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 third in a five part series of reviews. I will cover Stone Giant’s Lost Rock by Micah Watt and The Barovian Book of the Dead by Andrew Dempz 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.
If you want to read Part 1 of the review which covers Breve Heeros Onli! by George Sager and Geshmalig’s Tomb by Christian Eichorn you can find it here: http://www.nonzerosumgames.com/storm-kings-barrows-a-dms-guild-review-part-1/
Part 2 of the review contains Grotto of the Death Giant by Eddie Gioffre and Saving Barbadoo’s Mine by Matt Butler. You can find it here: http://www.nonzerosumgames.com/storm-kings-barrows-a-dms-guild-review-part-2/
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
Product Length: 135 pages
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.
5. Storm King’s Barrows: Stone Giant’s Lost Rock by Micah Watt
A good-natured stone giant is interested in preventing bloodshed against neighboring “wee folk” but needs help to do so. To stop an attack, Grindelgar (the giant) needs someone to retrieve a stolen religious idol from a nearby dwarven clan. The giants cannot do so themselves without force simply because they cannot gain access due to their size. As the party does some further investigation they realize that it’s not entirely the dwarves’ fault. Not entirely.
The dwarves made a deal with a xorn who has stolen a relic of their own. They tried paying the xorn’s ransom of malachite but were unable to find enough for full payment. To appease him, they told the creature about the giants’ relic that could be used in lieu of their payment. Having given their word, the dwarves cannot attack the xorn or directly try to recover either stolen relic. However, they are not above enlisting someone to do it for them.
It is fortuitous that both Grindelgar and the dwarf clan chief, Brelden Brawnanvil, both want to avoid war between the giants and the dwarves. Consequently, the PCs get to be instrumental peacekeepers during this adventure!
Originality (5 stars)
Upon reading the opening to this adventure I was concerned it was going to be just another stolen-treasure-and-recovery adventure. But as I continued reading this brief adventure I was pleasantly surprised! Micah Watt has taken a mundane trope and weaved in enough backstory to create something special. Each factor in the reason for this adventure is pretty standard fare: blackmail, treasure recovery, preventing war, ambition, etc. But when you read that the xorn started scheming long before he began his blackmail campaign and that he isn’t working alone then you really start to appreciate the depth of this story. The author has proven that you don’t have to invent something entirely unique to be original.
Writing (5 stars)
For me, writing is paramount to success with DMs Guild products. Micah’s writing is wonderful. His descriptions paint nice visuals as do his well-developed characters. Even the xorn’s motives are believable and not your typical “because he’s the BBEG of the adventure”. Spelling and grammar mistakes are minimal and the reader does not struggle to make it through his work.
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 maps are high quality, the formatting is intuitive, and Stone Giant’s Lost Rock does in include a nice art piece depicting one of the caverns part way through the adventure.
Design (5 stars)
Matt makes great use of skill checks and tactics in his adventure. The monsters he chose to stock his dungeons with are thoughtful and befitting. The plot is stellar and the twist the characters will face is brilliant. How they choose to respond to the twist is truly up to them and the resolution of the adventure, while not completely derailed, will be somewhat different depending on what they choose.
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. Stone Giant’s Lost Rock is 10 pages long. So this adventure has an allocated cost of $1.11. This is a great price for this adventure!
Overall Rating: 4.6 Stars
6. Storm King’s Barrows: The Barovian Book of the Dead by Andrew Dempz
Count Strahd von Zarovich has grown weary of his confinement to Barovia. Discontent with his imprisoned state, he has sent a cursed magic item, the Barovian Book of the Dead, to the Material Plane. This book is pretty nasty. It consumes the life energy of anyone who touches it! It uses that harvested energy to raise the dead and these undead will then wreak havoc among the living and thereby make it easier for Count Strahd to enter the Material Plane.
Vistani servants have left the book in a chapel in the north. The goal is to corrupt the otherwise hallowed ground and raise the dead buried there. The party will encounter a book merchant, Iannar June, who has heard the whispers of arcane wonders to be found and would like their help retrieving the book for a wealthy collector in Waterdeep.
If Count Strahd won’t fit in your campaign, this adventure suggests using Orcus instead. As always, you’re the DM and this is your table. Use anyone you’d like.
Originality (5 stars)
I really enjoyed the background for this adventure. I, Strahd is perhaps my most favorite Ravenloft novel (hard to say…Knight of the Black Rose is pretty good too!) and I tend to sympathize with the titular character. So using the Barovian Book of the Dead as a tool to let Strahd reenter the material plane was an exciting premise. There are any number of cursed items in D&D but the BBotD is a uniquely nasty without going to sphere of annihilation levels of crazy.
Writing (5 stars)
This adventure was short but Andrew Dempz’s writing is not without depth. I love it. Iannar is a memorable character that would make for a great recurring NPC. If the players don’t let him die that is.
Production (4 stars)
The production of this adventure follows the same format as all the others in Storm King’s Barrows. It is good work and it includes a drawing of the chapel included which is a nice addition for both the DM and the players if you share it with them.
Design (4 stars)
This adventure’s strength is not necessarily its monsters. To be sure, they provide a fun challenge. But this adventure shines because of its consequences. It’s short and fairly linear, but so much is riding on the characters’ success. If they screw this up, they may have an enormous problem on their hands!
Cost (4 stars)
The Barovian Book of the Dead is 8 pages long. So this adventure has an allocated cost of roughly $0.89. You’d be hard pressed to find a less expensive and as solid an adventure than this one.
Overall Rating: 4.4 Stars
Thanks, Christian Eichhorn, for the review copy of Storm King’s Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North.