When an attempt to arrange an early inheritance backfires, a man of lesser ambition than Vanthus Vanderboren would no doubt withdraw into his sister's manse to hide under her skirts and pray that the truth of his patricide remain hidden. Fortunately for Vanthus, lack of ambition has never been a problem. Now the Vanderobrens' prodigal son slinks east along the coast of Blood Bay, lured by rumors of an incredible prize kept in a smuggler's hideout called Kraken's Cove. Yet what he is destined to find there is far more than a lucrative bit of banditry. What awaits him is the savage tide.
"The Bullywug Gambit" is the second chapter of the Savage Tides Adventure Path, a complete campaign consisting of 12 adventures appearing in Dungeon magazine. For additional aid in running this campaign, check out Dragon magazine's "Savage Tidings" articles, a series that helps players and DMs prepare for and expand upon the campaign. Issue #349 of Dragon magazine looks into the region surrounding Sasserine, and provides useful information if your PCs wish to explore this area more thoroughly than they do in the course of this adventure.
The hidden caves of Kraken's Cove have long served the pirates of the Crimson Fleet as a place to stage their smuggling operations. When their latest cargo backfires, the PCs find themselves faced with something far worse than murderous pirates.
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cr4nk13 has played this adventure and would recommend it.
Following review of the previous chapter: https://www.adventurelookup.com/adventures/there-is-no-honor
After the first chapter, this part of the AP got a bit more straight forward classic dungeon delving/combat oriented, which is not bad in iteself but I do have some problems with some of it.
The opening is fine: Find the evil brother who wants to take over the city and frame the PC's for his misdoings and chase him to a secret pirate hideout a couple of days outside the city.
Then follows - I think - the most important part of the entire adventure path to get right from a dm's perspective, Krakens Cove. This is the first time the PC's run into part of the big evil plot theyll be trying to stop until they're level 20+... The Black Pearl explodes and turned the entire area to a chtulu nightmare of sharkfaced pirates and monsters tearing eachother apart. While this is written and thought out well, it requires a lot of ex machina explanation of an 14th (?) level npc in the back of the caves to understand what's going on.
The dungeon / cave is fine to run as is in itself, but the importance of what happened here is important to present properly and the adventure as written does not do rights to it enough.
The second part is similarily sloppily written, whilst in itself a great idea; rush back from the coves to save your patron from imminent attack! The problem is that the adventure assumes your pc's arrive "just after the knick of time" and both parties I ran through the module were rushing back so quickly it was impossible for the bad guys to actually get into the state the module suggested (i.e. your friends are hostages and your group has to go through the manor to free/save all of them).
Tips to fix:
- As for the complaints i have on Krakens Cove it's pretty simple; make the pc's a witness to whats happening instead of having Harliss Explain everything to them after they've gone through the cave to free her. For my second group I had the pc's on a safe distance from the cove itself to have a proper view of the entire black pearl explosion spectacle that happened as well as the carnage that followed, and had Harliss lock herself up in a room instead of having her standing around in the back of a cave for hours fighting those savage pirates the module would have you encounter her with
- The first party i played through the adventure as written (i did do the suggested slowing things down during wormfall whis was okay i suppose but nowhere near enough to make it believeable they got too late compared to a half orc and a bunch of bullywugs traveling to the city on foot vs their sailing ship), which resulted in a decent session but the entire timing thing of it just got my players off and broke their suspension of disbelief. I feel like you can run the adventure as written for any party that - for whatever reason - does not hurry back or doesn't have proper way to get back home quickly. If your group - like mine - had a sailing ship at their disposal (they're even supposed to grab it out of the cove anyway in regards to the third chapter of the AP so reward them if they do) just run a Vanderboren manor defense mission. THIS WAS GREAT, albeit a great slog from a dm's perspective. I had the pc's arrive on time to the manor to prepare defenses with the jade ravens, some town guard (diplomacy check) and some Knowlern household guard (one pc was a Knowlern) and they had a blast preparing the defense. During the actual assault i divided the Bullywugs out in three groups and we had a huge fight on the entire Vanderboren estate and it was awesome. I went to bed tired but it was great.
All in all i'd give this chapter a 6/10 - a lot of great potential, but it's all a little all over the place and doesn't seem to be playtested well. The Krakens cove part is very important to address in the AP as it's the last time they run into a (sign of) vanthus until MUCH later so it really needs some work to be as great as other chapters in the AP.
DGoldDragon28 has played this adventure and would recommend it.
Like my review of "There Is No Honour," this review will focus on this specific adventure, not the Savage Tide AP as a whole, but I will say the AP looks promising. I never expect the very low level adventures to be the representative of the path as a whole.
"The Bullywug Gambit" is another adventure that I am conflicted on, but I view it a bit more positively than its prequel. Contending with the savage creatures of Kraken's Cove works as a disturbing experience, made worse when the players learn that they were mutated by the strange mist. It's excellent exposition for the storyline. That being said, the savage creatures were generally more tough (for my party, at least) than their CR would otherwise indicate. It's a strong template at these low levels. That being said, it was an excellent challenge, and I only wound up killing one character, so I think the difficulty of the adventure was great (but if you have novice players or are allergic to any player death, maybe tone it down).
My group had played Age of Worms before starting this AP, so the Wormfall Festival provided a nice opportunity for a callback and a bit of humour -- I had the group see the depictions and hear the legends of our old characters, as twisted and embellished by rumour and retelling. If the group hasn't played Age of Worms, I suggest glossing over the Wormfall, but for a group that has it was a nice touch.
The eponymous section of the adventure was a bit of a let down. The bullywugs were really no threat at all. The idea of "rush back to Sasserine to save Lady Vanderboren from a misunderstanding" is a decent enough hook, and the fact that the five people to be "rescued" are all capable of helping to an extent rather than being complete liabilities is refreshing, but the bullywugs are laughable. Especially when contrasted with the first section of the adventure.