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- Review: House of Pain
Upon arriving home and heading to the Wizards.com website I was assaulted by a decidedly small amount of new content. Must be a Wednesday. The new adventure isnt really even an adventure, but listed as a side trek (yawn). For those of you not familiar with the term, a side trek is basically an encounter or two loosely strung together with something vaguely remniscient of a plot. Its like an appetizer without a main course: sure it'll allay the hunger a bit but its just not going to last.
The summary of House of Pain is that someone is kidnapping somepeople, so the players invariably get involved, find them, and beat the XP out of them. The end.
To make matters "worse", the kidnappers are also using rituals to transform the victims into, of all things, shadar-kai. I think.
Now, this isnt really a bad deal if you think about it: racial encounter teleport that leaves you insubstantial until the end of your next turn? Could be worse, I say. You could have been turned into a gnome. Rawr.
The maps suffer from having angles and edges that dont properly line up with your obligatory grid, which will have your players constantly nagging about whether they can move into a given spot or not. One designer had the bright idea to explain the best way to draw diagonal lines in such a fashion as to make it pretty fucking obvious where you can and cannot go. Frankly, having blockly looking caverns is preferrable from trying to go mostly totally realistic and taking forever to draw the map with some measure of accuracy.
The actual House of Pain map is a bit worse, as sharp angles (and spikes) are everywhere. Creatures pushed into a space containing a wall spike take damage, but some spikes lie direclty between two squares, technically in a place a character couldnt get pushed into.
I'm not a fan of side treks since I view them mostly as filler that isnt very filling. However if the conditions are right then this can readily serve as a booster shot for the main course, providing you with two ready-made encounters to bolster your party's XP and wealth simultaneously, which any player can appreciate. Sure, the grinding tooth cave is a bit goofy but the House of Pain has lots of tactical potential, especially for characters that have push/slide powers (fighters with tide of iron, I'm looking at you).
As a plus if the DM decides to capture a particularly annoying NPC in a heavy handed attempt to usher you into the plot, you can always pretend to not be able to figure out how to bypass the ritual circle and cage, leaving him or her to a slow and torturous death relatively guilt free.
All in all, House of Pain is good in that its simple and straightforward, but its certainly not going to eat up an evening of play time unless your group has exceedingly severe Attention Deficit Disorder and decides to play the game swimming in a pool of Red Bull.