Eberron is still largely new territory for me. It was officially released when I was on a very long hiatus from D&D (which was between 3.0 and just before 5E). This means that sometimes I get that same feeling I got when I found my brother’s AD&D books in a closet. It’s a feeling of discovery and not a little wonder. So, an “introductory adventure” into Eberron is useful to a guy like me. I need to be formally introduced despite having already gone to Eberron once. Let’s see if Sharn, The Missing Schema by Elven Tower can give me a good feel for the campaign setting.
Sharn, The Missing Schema
Writer: Derek Ruiz (Elven Tower)
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 50 pages; also includes a printer friendly version, a maps/props zip file, and a truncated Council of Roaches PDF
Sharn, The Missing Schema is an adventure for 1st to 5th level characters that follows the standard lost treasure and retrieval format. A professor hires the PCs to retrieve a lost schema before it falls into the wrong hands.The party will descend into the depths of Sharn to find this artifact and deliver it safely back to the professor. Along the way they will encounter unscrupulous guides, some horrid rats, and homonculi. Then the real adventure starts.
You see, something happens when the group returns the schema. It gets stolen. Then the group has to decide whether it’s in their interest to recover it again. If not, the adventure is over and you can all go home now. But, hopefully, the group gives chase and pursues the thieves.
This adventure was a bit different from most others I have seen. The author is clearly very knowledgeable of Eberron and conveys that knowledge to the reader. Using blueprints (schemas) as the MacGuffin is an interesting idea. Usually the item to retrieve is a weapon or ring or religious idol. You get where I’m going. Retrieving a schema has no use for the PCs unless they decided to betray their benefactor and sell it to someone else. Either way, it’s unlikely that the PCs will want this item for themselves.
Reading Sharn, The Missing Schema was not easy. There were some confusing passages where I had reread not only the passage but the sentences around the confused text to gather context to make sure I understood the author’s intent. I understand that English is not Derek’s first language so I don’t know if maybe some idioms don’t translate well or what.
Also, there is a lot of read aloud text. Too much. Most of the read aloud text is descriptive and sometimes tedious. For example,
Northedge is the most residential of Sharn’s quarters. The upper wards contain penthouses and mansions near the tower tops and tightly packed apartments in the middle and bottom regions. The quarter is quiet in comparison to the Downstairs ward and other lower wards you have seen; there is little commerce and crime.
That’s one paragraph of the 7 from one section of read aloud text. Derek establishes himself as an expert on Eberron. He knows a lot about the setting, that much is clear. But an entire campaign setting cannot be effectively communicated to players via read aloud text. The best way for players to learn the setting is either through repeated exposure or to go read a guide in their own time.
The art is sourced from DMs Guild Creator Resources so it is professional quality and ideal for this module. Elven Tower supplied the maps and other illustrations and those are amazing! The maps don’t get unnecessarily complex either. Just a few rooms each and enough aesthetic to keep the theme but not bog itself down in minutiae. The formatting is consistent and intuitive
From a mechanics perspective, I liked The Missing Schema. I also liked some of the encounters, particularly the Red Jackals early on. However, I’m missing the urgency that the PCs should feel to retrieve the schema a second time though after it’s stolen. Of course the players would want to pursue the thieves since it’s clear that there is more adventure ahead. But what about the characters. Would they care? Should they care? Then once they do get to where they can recover the schema once again the BBEG states that he and his crew are the good guys. Unless there’s someone available who can detect alignment, the PCs may be compelled to believe him. If they do, the DM will need to adjust. The PCs aren’t supposed to believe this man.
I don’t know. It just felt like one plot twist or misdirection too many.
Sharn, The Missing Schema is a great resource for teaching someone about Sharn itself. But it’s not wonderful for an adventure. It’s fun. But there is a lot here for an adventure that feels fairly light. It’s a source book that wants to also be an adventure. The art and extra downloads are convenient to have. You can print them out or load them up in Roll20. If you decide to run this adventure just remember that this one will be quicker than it may seem. It’s a long module but it’s a relatively short play once you get through the read aloud text, maps, and props.
Thanks, Elven Tower, for the review copy of Sharn, The Missing Schema!