This, the first of 25 adventures that comprise the Rituals of Choice Adventure Path, thrusts characters right into the thick of things from the outset. It begins with a Preamble that sets the scene for the DM, with brief notes about what underlies the entire campaign and on the intended setting - the Lands of the Diamond Throne setting from Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, although it would be possible to use another location if preferred. You'll still need Arcana Evolved wherever you set your game, as well as the D&D 3.5 core books, and while some monsters are drawn from Legacy of the Dragons, alternatives from the Monster Manual are suggested in case you don't have a copy.
Then comes a neat trick. If characters have certain Knowledge skills, they have a chance of perceiving a little more of what is going on than ordinary folk realise, of gaining some background information that might prove of use. This is followed by an adventure synopsis, and some ideas for how to get your characters involved. Not strictly speaking adventure hooks: they are going to be sucked into events whether they like it or not, but some ideas to help them decide why they are where the adventure begins, most of them also give reasons for the characters to know each other and already to be a group. Naturally, if other ideas suited to your specific group of characters occur, they'll probably be even better. Each of the suggestions carries an appropriate game mechanic bonus as well, and any one will give the players sound in-character reasons to get involved, and to care about the other members of the group. No meeting up in an inn and deciding to go dungeon-crawling with perfect strangers here!
And so it begins, with the sort of in media res opening that ought to make players sit up and take notice: this is no ordinary campaign right from the get-go. Characters find themselves in a spectacular location (which is supported by one of publisher Rite Publishing's 'Fantastic Map' lines if you want to take full advantage of it) but do not have much time to enjoy it before the action starts.
From then on events continue to move apace, with the characters soon being requested to undertake a simple escort task (well, they ARE only 1st level) and again there is an opportunity for those with appropriate Knowledge skills to add a little to what they are told. The rewards are generous, but notes are provided for characters who baulk at the task... and even ways to embroil them in the rest of the adventure regardless!
Throughout the course of the adventure, there is much to marvel at, and plenty to do. There are also sidebar 'Designer Notes' which explain the why of the placing and nature of some of what the characters will encounter. Even now the groundwork for the overarching plot is being laid. (Grrrr - I hate reviewing sometimes, I would SO like to play this... well, best round up some players and run it instead!) The whole adventure is full of choices and at each point, the ramifications for both this and future adventures in the campaign are discussed. A nice feature is that whatever the characters decide, nothing will derail the plot - just bend it in a different way. At no time will a DM have to stop the game because the characters have done the 'wrong' thing, a masterful piece of design. A sound beginning for what promises to be an epic campaign.
[5 of 5 Stars!]