Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Summer's End


It's still just cover art

Premise

Some fey elders want the party to check on someone they had driven off for being too obsessed with the Wild Hunt.


Good

The third and fourth ideas for expanding the adventure are good, representing sensible potential consequences of the adventure.


The misty cauldron and the runes in area 1 are nice touches, though it would’ve been nice if the runes’ mechanical effects were also detailed there instead of being hidden in a stat block in area 3.


The hags’ basic attack blocking the target from healing is an interesting way to raise tension without necessarily increasing danger, especially if the GM gives a flavorful description for the effect.


Giving the scroll for the release ritual to the PCs as a treasure genuinely surprised me. With how sterile and defined 4E products are prone to being, that’s a breath of fresh air.


Salvageable

The treant’s and harpies’ auras should have some flavorful descriptions when the PCs are in their areas of effect.


While I have spoken out in favor of 4E minions for cultists or basic undead in earlier adventures, I don’t like using that mechanic for the warriors in area 2. I understand the gamist logic behind it, but I find it very difficult to reconcile with the way that I like to play TTRPGs, so I’d replace them with lesser creatures with similar, if not identical, characteristics.


The shaman should be willing to use its potions.


The hounds’ auras should have some flavorful descriptions when the PCs are in their areas of effect.


Bad

The 4E core books talk about fey creatures as being otherworldly and distinct from human, and then this hook comes along to shoot that flavor in the head. It is difficult to think of a more mundane presentation of fey than what is described here.


The first idea for expanding the adventure sets a new low, being just a single additional skill roll to go with some alternate (not additional) exposition.


The second idea for expanding the adventure is some weird hybrid of a skill challenge and a cinematic cutscene. It’s bizarre, but at least it has some consequences for success and failure, I guess?


Using treants in an area where there are no trees for them to use their awaken forest ability on is a curious choice, to say the least.


I’m not a fan of the harpies in area 1. Radiating automatic enemy-only damage in a huge area is just not an interesting design.


The earthshaker staff having very different abilities in its item description from what the shaman wielding it can do is confusing and seems like bad design. Likewise for the tulani’s longsword of summer.


Overall

First off, this adventure suffers greatly from the typical approach of 4E products to assume combat is the only solution. Including some actual motivations for both the tulani and the fey elders and having the ability to parley with the tulani (and possibly its underlings as well) would go a long way towards making this adventure better. Fitting it to a confined dungeon instead of an exterior setting was also a strange choice, though I suppose it might’ve been a consequence of the limited tile sets that were available at the time.


That aside, the encounter designs are mostly fine (aside from all of them being straight combats and aside from the questionable choice of minions in area 2), and I do appreciate that it makes some effort to look at the whole adventure cohesively with the damage of the tulani’s arrow of the wild hunt depending on whether the party “disrupted” the runes in area 1 (not that anything about that is mentioned in area 1, of course, because editing is hard). There is some potential for greater context, particularly with the ideas for consequences mentioned for expanding the adventure. The creature choices are pretty much completely flexible, though that’s largely because they don’t do much of anything beyond existing as-written.


All in all, this adventure suffers from lacking much heart or flavor, in spite of being one of the only two in the book to include specific magic items (the other is Caverns of Demise). It has no fundamental flaws, but there is so little substance to it that it isn’t much better than just starting from scratch. Thoroughly average filler, in other words.

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