Goblins have invaded Kiris Dahn, once a jewel in the crown of Nerath, the fallen human kingdom. Within its plundered ruins lie treasures yet to be unearthed, including the last of the slaying stones - deadly relics from bygone wars. Even now, evil forces scour the ruins in search of the stone, but they are not alone! Adventurers have come to Kiris Dahn, bringing death and destruction in their wake.
"The Slaying Stone" is a stand-alone DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® adventure designed for 1st-level characters. It fits easily into any homebrew campaign and features an easy-to-run encounter format and a full-color, double-sided battlemap.
After finishing their initial series of modules for 4e D&D, Wizards of the Coast took a step back to revamp their approach, openly soliciting feedback on how to add more depth to adventures. The Slaying Stone (2010) is the first of the new series of adventures that arose from that feedback. It differs in several regards from the 4e D&D adventures that preceded it: smaller scope, lower price, all-color, less linear, better DM support, and more roleplaying encounters. The result is a fun and exciting adventure with over a dozen encounters and extremely good gameplay, a module that helps show the GM how to adapt as players use untraditional approaches to solving the adventure.
This is an excellent introduction to D&D for new adventurers.
Making Smart DMing Decisions. It's much easier to improvise an encounter when you know what a NPC's goals are. The Slaying Stone gives details of all factions and NPC motivations right up front, providing the DM the tools to run monsters and encounters "off-book." This high-level view of the different factions and their goals allows for easy customization during play, riffing off of the specified encounters in the written adventure and expanding outwards into the game world.
The module also provides several variant plot threads, giving the DM the ability to adjust the module on the fly without the players ever noticing. For instance, cynical players may become suspicious of their employers after being burned in other adventures. If that happens here, the DM is given advice on ways to use that to their advantage in a way that makes the entire adventure more exciting. Plot themes and hooks also are laid out cleanly and clearly on two pages. If the initial plot hooks doesn't reel in the PCs and make them interested in the adventure, alternatives are given that might do the trick instead.
There is also a rough timeline for the DM that aids in planning encounters, suggestions as to which encounters to use in order to maximize pacing, bonus encounters, character backgrounds, and an open-ended choice of solutions to the characters' mission. It's up to the players whether to make this a more combat-oriented solution or to play one faction off against another through the use of diplomacy or subterfuge. That's not something you'll commonly see in printed adventures.
Taken as a whole, these techniques are tremendously useful in a D&D game, and this adventure is particularly good for newer DMs because it models a good way to think about adventure design. Tools like the ones in The Slaying Stone make the difference between (1) a module that becomes rigid and unwieldy as soon as the PCs start to range off track and (2) a module that instead helps build the game world and that stays fun through multiple sessions.
More adventures should include similar techniques.
Set the Hook. The one complaint commonly heard about this adventure is that the default premise is less compelling than it could be. The heroes are sent off to destroy a magical stone that can kill anything it hits. The problem is, the stone works only within a 5 mile radius of the city, and only once. That makes its destruction somewhat less compelling as a plot hook. It's not uncommon for players to simply suggest that their patron move, or to suspect that her motivations are less than pure.
There are many ways around this problem with the module's premise, of course, and quite a few of them are detailed in the adventure for the DM to use. Regardless, it's admittedly a somewhat weak beginning for an otherwise superb adventure. A small amount of patching on the part of the DM quickly brings the introductory hook up to the level of the other encounters.
Overall Conclusions. In addition to the robust encounter design and advice, The Slaying Stone is a beautiful adventure to look at. It's all-color, with an attractive and clear graphic design and a brand new style of stat block to help run monsters on the fly.
Most importantly, though, this is an adventure you won't want to miss: Not only is it fun and non-linear, but it shows a DM how to better design her own adventures, and that's something worth reading for any DM, no matter how experienced.
About the Creators. Logan Bonner has a bio for Amazon.com that includes a photograph of himself paying tribute to Yoda. A former editor for Wizards of the Coast and a prolific game designer who worked on dozens of books, he's now a freelance writer, designer, and editor who lives in the Seattle area. His Creative Commons-licensed game Refuge in Audacity is an over-the-top pastiche and parody of bad 90s RPGs and comics. Don't miss it.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.