Hello readers! For my Wednesday article this week I’m going to be taking a read through of Attack on Coppercoil by Tal Aviezer and RP Davis There’s been a fair bit of buzz around this adventure, and it has already received several 5 star reviews and ratings. As of writing (15th September 2018), the adventure has not yet achieved a best-seller status. It is available on the DMsGuild for $2.95, but there is a free preview for those who aren’t able to afford the full adventure, or want a preview of what it contains.
For those of you who’ve not read my reviews before, I use a trinity of qualities to review products, which are Design, Writing & Production. Design here will focus on the narrative of the adventure, as well as any mechanics presented. Writing is more about the style of writing than it’s content, namely how interesting, well-edited and comprehensive it is. Production focuses on layout and artwork primarily, but also the flow of the document.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this product, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be honest with my opinions.
Attack on Coppercoil is an adventure for Tier 1 (1st – 4th level) for 4-5 characters. It doesn’t proclaim to be an introductory adventure, but states that it is designed for 1 or 2 sessions of play, at 42 pages long, I feel like it might be more. It was first uploaded to the Guild on the 8th September 2018. The adventure is set in the gnome outpost of Coppercoil, which has been assaulted by duergar (one of my favourite foes)!
As with most adventures, Attack on Coppercoil begins with a comprehensive introduction. Unlike most, it starts with a quote from Julius Caesar. Not sure how I feel about real-world quotes in fantasy world games, but I guess it’s inspiring. We have a section regarding adjusting the difficulty of combat encounters, which has become a staple of many adventures over the past year or so. Whilst I do think these are useful for newer DMs, I often find they take up unnecessary page space if provided for each encounter. Having a summary at the beginning of the adventure is a good way to save space later on.
After the housekeeping, we get an evocative but concise background regarding Coppercoil, which turns out to be a forest gnome settlement founded by Rooni Larderspice the gnome in an enormous tree stump. It goes on to detail a few more relevant NPCs, and give potential settings in both the Forgotten Realms and Eberron. The adventure hook is that the party have received a messenger bat from Rooni asking for their help. The author also provides additional content should you want to extend your game, by statting out a party of evil adventurers who also found one of the bats.
Part 1 – The Bat’s Message
In part one of the adventure we get given a short read aloud about the arrival of the bat, and potential interactions the characters might have with the animal if they can speak with it in some way. We also get a use of the word hibernaculum which, as a Zoology graduate, I highly approve of. We’re also provided with some additional adventure hooks if the characters aren’t motivated enough, and yet more additional content in an appendix. This section of the adventure is only really a page long, and probably could have been worked into the introduction, but nevertheless contains useful information. The best element for me is the idea of the injured and exhausted bat leading the characters to Coppercoil. It’s a unique and memorable way to be led into adventure.
Design: 4/5 Although this section contains nothing outstanding, the narrative throughout is strong, and the bat-trail is a nice touch. It’s also nice to see the author accounting for interaction with the bat, which is certainly feasible thanks to low level spells such as Speak with Animals.
Writing: 4/5 Writing is comprehensive and well edited. The short read aloud text is descriptive enough to set a scene, without becoming verbose.
Production: 3/5 The layout of the product is distinctly average so far. Although effort has been taken to use a canvas background texture, the font and boxes are simple and sometimes ill-fitting. We do get a colour map of Coppercoil before the adventure starts, but there is no scale provided, and the colouring is quite similar making it useful only as basic reference.
Part 2 – Outside Coppercoil
Again, part 2 is short and sweet, giving details about the characters’ arrival at Coppercoil and their various methods of entry. It’s good design to provide some player agency early on in the adventure, as it helps players feel like they are guiding the narrative of the adventure, if only by a small amount with each decision. Having said this, the options of entry other than the main entrance are blocked to some extent by the high DC checks required to enter them. The bat shutters for example require a DC 30 Wisdom (Perception) check to be spotted, and then a DC 25 Strength check to open them, followed by a DC 20 Strength check to keep them open if other characters wish to enter through. For a Tier 1 character, DC 30 is essentially impossible. Even if you manage to get a 20 on your Wisdom (+5) you still can’t roll a 30 on a skill check. Even if you roll a 20, and receive something like Guidance or Bardic Inspiration you’re unlikely to hit that DC.
That is essentially all this part of the adventure provides. The location itself is truly fantastic, which is nice for a low Tier adventure, and the description of it is well crafted. I especially like the small details about the lookout post.
Design: 3/5 The author provides some player agency, which is good to see, but gates some if it with near impossible skill checks.
Writing: 3/5 Whilst the writing is again comprehensive, and the read aloud is a joy to read, there is some iteration of rules (such as those for falling and darkness) that should be removed, or referenced to at the most. I see this quite a lot in adventures, so perhaps people do like to have them repeated, but for me they just take up space. Although there are a lot of measurements provided, they don’t appear in the read aloud text which is good.
Production: 3/5 Same notes as previously. Artwork has been provided here showing the outside of Coppercoil, but is it rather small and hard to read, and thus not of much use.
Part 3 – Coppercoil
This section of the adventure details Coppercoil in amazing detail. Each area has its own read aloud text (though some is incorrectly formatted) and at least a column of information regarding what it’s used for, what events might take place within it, what treasure can be found there, and what the potential methods of accessing and interacting with it the party have. At the start of part 3 we are also given an exhaustive General Features sidebar. In general, I absolutely love the information provided here, there are some great interactions that the party and NPCs could have with zipwires, pulley lifts, and particularly the bat shutters which let in natural light to stun the duergar. The duergar themselves are often named, and provided with tactics sections including a new poison which they have used on their crossbows.
Although the quantity of detail in this section is great to have, I actually think it’s rather overwhelming. In many cases, the description of one room can take up a page or more in total, sometimes containing information that is, in my mind, unnecessary. In some areas we are seeing rules written out in full again, which would be better referenced than written out. There is some amazing content scattered through this section of the book, including some memorable NPCs and cinematic combat opportunities, but in general the text is not concise enough to display this information without having to sift it through several readings.
Design: 5/5 There are some amazing opportunities here for characters to take actions that influence their environment and combat within Coppercoil. The encounters are varied and balanced, and there are fresh challenges such as riddles. Much of what is presented here is highly imaginative and unique.
Writing: 2/5 The unfortunate truth here is that the writing and editing is worse than average. Much of the descriptive text here is brilliant, and the design of the areas and encounters are superb, but there is so much additional information that makes it hard to distil. There are the same issues with restating what can be found in other books, not just rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook, but paragraph descriptions of monsters that could be read by the DM in the relevant book.
Production: 3/5 The production in this section of the adventure is fine. The information could be presented a little better in many places, but the frequent sidebars, read aloud boxes and (albeit mismatched) artwork help to break up the text. I like the picture of the giant snail a lot.
Part 4 – Aftermath & Appendixes
This round-up at the end of the adventure provides potential rewards the characters might have earned, as well as providing story hooks for future adventures. This is not something you always see in published adventures, and it’s nice to be given some idea of where I could take the story next.
The appendixes contain the additional content mentioned throughout the adventure, such as new encounters, as well as new monsters and magic items. These are all interesting and well balanced, with accurate CRs. The magic items especially have a lo of flavour, and are a great addition to the product. The final appendix contains the half-dozen or so player handouts for the adventure. Whilst these are quite simple, and might be better made than printed, they give a good idea of resources that would help liven up the game, and give players something to look at. The wanted poster especially would be a great prop at the table.
Design: 5/5 The monsters and magic items are balanced, and several of them are truly great additions to the game. The inclusion of player handouts and adventure hooks going forward really make this conclusion stand out.
Writing: 3/5 The writing of magic items and monsters, as well as the conclusion is clear and concise. The additional encounter content is again a little wordy to take in all at once, but does a good job of outlining what the encounter is, and what actions are taken during it, after you’ve refined the information somewhat.
Production: 3/5 We’re given some good sketch art here in the appendixes, and the player handouts are quite well designed too. Although the stat blocks are well laid out, several of them are cut in half by page-breaks, which is something that irks me.
Conclusion – 3.5/5
This adventure truly contains some great encounters, and is set in a fantastic location that the characters can interact with in a variety of ways to help keep the session fun and inspiring. The NPCs presented have a lot of detail which helps bring them to life, and I think most players would get a real kick out of the adventure. Unfortunately, the product is let down by an overbearing amount of detail in some areas, which should have been cut down or removed entirely. I think the adventure is very well designed, but could use some refining. Despite this, I honestly think this product is worth buying and running, especially for the cheap price. Perhaps with some funds the author will be able to touch up the production and get some additional artwork to help keep consistent quality throughout. I think an experienced DM could run an amazing few sessions with this adventure.