Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Smoldering Flames of War


It's still just cover art

Premise

Some devils have been kidnapping people, and the party goes to Hell to confront them.


Good

The braziers in area 1 teleporting in reinforcements is cool, though I question why each slain legionnaire results in two more appearing (or rather why the room isn’t flooded with legionnaires if it works like that).


I’m not normally a fan of gating unhelpful boxed text behind skill checks, but “The misty cloud looks relaxing” says so much more than its actual words that I like it.


The retreat condition for the cambions in area 2 is welcome, even if it is prone to being too little too late to work well.


Terrible description notwithstanding, the entropic collapse is a neat way to add a special downside to using magic (and more interesting than the usual antimagic zone), and the list of unaffected creature types fits thematically with the flavor of the trap.


The spatial distortion in area 2 is an interesting idea, if a bit prone to awkwardness in implementation.


Between the twitching skeleton, the soul vases, the diabolic symbol, and the exsanguinating table, area 3 is loaded with unique, interesting, and flavorful details.


Salvageable

The war devil being unable to use its trident as a normal weapon is bizarre. I’d replace its claw attack with a basic attack using its trident.


The ice devils’ and pit fiend’s auras should have flavorful descriptions when they cause detectable effects.


The effect of the well of time is fine within the confines of this adventure, but the GM should be prepared with the full consequences of what happens if a PC falls in.


The champion’s furious blade should include the secondary effects of its basic attack, and its automatic save ability should be flavored as a boon from its diabolic patron rather than simply “shake it off”.


If the pit fiend could use the magic item concealed in the exsanguinating table, it should use it.


Bad

The ideas for expanding the delve are categorically bad. The first and third are an extra encounter each, while the second is a skill challenge that does nothing on a success and causes one extra encounter on a failure.


Referring to the L-columns in area 1 as “pillars” in the boxed text invites confusion when that same term refers to only the small, round columns when detailing the features of the area.


The conflagrants’ soul mantle is the sort of finicky nonsense that’s prone to getting overlooked in actual play.


The coffins in area 2 are a waste of time and space.


The relationship between the well of time and the mist of bliss is unclear, as is why the mist is just gathered in a corner.


Overall

This adventure has three very interesting encounters: a horde of minion waves, a room of where the creatures are there to support the hidden hazards, and a supported single entity who uses its minions as disposable suicide bombers. Areas 2 and 3 are full of interesting features, and while there is no explicit pay off for the kidnapping victims mentioned in the hook, the exsanguinating table, the soul vases, and the pile of bones all hint at their possible fates.


There are clear opportunities for connecting to greater context at the front end (how do the PCs find out about the devils and how do they get into Hell?), and the adventure is teeming with obvious possible consequences (what really happens when someone falls into the well of time, what more can be done with the mist of bliss, what is the pit fiend’s signet ring, who are the people in the soul vases, what’s the purpose of the exsanguinating table, and how does the devils’ patron react beyond this adventure?). The creatures are not simple to change since multiple aspects of the adventure are keyed to either their types or their damage resistances, but I’m not too bothered by having an adventure with a cohesive overall design when most of the others in this book are more compartmentalized.


The legionnaires being minions may be off-putting to some players. Reskinning them as damned souls enslaved to the will of the pit fiend (or its patron) rather than as diabolic warriors can alleviate that.


All in all, this is a great adventure that both packs a lot into itself and begs the question of what happens next. The only thing missing is the option to parley with the pit fiend.

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