Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module this week, but instead I hope to have the second part of the review up next week. If you haven’t read the first part, the link to it is here.
This post isn’t a review, instead, it’s just a collection of quick thoughts on running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module before. The primary difference between this and review is that I view these more as areas where I screwed up running the module, and where doing things differently would have been more fun for the players. As such, this post is mostly intended for game masters intending to run the module. So without reading the actual module, this article may not be very useful for you.
The module itself can be bought here, on the DM’s guild.
1. Don’t be afraid to use Sei as part of the investigation.
-I’m always afraid of having NPC’s do too much in games. Its something I need to work on. With that said, the way I ran things, it was almost like he wasn’t there. If I were to do this again, I would try to make him a more active part of the game, especially if I was to run the module as few players as I did. Sei and their lore is a fairly key component to the module, and by downplaying them too much, I think I made things a lot more complex then they needed to be.
2. Actively monitor party resources.
Again, more on me then the module. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to how much HP/Spells/etc my players had. The module isn’t a met grinder, but it is punishing, and with exhaustion and other mechanics in play, it can become very easy to accidentally overestimate how much more the party can take without a short rest.
3. Let the players know that they have options to really explore the castle.
This is honestly my biggest regret. I’m pretty sure it’s how I ran the module, but when collecting feedback at the end, many of my players said they felt railroaded. Here’s the thing: Secrets is very, very open ended. Every room in the castle has a description and something to find in it. There are servants to talk to, a bathhouse to visit, and a small garden and pond. Each of these also has clues and information about the cause of the Yokai infestation. Players really can just wander and explore. If I was to run the module again, I think I would do a short tour of the castle, then have the NPC’s tell the players they can inspect wherever they want, and leave them.
These were my big three take aways. I expect to finish running the module next weekend, and after that I’ll post my final review of it. Hopefully these notes help anyone who ends up deciding to send folks on an adventure of their own!