Ring Side Report- RPG Review of the Current DnD 5e Expeditions Adventures

Product– DnD 5e Expeditions- DDEX1-1 to DDEX1-3

System– DnD 5th Edition

Price– FREE!!!  (at participating game stores)

TL; DR– Great to see the new LFR. 85%

 

Basics– Dungeons and Dragons 5e is here, and so is the Wizards of the Coast organized play program called DnD Expeditions.  Let’s look at the first three adventures as a group.  The first publish three adventures are: Defiance in Phlan, Secrets of Sokol Keep, and Shadows on the Moonsea.  They are all open for characters level 1 to 4, and all play a role in the current metaplot-Tyranny of Dragons.  Let’s do a rundown of these adventures and see how the stack up.

 

Story or Fluff– These three adventures give an introduction to the town of Phlan and its surroundings.    In Defiance in Phlan, five different short stories are introduced with a time of one hour each.  Secrets of Sokol Keep has the bay lighthouse stop working and the players are asked to fix it.  And finally, Shadows of the Moonsea has an unknown “thing” moving up the Moonsea coast approaching Phlan next.  All these modules follow a pretty standard plot as  with previous DnD living games: 1) Introduce a problem/get the PCs involved, 2) PCs find the problem, 3) PCs kill the problem.  That’s not a bad story structure for organized play adventures.  If these three have a single problem, it’s the introduction of the problem, and why the players should care.  Often a problem is introduced, and the players have no reason to care aside from wanting to play some DnD that day.  Here is one area that the DnD Expeditions loses to Pathfinder Society-pre story player involvement.  Another problem that can occur is one time checks that if not succeeded often prevent the players from finding a major plot point.  Nothing is game breaking for the story, but some extra story parts would really help the players get into the story and prevent the GM from having to do some heavy story lifting at the start on the fly. 4/5

 

Mechanics or Crunch– DnD is a pretty tight system, and the adventures show this for the most part.  The combats are well done and provide enough challenge.  Also, each combat is given a small stat block to change the combatants on the fly for really weak parties to overly strong parties.  It really helps the GM find his grove and run a great adventure with fun combats.  One encounter I can think of deviates from this as the fight is just too hard for a level one party, and it makes that adventure suffer a bit.  But, that encounter is a clear outlier for these adventures. 4.8/5

 

Execution– These are free PDFs given out to the organizers of the Adventure League, so I don’t expect art.  I don’t get any, so I don’t penalize the adventures for that.  What I don’t like is how combats are buried in the text!  When the players enter a room, a box is given with the description of the room.  Below that box is the standard description paragraph of the room with all the hidden items, other checks the PCs might do, etc, but if there is a combat, the monsters and their numbers will be hidden in that same text.  That is not helpful!  As a GM, when I have a room, I really need to know how many of any monsters are in the room first.  I’d separate that from the main text and have that listed right under the title of the room in a separate block of text.  It is the same in the Tyranny of Dragons adventure, and it really doesn’t help there either.  However, these are free adventures that do tell some interesting stories.  I like what is here, but some significant changes to the organization of the text could really push this over the top. 4/5

 

Summary– DnD is back, and so is the child of the Living Forgotten Realms.  It might not be the old Living Forgotten Realms, but if this is what its children look like, I’m fairly happy.  It’s great to see a major company give out several hours of free play to its fans.  These are not bad adventures by any means, but a few changes would really help with these be just a bit better.  Moving where the monsters are listed would make my life as a GM much easier!  I’ve read the adventures, but being able to quickly scan the text will help me find out what needs to be in the room after my 10th four hour event at a con.  The stories need a bit of work at the start to draw the players in a bit more, but the last bits of the story and the world they create are often great.  Shadows of the Moonsea has a left turn, but it’s nothing that you won’t enjoy.  All and all, these are three great adventures that any new player to DnD will really enjoy. 85%

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