The following writing is done by one of my players. SPOILERS AHEAD
First of all, I would like to tell that this review comes from the view of a player from Adventurers League, not from the view of a Dungeon Master, so this review is more about the gaming experience then about the details of the adventure itself.
This 4th season of Adventurers league has been tons of fun up till now, especially with the wacky monsters from liar’s night 2019. However, this last adventure has been a lot less fun, that is why I write this. This is not meant as an outlet of frustration, but as my perspective of the overall adventure that might be improved.
The start of the ‘HORSEMEN’ was great. The pandemonium in the town gave everyone a reason to care for the town, and to track the thing that caused such misery. The tracking and battle in the forest were nothing special. Big monsters dealing damage. The group either racing through their sheets, being heroic or absolutely stupid (I was the latter). But then the reason for this review came.
We were a party of six, consisting out of two fighters, a paladin, a cleric, a sorcerer, and a ranger, entered a cave from which a dim light shone. Inside the cave, a lone monster was playing a flute, surrounded by the statue of a woman and over 15 paintings showing the same woman. As soon as we entered the cave, he stopped playing, gave his monologue, and so started the boss fight. Before any of us could make an action, we had to make a saving throw. One of the fighters failed, and went down stunned. After this, we had two other saving throws, where nearly everyone failed at least one of them. The monster had three legendary actions every turn, as well as a lair action, almost each being an ability to temporary incapacitate someone. Within a few minutes, almost everyone was either stunned, frightened or charmed. Especially being charmed by the Hypnotic Pattern was horrible, because someone else had to spend their turn to snap someone out, and due to the other effects, we could hardly reach one another. The monster could also simply jump from one opponent to another without attacks of opportunity. What also became a big problem was the fact that our cleric and sorcerer could not help us, due to the paintings countering nearly every spell, making the sorcerer as good as useless.
This fight took over two hours, and it was simply us getting slowly grinded down to 0 hit points, while eventually trying to escape. This was quite frustrating as it sometimes took a couple of turns to actually regain the ability to play the game, while you lost it the next turn because either A) failed a save, B) needed your turn to heal yourself from damage or C) needed to help someone else who went down. It was disheartening to just sit there, and wait until the boss was done with you.
In the end only half of our group (the sorcerer, the fighter, and the ranger) survived because they were stuck in the entrance of the cave due to the barrage of saving throws, and gave up. The paladin died after trying to destroy the altar (without any effect), the cleric who could hardly use his magic and got beaten by the boss, and the second fighter, who got charmed, without anyone near him to get him out. The characters in the back of the cave could not as much as enter the cave, and our characters got wailed upon by the boss without really knowing how to beat it. The DM gave a tip that the fighter was doing something right, after shredding a painting near the entrance, but due to the number of art pieces, and the damage and effects, we were unable to even reach the other end of the cave to actually destroying them.
After the adventure ended (it was near midnight on a Tuesday), the DM revealed that there were only 2 paintings (guardian portraits) that caused the effects, and that without all the disabling effects it would have been easier. But these were 2 paintings out of at least a dozen art pieces, and we had to spend time to find the right ones, time we barely had.
The greatest problem with this encounter was that it was not fun. You just throwed save after save, and if you failed one, you were practically incapacitated for a turn or two, in which the boss could just take you down by 30 points. Many of us had characters with which we played for months, and these were just wiped off the board without much of a chance. The feeling that there was no chance to beat the boss is what I find so disheartening about this encounter, and I hope that the makers of this ‘Adventurers League’ adventure change it for the better, because it’s a great adventure, except for the last encounter.
I hope that you find this review insightful and that I have not been too nit-picky. If you have played ‘THE HORSEMAN’ yourself, I would really like to know what your thoughts are about the encounter, and if you know any improvements (I personally think that fewer paintings would really help).
Thanks for reading.
[2 of 5 Stars!]