Friday, 23 August 2019

Review - The Proving Glade

After a brief hiatus I'm back tonight with my review of The Proving Glade.
The Proving Glade is a Level 4-5 adventure by Jonathan Ball one of the co-authors of the D&D Duets series.

The Proving Glade is a quick (14 page) one shot adventure that is more exploration than combat themed (although there is combat to be had) as the player(s) search for a missing hunter and a many mouthed beast dwelling in the forest.  The adventure proper is laid out in three distinct chapters.  The first is primarily focused on exploring the forest with a variety of woodland encounters.  The second chapter is comprised of two encounters that require the player(s) to make choices about how to overcome some obstacles.  Traditionally these are the kind of  'moral choice' type of encounter that video games like to throw in to add a 'are you good or are you evil?' measure that ultimately doesn't mean anything, I'm pleased to say that this is implemented to much greater impact and effect (whether the player realises it immediately or not) and should be a pair of fun encounters for the player(s) and something that will be equally as satisfying for the DM.  The final chapter starts with a role-play encounter that really lays on the theme and the flavour of the setting and then concludes with the showdown with this adventure's big bad.  This final chapter is where the player(s) earlier moral choices will come to reward or punish them.

Once again the Ball family has used the new Sidekick mechanic to to support their small-party/solo play style and it works really well within the narrative here.

The Proving Glade has classic fantasy-story vibe about it, and in spite of being relatively combat-lite manages to integrate a good number of classic D&D monsters into it's encounters.

If you're looking for an easy-to-run one-shot that is hiding some surprising depth under it's straight-forward veneer please check out The Proving Ground available from DMsGuild at  https://www.dmsguild.com/product/284455/The-Proving-Glade?affiliate_id=1869853

-Jay

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Review - A Night In Seyvoth Manor (5e version)

Today I'm taking a look at an adventure originally written for the 4th edition of D&D that got an update to 5th edition last year; A Night In Seyvoth Manor.

A Night In Seyvoth Manor is labelled as a "challenge adventure" on it's cover.  I wasn't sure what that meant but was very happy to find out that it's structured a lot like the older tournament modules in that it has a time limit and a scoring system to measure a group's success (or failure).

The titular Seyvoth Manor is basically a villain's haunted house that has two recently abducted innocents that the party is trying to recover before they are lost forever.

The adventure has a lot going for it and depending on what you value different DMs may find appeal in different aspects.  As I mentioned at the start I really do enjoy running groups though tournament style modules as it creates a different dynamic for the players and can create that rare example of D&D play where player's can feel like they're "winning".  As a big movie and horror fan I also really liked all the subtle (and not so subtle) references to classics of the genre spread throughout the adventure.  The adventure contains a number of breakout boxes labelled 'trivia' that will lay out those references so you will understand all of them even if you don't immediately pick them up on your own.  The room maps are brilliant, in addition to being graphically appealing if you purchase the PDF they could easily be blown up into battle maps if your preferred play-style includes miniatures.  The challenges vary from room-to-room and the mix of problem solving and combat encounters should appeal to almost everyone.  Overall I think most groups would enjoy this adventure and find it challenging and fun in equal measure.

Having said all of that I did have a few issues with the adventure.  First up on page 3 of the adventure it references "Several different types of cards are included in this adventure", the cards are in fact not included but are required to play the adventure.  The cards are available either as a PDF or as a physical purchase to be bought separately.  The PDF is a great offering from the author but in my case (I live in Canada) the physical cards were cost prohibitive as the two options would have cost me $40 or $50 each factoring in shipping and exchange.  If you're good with the PDFs this is a non issue.  My other major issue was that I made the mistake of only purchasing the print version of the adventure, the adventure contains 17 separate maps of the rooms and grounds around Seyvoth Manor but does not include 1 map showing the entirety of the manor.  What this means is that each small map includes notations on where it links to the next map (or maps) in sequence but the text is very small in some cases and without the ability to increase the size (as I would be able to with the PDF) it's a bit hard for me to piece together.  My final issue with the adventure is minor but other than the maps and the cover the adventure contains no art.  For many players and DMs this will be a non-issue but for me personally I always find art helps set the mood and immerse me in the setting.

Overall I would still recommend A Night In Seyvoth Manor but I would strongly recommend buying the PDF rather than the print version as that would somewhat address my maps issue.

A Night In Seyvoth Manor is currently available from Drivethrurpg at https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/253742/A-Night-in-Seyvoth-Manor-DnD-5E

-Jay

Friday, 9 August 2019

Review - In The Heart Of The Forest

Historically I've been a DM who runs a lot of games in contained interior (dungeons, haunted houses, etc) environments.  I was never much of a fan of outdoor settings until the release of Castles Forlorn for Ravenloft in 2nd Edition.  Castles Forlorn introduced a struggle between druids and the undead.  The forces of nature versus the unnatural forces of undeath made for a great fantasy/horror story that captured the classic flavour of Dungeons & Dragons while being set against a new backdrop.  This started my appreciation for druidic stories in D&D.

Today I'm looking at In The Heart Of The Forest, the latest adventure from Beth Ball.

One of the first things I'd like to call out here is the fact that Beth Ball has previously co-authored a series of adventures intended for 1 player and 1 DM.  With In The Heart Of The Forest the author has applied the new Sidekick mechanic to continue to accommodate that one-on-one style of play.

Onto the adventure itself.
The adventure is a tight 3 chapters featuring an ancient pact and as I was alluding to (although it might have seemed like rambling) at the start of this post a conflict between the forces of nature and undeath.  I really liked the theme and the exposition was handled really well through a combination of exploration and investigation book-ended by a simple hostile encounter at the very beginning and a more complex encounter at the end.  The adventure can easily be run in one sitting but is populated with enough NPCs that it could be dropped into an existing campaign and teased well ahead of play.  I also personally liked the fact that the adventure has it's own internal history and mythology that is not linked to any particular outside world, this means the adventure can easily be dropped into any campaign setting with a forest in it.  With the recent rise in popularity of The Old Margreve setting I could easily see this fitting in there or possibly Forfar or Sithicus if you're a Ravenloft fan like me.

In The Heart Of The Forest does a great job of mixing high fantasy and some light horror elements.  The adventure is currently available from DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/284452/In-the-Heart-of-the-Forest?term=in+the+heart+  Not only would I recommend In The Heart Of The Forest for players and DMs looking for a quick forest adventure but it would be great for a DM to have prepped in their back pocket for one of those sessions where your whole group doesn't attend and you need something you can run on the fly.

-Jay

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Review - Wolf Lord Of Yol

Today I'm looking at Wolf Lord Of Yol a D&D adventure for characters of 7th-8th level currently available from DMsGuild.

Wolf Lord Of Yol is a sandbox adventure, which is a style I'm personally a big fan of and provides a surprisingly large and fully realised sandbox for an adventure that is a mere 44 pages in length.  Normally I wouldn't consider 44 pages 'short' but when you read through this book you'll be surprised that the amount of content you're getting was realised in only 44 pages.

Wolf Lord Of Yol really makes the most of its sandbox format by having an underlying story running throughout the entire adventure while letting the players discover what's going on through a number of avenues.  One of the things I enjoyed the most about how uncovering information is handled is that there is a TON of background information available but what the PCs find out will depend heavily on which skills they use to uncover information not just whether or not they are making successful checks.  The adventure proper takes the PCs through villages, woods, ruins and catacombs and provides a great mix of both combat and social encounters.  I don't want to spoil any details for potential players but I will also say that this adventure starts off and moves through most of the plot in a very grounded way for a D&D adventure before substantially moving upward into 'epic' adventuring territory.  I really see the big picture as being really rewarding for player's and making their actions feel important and substantive.

From a design point of view Wolf Lord Of Yol could easily be used as an example of how adventures should be written.  The cover advertises the adventure as "Part 1 of the Yol Valley Saga" which is the kind of thing we've all seen in the past from authors planning to write a linked series of modules but The Yol Valley Saga starts servicing that intention in this, it's first adventure.  The adventure highlights and breaks out notes on which encounters and outcomes will be follow-up or touched-on in future adventures in the series.  For me that really conveys a sense that there is a larger plan in place that the authors are working towards, rather than just linking some separate writings.  I also found the adventure visually very appealing with a lot of terrific cartography and some great artwork.

When I'm looking for adventures on DMsGuild to run for my group I usually base my choices on theme and current group level but I have to say even if my group wasn't level appropriate for this adventure I could easily see myself using the Yol Valley as flushed out in this adventure as a backdrop or locale for other adventures while teasing the story of Wolf Lord Of Yol to run down the road.

Wolf Lord Of Yol is currently available from DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/283965/Wolf-Lord-of-Yol?term=wolf+lord  I highly recommend the adventure and at the time of this writing I have to say my only real criticism of the product is that I'm now left waiting for the next chapter in the Yol Valley Saga.

-Jay

Monday, 5 August 2019

Modrons

Last night I quickly knocked out WizKids Drone pack for D&D.

These are one of those weird monsters that have been around for a long time but to be honest I have never used them in a game.  Having said that I picked up an adventure from DriveThruRPG about a year ago that featured drones as the primary antagonists.




These guys are neat and as a non-scary monster will fit in pretty well with any games I want to run with Zoe.

Does anybody out there have any experiences with these critters?  Any stories to tell?  After 35+ years experience with D&D I have surprisingly have no history or anecdotes to share about these monsters.

-Jay

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Wardlings

A while (quite a while now that I think of it) I spoke briefly of WizKids pre-painted Wardlings line.  The core concept of the Wardlings line is pre-teen adventurers packaged with animal companions/familiars.  As much as I'm generally not a fan of pre-painted figures I really liked the idea of young, but not childish, heroes and the animal companions fit very well with some fantasy books my daughter was reading at launch time.  After two rounds of quality releases the line was pretty thorough and they definitely needed to make a change to continue expanding.  My thought was that they would start adding demi-human characters but I got swerved and instead WizKids started adding monster/encounter packs.  This was very clearly a better choice.

The funny thing for me is that when I initially bought into the Wardlings line my thinking was that I would use the characters as PCs and NPCs in games with my daughter but my first 2 "monster" packs are for conventional games I play with my adult friends.

First up I got a treeman.

There are a ton of really good Treeman figures out there across a ton of price points and cast in every material miniatures are made from so it can be hard to come up with a unique take but WizKids did!  For starters the foliage is denser than normal for these types of figures but works really well and adds some colour to spice things up.  The other significant addition are the small woodland creatures living in/on the Treeman.  I don't know why, but for me the 2 cardinals and the bunny really add to it for me.  Alongside the Treeman I based up one of the animal companions that came packaged with a young Druid figure.  I thought this was a cute little woodland or fey creature.  I might use it as a Blight or it might be useful for my upcoming Old Margreve game.  We'll see....

Next up two ghosts.

As soon as I saw this pack I thought it would be perfect for many Ravenloft adventures and in particular might be good representations of the two kids in the Death House.  For a change (for me) when using macro photography, I found these figures were cooler than I initially thought when I saw the pictures.  The miniatures are translucent with some slight shading, but, and this is cool to me because it's sort of backwards from how painters normally paint ghosts, the eyes are solid paint and are the only non-translucent part of the miniatures.  I think the effect is really interesting and a change from the norm

Well there we go.  I can't claim to have painted these.  I really just based them and they're good to go.

-Jay

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Review - Warriors Of Sehanine

Today's review is Warriors Of Sehanine a D&D adventure for characters of 3rd-5th level.

The two things that initially drew me to Warriors Of Sehanine were the amazing visual presentation and the all-star creative team behind the project.

The cover is beautiful and atmospheric, the rendering of the two characters on the cover reminded me of the best of 2nd edition cover art and I particularly liked the use of the firefly jar as a lantern.  In addition I should point out that this module is 38 total pages and includes full colour art or maps to this same standard on 15 of those 38 pages, this is honestly one of the most visually appealing products I've gotten from DMsGuild to date.

The creative team made this an easy choice for me as well as two of the credited writers are Ashley Warren (Winter's Splendor, Labyrinth Of Thorns, Uncaged) and JVC Parry (Call From The Deep) both of whom have produced material that I have previously given 5 star reviews to on DMsGuild and have produced some absolutely fantastic material that I have enjoyed in the past.

Beyond the visual elements and the reputation of the creative team I have to say that Warriors Of Sehanine is an extremely interesting and challenging adventure where the characters are tasked with rescuing two children while overcoming a Black Dragon.  While the premise of the adventure is on it's surface quite simple the layering built in with; various NPC motivations, as well as some interesting forest encounters, rival factions that can change the level of difficulty, as well as something of a ticking clock element give this adventure a lot more depth that it's page count might initially lead you to believe.

The background for the adventure is set firmly in the Forgotten Realms but it wouldn't take much effort to rework the module into another fantasy forest setting if your game takes place in a different campaign setting.

Warriors Of Sehanine is currently available from DMsGuild at https://www.dmsguild.com/product/283029/Warriors-of-Sehanine?term=warriors+of+seh and it's well worth your time both as a read and an actual adventure to run.  My one recommendation would be that if (like me) you like to print your gamebooks before using them, definitely splurge on a colour print job, this book is well worth it.

-Jay