Review: Shadows of the Moonsea

In my first Recap Roundup, I mentioned that I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition via the Adventurer’s League format over at Myth Weavers. Well, last week I finished my first adventure, Shadow of the Moonsea, and given that I’ve spent the last three months running it via play-by-post I thought I’d review it.

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Shadow of the Moonsea, also known as DDEX1-3, is an official adventure from Season One of Wizard’s of the Coast Adventure League, a structured play format that tells a cohesive story over each season. Taking place in the Moonsea region of Faerun, of the Forgotten Realms setting, Shadows of the Moonsea begins in the decrepit city of Phlan. The player characters are solicited by the Doomguide, the head priest, of the Temple of Kelemvor to investigate a rash of attacks on small village along the coast of the Moonsea and rumors of a ghost ship. Finding merit in these claims, the players set out to put an end to the attacks once and for all. Mystery, intrigue, and swashbuckling await those that take on this adventure.

The module is well-organized, containing all the essential details for completing the adventure. However, it was lacking in details, specifically about Phlan itself. As a DM unfamiliar with the setting, I would have liked more information about the place and deeper descriptions, especially given the first section of the adventure is an investigation within the city’s confines. As a product meant to be ran out the gate say, at a friendly-local game store, it should come with enough information to flesh out the session and not require additional research.

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The adventure itself starts strong and ends strong: the first, fourth, and fifth acts are the strongest. It dips during the second and third act, which consist of a travelling segment and an extended section within a village. If I were to run the adventure outside of the Adventure League, I would have truncated it to a three act structure and rearrange some elements around to maintain the overall integrity of the story.

For those that lust for treasure and battle, the closing acts will please. In my run through of the adventure, my player characters approached the encounters intelligently  and this led to some very satisfying results. Combat-oriented players may themselves relatively disengaged for the first three-fifths of the adventure, as there is a single possible combat encounter early on and it is avoidable.

Overall, Shadows of the Moonsea is a solid adventure with exciting combats and intrigue. However, it suffers from some pacing issues and its focus on investigation is a possible turn-off for more combat-focused players. As an entry in a greater story, it accomplishes the goal of deepening the ongoing mysteries and problems that plague the Moonsea region, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an entry point or as a great stand-alone example of what D&D can do.

On the Ladder, I’ll give Shadows of the Moonsea a rating of Good.

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