Puzzle scenarios are tough to do well. You need clever, intriguing scenarios. They can't just be variations on ones players have seen before or, at least, they must be compelling variations. We don't want to see the Tower of Hanoi ever again, or the jug filling puzzle, DND Beyond. We know them back to front and they just elicit a groan.
So hey, kudos then to The Hero of the Troll Wars. It pulls off a puzzle module generally pretty well, with only a few points of contention.
When it's all broken down, the module consists of exactly three puzzles and one fight.
- The first puzzle, involving four dead bodies, is a variation on a classic environmental storytelling puzzle; deduce the relationships between four figures based on environmental cues. It's not massively original but it does have genuine flavour, with the descriptions giving a sense of some weird tragic love story.
- The second puzzle, involving arches and a tool small door, is likewise fairly typical (it's a basic order of operations puzzle) but it has a neat sense of exploration by making players discover what all the arches do. I also appreciate that the puzzle's solution is actually fairly simple and the main trick is mostly dealing with the number of red herrings.
- The third puzzle is pretty original; essentially asking the players to visualise a scene in such a way as to imagine the solution. Unfortunately, this is also a scenario that adapts poorly to online play (which is how I did it) as the reduced capacity for conversation in such an environment heightens the need for visual aids. And with visual aids, it's a very easy puzzle to solve. If you're going to run this, find a reason to skip the map here.
My main criticisms would be that while fun, this module doesn't feel like it fits into the wider Folded Time trilogy except in that it's set in the past. What's the 'object' that wrinkles the weave here, as does the ring in Wrinkle in the Weave or the cloak in Purging the Blood? There's also a few hitches in the pacing if you don't use the bonus objectives: I'd strongly recommend just changing the number of wards from 5 to 3, excluding the two in Nimoar's Hold, unless you're using Bonus Objective A. Otherwise, the scene simply feels too perfunctory. It also would have been nice to have a combat map for the final encounter with the troll, but with only one opponent it's not too bad.
Overall, this is a pretty fun adventure and despite the structural problems of the trilogy (and oh, we'll get to those in the next module review) it's one I do recommend.
[4 of 5 Stars!]