Bleeding Edge #2: Beyond the Towers is a 32 page d20 pdf adventure and the second in Green Ronin's Bleeding Edge line of adventures. The first, Mansion of Shadows, pitted the adventurers against the evils of the Staufen family, while this adventure takes them beyond the mountains to the swamps and further to the ruins of lost civilizations. The Bleeding Edge series of adventures is designed to challenge the modern player, by providing an intricate, story-driven, drop-and-play adventure for all players. While Beyond the Towers can be played as an individual scenario, it can also be played as a follow-on to the Mansion of Shadows, although without any overriding plot. This adventure is suitable for 4-8 characters of levels 2-4.
Beyond the Towers comes as a single, fully-bookmarked pdf file. The layout and general look is extremely professional and polished. Some of the artwork, most notable the overland maps and one or two of the smaller maps are of poorer quality (e.g. one has a typo 'Lonley' instead of 'Lonely'), but generally the artwork and map work is of a high standard. Green Ronin and author W. Jason Peck have put together a good piece of writing with a high standard of editing and stat blocks. This pdf, as is the norm for the Bleeding Edge line utilizes material from other sources, including such products as Advanced Bestiary, Advanced Race Codex: Gnomes, Hungry Little Monsters from Sean K. Reynolds Games and One Thousand Faces from Citizen Games. Stat blocks and new monsters are all presented in the lengthy appendix.
The adventure takes place in the swamplands beyond the peaks of the mountains, the Towers. Here the adventurers get the opportunity to explore the swamps and aid a renowned scholar and 'archaeologist' in uncovering the mysteries of the hidden civilizations of the swamps. All is naturally not as it seems and the PCs get involved with numerous sinister elements in the swamps and surroundings as they aid the professor in his quest. Bandits, swamp monsters, ancient ruins and other horrors all form part of this adventure, essentially a location-based dungeon crawl with a few bits of intrigue thrown in.
Organisation of the adventure is good - summary, background, scaling adventure, plot hooks and other details are all providing to give an overview and set the scene. The adventure makes good use of sidebars to provide optional or additional information. The premise of scholarly archaeologist is one that is interesting to explore, and offers up plenty of interesting possibilities for further adventures, mysteries, etc. Lots of roleplaying opportunity is also available as the characters wander around the Lonely Shore and have to deal with the various NPCs scattered through the area, some naturally with more sinister agendas.
The main part of this adventure as mentioned before is a dungeon crawl. What makes it slightly more interesting than your typical dungeon crawl is the presence of various NPCs and other figures and their role in the adventure. Perhaps a bit more could've been made of this, and certainly DMs should be able to spice it up to increase the thrill of the dungeon and the danger of the antagonists and their allies. By heart, though, it's still a dungeon crawl, but fortunately a well-thoughout one, though not necessarily an original one. Traps. Check. Buried monsters. Check. Things coming alive. Check. A lot of standard fare with some creativity or different takes on common themes for this kind of archaeological dungeon crawl.
There's a lot of interplay to be had if the DM is prepared to go beyond the scope of the adventure. Dangerous bandits, traitorous NPCs and rival scholars can all play important aspects in the adventure, allowing PCs to investigate and unravel the mysteries as they wander the swamps or challenge the ziggurat. Beyond the Towers is not necessarily the most unique adventure out there, but it contains good roleplaying, fast action, interesting interaction and encounters and many possibilities. A standard recipe with a dash of originality, polished in a well-rounded presentation.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Beyond the Towers is a good, location-based adventure with an interesting premise and good roleplaying possibilities. It's an entertaining and challenging dungeon crawl with some added encounters to spice it up and add some hints of mystery and intrigue. Another solid effort from Green Ronin.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Some of the maps were quite poor and could've been given further attention. I would've appreciated more focus on the interplay and intrigue surrounding the dungeon crawl rather than the dungeon crawl itself.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>