Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Madness At Gardmore Abbey

When I first heard about Gardmore Abbey in the Dungeon Master's guide, my imagination was peaked. Later, when I picked up my copy of the Dungeon Master's Kit, and the story of Gardmore Abbey was developed a bit more, I knew I wanted to make it part of my campaign. It wasn't long after I finished reading the rest of the Dungeon Master's Kit that I discovered Wizards was planning on releasing Gardmore Abbey as a "Super Adventure". I was excited. I circled the date on my calendar and patiently camped out at my local game store.

The date came, i picked up the boxed "Super-Adventure" and took it home. The box was surprisingly heavy for an adventure and I couldn't wait to tear into it. After I opened the box, it became clear to me why it was as hefty as it was. Madness at Gardmore Abbey contained a tonne of goodies and materials I will use long after my players have solved the mystery. The contents of the box is as follows:
  1. Four 32 page books detailing the Abbey, new creatures, potential allies for the players and the encounters for the adventure.
  2. Two double sided battle mats.
  3. One sheet each of Monster Tokens and Dungeon Tiles
  4. A Deck of Many Things. Also included with the deck are two treasure cards.
The battle mats are the traditional paper Wizards uses with all of their releases. The real test of a battle mat for me is how useful the mats will be after the adventure is over. For the most part there is little reusability. I would have liked to see a third battle map or maybe even a dry erase sheet to be used in the other areas not covered. 

The Monster Tokens and Dungeon Tiles are a welcome addition. I find Dungeon Tiles, especially scenery and the like, to be quite useful. The included Dungeon Tiles are of the same high quality as Wizards regular releases. I can see myself using them in many other adventures.

Monster Tokens and I have a love hate relationship. I have literally hundreds of them and just last week I spent 2 days sorting through them to make them usable. The Monster Tokens in this adventure include not just creatures and NPCs but tokens that are required for the Deck of Many Things adventure. These tokens follow the new way Wizards is handling Monster Tokens with the name of the creature or NPC on the back. I like this as it makes it easier to find the right one. 

The included Deck of Many Things is a nice inclusion. As much as Dungeons and Dragons is a game of the imagination, picking a card from an actual deck is cooler than rolling a die and looking the results up in a table. The cards are well illustrated and of reasonable quality. I would have liked to have a decorative paper box to hold the cards adding to the flavour of the deck. Not a big issue as I was able to pick up a plastic card holder for 49 cents. The two included treasure cards were an puzzling addition. I can only assume that they were included because a full deck is printed on four sheets of six cards and Wizards didn't want to waste the space. I would have much rather be given two blank cards so I could add my own flair to the deck. I really can't see using the treasure cards unless Wizards starts printing additional ones, maybe in packs similar to the Fortune Cards. Wizards, if you are listening...I for one would buy treasure cards.

The content of the adventure is broken up into 4 32 page books. The first book provides section on how to use the materials provided, an overview of the adventure, a description of the Abbey in its present state including a few encounters and a description of the Deck of Many Things. The book was an interesting read will provide the DM with an interesting place for the players to visit even after the Abbey is cleared of evil.

The second book contains a very brief description of Winterhaven, the closest town to the Abbey, a list of the possible quests the players could do, descriptions of some pertinent NPCs including additional quests for the PCs, a description of the motivations the NPCs have, a few encounters involving the pertinent NPCs, and a description of the various villains for the adventure. The NPCs and villains are well thought out and could easily become regulars in a campaign long after the adventure is completed. Overall, this book was a very enjoyable read.

The third and fourth books contain the bulk of the encounters for the adventure. There is a total of 33 different encounters. The encounters are well written and are easy to run. There is a nice variety of locations and the mix of creatures will keep your players interested.

The only real downside to Madness at Gardmore Abbey is the cost. At 40 bucks, 46 in Canada, it is on the pricy side for many younger DMs. The adventure really isn't much bigger than the Wizards previous adventure releases and will take a little effort on the part of the DM to reuse it in his or her campaign. I have to admit I am not sure what Wizards could have done to reduce the cost. The only thing I can think of is to sell the Deck of Many Things and Dungeon Tiles separate, which would have made the adventure much less appealing.

Personally, I think Wizards isn't publishing enough adventures. One adventure in the last year is ridiculous! An adventure module is one of the easiest way Wizards could flesh out the world in which we play.

Overall, it is safe to say that this is one of the best adventure Wizards has published for fourth edition. The adventure is designed in such a way that the PCs can move on to a different adventure and return back to the Abbey as they choose. The NPCs and villains can easily be incorporated into an existing campaign. Bringing the Deck of Many Things into an Heroic level campaign is interesting. In previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons the Deck was a very powerful artifact. In my campaign I have a plan to return the deck to its former power...but thats the stuff of another article.

If you are looking for an interesting adventure for your campaign Madness at Gardmore Abbey fits the bill nicely. The included Deck of Many Things is a cool prop and the dungeon tiles are quite useful. With a little effort on a DMs part the Abbey could become an important part of any campaign.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, thank you!

    I'll probably get mine from before they're gone altogether.

    --Mathias Lundqvist