The colony of Farshore has survived on its own for years, a secluded and struggling hamlet perched on the western shore of the tiny island of Temute. An island dwarfed by the savage landscape across the narrow channel to the north, a landscape of rugged mountains, tangled jungles, and trackless swamps. This is the Isle of Dread, and its resources and hidden treasures are matched only by its peril. Yet for all these dangers, what may bring doom to Farshore is not an invasion of inhuman monsters from the mainland, but an invasion of all-too-human monsters from across the sea.
"Tides of Dread" is the fifth 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 monthly "Savage Tidings" articles, a series that helps players and DMs prepare for and expand upon the campaign. Issue #352 of Dragon magazine features rumors of Farshore, a helpful list of improvements the PCs can make to the colony, and other features to help get PCs oriented in their new home on the Isle of Dread.
The destruction of a pirate ship signals the beginning of a Crimson Fleet invasion. The PCs must race against time to prepare for the onslaught before an old enemy can release another savage tide.
Also see Pgs. 60-71 Backdrop: Farshore City of Hope.
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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 later adventures of the AP look promising. This adventure, I think, is where the adventure path really starts to come into its own.
The initial attack from Rat's End was not difficult to clean up -- pitting a level 9 party against a bunch of CR 2 that are weak even at their CR is only going to end one way. The leader is nominally CR 9 and he was a bit more challenging but still, easy win for the players here. Normally, I dislike encounters against such weak enemies, but this also had a race-against-time aspect to save citizens and buildings. It still wasn't the best encounter, but it was alright.
My players spent two weeks (IC) doing upgrade tasks around town before setting out on the proper mainland adventures. I broadly liked these upgrade tasks -- ways players could contribute to the town's prosperity and defensiveness, but the ones labelled "Adventure" were dull (uninteresting, extremely low CR pushovers) and would have been better to leave out.
Next, they journeyed to the mainland bound for the tar pits. At Tanaroa they stopped and learned of the Zotzilaha problem, but they dealt with the tar pits first and then to the shrine. Zotzilaha didn't fight a single round of combat -- by the time he showed up they were already putting the statue back in place, so that was a bit anticlimactic, but on the other hand, it was due to my players inferring well what needed to be done so I can't complain too much. After the shrine they went to the jaguar temple before returning to Farshore. All of this travelling took a about three weeks (again IC). These mini-adventures were reasonably interesting and made a decent amount of sense in the overall story. Spending another week on upgrades left them very little time to salvage the Sea Wyvern, and in fact the Crimson Fleet attack occurred while they were sailing back to Farshore. Given that they were only late by less than a day, I decided they'd arrive with the attack in progress, taking the penalty for not having been there when it began but still being able to participate in the fight.
The climactic battle against the Crimson Fleet was all that could have been hoped for, although my players were ... less than tactical about their approach to it which cost them. They split up, broadly to deal with different issues and effectively triggered several "waves" of the fight in parallel. While +4 full plate-wearing paladin with basically soloed the golems because they couldn't hit him, so that was fine, the druid did less well against the yuan-ti and wound up with only 1hp and almost all his spells spent. Rather than joining the others on shore to fight the vrocks, he decided to go harry other ships from under the water, alone. Of course, choosing to attack the Brine Harlot meant he encountered Vanthus early, alone, and on 1hp. I need not clarify how that single combat went. When the vrocks were dealt with, Vanthus revealed himself to the party and cast the druid's severed head at their feet. Nice climactic battle, he winds up down to something like 3 hit points and brings out the pearl and gets it bloody. Dies to the paladin, and the pearl falls from his hands -- oh fuck -- but they manage to keep it from shattering.
Honestly could not have asked for a better battle here. Multiple players went down temporarily and were healed, they blew almost all their spells, they were all expecting a TPK by the time it was over but only sustained one actual death (the aforementioned druid). And bringing in Vanthus as a demon-thing was just wonderful design on the authors' part in my opinion. It merges the Vanderboren plot-thread with the Abyssal plot thread in a wonderful way.