Nothing could have surprised me more recently than coming home after work to find a package from Wizards Of The Coast waiting for me on my porch. And, like a toy obsessed 3-year-old, I immediately tore into my new arrival. What did I find, you ask? Well, an advanced copy of Princes Of The Apocalypse hardback Dungeons & Dragons adventure, of course.
Seriously, tell me you knew that…I mean, it IS the title of this article. Anyway, I soon realized that I had a very limited amount of time to compose this review, so I hunkered down and read it non-stop, forgoing sleep and food in my quest to embrace this newest gift. Okay, maybe I slept. And I certainly ate. Don’t judge me, food is important. But I did read it, just not in one sitting.
First off, know that this is a huge adventure. The book itself is 250 pages pages of information that enables even a fledgling Dungeon Master (DM) to run a great game. Aimed at the third level character, this story has a variety of introductions that enable even the most diverse party members to find a reason to engage in this expedition. And once they’re hooked, it’s just a matter of following the leads and links to build the plot that leads them forward. And while it’s not necessary to completely immerse the players into all the data provided, I can definitely see where the sub-plots can go from being small single day treks to full on campaign modules themselves. The main focus for this particular storyline, however, centers on four diabolical elemental based cults. Luckily for the adventurers, these evil cults work independently from one another, each believing their element is the greatest and most worthy of worship. But while they are separate, they are bound by a common thread, that of world domination and destruction.
As you would expect, there are a multitude of non-player characters (NPCs) within these pages, along with enough backstory to be able to fully create worthwhile encounters that may or may not yield results for the players. Random encounter charts are available for many regions, in keeping with the idea that this is still a rough world where creatures/monsters are plentiful. My favorite part has to be the micro-descriptions that permeate the adventure. This gives a newer or less skilled DM the ability to convey the look or atmosphere of something without struggling for the proper wording. And while not unique, it is a nice added touch for the game.
Along with the stories and adventures, there is a group of appendices we are given a veritable laundry list of monsters for this campaign, expertly tailored and even categorized by level so as not to overwhelm the player party. There’s also a new playable race available here: the Genasi. A hybrid of human and genie, these beings are both rare and varied depending upon which element their genie parent (or ancestor) embodied. Despite unusual skin colors and increased abilities, they appear to be humanlike (but not quite human). Each particular element bestows upon them a particular set of traits that make their heritage obvious to those in the know. One of the last sections of the book encapsulates the new spells made available for this book. Each comes with its data and description to make gameplay as smooth as possible. And speaking of that, the final appendix is all about adapting this Forgotten Realms campaign to other D&D settings such as Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Eberron, or even your own personal world! This kind of flexibility is what makes Dungeons & Dragons so great!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this and I can only imagine how much fun it will be to play. My only concern was that I sort of expected the book to contain all of the races from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion. They included the spells from the Companion, so why not the races? Maybe they are saving them for upcoming releases? One can only hope. But until the next adventure is released, this one is sure to keep you and your character(s) busy. With almost no hesitation I would advise at least one person in your group to pick up a copy of this book. Once you delve into it, I bet you’ll discover even more things to love about this incarnation of our beloved game.