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Category: Adventures

Review: Dungeon Tales volume 1

I received an exciting email from a gentleman by the name of Travis Legge a few weeks ago. He was collaborating on new project with prodigious DMs Guild publisher M.T. Black called Dungeon Tales, the remit of which is to bring together some of the Guild’s finer, but lesser-known, adventures into one affordable volume. My own Gleaming Cloud Citadel had been selected for inclusion!

Naturally I was delighted. Aside from collecting a few extra coins in royalties, it means my adventure will be seen – and hopefully played – by many more worldwide gamers.

A major side bonus of being involved in the release was I received a complimentary copy of the anthology, ie. eight (not including my own) awesome adventures compiled by some seriously creative fantasy writers.

You can find, and read more about, Dungeon Tales volume 1 on the DMs Guild, but because I wanted to make it easier for people to understand what they’re (potentially) buying I’ve created this handy contents table / menu for you, which displays the adventures in order of levels, and has some handy additional data, like number of expected sessions to play, and individual price and rating. The individual price is worth knowing because, as you’ll see, bought individually the adventures would set you back close to 30 dollars, whereas the anthology is very reasonably priced at $9.95, saving you close to 20 of America’s finest.

>> DUNGEON TALES CONTENTS TABLE <<

Review of Dungeon Tales

Nine stellar 5th edition adventures in one volume

Dungeons Tales Review

Reviewing the anthology in general, I was first of all impressed with the level of presentation, writing and editing of all the adventures. Of course with different authors using different formatting programmes, layout techniques and artists, there is no overarching consistency to the anthology, but all of the volumes within model themselves on official Dungeons & Dragons products and offer a professional front. If you’ve had mixed experiences buying from the Guilds and you’re worried that you’re buying into some slip-shod two-bit products, I can assure you you’re not! One or two are actually better presented than the average WoTC product in terms of attractiveness and ease of use.

Thematically and there’s a very strong Fey presence indeed to Dungeon Tales, with Midnight Revelry, Ring Out, Wild Bells and The Sylvan Harp all containing Fey foes… whilst the Labyrinth of Thorns, also has a dreamy, fairytale feel to it.

Of the other inclusions, two are classic D&D adventures, with The Temple of the Opal Goddess inviting adventurers to steal into an orc stronghold to deal with a demonic presence, and my own The Gleaming Cloud Citadel challenging PCs to take on a classic wizard’s tower full of traps and guardians, with some politicking and intrigue thrown into the mix.

The three remaining volumes struck me as particularly original in terms of concept: Forget Me Not, where the party encounters a magically displaced band of gnolls and uncovers a plot of fiendish betrayal. Modrons, Mephits & Mayhem in which the party journeys to an abandoned modron research facility, only to find its elemental guardians still active and other hostile parties sniffing around, and Seized Fire for the Ceasefire, in which the PCs find themselves in an icy setting, where a wizard’s tower holds an enchanted staff and a village of whale-folk need saving from a pair of remorhazes.

I haven’t had time to read every word of each of these, so let me concentrate on reviewing those I’ve had the opportunity to look at in more depth.

Sylvan Harp

By Simon Collins
This is a well-constructed adventure, in which the PCs are asked to intervene in the case of missing magic harp and prove that a human village have nothing to do with its theft – before continuing to thwart the plans of a rather nasty Thorn Hag. It plays out like a mini-sandbox, and the PCs are given free rein to explore the region, but at the same time there is a clear timeline of events that rewards the party for acting swiftly and good investigation and decision making. It also makes excellent use of Volo’s Guide to Monsters, so if you bought that, but have not really had a chance to employ many of its beasties, look no further…

I am a big fan of Mr. Collin’s works and you can read more reviews of his adventures elsewhere on this very website.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

By Emmet Byrne
A malevolent spirit called Mr. Grin torments a local village in this adventure that has more than a touch fairytale about it, and would also be perfect as a Halloween one shot. What I like about this story is that the victims are not the innocent villagers they seem, leaving the PCs with something of a moral dilemma – at least if they bother to investigate the back story (for that reason I’d recommend this adventure for more inquisitive groups, as trigger happy parties will just wade through the combats without uncovering the story’s main charm. In addition to great story telling, awesome presentation and maps give a really high quality feel to Ring Out, Wild Bells.

By the way Emmet has also produced some massively popular character sheets, one specifically tailored for each class. I would highly recommend you check them out (I already started using them)! They are free to download, although I’m sure he’d appreciate a few coppers for his efforts.

Labyrinth of Thorns

By Ashley Warren
If I wanted to describe Labyrinth of Thorns in a phrase it would be “a St. Valentine’s one shot”. The adventure is in fact very simple in structure: the PCs must enter a mystical maze in order to retrieve the lost bride of a world-renowned baker, encountering a variety of obstacles en route (a mix of puzzles, riddles and combats). What makes it special is the atmosphere, details and deft touches the author has woven into the story that seems to have been heavily influenced by both the romance of Italy, with a slice of Pan’s Labyrinth as well. These two qualities – simplicity and atmosphere – make it a perfect one shot adventure to run, especially if it does happen to be February the 14th.

Modrons, Mephits & Mayhem

By Tim Bannock
I absolutely love the concept of this adventure in which several groups, including the PCs, converge on an abandoned and sinister modron research facility (it was once used to experiment on innocent flumphs) to try to tap into the arcane power that resides there. There’s plenty of backstory and flavour and the adventure plays out like a very intelligent dungeon crawl, in which the PCs are actually able to recalibrate parts of the dungeon using the various control stations that crop up. If this was a Hollywood film it would be pitched to producers as a “high concept” movie, and whilst I think it would trickier than average to run, it’s one I’m definitely considering fitting into my campaign, or at the very least plundering for ideas.

Overall I’ve been very impressed with the contents of this volume, and it provides great value for DMs, whilst also saving them a lot of time trying to source worthwhile material from the Guild. That’s perhaps the major draw of this product, in that it’s made up of adventures carefully selected by the hands of two experienced creators, giving buyers some much appreciated quality assurance.

The Gleaming Cloud Citadel

What have I been up to recently? I’ve only gone and published a fricking 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons adventure, that’s what!

It’s taken a monster-load of time. After first writing it in the back end of 2016, and first playing it in the front end of 2017, the adventure then needed extensive polishing to reach a level of quality whereby others could actually enjoy reading it and play it themselves. Then I formatted the whole thing with much difficulty using OpenOffice, before discovering an amazing tool by the name of HomeBrewery which makes formatting your own material in the style of official WoTC merchandise pretty easy. Cue formatting it all over again.

Then there was the player feedback, friends’ feedback and my own critical eye, leading to many revisions, and on top of that a considerable amount of time was given over to editing errors flagged in the final proofs, creating the maps (and then deciding they were not good enough and commissioning someone else to create the maps), and commissioning the front cover.

All in all it was quite a mission. But I must say, it’s damn amazing to see it up for sale on the DMs Guilds. After just over a week it’s sold 25 or so copies, garnered a few nice words, and I really hope people are going to enjoy playing it. To think that gamers around the world will be adventuring in a dungeon of my creation is quite a big buzz!

What’s It About?

Originally designed for 10th and 11th level characters (but with concrete advice on playing it from 5th level upwards… see more below), The Gleaming Cloud Citadel is a centre of arcane research that sits on the heights of the Graypeak Mountains in the Forgotten Realms (or any other mountain range of your pleasing, as location and campaign setting are not too important to play this particular D&D adventure).

5e D&D adventure 10th 11th level

Lavinia Brightswann… you can totally trust her!

The Citadel belongs to the Order of the Gossamer Robe mages, led by Eszteban the Great, however things are not all well in the Order. An ongoing row over intellectual sovereignty has seen the Citadel divide in two, with Eszteban locking himself in his central tower and protecting himself from the rest of the Order with a labyrinth of puzzles, traps and monsters. He believes his fellow mages are trying to poison him.

Depending on which adventure hook you use, your party might have been invited by the acting head of the Order, Lavinia Brightswann, a half elf mage who wears a black mask over one side of her face, and who claims Eszteban has gone mad. She needs the party to disable the labyrinth’s threats and hopefully save Eszteban from himself. Or otherwise the PCs may be driven by their own need for a powerful spell or ritual, kept in the upper reaches of the Citadel, and therefore feel the need to take on the labyrinth for their own purposes. In which case the rest of the Order will take a keen interest in their success.

I think one of the fun parts of this adventure is that each of the mages of the Order have their own motivations, from the ageing Eszteban, to the ambitious Lavinia, through to the infatuated Meredin, the loyal Baelgrak The Bronze, and the scheming dwarf mage Hrimmar Gimgil. There’s also the mystery of what happened to the missing-presumed-dead 6th member of the Order, whose tower now lies empty.

As for playability, after a tricky journey through the mountains, the PCs have a chance to meet all of the Order and delve into the Citadel’s internal politics, before they enter the labyrinth. Once they start their ascent of the Citadel, there’s a varied series of encounters to deal with, very much in the flavour of old school Dungeons & Dragons, with floor puzzles, riddles and magical guardians. The final (or more likely the penultimate fight) pits the PCs against shadowy version of themselves, which of course is about as even a fight as you can get, and as the DM I have to say it is a lot of fun using some of the party’s powers against them!

It’s a bit railroaded in the Citadel itself as I didn’t want to write a whole load of encounters that would never get played… and DM’s probably don’t want to prepare such encounters either, but I think the final resolution is very open and can be played out in a lot of different ways, depending on which of the mages the party side with, if any.

What Level Adventure Is It?

As I mentioned The Gleaming Cloud Citadel was written as a 10th to 11th level adventure for 5th edition, but – in order to broaden its playability – I recalibrated all the combats with options for 5th to 6th levels, and 7th to 9th levels. The only real difference of playing this scenario at lower levels is that the PCs won’t be able to take on the mages, which may actually add to the flavour, as they can’t just swing a sword at every problem they encounter.

New Spells

I felt it was important that, if I was going to create an Order of wizards dedicated to arcane research, that I should create the rules for a slew of new spells that might represent their body of work. This was a lot of fun, and, if you’ll permit me a little brag, I think I’ve got a good knack for crafting well balanced incantations that you can bring to your game. I named this body of spells The Discoveries, and part of the value of this adventure are the 29 new wizard spells you get with it. You can see a few samples on this blog post (although I polished them up a bit for publication).

Buy The Adventure

You can buy The Gleaming Cloud Citadel on the DM’s Guilds.

50% of the fee goes to the marketplace and 50% to the author. I’m hoping for some good sales to motivate me to find the time to write more in 2018.

If you do invest, please let me know how it goes for you and your party!

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