5E Adventure Review: DDEX1-04 Dues for the Dead

duesDues for the Dead
is the fourth adventure released by the D&D Adventurers League and the closest to a traditional dungeon crawl. Designed by Steve Winter, who has written and edited more adventures than more people (including Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat), it sees the player characters asked to investigate the catacombs beneath Valhingen Graveyard in Phlan.

The characters are hired by the priests of Kelemvor who tend the graveyard. In the Forgotten Realms, Kelemvor is the god of the dead, and he hates undead. With several of the priests disappearing in recent days, the remaining priests fear the that undead in the catacombs have risen, and so they need the characters to investigate and discover what is going on. A young priestess of Kelemvor, Cassyt, may accompany the party on their expedition, which allows some interesting interactions, especially if the players want to loot the tombs. For some reason, Cassyt doesn’t think that is acceptable behaviour!

This is an excellent adventure. It contains a wide variety of challenge: there’s combat, role-playing, exploration and various other challenges. Most importantly, there are secrets to be uncovered. There’s a reason for the undead activity, and the players can discover that, as well as other, unrelated matters that are still very interesting.

The adventure, like all the DDAL adventures, has suggestions for scaling it from levels 1-4, and is pitched at a group of five 2nd-level characters. You do have to be a bit careful of the scaling notes – they’re a good start, but actual knowledge of your group trumps generic advice.

For me, the most frustrating thing about the adventure was the lack of a grid on the main dungeon map; it’s beautifully drawn, but the grid seems to have disappeared. (A revised version of the map is available separately, but I’m currently unable to access it).

The map is moderately linear, a function of the adventure being designed to be run in a three to four-hour slot; there are some side-branches, but most of the dungeon lies on one path. For the style of adventure, it actually offers more options than some – there are certainly a few tournament dungeons that are entirely linear!

Ultimately, this is a very fun adventure. You get to interact with some of the important factions of Phlan, and to explore a dungeon. It’s a good one to play. This adventure doesn’t really tie in to the greater storyline of the Tyranny of Dragons, but not less enjoyable for that.

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