Dan Hass has taken a significant leap forward in the formatting of this adventure, for it is now in two columns! It may seem a minor detail, but – to my mind – it makes the adventure much easier to read and use. (In fact, all of Dan’s adventures have been reformatted, which explains why they were unavailable for a short time. Thank you very much, Dan!)
This adventure sees the Red Blades orcs sending an ambassador to end the war by asking the human settlements to surrender to them (and the Orc Empire)! This is actually a pretty good tactic from the orcs, and it leads into an interesting situation. Is it really that unreasonable to surrender to the orcs?
The adventure also provides a number of decision points to the characters. While the ambassador is speaking to the human leaders, there are separate groups of goblins, orcs and bullywugs causing trouble on the borders of human territory; the players need to decide whether they want to deal with these threats while the ambassador is otherwise engaged, or wait for the main diplomatic efforts to conclude. If the last is chosen, then there’s likely to be very little adventuring from this adventure; it’s all centred about stopping the other threats! However, as the players get reports of more and more trouble on the borders, it’s unlikely they’ll wish to stay uninvolved.
The major tool for running this adventure is an adventure timeline that sets out the major events that occur if the players don’t interfere. There are only six encounters in the adventure, although each is quite substantial – although some writers might break them out into separate encounters, the method used here is effective.
As with all of this series of adventures, there are scaling notes for running the encounters with 1-8 PCs, although it is recommended that 3-7 probably gives the best experience. Appendices give stat blocks for new monsters and NPCs; for standard monsters, you need either the Basic Rules pdf or the Monster Manual. There are a few new items, spells, and magic items in the appendices as well. The maps are computer-generated; unfortunately, the terrain sometimes overwhelms the grid lines. They’re not the prettiest maps in the world, but they’re functional. The wilderness map handout looks fantastic, however.
After the disappointment of The Poison Works, I found Red Blades Diplomacy to be a much more interesting adventure, which employs good storytelling techniques to present its content.