- 255 pages long (longest adventure yet)
- Grants the Dungeon Master a lot of freedom
- Quite a few nice dungeons
- Lots of full colour art (as we have come to expect of this edition)
- New, seemingly balanced spells
- New, seemingly balanced races
- No combat grid resources included
- Requires significant Dungeon Master preparation
- No PDF*
* Denotes nitpicking.
Princes of the Apocalypse is an epic scale adventure set to be released on April 7th, 2015. This time, we see that elemental forces have been chosen over the dragons seen in the Tiamat focused adventure before it. As part of my review, I will go over the adventure itself as well as the general quality of the book, the free materials available as well as what I felt was missing (to help my fellow Dungeon Master's prepare). I've had a chance to run part of the adventure and will update this review after I finish it.
New Spells and Classes
The first thing I noticed about this adventure was the new races and spells (partially because the free material was released before I got a hold of a copy). This is something completely different than the previous adventures and at first had me a little worried since there were already some spells in the core game that I had issues with. Surprisingly, there aren't any spells I have an issue with at first glance (you can be sure I will update if this changes). The races in general also seem to be in line with the rest currently published. If you are curious what they look like, they are on the Wizards of the Coast website for free.
There are a few new monsters in this adventure. In general they seem to fit quite well into the current collection of monsters we have from the basic rules and Monster Manual. They also cover a wide range of levels and tend to focus more on the lower levels, just like the current monsters (the distribution is a little more spread out then the Monster Manual, though).
What You Need to Play
If you don't have any of the core books there is a problem as the adventure references creatures that are only available in the Monster Manual. Personally, this is a bit of a disappointment after the previous adventures that didn't require other books to run.
Note: After the release of the supplement and using the basic rules it is still possible to run the adventure.
The Adventure Itself
The adventure is meant to take players from level 1 to level 15. To jump into the real meat of the adventure you will need at least a level 3 party but there are also introduction adventures that can be used to bring the players up to 3rd level. Though I haven't run the entire adventure yet, I have run some of the side treks and introduction adventures and generally found them to be quite enjoyable (they also seem pretty easy to drop into other campaigns).
In general, the adventure takes the form of a series of Dungeon Crawls. Coloured maps for the areas are provided (though there are no battle maps) as expected. However, there is quite a bit of space devoted to characters. Out of the 255 pages only about 92 or so are dedicated to the dungeons that form the core of the adventure. The remaining chapters cover a bunch of different topics including new monsters, new races, new spells and new items. There are also quite a few pages dedicated to characters, factions and the general area (such as the town and country side) that the adventure takes place in. This gave me the impression that I was reading more than a simple Dungeon Crawl and is generally appreciated. Interestingly, there is also a small section with guidelines for converting the adventure over to settings such as Dragon Lance, Dark Sun and Grey Hawk (having spent time in these settings before, this is appreciated even if the section isn't very long).
The way the adventure is written does require some work on the part of the Dungeon Master to make this adventure work and to fill in some of the holes (these holes usually have to do with character interactions that aren't covered, but luckily characters are described in the adventure). My biggest complaint would have to come from the work needed to make it usable with grids as it is given (this seems to be a running pattern). In general I have my own tiles I can use, but it is more difficult for new players to run grid combat without giving them some kind of resources.
The locations and encounter design is fairly varied from what I saw (I guess the different elements allow this to happen quite easily). There are opportunities written in for different approaches to the same problem and lots of wiggle room for the Dungeon Master to add their own flourishes and touches. In general, I seem to recall being less confused reading this adventure than The Rise of Tiamat (though that may also be my selective memory kicking in, I'm pretty sure it isn't judging by the length of the “Other Stuff” section).
I don't generally like talking about the plot of an adventure since it comes down to personal taste. However, the overall plot of this adventure is fairly wide in scope and allows interaction with many different characters. If you liked the previous adventures in this editions run, you will probably like this one. I generally felt it was a solid adventure, though at the big picture level it wasn't the most original one I ever played through. Still, it had some neat flourishes in terms of certain characters and certain events that take place during the adventure that made it feel quite varied to me.
The Art and Book Build Quality
The art through the book is fairly decent. I personally prefer the art style used on the cover of The Rise of Tiamat, but this one isn't terrible either. There is also some art that plays more to my tastes (the more sketch/painting type of art on the cover of The Rise of Tiamat I mentioned previously).
The book itself is nicely bounded and pages are reasonable quality. The pages are the same type used in the Monster Manual and other core books instead of the thicker ones used in The Rise of Tiamat. They didn't ripple the same way my Dungeon Master's Guide did, though if slightly warped pages are a concern you should still look for them in the book before you buy it.
The overall layout of the book, from the name on the spine to the layout of pages, follows the rest of the books released so far (it lacks the early core book fake torn corners just like the “Dungeon Master's Guide”).
This is the costliest adventure Wizards of the Coast has put out for this edition so far at $50 the States and $58 in Canada. However, as usual, most places have the book at a lower price. The cost is offset by this being the longest adventure released so far in this edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Doing a quick search, it is possible to find this book at around $33 ($37 at Chapters was the lowest I could find for the Canadians in the audience).
What I felt was Missing
I also have to give my customary lack of PDF complaint. I didn't really expect there to be one, but at the same time having a PDF copy makes searching and flipping easier.
If you plan to run the combat on a grid, you will have to figure it out yourself. There are no grids provided with the adventure or in the online materials (as of this piece being published).
Wizards of the Coast were nice enough to provide some material for free through their website. You can check it out here (if you are interested in this adventure, I do recommend looking at the free material provided to help make your choice).
In general, I think this is a generally solid adventure. It seems to be at the consistent level of quality Wizards of the Coast has been at since the start of this edition. Unlike other adventures so far, this adventure includes new races and spells as well as the usual new magic items and monsters. However, this adventure is quite a bit bigger in terms of page count compared to the earlier adventures in this edition and the price tag tends to reflect this. It is still missing a PDF copy and doesn't include resources for grid combat, though this isn't any different from the previous adventures in this edition. If you liked the previous adventures in this edition, you will probably get enjoyment out of this one.
- The free Player's Companion PDF is here. It contains the new races and spells.
- The “Whirlwind” spell wording confused me at first.
Update: The adventure played out as I expected. In general the design of the locations meant that there were good twists that kept the combat interesting. As expected, I also had to do quite a bit of preparation in regards to the character interaction. If you are the kind of Dungeon Master that is good at making things up on the fly, this won't be that big of an issue. My major complaint in terms of the adventure design comes from the ending which I generally felt wasn't as strong as The Rise of Tiamat without my intervention.
Review copy courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.