King of the Trollhaunt Warrens

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 126.5: King of the Trollhaunt Warrens




It’s been a while since we’ve returned to an old release I managed to miss, but in my defense Fourth Edition D&D is in no way my expertise, especially with regard to adventures (during this era my regular group only played homebrewed games—it took the rise of true adulthood and its accompanying time commitments to make us start published adventures them more frequently). While preparing for the next article on Demon Queen’s Enclave, I ran into references saying that the previous adventure, King of the Trollhaunt Warrens, actually journeyed to the Feywild. Oh phooey. And while this journey is nothing to write home about, it is yet another case of Fourth Edition journeying to other worlds, which was one of the main points to their changes in the game’s cosmology, even if no one really knew what to do when players arrived elsewhere. 

Part of my initial dismissal of this adventure is that it’s a very linear dungeon crawl. While there are a few interludes and possible sidequests mentioned in the book, these are really up for the DM to figure out on their own; Trollhaunt Warren is all about the dungeon crawl. Essentially, players get roped into a town’s fight with neighboring trolls, who have lately been emboldened by their leader becoming enchanted by a powerful fomorian artifact. Much of the adventure concerns delving into the titular warrens and investigating what the trolls are up to. During this, they will probably kill the big bad of the adventure two times, only to later learn that he’s not even the real big bad. This is all pretty cool, and makes for a bit more plot than just a random smattering of monsters pasted together, a la Pyramid of Shadows.


Whether or not players kill the troll king a second time, either he or his artifact slip back to the Feywild. Upon some extremely light investigation, PCs learn that it’s almost certain that the troll menace will keep attacking the town unless this artifact, and another one that’s powering it, are destroyed. Either through a gate located in the town or one centered on the troll king’s throne, they’ll need to head to the Feywild proper in order to destroy these artifacts. 

If I didn’t tell you that this is a picture of the Feywild you would never have known it.

As I said, I don’t dislike the dungeon crawl for what it is here. Players online seem to say it’s a bit easy, but I have trouble really caring since I would never use it in Fourth Edition anyhow, and so making any use of this material would mean converting to another game system. It’s straight fights for the most part, and while at times there’s a brief opportunity for dialogue, for the most part the adventure’s focused on fighting your way through a hostile environment. In this, it’s practically the platonic ideal for this edition, with a more-or-less logical plotline that nonetheless is going to require battering your way through to completion. 


Following their second battle with the titular King of Trollhaunt, PCs follow him into the Feywild in order to stop him from returning yet again, likely not aware that he’s by this time been taken over by an even bigger, badder troll. But here’s where the adventure turns sour, as the Feywild that’s depicted here is rather lacking, and in fact is largely just more of the same but with a slightly different menagerie of enemies to murder. The Feywild is not majestic or wild or strange, or really differentiated in any concrete way from the Prime. Players might as well have been transported to another spot on the same world for all the difference it makes, such that as usual in this edition planar adventure has practically no meaning. 

Most likely, the PCs explore one particular location, which somewhat mirrors the same area on the Prime, though largely just in the first room. So what does this jaunt to the Feywild actually entail? Well there are six encounters detailed, and in them players will:

  1. Fight three hook horrors.
  2. Fight a formian “dark initiate.”
  3. Fight two feymire crocodiles and two quicklings.
  4. Fight nine cyclopses
  5. Fight a displacer beast and three ghost trolls.
  6. Fight four ghost trolls and the boss troll.

Of these encounters, two and a half seem related to this plane, while the others are just random or a continuation of the troll empire theme from the Prime. Even these, though, feel random and tacked on. The quicklings are fighting for no particular reason, the formian dark initiate is more interesting but only feels fey-ish because of the edition’s weird decisions for these giants, and the displacer beast is cute and should be hugged because displacer beasts are just good folks. 

It’s functional and detailed, but far removed from the brilliance we saw from Rob Lazzaretti in Planescape

Really, there’s more development of the Feywild in the bestiary tacked onto the first of this adventure’s books (the Delve format is a mess, don’t ask). Here, there’s at least an interesting addition with new blightborn creatures (they only really play a part in the assault on the nearby town), alternate fomorians, another hag, and the reintroduction of will-o’-wisps to the game. Plus, nothics make their first appearance in D&D, and here they make far more sense than they later would in Fifth Edition. “A nothic perpetuates its kind by removing the eyes of a humanoid victim and filling the stolen orbs with drops of ichor from its own eye. These gruesome trophies grow into new nothics in 24 hours.” This brief bestiary doesn’t feel strictly necessary, but there’s good flavor throughout and what’s here at least feels alive, mysterious, and at-times planar in a way the rest of the adventure doesn’t.


In all, though, it’s an underwhelming depiction of the Feywild to say the least, and makes planar travel feel basic and boring. It is more of the same, and only serves to allow a slight change in opponents. Even though this part of the adventure takes up 14 pages of space, because of the moronic delve format practically nothing is learned about the plane, making it not just forgettable but also like an afterthought for the designers. It would not be difficult to keep much of King of the Trollhaunt Warrens the same and to radically alter the Feywild part, and with this create a much more compelling adventure, but I’m afraid that what we have here is simply uninterested in anything but setting up another series of fights. This is a planar adventure for completists only, and I find myself thankful that this edition had so few adventures, meaning that we didn’t have to visit such a half-assed Feywild repeatedly.

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