I have to say, up front, that I generally like the Rescue at Rivenroar module. It’s not perfect, but few written adventures are. I like the concept, where heroes have to go rescue innocent people kidnapped by goblin raiders who have attacked a town. I don’t see the “rescue” plotline all that often and I liked it here. Although I’m not, and never was, planning on going through the entire Scales of War adventure path, I thought that Rescue at Rivenroar would be a good place to start my campaign. I had to start my game on relatively short notice and didn’t have a lot of time to get started.
But (you knew there was a “but” coming, right?), there was a lot to the encounters that I didn’t like. Some of the monsters just didn’t seem to belong. The module attempts to explain why there are gnomes, wererats, and ettercaps allied with the goblins and hobgoblins of Sinruth’s revived Red Hand, but they never really rang true to me. Other encounters just seemed out of place, contrived, or just plain unnecessary. Finally, at least one or two encounters just seemed dull or uninteresting. I admit, even some of the things that I kept really don’t make sense. I don’t know why the goblins would have all of their prisoners spread out through the complex, for instance, but I’ve that sort of thing alone.
So things had to change. Not everything, however. The basic premise would remain the same or quite similar. Sinruth is still reviving the Red Hand. He’s still attacking the town of Brindol to kidnap people and steal treasures from the Hall of Valor. He’s still made alliances which lead him to make the attack on Brindol in the first place.
In my game, some of the small details are a bit different. Sinruth has made an alliance with a necromancer named Dulan and a Draconian named Kraz. Kraz and Dulan are worshippers of Tiamat, who sent them to assist Sinruth. Kraz and Dulan know that Sinruth is a tool to be used to advance Tiamat’s schemes in the area. Sinruth has already succeeded in one aspect of that just by attacking Brindol, though he doesn’t know it. His raid was just a distraction from another mission that other followers of Tiamat were undertaking nearby. If Sinruth actually succeeds with his ambitions to take over the area and become a powerful warlord, that’s just fine with Kraz and Dulan too.
To assist Sinruth, Kraz has promised mercenary reinforcements to Sinruth’s 100 or so goblins and hobgoblins after they’ve proven their worth by raiding Brindol and taking trophies from the Hall of Valor. Dulan is taking another route and is teaching one of Sinruth’s goblin shamans how to use necromancy to summon or create undead. This is why villagers were kidnapped and brought to Rivenroar. They are intended to be killed and turned into undead soldiers for Sinruth’s army. To that end, in my game, many more than just 7 villagers have been taken. In the raid alone, nearly 20 are kidnapped, though only 6 still are alive (as per the module as written). Another 10-15 have been taken from isolated farms or careless travelers in the last couple of weeks prior to the raid and all of these are dead as well.
Sinruth lost about a dozen goblins in the attack and there are 2 other "strongholds" nearby that have 20+ goblins in them. Sinruth's plan is that the other strongholds be distractions and soak up any casualties from an attack launched from Brindol, leaving Sinruth alive to counter-attack. Or, if necessary, just leaving Sinruth alive to flee for his life. This explains why there's not an overwhelming number of goblins to be found within Rivenroar itself.
Now on to more details about how I have (or haven’t), changed encounters. I’ll try and provide my reasoning for the changes where I can as well as any other tidbits that came up while doing the changes.
The attack on Brindol (both the attack on the tavern and the Ogre battle after) are pretty much unchanged. These are generally fun and interesting combats, so nothing really needed to be done. I played up the property destruction angle and generally made it seem like the goblins were on a terror raid, not material.
The results of the interrogation skill challenge has changed. In interrogating the captured hobgoblin, success leads to correct information as well as a fairly direct route to Rivenroar. Failure, however, means that PCs have deliberately been given a route that will lead them into the path of a hobgoblin patrol in the woods. The goblin ambush is a Level 1 Encounter worth 500xp that uses the same enemies as the Goblin Warren encounter in Rivenroar (1 Hobgoblin Soldier, 2 Goblin Sharpshooters, and 4 Hobgoblin Grunts). I thought that failure leading through the kruthik nest was actually a fine idea, but I had a better use for it.
The following skill challenge has also had the results changed. If the characters succeed, they arrive at Rivenroar as expected. Though if they failed the interrogation challenge, they run into the goblin ambush as mentioned earlier. If the characters fail the wilderness challenge, they run into the kruthik nest that was originally intended as punishment for failing the previous skill challenge. I really didn’t like what was planned as written. A level 6 Elite Brute bear? While it makes sense to run across that in the woods, it would be a boring fight. The bear, as written, is a giant pile of hit points without any allies or abilities to make it interesting. It would be a dull grind.
Now we’re at the Rivenroar castle/tomb complex itself. Rather than go by room, I’m going to continue to describe things per encounter (as they’re described in the module), as well as any changes I’ve made to the area the encounter takes place in.
Chamber of Flame Unbound: Unchanged. This is a solid encounter. It’s got goblins and hobgoblins, which are one of the main themes of the dungeon that I want to emphasize. It’s also got a fun little thing going with the streams of fire.
Goblin Warren: Part of me really wanted to change this fight. It wasn’t fun when I ran it and the PCs had a cakewalk. That said, it’s not a hideously bad fight and I can’t think of anything better to replace it with.
I'll continue more in another post. I don't currently have access to all my notes and some of the biggest changes I made in the dungeon are next on the list to be discussed.