July 7, 2013 by brennon
Every good role-playing game needs a tight story that will draw in your players and get them intricately tangled within its fantasy world. Sometimes though this doesn’t happen. It could be that your games master has been busy lately or the ideas have dried up a little. That’s where adventure modules and sourcebooks are a life saver and Blood in Ferelden, the modular adventure book for Dragon Age, is one of them.
Blood in Ferelden gives both games masters and players three adventures within this dark fantasy world. Each of them has an original edge to it and through this review I’ll be exploring what makes them great. I will be attempting to avoid spoilers as much as possible but if your a player rather than a storyteller you might want to avoid this one.
The first of the three stories sees you deep in the woodlands to the South of Ferelden. Here the Korcari Wilds have reclaimed most of the land that men thought home and living is dangerous. With the Dark Spawn lurking in the shadows you would have thought that this was the main threat, but other things have been causing chaos.
Amber Rage is a lower level quest for heroes of around level one or two and while you’d think that would mean it’s easy, Dragon Age doesn’t work like that. The adventure has a nice mix of combat, exploration and social interaction and it comes with a massive morale choice that will have your heroes scratching their heads and arguing about (in character of course!).
I went into this adventure after putting my heroes through the sample one and the one from the back of the Dragon Age manual and I was stunned at the massive moments within this narrative. It’s a credit to Walt Ciechanowski, who wrote the adventure, that he managed to cause such upset within the group.
As I mentioned before, Amber Rage is set in the Korcari Wilds and this presents you with some interesting options across the board. Environments are unyielding and a slog to get through with swamps and twisted vines blocking the way. The native forest peoples are wary creatures and you’ll have plenty of fun watching your heroes come up with ways to deal with them. Last but not least, the combats are frenetic and the enemies have a certain special quality to them that makes every engagement a pulse racing fight for your life.
Games masters and players alike are going to have fun with this one. The characters are engaging and thoughtfully presented and the options that are presented to all really pull on those dark fantasy heartstrings. One of the key things that makes this adventure worth your while is that the massive shift at the beginning of the adventure will really rock players out of their comfort zone.
Where Eagles Lair
Much like Amber Rage, Where Eagles Lair is another wild ride around the fringes of Ferelden. However you’ll soon be leaving the trees and low lands behind and ranging into the Frostback Mountains. Here is where the Avvar dwell, a race of barbarian warriors who are no stranger to the cold and internal struggles between tribes and their leaders.
Despite the warlike nature of the Avvar it doesn’t mean you’re going to be starting in the snow fighting for your life. Much like Amber Rage you’ll be experiencing a selection of social encounters where you must consider the intriguing case put before you by Arl Wulff.
Through exploration and following the thread of clues you’ll be travelling off into the wild and slowly but surely head West up into the clouds. Here things change and take on a much more brutal nature. The adventure is set for characters of third and forth level and it really tells. Some of the fights your heroes will get into with this story could be the last!
As I mentioned at the beginning I don’t want to spoil anything for you with these reviews but it pays to state that you should warn your players before hand, this is a hard slog and some of them should expect to teeter on the edge of death if not fall right off the cliff!
There are two moments later within the story where not only will you face a moral choice but one hero could potentially see their death at the hands of a rather fearsome boss character. Thankfully, much like with the video game, the moral choices in this game aren’t black and white. You won’t find a good and bad choice here, just a grey area where the heroes personalities must shine through and guide their decisions.
A key point for games masters here is how you make sure these decisions have a lasting effect. Just producing them and then not resolving them can be one of the worst things for storytelling. You don’t have to directly ram it down their throats but give them clues as to what happened elsewhere in the world and the kind of impact their decisions are having on others. Where Eagles Lair does provide you with some help in this regard and it’ll be interesting seeing what the heroes do when the reality of their choice hits home.
The biggest kick you can get out of this adventure is having one of your players actually be an Avvar him/herself. It can bring up some interesting role-playing moments where they war between their own traditional feelings and those of the party. This one is a lot of fun.
A Fragile Web
Last but not least is A Fragile Web, an adventure for the higher end characters out there. With fifth level being the final one of Set I you can probably already tell that it’s going to be a fun one to round things off. Unlike the others you’ll find that communication and sleuthing is the key here and most of the encounters can be solved with a bit of wordplay instead of swordplay! That isn’t to say that you won’t find enemies worth fighting of course, they exist too!
A Fragile Web is also different in that it doesn’t all need to be played in one long chapter. You could easily break this up and have elements of the adventure spread out between other quests so that the plot continues to bubble under the surface for an ultimate reveal towards the end.
Instead of being out in the wilds A Fragile Web takes places in the streets of the capital, Denerim. As well as being an important base of operations there is also a massive clash of cultures here and this bustling metropolis adds to the intrigue levels as anyone could be lurking anywhere watching you from the shadows.
Like all the adventures, A Fragile Web has some nicely fleshed out characters, especially the highlight of the piece, Bann Nicola Baranti. She has a lot of layers to her and I think games masters will have a fair amount of fun working out her style in conversations.
Because of the nature of this final adventure, it’s hard to go into much more detail without spoiling the twists! Intrinsically this is a games masters heaven and you will find plenty to play around with in this detailed adventure. Nothing is as it seems in the midst of Denerim!
While some purist might balk at the idea of using these kind of pre-made adventures I have found them a great tool for guiding your thinking as a games master and developing your own ideas. There are times when a plot wanders off into the middle of nowhere and these can allow you an easy, structured way to give your players a good time.
As with everything in role-playing you don’t have to take everything written in these adventures as gospel. Feel free to add and take away things at leisure and make it fit your characters. Another important aspect to consider is making your players feel useful. If the plot calls for communication and intrigue the burly fighter might not enjoy it so always look to strike a good balance afterwards. Handily the adventures in Blood in Ferelden do this and Mages, Warriors and Rogues will all feel at ease in these narratives.
To cap things off Blood in Ferelden also comes with an Adventure Seed section at the back of the book which gives you some neat ideas for getting players involved in a bigger story. I’ve pinched a few of them myself as simple things like that allow you to put more work into the main narrative.
Blood in Ferelden is a key weapon in the games masters arsenal so don’t be afraid of picking this up to boost your story. You could even transfer some of the foes from the adventures within to your repertoire, a lot of them are very fun!
Get exploring Ferelden!