Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2011): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 6

Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2011) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by James Wyatt with Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Townshend for levels 6-8.

Fourth edition’s early scenarios lavished attention on combat encounters strung into linear adventures designed to ensure no one missed a battle. But towards the end of the edition’s run, the D&D team wanted to grant players more freedom.

Madness at Gardmore Abbey combines the best qualities of fourth edition’s encounter design with a sandbox. “Gardmore Abbey is all about choices,” writes Mike “Sly Flourish” Shea. “It’s a large sandbox of adventure locations, villains, and a single powerful thread that binds them all together.”

That thread comes from the scattered cards of a Deck of Many Things, perhaps the most irresistible artifact in D&D. The adventure includes a real deck. “The Deck is interesting both in real life and in game, and one of the biggest reasons why Madness at Gardmore Abbey is awesome,” writes the Learning DM. Madness borrows the brilliant trick of drawing cards to determine aspects of the adventure from Ravenloft by Tracy and Laura Hickman, .

The adventure encourages choices by focusing on patrons, rivals, and the layout of the abbey. By scattering patrons who offer quests, the adventure gives the characters a steady sense of purpose.

The encounter design shines too. In a product history, Shannon Appelcline writes, “When Wyatt wrote out his order for the encounters, he told his designers that he didn’t want a ‘combat slog,’ but instead a ‘mix of combat, roleplaying, and skill challenges.’ Thus, Madness is one of the most varied of all the fourth-edtion adventures, even within the constraints of individual encounters.

Steve Townshend says that after he wrote up an encounter, he’d then go back and apply the ‘Lowell Kempf’ test, named after the longest-running player in his D&D campaign—who would often ignore the ‘direct’ solutions to problems, and instead look for the ‘interesting’ ones. Thus, Gardmore Abbey is filled with encounters that could be solved in many ways—not just with combat.”

Madness at Gardmore Abbey comes in a box packed with goodies, including the deck, battlemaps, tokens, and 4 adventure booklets.

Mike Shea calls Gardmore Abbey a “wonderful sandbox.” The Learning DM writes, “As it stands, Madness at Gardmore Abbey is the final pinnacle of adventure design in fourth edition, and I believe it deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest adventures in D&D’s rich history. Easily the best fourth-edition adventure.”

Next: Number 5

Start at 10

This entry was posted in Role-playing game history and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2011): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 6

  1. Pingback: Vault of the Dracolich (2013): Greatest D&D Adventures Since 1985—Number 7 | DMDavid

  2. alphastream says:

    I love this adventure, especially in how it showcased how varied 4E adventures could be. I would also mention the prequel, Siege of Gardmore Abbey by Steve Townshend. Here, Steve takes us back in time to when the abbey first fell. It has a strong innovative take on a prequel with a variety of fun encounters built for a convention one-shot. It also has some super-fun pregens, some of which have great conflicts that are revealed during play. It’s amazing design.

    Siege can be found in Dungeon 210.

    • Steven Townshend says:

      Thank you, Teos, and congratulations yourself!

      Thank you, DM David, for making the list and including such cool anecdotes and stories!

  3. Jeff says:

    Loved that adventure and so did my group!

    @alphastream : I’ll have to buy that Dungeon 210 to get the Siege of Gardmore Abbey. My current 5th group is composed of the same players i had in 4th and they are currently time travelling… would be nice to sent them back to Gardmore Abbey!

    @DMDavid : I really like that top 10! I’m taking a lot of notes on modules i need to get!

  4. Pablo Rojo says:

    It’s a pitty that the 4 adventure booklets presentation was a nigthmare, but the adventure was pretty nice and funny.

Leave a Reply