RogerBW's Blog

Thoughts on The Lightless Beacon 10 November 2019

The Lightless Beacon is an adventure by Leigh Carr with Lynne Hardy, released to commemorate the death of Greg Stafford. I recently ran it for Whartson Hall. Spoilers.

Generally it holds together, but – particularly since it's written for novice GMs and players – there are some things I think could be better expressed. For example, the first clue:

A successful Spot Hidden roll reveals small, muddy, animal-like footprints in front of the main cottage door but, beneath these, are distinct boot prints, only partially obscured by the overlaying track marks. A successful Natural World or Science (Biology or Zoology) roll concludes that the small footprints appear duck-like in nature; a Hard success suggests that there is something unusual about these footprints, as if they may be from an as yet unidentified species.

The party fixated on the duck-like nature of the prints. It might have helped if somewhere the adventure had said that these (being the prints of the you-know-what) are closer in size to the footprints of a human child.

There's a body to be found on the island, but it's described only as "in the thicket", which occupies the entire rear area of the place. Some clue as to just where in the thicket it should be found would be helpful.

Why on Earth is anyone bothering to maintain two jetties on a tiny island, where boats only call every few weeks with supplies and replacement crew? (My players never even found the second one, and it doesn't have much plot significance except to give them an escape boat without making it available at the start. Though chances are they have their lifeboat anyway.)

Most importantly, the introduction has the PCs being put into a rowing boat from a sinking coastal steamer, and arriving at the lighthouse as it's the nearest bit of land. But what about other passengers? Shouldn't some of them be aiming for this island too, rather than going an uncertain distance towards the mainland? Are there any other passengers? What about the crew?

The adventure doesn't, to me, feel particularly Lovecraftian. There are clues to be found and pieced together, and that's great, but the climax is a fight against monsters that will happen whether or not they've worked out what was going on (and if the players don't already know the significance of Innsmouth – to be fair, that's probably not many players these days – it'll make no sense at all). It doesn't help that the party is desperately under-armed for a physical confrontation, and has no other means of solving the problem. There also aren't many opportunities for sanity loss.

It's OK, I guess, and it made a decent evening filler, but there's a lot more that could have been done with a little more effort.

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