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DDAL07-08 Putting the Dead to Rest (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 22:16:23

I can't in good conscience rate this any more than three stars. It is the weakest of the three parts of The Rot from Within trilogy. Other than the lead-in (which is to say, the other two parts of the triology), almost all of the plot elements are recycled from the author's Guild Adept work.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-08 Putting the Dead to Rest (5e)
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DDAL07-07 Rotting Roots (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 22:13:18

This one is pretty direct and straight forward. The intro is a bit goofy, but sufficiently amusing that I don't mind it that much.

The second part offers five possible encounters, two skill/puzzle, two combat, and the final one to tie them together. The variety is nice to see, and each of them offers a slightly different kind of challlenge.

The third part is pure roleplaying. Each time I've run it, the characters have enjoyed it - even the ones who didn't catch on to the clues.

The final part is a great climax. The first fight is pretty much a pushover, leaving the characters (and players) wondering what gives... and then it gives hard. There are callbacks to other popular properties, but it works very well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-07 Rotting Roots (5e)
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DDAL07-06 Fester and Burn (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2018 22:07:36

This is a reasonably enjoyable adventure to play and run. It introduces characters to the workings of the Executioner's Run, which is one of my favorite parts of Port Nyanzaru society.

The mission moves on to a few simple battles, though they have enough interesting content in them to keep players on their toes. There's one particular enemy in the first battle that has a nice lore tie in. The final battle can be made challenging, and includes a bit of a timed element to it.

All in all, I'm rather fond of this module.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-06 Fester and Burn (5e)
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Beasts of the Jungle Rot
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 10:08:35

This serves as a great addition to play in Chult. The additional basic dinosaurs are interesting, but the special abilities of the zombie dinosaurs are the real gold.

This one easily integrates into DDAL play, too. Dropping in thematically appropriate monsters is 100% with in the rules.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beasts of the Jungle Rot
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Cellar of Death
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 09:50:36

This is a really great module, a much better presented hook to get characters involved in ToA than in the hardcover itself.

In particular, I like the fact that it's designed to make low-level characters the heroes. They're performing the important part of the mission, while the powerful high-level NPCs are serving as the distraction.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cellar of Death
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Encounters in Port Nyanzaru
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 09:34:05

I'll just break this one down individually... Note that I am evaluating it from the stance of a DDAL GM looking for official content to enhance a DDAL game. If I were non-DDAL GM, I wouldn't have given this product a first glance - I can create flavorful, character-based encounters all on my own.

A Little Too Fancy - Rediculously heavy handed. It automatically assumes the player characters are filthy, cheap, or uncouth. While some of those are possibile, it also assumes that the characters are poor. The reality is that adventurers see more cash in one level than most people see in a lifetime. There is no way the establishment in this encounter could be a functional business if the fees were so exorbinant that adventuerers could not pay them out of pocket.

City Chase - This is barely even a framework, let alone a full encounter.

Crate Number Seven - This one is decent, though it really doesn't go anywhere.

Crime & Punishment - Yet another vague framework.

Intrigue & Suspicion in Port - This one is not an encounter at all, but introduces a system for "Suspicion". It eventually gives NPCs advantage on Wisdom checks and Initiative rolls against the party - in effect, it's designed to mess with the players. I fail to see how it enhances the game.

Otyugh's Wish - This features a CR5 creature and takes place in Port Nyanzaru. This one only works if you're starting ToA with an advanced party. Fresh L1s will get wrecked; this is not an appropriate encounter until Port Nyanzaru is long behind them.

Plague Boat - Another CR5 encounter; see above.

Right Place, Wrong Time - This one could be decent, as it brings the charactes to the attention of one of the Merchant Princes. Unfortunately, under DDAL rules, they have to spend DT to purchase dinosaurs, which means they've already met the merchant princes.

The Smell of Death - Functionally the equivalent of an MMO's L1 rat-smashing quest - boring.

Snuffed Out - The first box text needs a grammar review, but other than that, this one is probably the best of the lot.

Spa Day - This one is more of an encounter location, a setting, than an actual encounter.

Undeserved Punishment - Not terrible, but not outstanding either. It's also the second ecntounter in this bundle that uses the Executioner's Run.

Yuan-Ti Ambush - This one fails for me in the Aftermath section, when the bad guy is simply declared immune to interrogation. It's very heavy handed for what otherwise is a decent enconter.

These might be useful idea generation prompts in a non-DDAL game, where the DM can tightly integrate character backgrounds. Even in that case, I would never run any of them as presented except may be Snuffed Out. For Adventurer's League play, the value is not present - it's a waste of the DM's money.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Encounters in Port Nyanzaru
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DDAL05-06 Beneath the Fetid Chelimber (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2018 21:25:05

This adventure is a solidly written combat romp. Most of the adventure hooks are pretty good, for a tier 1 party, especially if they're already invested in Parnast. The addition of Hsing is clumsy, but thats pretty common - using "SEER" (which is always stupidly written in all-caps) as a deus ex machina is boring. It's a strong reason for the lack of a fifth star.

The first fight is good. The descriptions are good, and the enemies are reasonable. For people who want to RP, there's a good encounter included but it is neither required nor forced upon the players. Befriending him is helpful, of course.

The second scene is a brief exploration bit, tapping on one of the other pillars of the D&D experience. It has some good advice for when things go wrong, when things go well, and how to incorporate some character backgrounds. The DCs are a little bit easy, but other than that, a good section of the module.

The third scene, another combat encounter is just as good as the first. The enemies have a solid explaination for why they're together in such an atypical grouping. The setting provides a couple of different ways to approach it, and is set up in a way that is very easy to scale (even on the fly).

And of course, it's a good lead-in to the second part. If I could give half stars, I would only ding it the half for the inclusion of Hsing... but I can't. Only near perfection gets all five stars from me.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-06 Beneath the Fetid Chelimber (5e)
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DDAL07-05 Whispers in the Dark (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2018 20:51:29

This is the stongest of the three modules in the The Jungle Has Fangs Trilogy, but I still can't rate it five stars. The key NPC in the latter two modules is continually described as "tricky". He allegedly has plans to "betray" the characters, but never really does. His presence and usage alone is the reason for subtracting a star.

The first part is a pretty solidly blended puzzle and combat encounter. I strongly encourge DMs to make use of maps and minis for this module, and pay close attention to the action economy. The arrangement of the obelisks is very smartly done, but it requires paying close attention to the mechanical aspects.

The second part is good, too. The main antagonist has good reason to play with the characters, messing with thier heads and toying with them like food. That gives the GM a lot of leway to stretch out the encounter if needed, building in some roleplaying to a combat scene. DMs should not neglect to have her use the magic item she's carrying - it isn't just loot for the players to sweep up.

The closing part is weak, primarily because it involves the aforementioned NPC. One big part is that his description changes from one scene to the other. There's a good reason for the change, and the NPC could explain it a bit to give the players and characters information about his culture and species, but the opportunity was missed. This is also the point where he claims to have "fooled" the party, but the reality is that he helped them just fine the whole way. Sure, their goals aligned. If it had been handled more elegantly in the previous module, he could have been a reasonably storied ally, instead of some cackling villian.

TLDR: The best of the series, but might have been better as a standalone module.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-05 Whispers in the Dark (5e)
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DDAL07-04 A Walk in the Park (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2018 20:30:26

I find this module rather weak. Most of the encounters are ill-natured, designed to frustrate rather than excite. The first part doesn't really do a good job of giving the adventurer's a reason to take on the quest unless they already completed DDAL07-03. While I understand its part of a trilogy, there still should be good hooks for people who pick it up mid-stream.

The chase scenes - two different versions of it - seem forced. In addition, some of the DCs are artificially high for an APL3 group. Related to the chase, there's a passive Perception check that only a character proficient and with maximum starting Wisdom can make (or a variant human with a feat), and a suggestion that it should be five points higher most of the time. It follows with a combat encounter that is suggested only if you have extra time. Because AL play doesn't allow for XP on traps or RP, unless you have the extra time to run the combat, the chase scene does nothing but use up time. It's really just wastes time and serves as an opportunity to take items away from players.

The next scene involves a recalcitrant shopkeeper, with notes that indicate he absolutely will not buckle under interrogation no matter what the party do. Again, this is another pure RP scene that provides nothing to the characters and just takes up time. The plot only advances after this scene, in a deus ex machina kind of encounter. The characters bump into somebody who they have no reason to trust, but are forced to to advance the plot. In fact, players who've played the DDAL07-01 introductory modules will have good reason not to trust the plot-required character.

The next part is a travel scene. It involves a big pile of skill checks, with no guidance on how to make them interesting or fun. Experienced GMs will have no problem making this part interesting, while inexperienced or unskilled GMs will likely flounder. And once again, it mostly serves to use up time and deprive players of minor bits of equipment. As written, it is simply not fun or interesting.

The final fight is at least marginally interesting. However, it starts with another forced deus ex machina piece, almost a continuation of the first one. If you didn't trust the stranger that you have no reason to trust, there really isn't any way you should even get to it... and then the same NPC is required to advance the story. Not only that, but he turns around and tries to give the party orders - determining thier strategy for the coming encounter.

TLDR: Not the worst adventure ever written, but it requires a strong DM with good improvisation to make it even remotely entertaining.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-04 A Walk in the Park (5e)
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DDAL07-02 Over the Edge (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 08:58:24

Unlike the T1 introductorions, this one is just awful...

  • Why do Tier 2 characters need an introduction to begin with? All Tier 2 characters have somewhat experienced players behind them. The very concept is foolish on the face, so I can't suggest a specific fix.
  • Each part is written as taking place more than a tenday out of Port Nyanzaru, but also involves a trip back to town. While the admins have provided guidance to not count the travel time against the wasting effect of the Death Curse, it breaks immersion. It would be better if they were much closer to town, no more than a two or three days. Alternatively, there should be a built in way (perhaps temporarily loaned Sending Stones) to report back.
  • Tier 2 characters expect magic items, this module doesn't have them. While rewrites seem against policy, this module would be far more attractive if each of the parts gave out one of the common magic items from Xanathar's - some of them could fit thematically, and at least it would have some appeal.
  • It was mentioned more than once that the modules are supposed to be worked into a hardcover campaign. This one falls completely flat. No group on the clock for the main plot is going to want to waste in-character time on these silly little missions.

Other than unlocking the related DM quest, I can't advocate running these modules.

That said... players, show your DMs some love and ask to play these despite thier flaws.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-02 Over the Edge (5e)
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DDAL07-01 A City on the Edge (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 08:44:04

I believe these are some of the best introductory modules for D&D in general and for Chult, but they fall short as being good for the Tomb of Annihilation season.

Each of the four parts details a different aspect of life in Port Nyanzaru - smuggling, dinosaur racing & gladitorial games, wilderness adventure,

  • Part 1 is straight forward - a little combat, some traps, a little more combat. Not much to say here.
  • Part 2 features the race. This part is probably the most fun to play and run, but it does have some flaws. There are a limited number of actions available to the characters, all of which could use better explanations. Some things knock riders off mounts, some knock them back. Is there a speed penalty for remounting? Are they allowed to take actions while dismounted? A little more attention to those kinds of details would be beneficial.
  • Part 3 is as straight forward as Part 1 - it's mostly combat encounters.
  • Part 4 is great! A bit of combat at the beginning, some solid investigation with a touch of world building in the middle, then more combat. I find it works best if you imperil the hostages, giving the main bad guy some time to throw a few spells.
  • Part 5 is meant to tie everything together... and that's where it all falls apart. I mean, yes... it resolves the content of the module, but it turns out it has no tie-ins to the hardcover.

The oft-repeated point of the release schedule of these modules was to join them up with hardcovers. The MacGuffin doesn't actually have any rules the players can make use of, even briefly. It also doesn't have any bearing, plot or otherwise on a hardcover run.

That said... this module does have the same problems as all the other introductory modules, and most DDAL content. The intended purpose is to bring new players into the hobby. I have yet to see new players finish any of these mini-modules in a hour. Most of them run much closer to two. Veteran players can bang some of them out quickly, but that's not really who they're for.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-01 A City on the Edge (5e)
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DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/01/2017 07:58:39

The main content of the module is fun, I got plenty of laughs and good cheer out of most of it. However, it did drag on a bit long. The puzzle bit was kind of pointless. The words are entirely too short to present any challenge to anybody with more than an elementary school reading level, e.g. a five letter clue with a single vowel has very few options. If there's ever an update, they should be at least twice as long and multiple words each.

The main plot of the module, however, doesn't really seem to relate to the content. There's a briefing by the quest giver that talks about it, and there's some rumor gathering, but there's no actual advancement of it. More than once, I had players wanting to check out the pens and gather clues more directly (instead of just as hearsay).

I think the module would have been improved by a slightly shorter race, and an additional (if optional) encounter with some of the alleged antagonists. Standing this module up alone makes the adventure hook feel like a red herring - an excuse to get the players into the race.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL07-03 A Day at the Races (5e)
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DDAL05-17 Hartkiller's Horn (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 22:05:42

All around, I liked it, but would have liked to see an explicit option for both big battles. It seems a shame to leave one out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-17 Hartkiller's Horn (5e)
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DDAL05-16 Parnast Under Siege (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 22:04:46

The whole idea of a seige is pretty great, and seems to work well. DMs who are running this should read the suggested level and pay attention to it - characters below L4 will have a lot of trouble here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-16 Parnast Under Siege (5e)
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DDAL05-15 Reclamation (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy J. L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 22:01:36

Like DDAL04-14, this is underpowered for the tier it's written for - it's not quite as soft, but it's still not hard. It requires multiple adjustments to make it a decent challenge.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-15 Reclamation (5e)
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