Revenge of the Iron Lich is a free 4th Edition adventure (for Level 16 characters) from the people over at Save Versus Death. While not an epic tier adventure, I decided to review it because it’s a very deadly high paragon tier deathtrap of a module.
Note: This is not a play test review.
This is a fan made adventure and doesn’t really have a lot of eye-candy by way of illustrations or layout. However, don’t let that put you off, plus its free so give it a try. I had heard some good reports and decided to check it out, after reading through it I was so impressed I donated some money to the designers.
- Diversity: I own quite a few 4th Edition adventures (all official WotC adventure path modules plus Revenge of the Giants, some adventures from Goodman games), and while I knew 4th Edition was combat centric, it took Revenge of the Iron Lich to remind me that the game is not just about combat. Which, you can easily be tricked into thinking by reading most existing 4th Edition adventures. Here, combat is present, but it’s not omnipresent. The adventure does feature combat encounters, but it also features encounters based around: Traps; Exploration and Puzzles. What this does is not only break up the combat sections (giving them greater gravitas when they do occur), but it also keeps players guessing as regard whats going to happen next. This greater diversity allowed the designer to place more emphasis on non-combat sections and I really think the adventure as a whole benefits from this.
- Originality: Where to start, this adventure is not afraid to try new ideas and add new features to what has become a somewhat formulaic and stale approach to designing adventures. Yes the official adventure path series has some decent encounters but they seem hamstrung by convention, not so here. Some of the features I enjoyed include: Time Limit; Encounter Symbols; Item, Rumour and Wraith Cards; a Points Scoring System; Taunts listed in the Monster Stat-blocks and some really imaginatively designed encounters and monsters.
- Uncompromising: While I haven’t played this module yet, it looks like a pretty stiff challenge. The monsters, all of which are ‘homebrew’ creations (even if their origins are familiar) are built to be deadly (one in particular, a 4-armed iron golem soulgrinder, is notably overpowered for its level…on paper at least, so I would be careful with that encounter). However, the module is meant to be uncompromising, certainly owing its inspiration to the original Tomb of Horrors module from what I can see. In fact it goes so far as to outright warn you that many encounters are deadly, a few may result in total party kills and the ending is even more dangerous than that! Great stuff for anyone who likes a challenge.
- Lack of Art: Something of a nitpick, since this is a free adventure. There is no real interior art to speak of (I think there is one diagram of a trap that’s illustrated) and as an overall package that does hurt it. But its a minor disappointment. Personally I’d love to see them get an artist and release this as a $5 pdf.
If you are running a paragon tier campaign for 4th edition I highly recommend checking this out. If you just want to run a deadly one-shot adventure module get this. If you want to see how to design a good adventure, again get this. In fact I can’t think of any reason why a DM would not want to get this.
Overall 9 (out of 10)