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DDAL08-10 The Skull Square Murders
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/11/2019 16:38:59

This only gets 2 stars because it is marginally better than other Season 8 content.

The purpose of any module is to provide mechanically sound stories for limited runtimes. The season 8 format continues to be counterproductive to this end.

The only improvement made in this module over other season 8 content is the adventure hook. The players can choose to take the job or investigate the key independently without missing the module.

Beyond the minor improvement of making the Bonus Objectives extra clues in the trail so that the outcome of the Bonus Objectives matters, none of the other Season 8 issues have been addressed. In theory, the players can go anywhere in Skullport, but unless you have a vast knowledge of Undermountain from outside of the module, you can't run that. The infamous demented Flaming Skulls of Skullport are only mentioned in a sidebar as a way to "make things interesting."

The entire module can be completed without any combat, which is good because the final combat is with a Mind Flayer and his Intellect Devourers. This kind of combat is very "first player wins". If the Intellect Devourers act before the players there is a good chance they will start taking over bodies before anything can be done about it and you'll have a TPK. Alternately, if the players go first a little AoE will clean up the Intellect Devourers and make the fight relatively easy.

Another note: The APL adjustments continue to be meaningless. The combats are either incredibly difficult or pathetically easy. One additional problem that seems to have cropped up in 8-10 and 8-11 is a surge in enemy types. These modules are incredibly long because of a variety of stat blocks from the adjustments, even though the adjustments are not well done. I realize that Skullport is where lots of monstrous races make their homes, but for a quick streetfight you can just reskin Thugs and Bandits. I don't need 8 flavors of Hobgoblin printed in the back of the module, especially for a fight that the players should be avoiding.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-10 The Skull Square Murders
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DDAL08-06 Purging the Blood
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2019 18:23:25

This is the final installment of the "who cares?" time-travel series.

It suffers all the same problems as the first 2 installments: No information to explain why the characters should be excited to see anyone here.

It does, finally, take place in Waterdeep, WHEN Waterdeep is finally Waterdeep. The entire module meanders around and the only thing that matters (which is easy to skip because it isn't highlighted or labeled as important) is a vision from the final fight. The players meandered through 3 poorly explained Time Travel modules to get a Vision that could have been a Dream Sequence. This would have been more fun if the modules had provided any interesting backstory on Waterdeep instead of depending on the DM to do independent research in a desperate attempt to find reasons for the characters to care about anything.

Spoiler Alert: The Vision that appears in the final battle is just the founders of Waterdeep locking away an unknown object and hinting that future heroes may need it.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-06 Purging the Blood
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DDAL08-05 Hero of the Troll Wars
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/09/2018 19:03:16

Time Travel - it's a meaningless trap

Of the 3 modules in this series this module is the best organized and actually asks the players to do something to gain the information they seek. That is the only good thing I can say about it.

First: There is no adventure hook. If you played 8-4 you wake up in a field with no instructions and see "somebody we should recognize, isn't he famous or something?" using a Javelin of Lightning to fight trolls. Then you meet Ahghairon and Malcar Gost who ask you to do an unrelated job without promising any information further your primary quest. Again, like in 8-4, this module fails to include the valuable Waterdeep History needed to explain why anybody should care about who they meet here.

Second: Ahghairon asks the party to re-tune FOUR magic wards around the city. This takes a DC 18 skill check. That is pretty high for Tier 1, especially when you only have 1 chance on each magic ward. My table had horrible luck with this and failed all 4 attempts.

Third: The puzzles are flat out garbage. The Eladrin Tomb puzzle doesn't actually have a proper solution based on the clues. Luckily, since none of the "puzzles" has damage associated with failure the players can just "try stuff until it works".

The Gnomish Tomb puzzle is ok, mostly because it has an obvious and straighforward solution, even if the players are just trying the doorways.

The "magic eye" puzzle for the docks is almost impossible to describe accurately. If players do not latch onto the idea early it can take lots of work to describe how the illusory magic wards are moving so that they will think to overlap the images.

Fourth: The bonus objective to rescue the Sisters of Chauntea trivializes the final combat in ridiculous ways. A single troll is dangerous to a Tier 1 party, but the Sisters of Chauntea are suppose to help if they are rescued. They have 3rd level spell slots, so they can provide enormous healing support and Spirit Guardians to the party.

This module does provide a better ending than 8-4. Ahghairon either succeeds or fails to save Nimoar's Hold, but you don't really get an explanation of why the Javelin of Lightning you picked up is linked to a "wrinkle in the Weave" around Waterdeep.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-05 Hero of the Troll Wars
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DDAL08-04 A Wrinkle in the Weave
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/09/2018 18:35:58

Time Travel gone wrong and hamstrung by the terrible season 8 module format

This is the first installment in the second series of season 8 modules. This series has lofty goals, but failed to engage me or my players in any meaningful way.

Overall, the concept of this series (8-4, 8-5, and 8-6) is to send the players on a historical timetraveling field trip to Waterdeep's past. Unfortunately, this concept fails in all 3 modules for one easily identified reason: Unless you are an expert in Waterdhavian History you will not be able to identify any of the important events or people in the modules. If you can't identify why anybody you meet or anything you see is important, why do you care?

The three biggest issues with 8-4 are pretty simple: 1) The Blackstaff gives a poor explanation of the Time Travel Ritual. She explicitly tells the players that their actions can't affect the past, but doesn't place as much emphasis on the fact that the players can die there. 2) You learn about the ring's history in the opening scene of the module. You walk into a party and one of the first people you can meet just says "I own a ring exactly like that one" if he sees it. This does not cause the ritual to end, so many parties begin to get frustrated since they completed their errand in the past and do not have other instructions. 3) There is no ending. The module has a final combat and the reward section. No explanation is given about whether the Blackstaff learned anything about the ring. No "ending of the ritual" is described for players that won't be continuing to 8-5. It doesn't even state that the players black out to wake up at the beginning of 8-5. NOTHING HAPPENS TO TELL YOU HOW OR WHY IT IS OVER.

All of the other problems with this module are a standard symptom of the Season 8 format. Most of the important information is randomly found in strange places. The most basic question "what year is it?" is only mentioned once, in the Background section of the summary. Furthermore, none of the events are tied back to Waterdeep history. Unless you do the research independently you won't find out that Hilathar is bound to become Halaster Blackcloak and then the Mad Mage. This information is never once mentioned in the module.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-04 A Wrinkle in the Weave
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DDAL08-03 Dock Ward Double Cross
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/19/2018 15:44:55

This module continues the problems present with the Season 8 format and exhibits the familiar poor/bad editing of past seasons. Nothing the players do can really matter and the combats are poorly balanced, creating tons of traps for inexperienced or inattentive DMs. That said, this 3rd installment of the series does solve some of the problems from the earlier modules.

Of the three modules in this series (8-01, 8-02, and 8-03), only this module has any motivation for the players to take the hook and actually want to go on the adventure. In 8-01 and 8-02 honest adventurers can just turn the hook over (lost map or stolen painting) to the City Watch and expect them to handle it. At least, as heavy handed as it is, the do this or a well-connected Vampire Lord will kill you hook for this module cannot be circumvented by reporting it to the City Watch.

The second problem this module avoids is the Code Legal. Since this happens in the Dock Ward and the City Watch goes on fewer patrols the players are less likely to cross the Code Legal by threatening a rich or well connected NPC with violence.

This module still has a horribly overpowered final combat in it that you must see coming or the players will "see behind the curtain" as you frantically make up an excuse for why the enemies suddenly stop fighting or stop doing 20+ damage on a hit. The Pistoleer stat block is entirely inappropriate for a Tier 1 module. 3d10+4 is an avg of 20 damage, you can roll up to 64 damage on a critical hit. That 20 damage will drop most 2nd level characters to 0 and can outright kill most 1st level characters, a crit (39 average) can drop most 4th level characters to 0 in one hit (a barbarian with +3 con only has 45 hp max at 4th level). If you have a table of 7 players they will be "average" strength and there will likely be a 1st or 2nd level character having this damage come at them.

Overall, with the expense of printing the full-art pages and the very loose story structure of 8-01/02/03 I can't say that these are useful as modules. They are more like hardcover chapters and overall, you would be better off just trying to run the hardcover or doing a homebrew.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-03 Dock Ward Double Cross
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DDAL08-02 Beneath the City of the Dead
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/07/2018 08:06:07

This module, structurally, is an improvement over 8-1 purely because dungeon crawls are inherently linear. Because it is inherently linear, it has other problems that are a result of the Season 8 module format.

None of the combats have actually been balanced in relation to each other using the DMG formulas because the Season 8 format continues to depend on DM Fiat to invent reasons why the party can bypass/overcome/defeat the encounter without actually fighting it.

This is a CRITICAL PROBLEM in this module. In the 2 hour version of this dungeon crawl, even if the players enter the dungeon immediately, there are 3 combats that the module says cannot be avoided. The first combat is with 5 Skeletons and 5 Warhorse Skeletons that specifically cannot be reasoned with. This module is APL 3, but the DMG calculation for just this encounter rates it DEADLY. The other two unavoidable combats are Medium and Easy.

Front loading the deadliest combat increases the difficulty of subsequent combats significantly and risks having a TPK early in the module unless the DM is specifically skilled to prevent that. Furthermore, having the combats appear in reverse difficulty gives the players a false sense of security when they enter the final chamber. Things have been getting easier on them, so they are more likely to assume that whatever enemies they find last are the easiest ones.

This leads to the final, and most obvious, flaw in the Season 8 format. Nothing the players do can matter. If you insist that players are allowed to "do anything" to accomplish their goal, then the only way for the goal to be reached is if it is independent of any player actions. This module highlights that very well. It doesn't matter if the players fight or avoid all the traps and monsters, they must meet an insurmountable foe at the end and be given a choice to take the next adventure hook or be killed.

This is the only logical ending for this module. The party has already fought a Deadly encounter, so they cannot defeat a dramatic boss battle AND the end of 8-1 was already a "cryptic clue to the next location" so that ending can't be recycled in Part 2 of a 3 Part series. That leaves "meeting a new employer" and the only way to guarantee that the job gets taken is with the choice of Death or Work

Overall, Season 8 modules require an exacting awareness of total party resources and the ability to rewrite entire combats on the fly without the players detecting it so that the players will feel like the challenges/combats presented are fair and balanced to be overcome by good planning and resource management. If this illusion is seen through, then any players that believe the purpose of D&D is to creatively or strategically overcome challenges will realize that Season 8 modules do not provide that. Once players realize that nothing they do actually matters it encourages them to do increasingly outlandish things just to see what explanation the DM will create to allow them to succeed.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-02 Beneath the City of the Dead
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DDAL08-01 The Map with No Names
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/31/2018 17:46:45

This entire series (8-01, 02, 03) has been written in a specifically bad way: it provides no solutions to any problems you may encounter while running the outlined story. Furthermore, the new Season 8 layout is confusing and wastes ink and paper. This module is 30 pages long, but only 6 pages contain the outline for the main story and much of that is occupied by color art (approx. 30% of most pages, effectively reducing the story content to 4 pages). By comparison, DDAL 7-03 is also a 2 hour module, but is only 24 pages long and the main story is on 9 pages that are mostly text.

Structurally, this module fails to fulfill any of the requirements of a scripted story. Modules are supposed to provide a more scripted experience than book play to reduce the DM experience required to make the story fit in a certain timeframe. Another feature of previous season modules was sidebars with troubleshooting suggestions and common solutions to help redirect the party. The season 8 Format actively works against these ideas.

From start to finish there is no reason provided in this module for the players to follow this story and they are not told what might be found by following the map so their only impetus to keep following the clues is "I hope it leads to treasure." Furthermore, previous seasons provided a specific adventure hook to tell the players where to start their adventure and what their goal was. In this series they are given a map on the assumption it belongs to them and the module DEPENDS ENTIRELY on the bet that someone at the table will take it, just to see if where it leads. This happens in Waterdeep, a cosmopolitan city with a City Watch. If the players are honest and turn it over to the City Watch, the module ends before it is started.

Once the players start following the map, all of the encounters are laid out poorly and depend entirely on the DM to recognize all the possible pitfalls the players might find. Specifically, the first encounter is in a house that is in a smuggling hideout. The encounter starts with a detailed description of the house and interior layout. After the full interior description, the module mentions that the door is locked and Pavel won't let the characters inside. If you are reading this module as you run it, you will easily fall into the time-travel trap (sorry guys, I know I read the interior description, but at the end of the paragraph it says the front door was locked - you can't be inside yet, pretend I didn't say all that).

At the final encounter there is no path to success given by the module. If the Werewolf Gath acts reasonably, he will attack the players once they step on the Rug of Smothering (in front of the macguffin painting, specifically to prevent the party from inspecting it) and the local citizens will call the City Watch to help Gath, since he is a respectable business owner in a wealthy part of town being attacked in his own shop. There are no suggestions whatsoever in the module of how the party can succeed, it depends entirely on the DMs skill to create an opportunity for the party's success.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-01 The Map with No Names
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D&D Adventurers League Player & DM Pack
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/15/2018 15:13:59

The Season 8 rules go a long way toward fixing the bad things that happen in AL. The Treasure Point system creates lets you just buy the items your character needs instead of hoping to "win" something good at a table. The Advancement Point system simplifies leveling and shortens the capstone level in each tier, making it faster and more fun to play the last level in each tier instead of needing the "Catching Up" activity.

The Banned Item List is a long time coming and far too short. There are lots of items don't have a place in most home campaigns and certainly have no place in AL because of their disruptive nature (Seriously, why was Deck of Many Things ever legal in AL?).

My main complaints are simple to fix: 1) Publish the Magic Item Tables from the DMG in the ALPG so that players do not have to purchase them. Players have no need for the DMG, other than to look up the tables now, so requiring them to own one just for the tables is pretty rotten. 2) Update the DMsGuild download tool to handle more than 10 files OR split it back into Player's Pack and Dungeon Master's Pack. Right now, when a single document is updated, I have to individually check each title or download twice (first 10 files, then remaining files) to make sure I have all the updated files. 3) Include a cover sheet like several being published separately on DMsGuild. This idea is sensible, obvious (why didn't the admins just make one to start) and REALLY convenient. If there was an Official Cover Sheet in this pack it could be updated with seasons and rule changes. There are ALREADY out of date cover sheets made using the Season 8 Preview Rules which have bad information because they were not updated for the Season 8 Final Rules.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Adventurers League Player & DM Pack
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DDAL08-00 Once in Waterdeep
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/29/2018 14:02:22

This is not an Adventure Module. It is a Slot 0 character and story building workshop for a permanent table home game. This makes it completely inappropriate for Adventurer's League module play.

The reason Modules exist is so that DMs can grab a completed adventure story for a random table of players and run with little to no preparation. This is not that. This is a random adventure generation suggestion list that was mashed into a module. If I have to do 4-5 hours of work to run a module it is not doing what it should - give me a fast and easy session with little to no prep work.

If you want to use this module like a "storyteller's workshop" packet to write a proper module and then present it to a group, that is what it is good for. Otherwise it is currently wildly incomplete, especially for time sensitive environments like conventions.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL08-00 Once in Waterdeep
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DDAL07-05 Whispers in the Dark (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/04/2018 18:04:44

Easily my favorite of this trilogy. This module is a good 4 hour module, but is a tight fit in 2 hours. Both combats fit in the story and the first combat (solving the puzzle to open the ruins) requires the party to work together with a good plan.

My primary complaint about AL is that there is no longer a "balanced party" recommendation and a lot of modules do not have combats that require balanced party composition, tactics, and team play. This puzzle combat demands tactical team play. The clearing is large enough that monks and rogues have a hard time reaching more than one pedestal in a turn so the best solution is for each player to take a pedestal and Hold Action to press their button in the right order. After they survive the onslaught above the party absolutely needs a cleric since they cannot rest between combats.

Another unique feature of this module is that much of the loot must be taken during combat or the subsequent escape from the collapsing fane. This can lead to some dangerous decisions by players who want more gold.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-05 Whispers in the Dark (5e)
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DDAL07-04 A Walk in the Park (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/04/2018 17:43:40

This is the poorest module of the series and suffers a lot of bad editing problems. The biggest unfixable editing problem is that the players are able to purchase a satchel with a secret compartment from the Satchel Shop that is like the one they found in 7-03 but the DC 20 to find the secret compartment is not mentioned, so you have to reference 7-03 for this information. All the other editing problems (bad punctuation, poor story links, confusing dialog) can be fixed with careful reading of the module.

As far as time goes, this module is the longest of the trilogy and includes options to lengthen it. There is also a lot of time wasted on atmospheric stuff like the fisherlings which does not contribute to the over-arching story of the module. The only way to keep this within 2 hours is to read it closely (to find all the editing errors) and eliminate ALL the extra stuff like the fisherlings and flash flood.

The final combat is also a big letdown as written. I've played and run this a few times and unless the players attack the grungs Wadamu is arguing with, you will need to add a lot of extra enemies to make it challenging.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-04 A Walk in the Park (5e)
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DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/04/2018 17:14:28

This module is fun in spite of the dangers of skill check challenges because each section of the dinosaur race uses different checks and is pretty streamlined. It is definitely more fun than the dinosaur racing in 7-01 where only the Animal Handling checks really helped win the race so any character with low WIS scores were left to failure.

It is also the only 2-hour module from season 7 that will reasonably run within 2 hours. All the others (7-4, 7-5, 7-6, 7-7, and 7-8) are really 3 or 4 hour modules and have to be cut down if you have a hard 2-hour limit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
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DDAL07-02 Over the Edge (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Henry B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/04/2018 16:55:50

Each part of this 5 section module contains 2 or more combats. It is unreasonable to run more than 1 combat in a strictly 1 hour session. If you are running this straight through with a single table, you might consider the extra combats.

Additionally, each combat depends on different gimmicks that may not be apparent to the players. Most notably, part 3 is an automatic TPK before the battle starts if the players make certain decisions when they meet the farmers (warlocks).

I am a big fan of punishing parties that chose to adventure without filling the basic roles (tank, healer, ranged) but I found myself making heavy modifications to every combat just to make sure they seemed winnable.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-02 Over the Edge (5e)
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