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Monday, 11th June, 2007, 02:16 PM #1
Novice (Lvl 1)
The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde
Long ago, an Abyssal army led by a demonic prince attacked the Material Plane in a campaign to conquer and enslave its people. In a titanic struggle, an army of mortals and angels countered his evil assault and decimated his plans. Now, in a time when few remember the significance of the black obelisks that dot the valley where the Battle of Slaughtergarde was fought, the ancient evil stirs. Can a new band of heroes discover the nature of this new threat and prevent another catastrophic incursion?
The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde is an adventure published by Wizards of the Coast, intended to take players from 1st to 7th levels. Credit is given to David Noonan as designer, Mike Mearls as developer and Chris Sims as editor. Packaged in a folder (the cover of which indicates characters of levels 1-6), Slaughtergarde includes a campaign guide, an adventure sites booklet, a players guide, an eight-page set of illustration handouts, and a poster map of a few of the important encounters in miniature scale. Printed inside the folder are random encounter tables for the areas where the primary action takes place.
The campaign guide provides background for the DM and plot hooks for introducing the PCs to the setting. A map is provided of the Valley of Obelisks, the area in which the adventures occur, as well as brief information about the cities, villages and wilderness areas in the Valley. Plot hooks abound if the DM wishes players to gain further experience between sections. A map of the main city, Sumberton, includes a list of locations, such as taverns and stores, and a list of NPCs. The Luminous Order and the Ebon Cabal, two organizations with which the PCs may interact and even join, receive detailed treatment using the affiliation system.
The campaign guide presents maps for the Slaughtergarde laboratory, temple and armory, as well as the encounters for the final adventure, the armory. The adventure sites booklet gives the encounters for the laboratory and the temple. The division does prevent flipping back and forth in one book, but I would have preferred to have all the encounters in the adventure sites booklet. The players guide gives a less detailed version of the map of the Valley of Obelisks and general information about the organizations they may encounter. New magic items are only included in the players guide, which I found annoying, as I did not have access to that information unless I took the guide back from my players.
At base, the campaign consists of three dungeon crawls in which players meet both D&Dís iconic opponents, including gnolls, goblins and drow, and more recently-added creatures, such as various spawn of Tiamat. The encounters use the new format that simplifies running the adventures. In fact, the entire campaign can be run with a minimum of preparation time. My gaming group makes extensive use of miniatures, prepainted and otherwise, and I found it easy to pick them from the D&D series of plastic minis. I did not find too many errors in the stat blocks, although the assumptions made by the designer about how the PCs would react in various circumstances were not always correct.
The illustrations provided with the game were useful to my players in many instances, although they were not always accurate. For example, the description of the gates in the campaign guide did not entirely match the illustration. In one case, the illustration gave away the swinging blade trap that was a feature of a room. The full size battle maps were useful, especially since the size of the rooms depicted would have meant drawing it on multiple tiles. Two maps were given on front and back of a sheet, but in another case I ended up scanning one portion of the map and piecing it together with another so a previous map would not be seen by the players.
My players thoroughly enjoyed The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde and I enjoyed running it. They actually began at 2nd level, and finished at 7th. I included a side quest to prepare them before the last section, which put them up to 6th going into it. I have seen discussions of the adventure on the Wizards of the Coast boards that mentioned TPKs in the last two sections, but I did not have that experience. Despite some minor annoyances (mentioned previously), the adventures were easy to run with minimal preparation time.
I highly recommend the adventure, especially for busy DMs and those who enjoy the dungeon crawl experience with iconic encounters. I am following it with a homebrewed adventure set in the Vaathwood, sparked by a plot hook mentioned in the campaign guide, as a bridge to Expedition to the Demonweb Pits.
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