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Wizards Watch: Review of Revenge of the Marauders

183_revenge coverThis week in Dungeon #183, Wizards of the Coast released a new Dark Sun Adventure entitled Revenge of the Marauders This adventure, penned by Bruce Cordell is a sequel to the official Dark Sun adventure released in August, Marauders of the Dune Sea.  Some readers may recall that this earlier adventure was not received particularly well, having some fairly non-Athasian plot issues, as well as some unbalanced encounters (click here to see the review of the previous adventure).

With no additional Dark Sun material on the WotC Product Calendar foreseeable in the next 12 calendar months, fans must hope that Dungeon and Dragon magazines provide more content for this amazing world.  So as Mr. Cordell was also the lead designer on Marauders of the Dune Sea, I wanted to see if this follow-up adventure is more representative of WotC’s continued support of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting.

Revenge of the Marauders

  • Authors:  Bruce R. Cordell
  • Illustrator: Wayne Reynolds
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: Dungeon Magazine Feature (20 pages)
  • Retail Cost: Free with DDI Subscription

Revenge of the Marauders is a Dark Sun adventure featured in Dragon Magazine #183, designed for five Heroic Tier adventurers of 5th to 7th Level.  The adventure features eight encounters, five combat and three skill challenges.  The encounters contain sufficient experience points to advance 5th level characters to 6th, or 6th level Characters nearly (95%) to 7th Level.  Revenge of the Marauders also contains six maps, encounters complete with monster statistic blocks, and one new piece of magical gear, the Blood Jewel, a Heroic Tier Rare item!

Production Quality
The Production Quality of Revenge of the Marauders is quite good, with a decent layout and some sharp writing from the author.  The overall design of the Dungeon Magazine feature article makes it easy to print out should a Dungeon Master prefer a physical copy of the adventure at the gaming table.  However, it should be noted that I found a few unfortunate typos in the adventure, which are somewhat unexpected in an official product like a Dungeon Magazine feature.  But otherwise the writing is sound, and Revenge of the Marauders is a pretty-decent dungeon crawl.

As previously mentioned, there are six maps provided in this adventure, five encounter maps and a really cool overview map of Slither, the Crawling Citadel itself! (Note: Please see the Dark Sun Campaign Setting for more details on Slither.)  And I am pleased to say that the encounter maps in this adventure are NOT hastily Photoshop-pasted together amalgams of dungeon tiles!  They are honest-to-goodness map-looking maps, with a very nice parchment style background, and have a very pleasing hand drawn quality to them.  I daresay that owners of various dungeon tile sets will still be able to find tiles which resemble the overall terrain of these maps, but at least these maps are a step away from a mere pastiche of various tile art.  Readers of my other reviews know I have long lamented the trend of overusing dungeon tile art in official products and away from actual cartography, and I am very happy to see a return to real map making in this article.

Adventure Hooks
This adventure picks up from events detailed in Marauders of the Dune Sea, particularly relating to the bandit lord/lich known as Yarnath the Skull.   However, it should be noted that players are not required to go through Marauders to play this sequel.  Although for those heroes who had managed to go through the first adventure, assuming that a Dungeon Master managed to modify MotDS to be a reasonable challenge, Revenge of the Marauders would make a nice follow up adventure to pit the heroes against the villain again who dogged their steps during the previous adventure.  Not to mention that Revenge also advances the storyline of the artifact known as the Crown of Dust, and the possible return of the dread primordial Ul-Athra!

The adventure hooks are fairly straightforward, with a contact from the Veiled Alliance contacting the heroes to try and recover the artifact known as the Blood Jewel from Yarnath the Skull.  This allows the Veiled Alliance contact, who is a spy planted on Yarnath, to lead the adventurers to his hidden base, a gigantic animated bone golem/fortress called Slither.  Alternately, the heroes can find the spy’s body and a note about the Blood Jewel being sent to the Veiled Alliance, but once again, this assumes at least one member of the part being literate on Athas, so the first hook is more aesthetically pleasing for the campaign setting.

I should note that I found what I presume to be a typo regarding the quest: a successful raid against Yarnath the Skull to obtain the Blood Jewel is considered a Major Quest, but only rewards 150 XP.  Per the DMG, a Major Quest Reward for a 6th level party is 1500 exps, so I must assume that either the author or the editor missed a decimal place here.

The Encounters
The first encounter is a good tough Athasian desert encounter on the way to Slither, but is nothing a seasoned group of 5th to 7th level heroes cannot handle, particularly if they have Kivrin (the Veiled Alliance spy) along as a guide.  The encounter is brute heavy, but 4 of the brutes are minions, and should be able to be taken out quickly.  The level 8 elite controller has some nasty domination powers, so it should be able to bolster the loss of its minions with one of the heroes, at least for a couple rounds.

Once the adventurers reach Slither, the heroes must get inside the giant golem-citadel without raising the alarm.  There is a neatly designed skill challenge here to make the run at this bizarre lich-built fortress and climb on board.  The skill challenge is designed such that each character must complete it solo, or fall behind.  Although it is merely Complexity 1, the DCs assigned are a bit odd, having mainly checks at DC 11 and DC 15.  The Skill Check DCs for a 5th to 7th Level Skill Challenge, per the Compendium, are 7/12/17, so I must assume these new values are typos as well.  Regardless, the challenge is decently written, and the penalty for failure is being delayed from entering the next encounter by 1d4+1 rounds – although we find another typo here in the second encounter, as it states:

Failure: A character who accumulates 3 failures falls behind the other characters. When Encounter S2 starts, each character who failed the skill challenge rolls 1d4+1; the character enters the encounter at the beginning of the indicated round.

I must assume the author meant Encounter S3 here, meaning that too many skill challenge failures would effectively split the party up, leading to the first few rounds of the next combat being fairly dicey for those who successfully gained entry to Slither successfully.

Upon entering Slither, the adventurers must fight their way through a variety of encounters and traps to reach the Blood Jewel.   The remaining encounters are tough, but not unreasonable like several of the ones presented in Marauders of the Dune Sea, and the adventure has the definite feel of a decently constructed dungeon crawl.  The traps along the way can be resolved by Thievery Skill or through force of arms, although the final trap is a doozy requiring either a highly trained Rogue or at least a decent training in Arcana to resolve.  The encounters draw upon a wide variety of Athasian creatures, which makes Slither feel a bit like how Jabba’s Palace was portrayed in The Return of the Jedi – a hive of assorted mercenary monsters and entities that serve a powerful crime lord – which is notnecessarily a bad thing, as it is quite an evocative piece of imagery.  Whether the similarity in names was chosen by the author intentionally, or by some bit of coincidence, is open to speculation.

It should be noted that the encounters are designed around a 5-man team of 6th Level heroes.  If the party is larger or higher level, or includes Kivrin among its ranks, the encounters might need a bit of adjusting t o maintain the challenge level.

Overall Grade: A-

Conclusion
I think that this adventure shows a real return to the fun that can be had during a classic dungeon crawl, and is also a great new bit of content for the Dark Sun Campaign Setting.  Not only have we been given more details about Slither, the Crawling Citadel, but it appears that these two adventures have all the earmarks of becoming a mini-campaign arc featuring Yarnath the Skull as the major opponent.  I certainly hope we see more content for the world of Athas like this one, and I think that Revenge of the Marauders goes a long way to cleanse the palates of DMs hungry for more Dark Sun Campaign material after the rather tasteless morsel provided by Marauders of the Dune Sea.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Grade Card

  • Presentation: A-
  • - Design: A-
  • - Illustrations: A
  • Content: B+
  • - Crunch: A-
  • - Fluff: B
  • Value: -

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

3 Responses to “Wizards Watch: Review of Revenge of the Marauders

  1. Perico says:

    Nice review. I also liked the adventure (and the cover illustration is amazing!), and I’ll make sure to try it out if our gaming group ever plays a campaign in Athas.

    I wanted to comment on the skill challenge DCs… I’m not familiar with the latest skill challenge revision presented in the Essentials Rules Compendium, but those DCs seem to match with the new skill DC table, which has 11/15/23 for level 6. So that’s probably where they got it from.
    .-= Perico´s last blog ..Essentials Druid heals- brings back Animal Companion =-.

  2. [Edited] I found the skill challenge table you refer to, in the september design and development archive, so I guess those are official now, even though it disagrees with the DDI Compendium and those numbers have never been released as part of an official update. Makes me wonder why I pay a monthly DDI subscription anymore.

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