5E Adventure Review: The Raven

The Raven is the twelfth part of Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts, the fourth season of the D&D Adventurers League adventures. By this stage in the campaign, we’re getting towards the end. The Big Bad is getting ready to implement her plan, and the adventurers need all the help they can get, because – at this stage – they don’t know where she is!

The last adventure introduced the Bloodhand Orcs, who, like the characters, are from the Forgotten Realms. Their leader is now allied with the party, but some of the orcs have rebelled. The orc leader asks the adventurers for help putting down the rebellion and offers as payment a spellcaster the orcs have captured: Ixusaxa Terrorsong, a member of the Cult of the Dragon who featured in the first season. It’s a bit rich for the leader to be offering her as payment as she’s been taken by the rebels, but there you have it.

On the journey to the rebel camp, the adventurers are menaced by wolves. This encounter can be evocative, but errors in its presentation make it a little trickier to run than I’d hope. The idea of having wolves chasing the party through the night and then disappearing with the dawn is excellent, however.

More presentation errors mar the concluding section of the adventure. The idea is simple: the players need to choose one of two paths to approach the orcs. However, the description is a mess. What should be one section of boxed text explaining the players’ options instead becomes three, and the text that explains how to present the choice is likewise scattered over two pages. Add to that a heading that shouldn’t be there, and it’s difficult to work out what was intended.

The final encounter’s set-up depends on how long the players took to reach it, but the text is inconsistent in describing what a good pace is. It may rely on a decision the players and DM didn’t even know they had to make, back at the beginning of the journey.

If the DM decides that the party were slow, then they have three rounds to defeat the orc rebels before the orcs kill their prisoners. If the adventurers arrived quickly, the combat is easier.

If the prisoners are killed, it throws a huge spanner into the works of the next adventure. Perhaps they spontaneously come to life again, so it has no discernible effect on the story? Either way, this is a problem. Don’t put in consequences if they don’t mean anything!

When I review adventures, I tend to look at their structure and pacing more than the individual encounters. As a stand-alone adventure, the structure of this adventure is adequate, but its implementation is below average. The errors in the presentation detract from its clever ideas; it also feels very slight with not enough action to fill its running time.

As an adventure that is part of the overall season, it has significant conceptual problems. Both it and The Donjon suffer from being irrelevant to the main plotline, bringing in elements that don’t matter, and letting the tension that has been growing through the actions of Esmae and the Burgomaster drain away. The adventure would have more relevance to the players if they were sent to rescue Sybil, who is also a prisoner. Ixusaxa doesn’t do anything in the remaining part of the adventure that needs her presence; her role is easily filled – and more effectively so – by Aya Glenmir, the half-elf who was introduced in the first adventure and has appeared in several other instalments. During the overall plotting of the season, the number of disparate elements needed to be reduced. Consider if the story was recast as Sybil being taken prisoner by Esmae’s agents. At that point, there is real urgency and connection to the overall arc of the season.

The Raven also significantly flubs its connections to the next story, which expects Sybil to be free, but it’s most likely she either remains a prisoner of the orcs or is dead. Oops!

Ultimately, this is a disappointing adventure. It’s not horrible, but it is underwhelming and poorly conceived. Not recommended.

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