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47 of 50 found the following review helpful:
A good Gygaxian dungeon rompFeb 08, 2009
By Michael Shea
"reader / writer"
This review is intended for Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters. It will contain spoilers. If you plan on playing through this adventure, stop now and go read some Penny Arcade instead.
Pyramid of Shadows is the third published adventure by Wizards of the Coast for the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It is also the third adventure in my current campaign. I will save you some time by skipping over the vital statistics of the adventure which you can find from almost any other review. Instead I will tell you what my group and I thought of the adventure.
I also recognize that sharing stories of someone else's D&D game is the nerd equivalent of sharing baby poop stories with other parents. You only REALLY care about your own baby poop story, so you suffer through another's poop story just so you can get out your own. I will skip the details of our own poop story - or our own travel through the Pyramid - and skip to what I believe to be useful information to run your own poop story...I mean Pyramid of Shadows adventure.
In short, Pyramid of Shadows is an excellent, entertaining, and balanced adventure. It is well worth the $17 from Amazon. The players' primary complaint was the lack of any sort of town where they could rest and buy and sell gear. This is sort of the point, however, so one cannot hold too much against it for that.
From a DM perspective, the Pyramid is an excellent throw back to the Gygaxian dungeons that made no ecological sense. Why on earth would three orcs be in a room right next to two umber hulks? What do they eat? Why have they not killed each other? How did they get past that huge spiked pit trap?
The adventure explains this by describing the Pyramid as a living changing structure. The walls, floors, and entire environments begin to morph and shift into a museum-display version of the habitat the inhabitant is used to. The white dragon has his own icy lair and the plant Arboreans have their own jungle habitat.
I took this part of the adventure a step further by describing, later in the game, that the pyramid itself is a living entity. It is a hellish construction, stuck out floating in the Far Realm, that twists and morphs itself around those living inside. For example, the bandit lord and his minions ended up in some strange bar or inn with fake mannequin-style barmaids and beer, neither of which brought real satisfaction to the hungry and randy bandits.
I made a few other modifications to the adventure that I thought built it out a bit better for our group. For one, in the Far Realm rooms later on in the adventure, I had an actual rift in the wall of the pyramid in room T5. It would seem the splinter of Karavakos within this section actually managed to tear open a wound in the pyramid but the terrible nightmarish void of the Far Realm warped him into the Far Realm Abomination. When the party killed him and left, the pyramid shut off this whole section, like cutting off a rotting hand.
I also made some major changes to Vyrellis. First, I had an actual physical skull I bought at a party store after Halloween. As the players found Vyrellis's gems, I put balls of construction paper into the eyes and teeth. Little did the party know that, all along, they were slowly building her out as a demi-lich. In the final battle, as the real Karavakos fell, she used her drain soul power to suck his soul into her tooth. Should the party had decided to battle her, I was prepared to use the Acererak Construct from the newly released and totally awesome Open Grave sourcebook for her stats. Alas, the party accepted her offer to leave the pyramid so she could float freely within her new tomb deep within the Far Realm while her astral projection explored all the planes had to offer.
The pyramid has many memorable encounters including a battle against an ettin head-taker, a white dragon, a powerful solo Otyugh called the Charnal Lord, a beast the pyramid uses as a huge garbage collector, and even a super mario style room of water and pipes. Overall my gaming group enjoyed the encounters. Again, their only complaint was the lack of any real place to stay.
The Wizards published adventures have only a couple of real disadvantages. One, they only come with two to four encounter maps. The Pyramid came with three. Given the huge number of rooms, it is unreasonable to assume they would include them all, but worse, Wizards own Dungeon Tiles don't work well to build out the other rooms. Why Wizards would not capitalize on their own products makes little sense. This same problem exists with the minis. Enough D&D miniatures have been released to this point that just about any creature in an adventure has a mini available, but it runs about $40 to $50 on the secondary market to buy all the minis required for an adventure. This gets really bad when the adventure calls for multiple rare minis such as three Skeletal Tomb Guardians (which run $8 a piece). Why Wizards is unable to coordinate their own products better is beyond me. Still, this is a minor complaint.
Overall, given the cost and the hours of entertainment for you and your group, the Pyramid of Shadows is an excellent adventure. The story is good, the encounters are fun, and the quality is high. My group enjoyed it one evening a week for ten weeks. I highly recommend it.
19 of 21 found the following review helpful:
Review H3 Pyramid of ShadowsJan 14, 2009
By W. Johnson
I like Pyramid of Shadows. I think it the best of the H series so far. There are some valid criticisms about being set in an extra dimensional space, I don't see the setting being used much to add to the module. However, I think it misleading to call it "just" a dungeon crawl.
While H3 *is* "just" a dungeon crawl in the most literal sense - the whole adventure other than the first encounter does takes place inside of a dungeon - it is a much more free form adventure plot wise. Unlike the prior H1 and H2 modules there really is a chance to deal with some of the different groups of monsters other than by just bonking on them. In Pyramid of Shadows there is a chance to play some groups off against each other if the party likes that type of thing. The pyramid is a micro political setting where there are opportunities to play the various groups off against each other. On the other hand the party is not forced to do this - if they just want to hack and slash they can.
I like H3 Pyramid of Shadows because I think it is written to accommodate different play styles much better than H1 and H2. I can see two very different style groups running this module and both enjoying the module and taking completely opposite approaches to beating the adventure.
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell I found to be "OK." It was a straight forward linear adventure that was fine for an introduction into 4E but certainly nothing special. H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth's setting was more interesting than H1, a mini Underdark area that really lent itself to being expanded upon - it would be easy to do a whole campaign based upon this module's setting.
H3 is different from the prior modules in it is written much more like a source book where you are given the main plot line and then given the different groups in the pyramids goals/objectives/personalities. In a module where the plot is not as linear, you can get to a point were the group may not know what to do next and that's where the artifact comes in - it will always be there to move the plot along. The artifact can be played in a variety of different personalities or styles to set the tone of the game the way your group enjoys it. You could play it strictly serious, or for laughs, or in between - whatever works for you. In Pyramid of Shadows I also *finally* see some real examples of using different types of terrain in different encounters to add interest. There's nothing earthshaking, but there was really none of this type of thing in H1 and really only a few instances in some encounters in H2. I'll rate this module 4 ½ stars.
8 of 8 found the following review helpful:
Lengthy dungeon crawl and can become boringSep 17, 2010
By Choy Juliet
I agree with most of the points given by the other reviewers, both negative and positive ones. Obviously those reviewers who have given a positive review are experienced GMs who would know how to modify the module to fit for his group.
To be frank, without any GM modification and interpretation, the Pyramid of Shadows standalone is just a lengthy and boring dungeon crawl.
Although with an interesting background story with the dungeon, there is no longer any story once you are into the dungeon. What most of the player groups would do is to simply kill all the monsters in the dungeon and escape out of it. No more. Not much chance to interact with NPC, unless the DM is very creative. It is unlike Thunderspire which the story unfold gradually with how PC and interacting with NPC.
With the first running with my group, provided that I am not a very experienced GM, they simply hacks all the monsters. Towards the end I sense that they found it very boring, so I had cut half of the third floor of the pyramid to end the game sooner.
So, my recommendation is do not use this module if you are a first-time DM.
7 of 10 found the following review helpful:
It's all about the DM!Apr 14, 2010
By Spiro J. Dousias
We just finished POS last night and I have to say, I'm going to miss Karavakos and Vyrellis. I can see how in unskilled hands this mod might fall flat, but with just a little bit of finesse my players loved their time in the pyramid.
The secret to making the pyramid work is to capitalize on diplomacy. True, the Charnel Lord won't listen, but there are many who will. Grash Vren, Camnor, Mendragal, even the White Dragon (who we called Hieverost) should all at least entertain diplomatic discussions, even if in the end they only hope to backstab their allies. In the final conflict with Karavakos, our group had teamed up with the Arboreans and the Shadow Karavakos, only to have the Arboreans change sides mid battle. So much fun.
These mods are a solid starting point for adventures. The rooms and collections of monsters and how they work together make for great battles but ultimately the DM has to breath life into it and customize it for your players.
If you just want to spend some cash and have a game that already does everything for you, go buy a PS3 and a game and you can check your brain at the door. If you want to create a collaborative experience that you and your friends will remember for years to come, this is the game for you.
one major problemJun 22, 2011
The Pyramid of Shadows is an extradimensional prison that PCs cannot escape until they have beat it.
But this creates a major problem for the DM -- and ultimately kind of a disappointing experience for the players.
See, because of this, the DM can never really switch things on and really set up some nail-bitingly close encounters for the players. He must always be merciful, since if a PC dies, there's no way for the characters to "go back to town" and maybe resurrect him. Thus the party strength is weakened and the dungeon is much more difficult.
Sure, the PCs should, by this level, be able to resurrect one of their own . . . but how many times? Supposing that they have materials to do this ritual twice, that's the limit of deaths the party can endure before the dungeon becomes unwinnable as written.
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