The fifth adventure of the D&D Expeditions releases, The Courting of Fire, brings the Cult of the Dragon to centre stage, as the party investigates the theft of several papers and tomes from Mantor’s Library.
One of the ongoing flaws of the DDAL adventures is their introductions: many are vague and don’t really give the party a good reason to enter the adventure. Some of the authors are better than others at this; I would prefer a more “in medias res” approach to starting the adventures, but I’m also quite happy to say “You’ve been hired by the Lord Sage to investigate some thefts. He’s gathered you before him, and he’s now explaining your job”. The Courting of Fire has a particularly weak opening with a Black Fist guard posting a “Wanted” poster in front of the adventurers. I guess that’s a clue as to what they should be investigating, but the adventure leaves up to the players even the simple task of visiting the Lord Sage for more answers. This may be appropriate in some home games – and you may find it works for you – but in an adventure that is part of Organised Play, I want a more definite beginning to the adventure.
The first part of the adventure sees the party investigating Phlan, looking for clues as to where the thieves have gone. Depending on the desires of the players and DM, this can be expanded with quite a bit of entertaining role-playing. The major locations and characters are described briefly, and there’s quite a bit of information to be found which can aid the players understand the sort of expedition the thieves were planning. Some of the characters interacted with here will be used again in later adventures.
The second part of the adventure has the party exploring an old temple, now infested with undead. In a nice twist, it’s proved too much for the thieves, who must be rescued by the party. There’s a few tricks and traps to overcome in addition to the monsters.
While The Courting of Fire isn’t a classic adventure by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a pretty fun one. It’s written with 2nd-level characters in mind, but has notes for scaling it to levels 1-4. DDAL play allows tables of 3-7, so in theory it’s playable by 3-7 characters of levels 1-4. In practice, I’d modify the threats more at the extremes of those level ranges.
There’s some very entertaining role-playing possible in the adventure, not least with the thieves. It’s fun seeing the villains realise that they weren’t as competent as they thought they were. The adventure evokes the long history of the Realms quite successfully, and also brings three important factions and figures into the spotlight: the Cult of the Dragon, the Black Fist and the Lord Sage. A single special quest for the Zhentarim isn’t quite as successful. Yes, it’s in-character, but it doesn’t really add that much to the adventure as it’s something the party will do in any case.
While The Courting of Fire isn’t the best of the DDAL range, it is a good adventure that helps continue the overall Tyranny of Dragons storyline in Phlan.