“The devil is in the details.” ~ Anonymous
Campaign arcs seem to be fairly popular with D&D 4E gamers, and publishers are beginning to produce material to meet that popularity. Having a series of adventures with a built-in, continuous story-line is a boon to many Dungeon Masters, particularly to those who have a ton of real life responsibilities. School, work, and family matters take up time which might be used to prepare a D&D 4E session, and so a campaign arc seems like a welcome idea.
And when you consider that such an arc will take Characters form Level 1 to Level 30, these arcs can provide session after session of enjoyable 4E play with very little preparation time by the DM.
Of course, everyone has heard of WotC’s Scales of War Campaign Arc, which just reached its conclusion a few months ago. It pretty much defined what the word campaign arc meant to 4E gamers. In fact James Wyatt wrote a great Dungeoncraft Article in Dungeon #153 describing how to convert old modules into campaign arcs, so I would have to assume Wizard’s will be making more of them.
And other companies have started producing campaign arcs, such as Blackbyrne Publishing’s The Dark Veil Arc, EN Publishing’s War of the Burning Sky, and Alea Publishing’s Champions of Hubris – although, to be fair, the Feudal Lords CoH Arc is defined as a Paragon Tier Adventure Path. I must also admit that I am working on my own Doombringer Campaign Arc, which was previewed in the last Combat Advantage Magazine (CA #16), and is due to start release in early May 2010. (Shameless Plug!)
But anyways, back to the business at hand.
The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar is EN Publishing’s second adventure module in the War of the Burning Sky Campaign Arc, and is the follow-up to The Scouring of Gate Pass. And like its predecessor, this adventure is epic in scope, and plunges the Characters yet again into battles of a war that is not of their choosing.
The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar
- Designers: Ryan Nock / Steve Muchow
- Illustrators: John McSweeney (cover), Rick Hershey, Leo Lingas, Juan Navarro, Claudio Pozas, Todd Schumacher, Joseph Mallord, William Turner, V Shane (interior)
- Publisher: EN Publishing
- Year: 2009
- Media: PDF (93 pages)
- Cost: $6.99
The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar is an adventure designed for 5 Player-Characters of Levels 4 to 6, and is set in the world setting designed for the War of the Burning Sky Campaign Arc. The adventure module is the second in the campaign arc, and picks up where The Scouring of Gate Pass left off, although there are instructions on how to run it as a stand-alone. The module consists of 29 Encounters and Skill Challenges, although how many of these encounters will actually be experienced by the Characters is dependent upon what actions they take in the fire forest. The adventure contains several new and unique monsters which are built around a “theme” (see DMG 2), new traps and hazards, and new magic items.
The production quality of The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar is quite good, with the material presented in formats that are readily familiar to 4E gamers. There are numerous full-color encounter maps which, while nicely drawn are not always well-defined, and it took me a couple of readings to match up the encounter information to the maps in order to make sense of it. The artwork in the book is well done, although somewhat sparse compared with the 93-pages of material. The Author also provides full-color player handouts to use during play, which is a nice touch to enhance the gaming session.
SPOILER WARNING: Reading beyond this point will introduce you to spoilers regarding the plot of The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar. If you are planning on playing in this adventure, you might wish to skip to the “grade card” at the end of the review.
Without giving too much plot away, the Characters have now fled the city of Gate Pass and are now passing through the Fire Forest of Innenotdar with a few NPC companions. They are carrying with them information that is of value to the resistance movement against the pursuing Ragesian Empire, and they hope to pass through the forest to find refuge.
Now the fire forest is literally what it sounds like: a forest which by some strange magical means is forever burning – or at least for the past 40 years. The trees and animals of the forest, and even the people are smoldering, but also somehow not dying. The adventurers must make it through this place to reach a safe haven. But there are forces in the forest that wish to stop them, and that becomes the crux of the adventure.
What I liked about this adventure plot, and again, without giving too much away, was the strong focus on the Character’s morals and situational ethics. The Characters will be forced to make a series of hard decisions which will not only affect their lives, but also the lives of the creatures of the forest, and potentially to advancement of the Ragesian Empire’s army. There are several “sides” to what mysterious forces are causing the fire forest to burn under its enchantment. And many of these decisions the Characters make are “zero-sum”, with the outcome of choices helping one side, but will hurt another.
As I mentioned, there are 29 Encounters and Skill Challenges within the module, and the Characters will not see all of them. Certain decisions they make will remove some encounters from their path, so they will not see all the “content”. The Author did this intentionally, and it was a huge undertaking in my opinion, in order to create a branching encounter “tree” wherein the decisions made by the party and the outcome of certain skill challenges will determine what combat encounters they experience. The Author was kind enough to provide an Encounter Table, to keep tabs on the encounters and experience points gained, as well as to know when to hand out treasure parcels. Like the previous module, adventure parcels are designed by the DM to make them appropriate to the Characters.
There are several NPCs which the Player-Characters encounter in The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar which really enhance the play experience by creating tension and drama to the party’s decision making process. First are the companions that helped the adventurers escape Gate Pass: the cleric Torrent, and the wizard Haddin and his apprentice Crystin. In the fire forest, the Author gives detailed notes on how these companions feel about the various plot twists which beset the adventurers, so that each decision will be weighed and scrutinized by this NPC “committee”, and they all have different viewpoints.
Additionally, Crystin is a psychic sensitive who begins to have premonitions and bizarre insights in the forest, offering cryptic and bizarre clues to what is going on. It is a very nicely designed story device, and while it does not force the plot along, does ad an eerie touch to the happenings in the forest.
Other NPCs of note are a Dragonborn Sorcerer named Khadral, who the adventurers meet while he is trying to unravel the mysteries of the forest; Kazyk, a devil-mercenary sent by the Ragesians to apprehend the Characters; and Tijann, a fey creature living in the forest that wants the Characters to solve the mystery. And yes, there is an NPC behind the mystery of the forest, and the adventurers must deal with that entity in some fashion before they can complete their adventure and pass on to safety.
Again, choosing who to help and who to fight is going to have direct bearing on what encounters the Characters experience, and ultimately will decide the fate of the forest. That fate will affect the spread of the Ragesian Empire and therefore have repercussions in later adventures along the War of the Burning Sky Campaign Arc.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom in this adventure. Despite the weighty decisions that the Players will be forced to make as their Characters, there is some great storytelling – not to mention a Heroic Tier Artifact to be gained! However, the artifact is integral to the storyline, and gaining it might have some bitter-sweet memories attached to it.
The Skill Challenges in the adventure were well designed, and the Author definitely understands their function in an adventure scheme. The combat Encounters seem very balanced and match the plot well, and provide not only challenges for the adventurers to overcome, but often lead to more decisions which will have to be worked out.
My only concern with the encounters is that there are quite a few of them which seem to involve allies with the heroes, and the monster threat level is based upon this extra cast of NPCs. From a DM’s point of view, while it does allow added monsters and an increased threat level, it forces Players to run extra party members in addition to their own, or it leaves the actions of NPCs to the DM who is already handling monsters, and now has even more things to tend while running a combat. Obviously, that is a personal opinion I have, and I am sure that other DMs will have no problem having Players run multiple Characters. But personally, I think having multiple Characters to run makes role-play during encounters muddled. And if the DM is running the ally NPCs, then he is literally just playing with himself several times each combat round, which just seems a bit awkward.
Overall Grade: A-
I found The Indomitable Fire Forest of Innenotdar to be a really excellent example of how you can make an early Heroic Tier adventure into a visceral and emotional roller-coaster ride. Not only are the Characters in constant peril from the “fire forest” environment, the decisions the Characters make have a profound effect, not only immediately, but in terms of the long term campaign’s storyline. Those decisions can be almost heart-wrenching at time, and the Author did an excellent job of creating a multiple encounter trees in the module to handle the outcome of those moral choices made by the Players. Except for my reservation about the involvement of NPCs as allies, the encounters are fresh, and the monsters have unexpected and challenging abilities. It’s a lot of adventure for the price, and well worth considering for any DM’s campaign.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
- Presentation: B+
- - Design: A-
- - Illustrations: B+
- Content: A
- - Crunch: A-
- - Fluff: A
- Value: A-