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This module comes with a couple of battlemaps, 4 booklets and an actual deck of many things!
The module itself is well balanced, open ended and choc full of plots, loops and twists. It actually offers a lot of replay value which is particularly noteworthy for a pre-published module. different people want the deck of many things / cards from it for themselves. Different enemies have different cards which give them different tactical options. There is even an opposing party of NPCs who are also looking for the deck of many things who clash with the players at various points!
If you are starting off a campaign and wondering about the 6-8 period this is a great buy.
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
Best Box Set yet.28 Sept. 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
This product is quite possibly the best 4E D&D product that I have read yet. And I've read 70-80% of them out there. They all range 1-3 stars with some few that are a little better. But this product really surprised me. It's got an excellent concept and the execution is really well done.
IF you're a player, the only thing I have left to say is tell your GM to get this so they can run you through it! Otherwise, don't read on because of SPOILERS.
So if you're a GM, this is really an excellent product. The concept of this mini-campaign revolves around the Deck of Many Things. This has always been a fan favorite since 1st edition and it's really cool and amazing to see them not only bring this magic item back (well, it was already brought back in a Dragon Magazine) but to devote an entire mini-campaign around it. The writers rewrite the Deck as an artifact that's been scattered. So the players start with one of the cards and they try to gather all the other cards to complete the deck. While attempting to do this, they get hired by three benefactors that give them various minor to major quests. During the journey of completing all these quests (in and around Gardmore Abbey) they'll come across another group hired to also complete the Deck, various factions that range from an Orc clan, to a red dragon, a beholder and others! Some of these factions are even designed with possible RP-ing involved so that the players don't have to fight and kill everything they meet. And, it's not just the factions, but various encounters are also designed so that smart players can succeed in them without having to resort to combat all the time. It's really impressive how many encounters are designed like this. And on top of this, the real bad guy pulling all the strings is randomly determined by which card you (the GM) draw from the Deck! The bad-guy will turn out to be one of the 3 benefactors that hired the players in the first place! Or you can always just choose one as your villain. It's really clever and well done. All 3 characters have their positive and negative motives for using the players and/or wanting the Deck for themselves. It's not so black and white their motives.
And finally, the Deck itself is an artifact but the writers rewrite the cards so that each card can be played during an encounter. And each card has its own unique affect which will effect the encounter. It's really well done. And yes, the monsters the players fight that possess their own cards will of course use them against the players!
So this is a really well crafted mini-campaign. The writers state that if you play through every scenario, the entire thing should take 10-12 sessions though you can just abridge certain encounters or skip them entirely to fit your campaign. I honestly love this thing so much, I'm thinking of adapting it to my Dark Sun campaign. If every 4E product was this well written, what other system would you play?
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
If this is the Swan's song for 4e... What a beautiful song it is.5 Feb. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
For "Madness at Gardmore Abbey" to come out just before the dreaded reveal of the new edition in the works is bad, because a lot of people will begin holding their money or trying to get the books on PDF torrents instead of purchasing this box. And what a huge mistake that would be. Because this is a fine product, probably the best 4e story so far.
Your players can start from several very good adventure hooks, even linking the super adventure with previous quality works such as "Reavers of Harkenwold", which leaves room for the DM to flesh the plot with ideas of his own. But right away they bump into the new storyline regarding the Abbey and the secret which brought the garrison to an end: a powerful artifact of Chaos, which is woven into the story in such a subtle way you don't feel it as a "commercial" plotline. Moreover, there are quite a few open villains, hordes of monsters and even "neutral" rivals -a different party of adventurers, described with their own personalities and moral definitions, no less!-; yet the main drama comes from the misterious Secret Collector, who can happen to be someone your characters know from a long time -specially if you ran "Keep on the Shadowfell"-, someone they respect or someone who has a goal of family love. It does not matter: in the end, the Secret Collector has become corrupted by the Deck of Many Things, the aforementioned artifact.
Plus, the end of the adventure may deliver either great treasure or doom for a player character. If it is the latter, then the whole party is on the verge of a new adventure. Why? Because if players gather the whole Deck, its true magic is released and a person can make a draw. Depending on the random card drawn, the character can gain riches or disappear, prisoner somewhere far, far away. In the meantime, before the Deck is fully assembled, each card has a lesser power which can be used during encounters.
On the technical side, the box has good stuff inside. Books are printed in quality paper, maps are great -although, as usual, too few, but hey, Wizards has to make money from Dungeon Tiles and the like-. Tokens are not as good as in the Monster Vaults but they do. The Deck of Many Things, however, features wonderful artwork, and the two included treasure cards are certain to inspire lust in your players.
Monsters and encounters are well planned, and you get to have companions, such as an orc fighter or an eladrin maiden warrior -with whom I've fallen in love with, much to the chagrin of my wife-. Certain villains will want to make an alliance with your players, while others will strike on sight.
Roleplaying is a MUST. It's up to the DM to get players to like or hate the NPC's and get into their character skins. Moral choices are to be made. This is 4e at its best, so get it. And gather your players ASAP.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Very cool box set15 Jan. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
I have played campaigns on previous editions with the Deck of Many Things, and it's always been a fun plot device. I was very excited to see it come back for 4th edition, and picked up Madness At Gardmore Abbey right away.
Recommend this for interested DMs, not much in here that would benefit players that do not DM.
What this includes is an actual deck to draw from, dungeon tiles and monster tiles specific to the included mini campaign, and 4 booklets. The booklets are very detailed on what the Deck can do, and it has many options. In combat any cards held (including by enemies) get randomly activated, changing how that encounter could play out, from if you stand on this square you get bonuses, to actual changing of the landscape, making the players have to come up with some more tactics than they otherwise would. When you gather all of the cards the deck becomes an artifact, able to benefit spell casters as a magical item, and starts to decide if it likes the person using it or not. At any point the holder of the deck can draw from the deck, but whether or not it likes you can give you bonuses, like you draw 3 cards and pick your favorite result. Drawing from the full deck can open up whole new plot devices, if they draw poorly the other players may have to embark on a quest to go rescue them from a prison, or many other results. Just keep in mind, draw from the deck like this, and it is gone forever!
Included is a fairly open campaign with lots of options, giving a good story on gathering the deck to assemble it into the powerful artifact one at a time, opening up very cool possible fights like a Beholder who has a couple cards, and whenever it looses so much health, it activates another.
As always, the mini campaign is totally optional, if the DM wants to include the Deck in their story they could create their own story on how it is gathered, or simply give it to the players however they want, even if you don't want to use the included story, this is still a good buy, if only for the 32 page book on the deck itself, and the included dungeon and monster tiles (can never have too many). Still, the campaign is a good one, and at least worth a read.
I cannot wait to run my players through this!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great Module! Ongoing Review13 Oct. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Thought I'd write this review and make comments after every session to see what popped out that might need some tweaking. This module is really well designed to break up a large scale adventure into different parts and have intermittent exposition to keep the plot moving. I'm not going to go a whole lot into the good part, just the bad parts that could use tweaking. This is not to give a negative impression, but rather to focus on the things that other potential GMs buying this product might want to know. I'm still giving it 5 stars. :)
First impressions: *The maps are great. Wish they'd charge a couple of dollars more and make a lot more of them. This module is heavily designed to work with the Dungeon Tiles that are already out there. This is a plus if you have them, but a slight negative if you don't because the room designs and features often seem based around what was already on the tile as opposed to what might make sense in the story.
*Lots and lots of possible quest objectives, and most if not all are complementary. There's not a written way to integrate all of them, but that's up to the GM, which shouldn't be to hard. You can see what I did in Session 1 below.
*Like many modules of this sort, it seems like the module didn't receive much, if any playtesting, as some errors stick out. I'll note that no play-testers were listed in the credits. 1. The main villain is actually one of three different NPCs that can be randomly chosen with a draw of the cards. That's great, but one of them can die if the PCs fail a specific skill challenge. Oops.
Their motivation and whether or not they are connected to the other group of adventurers that will ultimately challenge the PCs is also random. If you draw the right kind of cards, it says that the adventurers will be there in the final battle with the PCs, but it's unclear whether or not it's a 3-way battle, or if they're teaming up on the PCs. Given that the battle as written is a level ten fight, adding 5 extra NPCs who work only against the PCs will make it ridiculously hard.
2. The whole deck leads up to a PC drawing a card. That's with the PCs working on getting concordance with the deck and everything. That said, most of the draws will be *very* underwhelming. Examples: The PCs get double the XP reward on their next quest. The PCs get a level 11 or lower magic weapon. The PCs get a one-shot boon to change an enemy's attack roll into a 1. The PCs get a level 10 or lower Wondrous Item.
Big. Friggin. Deal.
Meanwhile, the Deck functions as a +3 Implement with a lot of nice powers and features. With full concordance, you can automatically reroll ALL 1s.
You're going to trade that in for one of these junk "boons" listed previously?
3. A few of the orcs have powers that are borderline illegal under the rules. Specifically, they have the power to make a counterattack if someone uses an opportunity attack against them. Except, 99.9% of the time, opportunity attacks against the orc will be in response to the orc's action, and the rules specifically prohibit using immediate actions or opportunity attacks on your own turn.
4.The PCs have a number of different options about where they want to go in the adventure, and what order they want to do them in. This is great, and just about all of them start off with level 6 or so encounters, as to not force a specific path anyway. However, they all tend to culminate in level 10 or so encounters, and there are about 5-6 encounters before the PCs get there. It's entirely possible that the first path the PCs choose can have them squaring off against a level 10 encounter while still level 6. Not a huge issue, but something to be aware of. It almost seems like the ideal strategy for this adventure would be dabbling just a few different encounters in to each area.
Session 1 PCs: Half-Orc Great Weapon Fighter(Striker) Dwarven Runepriest(Leader) Satyr Bard(Leader) Goliath Invoker(Controller) Dwarven Warden(Defender) was not at this session, but they had Sir Oakley helping out.
I decided to implement a number of quests while the PCs were in Winterhaven, using the deck itself as a reason for all of the quests. The PCs thought it incredibly odd that so many people wanted them to go into the abbey at the same time, and even the NPCs themselves admitted it was strange, as if some kind of Fate was pulling all of these elements and people together at the same time...... :) That said, the PCs were joking about putting their fingers in their ears to avoid tripping over any more quest-givers on the way out of town.
The PCs elected to go straight to the temple to help out Sir Oakley. They climbed the Dragon's Roost and explored the first building, the Hall of Glory. This encounter went all right, although the large space seemed somewhat wasted as the PCs just ended up in a huge brawl with the spiders in the entryway. I suspect that this will happen quite a few more times. The large number of swarms seemed excessive, as the PCs had a controller and even several non-controller PCs used Area attacks and this fight still took awhile.
The PCs found the stairs, and then proceeded east to the Temple itself. They encountered the Harpies, and decided to jump them as Sir Oakley thought they were blasphemous. Unfortunately, this fight used the large map provided with the game which turned out a waste. The Harpy by the entrance used her song and drew the PCs to her, which is where the fight ended up staying. Since none of the NPCs want to be at range, having all of the map and the statue effects seem to be a waste.
Note: One of the cards was hidden in the altar. I just had the PC with the starter card feel a presence of another card here, which is why they were able to find it. It seems very odd to have a hidden item with a difficult Perception DC to find that is necessary for the completion of the game. Afterwards, I noticed the part about where it was supposed to activate an environmental effect in combat which might give its presence away, but this seems odd too. You're supposed to combine all cards present and randomly draw one of them to be the one that takes effect. Likely, it would be one the PCs already had, which means they wouldn't necessarily know another card was present. And if it did draw, does the environmental effect just occur next to the altar? Even so, why have the DC 23 Perception? It basically is a DC 23 roll to be able to successfully complete the adventure, and the PCs wouldn't even be able to find that out until later.
Speaking of which, I wasn't sure about where to place the environmental effect for the PCs' card, as it isn't entirely clear. I would presume the effect stays near the PC, but would that mean the PC who holds the card can never use its effect? For this session, I had the PC randomly roll 1d8 to determine the power's location next to them at the start of each of their turns, and they could use a Move action to get into that square just for this turn, and the following turn it would appear somewhere next to them again. Going forward, I think I will just do it like this but let the PC choose which square instead of randomly rolling. The effect kept occurring in squares where no one wanted to go, or in the middle of walls.
Anyway, until next session....
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Best WotC adventure in years10 Aug. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This module is the best module produced by Wizards in the entire 4E run. The area is a sandbox and monsters are not only chalanging but react inteligently to what the PCs do. Aldo the NPC motivations are varied and there are multiple ways to pass most chalanges. Overall one of the top modules produced for 4E or Pathfinder in the past few years.