Game design is an art onto itself, which means, game designers will sometimes make creative decisions that run counter to the conventional wisdom. This adventure is one of them. Let me explain.
Remember back when you DM'd level 1 characters? They were fighting goblins and kobolds, kobolds and goblins, on and on — and as the PCs advanced in levels, the goblins disappeared. Where did all the goblins go? Now they're fighting demons and dragons. Everything scales, so that everything is just the right amount of hard. The problem, of course, is that the characters never truly get to feel like badasses at the higher levels. (I mean, can you imagine Lost Mines of Phandelver for a level 17 character?) For most 5e players, this module will be their first taste of tier 4, and the game designer made a creative decision. Let's treat the players like the world-beaters they are. Yes, other reviewers will say DDAL05-18 is a cake walk, and they aren't wrong. But where they may see as a flaw, I see as a creative decision. In context of the MUCH HARDER DDAL05-19 "Eye of Xxiphu" that accompanies the "Mysterious Isle," it can almost be seen as a clever trap. Lure the players with a false sence of confidence, and then crush them. SPOILERS AHEAD, OF COURSE.
Part 1. Oh SEER, you minx, so good to see you again and again and again. As DMs, I know we play that tedious game in the first chapter where the players must ask the "right questions" to get the various bulleted information. But some of the stuff simply shouldn't be skipped. Of course, SEER will explain Xxiphu to them. Don't leave your players in the dark.
Here. Have a magic item. (Your players are going to love this.) SEER is giving away magic items because "the situation is so dire," and the players can each pick one. I totally get the metagame reason. Some tier 4 players got the short end of the stick when it came to magic items during their earlier adventures. A rogue has a +1 great sword he/she can't do anything with. A wizard ended up with all the wands, and it's just not as fun as it sounds. The paladin would really love a +3 shield, but never found one. Welcome to tier 4. Membership has its privileges.
Typo warning: Listed as Horn of Valhalla (Iron) on page 6, and listed as Horn of Valhalla (Bronze) on page 17. I'm assume since everything else is "Very Rare" that the author meant to give out the bronze one. But his mistake is your player's gain if you're feeling generous.
Warning: Please, please, please try to disuade your characters from a scenario where they ALL grab a Horn of Valhalla. Can you imagine a boss battle with 20d4+20 berserkers running around? I can, and it sounds horrible.
Flying on dragons. Sharing stories of past deeds. Cute.
On page 8, "We'd be disintegrated before getting to the isle." This is D&D. Do not use the word "disintegrate" unless you LITERALLY mean disintegrate. Your players are going to get tripped up on the idiomatic expression.
Two giant sharks. Yawn.
Magic disruption with limited teleportation seems to be a theme at higher levels in D&D.
Players can pick their poison: underwater, surface, or air, each with their own random encounter table — but ultimately, everything leads to the underwater. And the underwater aspects of this campaign get tedious for both players and DMs.
Wonko the Magnificent, the visions and confusion, elemental portals, purple crystals formed by a manifestation of the Far Realm (?!)... it's all pretty cool — and can be potentially confusing to your players. Role with it.
The "Save the Princess" encounter is your big battle for this module — and it shouldn't be too difficult for tier 4 players who know how to manage a slug fest. I do love that the designer says to toss in a dragon turtle for an additional challenge.
Conclusion (not the alternative conclusion). This is easily my favorite part of the entire mission. I love it! The characters arrive to meet SEER a full tenday before they first met her. Time travel in D&D! Have fun with this. Of course, it segues nicely into "Eye of Xxiphu." Imagine these characters informing SEER about all the stuff that SEER later informs the characters about. Knowing that this will happen, the best DMs will find a nice way to call back the original meeting. ("Oh, that's why SEER said what she said.") It's fun to think that the characters will tell SEER to go find them for this mission. ("And can you find for us these magical items...?")
Treasure: An ivory knife worth 25,000 gp? (Typo: On page 14, it's a "platinum knife.") I don't even know how this is possible. But whatever, I will accept it and move on.
- Design error on my pdf: Unlike the other DMs Guild downloads, the display of the titles on this one is all wonky on Preview (Mac).