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Defender (Lvl 8)
Review of Hunting Deathcloud by Sneak Attack Press
Over the past year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to review a considerable amount of modules and adventure settings from both “official sources” and from independent third-party publishers operating under the GSL. And it has seemed to me that the vast majority of the content being published is mainly for characters in their Heroic Tier or the early Paragon Tier – which I suppose is not a surprise, given that 4E has only had two anniversaries since release!
But given that 4E campaigns have been running in the D&D community for some time now, chances are good that Dungeon Masters will be looking for content from the late Paragon and even the Epic Tier in order to keep their players entertained. In fact, the recent poll from the R&D Staff’s column, Rule-of-Three, entreats 4E gamers to vote on what sort of Epic Tier content they want to see Wizards of the Coast creating in the coming months ahead!
So it is a treat to see that there are third-party publishers already looking ahead, and working to write and produce modules for to high level D&D 4E play. And as it so happens, Sneak Attack Press has just recently released an adventure designed to challenge high Paragon Tier characters in a battle to save an elven kingdom from a terrible foe in Hunting Deathcloud!
- Author: Matthew J. Hanson
- Illustrators: Arthur Rackham, Pearson Scott Foresman, Robert Altbauer (maps)
- Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
- Year: 2011
- Media: PDF (20 pages)
- Cost: $3.45 (from RPGNow.com
Hunting Deathcloud is a D&D 4E adventure module designed for 5 characters at the end of the Paragon Tier (Levels 17-19). While the adventure takes place in the ancient woodlands known as the Whispering Forest near the elven city-state of Solduron, the adventure setting is written generically enough to be set in almost any typical fantasy campaign setting. The module can be used as a stand-alone adventure, or can be developed by Dungeon Masters into a more involved short campaign arc. Hunting Deathcloud includes four encounters, two new unique magic items, and player handouts for various module-specific combat conditions which might afflict them over the course of the adventure.
The production quality of Hunting Deathcloud is quite good, with solid writing and the encounters presented in formats readily usable by D&D 4E Dungeon Masters. The monster stat blocks are presented in the easier-to-use revised MM3 format, and the entire PDF is done in black-and-white format to allow it to be very printer-friendly, should a DM decide to make a hardcopy for his game.
The maps in Hunting Deathcloud are decent, but definitely fall into the “no-frills” category, but should be easily drawn on a battle-mat, or approximated using WotC dungeon tiles. Mapping the final encounter is a real challenge, as it involves three-tiers - but there are some pretty inventive instructions on how to create the unusual environment using cardboard tubes and foamboard!
As for the artwork in Hunting Deathcloud, there are some charmingly drawn pencil and charcoal sketches which work well in the black-and-white format of the PDF. A number of sketches are borrowed from the public domain, produced by the English book illustrator Arthur Rackham, whose depictions of from Das Rheingold work well to depict the main antagonist in this adventure!
[Spoiler Warning: Reading beyond this point will reveal spoilers which might affect the enjoyment of playing through Hunting Darkcloud. You have been warned!]
Without revealing too much of the adventure in my review, the main antagonist is a green dragon which is inhabiting the ancient forest near the elven city. The she-dragon has plans for making sure that her brood of hatchlings grow up to be even more powerful and threatening, and is not above using the local elven population to further her ends. So not only is this adventure a basic dragon hunt, but also a rescue mission to free the dragon’s captives before they can become her hatchlings first meal!
Most of the encounters in Hunting Deathcloud are combat-oriented, with the exception of a rather nifty extended skill challenge which send the heroes tearing across the ancient Whispering Forest in search of clues to Deathcloud’s hidden lair. I really liked how the successes and failures during the “Great Hunt” skill challenge have a direct bearing on the difficulty level of the final encounter – facing Deathcloud and her hatching brood of eggs!
The encounters are designed around fey creatures which have been corrupted into the sevice of an evil dragon, and so fit very nicely with the overall “elf-lands” motif of the adventure. All the monsters appear to have all been updated to the higher damage values that MM3 and July 2010 Update recommend for play, and a number of the revised creatures have poisoning and venomous attacks in keeping with serving a creature as toxic as a green dragon.
The final encounter with Deathcloud is a strong challenge to a group of high Paragon-Tier characters, with the dragon capable of substantial mobility between a three-tiered lair in the treetops in order to keep the heroes from concentrating their firepower on her. And of course, in addition to fighting the enraged she-dragon, there are other threats than merely being knocked out of a tree… but I better stop there. I do not want to give away too many of the Author’s encounter tricks!
And, by the way, this encounter has a real potential for a huge “wow” factor, if a DM goes to the trouble of actually constructing Deathcloud’s nest using the instructions provided in the PDF!
Overall Grade: A-
I have to say that I am really impressed with Hunting Deathcloud by Sneak Attack Press, and I think it is a great example of how to put together a very exciting high level adventure. Although the presentation is fairly simple, the writing and encounter designs are well thought out, and the final encounter, with its multi-tiered map, seems almost to guarantee a memorable play experience for any D&D E gaming group. And modestly priced at well under 5 bucks, this adventure should be well worth considering for any DM looking for a way to fill a few game sessions in his high level D&D campaign.
On a personal note, I’ve been very impressed with the products being recently published by Sneak Attack Press, and I hope we see more Paragon and Epic Tier adventures of this caliber in the future!
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
- Presentation: B+
- - Design: B+
- - Illustrations: A-
- Content: A
- - Crunch: A
- - Fluff: A-
- Value: A
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