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October 2, 2016

Storm King’s Blunder

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my daughter had been playing with some giant minis, and when I went to our local game store to further pad out our roster I noticed Storm King’s Thunder amidst their tiny 5th Edition selection. Now, I don’t play or like 5th Edition (I’ve still got some 3rd Edition books if I ever wanna go through that again) but I figure it’s got giants and maybe I can at least mine the adventure for something.

So there’s this kinda-sorta vague hierarchy to giants called the ordning. Best I can tell it lets giants know where they stand in regards to other giants, but it doesn’t explain why any of them should actually give a fuck about it: does being higher on the hierarchy make giants better in some tangible way? Like, if hill giants were on top would they all get more Hit Dice and some psuedo-Vancian magic? Conversely, would storm giants lose anything if they were knocked down a peg or two?

The various giant types don’t even really interact with each other much, so even if, say, storm giants were bumped to the bottom they could just hang out in their underwater palaces, ignore the other giants, and just do whatever it is that storm giants do (like fail to predict things, if this adventure is any indicator). Even if other giants somehow came knocking, unless an ordning downgrade renders you mechanically weaker they could still blow up the other giants with their recharging lightning bolts.

I’m trying to wrap my head around it because this vague hierarchy thing is the reason why the giants are doing anything at all: the head-honcho giant god scraps the ordning, and all the giants scramble about doing random things like getting super fat and killing humans in hopes that they’ll somehow make a new ordning and be higher up than before (for what’s worth, which very well might be nothing at all).

There’s also a murder mystery thrown in for some reason. I’m not questioning it like, “Why did the author bother to include it”, but “Why is it a fucking mystery at all?” See, storm giants are allegedly prophets and oracles: it’s right there in the Monster Manual, which includes flavor text like, “They can foretell the rise and fall of kings and empires, see the beginnings and ends of fortune and disaster…”

Of course this is 5th Edition, so like the flavor paragraph that starts with solitary lives I’m not surprised that this is completely ignored. Otherwise, how would Hekaton (the eponymous Storm King), his wife Neri, Serissa (the good daughter), and other storm giants not predict something like the evil daughters teaming up with a blue dragon polymorphed into a storm giant (also something that no one picks up on) in order to murder Neri and frame a bunch of humans for it?

Oh yeah, spoilers.

Even if there was some bullshit reason why no one could predict all this bad shit from happening (like, I dunno, a super specific pseudo-Vancian spell that was just happened to be found/developed and used to prevent the events from being predicted), you’d think Hekaton would question how a bunch of humans could possibly murder Neri, what with her ability to, for starters, breathe underwater and shoot lightning bolts, or figure out why they would even bother murdering her because she apparently enjoyed visiting them.

To be fair Hekaton does try out the latter, but only after Serissa convinces him to give it a shot, but it doesn’t matter because in an equally baffling twist he gets captured and spends most of the adventure tied up on a boat in magical stasis (handy to avoid having to deal with giant poops).

Now, I hear you: the background sucks and makes no fucking sense. Par for the course when it comes to Wizards of the Coast, right? So, fuck it: skip all that and just run the adventure. The players don’t need to know that nothing about this makes any sense, and who knows maybe most of it won’t even come up anyway, or maybe you can pull shit out of your ass/mod the adventure so that it makes sense down the road.

Sorry, but the adventure bits also suck and make no sense.

It opens with the characters traveling to a town called Nightstone, because it’s built around an obelisk that radiates magic but no one knows what it does for some reason. Some suggested hooks are that the characters have heard about goblins attacking it, signing up as guards for nobles going hunting, helping the town mediate problems with elves, and talking to an innkeeper about actual adventure hooks.

None of that matters, as by the time the characters arrive the town has already been busted up by cloud giants for no fucking reason: they wanted the obelisk in the village square, but instead of just going into the village to take it, barter for it, or borrow it, they drop big ass rocks on the town first. This causes the villagers to flee much further than necessary to escape, after which the giants just plop down, nab the giant obelisk, and leave.

So now the characters gotta go to some caves and rescue the villagers, who fled for over a mile to an area that was known to be inhabited by goblins and somehow got captured by them. Dunno why they didn’t just run really far, stop, see that the giants just wanted the obelisk, and return to town to pick up the pieces, but hey now the characters get to grind some goblins for XP so they can get high enough level to maybe start actually dealing with giants.

Once the villagers are rescued a random dwarf offers up three quests to the characters who he just met, all of which are “villager x was killed in some way, so go to town y and let them know”. Whether or not the characters want to travel all the way to a town to deliver some news to someone they don’t know at the behest of someone they just met, a goofy-looking flying wizard-hat tower shows up.

I guess it is presumed that the characters enter it, where they meet a cloud giant wizard that has been using contact other plane spells to figure out how to fix the ordning. You know, that thing that giants really care about for no discernible reason. It’s kind of funny that he has access to pseudo-Vancian magic that lets him do things that storm giants are alleged to do, and I find it awfully convenient that he just so happens to “hold small folk in higher regard than most giants”, his magic has led him to the characters, and he thinks they can make everything better.

Oddly, despite his magic telling him not to take a direct hand in things (also convenient so that the characters can’t pal around with a cloud giant wizard), he offers to take them to whatever place they were going to go originally. Of course, if the characters refused to take one of Random Dwarf’s quests or want to go somewhere else, his tower takes them to one of the towns anyway.

Before you hit the end of this particular plot railroad you can run into elemental cultists, who try to get the cloud giant to help them do something else that doesn’t impact the adventure at all. They give him some pixie dust to try and butter him up, which he then turns around and gives to the party because he feels bad. You read that right: he gives away a magic item to people he just met because he feels bad.

Another thing that can happen is that a silver dragon carrying some dwarves shows up, because this is D&D and you gotta water down the impact that you’d think dragons should have. The dwarves just want to break the cloud giant’s magic orb that makes his flying tower go (I guess they know how flying cloud giant towers work). Luckily, even if the party kills a dwarf but then gets their asses handed to them, the other dwarves just knock the party out because why would you want this adventure to end?

At this point if you and your players are still on board, no matter where they go/are “accidentally” delivered to the town gets attacked by a category of giants and some other level appropriate monsters to help pad out the encounter. During the attack the players get to control an NPC, and if the NPC survives the attack they give the character another bullshit quest to do, with rewards ranging from treasure to magic items (because of course people would dole out magic items to people they just met).

And thus concludes Chapter 2. There’s more, but I lost interest before the end of Chapter 1. Now to go look through those boxes of 1st and 2nd Edition D&D swag I picked up a few months ago, to see if any of the Against the Giants adventures are tucked in there somewhere: they can’t possibly be worse than this.

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2 Comments on “Storm King’s Blunder

Edward Wilson
October 3, 2016 at 10:06 pm

That sounds like a pretty crappy, railroady adventure. For the ordning, if you really wanted it in your campaign you could make it a religious tradition handed down by the gods of the giants or something.

David Guyll
October 5, 2016 at 2:16 am

@Edward: I'd explain why the giants care about the ordning. Like, I'd make it actually DO something, like affect the giants' abilities, maybe even intellect.

So, if the storm giants end up on the bottom, they'll become stupid and lose at least some of their magical powers.

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