I've been a DM for over 20 years now through running purchased modules and campaigns of my own devising. We're nearly half way through playing this. This is a well presented module, with the, now standard, first book to present an introductory encounter, the NPCs and new monsters followed by a beefy second book detailing the rest of the encounters. The story is good, albeit not one you'd buy the book of, nor see the film twice :) The poster maps cover more than one room, so it means you have to lay them down and stick a million post-it notes over the areas the players cannot see... It's nice to have pictures to show the PCs to aid describing the areas. As the pictures are two-per-page you have the same issue as per the poster maps. Silly, but I'm annoyed that the encounters go out of their way to have odd-shaped rooms. I have a reasonable set of dungeon floor plans from Wizards which were useful throughout H1, but I have had to resort to slicing up photocopied paper just to stay true to the printed maps in H2 - My players keep complaining that the "graphics card" doesn't seem able to render the scenes as well as it used to! This re-enforces 4th edition's "born in the age of the MMORPG" flavour. Another issue with the content is "resting" - one dungeon consists of 6 or more encounters, it would make no sense to retreat out to safety after each couple of encounters, as logic (and back story) would dictate that the troops would repopulate and make it virtually impossible to complete the dungeon. You are left with a party having to sleep in hostile territory. Don't get me wrong, this is a pleasant experience to DM; just prepare yourself more than the writer thinks you should.
I have run my party through the red box, the keep on the shadow fell and now they are nearing the end of the Thunderspire labyrinth. I can honestly say this has been the best adventure so far It's very in-depth the locations are stand-out and very individual and most importantly for the DM it's easy to follow and run with only minimum prep.
The only faults I have is that the maps in the horned hold were very odd shaped and caused problems when trying to recreate them using floor tiles. Also once again the adventure could have used more printed maps but that's a common fault through out the whole series.
the writing and content though was top notch and thanks to the lack of minions the encounters felt dangerous with characters nervous during several of the encounters( they did not like the bronze warders one bit)
Can't wait to start running the H3 adventure if it's half as good as this one has been.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Very encouraging second showing.17 July 2008
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The Wizards adventure team had me worried with Keep on the Shadowfell. The poor quality material, recycled maps, multiple discrepencies between module rules and the core books, and overall poor production value had me concerned about the future of the adventure path. Thunderspire Labyrinth goes a long way to ease those fears.
First thing I noticed was the booklet material. MUCH nicer than the KotS booklets. The pages feel firm, and both the cover and interior pages are much more resistant to smudging and ink transfer. This was a huge problem for me with KotS, and I'm glad to see it corrected.
The map was both exciting and dissapointing. On one hand, it is a very nice map with multiple important areas from the adventure on it. On the other, it is only one double-sided map. KotS boasted 3 double sided full color poster maps, impressive even if they were mostly reprints of D&D miniature's maps with new markings.
The booklets are nicely organized. Book One contains the adventure hooks, first encounter, new monsters, important NPCs, a bird's-eye map of the area the adventure takes place, and a map with call-outs of the adventure's 'town'. It's nice to see these laid out all in their own section, as it makes the module much more useful for folks who just want the locations for inspiration. Book One also contains a random encounter table for overland travel, something sorely missed from the first adventure. Most eye-catching is the final 5 pages, which contain artwork of the area arrayed in an easy to cut out or photocopy section. This adds a great layer to the read-aloud text in the booklet, as you can hand your players a picture showing some of the most important locations in detail. There is also a section giving some direction in expanding the area around the Labyrinth, giving short descriptions of areas not directly covered by this adventure.
Booklet two is somewhat less impressive. Right off the bat, I noticed that it suffers from the same problem as the KotS adventure booklet: there is no back cover. The rear of the booklet is dedicated to details of the final encounter. The adventure's conclusion and aftermath is handled on the same page, in a single 7-line paragraph. While this is sufficient for the module, some might wish for more.
The bulk of Booklet Two is given over to details on the encounters in the adventure. Each area is presented much as it was in KotS: an overview, with full map and description of general features, followed by individual encounters. The overall maps have clearly marked features detailing encounters, and you could easily copy them and chop it up to hand to the players as they explore. The maps in general feel as if they were designed with a maximum of utility in mind: 10 foot wide halls are the norm, and everything looks as if it would be easy to recreate with a drawn playmat or with Dungeon Tiles.
The encounter entries are fairly standard. If you enjoyed the layout in KotS, you'll like these. They have been polished, brought to a higher standard of conformity. Seperated into sections for Setup, Roleplaying, monster stat blocks, Tactics, Features of the Area (including treasure), and Conclusion for lingering details that need handling, the encounters seem made to run smoothly out of the box. I anticipate very little advance prep-work needed for these encounters.
Overall, the adventure seems well written. I'll know more after we've been through it, but I'm looking forward to running it at this time. There is still room for improvement. In my opinion, the lack of a back cover, inclusion of only a single map, and heavy focus on combat encounters drop this product to 4 stars.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
H2 has its flaws but is far superior to H125 July 2008
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Thunderspire Labyrinth is an epic adventure taking place in the deep mazes and caves below Thunderspire mountain. In other words this is an underdark type adventure and has many creatures such as duergar that you would find in the underdark. It is heavy on combat for the most part, but I feel this will be a major criticism of all 4e dnd modules. It seems like the way they are releasing their products is put just enough roleplaying material in there and give the players a series of encounters (some aren't combat) the dm uses to level them up or advance the story. If you look at most modules released by wizards of the coast they are also combat heavy with minor roleplaying stuff in there. This one does a better job of giving out the roleplaying info for the 7 pillared hall than H1 did for Winterhaven and there is more of it. In fact nearly the whole first booklet describes the hall and its citizens and gives a basic overview of the adventure. I can see tons of roleplaying possibilities with each of the citizens but they don't map all of these out. In other words a beginning dm may run the 7 pillared hall as a bland excursion in a bland city and bypass most of the roleplaying fluff. This is sad since the roleplaying info here is pretty good and each of the npcs motivations would make for good roleplaying encounters. This is a problem with wizards modules in general dating all the way back to 3rd edition. I don't see why this surprises everyone. However, that being said there are some really cool skill challenges as well. There is even a simple find the items to open the door puzzle as well.
The paper quality is much better than H1. Just compare the two. No ink smudging but as another reviewer said there is still no back to the 2nd adventure booklet. I have no clue what Wotc's reasoning is behind this. It doesn't make sense why they didn't add a back to the actual adventure, but I guess they have some kind of reasoning. There is only one map and I don't see the reason for the folder setup if you are only going to have only one map. Red Hand of Doom worked great as a book that the map could be removed from. There are some handouts but these have to be torn out of the adventure booklet or photocopied to be used. The Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde had similar handouts but they weren't in the adventure books and were separate which makes much more sense.
The overall adventure is actually quite good in my opinion. It far surpasses the bland storyline in H1. It deals with goblins,duergar, gnolls and even vecna (really cool skill challenge with this one). It gives numerous roleplaying opportunities if the dm uses them. The npcs are really fleshed out. I have always been a fan of mazes and underdark type campaigns and this one is actually pretty decent. Despite it's flaws I would recommend it to anyone who has played through H1 or just skipped H1 for that matter but wants to give a premade campaign in 4th a shot.
The main issue I had with it was the fact it could have been a whole lot better had they just packaged it with the handouts separate and added more maps as well as mapped out a few more roleplaying encounters. The campaign is pretty long but one would expect it to be when taking pcs from levels 3-6 which roughly equates to about 30 encounters plus roleplaying fluff. It should keep a gaming group busy for a while. I was pretty satisfied with the overall package and actually feel that it was well worth the price. However, this good campaign could have been great if only Wotc had put a little more effort in it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Role-Playing Adventure26 Sept. 2011
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I normally don't write reviews, but I think this adventure has been unfairly characterized as a "hack and slash" scenario with no opportunity for role-playing. Nothing could be further from the truth. There's a wonderful cast of characters in the hall, which provide ample opportunities for strategic role playing. Reviewer RobertBlank put it nicely - "It's populated with a wonderful mix of nonplayer characters - a guilt ridden man cursed with lycanthropy, an exiled drow curio shop dealer, the big ogre bully tasked with keeping the peace, and the grim righteous dragonborn who finds herself being bent down the path of warlockery by the corrupting enticements of her imp mentor." In addition to these, we have the Ordinator Arcanis. Mysteriously dressed in black robes and a gold mask, he acts as the judge, jury, and executioner of the hall.
So why would people characterize this as a hack and slash adventure? The reason, in my estimation, is that, as written, role-playing is not essential. Indeed, as written, PCs could complete major objectives of the module without spending any time in the hall. For example, in the first encounter the PCs rescue a halfling who is able to show PCs exactly where they need to go. My remedy - simply drop the first encounter, as well as all clues that make things too easy and obvious. My players must do some investigation in the hall, and find some people in the know, before establishing a clear destination.
In sum, a DM who is willing to lift his little finger can make this a role-playing extravaganza.
My group completed this adventure this weekend, so I thought I'd offer some rear-view-mirror reflections: If you (the DM) use discretion and trim away the fat, this might be one of the funnest adventurers your group will ever experience. If, on the other hand, you play this mod exactly as written, it might turn into a tedious "dungeon crawl." This adventure, like most published Wizards adventures, has way too many battle encounters.
Here's how I handled it - We had just one consolodated battle encounter in The Chamber of Eyes, and two battle encounters in The Horned Hold. (My PCs were able to purchase a map of a secret passage that lead them to the heart of the hold, allowing them to bypass most of the fortified areas.) I also deleted the first three encounters from The Well of Demons. (As a side-note, I think it's a good idea to have "The Restless Dead" as the first encounter of this chapter.) Finally, I deleted the entire Tower of Mysteries chapter. Other reviewers have suggested doing the same. The link between the The Well of Demons and The Tower of Mysteries is tenuous and contrived, and anything after the spectacular conclusion to The Well of Demons will be anti-climatic. (My group will eventually address The Tower of Mysteries, but it will be an independent, unrelated adventure; the material will not be wasted.) Finally, the modual suggests wandering monster encounters when the PCs take an extended rest in The Well of Demons. I ignored this suggestion. Instead, my PCs were aware (through divine intervention) that any extended rest came with a 33% chance that one of the captives that they're trying to save would be sacrificed. This approach emphasized urgency without introducing superfluous battles. Ultimately, my group was able to rescue two of the four captives. (You need at least four captives if you go this route.)
My group had a fantastic time with this adventure, and some of these moments will linger in our memories for years. My players loved the Hall of the Crimson Whip and the Hall of Howling Pillars. The trapping mirrors in the Hall of Enforced Introspection need to be adjusted. Otherwise you're sure to wind up with a TPK. (You can find lots of helpful online suggestions here with a quick search.) In the Proving Grounds the dragon tossed our assasin into the 100' pit with his luring glare. (10d10 damage; that's gotta hurt!) And in The Inner Sanctum the main villan, Maldrick Scarmaker, suffered a horrible and spectacular death when our controller slid him adjacent to one of the cauldrons, where emerging tentacles wrapped about him and pulled him into the boiling goo. Really, if you don't have fun in The Well of Demons, you should probably just give up gaming altogether.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Best of the 4e D&D adventures2 Nov. 2008
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This really is the kind of adventure you can wrap a whole campaign around. In fact, for the past month I have been! It's the best of 4th edition D&D. Gone is the quaint little thatch roof village surrounded by farmland. Gone. This is the Seven Pillared Hall, a trade city built in the ruins of an ancient minotaur city, ruled by the ironfisted peacekeepers the Ordinators Arcanis, deep underneath a mountain and lit with magical green flame. Duergar, drow, halflings and dwarves meet and trade beneath it's vaulted stone roof.
It's populated with a wonderful mix of nonplayer characters, a guilt ridden man cursed with lycanthropy, an exiled drow curio shop dealer, the big ogre bully tasked with keeping the peace, the grim righteous dragonborn who finds herself being bent down the path of warlockery by the corrupting enticements of her imp mentor. Just great stuff!
The adventure is broken into three open-ended objectives, tracking down some slaves captured and taken for trade in the hall. Liberating them leads you between the various parts of the Labyrinth beneath the mountain, taking on various of the Hall's factions, and then to unravelling a conspiracy which threatens the entire Nentir Vale.
But beyond the adventure, there's lists of places to explore, detailed just enough to let you spin your own adventures through the many cool places they hint at, and a list of encounters with a rogues gallery of specific enemies that can become an even bigger part of the storyline--like the creepy deathlock wight Az-Al-Bani.
Just great stuff. I highly recommend it. It'll give you a wonderful place you can keep gaming in for months, even after the adventure is done.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Useful as a starting point ...22 April 2012
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I paid $25 for the module, and I could not recommend it at that price. But, it is being offered now at $12-13, and that is a reasonable price for it.
I used portions of the module with my own gaming group, but I only ended up using some of the maps and creatures.
There are many uses for modules: reading them solely for inspiration, taking select bits out and using them in your own sessions, or even wholesale applying the entire module to your own campaign.
The idea of conflicting groups with some significant plot twists in the storyline is a good one, and the encounters were generally at the right level for the characters passing through. The plot line was very, very specific to the "main" D&D product campaign, it is more designed to accommodate the many types of players and diverse play styles than go for a coherent storyline. Of course that makes sense from a Hasbro/WotC perspective, but for a DM planning on running a coherent campaign it has limited utility.
There are two beautifully rendered battle mats done as opposing sides to a magazine paper, glossy poster sized insert. The remainder of the mats are put as smallish illustrations in the module, and you have to create those yourself in full sized 1" squares if you want to play those areas. (D&D 4e is tightly tied to the battle grid by its mechanics.) My players commented on the quality of the artwork on those two settings. I just prayed that no one spilled a drink on that glossy print, because he map would not have recovered.