Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 111: Cormyr: Tearing of the Weave



It’s not that adventuring in the Plane of Shadows is inherently dull, it’s just that as of the end of third edition no one has figured out how to make it interesting yet. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself whenever I wind up reading another adventure that uses this location. I’m sorry to all of you hoping for me to get to a more interesting topic, but third edition sure loved its Plane of Shadows and returned to this location repeatedly with little to show for it. In the particular case of Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, I don’t even think the adventure itself is bad, it’s simply that it becomes far less interesting once it leaves the Prime. As usual, this alternate reality isn’t so much a place for roleplaying as it is a gauntlet, a series of fights with little else of interest. This remains its problem, and though we now know of a city located there and a few places of interest, thus far these have always been ignored in favor of stabbing various shadow-themed entities in the neck.

But before we get there, let’s back up a bit to summarize what we’re even talking about. Cormyr is a Forgotten Realms-focused adventure designed by five Wizards staff members as the first part of a three-part adventure path (of sorts, the marketing team called it a “super-adventure”) that concerns a plot from Shar, that world’s shadow deity, trying to usurp its magic deity, Mystra, through creating dead magic zones. There’s a bit more to it than this, but it’s all highly linked with the Realms themselves such that if you’re not playing a strictly Forgotten Realms game this is definitely not a module series for you. In each adventure, a dead zone is created and must be destroyed by the players in order to ultimately thwart Shar’s evil plot. Cormyr is the only part of this storyline that heads to the Plane of Shadows (which seems odd to me, but oh well it keeps things from too much repetition), and even this doesn’t occur until the adventure is more than half done. 


All three of these adventures are extremely battle-focused, which seemed to be the direction Wizards was really interested in during this era (e.g., all of fourth edition). Nonetheless, much of why I like the Prime-focused part of Cormyr is how open it is and that it’s possible to through this investigation with relatively little fighting. There’s a suspicious new temple to Mystra, and players need to find out what’s going on there. How they go about this is wonderfully unclear, and I enjoy the religious conspiracy angle of this entire plotline. There’s a fun situation, many opportunities for how to overcome challenges, and even a handful of named NPCs. Players then follow a trail of clues and meet up with some lizardfolk until they come upon a portal to Shadow. It’s here where I found myself becoming disinterested. 

I did appreciate the adventure’s use of the fantastic-looking gloom golem, drawn here by Jim Pavelec.

Even on Shadow, PCs are left with a choice as to how to proceed, but one way or another they’re going to arrive at an evil monastary where the only decisions to be made are who to bash (i.e. everybody) and in which order. This version of Shadow is barren and dull. It’s bleak in the manner of a less interesting, less deadly layer of the Abyss, and there’s no reason for players to want to stick around here or learn anything about this world. The final chapter involves fighting a shadow dragon above a canyon and is suitably epic, but the area surrounding this battle only caused me confusion given that it includes canoloths and mezzoloths, who are working with Shar for no readily explained reason.


None of this, I should add, is strictly speaking “bad.” I would even be up for playing this adventure myself were it not quite so Realms-y, it’s just that after that first chapter it’s not particularly distinctive. There’s a gauntlet of infrequently appearing shadow creatures for PCs to careen through, but if you were hoping that this might be an adventure where you could speak with some shadar-kai rather than fighting with them, then think again. There’s a worthwhile overarching plot, but essentially no characters here (especially once players leave the Prime), and as such the focus can’t help but become about survival and battle. This is also emphasized by the use of Wizards’ rather grating adventure format from the end of the edition, in which each battle (or possible battle) is set off on its own two page-spread at the end of the chapter. If your campaign is also all about the battles then this is probably useful, but even so the formatting makes it so that an alley scuffle is given the same length and depth as the boss battle against a dragon. This flattening of experiences does the book no favors, though it’s the same issue as everything else produced during this weird period in which Wizards decided to use this ridiculous format. 

The adventure’s final boss shadow dragon, shadow dragoning it up.

Regardless of how niche this adventure ends up being, Cormyr is still a pretty book. My understanding is that there’s quite a bit of errata (edition 3.x of the game had notoriously fiddly statistics that Wizards rarely got completely right), but that sort of thing rarely bothers me, and more importantly the artwork and cartography is lovely. Chris Dien, William O’Connor, and Jim Pavelec all pitched in with drawings, though there are far less of them than might be expected. Robert Lazzaretti contributed every map to the project, and although many are more computer-y than I prefer, on the whole they’re both useful and thematic. It’s an attractive-looking volume with high production values, even if it’s all fighting against the weirdo structure dictated from on high.


In the end, do we learn more about the Plane of Shadow here? A bit, I suppose, and there are a couple of new locations. However, as with the adventure as a whole, what’s contained is so concerned with the Forgotten Realms that it hardly seems universally useful. As a result, even dedicated fans of this dull plane may want to give this story a pass, unless they’re really aching for another round against the same shadow beasts who pop up without fail every time this world gets visited.

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