“Lost for centuries, the Tomb of the Iron Kings beckons, whispering of ancient tyrants and treasures to be taken. Foolish or brave, who can say, for no one returns from the depths of the mouldering tomb.“
Paul Ste. Marie presents us with an adventure for 3-5 characters ranging from first to third level. Tomb of the Iron Kings is solid first adventure and would probably be best suited for beginner players as it has a nice balance of exploration, roleplay, and battle with a clear end point giving the party its first taste of treasure.
Players are essentially tomb raiding to see what they find. I like the fact this adventure dives right in with minimal backstory. Doing so allows Dungeon Masters to craft their own story to fit the adventure into. Ste. Marie provides two hooks to motivate players–a chance encounter and a simple ‘you’ve found an old map.’ As first level characters, players don’t need a overarching plot or purpose for their adventuring. At this stage, players are looking to find treasure so they can have the means to do what they want and experience so they live to accomplish it.
The treasure players discover once they’ve gotten to the heart of the tomb is not insignificant–525 gold pieces worth of gems, a expensive breastplate, and a combined 103 gp in assorted currency. The really interesting discovering is a Masterwork Thieves’ Tools which is described as “Although not truly magical, this finely made tool kit allows you to double your proficiency bonus for any ability check made using this tool.” For this item alone, the adventure is worth playing as it’ll set players up for wanting to continue to play so as to use their new set of tools. This is the kind of treat that needs to be in not just low level adventures but also higher level ones; players enjoy discovering items or bits of information they can carry over into subsequent campaigns.
The details of the tomb are specific without ever being too involved, giving DMs the freedom to flavor the space as they see fit but not so open as to leave one guessing. There is an NPC encounter (a hermit and its pet giant rat) offering the opportunity for roleplay that is unobtrusive while providing necessary information to the party. The encounter challenge rating are appropriate for the level and easily augmented in number should context require it. Also, by using maps made by Dyson Logos, players and DMs will have a clear and elegant sense of where they are and where they can/should go. The map players get could easily be printed on faux-parchment so that when handed over the players get a fun treat and not just an excellent map.
Unless DMs decide to augment the enemies encountered or traps within, I don’t think this adventure is challenging enough for players who aren’t starting out at first level. First level players will get the most out of this–coin and experience–while not ever feeling overwhelmed. Also, Ste. Marie has written an easy to follow and direct adventure for beginner DMs to run as it has plenty of spaces to add individual flourish.
Tomb of the Iron Kings is an engaging beginning adventure, an excellent way to kick off a campaign for both experienced and new players/DMs. It moves quickly and can be finished in one evening but gives players/DM enough room to improvise and experiment. It can also be inserted into a campaign with minimal effort to augment an already written storyline or to provide players with a brief side-quest. All in all, this is a good adventure to run.
Recommended party: A paladin or cleric and a thief rogue will find their skills best used in this adventure but even a party without these classes will be able to have fun and get a lot out of it.