Monday, March 7, 2011

D&D - Savage Tide: Chapter 1 There is no honor

Hello again.

In the last Savage Tide-blog I talked about my initial impressions of the adventure path, its setting and various facets. I also pointed out some points which I really think deserve commendations, such as better class-integration


This article is for the first chapter of Savage Tide: There is no Honor. (TINH)
It also occurred to me that I might just go ahead, being the gentleman that I am, and warn you that spoilers are abroad. It should go without mentioning, really.
GM-comments are mentioned in blue

There is no honor…only death.
The basic premise of TINH is pretty much what you would  expect from the initial adventure. The story is very basic, barely any of the overall plot is revealed and it’s (not unlike Shackled City and Age of Worms) packed with particular challenging encounters for players of the lower levels.
The heroes are initially summoned by the lowly noble Lavinia Vanderboren.

In my campaign the players (a Warblade noble, a Thayan Battle-Sorceror, a travelling Cleric, and a singing Bard) attended the joyful wedding between the Ambersmeads and Fortesques. Shortly after they received a message from Lavinia’s faithful servant, Kora Whitlegrasp (originally she was a Halfling, but female dwarves are just better). It read:



From rumors and local knowledge the players knew only scarce details of the young Lavinia. Apparently she and her younger brother Vanthus were the only surviving Vanderborens left in the city after the lives of Verik and Larissa Vanderboren were claimed in a tragic fire. This happened only a month ago. While the Vandeboren name might not hold as much prestige as it ought to, it was still a patron of note and the players decided to attend.

The players journeyed to the Vanderboren Manor placed in the eastern Merchant District. It was a three-story house with leering gargoyles and capering nymphs on the roof. Within the outer wall, several trees gave the place a nice atmosphere.
The players were greeted by Kora and asked to wait in the atrium. Not long after, another party left the house, consisting of a jaunty male half-elf dressed in leather armor, carrying dozens of daggers.  A dark-skinned dwarf in green robes, accompanied by a beautiful woman in purple robes and finally a tall, handsome man carrying a greatsword.
Local knowledge revealed these people to be the Jade Ravens, a local mercenary company of some reknown. Their leader, Tolin Kientai, stopped for a moment to inspect the players.
“Ah. You must be the new group Lavinia brought in to take out the trash… Yeah, I suppose you will have to do…” (In the original adventure these words are not as harsh, but I decided to play more on the animosity between the two groups of adventurers). The players chose to play it diplomatically and respond that they were more than certain of their ability to carry out more than trash. This made Tolin laugh and walk away facepalming. If he only knew the Black Tentacles that’d grapple him, seven levels later…

The players were shown into a grand dining hall with a cozy fireplace and a thick red carpet. As they were taking in the scenery they noticed a large portrait portraying a handsome young man.
They were introduced to the young Lavinia Vanderboren. shortly after. “With long dark hair, sea-tanned skin, large blue eyes and an ample bosom, Lavinia Vanderboren would already be quite a catch as a wife even without the fortune she was rumored to have inherited from her late adventurer parents.”


A great deal of attention had been given to presentation of the dinner, though the quality of the food failed to reach the same level of quality. No doubt had their hostess done the best she could with the tools she had to work with.
Lavinia told them that she, first and foremost, was glad they could make it. She is a personal friend of the Fortesques and heard of the players’ role in the recent events, which led her to contact them regarding a little problem of her own.
Lavinia recently inherited her parents’ estate which also included a large amount of debt. Luckily, they also left her with a large amount of money, the only problem being that the gold was sealed off. The vault only opened to those carrying special signet-rings. Whereas her mother’s ring was lost, her father always kept his hidden away on his ship ‘The Blue Nixie’.
Lavinia explained that the nixie had sadly been seized by the harbormaster only to be released after her debt was paid. Problem was; she did make her payment to a man named Soller, who works for the harbormaster. However, when she returned she was denied access to her own ship and Soller denied having received any payment. All complaints had fallen on deaf ears. Enter: The players.
Having been promised 200g the players happily accepted the task and ventured to the harbor, only to realize that the nixie had been moored about 100 feet off the pier’s end. After thorough inspection, they estimated around seven guards and one big brute that seemed to run most of the show. They therefore decided to approach the task with diplomacy.

(Soller Vark I decided to run pretty much like Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. The average drunken type who sits in the back of the bus, severely intoxicated, making sure to yell and/or grab something at everyone who passes by. And yes, he did get to say “HELLO? HELLOO? ANYBODY HOME?”)



This made it all so much more fun, as the players decided to forge an official letter, making them representatives from the Dawn Council (the ruling organ of Sasserin) on a surprise inspection. Due to an inferior intellectual capacity and a nice bluff-roll, Soller decided not do push his luck. After all, the players even brought expensive clothing.

Soller decided to send off two men to verify this leaving only him and five guards. While he is cautious he is by no means gullible. The heroes insisted on starting their inspection but when he told them to ‘piss off’ they made the first strike.

This is the first official fight in ST and I considered myself lucky that my group consisted of seasoned players who very well knew what they were doing. In its initial form your group is up against seven CR ½ and one CR 2 pirate. The seven minions run away as soon as they take any damage (I suggest, as a GM, make sure to inform your players that the pirates are very cautious, almost nervous, about even making an attack. Otherwise your players won’t have a chance of knowing this fact, and might foolishly choose to focus fire on Soller). Soller hits with a mighty +5, and his 18-20 crit-chance can potentially hurt very much.
As far as I remember this battle was handled quite easily, though. About three pirates jumped ship in the first round, and Soller just got to sneer and yell “Burn them! BURN THEM ALL!” before the final blow was struck and he fell to the deck.



The players have some room to recuperate here but soon after they realized that the pirates had been stashing various exotic animals into the cargo. And it's time to burn the evidence. This was bad news for 20 expensive toucans and even worse when the heroes heard a roar, followed by a scream of terror and then silence.

The next second a rhagodessa bursts through the door up to the deck. Best described as a tarantula the size of a pony, this vermin managed to inflict some serious damage on the poor Warblade, before going down. Luckily, the fire never advanced enough to consume the ship and soon everything was under control. The heroes searched the ship and found a ring with a note. The ring matched Lavinia’s description but the note cryptically read;


Vaults &… Vobras?...

Needless to say, Lavinia was thrilled with joy once the players returned with the ring. She decided to set off at once, implying she might have more work for them in the future should they so desire. They accompanied her to the Vanderboren Vault below Castle Tereknian. As they were on the ferry to the small island of Tereknian the heroes enjoyed a scenic moment of Sasserine’s harbor. Their patron told them that the vault would perhaps have some kind of guardian but likely nothing they couldn’t handle.

The clerk of the castle led them down into the vaults. The Vanderboren section was decorated with a big eight-pointed golden star which local knowledge identified as the symbol of The Seekers. (One of the factions which the players can ally with. Basically the seekers tend to show up in many of my campaigns, and more or less represent a vast organization of treasure hunters. I tend to use them mostly as the “It belongs in a museum!”-card.) It seemed as if mom and dad had in fact been members of this organization.
Using the ring to open said door, the party ended up in a small room mostly consisting of alcoves and green marble. A few pillars resembling coiling snakes rose from the floor. It wasn’t long till the players managed to find the secret button to open the next door. It was then the guardian of the vault decided to strike; an iron-cobra. (Compared to the other fights this one is fairly straight-forward. The cobra enjoys some damage reduction which might prolong the fight for a bit, but it’s nothing the players shouldn’t be able to handle.)

After its defeat they ventured further into the vault in which a spectacular sight greeted them. An octagonal room supported by a single pillar with dozens of deep grooves along its sides. The room’s seven walls each showed a detailed bas-relief carving of exotic monsters. Starting at the wall immediately west of the entrance,  they clockwise identified a roper, a dragon, an aboleth, an ettin, a beholder , a grey render an a monstrous spider. In the ceiling the formerly mentioned star was shown but this time one of its arms was red and pointing south.
(In my experience these kinds of situations are usually make or break for the coming hour of real time. Some players will instantly exclaim “That’s easy!” and burn right through it. Others will be stuck for an hour, maybe more. And I literally mean an hour, since that happened with another group playing this.)


The former was luckily the case, as Devon the Sorceror quickly pointed out “There is a pattern here. Look; it seems like we can turn the pillar in the center of the room, likely rotating the red arm towards the monsters!”. Leopold the Bard was quick to add “And I notice that the eyes of the monsters seem to be highlighted with these red gemstones… hardly worth anything, though, but it likely has a connection to the letter we found”.
(Obviously this is the case. The room is one big safe, and the numbers represented by the eyes of the monsters, and the directions by the letter. After a few minutes the heroes solved the puzzle and heard a deep rumbling, as the five alcoves turned and revealed several chests.)
Sadly, someone had beaten them to it.
The vault was mostly empty with but a few scattered coins here and there.  Lavinia, clearly distraught, uttered “What is this mockery?...” under her breath, only lightening up when the last alcove revealed several untouched chests. In them they found 2000g, some ledgers and a lot of cryptic documents. Bridget the cleric managed to catch a glimpse of a scroll containing a detailed picture of an island. She only managed to make out the word “Dread” before Lavinia hastily tucked them away in her backpack.
With mixed feelings she went to the clerk and demanded to know whether anyone but her had been into the vault? The clerk’s answer threw a glooming shadow over her face.
“Why of course, m’lady? Your brother was here only a few days ago?”.
One big happy family reunion
The following evening the heroes joined Lavinia for tea. The young noble was burdened with worry, that much was clear, and she decided to provide them with a bit of background. As the late evening sun shone through the window and reflected off her dark hair, Lavinia’s face was one of sadness. She cleared her throat and slowly turned her teaspoon.

“I have a dark past with my brother,” she said “some might even venture to say ‘hostile’. But it’s hard to explain. You might have noticed that my fondness of him hasn’t changed much (she points to the big portrait over the fireplace) and no matter what happened he is extremely dear to me. Vanthus and I have been very close all of our lives, always running off on adventures as children, being up to mischief.” She smiled to herself. “But one summer things got out of hands. I won’t really go into details but let’s just say it involved a water tower and several elixirs of love. Though fun while it lasted there was an outrage and we were separated. I was sent to the Thelanar Academy for young girls and Vanthus was sentenced to work on a plantation.
When we were reunited after many years, I was certain I had benefitted from my time at the academy. Vanthus, however, had spent the years nurturing his hatred and bitterness and was nowhere near the cheerful young brother I once had. He started associating with people of ill repute, slept most of his day away and hardly spoke to me anymore. I often considered confronting him but the time never seemed right. And one day it was too late. Vanthus moved out of the house without a word. I later heard that he had moved in with a lover, but really…at that time I did not care much for the details”.
Silence settled over the room for a while. It was as if Lavinia constructed her next sentences very carefully.
“Did you ever see him again?” Marcus asked “From what we saw in the vault it doesn’t seem as if you two ever had a happy reunion”.
“No” Lavinia said, now with a sudden touch of bitterness. “We did not. Hope emerged once, paradoxically shortly after our parents succumbed in an accident. Vanthus returned to live with me for a week in the manor and I…assumed the tragedy would bring us closer. But instead our irritation of each other grew and we turned to blame. One night, during a particular intense argument, my brother struck me in anger. For a second, I saw the shocked realization dawn upon his face. It was just a second, but felt like an eternity to me. It was as if… almost as if I for a moment saw his old self again. But he violently resumed his bitterness with a sneer as he gathered his belongings and left. Since that night I haven’t seen him and done nothing to seek him out…until now.”

Lavinia and the heroes had a long talk about their next course of action. Evidently ,Vanthus had gotten hold of the second family ring. He had to be found.  The young Miss Vanderboren still believed that there was hope for her brother if she could only get the chance to talk some sense into him.
The same night the players decided to search Azure District for any clues about Vanthus’ lover, which was pretty much their only lead. After a thorough gathering of information it seemed that Vanthus had indeed been associating with a pickpocket named “Brissa” but as to where the turtledoves could possibly have gone off to, nobody knew.
Finding a pickpocket in Sasserine isn't hard. Especially not in Azure District which is basically your average pre-harbor-quarter. Housing all the nasty stuff from the docks without the glamour of the ships, Azure got plenty of stench, tar, rotten fish and illegal smuggling of exotic animals. It’s the place to be if your dirty operations are not ambitious enough for the political plane of the merchant district, but still too classy for the slummy Shadowshore. However, finding and catching a specific pickpocket was much harder.

(In the end the players decided to execute what might’ve been one of the most weird plans I have seen in my entire career as a GM. Considering this is stretching over almost 17 years… that is saying a lot.) Dressing up as blatantly rich people, filling a purse to the brim with copper-coins, two of them marched as pimps through the streets. Meanwhile the remaining two members of the party were observing closely from a safe distance, ready to intervene.
Making sure to buy everything any street-peddler offered while loudly saying “I’ve got sooo much money, IT’S ALMOST EMBARASSING!!!” the heroes soon noticed a street-urchin having a go at them. He was violently grappled in diplomatic fashion and brought into a nearby alley. He was questioned about Brissa. Sure, he’d heard about her but wasn’t about to give in to a lowly bunch of Level 2 losers. After the urchin demanded gold for any information the players decided to rough him up a bit. The boy started screaming, people arrived on the scene and the great heroes decided to get out of there.
On their way out they were stopped by a nervous young half-elf who in a jittery way introduced himself as Shefton. “You made quite a ruffling in there, friends…” he said “I couldn’t help noticing you were seeking out young Brissa, hm? Might I inquire whether you’re in fact seeking the young Master Vanderboren? If so, I might be able to help you with that. For a price!”

Shefton led them through the city, explaining that he’d seen Vanthus and a dwarf named Penkus set out in a boat some time ago. He knew that they’d established a hidden base beneath the sands of Parrot Island, located in one of the bigger canals of the city. The players decided to set off immediately.

Parrot Island is a tropical haven placed far out in the canal. It's full of colorful birds and houses a cozy warm atmosphere. The players landed on the shore that evening and Shefton led them to a trapdoor buried beneath the sand, telling them this led to Vanthus’ lair. Selflessly he volunteered to go in first but my players were suspicious enough to tell him to stay put while they investigated. There was a considerable drop to the floor below so they decided to drop a torch and lower a rope.
However, as the last person had started his descent, a surprised scream was heard from the unfortunate half-elf and soon after Vanthus Vanderboren showed his face from the edge. He laughed while cutting the rope. “You should stay clear of my sister, fools. Only serves you right to end your days down there. And say hi to Penkus’ ghost from me”. I would’ve ended this with the conventional laughter of a maniac but someone decided to fire a projectile which ended up a few inches off Vanthus’ face. With a shocked expression he slammed the trapdoor shut and not long after they heard the dragging sound as sand drowned out the remaining rays of sunlight. The heroes were now faced with a long walk through the unknown darkness.

(I’ve given this passage a lot of thought. It’s obvious the adventure intends for Vanthus to seem like a primary antagonist for quite some time, which would work out fine if the players would actually get to associate or just see him live a bit more often. Sadly this is the one and only time they get to meet him in person before chapter 5, which frankly seems silly. I am aware that they get plenty of opportunities to hear about his nefarious deeds and feel like walking in his footsteps. This approach worked with, say Sephiroth in FF7, but for some reason it never really scored with either me or my players, who often commented on the anticlimax that you see so very little of the apparent main villain. My advice to GM’s running this campaign is maybe to think up some opportunities in between to have the players nearly confront, but never truly stand face to face with Vanthus.)
Journeys in the Dark
The tunnels under Parrot Islands are dangerous and full of terror. As the heroes start exploring them they soon realize that the living dead walk the halls. They also encounter some very deadly crabs that can indeed make life very miserable if you’re a level 2 sorceror.
(You’re fed a little dance and a little song, but really this is nothing more than a dungeon-crawl of the kind I tend to loathe. It seems tedious and nothing but a filler in which the players are given the next lead. There are some rooms that don't serve much purpose except housing monsters so I decided to make it pretty quick. Besides the nasty crabs the heroes encounter a huecuva. The spiritual leader of the zombies. This can be a potentially nasty fight, especially if your players don’t manage to get the silver-dagger to overcome its high damage reduction.)
After a long battle the heroes were soaked in goo and crab. They discovered a decayed dwarven corpse and quickly assumed this was the remains of Penkus. On the bloated body they found his dying words. In writing, nonetheless. It read:


The players managed to salvage some lost treasure as well. Among it was an elixir of swimming that allowed one of them to swim out through a flooded cavern and release the rest from the caves. From here on the next target seemed obvious: The Lotus Guildhall, well hidden beneath the taxidermist guildhall.
But first they decided they had earned a night’s rest.
Of Lotuses and Dragons
Early the next morning the heroes set out to the taxidermist guildhall. The main compound was blocked off by a tiny souvenir-shop erected for the sole purpose of making money from travelling tourist. The kind of people that want some kind of memory from the trip without spending too much money. As the heroes entered they were greeted by a polite and charming man presenting himself as Nemien Roblach, proprietor of the store. They were presented to a wide array of impressive looking stuffed animals with great tales of their origin. “Take this paradise-bird; it comes in any color you’d like!” he gladly said, handing it suggestively to Bridget (This was a pun on Magic the Gathering, but sometimes one can feel so old in young company). “I am not really here to buy stuffed birds” she politely said “and…is that a chicken up there at the counter?”
“It sure is. Here we take pride in providing whatever animal you may need. We even have a black wyrmling!”
Nemien was a great talker, but only on the right subjects. The heroes tried to turn the conversation in a certain direction but as subtlety was sacrificed for the benefit of accusation. Nemien equipped his strongest expression of surprise and said “My LORDS! I am shocked you would come in here and make such suggestions? Certainly I would never know of anyone of such low moral as those who speak about. I must ask you to leave my establishment immediately!”
“What’s behind that door?”
“I said NOW!”

Late that night the heroes silently slipped into his store and entered the backrooms. By this time he was fast asleep, clutching a stuffed alligator in his hands.
Much of the building seemed ordinary but soon a secret passage with a set of stairs down revealed itself at the end of a corridor. It seemed like they were finally getting somewhere.

I frankly can’t remember much about my players’ approach from here as this was more than a year ago. So I will provide you with an overview of the situation.

(Needless to say, the last part of the chapter takes place in the Lotus Dragon-guildhall. I suppose guild-hallS is a better term, as this pretty much is yet another dungeon for your players to crawl trough. However, compared to Smugglers’ Tunnels this one has some brilliant opportunities for interesting situations and happenings.  There are several approaches to the situation, some more daunting than others, but they more or less end in the same goal.
The Lotus has grand plans for Sasserine and hopes to remain hidden. At the moment 20 rogues are skulking around and whether they are on alert or minding their own business once the players arrivedepends on how they approach the situation. Some of the rooms are downright nasty if the rogues have time to set up in advance, such as a training hall in which several ‘dummies’ are actually concealed, bloodthirsty murderers. The non-vigilant party is in for a deadly surprise should the rogues manage to land a barrage of sneak attacks on them. A nice touch is the fact that the ending of the chapter may turn out differently compared to how many rogues the players manage to neutralize. Of course the primary goal is to locate the whereabouts of Vanthus, but putting a stop to this notorious organizations is a great victory for the peace in Sasserine.)


The heroes managed to slip into the compound without any notice. This helped them greatly in several confrontations. Whereas some rogues were out in town many others were having a casual night. Some were in their bunks or playing cards, giving the players lots of opportunities to snoop around. The few kills that occurred were all silent and swift.

The heroes tried to stick to the more important looking areas of the guild and snug through a darkened training room with some empty minor offices. (I liked this part a lot. I aimed for an atmosphere taken from the Thief computer game series. It’s so seldom a whole group gets to have stealth-fun at the same time. Which, I assume, has something to do with the fact that the most heavy armor at this point was leather.They overheard a couple of guards in the next room talk to themselves about how 'The Lady was in a foul mood this night… one should suspect something was bothering her?’
‘It’s the troubles lately, I’ll tell you. Heard Derreck talk about some new guys in town. Nobody to the trifled with. Brought down a whole ship of pirates they did…Heard she put that Vanthus-guy on the job. Glad I’m not in their shoes these days. That guy gives me the creeps.’ (Yes, Vanthus is very evil).

Of special notice was the war room in which a huge map of Sasserine bearing dozens of tiny flags was placed. The obvious blackboard was placed on the other wall. It contained various chalk-scribbling. The players were surprised to see the message “Marcus. Devon. Bridget. Leopold. <- VANTHUS, FIX THIS NOW!”.

It wasn’t long till the heroes reached what could have been the highpoint of comfort in this place. A small chamber with soft lights and violet walls housed several shelves with various art-objects. A huge map of Sasserine decorated another wall but as they soon spotted all ships were carrying flags of a serpentine dragon coiled around a lotus-flower. As they stepped into the room they noticed the faint growling coming from one of two chairs at the opposite end of the room. Their backs were turned.


 “Easy, Gut Tugger” a soft womanly voice said “It would be rude not to give our guests a proper welcome”. One chair turned (I am such a sucker for that cliché, sorry) and revealed a beautiful human woman with long, red hair and emerald-green eyes. As she got up, her hand gently caressing the hilt of her sword, she smiled slyly and moved with slow, graceful steps. Behind her appeared a bright-eyed dinosaur-like dragon with green scales and a yellow crest on its head. It gazed at the heroes suspiciously.
“You will have to excuse Gut Tugger” she continued “He is so easily startled by strong…” her eyes ran down Marcus with obvious tension “…resourceful men. I am Rowyn. Mistress of this guild. Or should I say 'was'? How much did you leave in your wake?”
The heroes immediately began their ultimatum. Rowyn was to surrender but first and foremost tell where Vanthus could be found.
“Vanthus?” she laughed “Oh he isn’t here anymore. What would you want with him anyway? Listen; you all seem like headstrong souls. The kind of persons I need for this little operation. Don’t mind about the killing and damage, that can be replaced. But people of your kind are invaluable. Let me ask you; how much does little Miss Vandeboren pay you for this, hm? Tell me and I will double it. Swear allegiance to me. Join the Lotus and help me get a strong hold of this hole. With your abilities and our operations, I am sure we could go very far. And…I am sure you would find benefits that you’d like, along the way”.

(I was really looking forward to this part, which is all credit to the campaign design. Whether the players chose to ally with Rowyn or Lavinia has certain impacts on the story for quite some chapters. If the players remain true to the light side and refuse the offer the story progresses as written. Should they chose to join with the Lotus Dragon the guild gains an iron grip over the harbor and Lavinia’s mansion and good family name is eventually all but destroyed. The impetus for further adventures is mostly related to pure greed and expansion of power. In other words; there are clearly options for both ends of the alignment continuum.
My players, of course, took the good route and gave Rowyn one last chance to cooperate. She returned the favor with a charge.)


This fight can be deadly. Like pretty much everything else in this chapter. Gut Tugger had some really bad dice-luck which frankly didn’t matter as the whole party decided to focus fire on him instead of Rowyn. This gave her plenty of opportunity to rain down blows on her opponents from flanking-positions. With poison-coated blades (DC 11 or nauseated) Marcus was soon feeling very bad. Not long after, though, he wasn’t feeling very much as Rowyn slid his throat with a sadistic glee. The remaining heroes managed to knock her to the ground and make her yield.
“Vanthus!” Bridget sneered “Where is he?”
“Find him yourself, if he is really all that matters to you!” Rowyn spat, and slipped a small vial from her chest. Leopold lunged forward with a strike but alas missed her in the final moment before she drank the content and her body slipped out of existence.
Some attempts were made to block off and conceal the place, but in the end the heroes had to admit that Rowyn had escaped. This time. Surely, she was not a type to easily forgive.
Instead Leopold, Bridget and Devron searched the compound. The few remaining rogues had fled, and the guild treasury contained enough money to ensure a just reward even after poor Marcus had been brought back to life.
Sadly, there was no sign of Vanthus. The few rogues that were captured admitted seeing “a short man with pointy beard and angry expression” but nobody knew of his whereabouts. Only after a thorough search of Rowyn’s room did they find a sealed case of steamy letters from Vanthus. Three of them especially interesting:



As their eyes ran over the final line silence fell on the room for a while. The heroes, still carrying the blood of their enemies, were all staring at the yellow pages.
“Kraken’s Cove…” Leopold said. “I hope it’s a lovely place, ‘cause it seems like we’re going there…”

And then the screen turned to credits. To be continued in the next chapter; “The Bullywug Gambit”.
That can be found here:

http://negativethac0.blogspot.com/2011/06/d-savage-tide-chapter-2-bullywug-gambit.html

Conclusion:
I like TINH. There are very few bad things to say about it and we managed to skip over most of the minor obstacles. It serves as a decent introduction to the city and if you wish to create additional side quests there are excellent opportunities as the party goes searching for Vanthus.


Pro:
- The players have plenty of opportunity to go around Sasserine and explore.
- Lavinia is, to date, still one of my favorite NPC’s.
- Many obstacles have several ways of solution. I.e. Soller and The Lotus Guild to name a few, leaving room for both muscle and brain.
- A general great variation between encounters. There are social interactions, puzzles, pure combat and very light investigation. Something for everyone.
- Awesome choice at the end of the chapter.


Con:
- The smugglers’ cave seem really boring and pointless
- As in both Shackled City and Age of Worms there are some really mean encounters for a low level party that might not be optimized or consist of seasoned players. Either be prepared as a GM, or warn your players that they will likely have severe beatings.
- Vanthus has great potential to be a villain but it’s never really utilized that much. More appearances or merely initiatives to annoy the PC’s would likely help.

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