Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reviewing the Scales of War: Den of the Destroyer (Overview)

Although the fellow who was reviewing the Scales of War adventure path (published in DDI) did just barely get started on the adventure Den of the Destroyer, I figured I should start at the beginning of the adventure while I get my head into this project. So, I'll try to summarize the mainstream plot and assess what I think that plot accomplishes well and what it doesn't:

The fifth of six heroic tier adventures in the path, it's written for characters who start about halfway between 7th and 8th level, and ends them at 9th level. The overall plot can be briefly summarized as follows: Upon returning from the Karak Lode, the PCs are summoned to return back to Brindol (where everything started) and sent with one of the artifacts they rescued in the opening adventure to a remote location where they must perform a ritual on it to awaken something within it. Along the way, they need to stop a gnoll shaman from turning himself into an exarch of Yeenoghu.

Highlights of what the plot should accomplish:
  • Provide some closure to any conflicts with the Lost Ones street gang from the city of Overlook. (Accomplished pretty well)
  • Get them highly ticked off at shadar-kai arms deal Sarshan by revealing both that he has placed a price on their heads and that he has been (at least so far) the ultimate mover of the various bad guys the PCs have encountered (rocky, see below)
  • Introduce the character of Amyria, who has metaplot implications throughout the entire rest of the adventure path.

By making the Lost Ones the bad guys behind the opening skill challenge, and giving the PCs a chance to give them a pretty thorough trouncing, that's an ongoing enmity that can be laid to rest. By the time the PCs are finished with kicking the Lost Ones around, the latter should have it pretty well impressed upon them that they're overmatched, and leave the PCs alone for the remainder of the adventure.

The Sarshan elements are a bit rockier here, although I think a lot of that has to do with the overall rockiness of the heroic tier elements of the Scales of War in general. I find it really interesting that, when asked for best and worst published adventures for 4E, the six adventures that make up the heroic tier of the Scales of War have entries on both lists. Seige of Bordrin's Watch (second adventure) and The Temple Between (sixth adventure) are both consistently praised; the first and third adventures are pretty consistently un-praised. In my opinion, this one's someplace in the middle, maybe on the weaker side. Being able to really get the Sarshan elements revealed requires the PCs to knock out (rather than kill) one of the few non-gnoll enemies they encounter in the last 2/3 of the adventure. Moreover, it gets later revealed (in future adventures) that Sarshan was somebody else's pawn from the get-go.

The character of Amyria gets introduced fairly well, although not much is said about her real nature. Some (maybe all) of that is because when this adventure was published, the Player's Handbook 2 hadn't been published yet, and they were trying to not spoil the Deva race. The pieces they do/don't reveal here also leave it open to question how much of the plot points were being written by the various authors (granted, the author of this adventure is a Wizards of the Coast employee). In any event, this is one of the places where the path as a whole suffers from the decision to reveal plot points to the DMs as they arise, rather than to give enough of a summary at the beginning to support foreshadowing or ongoing plot threads.

Next time, we kick off with trying to assess the opening skill challenge, "Finding the Messenger."
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