The Lost Mines of Karak pt II

You’ll no doubt remember Sarshan from his last outing at Umbraforge? It turns out he’s not just a one off NPC. He is in fact the power behind the patron of this scenario: Bram Ironfell. Bram is one of the Elsir Consortium, a local trade alliance headquartered in Overlook. This dwarf is the one who gets an audience with the party and offers them the task of finding the lost mine. He sweetens the deal with 1000gp as a retainer. Frankly, at 6th level I’d need a little more than that but your party may be up for doing the job for heroic kicks. His story is that he will use the mines riches to shore up the cities defences against trouble brewing in the Shadowfell. Bram gets his information from a piece of parchment found in one of Sarshan’s warehouses. When will these NPCs learn it never pays to write anything down?

On the assumption that the party accept the mission, the scenario skips forward to the journey to the mine. At this point I was looking through the pages for a map, as the last regional one was in an earlier adventure. The location is far to the south west, across the Wyvernwatch mountains, in the Thornwaste. This is a hangover from the old Red Hand of Doom adventure and is another one of those annoying references that assumes you’ve read it, or that it doesn’t much matter. To me, it does matter. I need a good overview, and a keyed location map is the bare minimum, especially as a PDF is not easy to flick back and forth through.

The journey is handled by skill challenge. These have had a chequered history in the adventure path. This one is slightly above the usual standard. It’s laid out logically, with the description first and the skills last. There’s a wrinkle built in, there’s an encounter with another traveller, Mag Blackthorn. He’s a ranger disciple of the Ghostlord. Who? Apparently he’s a druid lich from Red Hand of Doom, but that’s all you’re told. Right, that’s twice now, surely it wouldn’t be too much to drop in a helpful sidebar? You have to wonder what the point of these ‘links’ actually is. Did WotC not believe the 4e points of light setting was strong enough to stand on it’s own without getting a leg up from a late 3e adventure?

Mag Blackthorn is statted up in case things get ugly. He won’t last long if it does, he’s a single level 6 skirmisher and the PCs will be at full effectiveness. To get round this the authors suggest a duel is appropriate. I disagree, what will the rest of the party be doing, aid another checks? Should the party actually try tto talk with Mag, there’s next to no guidance available on his personality or goals. His appearance is messy, contrived and crucially, it’s largely irrelevant. His only role is to potentially give the party a bonus to the skill challenge to find the next location. That’s all he’s got.

There’s another built in event in the challenge, an ambush by rival dwarven concerns. This is a straightforward fight. You’ll have to improvise your own dialogue. At the end of the combat there’s the usual device of a journal to provide a clue to what just happened. The clue is vague at best and really doesn’t lead anywhere. you have to see this encounter as an optional speedbump in the plot, nothing more.

The only real consequence of failing the challenge is that there is another monster in the next encounter and a lost healing surge. As failures go, it could be worse. There’s no positive consequence to succeeding in the challenge at all. The party arrive at their next destination no matter what, a godsforsaken desert village they call Dunesend. Things are about to get interesting.

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