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EBERRON: Shadows of the Last War (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/24/2020 18:55:56

Great follow-up to the Forgotten Forge. This adventure centers on the search for an abandoned Cannith facility that was lost in the Mourning. It has a strong mix of travel, exploration, interaction, and dungeon crawling, as well as some setpiece encounters. The PDF is in original electronic format, and the images can be extracted to get decent-quality maps for digital tabletop play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EBERRON: Shadows of the Last War (3.5)
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Spell Compendium (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/24/2020 18:44:53

This book collects spells from all across D&D 3.5's print run and brings them all together in one convenient volume. Every spell here was originally printed somewhere else, which means if you have a complete collection of every other book and magazine from this edition, you don't really need the Spell Compendium...you can just, you know, sort through every single book, magazine, and web article every time you want to prepare your spells, right? Right, sure. But if you're like me—and, I daresay, most people—having everything easily accessible in one place is well worth the steeply discounted PDF price for this indispensable spellbook.

I can't speak to the quality of the softcover; I assume it's similar to other print-on-demand products in the same style. But if you're playing a spellcaster in a 3.5e campaign, I highly recommend picking up this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spell Compendium (3.5)
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Magic Item Compendium (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/08/2020 18:27:09

This is one of the most valuable books you can add to a 3.5 campaign. It has a plethora of excellent new magic items across all price ranges—so you don't have to wait until 8th level before you find an exciting, useful magic item for your PC. The new and improved magic item tables in the back are great for DMs, making it easy to balance random item drops for your party's level with tighter price ranges and more consistent game balance. If I could only use one book besides the core three, it would be this one. (Or maybe Unearthed Arcana.)

I got the PDF version, so I can't comment on the quality of the print-on-demand version. Fair warning, unlike the other premium rulebooks, errata is not included here, so you will have to download a separate PDF. The errata document is seven pages long and consists mostly of updates to the school of many items' magic auras and tweaks to the prices of runestaffs. Also, the amber amulet of vermin now summons a Large monstrous scorpion rather than Huge. That's important.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magic Item Compendium (3.5)
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CCC-KUMORI-03-03 Scales of Justice: A Moonsea Adventure
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2020 19:49:49

Very slick, well-crafted adventure. You have a compelling premise and lots of agency for both the players and the DM, with multiple paths to victory for every encounter. It's handicapped a little by the Season 8 adventure format, which doesn't allow for box text or even so much as presenting scenes in chronological order; adventures in this format tend to put more pressure on the DM to do extra prep work and think on the fly. That said, I think the authors did a good job of working within that format here, and it wasn't that hard to prep. The "Troubleshooting" sidebar with tips on what to do if players go off-script is a nice touch that I think more adventures should include.

I would have liked to see a section where the players visit the town during the festival. I think it would have helped set the scene, provide context, exposition, call to action, etc. As it is, you already have to explain everything that's going on anyway for the hook, right?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-KUMORI-03-03 Scales of Justice: A Moonsea Adventure
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CCC-MACE01-03 Haunted Memories
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2020 13:09:32

I'm definitely a fan of this adventure. The haunted house theme is well executed, with lots of spooky, atmospheric encounters that will leave players delightfully paranoid by the end of the module. If you're looking for a Halloween adventure for your group, look no further! It is part of a series, by the way, but it also plays very well as a standalone.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-MACE01-03 Haunted Memories
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AE01-13 Skyfall by Imogen Gingell, Patrick Dunning, Jarrod Taylor, and Ed Chivers
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2020 19:35:17

I found this adventure to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. By the time we were 10 adventures in, my players were taking bets on what would happen. Most people thought it would go horribly wrong and destroy Sharn somehow, but they were split on whether it would because of an accident or miscalculation, because the Provost was secretly evil and was planning a double cross the whole time, or because a third party would hijack it for evil. As soon as the birds started talking, they were all like, we knew it!

Anyway, the adventure itself takes you all over Sharn through several mini-adventures as you attempt to disable the various artifacts powering the machine, each of which has its own twists. It's full of callbacks to the earlier adventures in the series. There's a nice variety of puzzles, combat, chases, and social encounters, all culminating in an epic final confrontation in two stages and three dimensions. I wouldn't recommend playing this one as a one-shot, but it's an excellent finale.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AE01-13 Skyfall by Imogen Gingell, Patrick Dunning, Jarrod Taylor, and Ed Chivers
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DDAL-ELW01 Murder in Skyway
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2020 19:09:37

I found the other adventures in this series to be disappointing, but this one here is the gem of the collection. It's a very good introductory Eberron adventure that does a fine job setting the tone for a Sharn-based campaign. Well-written, well-plotted, with plenty for the players to do. And I appreciate the homage to the Forgotten Forge, the very first Eberron adventure. If you're not running the whole Embers of the Last War, you should be able to change the letter to some other MacGuffin that's more relevant for you. If you are running Embers of the Last War, skip the prequel adventure and start here.

What holds it back from 5 stars is the editing and formatting. The adventure layout is kinda confusing, and you'll be flipping back and forth a lot. Information about characters and locations is split up between the appendices and the scenes they appear in, and the scenes aren't presented in chronological order. There's also a dearth of box text, which means you have to improvise descriptions. These sorts of inconveniences all add up to make the adventure more difficult to run. Expect to spend more prep time than usual making up for the shortcomings.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL-ELW01 Murder in Skyway
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DDAL09-06 Infernal Insurgency
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/02/2020 18:43:56

This module is a nightmare to prep. Extremely poorly organized. Information about NPCs is split between the scene they appear in and the Dramais Personae, which is "conveniently" placed at a random page somewhere in the middle of the adventure so that it is as difficult to reference as possible. There is very little guidance on how to run each scene, with key information frequently missing, leaving you to essentially write half the adventure yourself. And possibly worst of all, the adventure isn't even presented in chronological order—it goes Part 1, then Part 3, then all the NPC statistics, then Part 2, then Part 4. I hope you brought post-it flags, or you'll waste a quarter of the session flipping through the pages to find things. Working from a digital copy? The PDF does not include any bookmarks, so same thing, but with scrolling.

Don't get me started on the box text. Not only is there hardly any box text at all (leaving you to make up your own descriptions on the fly based on [checks notes] no information, because the body text only tells you the lighting and the weather), but the few instances of box text there are are almost all in the wrong place! In the introductory section, the NPC's opening monologue appears on the second page of the encounter. Then on the next page, you get a lovely description of the PCs walking into the camp, which they never left in the first place. There's a box text describing the Dump, but it's under the wrong header—it's placed as if the Dump is another stall in the Emporium. Then there's another box text four pages later describing the same location. And then in the wrap-up, there's multiple different endings, and it's not clear which one(s) the box text is supposed to go with.

That's on top of a mess of typos, continuity errors (off the top of my head: Mahadi suddenly refuses to let customers leave his store without permission even though this is never an issue any other time; every member of the Terror Troop inexplicably changes their name between Part 1 and the Dramatis Personae; and Z'Neth has a drastic, unexplained personality change compared to the hardcover), and other editing mistakes.

I'm not impressed with the gameplay either. The whole first part is all about wheeling and dealing with NPCs, except there's no real stakes because all of them are basically already on your side and require no convincing in order to help you as long as you agree to do a fetch quest for them. It's like 90 minutes of shopping and exposition. Meanwhile, the Dump itself is a pretty standard location-based adventure, except it's just kind of generally half-assed, with only barebones descriptions, confusing layouts, contradictory information (like is Mugmerch using a secret entrance to get in like it says on page 15, or is he driving his cart off the side of the cliff like it says on page 10?), and a lot of events that are supposed to happen during the infiltration but don't have any indication of how they play out if the PCs don't interfere with them. Not to mention the confusing maps. Why is there an extra garage upstairs? There's no ramp...do they just drive the war machines through a second-story window any time they need to leave the Dump? Why is there a dock at B1 that's as big as the entire mansion but is never mentioned in the body text? The whole thing is a big mess.

Anyway, bottom line, "Infernal Insurgency" reads like it was pushed out to publication before they finished writing it. There are some good ideas here, but they're either poorly executed or not executed at all. I give it a thumbs down.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL09-06 Infernal Insurgency
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CCC-PRIORY-02 Prison Pitfalls
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2018 06:34:26

I'm not a fan at all of how this adventure is written. The whole thing is on rails and the players' actions hardly matter at all.

Sequence of events:

  1. A boar attacks the party. Before the PCs can do anything, the NPCs kill it in the box text.
  2. Some yuan-ti appear and attack the party for poaching. Players can fight them, but there are infinite waves of enemies, so they are guaranteed to lose.
  3. Players are knocked out and carried to a trial where they can plead their case. No matter what, they are found guilty and sentenced to death.
  4. The party is stripped of their gear and thrown into prison. They can try to escape, but the module doesn't offer any DCs or mechanisms for them to do so, because...
  5. A mysterious NPC cellmate already has a plan to break out. He tells players about it, and then executes the plan in a cutscene. PCs don't have to do anything.
  6. On the way out, players are attacked by another encounter with endless waves of yuan-ti, except this time they keep coming until the PCs are almost defeated. Then a dragon turtle shows up and bails them out in another cutscene.

Where is the agency? There are four combat encounters in this adventure, as well as one interaction and one exploration. Of those six encounters, five have preordained outcomes, and the sixth is irrelevant to the plot. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Most adventures have some degree of railroading, but this one is really heavy-handed.

Honestly, it's not a compelling story, either. The trilogy is supposed to be about capturing that Yami guy, right? So what the heck are we doing messing around with a bunch of turtle-worshipping yuan-ti and their high-security prison on an island in the middle of the Moonsea? Why do they care if we kill boars? What is Alistar doing messing around here? Why is a random lizardfolk the top dog in the prison? What do any of these guys have to do with the Dark Priory in the first place? None of it's clear.

Bottom line, I am not impressed.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-PRIORY-02 Prison Pitfalls
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CCC-QCC2017 Delusions of Grandeur, Dreams of Revenge
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/22/2018 03:29:25

SPOILERS

I actually value balance pretty highly, and with this one...let's just say it wouldn't surprise me if a party of 5th level characters could mop the floor with most of these combats. The grand unified cult leader at the end is only CR 6, with half a dozen CR 1/8 minions and a single CR 5 elemental. This is a joke and it's honestly just sloppy. Even if you always run at Very Strong, the combats are basically unplayable as written.

The story and pacing are just okay and don't really make up for it. It's still a fairly linear dungeon crawl, even if there's an NPC with an interesting backstory who joins your party. It does have some "living dungeon" elements that spruce it up a bit, so it could be worse. The concept is fine, but the execution is...not so good.

EDIT: Thanks for the author response! Given the intent, here's some more targeted feedback: 1) It's not teeechnically the grand leader, but it's still the leader of the cell, and from a narrative perspective, it is the position that you expect to be filled with an end boss, so a CR 6 dork is something of an anticlimax. I would have gone with an archmage instead. (When I run this adventure now, I usually go with two archmages—that always gets 'em sweating.) 2) While there are interaction sections at the beginning, they don't really have goals (except for "receive exposition"), obstacles (the NPCs are gonna give you your mission either way), or stakes (Boddynock might not open up to you, but that doesn't matter if you're not invested in the character, and if he doesn't open up to you, you probably won't be invested in the character, right?), so they end up playing more as cutscenes with dialogue trees. The flumphs and myconids pull it off better (but they are part of the dungeon crawl). 3a) Encounters with multiple routes to victory are awesome and I'm a big fan. The adventure hints a little at using the cultist robes as disguises, for example, which is great. But in a pre-published adventure, you've also gotta cut the DM a little slack and give some guidance on what to do if the players try other solutions. For example, the ogre den has some ogres that are employed as guards by the cult. If the players disguise themselves as cult members, what do the ogres do? Wave them past? Ask their names? Ask for a password? All the cultists here are human—do nonhumans have disadvantage on Deception checks? I'm a pretty experienced DM, so I can come up with answers for all these, just like I can rebalance the encounters, but ideally I shouldn't have to scramble. I'd name DDEX2-2 and DDAL5-4 as examples of adventures that did this really well. 3b) Hordes of enemies can make for a good encounter, but it wasn't well-executed here. A good horde fight is almost always gonna require multiple waves of enemies, because if you toss one fireball and that's it, encounter over, then that's not so much a horde as a minor speed bump. You also want enemies that can pose a credible threat in great numbers, because otherwise you're just mowing the lawn, y'know? Where's the thrill? (DDAL7-10 recognizes this and basically says "Yeah, there are infinite manes here, but they can't do jack against you, so let's handwave 'em and save you the trouble.") Cultists have a single melee attack at +3 to hit, which means they not only need to get right next to the PCs, they also need to baaasically score a crit to get through a typical melee AC at this level, and then they deal an average of 8 damage—to the frontliner, who is probably the beefiest person in the group and won't even feel it. For this sort of thing, I'd be more inclined to go with several waves of low-CR elementals, since they play into the elemental cult theme. Magmins are good—they're fragile enough to mow down en masse, but their death burst makes them effective at chipping down your HP while still allowing for meaningful counterplay if you use smart tactics. Mephits could work well too. Additionally, you can't just have the whole adventure be low-level mooks—you need to balance it with more level-appropriate foes too!

The XP budgets from the DMG don't reeeally produce balanced encounters (especially at high levels), as seen in, well, this adventure, I guess. For contrast, if you look at the more detailed encounter-building guidelines in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, you'll find that for a party of five 13th level characters, a challenging-but-winnable fight would be more like two mages, four cult fanatics, twelve thugs, and twelve cultists.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-QCC2017 Delusions of Grandeur, Dreams of Revenge
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Creator Reply:
WARNING: SPOILERS! Hi Jasmine, A few quick notes/clarifications: 1) "The grand unified cult leader" doesn't actually appear in this adventure. It should be clear from the text of the adventure that this is an isolated cell. Part of the "final rewards" is actually an item intended as a gift for a higher-ranking member not appearing in this adventure. 2) The dungeon crawl is really just the second part of the adventure. There are role-play encounters and a couple combats before the party enters the "dungeon" part. 3) As you mentioned, some of the combats are fairly easy for a tier 3 party, and that was by design for a couple reasons: a) Some of the encounters were not intended to be combats at all, but opportunities for some roleplaying and possible throwbacks to story award from other adventures. b) I wanted the "large group" combat (excuse me for being a little cryptic, as I try to avoid spoilers for those who haven't read/played it yet) to be something fairly easy for a tier 3 party. Although the XP is budgeted appropriately for a tier 3 encounter per the DMG, the large number number of creatures results in a high XP multiplier for sizing even though many of the creatures involved may individually be low-powered. I wanted to give the feel of highly-powerful heroes sweeping through a large number of minions, ala Conan or a lot of the old fantasy books where the powerful heroes sweep through a hoard of opponents. Anyway, I'm really sorry you didn't enjoy the adventure, but thanks for taking the time to write a review and provide feedback. Happy gaming! -Scott
CCC-MACE01-01 The Blight of Geoffrey
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2018 23:55:55

This one feels a lot like three mini-adventures, as it has three standalone segments that the players can complete in any order. I like it.

Each of the sections is reasonably well-done. I have a few minor complaints. In the farm section, it's not really clear what's going on with the family. Like, a sidebar on Moander would have been appreciated. Also, the tactics section recommends having one of the bandits assist the thug, but the thug has pack tactics, so there's no need for the Help action, the bandit just needs to attack normally. In the pirate section, I don't like that progress is gated behind a skill check. If the players don't find the secret door, then all they can do is just shrug and call it quits. Also, the box text at the fork in the tunnel doesn't make it clear what the choice is; instead of footsteps, it would make more sense to hear someone calling "Okay crew, job's done, grab the new 'recruits' and let's get outta here!" or something. It's also not clear what the players are supposed to encounter if they choose the scream and then backtrack and follow the other path afterwards. What do the pirates leave behind?

The rust monster section is my favorite. Great boss fight. Very scary with the legendary actions.

I found it pretty easy to prep, mainly because it's on the short side for a four-hour adventure, with the adventure itself taking only 10 pages (the other 12 are appendices, handouts, maps, and the cover and boilerplate). My players took the social route when it was available and ended up finishing in only 3 hours, so I think it shouldn't be too hard to keep it within the expected runtime.

The magic item should have been bagpipes. The players hear the sound of bagpipes as they travel through the tunnel. My group was actually very excited to get a set of Bagpipes of Haunting, but I had to kind of shrug and say "Well, I guess it doesn't say it's not bagpipes?" If you're gonna fluff it as bagpipes, follow through!

The maps are in full color, gorgeous, and already set up in a convenient Fantasy Grounds module for those of you who like that sort of thing.

Anyway, bottom line, this mod is pretty solid. I'm planning to run the sequels in the near future, so we'll see how well the further adventures of Jeff and Kyle hold up.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-MACE01-01 The Blight of Geoffrey
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Creator Reply:
Hello Jasmine, The pipes were supposed to be bag pipes. When it was time to send over info for the certs, I was a bit overwhelmed and forgot I already had a description so made one up on the fly. Thank you for playing our adventure!
DDEX1-01 Defiance in Phlan (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/18/2018 22:11:32

A superb set of short introductory adventures that does an excellent job introducing the core concepts and themes of D&D to new players. It's well-designed, easy to run, and covers a diverse range of exploration, interaction, and combat. Everything is in here: a tense standoff with a gang of thieves during an undercover sting operation, a covert rescue mission to save villagers kidnapped by goblins, a classic dungeon crawl in an undead-infested crypt, and more. This is one of my favorite adventures to recommend to new players and new DMs, and I'm happy to give it a 5/5 review here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-01 Defiance in Phlan (5e)
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DDEX2 Elemental Evil Complete Bundle [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/18/2018 21:50:27

I'm a big fan of this season. Mulmaster is a compelling setting, and there are a lot of great adventures in this package, with a solid mix of dungeon crawls and urban intrigue.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX2 Elemental Evil Complete Bundle [BUNDLE]
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CCC-GARY01-03: Map and Illustration Pack
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/18/2018 04:40:29

There are 31 pages of high-res maps and handouts in this pack and I found them sorely disappointing.

  • A1 is a handout of the invitation. It reads "You are invited to wit...greatest accomp...ru...please attend...of the greatness...find the whos..." which makes no sense because most of the page is covered up by the picture of the envelope it came in. Evidently you are not intended to read the invitation. At that point, why have a handout at all?
  • Then there's a handout showing an image of the door handles to the main hall. Why does that even need a handout? Same with the illustration of the eel. Like, yeah, okay, it's literally just an eel, so...we need handouts for that now?
  • The illustration of the baths is admittedly pretty solid and creates a nice atmosphere (even though the bath scene itself makes zero sense whatsoever, even in context).
  • Map A.3 is the museum and it's wrong. It doesn't match the description of the room in the module.
  • Map A.4, the baths, is actually pretty good except it doesn't give any indication of the exit, which is a preeetty important factor.
  • Map B.3 is the "Wakka Wakka Wakka" section and it has a major flaw: dead ends. The "snakes" can only go forward, which makes dead ends counterproductive. Honestly IMO you'd be better off just using an actual Pac-Man grid.
  • All the maps for CCC-GARY-03 are just various flavors of rectangular rooms, corridors, and corners. You can seriously just draw a rectangle on a battle map.
  • The map for the dinner party and aftermath is well done but also not really useful because there isn't a combat encounter there. Same with the map for the room where you encounter whatsisface in part 2. The map for the "The Kid is Not My Son" section actually does do a good job illustrating the setup of the room, although why there's a separate map for the lower level that's just a blank square grid is beyond me.

It's ridiculous that this map pack is even separate from the trilogy itself, let alone priced so exorbitantly.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-GARY01-03: Map and Illustration Pack
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CCC-SFBAY-04-03 The Ashen Scar
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/18/2018 04:13:46

The combats are challenging. The story is compelling. The players have a reasonable amount of agency. All in all, very nice.

This mod doesn't pull its punches. I think it's one of the most dangerous ones I've ever run as a DM, up there with DDAL05-11 and DDAL07-18. That's great if you have experienced players who know their strategies (action economy, kiting, and so on). If your players are less experienced, though, don't be afraid to go a little easy on them.

My biggest complaint is that the cutscenes are too long and contain redundant exposition. Dandelion explains a bunch of stuff, then Tal'daynath explains a bunch of stuff, then Dandelion explains a bunch of stuff again. Luckily the story is, like, actually very good and well thought-out, so it's not too bad. I'd actually seriously consider skipping the scene with Tal'daynath and running one of the ambushes instead, though—as cool as the character is, Dandelion can impart most of the same information, and the time spent talking with him may be time that some players spend unable to participate due to the dullahan unraveling curse, which is a potential feel-bad.

Ultimately, this is very well done. You can tell a lot of love and care went into it, and I'm pretty happy with the result.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-SFBAY-04-03 The Ashen Scar
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