4.75 out of 5 rating for Princes of the Apolocalypse
Let's get this part out of the way right up front: This is not THE Temple of Elemental Evil. It was clearly *inspired* by ToEE. I am a huge Forgotten Realms fan, so I am incredibly happy that this is set in Faerun. Not everyone is a fan, I know. ( Back in 3.0, I made enough changes to Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil to run it in Faerun. ) Four elemental cults are attempting to summon the Princes of Elemental Evil, but Tharzdun/Zuggtmoy/Iuz are not contained within this adventure in any way shape or form. What you find instead is a fairly sandboxy adventure set in the Sumber Hills of the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms.
The adventure is designed for levels 3-15, although it contains a number of initial, related side treks that you can use to get a party up from level one to level three. Since it is set a hop skip and a jump away from the Neverwinter area, it is really easy to direct your party there post Lost Mines of Phandelver. ( In fact, it mentions three different people in Phanaldin who might ask the characters to go to the Sumber Hills area for various reasons. )
The town of Red Larch and the surrounding environment gets the most detail. Amphail, Triboar, Beliard, West Bridge, and Womford are all touched on, as are some other communities in the area. There are four temple areas on the surface, and each has a trail, tunnel, or path to get to a deeper dungeon under the hills. Each dungeon then leads to an Elemental Node. ( In addition to a connection to the other dungeons. ) The adventure also contains a number of other, unrelated side treks, which can be dropped here and there into the recommended order of running the adventure. There are also a number of responses to intrusion that the elemental cults will take, designed to be dropped in depending upon which temples get taken out first. The cultists will lash out at the surrounding area, causing mayhem.
Some DM work will be required to make everything fit together perfectly. There is one of each air/water/earth/fire of each set of areas. ( Surface, dungeon, node. ) Each is designed for a slightly different level. Luckily, 5e has a built in mechanism ( bounded accuracy ) to make it so that ending up at the areas of a slightly different level than your party is won't end up being a complete TPK tragedy. Although, it might make sense to find some ways of preventing the party from heading deeper into the next level of dungeon before they're ready. I suspect that shortly after release, some enterprising people will go about making some guides to help newer DMs realize the biggest areas to watch out for if done out of level range.
The book has seven chapters. Chapter one contains the general overview of the adventure, including the history of Elemental Evil. It also includes a bunch of adventure hooks to seed the characters with, if you desire. It gives reasons for each faction to send adventurers to the area to investigate. Chapter two is all about the Dessarin Valley, and the towns and places you're likely to see. It also has a set of random encounter tables, with a very wide variety of encounters. Some are monsters to fight, some are very flavorful. Chapter three details the four temple areas on the surface in the Sumber Hills, as well as the early cult reprisals for use as the heroes begin to clear out these locations. Chapter four delves deeper under the surface, to the higher level cult areas, and includes the middle cult reprisals. Chapter five is all about the Nodes, and the highest level cult reprisals. Chapter six contains all of the side trek information, including all of the adventures needed to level characters from one to three, and side treks for later to intersperse between delves against the cults. ( In case fighting cults gets old. ) There are some very interesting ideas here, and I really like how they're presented. Chapter seven is monsters and magic items. Lots of really great, full color illustrations. Finally there are the tree appendixes. As I think was mentioned in the EE Player's Companion, not all of the content from there is in the book. Just the Genesi, the spells, and the final appendix is the conversion guide for other worlds. ( Athas, Krynn, Oerth, Eberron, and YOUR WORLD. ) This appendix talks about where you might set the adventure in those worlds, what you might want to consider changing, and what to use for the factions.
1 ) A very well structured adventure. There is variety among the encounters and areas. There is investigation in addition to hacking and slashing.
2 ) The villains are very memorable. There is a lot to work with here.
3 ) None of the dungeon/encounter areas are so large as to be burdensome. There are a couple of areas that might end up being multi-session areas, but most are easily doable in a single session.
4 ) There is a living quality to the adventure as presented. Things happen, in the background, and between adventures. Cultists attack towns. They disrupt trade. They generally make nuisances of themselves. A beginning DM can learn a lot about good adventure design from this adventure.
5 ) There is an eight page appendix with ideas for setting the adventure in worlds other than the Forgotten Realms.
6 ) It would be incredibly easy to make changes to this adventure. Don't like the way one of the temples is presented? Drop in another. You could easily run early potions of the adventure as a hex crawl, if that was your desire.
1 ) Some DM work will likely be required to get the absolute most out of the adventure. I, personally, expect to have to make some changes as DM. ( Heck, sometimes I can't help myself. Sometimes a good idea springs on me and I make changes. It's part of the fun I have as DM. Not everyone is like me, though. ) It is playable as written. But adjusting things to fit your party will help make it memorable.
Summation: I *love* this adventure. It pushes all of the right buttons for me.
At first glance this module is of far higher quality than the first 3 that were published. It even includes a section on adapting for other worlds including Darksun, Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Eberron. From a skim through of the meat of the adventure it seems well designed and could easily keep a group busy for a long while. Overall the module reminds me of the crammed in wealth of info from old 2nd edition products and the well written approach of 4th edition.
I really like this adventure. It has a theme and a plot, but it also has a very campaign, sandbox-like feel to it. Lots of encounter locations, lots of suggested encounters, optional side treks, and much more. I wish stat blocks were embedded in the text, but that is a minor quibble. I do not plan to run it straight, but to steal bits and pieces for my own campaign - even with this more limited use I feel like it was well worth the price.
Goes into great detail on the area, allowing a more free-form play while not being a completely undirected adventure, this hearkens back to some of the great old modules of yore and has a ton of play time built in. For a once a month group, this could be more than a year of gaming. Elemental themed campaigns can fall into such cliched territory with themed dungeons and might even feel like you are playing through an old OOtS strip, but while this has enough of those elements to pay homage to what you expect, they don't overwhelm you and there are enough fresh ideas to keep you from being deja-vued into boredom.
The module is designed such that the GM really needs to read it through twice to be ready for anything the players plan to do. This is a good thing, as it means the players have lots of options. There are plenty of opportunities for a variety of interactions with the NPC's letting the less-combat oriented gamer have a chance to shine and enjoy the break from sword-play. The module really has just about everything one could hope for, and to put a nice shiny bow on it, the illustrations and maps are top-notch. This is what i was hoping for from HotDQ & RoT, but that those really failed to deliver.
This large (256 pages) mega adventure is the latest offering from Wizards of the Coast for the D&D 5e game line. It is produced by Sasquatch Studios, who are known to produce some of the best modules in the business, and it definitely shows in this book. The first thing that will stricke you is that the module is a book that is nearly as big as the PHB. It is a hefty tome. What makes this module stand out is that the story is a carefully balanced mix of sandbox quests/stories with the major overarching plot. It gives the DM the freedom to mix and match elements into the Elemental Evil storyline without it seeming like a railroad of encounters. The real gem of this book is that it is 1 part setting book (the Dessarin Valley of the Forgotten Realms), 1 parts rules (the Genasi race and new elemental spells) with 2 parts adventure path. Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, while good, did not combine the elements that make this book truly outstanding, such as carfully balancing its enounters, and some, while requiring a bit of tweaking by DM's, is somethign I like to do with all my published modules. The artwork in this book is probably, IMO, the best produced for any module past or present by Wizards. It is superior, including the outstanding maps by Mike Schley, who also sells the maps on his website for printing and use. Overall, I give this book 5 stars because it definitely sets the bar high for production quality and well written content, and I hope this is a sign of adventure paths and also of rule books to come. Wizards has a hit here, and I cant wait to run this for the AL Enounters program.
absolutely the best adventure I have bought in years5/5
[h=2]Princes of the Apocalypse review[/h]
EN World member Brian Michaluk is the second person out of the gate with a review of Princes of the Apolocalyse, the upcoing D&D 5th Edition hardback adventure. He says it's much better than the previous three adventures (by which he means Lost Mine of Phandelver, which I thought was rather good, Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat). His review follows Fildrigar's last week.
The full review is below. Brian also answers questions in the comments, indicating there are 40 new monsters (including Howling Hatred Initiate CR 1/8, Eternal Flame GuardianCR 2, Razerblast CR 5, Olhydra CR 18, Ogremoch CR 20)
Wrote up a review on the new module. Honestly its miles better than the last three.
At first glance this module is of far higher quality than the first 3 that were published. It even includes a section on adapting for other worlds including Darksun, Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Eberron. From a skim through of the meat of the adventure it seems well designed and could easily keep a group busy for a long while. There are creatures with Challenge up to 20th level included as well as a printing of the free materials that wizards put out for players.
The modules real starting point assumes 3rd level characters but it does include a mini adventure in chapter 6 for running pure 1st level characters up to 3rd.
Good old day / night Random encounter charts make a real comeback in this adventure and will definitely add a good element of tension every time the party comes to a rest.
At the adventure start it seems to be assumed that the GM will be using the faction system but it does allow for a nonfaction start as well. The adventure is quite non linear in approach with included side quests and adventure locations that dont have to be done in order though it could be dangerous taking 3rd level pc's into the 6th level site for example.
By chapter 4 the party should have advanced to level 6 and by chapter 5 10th level. The adventure seems to finish around 15th or 16th level so truly this is a full campaign in a book.
The standard monster manual will get heavy use through the running of this module and will be required for play.
Artwork is top notch I was quite impressed. Well detailed NPC's very cool magic items and fun new monsters including the reappearance of some favorites of older elemental evil products.
Overall the module reminds me of the crammed in wealth of info from old 2nd edition products and the well written approach of 4th edition.
The book is well-written, stuffed full of content, and peppered with great art and maps. It has an old-school kind of sensibility, with 5th edition production values. In general, this adventure seems to really follow the inclusive philosophy of 5th edition, and we can hope that future adventures are anywhere near as good as this one.
The organization, artwork, layout, and overall utility of this epic campaign are excellent. I can't wait to run this. My only minor complaint is the lack of monster stat blocks, within the text. I particularly love the appendix detailing ways to drop this adventure into Athas, Krynn, Oerth, etc. Highly recommended, and it puts Sasquatch Games squarely on my radar.
First impressions review: Wizards have taken a major step forward with Princes of the Apocalypse, leaving behind the floundering steps of the Tiamat series with a confident, content-rich product which should satisfy a great many DM's.