Barrow of the Forgotten King

Barrow of the Forgotten King

From: Wizards of the Coast

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Barrow of the Forgotten Kingis a new D&D 3.5 Adventure Module from Wizards of the Coast.

It is always hard to review adventures because you do not want to give too much away in case a player reads the review. I try to give you enough to get a feel for the adventure while at the same time not giving too much away. It is a delicate balance. A friend – Neil Spicer – shared something with me that has helped with my perspective of D&D adventures and modules. It is guidelines from Dungeon Magazine discussed by Erik Mona and James Jacobs, on how to write a good D&D adventure. There are certain very key aspects of an adventure that make it good. I will try to analyze this adventure from that perspective.

Basics: The adventure is for four to six 2nd-level characters. It takes place outside a town of Kingsholm. The adventure centers around strange happenings in the town’s cemetery and an ancient secret. The players come up against a yuan-ti sorcerer working for a mysterious organization seeking out the treasure behind that secret. Unfortunately, some towns folk had gotten in their way. The party investigates the disappearances of these towns folk to find a secret hidden under the mysterious cemetery.

The bulk of the adventure leads the party through several levels of a tomb called the ‘barrow of the forgotten king’. There are two sections of the module. As per standard Wizards of the Coast format these days, they present the story first and the “tactical encounter” information second, with maps and starts. Of course, they encourage you to use this module with D&D Miniatures.

From the back cover: “Who disturbs the slumber of the Forgotten King?”

Villain: One of the key aspects of a good D&D adventure is a good villain- one that is not clichéd while at the same time not too far out there. The bad guy in Barrow of the Forgotten King is two fold. The first is the immediate antagonist – the Yuan-ti sorcerer, Xeron. In an effort to prove himself to a mysterious organization, Xeron is given the quest to find the secrets behind the forgotten king and the cemetery where his statue stands. A legend of treasure and possible magic items hidden in the cemetery leads Xeron and his band of minions to the cemetery of Kingsholm.

So what is so special about Xeron? He is a 4th-level, 8-hit-die sorcerer with a lot of offensive spells. He seems driven but not overly competent. What drives him is his desire to be a part of this group called the Vanguard of Sertrous – the second villain of this plot. His first mission as an initiate lead him here. They do not go into deep detail about the Vanguard, but safe to say that it is the driving force behind the primary antagonist. So they too are a bad guy in all of this.

Locale: Kingsholm is a normal hamlet you find in the typical cliché fantasy world. There is not a map of the village so any will do. Otherwise, there is not a whole lot of detail given about the town. What is interesting is that the town cemetery predates the town and no one remembers who built it. However, they all hold it in reverence, especially the statue of the forgotten king. The adventure leads the party beneath the cemetery into a trap and monster-filled labyrinth.

Plot: The plot is particularly clichéd, I hate to say. However, the depth is in the details. The adventure boils down to a dungeon crawl. It is detailed thoroughly, each room with its own challenges. Between the grave robbing band lead by Xeron, the monsters they summon to delay pursuit, and the monsters that were already down there, there are plenty of “tactical situations.” Interspersed are other challenges and even a puzzle or two. I can tell that this adventure is the starter for a deeper, far more expansive plot. It is basically the initial pull into something much more involved than what the characters see up front.

From the back cover: “Wolves prowl the graveyard of the sleepy Kingsholm, and death lurks behind the shadowed tombstones.”

Minions: Xeron has a group of helpers assigned to him by the Vanguard. They are lead by a hobgoblin cleric, Krootad, and include some hobgoblin warriors, a hobgoblin wererat, and a few varags. Krootad is a rather annoying necromancer that leaves a trail of zombies and walking skeletons for the players to deal with along the way. Are the minions interesting? Moderately. They add to the complications the players have to deal with.

Reward: The reward, I have to admit, is very intriguing. Throughout the crawl, the players collect miscellaneous items and gold. The final scene gains the players the ultimate prize IF they agree to help the entity at the end. They receive a Legacy longsword with some interesting properties. However, beyond the stuff that you do get at the end, which is nice, the players get the clues and the mission for the campaign.

Layout: The layout is on par with the quality of other WotC products – which is always very good. The cartography is fantastic and of course, one can download the maps from the web site. The art is also well done. The tactical encounters are very detailed and should be thoroughly read before going into it in game.

In conclusion, although rather clichéd in many aspects of the adventure as well as having less than 3-dimensional characters, the adventure is a good starter for a very intriguing campaign. I like the mixture of challenges – combat, puzzles and non-combat skill use. It utilizes the d20 rules really well without causing the DM to go book-diving. I am very tempted to run this game. It is a typical D&D adventure with some pretty good depth and detail.

For more details on Wizards of the Coast and their new D&D 3.5 Adventure Module “Barrow of the Forgotten King” check them out at their website, and at all of your local game stores.

Barrow of the Forgotten King

From: Wizards of the Coast

Type of Game: D&D 3.5 Adventure Module

Written by: Ed Stark

Cover Art by: Steve Prescott

Additional Art by: Wayne England, Joel Thomas

Number of Pages: 64

Game Components Included: adventure booklet and removable cover with maps

Game Components NotIncluded: D&D 3.5 Core Rulebooks

Retail Price: $ 19.95 (US)

Retail Price: $ 24.95 (Can)

ISBN: 9780786943180

Reviewed by: Ron McClung