The Slaying Stone is part of the second run of sequential adventure modules by Wizards of the Coast. I almost never run these things, but I'd heard it was better than the others and it was cheaper. The other appealing feature is that its a booklet and not a folder, something I appreciate because it makes them easier to store and less fragile. There's also a map featuring some of the encounter locations, and the rest can be constructed easily with Dungeon Tiles. So far so good. I'm happy with the physical presentation, but what about the actual adventure?
Beware of spoilers.
The backstory is that the town of Kiris Dahn had magic stones that could kill people who attacked it, which were created by tieflings. Almost ten years ago, goblins attacked the town and ran everyone out, claiming it for themselves and subsequently trashing it (par for the course when it comes to goblin behavior). The former ruler of Kiris Dahn, Kiris Alkirk, and his advisor Treona legged it and holed up in a tower some distance away. Everyone was apparently fine for the past eight years or so until Treona found out that one of the slaying stones was still around, and is now looking for adventurers to go get it for some reason.
I say "some reason" because while the slaying stone kills a target that it hits, it can only be used within five miles of the town, affects one creature, and is consumed after usage. Also, according to the magic item stat block it cannot be created via Enchant Item, or destroyed via Disenchant Item. So...why do they care? Are the afraid that someone is going to find it and, I dunno, use it? The goblins and kobolds are going to kill people anyway, its just a one-time-only, really quick way of doing so. Personally, I say let the fuckers keep the damned thing and just put up a sign telling people to stay the fuck away.
Anyway, thats the backstory in a nutshell.
The adventure introduction is, in a word, weak. The party, who may or may not know each other, meets up at crossroads before getting attacked by wolves. Wolves aren't so bad. At least its not like, another fucking kobold ambush or something. During the fight, an old lady pops out of the tower and takes potshots at the wolves with flash powder, all the while trying to coax you inside. Not the worst setup I've seen, and I know its hard to get the party gathered if the players insist on not knowing each other in any capacity. No, where it gets really awkward is when the players wrap up the fight and get their quest from Treona.
Inside the tower, Treona reveals that she's been watching the characters for an indeterminate length of time, "catching news of their exploits." Though level 1, she's apparently got enough faith in the group to give them ritual scrolls to locate the stone, alchemical components to use each scroll, and promises of a hefty reward if they bring it back so that she can destroy it, or if they do and bring back proof of the deed. Like I said, for some reason she wants this thing destroyed despite the fact that its utterly useless outside of Kirin Dahn.
Once the party gets their quest its off to Kirin Dahn. I'm very pleased with the advice presented in this adventure: there's a rough timeline of how events might proceed to help plan things out, suggestions for which encounters to use to spike the tension, a list of factions along with territories and goals to assist in role-playing, and some themes and hooks to help move the plot along. I could see some players trying to play the kobolds against the goblins, which allows more socially inclined players to shine. Additionally, the adventure is very open-ended: the party can choose from several infiltration methods and once inside can essentially choose their own path. There's a kind of global Skill Challenge pressing down on them the entire time, and as they fuck things up and get noticed the town goes on alert and makes things harder.
All in all despite the shaky start this adventure looks much better than the original run, but judging from the reception of Keep on the Shadowfell that might not be saying much... Its not a straight-up dungeon crawl brimming with goblins and hobgoblins and a nonsensical plot, and from a cursory examination many of the encounters look to be very interesting and memorable. In particular I like the one where a kobold is packing ankheg juice that she can lob at a character, causing an ankheg to surface and start mauling the hell out of the victim (which reminds me of the antlions from Half-Life 2). The kobold guttersnipes are also really cool new monster. They wear shitty armor that gives them a hefty AC until they get hit, after which it breaks and drops it to an abyssmally low level. Its a nice, simple dynamic.
The only other thing that really bugs me is the brass dragon guarding the stone. The adventure plays her up as to be a suitable challenge for the party at paragon tier, meaning that she could easily take on everything in Kiris Dahn. If nothing else, she could ally herself with the party who is capable of routing the goblins via a skill challenge, giving her a relatively peaceful place to lair. I'm sure even returning villagers wouldnt mind having her around. It just seems like a win-win situation for everyone but the monsters, but I digress. In closing, its actually a decent adventure. The intro is weak but the actual meaty part of it holds up, and the price is good for what you're getting. A skilled DM can make it really shine and work in more social role-playing with just a bit of work, which is a far cry from having to rebuild Keep on the Shadowfell from the ground up in order to give it a semblance of reason.