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Seekers of the Ashen Crown: A 4th Edition D&D Adventure for Eberron
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
It seems to be generally agreed that most of the adventure modules produced thus far for 4E Dungeons and Dragons have suffered from similar problems: sparse roleplaying opportunities, large dungeon crawls, and a kind of oppressively generic sensibility. I mildly disagree in a couple of cases (Keep on the Shadowfell's town of Winterhaven is actually a reasonably robust stage for roleplaying and intrigue, and can be usefully expanded upon with minimal effort) but in general I concur.

That's why it is a pleasure to see a module that seems to have taken these critiques to heart, and that (despite the boilerplate advisory that it can be used in any D&D campaign) strives for, and mostly captures, the combination of high adventure and low intrigue that give the Eberron setting its distinctive texture.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown doesn't begin with a bang - its opening segment is a too-long dungeon crawl through a trap-laden and insect-infested tomb - but does a nice job of escalating the tension as the PCs and players slowly realize the true scope of the challenge before them, building up to a couple of very satisfying climactic encounters. The module is also intended to do double duty as a playable introduction to Eberron, and in my experience has functioned reasonably well in that regard, giving me an excuse to work the Emerald Claw, national politics, and warring goblin clans into my game.

There are a lot of well-made and interesting combats and traps laid out in the module, and enough characters, plot hooks, and little opportunities to branch into and out of the main story that running it has felt, for me, reasonably natural and freeform - there isn't quite as much scope for the PCs to act as in one of my own games, where the PCs are free to ignore or short-circuit entire plot arcs - but the module's progression flows in such a way as to not feel like a railroad. What really helps, I think, is that the game is explicitly paced in such a way as to move from roleplaying/investigation to combat to exploration to roleplaying again. As I said earlier, other modules have supplied interesting NPCs and locales to roleplay with - the Forgotten Realms "Tower of Spellgard" module had a great set of characters to interact with outside of its main dungeon - but the modules are structured in such a way that the roleplay is over here to the left, and the dungeon is over here to the right, and never the twain shall meet. Seekers of the Ashen Crown is more integrated, requiring the PCs to interact with NPCs and conduct investigations and explorations right up until the end, and it gets a big thumbs-up from me for that.

There are downsides, however. The mandate to produce a single adventure to carry PCs from levels 2-5 means the book is packed full of combat encounters; more, perhaps, than the amount of story supplied can reasonably bear. I am pleased to report that, in an improvement over previous modules, most of these combats make sense within the context of the story and don't feel utterly arbitrary - however, there is a glaring percentage that fall outside this and feel like xp-padding wastes of time.

The other issue is dungeon crawling. While there thankfully isn't one mega-dungeon the PCs are expected to hack through, the module instead substitutes a number of smaller ones. It's a step forward in the right direction, but it isn't enough. The big problem is that Fourth Edition really is not about dungeon crawling - period. Older editions of D&D had PCs hack their way from room to room in a series of small skirmishes, killing an orc here, a troll there, and hustling through even a large dungeon in a single night. 4E fights are meant to be big tactical setpieces, life-or-death struggles large and significant enough that a single fight is intended to take characters a tenth of the way to the next level. Filling a dungeon with ten of those epic setpiece battles, one after the other, is a recipe for the most extreme boredom. I like 4E's combat, but since it represents both a large investment of time and a large reward for the PCs, I make sure that every fight feels significant and is set up with a lot of story and characterization and avoid back-to-back encounters. The module designers still haven't fully come to grips with this new form of pacing, unfortunately, so Seekers of the Ashen Crown has a couple of spots where it can begin to feel like a grind. Thankfully much of this can be painlessly shortened, to everyone's benefit.

Overall the module represents a real step in the right direction for Wizards of the Coast, but there's more work to be done.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
I haven't actually played this adventure, just flipped through it a bit. I'm mainly making this 'review' to add some missing information: module level.

The module is designed for characters starting at 2nd level, and is designed to take them up to 5th level by the conclusion of the adventure. It's a good place to go after starting characters at 1 and running through the Mark of Prophecy in the back of the Eberron Campaign Guide.

It's also worth noting that in Dungeon Magazine #167 is another adventure starting at 7th level that directly plays off the events in Seekers of the Ashen Crown.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm running this adventure right now with a group of 5 people and can honestly say we're having a blast! It starts off as a pretty straight forward "bug hunt" under the city of Sharn, but quickly spirals into a political/religious war, directly pitting the characters against strong Goblin and Elvish clans and the Breland military when an ancient relic is found in an ancient tomb.

Two things worth mentioning:

First, the integration of action, puzzle-solving, city exploration, and NPC interaction in this story is amazing. The dungeons never get boring, for there is always some cool puzzle or bizarre encounter that will keep everyone up all night rolling dice. And whenever the characters do have to leave to get some well deserved rest, there is always a fun NPC event waiting for them in Sharn that further drives the story to its conclusion.

Second, the authors did an amazing job incorporating some of the best themes of Eberron into this one adventure, making it ideal to players new to the setting. Over the course of the story, players might see magical "telephones", ride in air ships powered by elementals, befriend a group of goblins, contribute a story of their deeds to a journalist for the local paper, and participate in a number of battles worthy of the silver screen.

If you bought the Eberron setting, do yourself a favor and pick this up as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Seekers of the Ashen Crown provides an excellent low-level introduction to the Eberron setting, especially when run after the starting adventure Mark of Prophecy. It includes many classic Eberron elements: Warring goblin tribes, the Dhakaani empire, the Emerald Claw, the King's Citadel, a duplicitous doppelganger, a pair of Aerani elves, and a ride aboard a Lyrandar airship. The opportunities for roleplay exceed most other 4e published adventures. On top of the dungeon crawl, there is a diplomatic/political mission. The party also encounters NPC's who are initially antagonistic, but who must be won over to successfully complete the mission. The betrayal and murder of those befriended NPC's serves as a great emotional hook for the party; by the end of the adventure your party will have a very personal score to settle with the main villains. By the conclusion, your party will also have gained ongoing grudges against the Bladebearer goblins and the Emerald Claw, making for convenient hooks for future adventures.

My only complaints about the adventure center around the support materials. There really should be more full-sized foldout maps. You get a full map for the main tomb, not bad since the party visits it at least twice during the adventure, but it would be relatively easy to draw out by hand on a battle mat. You also get a full map of an street bazaar, this market is the site of two fights and a skill challenge, but since the placement of the tents is stated as random and they are simple shapes, you could have drawn this by hand as well. By contrast, for rooms with multiple alcoves, pillars, statues and other blocking terrain, and complex natural formations, you get nothing but the basic small scale map. Some of these rooms were a complete pain to draw out on the battle mat with an erasable marker. It would also have been very useful to include a foldout of the deck of the airship, but you also have to create that yourself. One solution is to download a file of the maps from the D&D website and enlarge them, but then they print out with the starting positions of the monsters and other things the party would not be able to seen upon entering an area.

Wizards is really missing out by not publishing a dungeon tile set to support Eberron. Imagine how useful it would be to have a few tiles of Sharn's streets, balconies, and bridges. Wouldn't a few tiles of ships decks and Lightning Rail cars also be useful? If Wiz isn't planning on ever publishing such a set of tiles, they should at least make full scale downloadable maps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Seekers of the Ashen Crown is a worthy addition to any collection of pre-written Dungeons and Dragons Adventures, particularly for those of us besotted with Eberron. For full disclosure I have played through this entire module as a player and then read it. The adventure as written drives the players through a number of classic and lovely settings within Eberron, while providing intrigue, danger, and fun.

Having said that, this module must be taken with a good dose of salt. First though, the good points:

The adventure presents players with a sterling introduction to the Eberron setting and their role in the proceeding events. No one is left wondering why they are chasing after the Ashen Crown, and everyone will be chomping at the bit to get things moving. The module uses a welcome mix of combat and skill challenges to mix things up, making it a solid second helping of 4th Edition D&D for inexperienced and new players alike. Combats are generally balanced and contain the odd tactical surprise to keep more experienced players happy. And best of all the adventure has a solid villain to hate.

Interwoven throughout the adventure are tons of good deviation points for the more ambitious dungeon master, and the adventure ends on a wonderful note for continuing on with the set of characters and situations introduced within the adventure should the dungeon master wish to do so.

Of course, like all pre-written adventures, various players and dungeon masters will find things not to like:

The adventure ends 'on-the-rails,' as written it increasingly hems the players into one course of action as you move through the module. Near the end of the adventure you are forced through a long series of combats, which require quite a bit of work on the dungeon master's part to break up for combat-weary players. Considering that other early 4th Edition D&D modules were even more combat grindy, this is really not as bad as it sounds. Just beware.

Closing out, as a devoted follower of both Eberron and 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, it was only a matter of time until I was going to play through the Seekers of the Ashen Crown. I loved it and I feel this is a great product. Even if you don't like Eberron the module provides a wealth of easily repurposable encounters and locations and without too much effort the whole adventure can be cleansed of Eberron and used as a generic module.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This was the first published adventure I've ever run, though I have been playing D&D for years. I have never played in the Eberron setting before, so it was a real treat. If you have never played Eberron before, don't worry. I did not have any trouble running this adventure. As a quick note, the Eberron setting lets this game have more of a sci-fi feel. For example, there are airships and universities in this adventure, though it is still squarely D&D, with swords, sorcery, and monsters.

There are a great deal of battles, of which 50% or so I chose to skip or combine, to make the game run a little faster. The story line is engaging, though I did decide to throw in my own elements and humor at times.

After playing through the entire adventure, I used it again to introduce another set of friends to 4E, and they loved it. I would say its great for beginners just getting into 4E, since the minimum level is only 2, and you can use the free version of the D&D 4e Character Generator to create characters up to level 3.

My 2 cents.
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on October 19, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Seekers of the Ashen Crown is an excellent way to introduce your players to Eberron. As has been stated in another review here, it opens with is a dungeon crawl through a tomb filled with traps and insectoid monsters. The module also is a narrative and playable introduction to Eberron, which can easily be placed in whatever local of your world you want.

The module is an interesting series of combats and traps laid out in the module, including interesting plot hooks, and which flows well story-wise. It is a good blend of combat encounters interspersed with investigational encounters to provide a good contrast to the typical D&D dungeon crawl. It also allows for customizable introduction of NPCs if you prefer to use established ones of your own, but this could add more work and prep-time to the newbie DM. I chose to go full tilt with the NPC's provided.

Fortunately this is not a "mega-dungeon" as has been stated previously, the module instead is a number of smaller dungeons. It's definitely an improvement because it allows for you to run shorter sessions if needed without having the party caught in the middle of a large dungeon and needing to go in and out.

I definitely love 4E's combat mechanics, but it is recommended to allow for frequent breaks between combat encounters to allow the party to heal, level up or inject role-playing opportunities. As with everything this module is what you make of it, and while 4e's detractors claim that the new system is mostly combat oriented, this is entirely untrue and this module offers plenty of opportunities for 'role' playing, not just combat 'roll' playing. I highly recommend this module to the newbie DM and particularly for DM's wanting to try out this excellent game world. Eberron is a perfect blend of 'magicpunk' (steam-punk but with magic instead of machine-technology) with high fantasy and intrigue/noir mystery elements.

Happy gaming!
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on June 11, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
the themes is this adventure are so grim they couldn't possibly have fit any other campaign.

a great primer for any eberron fan who seeks the feel and tone of eberron in their campaign
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I am a big Eberron fan, so I was very excited when the 4th Edition campaign materials came out. I was strapped for time but wanted to dive in, so I decided to get this boxed module to get things started while I developed my own campaign for this to lead into.

BIG MISTAKE.

There are so many things wrong with the design and organization of this mod, that as the DM, I had to put more work into parsing and rewriting this module to make sense than I would have in creating my own game. The materials are blocked into two books; one solely for the story and new game materials (new treasure, PC handouts, etc.) while the other contains all the encounters. Sounds logical, on the surface, but this means that rather than reading through a single book chronologically to follow the story, and the encounters and treasure coming up as needed, you have to flip back and forth from book to book, trying to make sure you've referenced everything they need to know in the right order. There are only snippets of detail in the story book when you get to the dungeon crawls, seriously, half a page to cover ten encounters worth of dungeon, so you should really only need to stick to the encounters book, except that those minor details end up being the key clue that the players need or the very important detail you were supposed to drop so they turn left, etc. The writing is very disparate, as though one person outlined the story, and a game designer wrote all the encounters, which makes for a very jarring experience.

In addition to organizational details, the whole thing feels very untested. There are details missing that are important to the game (in more then one instance, they provide a map to a dungeon room with lots of details, but then fail to tell you where the PCs enter). The main impetus of the story comes after the first dungeon and hinges upon the players taking a plot hook from the captain of the guard, for which they have absolutely NO incentive to take, so unless you have an entirely lawful good party, you are pretty much forced to run the DM railroad. All aboard! :(

The main plot is based loosely on teaming up with some uneasy allies and finding these five artifacts that go together. After struggling to acquire three of them, your NPC ally says "let's go get the last one!" Last one you say? There are two left? Oh yeah, sorry, the author forgot to mention your NPC buddy has one in his bag. The one that actually gives you the ability to find all the others, which is how she knows the last one is this way. REALLY? Where was this before??? You know, when the PCs were wandering around hunting for the items???

The module is also very poorly managed for experience. It is supposed to take characters from 2nd to 5th level, and the encounters are scaled as such. I wish I hadn't run the extra adventure before hand to get them up to 2nd, because my players walked through the initial encounters and made it to 5th level by halfway through the mod. Some poor math on the designers' part. This also means that the encounters are getting progressively easier as the PCs are higher level than meant for in the later encounters so I'm having to do more and more work to properly scale the existing encounters to be challenging enough for their level. We are almost finished, and they will be closer to 8-9 level rather than 5th when we finish. Now, though I had planned my original campaign to pick up after this at halfway through the heroic tier, I need to do some major reworking since they will be nearly to paragon.

All in all, the first page synopsis of the story is the best thing about it. It's a cool outline for a story idea, but the organization makes it more like studying to follow and know enough to run this adventure. DO NOT TRY TO COLD RUN THIS ADVENTURE unless you like lots of breaks in the action to have to stop and figure stuff out. Seriously, too much studying and work when the whole point of purchased modules is to be able to pick them up and run them as-is. I should have just started with my own campaign.
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3 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
You like to roll dice? This is the game for you! Lots of rolling dice. Want to kill goblins? That's about 50% of the game. 45% more is devoted to other types of combat. The other 5% is devoted to story. Not a lot going on here. Very, very boring. My group actually split over this game because I didn't have time to write my own. After about 3 sessions the game becomes work for the DM. Not fun at all. Also the game information is poorly organized. You WILL have to read mid session unless you have a photographic memory. This module is a disgrace and I am probably done with 4th ed. I am not one of these 4th ed. haters, they just have no sense of creativity when it comes to adventures. Do yourself a favor and make your own because this one will be work for the DM and bore the hell out of your players.
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