A journey begins with but a single step... but here the first stage in what promises to become an epic journey-based adventure, one where much of the adventure is the journey, sweeps the characters from attending a jovial festival across the breadth of the land and indeed towards the edges of explored territory.
Beginning with a campaign overview and then delving deep into background, the product starts with a collection of monsters, items and other game mechanics - including the theme 'Hero of Song' which is rather interesting - before looking at an overview of the lands which will be travelled. There's a lot for the DM to take aboard, but it is well worth it to aid in the development of a rich background through which the party will travel. Throughout, there are suggestions for running the adventure from motivations to participate through to nightmares the characters may suffer.
With the overarching theme being one of travel, the actual adventure itself is presented in a wonderfully flexible way. Once the characters have accepted their task, you are presented with a range of encounters and events to run as appropriate whilst the party travels through the areas which have already been described. The party has freedom to choose their own route and most events can occur as and when you decide during their travels. Random encounters and notes on survival are also provided. It is important to highlight how the journey begins in lands familiar to the characters, but how every step takes them further into unknown territory.
The flexibility of this approach allows the DM to tailor the adventure to his players' tastes. Events where role-playing or investigation might be appropriate are presented in such a way that challenges can be met through die-rolling or by playing out the encounter as preferred. There are also specific quest targets set which may be attempted or ignored... some are incidental, some will advance the core plot. Everything is well laid out with all the game mechanical information you need to hand, and plenty of flavour text on which to base your descriptions. At the beginning, in particular, there is quite a lot of 'read aloud' text to get essential information over. You may need to break this up or otherwise vary the presentation to avoid players being overwhelmed by 'info-dump' especially if they are not the sort to enjoy listening to lengthy discourses.
As the adventure gets into its stride, however, there are plenty of opportunities for the characters to engage in combat and in the struggle to survive often hostile environments. Again, game mechanical information, appropriate maps and notes on the opposition's combat tactics are put at your fingertips. To add variety, there's a story-telling challenge and even a pub game called Seven Tiles for which sufficient information is provided for you to recreate it if wished, as opposed to disposing of a game with a couple of skill rolls which other groups might prefer. There is even a dungeon-crawl (just the one) which provides an action-packed session... and this episode ends with a good fight!
An appendix provide full-page versions of all encounter maps ready for you to use as appropriate.
Overall, the adventure is excellent with a wide mix of activities to suit all types of group with inherent flexibility to enable you to delve deeper into those encounters that most interest your players and a tight plotline that yet manages to work in a 'sandbox' style giving players the feeling that they are very much in control of their own destiny.
Return to To the Edge of the Map page.
Reviewed: 13 September 2013