5E Adventure Review: The Black Road

The second adventure in the latest season of D&D Adventurers League adventures is a treat. The Black Road finds the adventurers protecting a caravan as it travels through the Anauroch desert. Their destination is the Shrine of Axes in the village of Parnast, to which a new statue must be delivered, but there may be one or two challenges along the way that may delay them…

This season has moved strongly towards releasing mostly two-hour adventures, which are very popular with stores and conventions with limited time slots. I’ve run The Black Road in two hours, although this is an adventure that has enough incident that you may find that three hours is a more realistic time-frame for running it. The adventure has a range of challenges in it, with role-playing, combat and quick decision-making all featured. It’s not a puzzle or exploration scenario. Due to its length and nature, it’s mostly linear (as you may expect a caravan journey to be), but the last encounter allows several paths through it depending on the players’ decisions.

The adventure provides five faction-based hooks to get the characters into the adventure, as well as one hook for characters that do not belong to a faction. Each provides a slightly different set of goals that provide a hint of what to expect in the adventure – and what to look out for.

The encounters are well-chosen, and most provide more interest than just “goblins attack”; they require the players to think! There’s one encounter that I found very difficult to run: one where the players must protect their camp when a sandstorm hits. This is an encounter that works best with inventive players who are good are coming up with quick solutions. It’s possible that, like my group, your players don’t know enough about the environment to make informed (or good) decisions. It’s easy as a DM to know what’s going on based on the adventure text, but not realise that the players don’t have your level of knowledge. And yet, just listing options doesn’t reward the creativity that is the encounter’s goal. It’s a great idea for an encounter, but relies a lot on your group as to whether it’s enjoyable or not.

The final encounter is very interesting, as it allows the opportunity to do some role-playing and discover answers as to some of the events in the adventure; although players with a less investigative bent may miss that information. They are, at least, going to have a challenging combat, where the terrain is likely to be as important as the skills of their foes.

The adventure is well-stocked with maps and player handouts. It also gives you a printable Magic Item Certificate that, while no longer necessary for D&D Adventurers League play, can be given out to players who like having tangible evidence of their rewards.

There are a few minor editing errors, but none of any great significance; at least I didn’t notice many as I ran the adventure. The main errors are in the “scaling the adventure” sidebars which aren’t always accurate.

Overall, this is an excellent adventure, which is well worth buying.

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