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  • The Slaying Stone (D&D 4e Module) Review

    The Slaying Stone by Logan Bonner is a Dungeons & Dragons adventure for a group of 1st level characters designed to take the players all the way through first level. It is a standalone adventure with a straightforward premise: recover a potent magic item that can (possibly) kill anyone or anything (sufficiently low in level) nearly instantaneously. This relic, known as the Slaying Stone, lies in the ruins of a town which was overrun nearly a decade prior by an invading horde of goblins. The player characters are called on to venture into town, find the slaying stone and return it.

    The module itself is 32 pages long, printed in full color on what feels like good quality paper. There are a total of thirteen encounters presented in the nice one to two page format that has become customary in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons supplements. Also included is an eight page foldout battle-mat of the town with a crumbling old mansion on the reverse side. There is very little in the way of artwork beyond the cover art and the encounter maps, unfortunately, and there are no handouts or props aside from the battle-mat. Although, I must say as someone who is incredibly horrible at drawing on a battle grid, I really appreciate having one included with the adventure. From an organizational perspective, this adventure is quite different from modules I have perused in the past. It's less like a traditional module and more akin to a set of detailed adventure notes and prebuilt encounters. Instead of providing a single linear path, the author sets up the plot, details the various elements and complications that are important to the story and provides a framework for the adventure to develop organically. A lot of details of the town the PCs are exploring are left to the DM's imagination, but the module provides a strong set of supporting encounters that the DM can plunk in at the appropriate time. For the experienced storyteller, this is an awesome format. I'd love to see more modules built this way, but at the same time, newer dungeon masters might have a harder time navigating their way through the story.

    My Thoughts
    I must admit that I have a long and deeply rooted bias against Dungeons and Dragons modules -- or modules of any kind, really. Oh, I've tried a few, and every time has ended poorly. My players felt railroaded, and I felt constrained by a story that left too little wiggle room for improvisation and no guidance for what happened if the players jumped tracks. I was lamenting this very complaint when it was suggested that I take a look at this module as an example of how module building could be approached differently.

    Indeed, I think that The Slaying Stone does an excellent job of avoiding the pitfalls of the typical prewritten adventure. I like what they have done with the format and I hope to see more of it in future modules. The included foldout battle-mat is also definitely a win, and the production quality of the book and the mat could only be judged as superb. However, I am disappointed with the lack of handouts or illustrations for important scenes. Perhaps this is a relic of days gone by -- do modern modules not include these sorts of things anymore? Ah well, it is still a good adventure. It just would be even better with a bit more art support.

    About the Author: Robert A. Howard has been a roleplayer from the tender age of twelve when he cracked open that first red boxed Dungeons & Dragons set and all the way to today. The vast majority of his gaming experience has been with D&D, but he's also been able to convince his gaming group to try something new on occasion... Oh, and he runs this obscure website you might have heard about, Pen & Paper Games. *grin*
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Fergusbarker's Avatar
      Fergusbarker -
      Looks like a good alternative to the whole:
      PC:"I want to try this though"
      DM:"NO! The book says go here!"

      It sounds good as long as the DM has some experience!
    1. yukonhorror's Avatar
      yukonhorror -
      I think the older 4e modules have nice illustrations that can be copied and handed out. Trying to save on paper I guess.
    1. djciano's Avatar
      djciano -
      I just finished playing through this module with a local group, and I have to say, I never once felt like I was being told what to do. I also started an "adventure log" over on obsidian portal, and since the module gave us such freedom, it was very easy to write, because we never felt like every little detail had to be "just so." Combat could be fudged in the adventure log, and it still seemed like a story that just had to be told. Without spoiling anything for anyone who might want to pick this great adventure up, I will say that the DM and the players all had a blast, and despite the fact that we broke the adventure up over several Sundays, things had a way of coming back around in a non-evasive manner. Never once did we feel those devious rails work their way into our game.

      This is what a storytelling/gaming mix should look and feel like, and Logan Bonner (with the help of our fantastic DM) did a fantastic job.