All ocean voyages are fraught with peril, yet a voyage to the infamous Isle of Dread might seem to some old salts to be a deliberate goading of the gods of the sea. Many of those who have attempted the voyage before managed to return to civilization often choose not to speak of the trials they experienced on that dangerous route, yet those whose lips can be loosened by a draught of grog whisper amazing stories... tales of pirates, sea monsters, terrifying storms, and perhaps most harrowing of all, of a strange and sinister land without land, a floating graveyard of dead ships mired in a sargasso the size of an island. This place has many names, but its most well-known may be it's most apt - Journey's End.
"The Sea Wyvern's Wake" is the third chapter of the Savage Tide 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 monthly "Savage Tidings" articles, a series that helps players and DMs prepare for and expand upon the campaign. Issue #350 of Dragon magazine features a regional guide to the seafaring environs the PCs can expect on the journey to the Isle of Dread.
It’s time to bid farewell to the city of Sasserine as the PCs board the Sea Wyvern for a 3,000-mile voyage south into the uncharted waters of the Vohoun Ocean. Their destination: the Isle of Dread.
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DGoldDragon28 has played this adventure and would recommend it.
Like my previous reviews of Savage Tide instalments, 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.
This adventure has a fairly unique setting -- a three-month-long sea voyage taking men and supplies to a distant colony on a dangerous island. I very much liked the premise. The players are low enough level still that the voyage cannot simply be negated by spells. The adventure includes several NPCs that will be on the boat and suggested roles for these NPCs to assume, but notes that the players can put them in different positions if desired. By chance, three of my PCs had reasonable skills for sailing while two did not, which turned out to be perfect: the Sea Wyvern requires a crew of seven, including the captain. Four NPCs suitable as crew members are presented in the adventure, so this meant that I didn't have to make up new sailor NPCs or include a few generic "Joe Deckhands". The adventure also includes two passenger NPCs and specifies that there are enough other (unnamed) passengers to fill out the ship. Realistically, the nameless colonists don't come up often, although I do advise keeping a list of names/brief descriptions/whatever on hand just in case they do.
The adventure says to assume that the weather is fair save where specified, unless you have Stormwrack, in which case use the tables in that book to determine weather. I started the adventure making the rolls manually, but quickly learned this is a mistake (it's tedious). So instead, I wrote a short script to automate the weather rolls from Stormwrack and the calculations of distance travelled, etc., which worked like a charm. If you can't automate your rolls I would probably recommend you pretend you don't have Stormwrack -- while eliminating weather takes a bit of the flavour out of "dangerous sea voyage", but it's better than bogging your game down with so many rolls.
The "script" of the adventure involves a series of events and locations you stop at. It is broadly linear, but you can avoid the feel of "railroading" to some extent by rewarding thinking and plans -- few of the events are really "required" plot-wise. If the players come up with a good scheme for bypassing the blockade, let it work -- that's far more interesting than running a naval combat against some half-starved goons.
While the sargasso encounters did genuinely make my players fear a TPK with the relentlessness, it was a slog. Fighting the exact same encounter many times over is not fun. More diverse plant-monster encounters here would have been nice.
Ultimately, the players wind up facing the weather even if you have ignored it mostly -- one storm separates their ship from their patrons and later a second storm dashes them against a reef causing a shipwreck. I found the shipwreck a wonderful cinematic moment -- I described the PCs being cast into the surf and their vision going black as unconsciousness took them and ended the session, picking up next week with their awakening on the shores of the Isle of Dread. Depending on your players the course of events at the end might seem like an unfair DM fiat, but my players certainly saw it as a fitting end to the voyage. (I also killed off the druid's leopard animal companion here by fiat, since I knew he really wanted a dinosaur and those would become available as they washed ashore).
Another adventure with both good and bad parts to it, this one for me falls on the positive side. The overall sense was positive, but in some areas the implementation could use a decent bit of polish.