A Dish Best Served Cold is the fifth adventure in the D&D Adventurers League fifth season. It’s written by James Introcaso (who is known for babbling about tabletops and doing great interviews), and is written for the second tier of levels, optimised for 8th-level characters.
It’s also the second in the Stagwick-arc, a tale about the relationships between the frost giants and settlers in Hartsvale. In this adventure, the truce between the giants and the settlers is threatened by a group of self-appointed border guards, the Blood Riders, who have kidnapped the son of a local giantess. The adventurers must rescue the giant and not start a war.
As the adventure is meant to be played in a two-hour slot, there’s not much time for an exploration of its themes. It begins with the meeting with the giantess, proceeds to an investigation of the camp where the kidnapping occurred, details a few encounters that may occur on the way to the Blood Rider encampment, and then has the players trying to rescue the giant.
The adventure handles all of this well. It has just enough time to develop the plot, providing clues to the players as to the true story, so that when the final encounter occurs, it doesn’t have to be resolved with the adventurers fighting all of the Blood Riders. There are good opportunities for role-playing and combat; exploration takes a back seat in this adventure. Not surprisingly, it’s a fairly linear tale, with minor variations possible due to character choices and encounter selection.
The chief problem the adventure faces is a lack of background information about Stagwick. The adventure isn’t short on background information about why the Blood Riders have taken this course of action, but their relationship to Stagwick, who King Hartwick is, and why the adventurers should be helping giants… all of that isn’t explained. And that’s a problem if you come to this adventure cold. I’d like to know more about the region I’m protecting – even a sidebar setting the stage would be invaluable here.
There are a few editing errors. My favourite is the “swatch of destruction”, which, alas, is not a magical, destructive timepiece. (It should be “swath” or, if you’re Australian, “swathe”).
Overall, it’s an effective adventure. Personally, I think the adventure idea is strong enough to support a longer, more intense adventure, but James has done a fine job for the two-hour slot. It could easily be run as a one-shot outside of the Storm King’s Thunder storyline, although I highly recommend giving the players more information on the truce between the giants and the humans in the area; it makes the goal of the adventure more compelling.