Reflections on Scepter Tower of Spellgard

I got my grubby hands on a copy of Scepter Tower of Spellgard lately – the first 4th edition Forgotten Realms published adventure – and I just finished reading it once. Our regular DM (go Steve!) asked if I wanted to check it out and give him a DM break for a few sessions.

Don’t worry about spoilers – there won’t be any spoilers at this point; any plot-critical info I divulge will be info that players get to know fast enough.

This is the first time I ever read a published adventure – besides the compact, combat-heavy, mini-scenarios that come with the DMG and the FR Campaign Books.

I’ve always presumed that published adventures were very linear… Turns out it ain’t that bad.

There are a few plot elements, but the adventure is not scripted as I would’ve expected. You’re given back story and justifications for why this and that stuff is there – the rest is up to you.

That was very pleasant.

So, Scepter Tower of Spellgard has your adventurers try and figure out a way to get a session with a ghostly oracle that can tell the future with unerring, obfuscated precision.

The prophecy is the great reward… and probably the greatest challenge to the most important question : « so what? ».

The rest of the scenario – I won’t get into much details in this post – is rather combat-heavy.

There are a few interactions here and there, but there are almost as many fights planned as there are rooms in the whole tower and surrounding environment.

That’s not a very role playing-friendly environment.

But – hey – you get an interesting premise, a few maps and a good chunk of encounters all prepared for you – that’s not too shabby!

All that’s left for me to do is plug that scenario into the campaign I want to build and prepare a few ways for the players to resolve the encounters through some other means than combat.

Now, back to that oracle thing.

Getting a prophecy – a.k.a. a hook to further adventures – as the only motivation to conclude an adventure doesn’t sound that exciting. Not nearly as exciting as acquiring this and that item, or saving children from a burning airship, isn’t it?

Well, I say it depends on how you prepare for it.

There’s a good tip in the adventure: ask your players in advance what question they’ll be asking. This will give you time enough to prepare proper, rewarding answers. There also is a nice section to help you build prophetic-sounding answers. Awesome.

The thing that works less for me is that the characters are young – they start at 2nd level (or 1st, if you want to use their ridiculously combat-heavy addition to the scenario). Your role players might not have had the chance to deepen their characters and motivations enough to warrant them seeking an oracle for their own personal gain.

What I plan on doing is building a small adventure to bring them to level 2 and give them things to ask for.

I might throw in a patron or situation that require knowledge about the future (for a greater purpose). Some characters might end up having questions related to their back story. Perhaps they’ll want to locate a particular artifact.

An oracle prophecy can lead to wonderful things!

In any ways, I would plan on having the prophecy send the players on very short quests for more tangible rewards – I wouldn’t expect all players to receive world-shattering prophecies.

I still have much thinking to do about it but, so far, I don’t regret having purchased this adventure.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens after playing it 😛

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Les commentaires de 5 sur “Reflections on Scepter Tower of Spellgard

  1. I was a bit confused when you said « the first 4th edition published adventure » … what about ‘Keep on the Shadowfell’ and it’s two followups? Then I read it’s product page — it’s the first Forgotten Realms adventure for 4E. Anywayz…

    I am worried in what you said about there be little role-playing involved in the adventure. I understand that 4E is more about a balanced combat experience, being somewhat directed towards miniature play, but I had hoped that the published material wouldn’t limit itself to this. I am really hoping that D&D is not moving away from the role-playing that defined it and more towards a well-designed miniatures combat game.

    HermitDave´s last blog post..how to piss off two gods with one bowl

  2. @HermitDave :

    Oops!  I forgot to mention « Forgotten Realms »!  All fixed now – thanks!!

    About the role playing…  There is enough background material in the scenario to help you insert a lot of RP elements in there.  Every encounter makes sense – monsters have reasons to be where they are, there is some depth to what they do, how they react and their motivations to being there.

    That being said, if you just follow the « script », your players will hack and slash their way up the tower all the way through to the prize.

    If any encounter can be completed by means other than combat (social interaction, for example), its not mentioned in the book.

    That being said, I’m not sure it would be conductive to good role play to have all of that scripted in advance… but I still would’ve expected more in terms of skill challenges (I think there’s one in there somewhere).

    I expect that the role playing elements will pop out by themselves when the players are playing – having a good feel of the background material and o.k. improv skills should be enough  to put the RP in this module.

    I’m (slowly) starting to insert elements in there to make this module my own.  Most notably, I’m adding a competing group of adventurers which might turn out as allies or enemies during the game.

  3. Hey Eric!

    Didn’t you find there was a lack of magical items in the rewards? That is the fourth 4th Ed. adventure I run (all three others published by WotC), and this one seems pretty shallow magic items wise.

    Fred

  4. @Fred :Really?  I hadn’t noticed… I think I remember thinking that I had to rethink most of the rewards…  I’ll take another glance at it in about a month – my players might be about ready and motivated to visit the tower then.

  5. I think this is a very fine adventure! Well worth the money for any DM out there. In regards to lack of role play.. the book does describe how a lot of the humanoid bad guys react to roleplay elements (check the side bars) and any DM can use the back story of why the bad guys are there to make up their own role play. I also agree the magic items do not occur enough and I have added in items. While this adventure can be a little combat heavy, I think all in all its a very good adventure and worth the $$$.

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