The Preface lays out the slightly awe-inspiring point that this adventure sets the scene for the entirety of Asatania campaigning. In it the characters are introduced to the world and to the major threats that it faces... and they'll soon find themselves making tough choices, the sort that have no 'right' or 'wrong' decision, just ones that will have an effect, often a profound one, not only for the characters themselves but for the world which they inhabit.
There's also some fascinating background about the inspiration for the whole campaign concept: an insular nation that feels protected by the seas around it, to the length of prohibiting exploration beyond its shores, and how it copes when others come a-visiting in a disruptive manner. Fascinating stuff, to see how that single idea has spawned an entire world setting and series of adventures. Moreover, the author recognises 'success' by player response, citing deep in-character discussions about courses of action as a marker of a campaign that has really caught the group's imagination. (It's good when that happens, I still recall fondly a Cyberpunk game in which the characters debated, for over 15 minutes, the pros and cons of the use of torture as a valid business tactic... perhaps you don't want to meet some of my players!)
With a few notes on helpful resources (like the Asantania Crashing Chaos Campaign Guide, recommended but not required), on keeping the challenges appropriate to your group if it varies from the five first-level characters intended, and even on using a ruleset other than Dungeons & Dragons 5e, we reach the Introduction. This covers some of the interesting features of this world like the apparent lack of magic. Yes, you can play a spell-caster, but such a character will feel themselves to be unique because anyone else who uses magic keeps very quiet about it... and you will have probably found out the hard way that it's best to be discreet about what you can do! This moves on to a plot overview covering events in this adventure and a discussion on helping your players come up with appropriate backstories for their characters, as the action starts with them travelling by public cart (or Traveller Wagon, as they are known) to the settlement of Bray's Bay. By the end of this adventure, they ought to be second level and will be faced with their first choice... one option available means that you'll need to run one of the side adventures for them (The New Mine Masters).
As stated, the adventure begins with the characters on the road. There's some concise 'read aloud' text to bring them up to speed without you having to hold forth for hours - there's a Player's Guide available (free if you choose the PDF option) for those who want to delve deeper. This is also an opportunity for the characters to get to know each other - sitting in a cart for hours on end gets pretty boring, as well as hard on the rear end! NPCs are extremely detailed and really come to life - there are a few sharing the journey with the characters - so there is ample scope for role-play. And then, the fun starts...
Throughout, there are useful snippets of information that you can weave into the story as appropriate. The NPCs are also categorised as being there for flavour or ones intended to be recurring participants in the campaign, and they are all extremely well-rounded with quirks and personalities - even the 'throw-away' ones. In the Campaign Guide it was suggested that you could either award XP in the conventional manner, or level up the party at appropriate points, and both methods are supported, with neat tables showing what XP is available as appropriate for those going down that route. Likewise you are well supported with suitable skill checks being noted when appropriate, along with the results of success, which makes it easy to both use the right ones and remember to call for them at the correct moment! There's an overview map and detailed maps for each encounter along with descriptions of what and who you'll find in each location (and what they are likely to do when the party turns up). Appendices cover the Kan Demons in considerable detail and provide NPC stat blocks, as well as copies of the encounter maps (and the overall map) to give to your players.
This is a splendid introduction to what promises to be an exciting campaign. As DM, you should feel well-supported to cope with whatever your players do as the amount of information provided will equip you to be able to react appropriately. The in media res start coupled with the way background material is provided should get you off to a flying start... in short, this is an excellent example of a 'campaign starter' adventure!
Return to Face Down in a Muddy Road page.
Reviewed: 15 May 2017