Tabletop Review: Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Dungeons & Dragons Next)

Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast (Dungeons & Dragons Next)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $17.99
Page Count: 85 (for the adventure) and 220 (Multiple Rules Supplements)
Release Date: 02/04/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com/DNDClassics.com

Scourge of the Sword Coast is a pretty unique experience in a lot of ways. It’s the third in the series of Sundering adventures. It’s also a Dungeons & Dragons Encounters release, much like the first two Sundering adventures. Unlike Murder in Baldur’s Gate and Legacy of the Crystal Shard, Scourge of the Sword Coast is released in a digital PDF format rather than as a physical package. This means instead of getting a DM screen, a Campaign Guide and an adventure, you are getting one large PDF and twenty supplementary PDFs. As well, Scourge of the Sword Coast is designed only for D&D Next rules while the previous Sundering adventures were compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and Fourth Edition. I’m not sure why such changes were made to the format as the first two Sundering adventures allowed a wide range of D&D fans to play the content. It’s a bit of a disappointment to be sure, but it’s not as if this is the first publicly available D&D Next only adventure. We’ve already had Vault of the Dracolich and a full campaign in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle released. We had to move on to the new edition sometime, right?

Speaking of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, it is worth noting that Scourge of the Sword Coast is a direct sequel to that campaign, with characters and events from that collection showing up here. However you won’t be able to use the same characters as you did in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. That campaign took a character from first to (at least) tenth level while Scourge of the Sword Coast will take characters from second to fifth level. This is also a good time to mention that leveling up is done D&D Encounters style rather than based on experience points. This means you will level up after specific questions/dungeons crawls/campaign moments. This might not sit well with long time D&D players, but those used to D&D Encounters and its style of play should be used to this. I have to admit I would have preferred straight up experience because the adventure is completely open world so events can unfold in any order. So the gaps between leveling up might be really small and then take forever. At the same time goal based leveling up may not be what we’re used to as roleplayers but it does make more sense from a story point of view. No worries though because if you really want to assign XP totals to monsters, there’s nothing stopping you.

Scourge of the Sword Coast takes place around the town of Daggerford, which shall act as your homebase for the campaign. Yes, this is a campaign made up of several dungeon crawls which connect to form a larger story. The order in which quests will be discovered and completed depending on what clues and/or conversations the characters have, and in which order. It’s entirely possible for one or two quests to not be finished before the endgame is figured out and players being players, may just skip right ahead to that. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adventures need to be designed of all sorts of player decisions and Scourge of the Sword Coast does just that. Because of the open world nature of the campaign, Scourge of the Sword Coast is best left in the hands of a very experienced DM who can handle multiple dangling plot threads at once as well as the many locations this campaign contains. An inexperienced DM might find themselves in over the head and thus the experience will suffer greatly.

Scourge of the Sword Coast will see Daggerford as the crux of all sorts of strange happenings. There will be machinations by devils, plots by Thayan wizards, a massive influx of refugees as Orcs, Gnolls and Goblins seem to be attacking and harassing villages in a great decree than ever before. The Duke of Daggerfod gets a an ancient piece of art stolen and accuses the longtime ally of a disabled Paladin of the theft. All of these plot threads and more tie together as the players seek to uncover the puppetmaster behind all these apparently unrelated incidents. Besides Daggerford players will travel to the village of Julkon, Phylond Lodge, Harpshield Castle, Firehammer Hold, and the Floshin Estate. So that’s a guaranteed five dungeon crawls in addition to the copious amounts of investigation, discussion, and NPC interaction. You have a wide variety of enemies that you will encounter and while the campaign is a little on the easy side compared to other D&D Next releases, but there is still a degree of challenge and if your PCs don’t work together, character death is definitely possible.

So adventure quality wise, I really liked Scourge of the Sword Coast thanks to the open world nature of the piece, the wonderful cast of NPCs you are provided with and the multiple locations you have to explore. While it’s not as good as Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, Murder in Baldur’s Gate or Legacy of the Crystal Shard, the campaign is better than any of the D&D Encounters pieces I’ve gone through in the past few years and it’s definitely a better experience than most published fourth edition adventures. Scourge of the Sword Cost is a very well done and fun adventure and I’ve enjoyed fiddling with the adventure since October, 2013 (when it was originally provided to me). The final product, which is now for public purchase is really well done and you’ll definitely get your eighteen bucks out of it. Do I wish the piece had experience points or was in a pretty snazzy physical package like the first two Sundering adventures. Well of course I do, but as that isn’t going to happen I’m fine with what’s here. Scourge of the Sword Coast is a wonderful addition to the D&D Next line and will lead directly into Dead in Thay, which will take these same characters (if they survived) through Levels 6-8. Like Scourge of the Sword Coast, I’ve received various renditions of Dead in Thay since November and it too will be a really fun purchase for Fifth Edition fans. So far I have been thoroughly impressed with the D&D Next adventures and content and I’ve loved every single one. Here’s hoping you do too.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Like the previous two Sundering adventures, you are getting much more than just the core adventure. Where the previous two adventures came with a full campaign guide to their region and a nicely done DM screen, Scourge of the Sword Coast comes with a whopping 220 pages of various PDFs provided all the rules you will need to play D&D Next. So if you haven’t picked up any of the rules so far (Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle comes with them) you can buy this for only $17.99 and receive the following glut of mechanics and crunch:

  • Eight 1st Level pregenerated characters (even though you start the campaign at Level 2…)

  • A Twenty page DM Guide

  • A thirteen page Equipment Guide

  • A four page Feat Guide

  • A twenty-nine page Player’s Guide

  • A twelve page Magic Item Guide

  • A three page guide on Multi-Classing

  • A seven page guide on playable races

  • A fifty-eight page guide to spells

  • A five page guide on Character Creation

  • An eleven page guide on Skills and Backgrounds

  • A forty-six page guide on Classes

  • A one page “Read this First!” document
  • Wow. That’s a lot of content and it’s all free with the purchase of the adventure. For those that already have Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, you can see how the D&D Next rules have changed in the past few months. If you don’t have Dragonspear Castle, then purchasing Scourge of the Sword Coast not only gives you a full campaign but the ability to have all the rules you need to run a full D&D Next game. FOREVER! Well, until the core rulebooks come out anyway. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a great deal this is. 220 pages of mechanics in addition to an eighty-five page campaign? That is an exceptional deal and this is probably the best way to jump on D&D Next if you haven’t already. If you don’t like it, at least you only spent eighteen dollars instead of buying giant hardcover books with a fifty dollar or so price tag, right? If you’re at all a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, regardless of edition, Scourge of the Sword Coast is well worth picking up just because it’s an amazing deal for such a high quality release. Is it perfect? No, it has notable aspects that some people will rightfully pick apart as it’s not “their” version of D&D. I do think D&D Next is a massive step in the right direction and I’ve yet to read a release for it that I haven’t loved. It’s a shame we aren’t getting a physical release of Scourge of the Sword Coast, but I’ve made do with several digital renditions for months and I’m just happy to have the final product in my hands…via a Kindle Fire anyway.

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