5E Adventure Review: A City on the Edge

The Tomb of Annihilation season of the D&D Adventurers League adventures begins with the player characters going to Chult on order of their factions – Harpers, Zhentarim, Order of the Gauntlet, Emerald Enclave and Lords’ Alliance – and quickly becoming involved in recovering an ancient artefact smuggled into the port city of Nyanzaru by beings unknown. Yes, it’s A City on the Edge, the first adventure of Season 7!

As is standard for these releases, A City on the Edge is a collection of five short adventures (each lasting approximately for one hour), each being a mission for one of the faction representatives in the city. What isn’t standard is the author: it’s not Shawn Merwin but instead Rich Lescouflair. Shawn got moved on to the second adventure in the series, and Rich showed himself more than capable of providing five entertaining adventures.

I’m going to be running these adventures at PAX Australia, and I’m looking forward to that! I did have the opportunity to run them for my friends over the last month; although I was somewhat exhausted and flu-ridden for the final three and thus couldn’t quite devote the normal attention to them.

However, the second adventure has dinosaur races! The adventurers get to ride dinosaurs in a race! How cool is that? They get to ride young Allosauruses, and I just wish I had enough dinosaur minis to properly represent the race.

The adventures are varied: Break up a smuggling ring; Win a competition (involving arena combat and dinosaur races); Explore the jungle in search of kidnapped townsfolk; Explore beneath a ziggurat, and Fight the spies who have manipulated everything from the start. As you might expect from one-hour adventure, they race through the encounters, and there’s limited time for role-playing, but neither are they one-encounter adventures. Each mission has its own structure and provides interesting choices for the players.

I’m particularly amused by the drunk Harper agent, whose inebriation can cause problems for the players later on – it provides a lovely encounter where something suspicious can be explained away as being utterly believable. It’s also wonderful to see that not every faction contact is entirely competent.

The highlight for our groups? The dinosaur race! How can you not love racing dinosaurs? The rules for these are simple but very effective – although one group took entirely too long to finish the race as no player (including the DM) seemed to be able to roll above a 5! There are times that the dice gods hate you.

The first four adventures can be played in any order, with the fifth adventure bringing all the threads together and providing a conclusion of sorts; the immediate threat is dealt with, but it’s likely that the next DDAL adventures will take up the unresolved plot elements and continue the story. It’s a good story, with pieces of an amulet of unknown powers providing a “collect them all” dynamic, while actually finding out what the amulet does makes everything a lot more sinister. I’m not sure that the conclusion of each mini-adventure properly disposes of each amulet part; it’s a little complicated working out how they all end up together for the finale, but it isn’t something you need to think about too much. Just assume that, for once, the factions start co-operating as they’re meant to!

Some pretty nasty things happen to NPCs in this adventure, and it brings out the dangers of Chult very well. If you’re running the Tomb of Annihilation hardcover, you may well consider this adventure (and the following DDAL adventures) as a good lead-in to the main action, as Tomb is at its weakest in the early stages. It really would like additional adventure material to get the characters past the early levels.

I’ve seen several comments about the missions that boil down to “they run longer than 60-70 minutes!” Yes, if you add in a lot of role-playing or you have a group that is slow at making up their minds in combat, the missions will run long. Each mission ran in about 60 minutes or less for my group, but I’m tremendously experienced at pacing adventures to fit time limits. You can make almost any adventure run over its advertised time; part of the skill of a convention DM is to control the pacing of the group to fit the time you have. We’ll be running these in 90 minute slots at PAX Australia because we know most of the players will be inexperienced. If you’re taking two or more hours to run these, that’s a function of your group and your DM style. The missions are rich enough so you can expand them if you want to – that’s one of the signs of a good adventure.

I highly recommend A City on the Edge. It provides a good introduction to the factions, has a cast of varied characters, provides the players with a range of situations to tackle, and has a good overarching plot. This is exactly what I want from the first DDAL adventure of a season. Well done, Rich! Please write some more!

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