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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Riddle of the Raven Queen


A few new DMs Guild adventures came out in the past month and I'll be running all of them on my Twitch channel. Last night, I finished running the first of these - The Riddle of the Raven Queen.

The Raven Queen has always been mega-popular, so I think it was a good idea to make this. Fun fact: The Guide to the Raven Queen I wrote years ago still gets read all the time. I think it's because of Critical Role.

So, what's this adventure about? Is it good?

The Story: An elven settlement has been getting attacked by bands of drow. An important member of the community, the Starsinger, has been abducted. The heroes need to get the Starsinger back.

The heroes look for clues and track the drow back to their lair in the forest. But they don't find the Starsinger - they find a shadar kai.

The shadar kai explains that his people abducted the Starsinger because the Raven Queen wants to bask in her sorrow (the Starsinger's family was recently killed). The shadar kai helps the group get to the Shadowfell.

There, the group must navigate the village of Broken Dreams, pass some tests, and then go deal with some agents of Vecna. Once the agents of Vecna are dealt with, the raven Queen will hand over the Starsinger.

The beginning was OK. When preparing this section, I had a bit of a hard time understanding why the Starsinger was so important to anyone. The elven village was pretty interesting.

The drow lair was fun enough. The entrance guardians were very cool, and I liked the room with the cells in it. My group actually walked into the drow barracks. Just opened the door! A dozen drow got ready to attack, but one hero quickly used magic to collapse the ceiling on them.

That worked out good for me, because when running a streaming game, I don't like too many fights/drawn out fights. A battle against 12 drow felt like a waste of time to me. We had two hours total, and I wanted to finish chapter two by the end of the session, so the collapse was perfect.

The idea for the collapse partially came about because the adventure does a great job of making each locale unique - much is made of the low earthen ceiling in the drow lair.

Once the shadar kai is rescued, he can get the group to the Shadowfell. I'd have liked a bit more detail on the ritual.

Then we get to chapter three - the Village of Broken Dreams. I LOVE this chapter. We are given about 5 small encounters in the streets, and three tests that the Raven Queen puts the group through.

The Curse of the Evergloom: Every hour, each hero must make a saving throw against the evergloom of the Shadowfell. If you fail, you lose one trait: A bond, flaw, or ideal!

I love that so much. Bonds and flaws are things that don't come into play much at all, but here, they're put to great use. The Shadowfell slowly steals away everything that makes your character who they are!

There is a way to block this: Touchstones. Characters can declare items as symbolic touchstones - things that represent who they are. For example, there's a character everyone calls "Mistletoe" in my group. He wears a crown of Mistletoe. He decided to make it a touchstone. As long as he has that touchstone, the Shadowfell cannot steal his bond from him. Each character can have four touchstones, with one representing a flaw, bond, trait, etc.

Touchstones have value because of this! People will try to steal them! The Raven Queen might even want them.

What was most amusing was that there's two heroes in my group - Ramrod and Asana. They have a budding relationship that the group likes to call: "AssRod." They declared each other as a touchstone. So then, if Ramrod was abducted somehow, Asana lost a touchstone and the Evergloom could potentially steal a trait away from him.

I love this whole idea so much. It worked great!

How to Win D&D: One mini encounter here involves an old lady's shop. I decided to use it to "win" D&D. How?

The group has been trolling me about shiftspice, a rare githzerai magic spice that I keep saying only comes in elaborate containers, but the players insist that it comes in "flavor packets".

I decided that in this store was a container of shadowspice - a spice that loses its magic properties if not in a glass container! It literally can not come in a flavor packet!

I gleefully rolled this idea out. At last! No more flavor packets! At least, not for shadowspice!

Then Lindy, who plays Asana says, "I have a glassblowing kit." No. No! It can't be!

She really did! The group was delighted. They could make glass flavor packets! How could this be?! Impossible, I say!

Anyway, the group went through the tests. Each test is meant to be tailored to the individual traits of the heroes, but I didn't do such a great job of it. Still, the encounters worked well enough.

The Raven Queen's speaker agreed to give the group the Starsinger if the group would retrieve a stolen mask.

The group was off to the lair of the Vecna cult. This is a tiny dungeon whose map was unlabeled for some reason. We were almost out of time so I removed some encounters. The final bad guy is a skull lord. The heroes were clever and able to cut a deal with him rather than have a big battle with him.

The heroes were successful and rescued the Starsinger! They were able to get back to the elven village. There, Ramrod surprised us all. He had written Asana a poem. I found it to be absolutely hilarious and now Asana and Ramrod are an official couple. They're a couple of classic characters, in my opinion, and I'm very much looking forward to running more stuff for this group in two weeks.

Overall: Chapter 3 is what makes this adventure good. It's definitely worth using if you're planning on having your group go to the Shadowfell for whatever reason.

This adventure most definitely needs an editing pass. I'm no stranger to typos and awkward phrasing, so I sympathize, but this book has a lot of little spots that need touching up.

I also think they should clarify the explanation as to how the group gets to the Vecna lair and the whole thing with the door to the fortress of sorrow. I didn't get it. Maybe that's just me.

So, it's not perfect, but the most important thing to me is good ideas, and this adventure definitely delivers in that department!

Here's the youtube videos of our playthrough. Part 1:

Part 2. In the final minute, Ramrod reads his poem. Best thing ever!

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