I had the opportunity to DM a playtest of Richard Green’s Whispers of the Dark Daeva for his magnificent setting, Parsantium. The version we had was for D&D 5e. There is another version for Pathfinder. This cannot be a full review as the adventure is still in pre-production, but what I can give is my impressions of the work so far.
Parsantium is a fantasy setting with usual suspects of high magic and expected fantasy races. Where Parsantium is significantly different from the usual high-fantasy fare is in its cultural setting. It is based on a fictionalised Constantinople of roughly 900 to 1,000AD. Access to other expected cultures such as Indian and Chinese are present, and a fictionalised monotheistic culture to the south is a Caliphate and is clearly designed to draw in Arabian Nights sensibilities. The Parsantium setting is a well-realised world, primarily focussed on the city itself at this time. There is a tantalising back story reaching some 2,000 years with clues enough to build some spectacular story-arcs. The clues are already there. Parsantium is clearly a labour of love, and it shows – in a good way.
Whispers of the Dark Daeva is the first official adventure written by Richard and its sets up beginning players and GMs with several cues to get into the setting. In brief, the story calls for the adventurers to be drawn into an investigation. This can be for a private citizen or it could be for the authorities. This latter was the way our game developed. There have been murders… and someone is responsible. There are thrilling chases, brushes with the law, the ubiquitous dungeon crawl, and a boss encounter that if you’ve been playing it right, is very difficult for more reasons than just hit points.
The playtest version is 55 pages long with only supporting illustrations (maps) not finished art. The layout is clear with sections clearly and usefully titled. At the beginning there is a scenario introduction and an introduction to the overall setting. This is useful as it sets the scene for players in what is probably their first contact with the setting. The introductions set the scene for further adventures and raise questions for inquisitive players. This is all done clearly and succinctly.
Stats for monsters and NPC are nicely set out with the relevant information available in a way that is easy to consume. Layers of clues and a progression from discovery to discovery reads well. Tension builds well and on several occasions our group of characters did not expect to live. The conclusion was tense and satisfying.
Whispers of the Dark Daeva will suit players and DMs that are looking for a little more cerebral kind of play. The plot is not difficult, and there is plenty of opportunity for sword play. Magic users and thieves will not be left out either. But the setting itself means that a party that expects an anarchic world where they can turn up and loot and murder will find themselves in a lot of trouble. Parsantium is a civilised city, with a functioning bureaucracy and a City Watch who’s job does not extend to being cannon fodder. Involving themselves in this hunt for the cause of the mysterious deaths means dealing with functionaries in conversational ways.
Even without this being a finished product, and with some development still to go, I was more than satisfied with exposing this to the players. And they enjoyed both the general setting and this scenario is particular to want to immerse themselves more. That’s a good recommendation.
Look out for it is my advice, and buy it when you can.