The module fairy dropped by this morning and dropped off a copy of the first “Living Forgotten Realms ” module. The module, “Inheritance,” will be released at Gen Con 2008 this week.
I have been very anxious to get a look at the new LFR modules to get a feel for the module quality and tone of the new “living” campaign. I am not reviewing the campaign mechanics or character tracking or the like, just the quality of this single module.
Upfront Review: While not terrible, it is certainly nothing that will be a topic of conversation 15 minutes after it is over. The writing is a bit clumsy at times and the number of skill challenges seemed excessive. For DMs I thought there was insufficient “box text” and too much reliance on adhoc descriptions. Great if you are playing with a talented DM, but given the DM quality at many conventions I am not sure this was a good idea. Plot is also incredibly linear.
STOP READING HERE TO AVOID SPOILERS
Here is the module blurb:
When the Netherese conquered Sembia those who objected were either killed or forced to flee. Decades later, a young man inherits a key to the family vault abandoned seventy years earlier. Desperate for money, he hires you to retrieve its contents in a gamble that something worthwhile is still there. A Living Forgotten Realms adventure set in Sembia for characters levels 1-4.
The last son of a once rich household hires the PCs to inflitrate the “forbidden zones” of the city of Urmlaspyr. Within lies his ancestral home and a vault said to contain treasures.
Urmlaspyr, devasted by a war, is now shrouded in perpetual twilight and sections of the city cross-over into the Shadowfell. A charming vacation spot.
“Inheritance” contains nine encounters. The first two encounters are the plot hook and some brief investigation of Urmlaspyr. Encounter 2 contains a paragraph about an RPGA reward card that has some tasks listed on it. One of those comes into play here. I liked this as it actually makes the cards do something besides open up equipment or classes. They now interact with the modules in a meaningful way.
Encounters three, four and five are all skill challenges related to sneaking into the forbidden zones, finding the ancestral home and digging out the basement. This is easily the worst part of the module. One skill challenge is fine, but three in a row is boring. The digging skill challenge really annoyed me as pointless filler.
Encounter six is a fun little combat. Nothing to write home about, but a nice change from the skill challenges.
Encounter seven is the vault and its contents. There is nothing to do but figure out how to carry the booty.
Encounter eight is the big fight of the module, undead guardians attack the party on their way out. Depending on party size and makeup, this one looked tough. Not dragon tough, but there is a real possibility of death for the weak or tactically sloppy party.
Encounter nine is either the PCs get away with the loot or, if they failed a skill challenge earlier, they have to make a deal with a powerful NPC to get away. This is also where you award gold, recovered equipment and some story items. The story items look very much like the “Living Arcanis” reward “certs.” They have a slight in-game effect, but do not expect anything “cool.” They are just for flavor.
The writing was adequate, if a bit clumsy at times. I really did not like the lack of “box text” for DMs. Making up descriptions on the fly is great if you have a talented DM, but a bad DM trying to do it is a nightmare. Some of my most painful gaming experiences sprang from DMs trying to extemporize dungeon descriptions.
One additional feature I liked were the maps. They were pretty clear, but more importantly they listed the specific maps that WOTC sells that can be used to make the dungeon layout. I know it is a marketing gimmick, but it was a useful feature.
I thought the module playable and fun, but I do not think it really has much in the way of story or depth. The extremely linear plotline does not help. As a first effort from “Wizards of the Coast” it is adequate introduction to LFR, but not earth-shattering in either plot or design. I actually expected this as Mike Mearls said the campaign would be focused on “fun” and not on deep, complicated plots when I spoke to him at Origins.
They achieved that goal.