D&D Review! A Manse of Special Purpose

EDIT 12/04/2020: I’ve been advised by the author that A Manse of Special Purpose did undergo a round of corrections in March, so be aware that some or all of the editorial errors referenced in this review may already be resolved.

Today’s post is a review of A Manse of Special Purpose, a tier 3 adventure by Jake Friday. Since the product is an adventure, the review cannot be considered completely spoiler-free. Therefore, non-DMs may wish to stop reading. 

A Manse of Special Purpose – cover


A Manse of Special Purpose is a 22-page adventure which includes 3 chapters and a 4-page appendix with an adventure flowchart and statblocks. As will be discussed under Quality, the product lacks art or maps, though I didn’t keenly feel the lack of either (the adventure lends itself to creative description, and the flowchart helps understand the layout). The price is Pay What You Want, with a suggested price of $2.99. It’s worth at least that! 



The design is clean and clear. It looks like a template has probably been used, in that it hews pretty close to the design of official products. As a matter of personal preference I love when third party products have their own identity, but I can’t fault anyone for choosing to use a template.

A Manse of Special Purpose – Preview.

There is no art in the adventure: the only images are two rough and ready diagrams and an adventure flowchart. Art is by no means essential for an adventure to be functional, but it can help break up text and improve reading flow, as well as enrich the experience for the reader and for players whom can be shown pictures of key locations, NPCs, etc. For future endeavours, I would recommend the author to check out the creator packs Wizards of the Coast have made available for free use in DMsGuild products. There are also many very affordable stock art pieces on DriveThruRPG.
The lack of images extends to maps: as per the General Notes section the adventure “relies on theater of the mind”. 
There are unfortunately numerous typographical, grammatical, formatting and layout issues interspersed throughout. To be clear, most of them won’t prevent you from understanding the text, with a couple of exceptions that require a closer reading (one example: three NPCs at the end of chapter 1 where the NPC names are right-aligned but not otherwise formatted any differently from regularly text, meaning you cannot find where each NPC’s section begins at a glance). It’d be well worth another editorial pass with fresh eyes. 
The author has made a conscious effort to consider the safety of players, recommending safety tools to handle potential triggers within the adventure’s horror-themed content, and flagging content warnings throughout the text. In particular, the adventure deals with themes of consent (illustrating the problematic nature of the Modify Memory spell).


A Manse of Special Purpose is an adventure for tier 3 (levels 11-16) adventurers. Given some of the extraplanar creatures they might meet, I would recommend erring on the side of caution and waiting until your party is at the higher end of this bracket unless it is particularly large. The adventure sees PCs explore the Anchorin Manse, home of the artifice Anchorin. Webster is fascinated by the mysteries of the multiverse and built a machine intended to reveal some of the secrets of the cosmos. Instead, it allowed a cosmic horror to pass through into the material plane. 
The introduction includes a synopsis, general notes about how the adventure has been presented by the designer), a detailed bullet point summary of the adventure background, and finally three possible adventure hooks.
The general notes section describes choices the designer has made in how they present the adventure. For instance, they’ve chosen not to use traditional boxed text. Whether that appeals to you depends how you feel about boxed text! Boxes are instead used in the same manner that other products might use a sidebar: to provide useful notes for the DM. A fine idea,  however this format is not used consistently throughout the adventure: for instance on page 3 there is a whole section called Taming the Furniture which is not in boxed text, but probably should be. It explores the designer’s thoughts about whether such a result would be possible. The ideas are suggestions, and non-conclusive. Theorising, and in such a conversational tone, seems like prime material for a box/side bar. Since it’s in the text of the adventure, it should instead provide explicit rules for how taming the animated objects could be achieved. 
Pay special attention to the adventure background – it’s detailed, and somewhat convoluted. In particular, at one point the primary antagonist is described switching bodies with a lookalike, and is thereafter referred to by the name of his assumed identity in this section and elsewhere in the adventure.
As far as the adventure hooks go, they’re all adequate for drawing your heroes into the adventure, but one of the three is in my opinion a lot more interesting than the others (it’s probably no surprise this one is the most detailed of the options). In any case,  you should have little trouble finding a way to draw your players in.
The adventure itself is broken into three chapters: 

Chapter 1: The Son, The Fool, and The Phony

In the first chapter, the PCs arrive in town to discover it besieged by animated objects with a unique origin that I won’t spoil. After overcoming this they meet Eccles, estranged son of Webster Anchorin. He was asked to return by the Mayor because the town has been under attack by furniture from the mans for weeks. Eccles wants to discover the fate of his family and, if the last survivor, collect his inheritance. But he needs the help of adventurers to deal with the dangers present in the manse.

Chapter 2: A Planar Preoccupation

In this, the the largest chapter, PCs explore the manse itself. Due to Webster Anchorin’s failed planar experiment, the manse has been fragmented across the planes, meaning that as the characters transition from room to room they will also find themselves moving between planes, dealing with environmental consequences of their new environments, and meeting residents and staff of the Anchorin manse who have been transformed by the planar energies connected to the room each was in at the time of the accident. This premise allows the designer to include a varied set of encounters which still feel connected. The adventure has a bunch of cool set pieces which should be a lot of fun for players to interact with. Some of the weirdness borders on the creepy, which is appropriate considering the overall theme of cosmic horror, but the adventure includes some notes on dialing this down if concerned. 
A Manse of Special Purpose – Preview

Chapter 3: Leaving Loose Ends

In the final chapter your PCs will find their way into the antagonist’s laboratory, face the cosmic entity known as the Sentience, and decide what to do with the planar machine: either try to control it, or destroy it. 


Finally, an appendix includes a flowchart which illustrates possible paths through the manse, which is very useful considering there is no map of the interior. The appendix also includes three pages of statblocks. Curiously, the most powerful unique creatures created for the purposes of this adventure were given no CR. To be fair, CR is a pretty inadequate measure in any case, but it’s something. You don’t even have a rough yardstick here: it’s always a good idea to compare their features to the capabilities of your party anyway, but here you’ll have to. On paper, I think these creatures have some nasty looking features, but I suspect that the Sentience is a bit of a glass cannon. 
A Manse of Special Purpose – Adventure Flowchart


Final Thoughts and Rating

+ + =    
14 out of 20! A great hit!

A Manse of Special Purpose is a creative and fun adventure! It leaves some things to be desired in terms of editing and presentation, but you should find this leads to only a few comprehension issues. The formatting could easily be cleaned up and comprehension thereby improved, and I do hope the designer takes another pass at it to present this adventure in its best possible light.  

The final word: An entertaining planar-themed mansion-crawl from the mind of Jake Friday, A Manse of Special Purpose is slightly marred by some issues with formatting and presentation, but these should be easily fixed. And until that update, a careful reading of the text pre-play should clear up any confusions. A Manse of Special Purpose is available on DMsGuild now!