The Laughing Horde of Ruin, Part 1 is an adventure that takes a party of 4 characters from level 1 to level 5, by James James MacMurray.
This is part one of the adventure. The story takes place in an area around the Sea of Fallen Stars, of the Forgotten Realms. The characters are tasked with rescuing the son of an associate of theirs. He has disappeared from where he lives and there’s not much known other than that. So they have to travel there and find out what’s going on.
However, they will discover that behind this disappearance hides a much more serious threat. There’s a slavery ring that eventually leads back to gnolls that want to bring Yeenoghu to the material plane. However, that part isn’t included in this adventure.
The adventure is divided in 5 chapters, with each one covering a different section of the story. The first two chapters include the beginning and the journey towards the place the missing person lives. Instead of handwaving this part, or suggesting to use encounters here if you want, the author provides some interesting encounters. In fact, some of them could easily be considered smaller adventures that could be used separately. Of course, you can decide to skip them and move on to the main part of the adventure. However, they can play part in the story at some point, and it could prove helpful to the players if they go through them.
In the third chapter, the characters reach the region the missing person used to live in and start their search, because there have been more disappearances in the meantime. There’s an orc tribe that isn’t responsible for the disappearances, but poses a threat to the area and also acts like a red herring. It’s an interesting side quest because it questions the morals of the characters at one point.
Eventually, the characters will discover where the ones responsible for the disappearances are coming from and they will have to explore a dead dragon’s lair. It’s a nice dungeon delve, but gets extra points because I liked the idea of putting a dungeon in an already cleared dungeon. That’s also where they learn about the slavery ring which will lead them to the next chapter of the adventure.
The fourth chapter is pretty much a big dungeon delve. The characters will get the opportunity to explore a lost dwarven city, while trying to find more information about the slavers. In this place they will have to face both the slavers and things that have made this place their home. They will also get the chance to make an ally in the form of a revenant, which I think is an awesome idea. If the players go full killing machines, however, they will miss a really interesting character that also provides ways to progress the story differently. At the end of this chapter, the characters will escape the dwarven city and go to the next place the leads take them, which is a port city.
In chapter five, which is also the final one, the characters have to decide how to approach the situation. At this point they know that a Drow pirate is part of the slavery ring so they will have to approach her. They can try to make an ally out of the city council and end up having a naval battle with the pirates, or make a deal with the pirates that will lead them to a dungeon delve beneath the city. Both choices are interesting and will provide entertainment to the players, but personally I found the dungeon delve more intriguing. It involves sewers infested with wererats and kuo-toa.
The adventure ends with a lead to the next destination but it will be covered in the next part.
I’d like to mention something here. This is a big adventure and, since it contains a few dungeon delves, there are many rooms to be covered. I didn’t really think that there were empty rooms. Of course, there isn’t a combat encounter for every room but the details given about each of them made them interesting. The editing and layout are okay overall, but they could use a bit more work in a couple of places.
As expected for an 80 pages long adventure, there are a lot of encounters. Since many different areas are visited, there’s a good variety of monsters to be found. Overall, the encounters seem balanced but there are a couple of them that could be considered above average. Especially for the first couple of levels, encounters can be lethal even if the math behind them is right. I suggest giving them a look and possibly making some changes if you decide running them.
There are also a few traps and puzzles included. Their difficulty varies but all of them look interesting.
One thing I’d like to mention is that I noticed a lot of skill checks with a high DC. There are quite a few DC 20 skill checks, and I even saw a DC 25 one. Given that the adventure is for levels 1 to 5, some of them may be impossible for the characters to succeed.
There isn’t a lot of art in this adventure. The cover is nice, but you won’t find a lot of art in the interior. Each chapter begins with a very nice black and white sketch but that’s it, mostly. The are a lot of of maps, however. Well, if there weren’t that many it would be much harder to use the adventure. That’s mostly because of the dungeon delves.
There’s a lot of extra content included in this adventure. It includes a new faction, new monsters, and a few magical items.
Then there’s a new class with three subclasses. It’s called the Windsoul and revolves around having an animal companion. It wants the companion to actually be an important aspect of the class and I believe it succeeds. I can see a few classes it gets ideas from but, flavor wise, it feels like an interesting combination of Druid and Ranger. The subclasses try to make it as much versatile as possible, each one giving it a very different way to approach combat.
The only note here is that it increases the complexity of the game for the player, because they have to pretty much keep track of two characters, since the companion can have skill proficiencies and feats.
Since I mentioned feats, there are some new ones included. There are three new ones for characters. One is a whip related feat that makes it a bit better. The second one tinkers with opportunity attacks and the third one with grapples. I think these two, if combined, have the potential to create a very interesting character.
There are also feats for animal companions, but most of them are Player’s Handbook feats that have been included in this list so that the companion can use them.
Overall, The Laughing Horde of Ruin, Part 1 is a pretty good adventure. It provides a very intriguing story and makes good use of all three pillars of adventure. I’m interested in seeing how the story unfolds in the next parts because we have been promised Gnolls and a battle with Yeenoghu.
Edit: The author asked me to let you know that there’s a holiday sale going on. There’s a bundle that includes the adventure and its battle map pack at half the price that can be found here. I’m only mentioning it because, even if you’re interested in getting the adventure, the bundle costs less than the adventure.