Sunday, 9 February 2014

Scourge of the Sword Coast 0 - Not Quite A Review, But Close

Delimbiyr Vale regional map by Mike Schley
Let me be really up-front about this: I am once again pleasantly surprised that WotC has managed to publish another decent adventure.

Scourge of the Sword Coast is the third in the loose series of adventures that supposedly relate to The Sundering, the RSE that will herald the new version of the Forgotten Realms. It's a rather useful mini-sandbox with five main adventure locations that are nicely complement the four or so locations on the same regional map that were described in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle.

And on the subject of the regional map all I can say is that Mike Schley has, once again, done an excellent job of making a map that is great to look at, is highly functional, and really inspires you to want to run/play adventures in the region depicted. It's such a pleasant change from the maps that accompanied the 4E Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide which seem to involve smearing baby poo across a page and calling the lighter sections "water" and the darker sections "land", but I digress....

There's good variety in the adventure locations. The village of Julkoun is now inhabited by goblins and is well-fortified thus providing the PCs with an interesting challenge in terms of simply getting in. 

The Phylund Hunting Lodge offers an interesting blend of forest, above-ground building, and dungeons, while the ruins of Harpshield Castle offers a map that could easily be used again and again, especially in FR campaigns set in The North where ruined castles and settlements are rather common. 

Firehammer Hold offers a dwarven settlement, including mines, of a reasonable size. Too often dwarven sites are simply too big: this one is just right. I like the maps of all four locations... with thanks to Mike Schley once again.

Finally, Floshin Manor is something I can use... but for fey'ri rather than elves/eladrin and thus most likely in Silver Marches: In Search of the Unknown. But I will say it again: I really like the variety in the locations. It gives the product so much more utility.

While I have my plate full with both my Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign (using a Mike Schley-designed regional map) and my soon to start Silver Marches: In Search of the Unknown campaign for my wife and her family (also using a Mike Schley-designed regional map), I'm still looking at this adventure and Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle with real interest because I think they will combine nicely into a sandbox campaign that will cover 4E's Heroic Tier.

I would probably ditch the focus on the Red Wizards of Thay and make it more about the Zhentarim but that's because the Thayans are already playing such a critical role in my Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign and I suspect that, if I do run a group through this region, it will be the same group of players exploring Daggerford and surrounds.

Anyway, as stated in the post's title, this is not quite a review. More accurately, it's not a review but it is me saying that I think WotC is starting to get the hang of adventure design for their new edition. I still have no interest in Next/Previous/Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition/Fifth Edition/whatever they're going to call it - why go back to mechanics that were frustrating 15 years ago? - but it looks like I will be staying as a customer for their FR adventures, at the very least.

However, I do wish they would stop with the crappy real world names in FR products. Heck, they should feel free to use my list of Ed Greenwood-created names that appear on this blog rather than trotting out the lazily self-indulgent Jon, Glenys, and Belinda (et al). It reminds me of the bad old days for the Forgotten Realms when you had designers like Dale "slade" Henson spewing out any sort of garbage (like the Netheril boxed set, or the rulers of Daggerford named Conan and Sonja) and then having a Forgotten Realms logo slapped on it. Blarghhh.

On balance though, this is a product that I could use more than once. Sure, I don't think I would run the adventure that is contained in its pages but I can definitely use the locations... and in that sense, it reminds me of some of the best AD&D adventures that were published either as standalone modules or in the pages of Dungeon magazine.

Good job, WotC. Keep Mike Mearls away from authoring adventures and you might keep seeing your quality improve!

Village of Julkoun
Phylund Hunting Lodge
Ruins of Harpshield Castle
Firehammer Hold
Floshin Manor
4545 x 6209 600 dpi version of the Delimbiyr Vale regional map: awesome!

No comments:

Post a Comment