Continuing my series of reviews for the Scales of War adventure path
“Our eyes are open, our fists are close. Our walls are stone, our shields are steel. Our faces are many, our soul is dwarf. And thus is there no foe against whom Overlook cannot stand”
It is an ancient Overlook proverb – some would call it a prayer – and it’s about to be put to the ultimate test
Cast your mind back. It’s the holiday season last year and you’re reminiscing about the adventures you’ve been a part of all through the year. You’re thinking about Scales of War, what’s been good, what could have been better. You’re wondering about some of those loose plot threads and what things will look like in the paragon tier. While you’re pondering these weighty issues, Dungeon #161 comes online and you idly hit the download link. It’s big. Its 68 pages. It’s by Ari Marmell. It’s 9th level. And is that a githyanki riding a dragon on the cover? Well that’s different…
It’s the last knockings of the heroic tier and the adventure path decides to take a decidedly different approach to its instalments. We are promised urban investigation, dungeons and outright war, which, frankly, pushes all my buttons. First, we have to get our heads round a whole lot of plot and bring it all together into an appropriate tier finale. Turns out the Elsir Vale is not just a Tolkienesque collection of farms, fields and industrious peasants and lords. It’s also riddled with portals to the other planes. Players will have already encountered one such portal to the Shadowfell, and there are others still to explore. That makes the Vale a strategic jumping off point for warlike powers and it’s the githyanki who are behind the adventure path’s shenanigans to date. They desire the Vale and its portals, and they are led by a General Zithiruun whose mission it is to make this incursion a success. He has his own masters to report to, and they will not be revealed until later in the path. Usually I find this kind of secrecy annoying, but here we’re promised plenty of resolutions so it’s not such a biggie.
It’s all about a place called Mountainroot temple, a kind of ultimate temple to Moradin, not just for dwarves, but for anyone. As is the way of these things, the temple fell into ruin following an earthquake ages past. The priests took the chance to grab many of the treasures and flee, never to return. All except for the most faithful, who came back and set up the post of caretaker of the temple. This caretaker controls the temples remaining defences, and maintains a solitary watch on behalf of Moradin. The temple is anchored to Overlook by the Stone Anvil, a temple built within the city bounds. This is great background for adventure. It taps into 4e’s assumed world building ethos, with the notion of countless ruined civilisations. We now have a compelling location, all we need is a villain.
Enter General Zithiruun the Broken. It’s worth flipping all the way to the back of the adventure to get the full skinny on this guy. He was once a big deal in the Gith community but fell from grace following defeat at the claws of a scourge dragon, who managed to burn most of the Generals body away, as well as effectively turning his red dragon steed into a mindless undead brute. So the general has seen better days and is seeking to drag himself back up the slippery pole of Gith society. His schemes involve taking down Overlook. To do that, he has a cunning plan. He has mercenary forces waiting in the wilds for his signal. Within the city proper he has installed puppets, mind controlled movers and shakers within Overlook. These host bodies contain Githyanki possessors who control their every move. What they can’t do however, is access the hosts memories. Which means that High Priest Durkik doesn’t get possessed, he gets the torture treatment instead.
This plot-in-a-page has me licking my lips with anticipation. I’m actually wondering how Ari is going to pull this off, what encounters will tell this story? A common pitfall in adventures is to have a superb backstory, but little of it actually emerges at the game table. At the conclusion of this adventure, will the players be any the wiser? Only time (and the rest of this review) will tell.