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Barrow of the Forgotten King Review

This review has been posted elsewhere. [1] [2]

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As noted by other reviewers, the adventure is very linear: Follow the grave robbers from one room to the next, all the way to the bottom. There is an interesting back-story to this: The grave robbers are looking for something, their chaotic servants have alerted the villagers, and now they’re in a race against the PCs to the bottom of the tomb.

Unfortunately, it took my players until room 12 out of 23 to figure this out. That means, half of the adventure they just assumed the tomb was filled with zombies and skeletons without understanding why. As more dead grave robbers and broken doors are found, the pursuit gets a bit more interesting. The players started to realize that all the monsters they were facing had been left behind on purpose!

My players had mostly 3rd level characters at the beginning of the game, but it was no problem to add a few more mooks to every other encounter to maintain the challenge.

LIKED: An incredible variety of combat encounters with interesting terrain features and often some interesting notes on tactics. My players were shocked when the varags ran up to them in pairs, one of them readying an action, waiting for the second one to flank, and then both attacking with a flanking bonus and one of them doing sneak attack damage. Later, when they realized the varags were using Spring Attack to avoid attacks of opportunity from 10ft reach weapons, they were again surprised.

There was a non-combat encounter involving lots of Climb and Use Rope checks. As I had prepared a big battle map with skill checks, altitudes, and potential falling damage in different colors all over the map, this proved to be an interesting challenge.

DISLIKED: Too many combat encounters and practically no choices outside of combat to be made. It got to the point where my players immediately attacked two not necessarily unfriendly creatures on sight because they had gotten used to it. As a DM who likes interaction, this combat focus was boring. I tried adding some interesting elements but failed in the prep time I had available. It would have required me to do a lot more, maybe because there are hardly any story hooks provided.

There was a door with an Arcane Lock on it. As low-level characters, it required battering down the door (or going back to town and organize a scroll of Knock). That was disappointing, specially since the very same door has a hint for the riddle in the next room. Obviously my players thought for the longest time that the hint was in fact a riddle and that solving it would open the door in question. It took a lot of prodding and hinting to move things along at this point.

The last room has a hook for the next adventure in the series which I won’t run. I would have had to make up the rest of the grave robbers destined to escape into the Underdark and the treasure they had looted. Luckily my players had decided to lock themselves up for some undeserved rest a few rooms earlier and so I decided that the grave robbers managed to escape while they slept.

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