Storm King’s Barrows—A DMs Guild Review (part 5)

Storm King’s Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North is a DM’s Guild product with ten dungeons in the northern Sword Coast area. This is the fifth in a five part series of reviews. I will cover The Vault of the Undying by David Flor and Yancazi’s Crypt by Darren Parmenter in this review. Each dungeon will receive its own standalone rating and I will also give an overall rating for the entire Storm King’s Barrows product upon completing the series.

Storm King's Barrows

Storm King’s Barrows

Storm King’s Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North

Writer(s): Jason Bakos, Matt Butler, Andrew Dempz, Christian Eichhorn, David Flor, Edward Gioffre, Darren Parmenter, George Sager, Rob Twohy, Christopher Walz, and Micah Watt

Publisher: DMs Guild

Cost: $14.95

Product Length: 135 pages

Type: Adventures

Level(s)/Tier(s): 1st-15th/1st-3rd

 

First things first. This review is of version 1.3 of the product so if there are any inconsistencies between any factual comments I make regarding Storm King’s Barrows and what you believe to be accurate, please ensure you are referencing the same version I am. Otherwise, please feel free to contact me! Additionally, this product comes with high-resolution maps for each adventure (.png format) as well as a Map of the North. All of these maps are also at the end of their respective adventures. And, finally, there is an ink-friendly version which you will want to take advantage of if you plan to print any of these adventures on your home printer as the background for the high-res PDF is sure to be an ink hog.

Storm King's Barrows

This map of the North does not reveal the dungeons’ locations. However, the product comes with a marked version.

9. Storm King’s Barrows: The Vault of the Undying by David Flor

Storm King's Barrows—The Vault of the Undying

Storm King’s Barrows—The Vault of the Undying. An adventure optimized for APL of 7-8 for five characters

Tremors near Raven Rock have uncovered a forgotten crypt. Drawing the attention of many a fortune seeker, the crypt is buzzing with rumors of terror and impossible entry. Can your characters access whatever treasure lies with The Vault of the Undying?

Originality (5 stars)

So what is this Vault of the Undying? When I read the title I presumed it would be a vault filled with undead creatures…you know, a playground for clerics and paladins. But I was wrong and pleasantly so. The “Undying” is a necromancer called Vasha. In a classic monkey’s paw wish fashion, Vasha vied for eternal undeath. He was granted this request upon completing his ritual. But what he hadn’t counted on was being sealed inside a crypt. A lot of good immortality does you if you’re confined to a prison for eternity, yeah?

Vasha wants out but the only way to get out is someone lets him out. This isn’t as simple as saying “Vasha! Vasha! Vasha!” Someone will have to open the vault from the outside. But once they do, they’ll soon discover that letting Vasha escape is a bad idea. Oh, and he hasn’t been exactly idle these last 100 years of imprisonment either…

Writing (5 stars)

David Flor has written a wonderful adventure that is highly detailed and easy to read. You will have no problems seeing the forest despite the many trees.

Production (4 stars)

The production of this entry is on par with the rest of the entries as I have stated in previous reviews. The map is high quality and the formatting is intuitive.

Design (5 stars)

The Vault of the Undying’s design is thoughtful and well-considered. As I read this adventure I was keeping a rough list of all the checks, saving throws, spells, conditions, etc. that David mentions and while the list is not an exhaustive one of everything that 5E has to offer, it is incredibly inclusive and varied. I loved that he incorporated so many different mechanics into this adventure. It gives it tremendous depth and versatility (lots of opportunities for success and failures). There are also good McGuffin’s and red herrings in this adventure too. Be careful!

Cost (4 stars)

Storm King’s Barrows costs $14.95. It may seem prudent to take that price and divide by 10 to calculate the appropriate cost per adventure. However, I believe a more useful means is to go by page count. The Vault of the Undying is 9 pages long. So this adventure has an allocated cost of $1.00. This is a great price for this adventure!

Overall Rating: 4.6 Stars


10. Storm King’s Barrows: Yancazi’s Crypt by Darren Parmenter

Storm King's Barrows—Yancazi's Crypt

Storm King’s Barrows—Yancazi’s Crypt. An adventure optimized for APL of 10 for five characters

Legend has it that Orfeon Yancazi, a Demogorgon devotee, had a change in his convictions and overthrew his master. Yancazi’s Crypt, aka “The Warlock’s Crypt”, is somewhere in The Crags. It has a storied reputation of being a place that only most ardent fanatics seek out. These people make regular pilgrimages to the area. The owner and operator of The Inn of the Resting Warlock, Victor, knows as much about the Crypt as anyone the characters will encounter. In fact, his knowledge runs so deep that it will be a good idea for the characters to enlist his help as a hireling. Especially of none in the existing party speaks abyssal.

Originality (5 stars)

I love the incorporation of Demogorgon in this adventure. The intrigue behind Orfeon Yancazi is excellent as is the fervor of the pilgrims who trek to this site. The Crypt itself is also a fun dungeon that almost has a personality all on its own.

Writing (3 stars)

Yancazi’s Crypt is one of the more challenging reads in Storm King’s Barrows. I found myself rereading passages that were somewhat complicated or because they weren’t gripping my attention like many of the others in this compilation. However, my biggest concern was the errors. There were far more mistakes in this entry than in any of the others. There was an instance where I wasn’t sure if the author wanted to communicate how creatures of The Crag try to avoid Yancazi’s wraith or his wrath. There are missing apostrophes, missing spaces between words, subject verb disagreements, and several opportunities where the author could have used more concise language.

Production (4 stars)

The production of this adventure follows the same format as all the others in Storm King’s Barrows. As with all the others, the production is solid. The maps and art included in this adventure are great and are also available as external downloads. Once again, I just wish the maps weren’t the last thing the reader comes across in the adventure.

Design (4 stars)

Yancazi’s Crypt had the potential for top marks where it concerns design. Where it loses it for me are primarily in the DCs for all the checks (around 40 of them in all) and in the author’s ambiguity.

The DCs span the range between 10 and 30. I’m not sure if this adventure is meant to be overwhelming or simple for the characters. Checks with a DC of 10 are almost freebies but a DC of 30 is still pretty challenging even for 10th level characters.

A second issue I take with the design was the mention of things that were outside the scope of this adventure. For example, Darren puts a reasonable amount of effort into describing a book collection that adds little to the adventure and tells the DM it is up to him/her to decide the exact nature of the collection. He also tells us about a potential cure for Yancazi’s chronic pain but that the “application of this research and ritual is left to the DM to devise as it falls outside of the presented adventure.”

I’m confused why it’s mentioned at all in that case. DMs understand they can adapt any part of an adventure to suit their games. The author would have done better to omit these sorts of things altogether or to give us his explicit thoughts. Let US decide whether to follow things to the letter or not.

Cost (4 stars)

Yancazi’s Crypt is 18 pages long. So this adventure has an allocated cost of roughly $1.99. This is one of the longer adventures of Storm King’s Barrows so this cost is not out of line for what you get.

Overall Rating: 4.0 Stars

Thanks, Christian Eichhorn, for the review copy of Storm King’s Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North.

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