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DDAL08-09 Fangs and Frogs
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/11/2018 15:55:51

I DMed all three adventures of the Vampire Hunt trilogy during AetherCon last month, and this one was not fun to run. I spent most of my time trying to parse unclear mechanics, poorly balanced fights and several rooms that went out of their way to punish PCs.

I had a consistent party for all three adventures. However, the adventures are APL 5, 8 and 10 to correspond with different floors of Undermountain. Obviously they weren’t close to level 10 by the end of the trilogy. Hopefully AL admins/Wizards will learn from this.

The first objective has a great concept, but it is nearly impossible to execute. It is written like a logic problem. If you move one puzzle piece first, then you can move the second, and so on. However, the "puzzle pieces" are NPCs. The only way for players to figure out the puzzle as written is if the DM can go back and forth, roleplaying all five NPCs in the scene. I love how this season adds more encounters that can be resolved by roleplaying instead of rolling dice, but this scene doesn't work. DMs are expected to juggle five different personalities. Unless the DM is a professional voice actor, this is going to be too difficult for players to follow. Oh, somewhere along the way the DM is also expected to invent some clue for the players that the NPCs are all enthralled. As written, there is no ways for players to learn what they need to do! I picked two of the NPCs to roleplay, made them more relatable, gave a very obvious hint, and largely handwaved the puzzle. My players liked my changes. Many parties will get frustrated and turn this in to a combat encounter, then get overwhelmed by a very powerful group of opponents.

One bonus objective is just a trap filled room. Players get nothing positive from exploring the room. There is no method like thieves' tools or dispel magic to find a trigger in advance and deactivate the trap(s). One trap in that room can give characters a flaw, in addition to damage scaled for an APL 10 party. There is no method listed in the adventure to remove the flaw, even though greater restoration removes similar flaws in other adventures. I don't know if a party can enter the room, leave, and get the checkpoint for "avoiding" the trap. Otherwise, there is no way to give players credit unless someone triggers the trap(s). Giving checkpoints for enduring a trap felt like an author versus players mentality, not an author challenging players mentality. That's why I gave a 1 star rating.

This adventure relies on portals to connect each room to the next. However, the maps provided are just illustrative. They don't match the textual description of the rooms. How many rooms have multiple portals? How many only connect to the starting area? I had to improvise all of this, putting the adventure on rails to make sure players could solve the adventure’s main puzzle. Technical details of "how does this thing actually work?" are missing in nearly every scene.

The boss fight was incredibly unsatisfying for the end of a trilogy. APL 10 means a lot of parties will be "weak" strength instead of average. There is a huge dropoff from average to weak strength. I asked my players to give me 5 minutes to sort this out and went with a "slightly weak" encounter. But the players still steamrolled it, despite having some issues with other parts of the adventure.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-09 Fangs and Frogs
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DDAL08-08 Crypt of the Dark Kiss
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/11/2018 15:19:24

I DMed this dungeon crawling adventure at AetherCon last month and enjoyed it the most of any adventure in this tier 2 trilogy. 08-08 could work very well as a straight-forward, stand-alone four hour dungeon crawl because it’s the easiest S8 module to pick up and run. However, as part of the "Vampire Hunt" trilogy it feels like a weak link in the broader narrative, stretching what should have been a pair of adventures in to a trilogy. DMs have to set reasonable expectations and build up the ending to make players feel a sense of accomplishment, particularly if they won’t finish the trilogy.

Pros:

This module is easy to pick up and run. There are few moving parts. DMs are given a little room to improvise some puzzle solutions. If you have avoided anything from Season 8 because of the new adventure format, this adventure is probably the easiest to run of any official DDAL Season 8 modules to this point.

Players feel like they are entering the lair of something evil as soon as they enter the dungeon. You feel a villain at work, which is rare for any adventure, let alone a dungeon crawl. The dungeon has a good balance of clever puzzles, lore and combat without requiring the DM to do much prep or research.

Everything fits on one large (but easy to reproduce) dungeon map.

Cons:

The bonus objectives are both combats with large numbers of underpowered enemies. Each objective adds one large, evocative room. However, there isn’t enough for the players to do. I’m not sure I would run the bonus objectives again.

As written, the main objective has an unsatisfying conclusion. We all know it's a trilogy, so players feel like they are just doing the stuff they have to do to get to the next adventure. The hook for 08-07 implies some opponents in this module were originally intended to be presented as meaningful sub-bosses. However, when we get to 08-08, they come across as just another encounter. I re-wrote the conclusion to make my players feel like they had defeated important sub-bosses who were a problem for Waterdeep on their own. (Without this fix, 08-08 only gets 3 stars from me.)

If your players want an ambitious or complex adventure instead of ye olde dungeon crawl, this adventure is going to be a bad fit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-08 Crypt of the Dark Kiss
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DDAL08-07 Into the Dark
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/06/2018 17:51:13

I DMed this dungeon crawling adventure at AetherCon last month and have decidedly mixed feelings about it. My players enjoyed the adventure, because it gave them a lot of options (particularly for a dungeon crawl). As a DM, I had to do a huge juggling act to make the positives work and cut the frustrations. 3.5/5 stars.

Pros:

The dungeon has a definite character, as opposed to feeling generic. Adventurers go in to an abandoned dwarven mine to find a hidden entrance to undermountain. The mine’s character and history play an important role in some bonus objectives. This is a great carrot to hand to players (and DMs) who prefer narrative driven plots to dungeon delves. Future authors should take note.

The author does a good job of empowering players and giving characters opportunities to do what they are good at, instead of requiring a limited number of skills. I doubt anyone will feel like they picked the "wrong character" for this adventure. That’s a definite endorsement for dungeon crawls, which typically reward a particular set of skills.

Cons:

There are only a few small, hand-drawn maps for the entire adventure. It felt like a dungeon crawl designed to be theatre of the mind. Out of combat, this worked much better than I would have expected. In scenes where there was a potential for combat, my players needed a map and were sorely disappointed.

I've never had to flip through a module so much at the table. As written, you first meet an NPC for bonus objective A around 30 minutes in to the adventure, but it doesn't make narrative sense to go in to the rest of the bonus objectives until completing a lot of the main objective and getting in to the depths of the mine. At this point, players may have forgotten the first bonus objective. There's no natural place in the main text to introduce bonus objective B. I had to flip through the module to have the questgiver for bonus objective B suddenly show up while the party kept watch during a rest.

As written, rocks just fall on the characters' heads in the scene after the first fight, save for half damage. There’s no warning, no sense of "we screwed up so now we have to suffer a cost," and no specific instructions for the DM on when in the scene the rocks fall. My weak party had some terrible luck in the first fight. They may have TPKed if I had rocks immediately fall on them. I rewrote the scene to say rocks only fall on the characters' heads if they fail a skill check in the scene. Otherwise there’s a skill check characters "must pass" that offers no mechanical consequences for failure.

If it’s possible to update reviews, I will update once the rest of the trilogy is released to talk about continuity of the series.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-07 Into the Dark
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CCC-ALMOG-03 TALES03-01 Claws of Fury
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2018 16:43:33

I had the pleasure of running Claws of Fury for onCCCon, the first all CCC AL convention. I found this module very easy to run, even at the end of a convention, and my players had a great time!

Claws of Fury is a combat and exploration adventure, with a callback to an early AL adventure that I won’t spoil. Players hear rumors of some winged skeletal menace, and eventually have to delve in to the tomb of an ogre champion to find out who or what is behind these attacks. The combination of ogres and undead is a strong theme that drives the dungeon crawl, creating a world that will be great for future adventures.

Players will enjoy the unique themed monsters and how the dungeon tells a story. As someone who hasn't DMed a ton of T3, combat centric modules worry me the most, because I hadn't run most of these monsters before. I was able to give my players a challenge even as I kept learning how to adjust on the fly. Other DMs like me who haven't run too much T3 may find Claws of Fury is a great place to dive in. Veterans will enjoy the monsters and theming as a starting point for challenging encounters.

My one reservation is that roleplay opportunities are relatively limited. What’s there is strong, it's just not a focus of this particular adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-ALMOG-03 TALES03-01 Claws of Fury
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Table Tracker
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/21/2018 21:20:50

Having all of this information organized based on how people sit around the table is SO MUCH BETTER than just having people write it down in columns. I will definitely be bringing this to my next convention! It feels like the ideal balance of giving enough information at a quick glance so I don't have to keep asking "what is your spell DC?" without being overwhelming.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Table Tracker
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CCC-SFBAY-04-03 The Ashen Scar
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/01/2018 00:35:20

Had a great time running this online as part of Roll20Con before it's official release. The story combines fey and fiends in a way I rarely see, particularly in Tier 1 adventures. Combat encounters reward a wide range of player choices and character builds, so everyone will have something interesting to do. Players are also given several important choices with tangible consequences for how the rest of the adventure plays out, which helps encourage roleplaying, particularly if players are relatively new to RP.

As a DM, I found the adventure straight-forward and easy to run on minimal prep due to a con schedule. I didn't have to go back and forth to double check anything. All the info I needed to understand the flow of the story was right where I needed it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-SFBAY-04-03 The Ashen Scar
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DDEX1-06 The Scroll Thief (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2018 23:01:48

Fun adventure with a lot of roleplaying opportunities, then some combat and exploration. Like a lot of mysteries that are written as modules for other people to run, there isn't really an open-ended way for players to figure out what's going on. This can make the adventure feel railroaded. The key is to make sure players enjoy interacting with the people they meet along the way, foolish as some of those NPCs are. Like most 4 hour mods, this tends to run over 4 hours. If you have time, take a five minute intermission in between acts. There's a natural pause and it will make a better experience for everyone.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-06 The Scroll Thief (5e)
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DDAL07-07 Rotting Roots (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2018 22:47:19

The best of the T2 modules from this season, and one of the better two hour T2 modules out there. It's largely combat, some exploration, and some interesting characters to interact with. Relatively easy to prep, solid but not spectacular experience to play. This adventure has a memorable boss fight, particularly for newer players who haven't really seen a boss and its legendary actions. I don't think it does as much for people who have seen bosses from Season 5's T2 mods. In theory choosing some encounters in the middle adds replay value, but it's relatively common for DMs in my area to have four hour slots so we play the three strongest optional encounters over and over. I strongly recommend changing the series of saves right before the boss fight in to a more creative, dynamic skill check. Engage players' creativity, not just their wrists for rolling dice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-07 Rotting Roots (5e)
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DDAL05-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2018 22:35:43

This is a pretty good starter mini-adventure if you have an entire group of level 1 characters. There is a good balance between combat and exploration, along with a few character/moral decisions. If you get a sense that you have new players where a little roleplay would go a long way, this may be a great starting point.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard (5e)
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CCC-YLRA01-02 Uneasy Lies the Head
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2018 22:27:52

This adventure is a mystery and the villain is part of a larger series, so I think it has to be reviewed a bit differently than other mods. Players won't get to the final destination in this adventure. The question is whether they will enjoy the journey. At my tables, both as a DM and a player, the answer was a resounding yes! There are a lot of NPCs, and most of them are fun to play. Just bring a cheat sheet for your players. The combat encounters are challenging and unexpected. Players may even encounter a bull in a china shop! Randomization of the central whodoneit adds replay value. Not being able to resolve the entire plotline is frustrating but didn't take that much away from my players' experience.

One important caveat about this adventure...it is a mystery that requires players (not their characters) to know how to ask the right questions to get better clues. This isn't a skill that D&D players use all that often, so they get frustrated and blame the mod. What makes this mod a unique pleasure for some groups I DM for will not appeal to others.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-YLRA01-02 Uneasy Lies the Head
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CCC-GEL-01 Bedlam at the Benefit
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2018 21:12:39

Most fun I have had running a T1 mod! Players had a great time too. I ran this as a two hour adventure in a four hour slot, to give an RP-heavy table time to enjoy the RP in the beginning. I gave players more leeway to RP their way through the great fundraising section instead of relying as much on dice rolls. I feel like this is the rare adventure that gives just about any character type a real chance to contribute, instead of favoring some more than others. The two combats can be very difficult for low level parties. The skill challenge in the second half has great open-ended mechanics, but it's easy to forget how to tell players that their successes are having some tangible effect.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-GEL-01 Bedlam at the Benefit
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DDAL05-02 The Black Road (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2018 14:11:59

This module was recommended to me when I just started DMing, and it was a GREAT recommendation! There is a good balance of roleplay, combat, and even a skill challenge. It tends to run a bit longer than the listed 2 hours - nearly every "2 hour" module does. However, it did not run so long that I got tired.

I recently came back to re-run this module as a more seasoned DM. It still holds up very well. This time I gave my RP heavy players more time to RP, since we had more time available. It's this kind of flexibility and roleplaying opportunities that make The Black Road a better "starter" adventure than the various one-hour mini-adventures.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-02 The Black Road (5e)
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DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2018 14:02:22

I love the concept of an adventure that is largely dinosaur races, but your players' interest may vary. This module is largely a skill challenge (the dinosaur race). The rules for each stage of the race are fairly proscribed, so I had to go out of my way to encourage players to use creative alternatives if they wanted to. Like others have said, it relies a lot on the DM to add crowd reactions and other narration to make the race exciting.

This adventure begins with an RP section and ends with one combat. The RP section helps set the stage for the trilogy but doesn't have a ton of payoff as a one-shot, which can frustrate players after they get invested in the scenes. Combat heavy groups will also be left wanting. Overall I'd say this is 5 stars for the right group, 3-3.5 stars for the wrong group.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
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Ruins of Mezro
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2018 13:47:36

Ran this last night for a rotating group that normally runs 4-5 hours but doesn't always have a Tier nailed down until players sit down at the table. The flexibility of this adventure (3 tiers, a sandbox to play in, a mini-adventure for each tier) gives a lot of opportunities and replay value. My players were fairly quest, RP and combat oriented so I gave them the mini-adventure, some random encounters, and only a bit of the sandbox.

My main reservation is many of the encounters at Tier 2 relied on large numbers of weak opponents. The mini-adventure drops a lot of hints that players may not want to face the army of cultists head on. However, the adventure as written makes them easy to incinerate with fireballs. My players started complaining about the lack of challenge in certain areas. That's new for me! If you aren't used to buffing encounters on the fly put some prep time in to balancing encounters for stronger parties.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ruins of Mezro
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DDAL00-04 Winter's Flame (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Noah G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/28/2017 03:45:09

Great adventure for an RP heavy party. Players who want a break from combat-heavy adventures should enjoy this module. Probably has limited replay value.

Good improv skills are important to get the most out of this adventure and get your players from part A to part B. I knew my players wouldn't go to the carnival games if they knew there were robberies around, so I had to delay when players got that plot point. It's easy for players to forget the clues they were given about how to solve the mystery, particularly if they get competitive and want to win all the carnival games.

This module has a lot of box text to set the scene. I usually paraphrase box text as it is, so I felt comfortable just cutting some paragraphs. The NPC dialogue is great though.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL00-04 Winter's Flame (5e)
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