Fortress of the Yuan-ti

FORTRESS OF THE YUAN-TI
By Ari Marmell
Wizards of the Coast product number 109277400
64 pages, $19.95

SPOILER ALERT: As always when I review an adventure, I'm going to have to address some of the elements that are found in it. If you're likely to run a PC through Fortress of the Yuan-ti at some point, do yourself and your DM a big favor and stop reading this review now! Thank you for your consideration. Now scoot!

Fortress of the Yuan-ti is the third adventure in the three-adventure series that started up with Barrow of the Forgotten King and continued with The Sinister Spire. Like each of the others, this one can be played as a standalone adventure if you so desire. It's intended for a group of four 7th-level characters.

The cover artwork is a piece by Steve Prescott that depicts five individuals representing some of the different types of yuan-ti that will be encountered in the module. It's a nicely done piece, showing a fair amount of detail in the yuan-ti scales and weapons, while not giving away too much about the adventure itself (and the fact that an adventure called "Fortress of the Yuan-ti" is going to have yuan-ti in it is hardly something that needs to be kept from the casual viewer).

Interior artwork falls to David Griffith, who provides 11 black-and-white illustrations throughout. These are nicely rendered, with a fine job of shading and perspective. The eponymous fortress of the adventure is kind of an odd-looking one, so I really appreciate the accurate drawing of it he provides for us on page 9 (and even more so the full-color "show this to the players" version of it on the foldout flap of the cover). David also does a very nice job of the megaraptor skeleton on page 11; skeletons are difficult to draw with a whole lot of accuracy, and he does a great job of it here.

Jason Engle performs all cartography chores for the adventure (22 black-and-white maps in the book, as well as six full-color maps on the insides of the foldout covers), and again these are well done: easy to read, with plenty of detail. A couple of slight problems, though: he misspells the word "below" as "bellow" not once, but four times on the map on page 60, and he has "F5" on the Level 2 map of the fortress when it should be "P5" - you might want to be a bit more careful there in the future, Jason!

As for the adventure itself, I enjoyed this one the most of the three in the series, possibly because it was mostly a self-contained assault on a yuan-ti fortress. Ari did a real nice job designing the fortress, with cool touches like the main entrance leading you to the second floor, not the first, and a couple places which are accessible only through gates. He likewise manages to populate it not only with just about every yuan-ti subspecies known to date (I noted a lack of histachii, but that's about it) and quite a few other reptilian creatures (nagas, nagatha, sailsnakes, a dire snake, lizardfolk, and even a young bronze dragon), but a wide variety of atypical creatures that you wouldn't normally expect to see in a yuan-ti adventure (an otyugh, a ghost, a mind flayer, baboon wights - yes, you read that correctly - a living spell, and so on). He's definitely not afraid to use the vast library of readily accessible D&D books to alter his combatants, slapping on various templates or giving them levels of nonstandard classes as needed. (I noticed he uses his own dread necromancer class, which he created for Heroes of Horror.) This makes for a quite varied palette of opponents, which is a big plus in my book.

I even have to commend him somewhat on his stat blocks, for while they weren't without errors, his error rate is still slightly lower than I've seen in other recent Wizards of the Coast books. For the record, here's my "unofficial errata" that I compiled while reading through the adventure:
  • p. 28, Lieth the Taskmaster, female dark naga: Spent 48 of 60 skill points. (He correctly bumped the Charisma-based skills up by one point from those in the Monster Manual, but unfortunately the MM entry was wrong to start with. It's no wonder these errors get compounded....)
  • p. 29, Griffon-Eater, dire snake: Spent 8 of 10 skill points (MMII gives it a +4 racial bonus to Hide, Listen, and Spot and a +8 racial bonus to Balance). Skills should include Swim +15 [0 ranks, +7 Str, +8 racial due to having a swim speed].
  • p. 31, Chavakuth, male lizardfolk druid 5: Spent 42 of 40 skill points (and that's assuming his Survival ranks granted him a bonus to Knowledge (nature) and not the other way around; otherwise, "Survival +9" should be followed by "(+11 in aboveground natural environments)").
  • p. 33, Yensurros, yuan-ti halfblood ghost: In ethereal encounters, flat-footed AC should be 14, not 15 (+4 natural). Skills should include Survival +4 (+6 on other planes) [0 ranks, +4 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • p. 35, Kallist and Shillonok, poison dusk lizardfolk ranger 4: Spent 39 of 35 skill points.
  • p. 36, Issiel, Master of the Way, female yuan-ti pureblood enchanter 5: No mention as to whether or not she has a familiar.
  • p. 37, Snapwing, male young bronze dragon: Either Fort should be +11, not +10 (+8 as a 12-HD dragon, +3 Con), or his Con should be 15, not 16. (Incidentally, the MM shows Con 15 for a young bronze dragon.) As a Sor1, he should only know two 1st-level spells, not four. Spent 139 of 135 skill points. The Skills section erroneously grants him a +8 racial bonus to Climb checks; I assume that was a copy-and-paste error from a different stat block. "Disguise +15" should be followed by "(+17 acting)" due to a +2 synergy bonus from Bluff. Skills should include Survival +3 (+5 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. Again, either his Constitution is only 15, or the Reflex and Will saves for his breath weapons should be DC 19, not DC 18 (10 + 6 + 3 = 19).
  • p. 38, Bollust, advanced yeth hound: He understands Abyssal, yet the MM states that yeth hounds understand Infernal; I guess this guy just had a different upbringing. In any case, Fort should be +6, not +7 (+4 as a 5-HD outsider, +2 Con). Base Attack Bonus should be +5, not +3 (as a 5-HD outsider). Grapple should be +8, not +6 (+5 BAB, +3 Str). Oddly enough, his bite attacks were calculated correctly at +8 melee, despite the incorrect BAB.
  • p. 39, Scale Golem: Skills should include Climb +12 [0 ranks, +4 Str, +8 racial due to having a climb speed] and Swim +12 [0 ranks, +4 Str, +8 racial due to having a swim speed].
  • p. 40, Tolvul, Mind Flayer Inquisitor: Spent 68 of 66 skill points; I suspect Diplomacy should be +5, not +7 (he doesn't get a +2 synergy bonus from Sense Motive, since he only spent 4 points on it). Skills should include Survival +3 (+5 on other planes) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • p. 42, Zoldathra, Master of the Word, male half-fiend yuan-ti abomination: Contagion should be 1/day, not 3/day (per the half-fiend template). Neutralize poison should have a DC 19 save, not DC 18 (10 + 5 Cha + 4th-level spell = 19). Spent 134 of 180 skill points, yet overspent Hide and Move Silently by one point each (no doubt forgetting the -1 armor check penalty from the masterwork heavy steel shield); as a result, Hide should be +10 and Move Silently should be +14. Skills should include Climb +13 [0 ranks, +6 Str, -1 acp, +8 racial] and Swim +12 [0 ranks, +6 Str, -2 acp, +8 racial]. As a half-fiend, he should have DR 5/magic.
  • p. 44, Vsolt, male yuan-ti pureblood dread necromancer 6: "Disguise +8" should be followed by "(+13 as a human)" due to a +5 racial bonus.
  • p. 46, Shiuahn, female human fighter 7: Masterwork composite longbow attacks should be at +10/+5 ranged, not +9/+4 (+7 BAB, +2 Dex, +1 masterwork).
  • p. 47, Arzanezra, female human paladin of slaughter 7: Senses lists Listen +5, Spot +3, but Skills has each at +1 - which is it? Likewise, Speed mentions her wearing a breastplate, but Possessions lists masterwork chainmail - which is it? Possessions doesn't list her +1 shortspear or her masterwork shortspear - how many does she have of each? (She should have at least two masterwork ones, as her ranged attack is listed as +6/+1.) She spent 22 skill points; I'm not sure how many she should have (not having Unearthed Arcana), but if it's like a normal paladin she should receive 30 skill points, and I assume she put her points into class skills only. In any case, she put 11 points into Ride, but as a 7th-level character she can only have a maximum of 10 points into any one skill, so Ride should be +9, not +10.
  • p. 48, Wretched Tide (dretch mob): Average hit points for a 30-HD outsider with a +2 Con modifier is 195, so the fact that this one has 243 hp means this is pretty hefty mob of dretches! AC should be 11, not 12 (-4 size, +5 natural). Touch AC should be 6, not 7. Flat-footed AC should be 11, not 12.
  • p. 51, Sulvaugren, Master of Worlds, male yuan-ti abomination blackguard 4: Since he still has his average hit points for a creature with his Hit Dice, I guess we'll have to assume that the 8 hp he had to give up to wield the Aegis Inviolable (using the Weapons of Legacy rules) were extra hp he had above and beyond the average. However, while he gave up a 1st- and 2nd-level spell slot (his bonus spells for high Wisdom, in effect), he doesn't have any 3rd- or 4th-level spells yet, so how has he managed to activate his legacy shield's powers as far as he has, when he should have given up both a 3rd-level and a 4th-level spell slot? Spell-like abilities aren't alphabetized correctly. Skills should include Swim +13 [0 ranks, +5 Str, +8 racial].
  • p. 53, The Risen King: There's no AC breakdown provided (and he's a unique form of undead created especially for this adventure), but if it's true that he has AC 31 (as listed), then his flat-footed AC should be 17, not 18 (he has a +4 Dex modifier). Fort should be +15, not +20 (+7 as a 21-HD undead, +0 Con, +2 Great Fortitude, +6 Cha from unholy ward). Ref should be +13, not +18 (+7 as a 21-HD undead, +4 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes). [Either that, or his saves stay as they are and he should have "(augmented outsider)" as part of his creature type, but that would alter his Base Attack Bonus, saves, etc.] Masterwork bastard sword attacks should be at +22/+17 melee, not +21/+16 (+10 BAB, +4 Str, +1 masterwork, +1 Weapon Focus, +6 Cha from unholy ward). Slam attacks should be at +16 melee, not +15 (+10 BAB, +4 Str, -5 secondary, +1 Weapon Focus, +6 Cha from unholy ward). Spent 210 of 216 skill points.
  • p. 56, Udmuela, Vanguard Agent, female spirit naga: She should only know 7/4/2/1 spells, not 7/5/3/2 - you don't get to add your Cha bonus to spells known, only spells/day.
  • p. 57, Grusildrith, female green hag wizard 8: With 17 HD, she should have 6 feats (plus the two bonus feats for being a Wiz8), not 5 plus the 2 bonus feats. Skills should include Swim +12 [0 ranks, +4 Str, +8 racial].
  • p. 59, Gidrius and Lusudrus, male yuan-ti ignans: Spent 15 of 14 skill points; Move Silently should be +3, not +4 (probably forgot the -1 armor check penalty for a light steel shield).
  • p. 59, Siolim, advanced gauth: Bite attacks should be at +1 melee, not -1 (+7 BAB, -1 Str, -5 secondary).
  • p. 62, Writhing Blackness, living Evard's black tentacles/ghoul touch spell: Reflex save to avoid being engulfed should be DC 16, not DC 19 (10 + spell level + Cha modifier = 10 +4 + 2 = 16).
  • p. 63, Iphariul, male pseudonatural yuan-ti halfblood: Shouldn't he be an augmented monstrous humanoid? (His saves and skills are those of a monstrous humanoid, not an outsider.) Skills should include Survival +4 (+6 on other planes) [0 ranks, +4 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)].
Proofreading and editing were pretty good as well, with just a few errors making it past editors Scott Fitzgerald Gray and Kim Mohan: instances of incorrect word usage ("magic" instead of "magical," "shield" instead of "armor"), a line spacing issue where two paragraphs should have a blank line separating them, and an incorrect reference (viper swarms appear in Fiend Folio, not Monster Manual II). Not bad at all!

For those who use the Weapons of Legacy book (and rules), there are two different legacy items in this adventure: a shield and a suit of darkwood scale mail armor. The "big bad evil guy" at the end of the adventure is none other than the Forgotten King himself (the guy whose bones were stolen in Barrow of the Forgotten King), and while he's a CR 16 encounter all by himself, there are quite a few ways the PCs can whittle him down to shape (specific items they can gather remove various of his powers and abilities, there are special weapons that do a great deal of damage to him specifically, there's a special "action point" mechanism in place that can be used to help defeat him, and if all else fails there's a sidebar on page 52 suggesting ways to make the Risen King a more suitable combatant (CR-wise) that won't necessarily end up as a TPK machine against the PCs. As expected of the last adventure in a trilogy, this one does the best job of tying the other adventures together into a cohesive whole, yet still remains playable as a standalone.

Taken as a whole, I give Fortress of the Yuan-ti a rating of "4 (Good)" - using the five-point scale that was in effect when I wrote this review last year.
 

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Mouseferatu

Visitor
Hey, John. Glad you liked it so much. :)

In the interest of giving credit where it's due, however, I have to correct something you said. While I did, indeed, work on Heroes of Horror, the dread necromancer is not my creation. I'm not certain if that belongs to James Wyatt or to the development team, but it wasn't mine or C.A.'s.

Just wanted to set the record straight.

Edit to Add: Damn it, there's no way to reply without giving the product a rating, even if that rating's 0%. I don't want to rate my own work. :mad:

I'm using the exact same numbers John did, just to avoid throwing off any averages. But I want it on record that I didn't plan to add a rating. :erm:
 

solomanii

Explorer
I see that the monsters from this adventure appear in 4e form in the 4e compendium. Was a 4e version of this adventure published somewhere/sometime? Google only shows 3.5e version but the 4e compendium lists the monsters with proper 4e stats. Thanks.
 

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