D&D 4E Revisiting Reavers of Harkenwold

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I was working on this idea on another forum site. It has a smaller audience, including some members that I recognized from this one, but with more subforums to help readers find relevant content that interests them. So if you're a fan of a particular edition, game, or campaign setting, you don't need to wade through a sea of the content aimed at the most popular or current game system.

After receiving positive response and encouragement (while taking my time to polish and work on my writing skills), I've decided to share this project over here. My approach will be a little different, however. At the time this post was written, it is still a continuous work in progress, and I'm writing quite a lot. It's already a hefty to read with multiple topics to cover. So, instead of planning for several large posts in one thread, I will eventually post the various topics in their own threads.

Even though I am writing specifically for 4th edition, most of the information here is usable with any version or game system. I don't think I need to explain that, but it seems people sometimes forget. I hope to convince others that an older edition is still a viable option, no matter which one you prefer. We don't need tools, or support, or permission, if we have the books and the desire to continue enjoying them.

Your responses and participation let me know that I'm not just talking into the void. It's time we start showing more love for 4e, and for all the other editions we loved playing before, and would love to play again.

Introduction
========================
After acquiring my own physical copy of Madness at Gardmore Abbey, I began thinking of how to expand it into a full-length, Heroic-tier campaign. Like many Dungeon Masters before me, searching through forum and blog posts lead me down some familiar avenues, hoping to find inspiration and ideas. With maybe a handful of exceptions, I found mostly lists of other published adventures. There was barely any discussion beyond the order to run them (which was usually obvious going by the level of characters recommended). Or, how to create better plot hooks so the players didn't feel like they were going from one random adventure to the next.

My search uncovered many places where these lists were repeated over the years, offering little or no variation whatsoever. I had decided that anyone with access to the same library of products and an equal skill level of "googling" could have come up with the same sequences on their own. That lead me to come up with my own path, and try to do things a little differently. To begin, I should lay out my goals, as well as my own personal criteria.

I want to expand the Reavers of Harkenwold adventure into a longer campaign arc that will cover character levels 1-5. I also want to incorporate more plot hooks to tie the adventure more directly into my next planned campaign, the aforementioned Madness at Gardmore Abbey. Together, the two campaigns should create a larger storyline with greater continuity. It will take more work and effort, but that is the kind of preparation that I personally enjoy. I hope it will help and inspire others who have searched similar avenues hoping to find more than just a list.

Note: This thread is intended mostly for DMs. There are SPOILERS for the adventures in this thread. Proceed at your own risk.

Planning Ahead
========================
As written, Reavers of Harkenwold (RoH) was designed for characters of levels 2-3. That means I need to either expand or create content to cover levels 1, 4, and 5. One of things that makes RoH so great, however, is that it starts off strong and continues through to its climatic finish. So it makes sense to let the adventure itself begin at level 1 rather than find something else to awkwardly fill the introduction of everything to come. That means the adventure must also be prolonged until the expected conclusion, which will see the characters at level 5 instead of 3. But have no fear! It can be done.

Aside from the expected range of levels in play, there are a few points I want to keep in mind:
  1. Maintain a Theme: The campaign focuses on the liberation of Harkenwold from the Iron Circle. I will need to maintain this theme even while the players are directed towards various quests and excursions that don't always wave the Iron Circle banner in front of their faces. At the same time, I don't want to beat them over the head with constant threats.
  2. Foreshadowing The Next Story Arc: Characters should find clues and plot hooks that will hone their expectations for what is to come. NPCs will need to do more than just point to the next place on the adventure path. The transition from one campaign to the next should be seamless and natural, not forced. And it needs to feel like the players made the decision themselves (or at least agree it is the best/logical option for them).
  3. Beyond 4e: I've been running and collecting published materials from every edition of the game for years. I am also familiar with other fantasy RPGs and settings, like Pathfinder. I don't need to invent new things or be more original than the last product. That's just more work that has probably already been done for me, if I know where to look. A good idea can be recycled and retold to a new audience that has yet to experience it for themselves.

With all this in mind, I already have some ideas that I am ready to divulge. But I am a slow and meticulous writer. It will take me days to write them down and a few revisions before I am ready to present them publicly. Hopefully by the time you are reading this, everything will be ready and available to peruse. In the meantime, the discussions below will be available to engage with me, and other readers, to offer additional insights and ideas.

A Little Research and a Big Discovery
========================
According to his blog, Richard Baker originally wrote Reavers of Harkenwold as the first in a series of adventure products for a new H-P-E adventure path. The project was cancelled, as we know by the lack of its existence in print, but not before Baker completed writing his assignment. However, the adventure would later be re-purposed for the D&D Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit. As Mr. Baker explains it, "(Christopher Perkins) took the adventure I’d written for the 96-page 4e adventure format, and boiled it down to its new size and purpose."

The entire blog is an interesting read. What I find most interesting (and relevant to this thread), is that there were 32 extra pages that had been removed to fit the shorter, published format. We can speculate about what we missed in that original version, or hope that Mr. Baker will reveal his secrets to us one day. But then I made a second discovery in an unexpected place.

Mike Schley was one of the cartographers for the original adventure, and it appears that most of his work was carried over into the revised module. When I went to his site to purchase the map bundle for Reavers of Harkenwold, however, I found two new maps that do not appear in the published version of the adventure! (If you click on the images below, they will take you directly to his online store where you can purchase them for yourself.)



The maps are labeled, pointing to two featured locations in the first part of the adventure: Toadwallow and the Catacombs of Dar Nystiere. Just by the size and labeling, we can infer that Baker planned these locations in his original version. But these unpublished maps suggest more encounters with more areas to explore. These were closer to dungeon crawls commonly seen before the shorter, delve-style dungeons designed exclusively with Essential Tiles products became the standard.

Despite not knowing the exact details of what was lost, even if it were not missed, a competent Dungeon Master should be capable of repopulating these dungeon locations for their own games. Of course, more encounters generates more treasure, more experience points, and more adventure for the group. That alone should provide at least one more level of play for the campaign, if not two. We shall see.

In my opinion, the maps are a great boon for anyone who wants to expand this adventure. It may not be a blank canvas, but it provides an easy spring board to get more out of this adventure with less work. More than any other product from this time, I feel RoH had the most room to expand and improve. And these maps are practically handing it to us.

At this point, I'm gonna turn the discussion over to the forums. I already have some ideas on what I want to do. If the interest is here, I will be sharing them as well. But I want to hear some more ideas out there. I can't be the only person that has thought of this. So I would love to hear how others expanded this adventure, or others in the series in their own campaigns!

Thread Links
========================
1: Expanding the Iron Circle || Part I: The Iron Circle || Part II: The Iron Circle (cont.) || Part III: The Fell Court || Part IV: The Ashmadai || Part V: Gardmore Abbey
2: Building the Adventure Outline || Part I: The (Original) Adventure Synopsis || Part II: Just Add the Starter Set || Part III: The Revised Synopsis (Part I) || Part IV: Regarding Eladrins, Elves, and Goblins || Part V: TBA
 
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First Age

Explorer
I'm running a 4e campaign set in Nentir Vale right now, we are 25 sessions in. Really enjoyed running RoH and bought and used the Mike Schley maps. The maps were a great backdrop to the VTT action! The maps made it clear that there was more to RoH than published. I created a relationship mind map for some of the factions to provide me with connections and relationships. Proving useful as there is a lot going on and lot that can be connected.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I'm running a 4e campaign set in Nentir Vale right now, we are 25 sessions in. Really enjoyed running RoH and bought and used the Mike Schley maps. The maps were a great backdrop to the VTT action! The maps made it clear that there was more to RoH than published. I created a relationship mind map for some of the factions to provide me with connections and relationships. Proving useful as there is a lot going on and lot that can be connected.
That's fantastic! I know sessions online don't necessarily translate the same to sessions at the table. Did you finish RoH? Did you start at level 1, and what level are they now?

I'd love to hear more specific details about your campaign and get a peek behind the virtual DM screen. Of course, I understand you may not want to divulge any secrets while the campaign is still ongoing. So perhaps a future video on your channel?
 

First Age

Explorer
That's fantastic! I know sessions online don't necessarily translate the same to sessions at the table. Did you finish RoH? Did you start at level 1, and what level are they now?

I'd love to hear more specific details about your campaign and get a peek behind the virtual DM screen. Of course, I understand you may not want to divulge any secrets while the campaign is still ongoing. So perhaps a future video on your channel?

Yes we are clean through it and out the other side. There were some extensions from me to weave in some other themes and draw out the metaplot I have for the Heroic Tier adventures in the Vale. In particular we undertook an adventure into the heart of Dal Nystiere and uncovered a portal that had been twisted and redirected. Via Duponde we explored Kalton Manor and the nearby crypt, wherein old adversaries and a foreshadowing of enemies to come.

Despite the strange icy coldness that is gripping the Vale, the group of heroes, Sturm und Drang, have plunged into the Witchlight Fens and an unexpeced and unwelcomed conversation with the old dragon Shadowmire. Other fey voices are 'guiding' them.

The Iron Circle have been setback but not defeated. They now hold a keep to the West of the Vale near the Chaos Scar. They have also forged a working partnership with mountain orcs and a contested recovery of one of the old Slaying Stones.

Fallcrest is at the centre of things, and not just geography. Rumours and plots abound, yet one of the heroes has no desire to return to the place of his youth and the tragedies of his past. Whispers of Bael Turath hopefully complete the devilish undertones, but probably not.

Sitting underneath all of this are the rumours of the ancient line of emperors, a line unbroken and living in Nentir Vale itself, a line that many of the factions show great interest in, for good and ill. Nerath returned? King of the North? I'll leave it to Sturm und Drang to sort it all out...
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Well, since the D&D forums got split again, I feel like this thread (and its companion thread) got stranded here. I put in a request to move them over, but I don't know how long that's going to take. I certainly don't want to derail my own thread to open up a different discussion about the restructuring of the D&D forums because, honestly, it doesn't bother me one way or the other. I'm only a little irked that had I known it was happening, I would've done things a little differently for these threads.

But it did get me to thinking about this separation. Why do we continue to segregate D&D fans from one another? Is there not a common thread where everyone can come together and discuss the game which shares the same history, the same DNA, and the same backlog of overused cliches and tropes? Are we just making it easier for new players to ignore the lessons and experiences from the past? To push aside the veterans who may still have wisdom and knowledge to share with the newer generation of D&D fans? Likewise, how are the old grognards ever going to evolve if they are never exposed to new ideas and perspectives?

The way I see it, a thread like this should not be overlooked or dismissed. I may be using an edition that isn't the most current or most popular, but a lot of the information isn't specific to that edition. I'm not just re-creating an adventure for 4e. Settings and adventures are always being converted to D&D for every edition. What I'm demonstrating is how older content and material are still viable and usable for anybody that wants to do more. No edition or system is truly dead when there are people still willing to use it.

So why am I requesting a move to the older editions forum? Well, I had to figure out who I intended for the audience. At first, it was simply "All fans of D&D (especially DMs)". Now that group has been divided into "people only interested in the new edition" and "people not interested in the new edition". Everybody else? They probably just jumps back and forth between both folders until it becomes too much of a hassle and they just pick a side. I don't know. But now I, as the author of a post that has seen its audience divorced, had to choose a side. So how did I decide?

It seems obvious that the topic doesn't apply strictly to 5e. But my audience wasn't 5e, nor was it specifically to fans of one edition or another. It was meant to include (among others) "new DMs who may be looking for advice on how to make their own adventures using older (or any) published materials". A lot of new DMs probably came in with 5e and have yet to tap into the vast library of resources of 4+ previous editions and spin-offs. But they might not bother to look at anything that isn't specifically labeled for D&D 5e or better. At the very least, D&D General might be applicable depending on the title.

Suffice it to say, if someone wanted to find something useful from older editions, settings, or materials, they would make the effort to go to the new "Older" forums now. So now it makes sense that is where this thread (and the other) belongs. And this is how I will need to think from here on out when deciding where to post my thoughts and threads.

Thanks for reading! Hope to see you on the other side.
 

For what it's worth, I'm enjoying this thread and hope you continue to update it. I'm not sure if I'll ever run Reavers, but I've definitely thought about it. I've seen those maps on Schley's website and could never figure out how the jived with the published adventure. Interesting (and somewhat sad) to hear they were for a much larger version of Reavers that ended up on the cutting room floor.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
For what it's worth, I'm enjoying this thread and hope you continue to update it. I'm not sure if I'll ever run Reavers, but I've definitely thought about it. I've seen those maps on Schley's website and could never figure out how the jived with the published adventure. Interesting (and somewhat sad) to hear they were for a much larger version of Reavers that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Thank you! Knowing that someone is reading and enjoying what I'm doing is worth a lot to me. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.
 


Despite not knowing the exact details of what was lost, even if it were not missed, a competent Dungeon Master should be capable of repopulating these dungeon locations for their own games. Of course, more encounters generates more treasure, more experience points, and more adventure for the group. That alone should provide at least one more level of play for the campaign, if not two. We shall see.

Great maps! Love creating something out of old maps. Just make sure to 4e them -- don't put a full combat encounter for every numbered room, link together multiple encounter budgets across rooms so that when they are alerted they combine to form 1 encounter, etc.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
I'm currently running a version of Dragon Heist that uses the Deck of Many Things as the MacGuffin, which I shamelessly stole from Madness at Gardmore Abbey. That's a cool adventure, too, which I would love to play one day.
It is. I was very fortunate to snag a new copy this season for a fair price (thread). And it's the reason I went down this path in the first place. I wanted to make a suitable prequel adventure that would tie more directly into it. The first step of that process starts here.

Now that I got the threads in the right place (thanks @Umbran), I can continue the series in the same forum group.
 
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