The D&D Dad reviews The Secret of Skyhold Tower!
The party moves from the “training grounds” of Phandalin and Thundertree and encounter danger head-on in this wild and crazy adventure from the always-reliable M.T. Black! For details, see my spoilerific Adventure Report.
Overview of the Adventure
It’s not every day your group of heroes gets to (try to) stop a tower that falling right out of the sky, from thousands of feet up! Right away, you know you’re in for a heck of a ride, and my players and I had a blast saving the city of Neverwinter from certain devastation.
Most of the adventure takes place in the slowly falling tower, and you can add all sorts of fun elements to the quest as the party climbs up the tower — the trebuchet attacks from the city were a nice touch.
There aren’t a ton of NPCs, and my crew didn’t run into all of them, but the gnome who assists you, Gimble Clickcrank, was fun to play, and the wizard Skyhold and his unfortunate apprentice were also memorable characters (more on the wizard, later!).
I also like the change of pace from the usual goblins and orcs in this adventure. While I enjoy fighting those critters, it was nice to take on some steam mephits and tiptoe past griffins for a change. And the elemental aspect to the adventure was also an interesting change of pace.
As usual for M.T. Black’s adventures, the boxed text is well-written and evocative, and you get a ton of ideas for running the adventure for each room. The tower itself was a bit too tall for us, but I shortened things up when I noticed my players’ attentions starting to wane.
Tips for Running the Adventure
The adventure does take a little bit of time to get started, so you might want to give the players a specific reason for jumping onto the falling tower (someone they know is aboard the tower, or there are hostages). But saving a city from a falling tower is probably motivation enough for most players…
My players really enjoyed gathering clues about the history of the wizard and his apprentice, and some of the best bits came from the talking portrait of Frander Skyhold. The best part was when my ten-year-old’s bard character decided to strap on the portrait like a Baby Bjorn, carrying the wizard’s somewhat-helpful spirit around with us in the tower!
Gimble is also a fun character if you give him some attitude and a lack of patience. He also had a serious aversion to combat, so the party had to make sure he didn’t run off whenever they found bad guys.
Also, there are a number of places where the players encountered “evidence” in the form of diary entries and letters, so I copied that text into a Word file, gave them a fancy cursive font, and printed them out for handouts during the game. Everyone really like this, along with the copy of the map of the tower I gave them as well. I hadn’t tried that before.
I found the end game a bit confusing, at the end of the adventure, with the elemental rift that needed closing and the big boss to fight or trick or somehow handle. I fudged some of the last few pages, because my players were getting a bit tired (they’re kids, so give ’em a break!), and everyone was happy with the ending (the tower crashed into the shallows of the Trackless Sea).
I felt like I struggled a bit with the ending of this adventure, even though the players really seemed to love the adventure as a whole. I’m starting to figure out what works best with this crew of plays (my wife and two sons), and they really love gathering clues and guessing who’s the bad guy and so on. We enjoyed this adventure quite a bit, and it fit in nicely with our ongoing campaign.
Grade: An A- (mostly for the ending, which I fumbled around a bit with).