The Iron Bastion: Rise of the Blood Watch is an adventure for 4-5 1st level characters by Rich Lescouflair.
It’s the first part of the Iron Bastion adventure series set in Anchorome, a continent west of Faerun. Also, it is accompanied by a Player’s Guide which I highly recommend using. It provides some background history for the campaign as well as new character options.
The story of the adventure is really good. It begins with the characters visiting a camp that has been attacked by bandits but the pace picks up fast, as an ancient evil begins to surface once more. It may seem a little railroady at some points. However, various tips regarding possible decisions made by the players at these points are provided in order to handle that smoothly.
The adventure is split in three chapters. The first and the third are small, well made, adventures by themselves. The second one is a small sandbox. There’s a fully fleshed out city that can even be used outside of this campaign. It also leaves space for the DM to add their own content. In the city, various quests can be found, most of them progressing the main story one way or another.
There are quite a few NPCs in the adventure. All of them have been fully fleshed out, even with a stat block since they can take part in fights, and some of them have interesting personalities for the DM to mess with.
The layout of the adventure is pretty good. However, the editing needs some improving. There are quite a few errors that can be found in the adventure, but thankfully only a couple of them can be annoying for the DM. I hope this gets fixed in the future because it’s the only thing that I found to be lacking in this product.
What I liked a lot in this adventure is the fact that the background of the characters can be integrated in the story. This can be easily done if the players decide to use content from the Player’s Guide or the background options provided in the adventure. While that’s optional, as a DM I’d recommend to my players to use this content. It’s really good and adds a lot to the story.
Another optional rule is Sanity. It resembles Madness quite a bit but has some different mechanics. While its use is optional, I highly suggest using it because it’s heavily integrated in the story. It may make the encounters more difficult but it’s worth it since it will also make them more interesting. Also, in many of the quests, NPCs can join the fights as well so, if you’re worried about the difficulty of the encounters, you can use them.
Moreover, the adventure introduces quite a few new monsters, three new spells, and three new magic items.
There’s a lot of beautiful art used in this product. The cover art is breathtaking and I’m not just saying that because I love dragons. Inside you can find art pieces of various sizes, depicting NPCs, places, and other scenes which are as good.
As for the maps, there are ten of them and all of them are great. They are quite detailed and accompanied be descriptions of the places they depict. One area does not have a map because it will be included in the next part of the campaign and also the characters won’t be staying there for long.
I’d like to mention here that this product is neither a one shot nor a read once and run adventure. It needs some preparation from the DM before running it. That’s not bad at all because it’s a good way for new DMs to get accustomed to using bigger products. Also, if you want to have a taste of the style of the adventure, the first chapter is available as a preview.
Overall, The Iron Bastion: Rise of the Blood Watch is a very good adventure. Apart of the editing errors there’s nothing bad about it. If you want to run an adventure that will fill a couple of sessions it’s perfect for you and the story will leave your players wanting to play the next part.