This post is the introduction to a series that looks at Thunderspire Labyrinth, the second Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition published adventure. Click the link at the bottom of this post or scroll through the archive to read the complete series.
Thunderspire Labyrinth, by Richard Baker and Mike Mearls, is the second official adventure module released for 4th Edition.
Thunderspire is a self-contained adventure and suitable to be played straight out of its packaging, but for players of Keep on the Shadowfell, the attraction of Thunderspire is that it's billed as a sequel to Keep. Where Keep took characters from level 1 all the way to level 3, Thunderspire picks up the baton and covers levels 4 to 6. It's located in the same Nentir Vale setting as Keep, and players might reasonably expect Thunderspire to provide a continuation of the themes and plotlines that Keep set in motion.
On that count, they'll be sorely disappointed. The links between the two modules end up being trivial at best. Thunderspire is a wholly unrelated adventure with no continuing storylines or villains.
Additionally, where Keep made an effort to introduce new players to the diverse strengths of 4th Edition, Thunderspire is a more staid outing. Key mechanics are ignored completely or used poorly, and once again the loot opportunities are underwhelming at best. The first half of the adventure is dominated by a series of repetitive knock-down fights and it's only after the intermission that the module delivers the kind of classic D&D dungeoneering that rewards non-standard tactics and player resourcefulness.
Thunderspire is still a superior product to Keep. Set in the sprawling ruins of an abandoned minotaur city, Thunderspire provides a more interesting location than Keep's generic village, and sets its meanderings in the context of interesting NPCs, compelling sidequests and surprisingly usable optional encounters. Its layout is modular, letting you easily customise it or play it episodically. And while there's still a host of typographical errors and notable lacunae, they're neither as frequent nor as critical as Keep's unending parade of mediocrity.
Over the next few weeks I'm planning to go through the highs and the lows of this module. I'll be looking at what works and what doesn't, and as far as possible attempting to explain why. Feel free to follow along, and use the comments to tell me why I'm wrong.
(See all posts on Thunderspire Labyrinth.)