This massive high-level module is 58 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.
Okay! Being written for level 17-18 characters, we can expect some epic reasons for adventuring – and here they are: 2 days ago, the schemes of the vile witch Vakelna came to fruition when she conducted a ritual to turn THE WHOLE POPULATION OF THE KINGDOM of Kelwyk into toads. The kingdom would be lost, were it not for one sloppy flaw in the ritual and the fortuitous fact that Iselin, the king’s advisor, was travelling the astral plane when the ritual was unleashed. Now, while he can’t locate the witch to reverse the epic hex, he does contact the PCs, for he knows where to start searching:
Some years ago, Vakelna was slain by the dragon Arovarax and reclaim her former body. Travelling there will prove to be no problem thanks to the PC’s massive resources, but the lair itself will not be a cake-walk – the dragon is worshipped by a ridiculously powerful guard of elite troglodytes. Fighting said menaces, the PCs can rescue a band of hapless adventurers – The Justiciars of Justice. Yes. The Paladin of the group ends every sentence with “and to vanquish evil!” and similar statements, providing comic relief (all too rarely seen in modules!) – powerful, but outclassed by both opposition and PCs, they should bring a few smiles to the faces of your players in a nice change of pace from testing their mettle versus mithril golems, tataka rakshasas and the Cr 20 advanced wyrm blue dragon Arovarax, who will use a combination of his mirage and breath weapon to deadly effect.
Further complicating things, the kingdom of Stonevale, long-time rivals of Kelwyk, have no intention of letting the PCs save their rivals and thus have taken steps: The Thorn Company, the best adventuring party/agents the kingdom can muster, has been sent to take care of the PCs and end them: And end them they may – a high-level adventuring party striking from an ambush as a dynamic factor should challenge all but the best of groups to their limits.
Returning to Kelwyk with the corpse of Vakelna, Iselin locates Vakelna’s current incarnation -she is within the kingdom’s Legacy oak – and she isn’t. Sheltered away in a demiplane, the PCs will have to research a ritual to allow for gate to properly bring them there: Unfortunately, a fire has claimed the tome that contained said ritual and now, the clockwork librarian is the only hope. His memory has been jumbled, though, and in order to jog his cogs, the PCs will have to solve essentially a word-jigsaw-puzzle (not too hard, btw.) that comes with neat handouts to cut out and give to your players – and yes, all the various ways to cheat puzzles via spells at higher levels are addressed.
Solving the puzzle, the PCs can now travel into the Legacy Oak’s demiplane to challenge Vakelna – if they survive their way through the huge tree-dungeon, in which not only gigantic lice, sap demons and similar threats lurk. Worse, the tree’s “immune-system” is active and sards, terrifyingly powerful plat-creatures, will seek to exterminate intruders as well. The PCs may also inadvertently unleash perhaps the most powerful pugwampi ever statted (who comes with a new feat a new magic item) – who not only seeks to trick the PCs, but also wants to claim Vakelna’s cauldron for himself. Speaking of which:
3 young linnorms guarding the entrance to the final fight should provide enough time for Vakelna to cast her impressive buff-list and generally prepare herself and her 6 CR 14 giant twigjacks rogue for a memorable showdown. Reversing the transformation, the PCs are hailed as heroes and quite possibly, planar threats await just around the corner.
The pdf can be scaled down to level 15-16 or up to 19-20 via information provided herein and the second appendix collates the new feat, magic items and two new creatures (Gargantuan Bark Beetles, baby!) and the two maps are also provided in player-friendly b/w-version in an extra pdf.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, elegant b/w-standard and the artworks provided are original and nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the b/w-cartography provided is neat.
Author Ron Lundeen tries his hand at one epic high-level adventure breathing the spirit of broad repercussions appropriate for the level and manages to provide a module that challenges beyond its statblock-builds and also offers some food for the mind. Mind you, that does not mean that your level 17-18 PCs should forget what they’ve learned throughout their careers, for this module is anything but a cakewalk and requires some smart tactics to triumph.
Appropriately epic in scope, challenging and versatile, Kingdom of Toads provides great fodder for starved aficionados of high-level gaming in a neat module that I can wholeheartedly recommend. If I had to nitpick one thing, then it would be that the apex predator does fight in his underground lair and that the final dungeon could have used some REALLY nasty terrain-features to make it feel more…alien and distinct. Still, that’s nitpicking at a very high level and hence my review will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.