5E Adventure Review: Treasure of the Broken Hoard

Treasure of the Broken Hoard is the first D&D Adventurers League adventure for season 5: Storm King’s Thunder. As with previous seasons, it’s a collection of five mini-adventures, each able to be run in under an hour, which introduces the players to the theme of the series. It is also, as with the previous four seasons, written by Shawn Merwin, who knows what he is doing.

As such, there’s no other series of mini-adventures I’d rather take to this year’s PAX Australia to use as an introduction to D&D – which is exactly what I’ll be doing in another month.

The adventures do an excellent job of introducing players to two of the main facets of D&D: exploration and combat. There is less time devoted to role-playing, although there are a couple of opportunities for that to happen. It’s very important to understand the design brief here: these aren’t typical D&D adventures. They’re designed very deliberately as introductory scenarios. This isn’t to say they aren’t perfectly enjoyable for more experienced players – my group certain enjoyed playing through them all, as they display a lot of invention and a modicum of whimsy – but if you’re looking for the complexity of, say, Curse of Strahd, you should look somewhere else. These are designed to be entertaining snapshots of D&D adventures, and they succeed brilliantly at that task.

The story that links the scenarios together is interesting: The Dragon Cultists of the first season of D&D, Tyranny of Dragons, had hidden a lot of treasure throughout the Greypeak Mountains. The adventurers are asked to help a famed treasure hunter recover these caches of treasure, and so Treasure of the Broken Hoard details the challenges faced by the adventurers as they recover five of those caches. I really appreciate the call-back to Tyranny of Dragons, especially as the events of Storm King’s Thunder are a direct consequence of what happened in that story.

Along the way, the adventure introduces the adventurers to the various factions of giantkind; it does so cleverly, primarily using their minions rather than having giants appear directly – giants are entirely too overwhelming a foe for new adventurers! You get glimpses of the tensions between the types of giants, and an insulting note from the cloud giants to the hill giants is one of my personal highlights of the adventure.

With an experienced group, play of the scenarios was quite fast. The third scenario, in particular, took us only 15 minutes or so to complete. In contrast, the final scenario was far more involved and also far more deadly. It took my group about 2-1/2 hours to complete all five scenarios, but I tend to run scenarios faster than most; the other table we had running only completed four scenarios in the same time. Groups of new players are likely to take appreciably longer.

As a DM, I would pay the most attention to the final scenario: it’s very dangerous. It’s one of the few times that I would have liked to have some guidance as a DM as what the intention was for the first encounter of the scenario: are the adventurers meant to stand and fight, or solve the puzzle and flee? The foes are especially dangerous. It’s also very inventive, and is my favourite of the scenarios.

There are a few minor editing glitches in the adventure – a change in what type of monsters are used hasn’t been caught in every reference, and Imix is referred to as Immix consistently, but for the most part it reads well and presents no major challenges.

Treasure of the Broken Hoard is another excellent adventure from Shawn Merwin. It should prove successful at giving many players an enjoyable first experience of D&D, and provide much entertainment for more experienced players as well. It’s an encouraging start to the fifth season of the D&D Adventurers League adventures.

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