5E Adventure Review – Mirrored Thrones

Mirrored Thrones is an adventure set in the city of Neverwinter, where a group of brave rebels attempt to overthrow the tyrannous Lord Neverember. Or perhaps they’re just supporting a pretender to the throne. In any case, the adventurers soon find themselves in the midst of a revolution, probably little the wiser as to why they’re involved.

This is a tremendously innovative adventure, which uses an interesting structure that skips over the boring bits and only runs the important parts of the adventure. (Strangely enough, I have an unreleased adventure, also set in Neverwinter, which has a similar structure – though a completely dissimilar plot.) Of course, whether the players consider what is left important is another matter entirely. The adventure is divided into four acts, each of which is designed for a different level of characters: 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 11th. I estimate each act should take about a four-hour session to play through.

The first act finds the characters escaping from a dungeon. Why were they imprisoned? They don’t know. Mind-altering magic has left the characters (and likely the players) confused as to what they’re doing. However, kobolds, traps and tricks lie between them and escape. For the Dungeon Master, he or she must interpret an adventure layout that could be better. It’s not terrible, but it could do with some work. Monsters – even unintelligent ones – are referred to as NPCs. The traps are all listed in a session at the beginning of the dungeon, which would be fine if they were reused and had better iconography on the map, but they’re not. With traps like these, you should include them in the areas’ descriptions.

The dungeon doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why is it linear? Why is there a riddle room to get out? In an adventure that has a modern plot, these old-school elements feel dreadfully out of place. However, the actual encounters show promise, and the descriptions are interesting.

The second act has the characters escaping from Lord Neverember’s men shortly after arriving in the city of Neverwinter. The way this is handled is fascinating: the map of Neverwinter is divided into areas (about 60 or so, I think) and when each is entered, the DM determines a new encounter from one of the eight encounter tables. Again, we have great ideas here: the characters will have an easier time of it if they keep to the back alleys and poorer parts of the city, although they may be detained by a corrupt patrol more interested in extorting money rather than apprehending criminals. However, with an encounter happening in every new area the party enters (with only a few exceptions), this may become tedious. You’ll need to use your judgement as a DM to avoid overwhelming the players.

The adventure can fork here, with the party choosing to serve Lord Neverember or the pretender. Unfortunately, not much attention is given to what happens if the party goes with Neverember, and it may cause issues with the conclusion.

The third act leaps the characters level up to 7, and they are sent to explore a dungeon to recover a magic weapon. There’s a little wilderness travel (handled by random encounter tables), and then they must explore a dungeon hidden by an illusion. The illusion shouldn’t confuse the players much, but it does fit in with the feel of this dungeon, which is wonderfully described and allows the players to learn a lot of the history that led up to the events of the adventure.

The fourth and final act is for level 11 characters (a “few weeks” after the third act), and has the characters infiltrating Castle Never to assassinate Lord Neverember – if they’re working with him, this part of the adventure becomes an assault on the fortress of the pretender! This is a tremendously complicated scenario to run. The adventure lists several encounter areas in the castle, and the characters can attempt to bluff or fight their way through.

There’s a lot of interesting mechanics here. Areas that the characters can easily enter without being challenged depend on the disguise they use, with more effective disguises being harder to use successfully. If the characters want to gather information first, they can; likewise, they can attempt to send additional bands of rebels into the castle to aid them. It’s complicated, not always well-presented, but the sheer breadth of detail is going to give most groups a really interesting experience.

Mirrored Thrones is not a polished product. It has problems presenting information in a clear manner, and it doesn’t fit into an ongoing campaign well. I don’t think you’d even try filling in the level gaps; you’d just run this a mini-campaign with the characters gaining super-milestone advancements at the end of each act. Most of the maps aren’t good.

However, despite all of the issues I have with it, the adventure shows ambition and inventiveness. It isn’t a standard D&D dungeon. It is a campaign-affecting storyline that casts the player characters in important roles. You’ll need to do some work to run it, but – even if you don’t play it as written – there’s material here that inspires. It’s got a great plot, interesting characters, and can be made into something special. Also, at US$1, this is underpriced. Go and check it out. Highly recommended!

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