This is a playtest review. We played through this adventure in two five hour session. Half of the players used the pregen characters, the other two created their own.
LIKED: The swinomancer was not very dangerous but visually very impressive. Players mentioned him again and again.
The atmosphere was interesting with sad music being played by the grigs. I started playing The Black Rider by Tom Waits in the background when we reached that point.
Not all encounters are necessary. Players can easily avoid some encounters if they they feel that they have to conserve their resources.
The pregen characters all have something useful against the predominant creature type without being obviously optimized. That makes the entire thing very organic.
DISLIKED: This adventure features no rest and no getting back of spells. That was bad news for the sorceror. The newbie player had created a sorceror without a wand of magic missile. Ouch!
The last foe has SR but I ignored it. The last foe also has Freedom of Movement and our barbarian was specialized in grappling. I ignored that, too. It really depends on well the party has been doing until now.
The nymph encounter was bad. I gave a hint about people clawing at the eyes and groaning with pleasure, asked for initiative rolls, the bard NPC won, failed his save, and turned blind. Ouch! A suggested solution in the book would have been great.
BOTH: One of my players said that if I hadn’t told them after the first session that they needed to disrupt n events to get the last foe to appear, he wouldn’t have known what to do. Another player said, however, that even though he did not know the exact number, he knew exactly what to do.
One player felt that the foes were incredibly tough with all the extra damage they were causing and their poisons, but another player felt that those made interesting encounters.
We played through this adventure in a single one-shot ten hour session (including some pizza, cookies, tons of tea & coffee). Half of the players used the pregen characters, the other two created their own.
LIKED: Maps had a small number of obviously interesting rooms. It was possible to skip the rest of the rooms without loosing anything.
Clever playing obviated the need to fight three of the picture encounters.
The players liked the sense of urgency, and they were totally interested in finding out what had happened to the villain’s competitor who had disappeared. The pictures themselves invited a lot of speculation on how they worked, which was fun.
The DM (me) liked the relatively simple encounters. Each one was a challenge for the players and yet easy to run.
DISLIKED: Many of the encounters involve constructs, allowing no criticals, no flanking, and no sneak attack. A sad day for a rogue.
The first encounters was an instant kill for the fighter who entered the room. We rebooted the adventure, but it took us a moment to get over it. Obviously I had missed the Full Attack potential of these two critters.
Sometimes the sense of urgency the players felt was hard to translate into events. Showing through the crowds in the ballroom with all the distractions and trying to do it by the rules was not too exciting.
BOTH: One of the villains has Improved Sunder and used it to his advantage. This aggravated the players to no end. The DM (me) loved it, because the sorcerer cast Grease on the villain’s weapon, and we had all sorts of grappling, unarmed Disarm attempts, Bull Rush to push enemies away from their weapons, climbing of tapestry as soon as the enemy was disarmed, and backstabbing. Exciting encounters!
As noted by other reviewers on EN World and other sites, the adventure is very linear: Follow the grave robbers from room to room, all the way to the bottom. It took my players half of the adventure to figure what was happening. Until then, they just assumed the tomb was filled with random zombies and skeletons.
My players were mostly 3rd level characters, but adding a few more mooks to every other encounter was no problem.
LIKED: An incredible variety of combat encounters with interesting terrain features and often some interesting notes on tactics. My players were shocked when the varags ran up to them in pairs, one of them readying an action, waiting for the second one to flank, and then both attacking with a flanking bonus and one of them doing sneak attack damage. Later, when they realized the varags were using Spring Attack to avoid attacks of opportunity from 10ft reach weapons, they were again surprised.
There was a non-combat encounter involving lots of Climb and Use Rope checks. As I had prepared a big battle map with skill checks, altitudes, and potential falling damage in different colors all over the map, this proved to be an interesting challenge.
DISLIKED: Too many combat encounters and practically no choices outside of combat to be made. As a DM who likes interaction, this combat focus was boring.
There was a door with an Arcane Lock on it. Low-level characters had to batter down the door (or go back to town and organize a scroll of Knock). That was disappointing, specially since the very same door has a hint for the riddle in the next room. Obviously my players thought for the longest time that the hint was in fact a riddle and that solving it would open the door in question. It took a lot of prodding and hinting to move things along at this point.
The end is a cliff-hanger for the next adventure; I didn't like that.