I should start with a big, public “thank you” to Jeff, the owner of my friendly local game store, Enchanted Grounds, for loaning me the adventure from the store copy of the DM Kit, gratis. I had no need for the DM Kit book (I already have the Dungeon Master Guides 1 and 2) nor the tokens (I use my MapTool / projector setup for gaming), so I just couldn’t justify spending the money on the entire DM Kit just for the adventure. Jeff loaned it to me on the spot. Great guy, great store!
The Reavers of Harkenwold adventure is, in a word, excellent. It is presented in two separate magazine-type books. The first begins with a thorough overview of the plot of the adventure in both a super-brief format (here are the three or four major points of the plot) as well as a longer format for book 1 that goes over the flow of that section. It continues with some possible adventure hooks, detailed descriptions of the locations the PCs might visit in the adventure (complete with names of shops in towns and so on), and then descriptions of the non-player characters that the party might meet (including their motivations and role-playing tips for the most important NPCs). It then moves into the various encounters that the PCs may meet. Book 2 starts with the plot overview for that book, and then the encounters.
SPOILERS AHEAD. If you plan to play this adventure as a PC and you want to be surprised, I suggest you stop reading now.
The plot is straightforward, in a good way: Free a region of innocents from an evil outside army that has taken over. The players need to gather allies, fight in a large military battle, then infiltrate a keep. Book 1 contains the background material and the allies-gathering, while book 2 has the big battle and the keep.
I ran the game using MapTool online for a party of three PCs. My players were a level above the recommended range for the adventure, so I mostly left the numbers alone (higher-level PCs, but fewer of them than recommended), and it worked out okay. The only encounter that was TOO brutal, in my opinion, was Encounter D4: Yisarn’s Lair from the end of the first book. I removed the traps and one of the monsters from that battle and it was STILL too hard (the players retreated and came back the next day with an elf ally).
There is plenty of information in Reavers of Harkenwold for a party that loves role-playing to really get into the world and its people and their problems. However, that is not the kind of group that I have. My PCs prefer to get into fights and kill bad guys, and this adventure worked just fine for them, too. The order that they ran into the encounters was:
- E1: Ilyana’s Plight
- A little role-playing with Reithann, leading to Tor’s Hold
- T1-T2-T3: The bullywug caverns
- A little role-playing at Tor’s Hold, then on to the D1 to meet the Woodsinger Elves
- D2-D3-D4: Liberating the underground lair for the elves
- D4 again: The party retreated the first time and got a Woodsinger Elf to help them the second time (I made up a simple companion character)
- E4: Hunted! on the way to Albridge
- A little role-playing, leading into B1: Battle Plans
- B2-B3-B4: The Battle of Albridge (Nazin fled when his minions dropped, and just barely got away, even with his action point)
- Some role-playing to visit Old Kellar in Harken to learn about the Keep, then back to Albridge to talk to Dar Gremath about plans, then back to Harken for the infiltration
- K1: Infiltrating the Keep. The PCs decided to pretend that one of the PCs was the sister of a Harkenwolder who had joined the Iron Circle and died in the Battle of Albridge, and she had been sent to collect his personal effects from his barracks. I ran this as the “Iron Circle Poseurs” version of the challenge, more or less, and they succeeded (barely).
- The party was escorted to the barracks in room 6, where they killed their escorts, went into the empty banquet hall (room 5) and then into the kitchen (room 15) where the servants tried to help.
- K5: The Great Tower entrance
- K7: Lord’s Chambers
- K6: Gaol (after Nazin had already been defeated; the PCs produced Nazin’s head and I had the Mage therefore flee
So, I never ran E2, E3, K2, K3 or K4, and that was absolutely fine. It was refreshing to me that the adventure had more encounters than were required – it made me feel okay about not using all of them.
My players had a good time with the adventure, although they’re rather easy to please – let them kick some butt, and they’re happy. I think a party that likes more plot and role-playing and opportunities for creativity could also get a lot out of this adventure. The back story and information about all of the people and places is really well presented, and I think DMs can find a lot to make use of.