Dave Zajac’s Hand of the Wychlaren is an adventure for 3rd-level characters set in the Rashemen area of the Forgotten Realms, although it is easily adaptable to other settings. The adventure is primarily a dungeon delve, as the party undertakes a mission for one of the famous Witches of Rashemen.
The Witches (also known as the Wychlaren) have a problem: goblins are leaving their homes and going elsewhere, and the Wychlaren don’t know where. As any movement of goblins may lead to trouble in the future, the adventurers are sent to discover where they’ve gone. This will eventually lead them to the aforementioned dungeon, where the characters can discover the real reason for the goblins’ movements.
The first third of the adventure details the players discovering where the goblins have gone and making their way there. This section has some good encounters, especially a negotiation with a dragon, although a failed negotiation doesn’t really hurt the plot that much; players will be told where the goblins are heading anyway. Successful negotiation does allow the players to know more information than if they failed, so at least there are some consequences for failure. I would have liked the additional information to be of more use, however. The players learn there are ettercaps guarding a ruined tower? Then have the ettercaps initially hidden in that encounter, giving a chance for players who didn’t succeed in the previous encounter to be surprised in this one.
The last two-thirds of the adventure detail the dungeon. It consists of eight encounters, all quite detailed. It is combat-heavy, but there are a few tricks and traps to mix things up. The players can learn about what’s going on if they interrogate the monsters, and the final boss has a note to explain things even if the party were just acting as murder hobos.
The dungeon is really nicely constructed; there’s a lot to engage the interest of the players. There are, however, fewer goblins than you’d expect from the adventure hook. I don’t know why the Wychlaren are concerned!
Much of the adventure is inspired by the 4E form: encounters include little battlemaps that show the initial positioning of monsters, the monster stat-blocks are in the text, and the adventure also includes skill challenges, although they are not called that.
Many of the skill challenges are not particularly interesting. In one encounter, only one character can participate, and that player needs to roll five successful checks of one specific skill before rolling three failures to succeed. There’s no inventiveness nor any ability of the players to improve their chances. The situation is fantastic, but the implementation isn’t. Is it possible to make skill challenges more interesting? Certainly, it is! However, it’s something that very few adventures actually succeeded at. This is not an exception to the general rule.
The look of the adventure Is fantastic: great formatting, nice art, and good editing. The maps are very clear.
Overall, there are a lot of good things in Hand of the Wychlaren. It uses the lore of the Forgotten Realms well and has a number of very interesting encounters; it just needs a little more attention given to the implementation of the skill challenges and the consequences of some of its encounters.