is that it can be hard to find good material for level 1 characters.
With the open licensing now offered by WotC for content creators, this problem has somewhat rectified itself to a degree, with more options available than when I started 5E circa 2014, and there are more level 1 modules available than before, but another problem generally persists in the other materials that I have paid for and printed out ; too many of these “adventures” are nothing more than quick grinds that involve bashing skeletons, rats, giant mosquitos, and other small nuisances as a means of quickly powering up, and almost none (exactly zilch of what I have personally tried) offers meaningful narrative that can easily and excitingly connect to a much broader encompassing (or more focused) storyline.
So when Paul Lytle offered me a chance to check out his new level 1 adventure, The Hallowing of Ground, I was initially not sure if undertaking a review would be a good use of my time. After all, I already have several level 1 adventures printed out should I ever need them, and even a book with quick adventures for all levels. Would I truly end up needing more of what was presumably the same sort of thing?
Consequently, I did offer to simply “look” at the material being offered for review, without committing to actually reviewing it.
But in the final scope of things, what I saw in my first few minutes quickly assuaged my doubts and misgivings, proving to me that The Hallowing of Ground was indeed worthy of consuming my all-too-precious-and-limited printer ink.
Without going into spoilers for non-DM’s, here is what I observed that make it worth adding to your collection :
This is the first module that in my 5E experience (I am not saying that such material is not already out there) puts players up against a very powerful and meaningful level 5 threat right at the beginning stages and setup of the play session.
But that is not to say that the aim of the material is to punish players in an overpowering fashion similar to Tomb of Horrors.
Because Paul Lytle truly understands that the true aim of the DM is never to simply kill PC’s for the fun of it. The ultimate goal is to shepherd players into an experience that feels like “the real thing”, with an exposition that pulls people in and makes them look for solution to their dilemmas.
And the primary villain is indeed powerful enough to slay the players outright , but again, being directly pitted against this foul being is not the point. The creator of this setting has created a powerful backstory for this particular adversary, with a troubled and intriguing past, and with such grand manipulative skills that players will not necessarily ever realize who is pulling their strings.
Of equal relevance is that players are presented with many paths to defeat this evil that would normally be able to instantly overwhelm them, but none of these options feel “cheesy” or cliché at all (grab this magical sword from this stone to slay this beast!). There are some rather cerebral (though not necessarily puzzley) approaches that can be required of players, which is something that I greatly appreciate.
There is also of course the possibility that crafty players can devise their own solutions thanks to the encouraging and open-ended direction that is provided.
In support of this story are a multitude of NPCs that feel right at home in this world. Each of the locations and interactive characters are well-described and fit right in, further encapsulating players into this world.
The crafter of this adventure is also kind enough to present an easy way to scale the threat level should there be players who are above the recommended level of 1.
And again, upon completion , I do find that this adventure can easily lead into other campaign material rather easily (Ravenloft / Strahd seems perhaps most immediately likely, but this is just one possibility).
In a nutshell, I think the Hallowing of Ground is worth adding to your collection if you are a DM troubled and plagued by a lack of creative content available for low level characters. I know that this is going to be one adventure that I keep tucked away in my trove for safekeeping for sure now that I have printed it out!
is available for purchase using a Pay What You Want model, with a suggestion of $3. Check it out and pick up yours’ HERE.
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.