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CCC-PP-TDD01-01 Trouble Under Winton
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:56:16

This is a short / fun tier 1 module with a surprising variety of kobold types to keep combat interesting. It clearly foreshadows a larger storyline, but I'm unfamiliar with what that is.

I'm glad that the author remembered to include stat blocks for monster summons as well.

The S8 version of the module has "bonus objectives" written in, but they aren't really bonus objectives: the term has a meaning, which isn't used here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-PP-TDD01-01 Trouble Under Winton
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CCCGOC01-01 Tree Rot
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:52:09

This module has a notable amount of railroading (the pseudo-chase where the flowers always get away), but otherwise runs fine.

I don't know how I feel about story awards for the player and not the character. I like the idea of having varying encounters based on other taken actions, but this feels like it's breaking some wall.

One of the story awards (the one for the first encounter) is unintuitive for the players to acquire, but the NPCs in the village can prod them to take that action.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CCCGOC01-01 Tree Rot
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DDAL08-08 Crypt of the Dark Kiss
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:47:23

Many of the other S8 modules have set low bars, but this module runs fairly well regardless. Part of its success is via simplicity: the module is a simple 5-room dungeon crawl.

The module has been disproportionally frequently due to the DM quest that includes it, so I have played this module 4 times and run it once. It usually runs fast, but a combat-weak party might have struggle excessively, especially with multiple rooms having damage immunity to nonmagical weapons.

The final puzzle can be difficult, especially if players are not familiar with the solfage music system (and specifically the American regional variant that uses "ti"). The docked point in my rating is for the assumption of cultural knowledge on the players' part. I've also seen parties be stuck at the puzzle for the first door.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-08 Crypt of the Dark Kiss
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CCC-STORM-02 Swamp of Sorrow: Bloodpurge Village
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:38:09

This is a fun straight-forward module with a cute (perhaps predictable) plot twist (unless the players are bloodthirsty and attack the NPC too quickly and fail the objective). In particular, the second bonus objective has a fun variation on usual combat (milking the linnorn).

Only thing missing in the module is that the three hags together form a coven, and should have access to additional spells / spell slots; the module leaves this out.

(Side note: two of the maps are overly elaborate, and the printer couldn't print them out.)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-STORM-02 Swamp of Sorrow: Bloodpurge Village
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CCC-GHC-BK1-08 The Hunt for Cutter Jack
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:15:33

This is a nice straight-forward and short module in the Border Kingdoms, although more combat-heavy (the group of the bandits together are a good challenge for a T1 party), with a small moral choice (saving or killing the bandits).

From a structural perspective, the split between episodes 1 and 2 doesn't make much sense: the box text in episode 1 leads into episode 2, but players won't learn the rest of the info in episode 1 until after the fight in episode 2. It seems like these episodes should either be merged together, or even have their order swapped.

While I enjoyed the downtime activity, players seemed a bit annoyed: with a cost of 180 DT, it isn't at all feasible until T3 (and is only mildly cheaper than the base 250 DT option always available). The only similarly-expensive downtime activities I'm aware of are in T4 modules where players might have enough downtime.

Also, one point of confusion: the module is written for S8, but mentions "special rewards" of diamonds that it's not able to give.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-GHC-BK1-08 The Hunt for Cutter Jack
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CCC-GARY-04: The Darkness of the Mountains
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 02:06:33

I enjoyed running the module; it has an interesting mechanic for the final fight I hadn't seen before, and sets a good mood / sense of dread. (The combats are a bit easy, but it's a 2 hour module.)

However, the module has an issue with plot flow: when part 2 occurs, there are three paths that the players can explore, only one of which seems time urgent, which happens to be the one that leads the players to the ending. So, in order that the players can experience the entire story, the section needs some rewriting (I moved the two graveyard hooks to part 1, so the players would explore both before meeting Akadi.)

In addition, some text indicates that players will receive exhaustion for spending 10 minutes in the rain unprotected, but gives no method of acquiring rain gear, so it's unclear how players are meant to actually leave to do any encounter without dying of exhaustion.

Finally, it's not clear whether the story award is for just one character or for everyone. (Since it seems to be in place of the normal magic item, with S8 rules, I assume that all players can get it.)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-GARY-04: The Darkness of the Mountains
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CCC-ALMOG-03 TALES03-01 Claws of Fury
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 01:55:16

I enjoyed both playing and running this module: it's mostly runs fairly straightforward, has some interesting fights, with some puzzles / skill challenges.

However, the puzzles are a large part of the module but also fairly difficult, and it's easy for players to be stuck: the tomb has four puzzle rooms, none of which with intuitive answers, which feels excessive. Fortunately, with S8 rules, there aren't XP rewards for solving the puzzles instantly, which conversely feel like they penalize the players for not thinking the same way as the author.

I also had slight trouble when DM-ing with the organization with the final fight: there are adjustments that only apply if one of the enemies is in a certain form that only appears when the party is Very Weak (also, "Legendary Actions" are removed twice), and it's easy to mix up the adjustments between the two adult black dragon-like creatures.

(As an aside, Part 1 has the issue where the box text assumes that there are 2 enemies, but Very Weak / Strong adjustments change this, so the DM has to be careful.)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-ALMOG-03 TALES03-01 Claws of Fury
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DDAL-DRW02 Blood in the Water
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/17/2019 01:35:14

For the base gameplay, this module is too short. I ran a 3-player group (APL 8) through the module with all bonus objectives, and finished in two hours. Part of the issue is that the combats are too easy: the final fight has only a CR8 enemy, and other fights have a handful of weaker enemies. (For comparison, the only other T2 module I know with the same CR8 enemy adds other smaller enemies in the same fight and models the section at 45 minutes long.) Meanwhile, there's small bits of exploration here and there, but nothing substantial, and the large amount of player railroading (see next paragraph) means that players are disincentivized to explore. In particular, section 5 (with the aforementioned CR8 enemy) is listed as 1.5 hours but likely plays in a third of the time, and the bonus objectives are overly generous even when listed as 30 minutes.

However, more than being short and lacking in content, the plot of the module is too railroady. Almost no skill check in this module matters: even if the players fail, the story must still progress (e.g. the first check in Episode 2 Scene A: what are the consequences of failure? If the players don't get information from the NPCs about the murder, does that have any effect? If players fail the check in Bonus Objective A, do they fail the objective?). Furthermore, the two plots between the Librarian and the murder are poorly intertwined. When my players arrived in Myth Nantar, they wanted to find the Librarian and not investigate the murder, but had no leads. When they were pushed to talk to NPCs about the murder, they find one who points them at the Librarian. Most of the NPCs' information were of the form "talk to X instead", as if they were on a wild goose chase. That is, their choices to explore the story didn't matter. Also, there are no suggestions for answers to alternate questions to the Librarian. And, as an aside, the players are looking for a Librarian, and there's a Great Library in the town that they would want to investigate, but it is not described in the mod.

Lastly, mechanics and proofreading: others have pointed out that teleportation circle has a 1 minute casting time, so the malenti shouldn't be able to escape easily. The malenti is described as having a trident (allegedly unlike the guards with shortswords), even though the guards are described as having tridents in Episode 2 and the trident is a stolen weapon (although not in their statblocks). Episode 2 Option B mentions sea spawn as if they were meant to be enemies, but their names aren't highlighted and they are missing stat blocks. From a design perspective, Options A and B are very nonsymmetric in terms of complexity and playtime. Finally, why do the players end up with the magic item when Thessalia wants them to obtain the item for her?



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL-DRW02 Blood in the Water
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DDEX2-12 Dark Rites at Fort Dalton (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 16:12:33

This is a fairly straightforward combat-focused adventure, exploring a fort of "treasure hunters". In this regard, the module is perfectly fine.

The implied story behind the module is strange: players can choose one of five reasons to be at Fort Dalton, but four of them do absolutely nothing (the fort is too collapsed and the players can't reach their goals), and the fifth one has a chance for bonus xp (which presumably doesn't work under season 8 rules?). The actual fortress has several "locations of interest" for the characters to explore, but there's nothing in any of the areas (the skill checks to find treasure now find nothing).

The pseudo-gambling on the treasure hunt at the end can be fun, especially with players so gold-deprived in season 8 treasure rules. (The other downtime activity options all seem quite questionable; even if characters were expecting more run-ins with the cult, 10 downtime days is a heavy cost.)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX2-12 Dark Rites at Fort Dalton (5e)
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DDAL07-01 A City on the Edge (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 15:19:56

Caveat: I've only played the first three parts of this set and DM'd the first.

The first part has a popular story award (who doesn't want a pet dinosaur?) and I expect to play/DM it more, and the dinosaur race in the second part is very exciting. The first and third parts are otherwise straightforward modules, as you would expect a 1-hour module to be; they don't particularly stand out, but there's little to complain about either.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-01 A City on the Edge (5e)
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DDAL05-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 15:12:47

A great set of introductory adventures that are straightforward and easy to run. They include a popular story award in the first part and a large number of potions of healing throughout, which makes this module particularly appealing to run with season 8 treasure rules (where the rest of the gold goes away). Actually, season 8 makes the last module part weird: from a metagaming perspective, my players were very suspicious of the gold plates that were present, since they knew that they couldn't have any monetary value.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard (5e)
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DDAL05-16 Parnast Under Siege (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 15:07:15

This was an excellent end to the season 5 tier 1 storyline: it ties in (most of) the previous stories in a way where the players see the effects of their prior decisions while presenting a good mixture of combat and non-combat encounters.

For my own experience: unfortunately, my players were so excited to fortify the town and scout enemy forces that they almost forgot to talk to Chandra until I prodded them at the end, after which they belatedly hurried to the forest to acquire some fey allies; not taking any prisoners also meant that they completely skipped the den (although in season 8 rules, the lack of treasure means that there's little incentive to go there anyway). Ultimately, the "very weak" party breezed through the first few siege fights and had an excess of points left for the final fight.

While the module is generally well-written and fun, I do have two parts I'm unhappy with:

  • When characters go to request aid from the fey, the module states that "if the character previously met Thornacious or Oblivillish they are remembered fondly" without considering any possibility that those encounters might have gone poorly.
  • The module says that difficulty adjustments are a maximum removal that happens after players remove enemy via Siege points. While I would assume the module to be balanced around this, it can lead to strange outcomes for weak parties where the siege points they use are effectively wasted (they might feel bad being told that villagers would die if they didn't spend the siege points, but a smaller difficulty adjustment that is strictly cumulative seems more straightforward and wouldn't have the potential for bad feels.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-16 Parnast Under Siege (5e)
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DDAL05-12 Bad Business in Parnast (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 14:46:59

This is the most open-ended of the season 5 tier 1 modules, and thus has all the advantages and disadvantages of a free-form exploration. On the one hand, this module provides players lots of decision-making and thus emotional investment into the consequences of their actions. On the other hand, any such module is naturally difficult to run as the DM doesn't know how the players will act and risks the players going off completely sidetracked by incorrect conclusions.

In addition, while this feels like an investigative story, the major events of the module are time-based: exploring "too early" (as soon as they get the job) results in dead ends, and unless the characters happen to see Wallace leave and follow him (which seems unlikely), they are likely railroaded into the same result (dual fires). That is, players don't actually have as much agency as they perceive. (And with a lack of named NPCs (the only NPC in the town this module introduces happens to be the culprit), it's not hard to metagame the conclusion even with no clues.)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-12 Bad Business in Parnast (5e)
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DDAL05-10 Giant Diplomacy (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 13:49:40

A great module with a balance of combat, skill checks, role-playing, and decisions/results that actually matter (although the players won't know this until Parnst Under Siege). I don't personally enjoy puzzles for players as opposed to for characters, but I think that some players would enjoy the fey crossing, and the module wisely left the ability to use a skill check to skip, allowing the module to be flexible for all groups. The drinking/eating contest is also different and exciting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-10 Giant Diplomacy (5e)
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DDAL05-07 Chelimber's Descent (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2019 13:38:50

This module has the potential of being an interesting role-playing and exploration-focused module (in contrast to the combat-heavy trip to reach the tower, so they form a good pair): one optional fight, one technically-optional-but-players-would-definitely-trigger-the-trap fight, and a non-hostile "boss" NPC. Unfortunately, poor writing and editing makes this easily the worst module in the storyline (and made only worse by the season 8 AL rules changes), and requires lots of tweaks to fix.

For issues with the module inherently:

  • The reward for placing offerings in the altars is 3 or 5 "resistance to elemental damage", which is not a 5e mechanic.
  • Several of the tests (Oghma's shrine and the elemental walls on the second floor) give no sign when characters do the right thing or if they are answering incorrectly. It's easy for players to think that they sang the wrong praises if there's no visual change in the walls, although it also doesn't make sense for these traps to make it obvious when they're disarmed, so players may be stuck.
  • The parallel between "4 shrines" and "4 elemental altars" might be a red herring and unnecessarily stall players.
  • Some skill checks (e.g. recognizing the elemental deities) have no difficulty listed, and other skill checks have weird difficulties (Characters auto-recognize the symbols of Azuth and Deneir but need a skill check to recogfnize the shrines with their symbols? Oghma's shrine isn't recognizable at all? Characters who worship Mystra but who aren't clerics/paladins still need to make a skill check to recognize her symbol?)
  • The fire and air summoning chambers have the same room descriptions, which seems like bad copy-pasting.
  • At least one of the riddles for the summoning chambers has an incorrect answer (or at least, an inconsistent answer with the other riddles).
  • The story award listed in the text of the module (which suggests that only Harpers are interested / able to copy texts to gain a spell, matching their faction objective) differs from the story award in the player handout (all characters can do so).
  • The DC30 skill check to bypass half of the module is amusing but questionable writing from a DM-ing standpoint and pointless (since players don't know what they're bypassing and would likely backtrack to look through the floor anyway).

For issues that emerged due to Season 8's rules changes:

  • The shrines are all based on the idea of testing characters' greed: taking the gems would be worth money, but would be punished by traps (and not geting XP). In season 8, players know that there's nothing to be gained anyway.
  • The story award for the module assumes that players are in a faction, even though it is presumably meant to be open to all players.

In summary, the module feels like it lacked both a copy editor to fix some of the spelling / writing errors as well as a playtester (i.e. a DM uninvolved in the writing of the module) to identify the mechanic / gameplay problems. It's still runnable (it's not fundamentally problematic or anything), but hard to play as written.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-07 Chelimber's Descent (5e)
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