Review Raiders of the Serpent Sea - Third Party 5E Review

Reminds me of how in Odyssey of the Dragonlords, the Cursed One Epic Path requires the PC to kill their own ancestor, the one responsible for bringing the curse down upon the family and who is now imprisoned in Hades. The cerberus guarding him claims that the only way to end the curse is for the PC to kill the ancestor, who does not defend himself. However, the book states that the curse is also lifted if both Sydon and Lutheria (the BBEGs) are killed with the caveat that "this solution is never offered or explained — it must be discovered."
I get what they were going for but they really didn't do a good job of executing that idea.
 

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pukunui

Legend
I get what they were going for but they really didn't do a good job of executing that idea.
No, they didn't, and it left a bit of a sour taste in my player's mouth. It was very much a gotcha moment. Jump through all these hoops to be able to end your curse only to find out you have to kill a helpless old man? Ooof.
 


Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Alright, y'all, now we're going to delve into the Witch's Shrine. It is, I think, an almost perfect antithesis of fun dungeon design.

The setup here is that the prime antagonist, the Matron (also known as Boða - props to you if you know how to pronounce that, 'cuz I sure as hell didn't), is trying to get a better read on the PCs. She's sent this sort-of-illusion to get the PCs to appear before her, so she can mark them.

And hey, it's a...

Ah, the dream dungeon. Whether that's the Fade from Dragon Age: Origins or the weird alternate future in Dragon Age: Inquisition, there are sometimes entities that can't be fought in the real world, and must also be challenged in the dream world. Unfortunately, this version isn't nearly so well done as those.

Anyway, while your PCs are on the sea, a storm springs up. The weather clears a bit, revealing a small island with a weird shrine on it.

Now, if I were to lay out the principles of good dungeon / encounter design, I'd say they follow something about like this:

a) Multiple paths in and a strong, associated reason to engage
b) Allows the PCs to engage and disengage with the content at-will
c) Interesting rewards for overcoming obstacles with clever decisions
d) Fun denizens the PCs can choose to engage with, and choose the manner of engagement
e) Internal logical consistency
f) Meaningful decisions to make
g) Stakes

The Witch-Shrine cleverly subverts all of these. The dungeon itself is only 10 rooms, and occupies 5 pages, including the map. However, there are fun lessons scattered throughout on "How Not To Design A Dungeon!"

For example, if your players go, "This is obviously a trap," and attempt to sail away, the text advises you to have your players roll to see who gets tossed overboard by the storm. If someone is tossed overboard, you have to pull them back in. You have the PCs make this check six times, or until the PCs give up and recognize that they need to stay on the railroad tracks. There is exactly one door in, and once in, you can't leave.

So that's (a) and (b) in one nice little bit.

The authors put some nice little mundane items (and one magic item) in front of the PCs...all of which require varying DC Charisma checks to pick up. The heroes can only make four attempts before these items vanish. Why does the bad guy have a magic weapon and trinkets sitting out? Beats me. Why only four tries, especially if you have more than four players? Beats me. So this adventure gives the PCs the option to try for some interesting rewards...but then leaves it up to a (DC 20!) Charisma check, with zero character choices or player decisions involved.

So that's (c) down.

After that, the adventure puts an NPC in front of you who does not engage with the players except to stare at them and set out bowls of squirrel stew. Basically, this is a recipe for frustrated RP'ers who really want to talk to someone, but who get stymied by this individual. (By this point, the PCs should have picked up on the This Is No Ordinary House theme, so it's not even doing a good job underlining that point).

Also, remember how in the previous room, the PCs had to really try to interact with certain objects? Not here! Here they can have as much delicious stew as they want. But they can't interact with the only NPC at all, either physically or socially. So this is basically telling the PCs that "You can only interact with it if the devs thought of it," which I think is sort of contrary to the whole point of TTRPGs.

So that's (d) and (e) down.

The rest of the first floor is mostly in this vein. There is a cool scene where the PCs can watch one of the witches who inhabit this building in real life open a secret door...except the witches can see the PCs (that was who the NPC was in the last room I described), so why would they open a secret door in front of them?

After that, they mostly ride the railroad until they meet the BBEG in her original form, a terrifying Yoten! She monologues for a bit, then gets angry / scared about Siddhe (oh, Siddhe's here too, because of course she is!) and marks the PCs (which was the entire point of putting the PCs through this exercise).

The PCs can't do anything, can't really affect anything, and have zero meaningful decisions or input. So that's (f) down.

Finally, they get trapped by tree trunks and slowly throttled until they wake up in a shallow grave with a level of exhaustion. What happens if they dodge those tree trunks? They wind up in the same spot. In fact, if they die at all during the adventure, they wake up in the same spot.

And that's (g) gone.

Look, I know I'm complaining a lot. But we're continuing to see some problems that will plague later sections of the adventure into unplayability (at least for me), so I think it's important to highlight where the devs absolutely fail to capitalize on the concept they were given. If the point is to mark the PCs, why not simply have an ironthrall in the next chapter do that? Or steal something of the PCs so the Matron can mark them? In addition, layout continues to be an issue, and the devs seem to be obsessed with these video-game-style gimmicks.

Solid 2 / 10. Creepy but not actually scary, with no real choices, fun characters or action? Hard pass.

Next time, we set out for Drifthall, and another BioWare Trope Alert!
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
So, now we arrive at Chapter 3: Drifthall.

Drifthall is the... sigh goddamnit

Main Quest Hub!!! It's a big ol' social setting full of quest hooks, NPCs, moving, and shaking. See the Citadel from every Mass Effect ever, and Denerim, Kirkwall, and Skyhold from the Dragon Age series. Structurally, the Main Quest Hub is a tie point to which the party keeps returning, and allows them to see the ripple effects of their actions.

As I was saying, Drifthall is the main quest hub for the next act of the game. This section begins with the PCs pulling in and being met by the Seerguard (you'll never guess what they do!). The PCs are strongly hinted that you don't want to keep the weird seers waiting, and the next section is meeting the volv.

The volv are clearly meant to be the Fonts of All Knowledge in the setting, able to explain various things to the heroes if they missed them, and it's here that we start to see some things the heroes have uncovered in their travels coming to light. The volv can help explain the weird ironthrall messing about with the volcano, Helmaws, wolves, etc.

My only problem with this is that these threads have been spread over several months of in-game time, and so your players may not even remember them. Of course, the PCs can also miss a lot of this content, due to how some of these hints are structured, so they might not even know about some of this stuff. It's a good idea, but for something to stick with PCs, you need to reinforce it. It's not enough to show them one ironthrall, you need to show them several. It's not enough for one person to have seen a Rainbow Spear, they need to meet several (including preferably one of the PCs). I recommend you make a note of any adventure-vital revelations the PCs have either missed or misinterpreted, and have the volv clear those up here.

The volv also take an interest in Siddhe and recommend the PCs leave her with them. This is a terrible idea (see below).

Anyway, the volv recommend the PCs meet all the clans, and help them solve problems. I would have thought that solving problems was down to the weird old human-sacrificing seers, but apparently the volv are trying out the gig economy.

This bit is where the adventure starts to show some of the shine that was promised! We get a bunch of clans, and each one has a problem or petition. There's an agenda they want to push. One wants to know what happened to their poisoned jarl, the Whar want to become a major clan, the Orn want justice for their torched home, etc.

How the PCs have behaved up till now comes home to roost. If they let King Cenric live, for instance, they risk censure by their peers (of course, that also means kidnapping, slaving, and murder are all full-throatedly endorsed by this society. Have fun squaring that circle, friends!). I am all for consequences of actions, but what really makes this section sing is that so many of the clan problems intersect other clans, bringing the PCs into those problems, creating a sort of Brownian quest-log accumulator. This could create analysis paralysis, but honestly I'm just happy to see some great interactions, so they don't lose any points there.

In addition to this, these characters start to act like real people, with flaws, vices, and blind spots. The Alljarl wants to let the old and the sick fight to the death so they die in battle, thus getting to go to the Halls of the Slain, and therefore increasing the number of warriors who come back to Ragnarok. This seems to be based on a misreading of their religious texts, and I actually like this. Hysteria-slapping an eschatologically-obsessed leader into sensible behavior seems like something heroes ought to be able to do - but it damages the PCs relationships with her.

(Oh, also the Alljarl is Hrolf's ex. That gets awkward).

There is only one big Yikes! moment here. See, if the PCs leave Siddhe here while they're out doing the next few quests, the next time they come back, Siddhe's dead! Along with another novice seer named Mera. The volv poisoned them both, but got attacked by an ironwood witch trying to stop them, and are now using the dead witch as a scapegoat for them killing two kids. This totally has to happen, because Plot!

Siddhe is actually Hel. See, Hel had a huge crush on this guy, Thonir the Almost God, back in the day. Hel is also, unfortunately, the Matron's daughter. So when the Matron killed her, Hel became the goddess of death. Now, though, she's trying to hook up with her ex, who's hanging out in the Halls of the Slain (which is not the underworld - different plane). So she created Hollow Hel, a simulacrum, to take over for her. She then tried to die bravely, and got it all mucked up, which is how she wound up in this world as Siddhe.

I think this is ridiculously convoluted for a setting where most of the gods are stone. Absolutely none of this is necessary. Which means someone had to dream up a plot that relies heavily on human / child sacrifice, and then publish it.

If the PCs try to leave Siddhe somewhere in a tiny hut, or stuck on a demiplane, or with friendly NPCs, the volv come and take her away anyway. If the PCs take Siddhe with them (which is what they've been doing this whole time, so they could find it perfectly natural to continue), the adventure provides no guidance. So you've got the choice of either railroading the volv stealing the kid or breaking the plotline. Great.

Now...I have to say that I'm about 110% done with this adventure and ritual sacrifice. The heroes have no chance to stop this, and the volv actively lie to them about what happened.

So here's a big ol' remix:

The whole point of Siddhe dying is that the PCs have to guide her spirit in the underworld, where she has to make a big choice: go be with Thonir, or stay the goddess of death. So, leaving aside all the DMPC shenanigans, etc., that the adventure has been pulling, I'd recommend having Siddhe stay with the PCs when they hit the Ironwood Witches at their main base (chapter 5, we'll get to it), just have inscriptions, or visions, or whatever, from the witches' divinations. Place this in an area the PCs cannot avoid it, since it is crucial information. The visions, et alia, inform the PCs that if Siddhe dies, and the heroes escort her spirit through the underworld, the chances of the witches plans coming to fruition plummet. When they return to Drifthall, the volv reluctantly confirm this. They've been desperately looking for a way to avoid this, but it is spelled out in the iron skeins of the child's fate. Siddhe has a choice to make, and how the PCs have treated her means that they have an opportunity to sway her...or to potentially cause her to desert them all.

Also - would writers please quit giving big, meaningful choices to NPCs? Everytime I see this I always wonder why that wasn't included for a PC - that could have been great!

This chapter sets up the next four, and it does so with decent material, well-thought-out NPCs, and good hooks. It goes some distance towards redeeming the preceding chapters. Unfortunately, this complete nonsense with two dead kids really unravels a lot of that for me.

Ending score on this chapter for me is 6 / 10 - there's more good than bad, but not by that much.

Stick with me next time, and we'll go over the next lake - the broader Serpent Sea!
 

TheSword

Legend
Giving the PCs encouragement to murder an innocent person might be the most awful, stupid thing I've ever seen in an adventure. I don't recall even the most edgelord OSR games doing anything that bad, and I have eyerolled at some of those so hard I caused a sonic boom.
Is it murder if the individual is volunteering to be sacrificed to the gods? Particularly when the gods are objectively real? I seem to remember a similar scene in the Vikings TV series. I recall the characters being quite nonchalant about it. Respectful and admiring but not horrified.

Totally get the need for a content warning in the book warning that such things are present but it doesn’t seem out of place in a Viking campaign 🤷🏻‍♂️

Decided to buy this campaign. If only to see if it can really be as bad as it’s being made out to be. Always sad when a review produce lots of folks saying thank you for saving me from this product.
 
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Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Is it murder if the individual is volunteering to be sacrificed to the gods? Particularly when the gods are objectively real? I seem to remember a similar scene in the Vikings TV series. I recall the characters being quite nonchalant about it. Respectful and admiring but not horrified.

Totally get the need for a content warning in the book warning that such things are present but it doesn’t seem out of place in a Viking campaign 🤷🏻‍♂️

Decided to buy this campaign. If only to see if it can really be as bad as it’s being made out to be. Always sad when a review produce lots of folks saying thank you for saving me from this product.
I think this is a Thermian argument. Regardless of whether it "doesn't seem out of place in a Viking campaign," it's still something that is going to make players uncomfortable, and will definitely prompt arguments at some tables. Hence, it really should have been signalled better to the DM.

I'm very glad you decided to buy the book! That money helps the developers create new products (hopefully better ones), and I wish you all the luck in the world should you decide to run it. Catch you on the next one, Sword!

At this point, the PCs are turned loose onto another lake. They have three quests to accomplish, all called "Sagas." There's one where they go beat up the ironwood witches for a bit, another where they go try to talk to the giants to get them to stop killing people, and one where they go to the Underworld to find Siddhe's ghost and find out what's causing the dead to rise.

Alright - moving on to Chapter 4: Across the Serpent Sea. This chapter is chock full of side-quests, random locations to be explored, etc. It's sort of a mini-gazetteer to the Serpent Sea locations the PCs might explore as they go through the next three "Sagas."

This is all great. Seriously, 8 / 10, my only complaints being that formatting and layout make it difficult to use at the table, and I would have liked to see more of it (though 21 pages is fairly chonky). Several of these locations are tied into the PCs epic goals from their backstories, so you can seed those how you like.

Notable examples include:
  • Help calm down a bunch of sentient, eight-legged horses who think the locals are butchering horses
  • Break up an arranged marriage by finding the person the bride really loves and dragging him back from a horrible delirium
  • Hunt down a wooly rhino in the frozen North
  • Stop a massive infection of "Iceblight."
  • Blackmail an adult black dragon who faked his own death at the hands of himself (magic ring) and then convinced the local peasants that he should be their ruler.
  • If any of the players have the Royal Heir background, they have a whole arc about finding their parents, which leads to a Red Wedding-style backstab.
There are actually a bunch of locations where the book gives you kind of a basic location. I've taken to thinking about these as plug-ins for other adventures. You can put the Market Games from Journeys to the Radiant Citadel in as the PCs have to prove their worth to a community, for example. Or drop in any of the dungeons from Into the Yawning Portal.

Good job, developers!

Next up, we get to the Curse of the Ironwood Witches, which is chapter 5. The material here is set up for PCs of 7th to 10th level. This saga deals with the PCs exploring the witches' home in the Ironwood forest, and dealing with their crap. We learn several things:

  1. The ironwood trees eat people, and spawn beetle swarms to affect the heroes.
  2. The witches are serving Yoten (the evil chaos-folk who destroyed the Lost Lands pre-Grimnir)
  3. The Witchking has been bringing monsters to Grimnir using a Rainbow Spear doomaflotchie

Overall, this chapter is fairly solid. It'll push the PCs to the limit, especially if they try exploring a lot. The adventure tries to get around the 5 minute adventuring day by relying on the carnivorous forest conceit, which ain't bad, but will probably get a little tiring. My complaint here is that there's no times given for navigating from point to point, but the game seems to think you should be rolling random encounters every hour or so.

Aside from that, the PCs explore a giant carnivorous forest, fight through the witch shrine, although this time as a proper dungeon, not a weird vision-quest, and then find the heart of the witches' power in the Ironwood Grove. From there, the PCs fight the Witchking, fight some witches, and then (hopefully!) burn down the ironwood grove.

From here, the PCs can journey onward, heading to either Drifthall, the giant quest, or anywhere they want to visit on the Serpent Sea.

I am pretty OK with this section 7 / 10 - the balance, formatting, and layout all need work, but it's miles ahead of the last few sections on narrative cohesion and appropriate material.

Next up is some palace-intrigue type nonsense with the giants! The basic setup here is that the frost giant jarl's wife has been replaced by an ironwood witch. She's trying to get the giants to go to war with the Vikings. The giants first attacked a tallfolk (goliath) clan near the water, and this is where the PCs enter the story.

The PCs initial motivation is to figure out a) what happened to this clan of tallfolk that lives up here and b) where that frost giant at the Well of Wisdom came from. Various hooks from Drifthall point here.

When they show up, the PCs find a village of tallfolk under siege from hill giants!

Dealing with the giants who've attacked the tallfolk village is actually pretty good! Interesting characterization sets the tallfolk apart from some of the other clans, including a potential companion for the PCs (Odur, whom they met in Drifthall) getting more respect if the heroes use their glory to talk up Odur.

The one thing I find baffling is that one of the things the tallfolk insist on is that the heroes drink this holy water to "bind their fates to that of the clan." The water is totally inert and doesn't do anything. However, I can definitely see heroes categorically refusing to drink...and if they don't drink, the scenario doesn't progress.

Other than that, it's compelling stuff.

Next there's an overland trek in the frozen north (mostly some narration broken up by random encounters), followed by the Glacier Fortress of the Frost Giant Jarl. I figure this is an intentional callback to Against the Giants, and good on them. Anyway, as said, the PCs are here to basically figure out what the hell is driving the giants to war.

Turns out the frost giant jarl's wife has been replaced by an ironwood witch and she's trying to get the giants on the war path. The PCs have to stop her. The tricky part here is proving that the jarl's wife is actually an imposter. While the jarl and the jarl's wife (now a witch) are estranged, the jarl loves her very much, and is not willing to let things escalate to combat. Yet.

There is exactly one path the heroes might choose to use here, but it relies upon a) asking the right questions at an eating game, b) lucky rolls to convince a frost giant to divulge his nightmares, c) finding that frost giant's journals in his closet, and then d) realizing that this proves anything at all. So, not the cleanest path imaginable.

The Three Clue Rule is your friend, kids. For each conclusion you want the PCs to reach, include three clues to it.

1) The jarl's wife is an Ironwood Witch.
a) The PCs see her eyes flash iron-color during the banquet - no roll required
b) The jarl's son complains of terrible nightmares; he's concerned for his dad, and additional interaction by the PCs may coax additional information out of him
c) PCs can use detect magic, truesight, etc., to see past the witch's disguise
d) Have the witch make a slight slip up that no one else could pick up on, but someone who'd fought the witches before would recognize - like a somatic gesture, etc.

Repeat this kind of model for each conclusion you want the PCs to draw in the adventure.

If the PCs figure this out, the best they can hope for is keeping the giants neutral in the coming Ragnarok. Otherwise, the giants will side with the witches.

For the most part, this is a decent palace intrigue scenario. Because of the multiple options to engage with the content, it's keyed like a dungeoncrawl, but all the palace-intrigue stuff is presented as a series of scenes. This results in the layout becoming muddled, but hardly unusable.

On the way back, the PCs fight the Witchking, plus one other witch and two wolventrolls. My only grip with this is that the Witchking has to escape unless it's the third time the PCs are fighting him. I hate that kind of railroady crap, but there you go, I guess.

By the way, if you're picturing the Witch King like this:
lord of the rings film GIF

Come at me, Gandalf!

That's not quite what they're going for. The Witch-King in this adventure looks like this:

hPVj5Ap.png

If you're wondering why his shield has teeth, it's because it can literally bite you, dealing 4d6 + 5 necrotic damage as one of his three attacks. He's no slouch!

Alright, friends, I'm going to come back next time to the Saga of the Dead! (By the way, for those of you playing the home game, we're on page 212 / 498, which puts us not even halfway through this thing!).

Stay frosty!
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Alright, on to the Saga of the Dead. This is the last of the "three sagas" that key off of Drifthall. The core of the adventure is going to the Underworld to guide Siddhe into becoming Hel, thereby stopping the undead from siding with the Ironwood Witches at Ragnarok. The PCs also need to recover a horn that wakes up the gods for Ragnarok.

The Matron's agent down here, Regulus, has subverted Hollow Hel (the simulacrum that Siddhe left behind to mask her disappearance, also called, "Pulling a Bueller"). Now Regulus is more-or-less running things, and has Hollow Hel pretty much primed to believe that the PCs are bad guys. By the way, here's what Regulus looks like:

OjuhSsR.png

Now, to me that's just a slightly classier version of Duncan "THE MAN" Fisher, but what do I know?

GVVhgiNM_400x400.jpg

The PCs are down here to get Siddhe back from the land of the dead (because the volv have murdered her), and also to recover a super-important horn that awakens the valiant dead at Ragnarok.

This adventure suffers from a bunch of things, but let me highlight three:

  1. Poor communication of stakes and information
  2. Trying to cram level 8 adventurers into a linear plot line
  3. A shift in the expected play style that edges into "Rug Pull" territory
These three things feed into one another, but I'll do my best to break them down.

The Underworld has two states: regular and hostile. A hostile Underworld happens when the PCs attack the dead, resolve situations through violence, and generally act rudely to the NPCs. Once the Underworld is hostile, it can't become regular again. Once hostile, the PCs' chances of being shut out of any meaningful decisions is dramatically escalated (the NPCs won't listen to you, everything just attacks, and you eventually get perma-banned from the Underworld).

The adventure does not communicate (that I can find) to the players that this is a possibility, or even that the PCs should not attack the zombies they see running around the Underworld. Remember that super-crucial horn that wakes up the gods? Never mentioned, either by the volv or by the other denizens of the Underworld. Most challenges have one (easily overlooked) clue that is gated behind a skill check, otherwise, the PCs have no idea what's going on.

There are clues to where Siddhe is located scattered all over the place, but several of them are skill-locked or rely on the PCs figuring out the exact conversational path to get the NPC to talk to them.

Now, most of this I can work around, right? Just use a good old-fashioned revelation and clue list and you're good!

Well... not really. There's also several places where the adventure contradicts itself:

For example, there are these things called witchbeetle swarms. The Matron (aka Boda) uses them to scry. It's stated several times in the book she hasn't been able to get any into the Underworld, and in fact tries to use the PCs to slip some witchbeetles in:

gtqqMg5.png

And then when the PCs meet the Matron's agent in the Underworld (Regulus):

TR40m56.png

BAM! Witchbeetles.

I think this suffers from the programmer's mentality of writing a "world-state" into the adventure instead of just letting the DM have the world respond logically to the players. It's a key deficiency of this campaign, and it shows in several places.

So, remember when I said it forced level 8 PCs into a linear plot? Here's the Underworld:

KbsAAi2.png


Looks good, right? Nice pointcrawl, not a lot of linearity there.

Well, actually...yeah. You see that big golden bridge in area 5? They don't want the PCs to go around it, so the writers did this:

2NhbCeD.png

Why is there a living adult white dragon on top of a random bridge in the Underworld? Because the writers stopped caring about the world's logic about three chapters ago.

Now, some of you are going to say, "Well, they say that if the PCs win, they can go ahead and let them do stuff out of order! That's good, right?" First off, Dan, get out of my head. Secondly, no, that's bad. There's zero guidance given on how to adjust the narrative, simply a note that the narrative needs to be adjusted! You do not get points back if you say, "We railroaded this, but if the PCs break the tracks, they can go ahead and get off." No. You decided to design the scenario this way, so that's on you, writers. Finally, if anyone's asking what's stopping PCs from swimming, swarms of metallic piranha plus the water does necrotic damage.

Also, note that fighting the dragon doesn't affect the Underworld's state. Some enemies are OK to fight, and some aren't. Boy, it would be nice if we could get a signpost as to which is which!

And that's just one example. If the PCs listen to the dude to talks to them on the bridge, they get sent to the Isle of the Wicked. The Isle of the Wicked, if you didn't guess it, is full of Real Bad Dudes who try to steal the PCs stuff and "punish" them.

If the PCs try to fight the Real Bad Dudes (prisoners), this happens:

lWV950l.png

This is the kind of crap that works in a video game and ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT WORK in a TTRPG. I need to know my choices have realistic weight; if the writers just put in infinite monsters "because plot" the idea that my choices matter falls apart. We're now playing through a novel.

And that comes back to the third point: the Rug Pull.

This is D&D, and more importantly, it's Viking AF D&D. Switching from "Yeah! We're all raiders on the Serpent Sea! Let's go mess people up!" to "If you fight people, you're going to lose" without so much as a signpost is a helluva a whiplash.

Remember how I said the prisoners on the Isle of the Wicked would try to punish the PCs? Here's how that plays out:

s2auGyt.png

Apparently, the writers haven't gotten their torture-porn fixation out yet. Imagine RPing that scene, knowing that if the PCs fight, they get to battle infinite bad guys, make the Underworld hostile, and then lose the adventure.

All three of these flaws together make this section damn near unplayable.

A few other points:

Siddhe has a pretty brutal choice to make in the Underworld: take up the mantle of Hel once again, destroying Hollow Hel, and accepting that she'll never be reunited with her lost love. Any time I see the adventure giving an NPC a really hard choice to make, it's a missed opportunity. There should be a PC who gets to make that choice. No bueno.

If you do (somehow) convince Hollow Hel that Regulus is betraying her, she'll fly into a rage and kill him, then turn and fight the party for several rounds. There's no guidance on what her statblock is, so I looked up Hel. She's CR 23. The heroes are level 8. That's...not good?

You're going to have some dead-for-real PCs if you try to run that.

There's a ship made out of toenails and fingernails. This is great.

There are a bunch of wolves and the kids who take care of them. This is Miyazaki by way of Snorri and I love it.

Whatever the PCs do, the Underworld is in one of three states: hostile to the living world (aids the witches at Ragnarok), neutral (stays out of Ragnarok) or allied to the living world (helps the heroes at Ragnarok) at the end of the adventure.

Once done, the PCs go back to Drifthall.

Overall rating for this chapter: 2 / 10. There's some good stuff here, but the problems make it more trouble that it's worth to rework. This section outright pissed me off and basically killed my hopes that this would be a campaign I could play through. I wound up spending $25 so a failed author could subject me to their garbage plot and snuff film fixation. Thanks, guys.
 


pukunui

Legend
Regulus looks like he got lost on his way to a cocktail party. He's not dressed (or coiffed) appropriately for a viking-themed adventure.

Also, that underworld setup sounds dreadful. Makes the Netherworld section of Odyssey of the Dragonlords seem much more palatable in comparison. The main thing I remember about that section is the tarrasque in an iron cage and the 'gotcha' trapped throne in Lutheria's barge. My players didn't enjoy that at all.
 

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