Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bark at the Moon - Conclusion and Review

Excerpted from Olaf Olafsen's address at the opening ceremonies of the Hammer Festival:
Well met and welcome, fellows! I am truly glad to be here today to see all of your stern, hairy faces. It brings a warmth to my heart that not even the finest ale can match. I am especially glad because it was not long ago when it seemed as though I would never see you again. Last week, my cousins and I... stand up Thump, and there's Beric over by the cheese plate... well last week we faced terrible dangers on the road to the festival. The town of Silver Lake was beset by werewolves. Their warriors had been defeated and their children carried away. 

The source of the problem was to be found on a nearby island named Wolfheart; a crossing into the feywild had opened with the full moon, releasing the foul creatures upon this poor, unsuspecting town. Once through the crossing we were set upon on all sides, and our enemies were tireless. We took no rest as we tracked our quarry across the dense forest, trying to find the poor children. Wave after wave of enemies crashed against us, and our hammer arms were nearly exhausted. Luckily we were accompanied by brave warriors. Although they were not dwarves, they exhibited the strength of true hammer warriors. No enemy could escape Bargidigos' sharp eyes and deadly arrows; Gould was a master of finding and exploiting enemy weaknesses, and Shamash' fearsome visage made the blood of our enemies run cold with terror.

Our band struck fast and hard, which is the way of the hammer! We struck blows long after our arms were tired and sore, which is the way of the hammer! And we fought for justice and law which is the way of the hammer! We would have been lost if not for the way of the hammer! Which is why this festival is so important, to dwarvenkind and to all people who would fight against the forces of chaos and decay and build a better world. The first event today will be the 15 pound hammer toss for height...
Tonight we finished Bark at the Moon. We had a great time playing this adventure, and I thought it was a great example of 4e adventure writing. The story was gripping, the encounters were challenging and interesting, and the pacing was superb. I don't want to give away any details that would ruin the experience for players, but here are some quick thoughts:

The adventure is flavoured strongly with fey creatures and were-beasts of all kinds. None of the encounters were throw-aways. Each one had a unique play style, while also staying within the themes set by the larger story. We fought in varied terrain and our tactics in each fight were very different. Even though we were fighting similar foes in each encounter, there was enough variation to keep us guessing. Few adventures achieve this balance of strong theme and variety.

Managing our in-game time created a lot of tension at the table. We were constantly weighing the time cost of a rest against the value of renewing our surges and daily powers. We could feel the deadline approaching and we risked everything to meet it. The adventure managed to create this tension entirely through the storytelling. I felt that a character death was a very real possibility, and that made our eventual victory that much more satisfying.

Long story short: I highly recommend this adventure as a player, and I learned a few things that I look forward to using as a DM in future sessions.

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