Friday, December 5, 2008

Thunderspire Labyrinth is Bland

... is no longer being played by my group.

I'm quite disappointed with it overall. It started out okay. The Seven Pillared Hall was an interesting town/quest hub, the overall story was ok... but the encounters quickly became quite boring.

The encounters in the Chamber of Eyes, were fine. There were four or five of them depending on how you count. The last part has the potential to combine two or three encounters into on extended encounter, which is in itself a little bit interesting, at least in terms of difficulty.

The sameness began to appear in the Horned Hold, which has a total of eight encounters, of which at least five of them are *really* generic, and quite similar. When the encounters start becoming predictable, that's when you know something's really wrong. When the third group composed of "two soldiers/two artillery or skirmishers/one named or controller leader joined combat in a room" happened everybody was feeling the blandness. Sure, there was a fight across a bridge. There was fireplace or two to shove the enemies into (but wait Druegar have resist fire 10 so make that fireplaces to shove players into). But they were small details amongst the larger repetitive battles. Honestly, I expect more from a stand alone, published package like Thunderspire Labyrinth.

What really drove the point home for me was that I started up a second D&D 4 group last week and ran the beginning of the Scales of War adventure path from Dungeon #156 "Rescue at Rivenroar". That adventure started out with two really different combat encounters as the town of Brindol comes under the attack of some goblins and a cart-pulling Ogre. A couple of memorable battles came out of that, interspersed with some fun role-playing in the aftermath of the attack (skill challenges as written are still boring to me, so I don't use them at least not as written). Then the party set off overland to find Rivenroar and had some (also fun) wilderness encounters. It could have been a series of "you meet a balanced group of 5 goblins" and if that was the case it would have been boring... just like the Horned Hold was.

So two things resulted from this...

First, I'm staying away from "adventure modules" for a while. There's something about them that makes me feel constrained to their framework rather than inspired by their content. We finished up with the Horned Hold last weekend, and the breadcrumb trail that should have led off to the next chapter in the labyrinth mysteriously dried up. The heroes will leave Thunderspire Labyrinth next week and I'll start working the creative juices towards something original and fun in Alia.

Second, I'm enjoying my digital subscription to D&D Insider. Go, Scales of War! The Character Builder is looking pretty nice too. Levels beyond 3, and the rules filter, sometime soon please?

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