I don’t have degree in literature or any sort of fine arts. But I love old “classics” so when I saw a quote from Poe’s The Haunted Palace on the introduction page of Secrets of the Blind Palace, I was sure I was about to read something compelling and engaging. I wasn’t wrong. As with Poe, I found Tal Aviezer‘s writing intriguing, atmospheric, and page-turning.
Secrets of the Blind Palace
Writer: Tal Aviezer
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 42 pages
What good is a mute bard? Perhaps not much. No vicious mockery, hideous laughter, or cutting words? You might as well take away a barbarian’s foul temper or a wizard’s spellbook. Sure, they can get by, but at a severe handicap. However, a bard who cannot speak may be…instrumental after all. Sufficiently curious? So was I.
Some decades back, the Blind Palace was a pleasure dome known as Brightblossom. After several years of corruption and curses, Brightblossom was abandoned and soon fell into disrepair. Left alone to her devices and machinations, Grey Maggie, a night hag, became the de facto freeholder. Though abandoned, the Blind Palace was not forgotten and Grey Maggie was able to trick a local nobleman into seeking out the ruin’s storied fortunes. He gathered together an adventuring party to journey to the savage place. It would be his last adventure. That is unless your players agree to help the Von Croft family who is trying to hire them to recover their son, Wilhelm, and resurrect him. The mute bard is the only surviving member of that party and the family is willing to force her into accompanying them to the Blind Palace. Hopefully the party agrees to let her come along.
Travel to the palace is uneventful but once inside, the real mysteries begin. I don’t want to spoil things so I’ll be as circumspect as I can be. Recovering Wilhelm Von Croft’s body isn’t going to be a straight-forward waltz into a dungeon where you kill all the baddies and then tango out with the corpse. For starters, the party only has 24 hours to complete the mission. If they need a long rest they can kiss 8 hours of that goodbye. Additionally, abandoned doesn’t mean empty. There is a lot here to occupy the heroes. An indifferent porter (he may attack, he may not), ghosts hoping you’ve saved the last dance for them, traps, guardians, and illusions abound. And time is running out.
Will the players defeat Grey Maggie? Will they find Wilhelm? If so, will they resurrect him? And more importantly, what is to become of that mute bard, Katherine Chamber? What role did she play in this?
The aesthetics of this product are counter to what we’re used to seeing these days. There is no parchment background and there are no bookmarks in the PDF. But I found that to be part of its charm. The minimalism of the production seems to say, “here, enjoy this content and don’t let flashy bells and whistles distract you”. The players have a lot of flexibility in their decisions with each encounter—which, by the way, are easily adjusted for difficulty based on APL (average party level)—so there is minimal railroading to be had. Great exploration and role-playing opportunities regardless of a player’s character type or disposition.
That same minimalism goes for the maps too. They’re not as stark as others I’ve seen, but it’s clear that Aviezer wanted the focus to be on the adventure. And it works. The compelling ending will leave your players in a moral quandary. And no matter what they decide, there may be repercussions. At your discretion, of course. Blind Palace is a great adventure in the horror genre without falling into gore fest tropes. It’s not going to cause nightmares, but it is nonetheless chilling and haunting. Most importantly, it’s an adventure you’ll love running as much as your players will love playing it.
- gripping reading, no small feat for adventure writing
- clever NPCs with believable motivations and personalities
- easily scalable encounters to fit almost any party of 3 to 7 players
- separate PNG downloads for the high-res maps
- the minimalist aesthetic may disappoint some buyers