Barrow of the Forgotten King



alt

Barrow of the Forgotten King

Author: Ed Stark
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Level: 2nd level PCs
ISBN: 978-0-7869-4318-0
Pages: 63
Rating: 7 out of 10
Retail Price: $19.95

 

Barrow of the Forgotten King is Wizards of the Coast’s latest adventure module. It’s designed for a group of 2nd level PCs and is the first in a series of three such adventures that continues the same storyline. The adventure begins in a town with a cemetery. Unlike other stereotypical D&D locations, this cemetery is clean and bright and isn’t plagued by the undead at all. The townsfolk have never had any problems with the cemetery and are in fact proud of the place, as it’s rumored that an ancient king whose name has been lost to time is buried beneath the mausoleum. As it turns out, this is correct, which has drawn the attention of an evil secret society. This society has sent an operative to retrieve the ancient king’s artifacts of power, including the very body of the dead king himself. While the leader of the expedition is a careful sort, some of his lackeys aren’t, and they have alerted their presence to the townsfolk, who are all to eager to hand the situation over to a group of adventurers.

As is typical of a lot of Ed Stark’s work, the text of this adventure is written well. I do have a few issues with it, though, which I feel detract from the module as a whole. The most obvious issue is that the outer cover isn’t attached to the adventure at all. The adventure map is splashed across both sides of the inside of the cover and the adventure is a separate paper-bound booklet. As this is a familiar style for many old-school D&D players, I imagine there are plenty of people that wouldn’t consider this a problem at all. I, however, didn’t like it, as it made the book a problem to hold while reading it. This is a minor issue, and probably a personal one, though I felt it worth mentioning.

The first of three issues I take with the module that isn’t based on the cover setup is the layout. The module is presented in two parts, with the first half running through each of the areas of the site and giving a description and the second running through each of the areas again to detail how any encounter will play out. Frankly, I felt this was a bad layout altogether. Why not present all of the information about an area together? As it stands, a DM has to read page 6 to give a description to his players, but when the inevitable combat breaks out, he has to flip to page 40 for monster statblocks and encounter information. When the encounter is over with, he has to flip to page 7 to give a description of the next room to his players and so on. This doesn’t seem conducive to running a smooth adventure.

The second issue I had is that Wizards of the Coast really does seem to be pushing their non-core books. A good number of the opponents in this adventure are varags. Reading through the adventure, I had no idea what a varag is. All of the required stat blocks were there, of course, but it might have been helpful had some sort of description been included. As it stands, I had to look it up on the internet to find out that a varag is a goblinoid from Monster Manual IV. Also, there’s a legacy weapon (as in Weapons of Legacy) in the adventure. In and of itself, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Weapons of Legacy points out that legacy weapons are supposed to be few and far between, but of the last four Wizards of the Coast adventures I’ve read recently, three have had legacy weapons. This doesn’t seem very few and far-between to me.

The last issue I took with the adventure is that it feels linear and incomplete. The whole site is pretty much one continuous path that has an occasional side area. There’s really only one way to get from point A to point B. Also, it might be possible to run the adventure as written without requiring anything further, but it would require either a talented storyteller of a DM or a group of players that don’t really care about continuality. The adventure is written so as to suggest that the PCs are always half a step behind the bad guys, but the evil antagonist of the adventure gets away in the end no matter what and the only way to get him is to shell out $20 for the next adventure in the series. Not cool.

At the end of the day, I didn’t think this was a bad adventure, especially for a less-experienced DM or group. However, it’s not without issue, as I mentioned above. If you’re not adverse to buying the next two adventures in the line so the story can be played out, or to writing your own end to the story and tacking it onto the end of the adventure, you could do a lot worse than Barrow of the Forgotten King.