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Module Review: Scepter Tower of Spellgard

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So I thought it might be fun to post reviews of the various modules Iíve made use of recently. Perhaps itíll be useful to someone else to know about it before using it themselves, but more likely itíll serve as a reminder when Iím looking over titles for something to use next in my own campaigns.

These will all be modules that Iíve used as a DM, Iím not about to rate the experience from a player since far too much of the detail might not be used because of the choices the players took. At least as the DM you can read all the content, and then sigh resignedly as the players skip over vast sections of the material youíve been preparing.

Anyway, the first module that I attempted as a DM was the Scepter Tower of Spellgard. Thereís probably a few tucked in the D&DI subscription, but Iím not about to dig through the archives to check; but as far as I can tell this is the only module published for Forgotten Realms 4E. Not that this really seemed important to the author. Sure the location lines up with the realmís map, but its positioned in an out of the way place that avoids interaction with any of the cultures or lore the setting has to offer. I suppose this is one of those dual edged things; on one hand it makes the module incredibly easy to adapt into other settings so its more versatile. However, if youíre going to list it as a Forgotten Realms module it feels like a heck of a wast to not bother with any of the lore from the setting.

It might be worth mentioning that there are 3 Living Forgotten Realms modules that supposedly cover the same material as this module. Iím skeptical of this though. As the LFR modules are meant to be player in sessions of about 4 hours each, there is absolutely no way you can cram in enough to justify getting the players all the way to level 5 in that short amount of game play. So its a safe bet that they trimmed some things off.

The module is meant to bring players from level 2 to level 5. With all of the combat encounters detailed in the module, I have no doubt that the players will get more than enough experience points to go through all those levels. There is a small section on how you can quickly bring players up to level 2 in case this is where you were beginning the campaign. Thereís also a few potential plot hooks you can use to get your players on the path to this adventure. This makes it a pretty easy module to get started with.

The module comes in two booklets and also includes a two-sided map. The first book covers the story the players will work through and explains all the NPCís and locations they might explore. The second book includes the details for all the encounters that are part of the module. The map has some generic ruins you can use for any outdoor encounter the players run into. The other side is an unadorned circular tower map. The lack of detail on this map is intentional, they expect you to fill in the space with dungeon tiles and include some brief notes what to use.

One of my biggest complaints about the all Wizardís modules is that they never line up with their other products. For example there is a Dungeon Tile set named Arcane Towers, you might think that itíd be perfect to complete the maps for the tower encounters. Youíd then be surprised to find that in fact it does not line up with the encounter maps very well, it could be made to work but you wonít end up with the maps the book describes. The same problem exists with the D&D Miniís. There is a section where you fight several rooms full of were rats, 3 or 4 of them are named and can have a small part in the story. Except there are only two wererat models in the entire D&D Miniís line, so youíre in a pickle if you want to distinguish these named figures from the unimportant lackeys.

Well Iím good and cranky now, so lets carry on with the negative aspects, but Iíll try to keep this rant contained to the module itself.

  • Remember when I said there were two booklets included in the module? The one detailing the locations and the story was 31 pages long, the one that covers the encounters is 63 pages long. This module has unnecessarily long dungeon crawl sections. Not that I said section[b]s[/s], plural, there are three hefty chunks of encounters. It will take several sessions for your players to work through these portions of the module, depending on the rate of play this could turn into enough real world time that theyíll forget why they are chopping their way through all these creatures.
  • The module comes with a map of the ruins the module takes place in. Listed on the map are several markers that might be of interest to the players. The module provides only the bare minimum of detail for each of them, so as the DM youíre stuck having to make up the missing details.
  • The same can be said of many of the NPCís they have. Theyíll have quick backgrounds that sound like interesting people, but then relegate them to a random encounter chart for when the players explore the ruins. Those that arenít are mostly just fluff to the setting, none o them were given clues or bits of information to share with the players.

Thatís actually not a terrible list of complaints for the module. A bit of editing can fix all of them, but that depends on how much time you can spend on that sort of work. If youíre grabbing for a module you probably want something that can be used right off the shelf, not something that youíll need to spend a few nights adapting first.

I suppose that comes to the question of is there any point to putting in that time? Does the module have any qualities that redeem it? There are a few of things that the module does well.

  • The story told in the module has amazing potential. What you have is a benevolent spirit that will answer any question truthfully, and a plot where some group wants to enslave the spirit. Thatís the sort of thing any villain would want to have in their back pocket, you hardly have to try to see how to work this into a larger story.
  • While the NPCís are poorly used, there are a good number of them and they are all given some background to work with. Its easy to come up with personalities for them based on the information given. Its also entirely possible that they can just be ignored, so its not hard to adapt the module to fit your desired amount of role play.
  • The layout of the ruins gives freedom to the players. Youíre stuck filling in the gaps, but getting through the module doesnít require much railroading. As the players explore you can guide them to the correct destination. The module also discusses a secondary route the players can use to reach their goal, all the unused space can give you more possibilities for additional alternate solutions.

So there is some value in the module, your group's play style will likely dictate how useful it will be for you. If you're into a lot of combat encounters without being burdened by too much story and characters, you won't need to do a whole lot to the module to use it. If you do want more story then you'll find a good premise and enough detail to have interesting NPC's to work with; you'll just have to flesh out some of the locations and probably trim out a few of the encounters.

The bottom line is that its not a terrible module, I don't think its worth the full $25 price for it, though the Amazon rate of $16 isn't too bad for it.

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