5E Adventure Review: The Horns of War

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….

Oops… wrong story.

That said, a plan by a trading coster to blockade the dwarven strongholds with an orc army so they can make a killing on all the iron ore they’ve stockpiled does seem to be a story inspired by The Phantom Menace. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. It’s a lunatic plan, but our history is filled with lunatic plans to make money or gain power.

The Horns of War is an adventure by Devin Cutler for 2nd-level characters. It’s not set in any particular setting, but it does require a mad trading coster who think they won’t be suspected of bankrolling an orc army to drive up the cost of iron ore. Do you have one available? It’s also part one of a four-part series, the Uprising Saga.

The adventure begins with the party travelling to a dwarven trading post, most likely as part of a trading caravan. The players can face up to 20 encounters over the 25 days of travel. The encounters are varied and well-constructed, with several foreshadowing later events. I was very impressed with the range shown here; the players get to fight, role-play, use skills and prove they can handle a variety of challenges.

The final part of the adventure involves an orc attack on the trading post. The adventure concentrates on the actions of the players as they defend one section of the outpost, but a minigame can be used to determine what’s happening elsewhere. The minigame is a lovely idea, but although it is relatively swift to resolve mechanically, it relies a lot on a run of bad luck for any section to fall under threat.

The writing of the adventure has potential, but it would benefit from better editing. There are a lot of grammatical mistakes, as well as a number of stylistic issues with the text, which often obscure its intent. While “The PCs will see, crossing the roadway about 50 feet ahead of them, a large brown bear” is grammatically correct, it reads much better as “The PCs see a large brown bear crossing the roadway about 50 feet in front of them”.

A couple of editing clangers: Sojourn means a temporary stay at a location, not a journey. Accost means to address someone boldly or aggressively (with words), not to attack them with an axe. There are many more of this sort.

The stat-block placement in the text leaves a lot to be desired; it often disrupts the flow of the text and makes the adventure harder to read. The text of the stat-blocks appeared faded as well; this is a pretty good example of how not to format an adventure, though I’ve seen worse.

The combined effect of the editing problems and the stat-blocks make the description of the orc attack on the outpost extremely difficult to follow. It’s spread over too many pages, and somehow makes what should be a relatively straight-forward encounter into something that is very confusing.

There’s a lot to like about The Horns of War, but the problems with its layout and editing are significant. The first stage has a lot of good encounters, but the final section is a mess. Unusable? Likely not, but it should be a lot clearer. It’s still worth investigating this adventure, as the good bits are very good. It’s a substantial adventure, with much more meat than most of the 1-session adventures that have been appearing on the DMs Guild. I hope the other adventures in the series don’t have these problems.

One comment

  1. Devin Cutler

    Thanks for your review of my adventure. I wanted to note that, for all my adventures, I have removed stat blocks from the adventure text proper and placed them in appendices (if they are new creatures) or removed them altogether if they are Monster Manual creatures. Coming from 3rd edition and prior, I was used to putting stat blocks within the text, as I felt it allowed the DM to avoid referring to the Monster Manual during play. But, given that no stat blocks in the text is the norm for 5e and that many DMs just photocopy or otherwise separate out the monster stats they need, it made sense to conform to the 5e standard.

    With regard to the grammar errors…I have and will continue to try to root them out. I appreciate your mentions of some misused words (e.g. sojourn and accost) and will correct them accordingly.


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