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DDAL05-08 Durlag's Tower (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/02/2017 11:44:16

Durlag's Tower is the lesser prequel to the far superior adventure that follows, "Durlag's Tomb." The encounters are a little forced, the treasure/loot is frustratingly overly complicated, and the puzzle at the end doesn't quite engage effectively. SPOILER BELOW, OF COURSE

Part 1. In my opinion, the tea party was the best part of the adventure. It was good to see SEER and Hsing again. Players really need to ask a lot of questions to get the information out. There are about 10 bullet points worth of information that could be important, not only for "Tower" but also the "Tomb" adventure. Anxious adventures may skip some important details at their own peril. Oddly enough, it also connects with aspects of the season 5 epic "Ark of the Mountains."

Part 2. Much time was spent wandering the grounds figuring out what to do. (Expected duration: 180 minutes) Some of the monsters in the encounter can feel a little out of place. Make sure that the background information on page 4 ("...legend also has it that many powerful demons, devils, and undead now inhabit that place") is communicated effectively. Otherwise, it feels like the randomest of encounters.

Side note: Mechanics behind the "hizagkuur" stone is a tad frustrating plot device to keep people from teleporting. (Similar efforts were made with Eye of Xxiphu stories. Do we just not like teleportation spells in tier 3 and 4 anymore?) If a wizard doesn't understand the effects, unknowingly tries Misty Step and takes 10d10 force damage that could instantly kill the player. DM's be warned.

F. Wooded Copse was the most interesting encounter of this random section. Poor, poor Bitter-Root.

Part 3. The shorn, the hunter, the delver, the crafter: "A bit of simple trial-and-error" should not be the basis of a D&D puzzle.

Schvalt was a good boss fight. I assume the "hizagkurr" is here so that a banishment spell does spoil the fun too quickly. But the demon being able to reflect spells is a nice twist to make things a little more challenging.

Rewards section.

If the characters don't find the invisible lockbox (why would they?), they aren't getting much treasure from this adventure. Also, on page 14, the malachite is worth 250 gp, but in the rewards section it says it's worth 1,500 gp. (Quality control!) And if the party chooses not to sell the jade dagger they find, SEER will give a character (one?) a 2nd level spell scroll. Seems like an unnecessary trade off to overly complicate every aspect of the rewards section.

The Traitor to Your Faction "reward" (?) also overly complicates matters. Can you imagine two adventures from now telling a different AL DM that you can't take the renown because of reasons back at Durlag's Tower?

Vergadain's Firespirits: While I like the idea of using downtime to craft "firespirits," when you start involving Fai Chen, you know it's getting a tad convulted for it to be practical for most players.

Quasit's Essence: Destroying the Staff of Thunder and Lightning in order to get use of a quasit familiar for a wizard with a quasit familiar? Also, convoluted.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-08 Durlag's Tower (5e)
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DDAL05-02 The Black Road (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/02/2017 00:00:54

The Black Road is a simple, straightforward escort-the-valuable-item-across-dangerous-terrain adventure — and yet it was a lot of fun. You can easily run this adventure in under 2 hours. SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY

The Black Road says it's optimized for "five 3rd level characters," but I found that, for my players, the encounters weren't that challenging. I would say you could drop down to five 2nd level characters, and still be fine. It's a good induction to the various factions, as each faction has a unique way of providing a "hook." This adventure also introduces SEER and Hsing, two very important NPCs for season five. No forewarning is given, but the DMs should handle these VIPs with care — they will pop up again and again and again.

I loved the desert setting. (And thank you for giving the characters an opportunity to buy "desert clothing." This really helped sell the idea of an exotic environment.) We don't do nearly enough adventures in the desert — and the story really played up the setting in an enjoyable way.

Encounter A. "Psh... It's only a few goblins." Believe it or not, for my group, this encounter was the hardest. Maybe it was the way they were spread out, or maybe it was some bad die rolls, but the goblins held their own for longer than I imagined. [Sidenote: I'm glad the trinket table (PHB p.160-161) made a return in the treasure section.] Loved the giant toenails as a "treasure."

Encounter B was optional. My players decided to camp together with the Zhents, which was rather anticlimatic. But I would've been surprised if this encounter ended in a fight. If you have a Zhent in the group, it would feel almost borderline PvP-ish to attach his comrades. Plus, they just aren't hostile enough to warrant bloodshed, unless you're players are a bunch of murder hobos.

Encounter C was my favorite part of the adventure. I love this mechanics behind the sandstorm. It was a puzzle without feeling like a blatant puzzle. You have only so many characters, and you need to figure out who protects what — and what are the consequences for neglecting aspects of the caravan. (Very Oregon Trail-esque.)

Encounter D felt like the finale, even though it wasn't. The combat was a little underpowered — even for tier 1. Sadly, the straw hobgoblins didn't fool anyone. Once the group conned their way through (pay the toll, etc), the combat afterward was fairly straightforward. When I run this adventure again, I may try to keep the gate closed, even if a toll is offered. The wall makes for a nice problem for the PCs. (And yes, the hobgoblin captain went on and on about how wonderful the wall was.) D2 and D3 are presented as either/or, but there was enough time for both fights. Although, D3 felt a tad anti-climatic after they got past the toll.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-02 The Black Road (5e)
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