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Bastion of Broken Souls (2002) is a 48-page adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition written by Bruce Cordell.

It is the final work in a series of eight linked modules unofficially referred to as the Sunless Citadel adventure path. It consists of The Sunless Citadel (2000), The Forge of Fury (2000), The Speaker in Dreams (2001), The Standing Stone (2001), Heart of Nightfang Spire (2001), Deep Horizon (2001), Lord of the Iron Fortress (2002), and Bastion of Broken Souls (2002).

Spoiler alert: The following article contains spoilers for a Dungeons & Dragons product.

Plot

Background

The demon prince Demogorgon's two heads, Aameul and Hethradiah, constantly seek to control or destroy each other. Aameul has a plan to absorb the demonic heart of the ancient dragon Ashardalon, infused with a powerful source of life energy as he sips energy from the Bastion of Unborn Souls. If he can convince a group of heroes to slay Ashardalon, absorbing this powerful soul will make Aameul powerful enough to survive slaying Hethradiah.

Unknown to the player characters, one of their party is the descendant of the Dydd, feared mortal enemy of Ashardalon from long ago. Aameul seeks the party to play an unwitting part in his plan. However, if they do not stop Ashardalon, he will continue to absorb souls, leading humanoids to be born soulless across the multiverse.

Synopsis

The player characters are unexpectedly attacked by the Cathezar, a unique half-demon half-devil being. They must use divination and other resources to uncover the reason for the attack, leading them to learn of the demon-hearted red dragon Ashardalon. They must travel the planes to acquire three keys to enter the Bastion of Unborn Souls, a grand crystal soul font where souls are created, and slay Ashardalon, who is absorbing unborn souls to subsist on their energy.

Development and release

Bastion of Broken Souls was written by Bruce Cordell, who also wrote The Sunless Citadel (2000), Heart of Nightfang Spire (2001), and several adventure modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition. It features art by Jeff Easley and David Roach.

Cordell intentionally designed the module to rely on the powerful abilities of high level player characters, following advice by Monte Cook that a DM must not seek to counter a character's most powerful abilities, but rather actively require their use to proceed. Cordell was encouraged to include Demogorgon in the adventure based on a session he played when he was young, where his friend Bret DMed an all-nighter featuring an encounter with Demogorgon.[1]

The adventure module received two full playtest sessions. One playtest group was killed outright, and the module was modified to incorporate feedback. A second playtest group succeded in defeating the final boss, with a few losses. Writer Bruce Cordell personally sat in on at least one of the playtest sessions, and had a highly positive opinion of the in-house playtesters' DMing skills.[1]

It was released in March 2002 as a 32-page paperback book for the price of US$9.95 or $13.95 Canadian.[2] On January 22, 2013, it was given a digital re-release at DriveThruRPG, and in November 2020 was rated an electrum best seller at the site.

Reception and influence

Influence on other works

Bastion of Broken Souls was the final in a series of eight adventure modules: The Sunless Citadel (2000), The Forge of Fury (2000), The Speaker in Dreams (2001), The Standing Stone (2001), Heart of Nightfang Spire (2001), Deep Horizon (2001), Lord of the Iron Fortress (2002), and Bastion of Broken Souls (2002). The concept of a series of linked adventure modules taking a character from level 1 to 20 would later be termed an adventure path, a term first used to describe the Shattered City adventure path beginning with Dungeon #97 (Mar/Apr 2003). Following Dungeon Magazine's closure in 2007, adventure paths formed a core feature of Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder product line, which at one point surpassed Dungeons & Dragons in sales.

This was the first Dungeons & Dragons product to define where the souls of player characters come from in the D&D multiverse. It also introduced the energon creatures to the game (the soulsipper, soulmarauder and soulscraper).[1]

This module was an inspiration for the concept of incarnum, a soul power as detailed in Magic of Incarnum (2005). The Bastion of Unborn Souls also appeared in Magic of Incarnum (2005), p.207-209, including a color map.[3]

The dragon Ashardalon, first named in The Sunless Citadel (2000), appears in this module. Ashardalon would go on to be the namesake of the Dungeons & Dragons board game Wrath of Ashardalon. Ashardalon appeared as #6 in Top 10 Most Wanted Dragons in D&D, Dragon #356 (Jun 2007), p.19.

Demogorgon's heads plotting against each other would go on to be a central plot point of the Savage Tide adventure path, which ran from Dungeon #139 (Oct 2006) to Dungeon #150 (Sep 2007). In this case, the Savage Tide is one of Hethradiah's plots.

The artifacts Helltongue and Dragonhammer would go on to appear in Arms and Equipment Guide (3e) (2003).

Critical reception

Writer Bruce Cordell described this work as one of which he was most proud. However, he noted that it was not highly popular, in part because the module's high level meant that most Dungeons & Dragons groups never reached a high enough level to play it.[4]

Kevin Kulp praised the module overall, speaking highly of its interesting moral complexity, interesting and well-written DM advice sections, and memorable CR27 final boss fight. His only criticism was that the campaign opens with a sudden ambush, which felt cliched, followed by an NPC mysteriously offering help for no payment.[5]

Other

A map from Bastion of Broken Souls appearing in Buffy S7E22.

A replica of a map from this adventure module later appeared as a prop in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale episode Chosen, in which the characters play a tabletop roleplaying game similar to Dungeons & Dragons. The map seen in the episode is labeled "Map F: Bastion of Unborn Souls", the location of the final showdown with the dragon Ashardalon in this adventure module.[6][7] A second map beneath it is labeled "Red Wizard Enclave", and is a copy of a map appearing in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3e) (2001), p.285.[8] A black and white hand-drawn version of both maps sold on eBay in May 16, 2006, fetching $400.[9][10]

There are several similarities between the roleplaying game session depicted in Chosen and the battle with Ashardalon. Both appear as finales to a series; both locations have demons at the periphery; both depict a fight with a fire-breathing dragon; and a "9th-level" sorcerer invokes a "time flux" to freeze the dragon in time, while in D&D 3.0 a sorcerer of appropriate level for this adventure module can learn and cast the 9th level spell time stop (although Ashardalon specifically wears a ring of greater counterspelling prepared to counter time stop).

Links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bastion of Broken Souls. Wizards.com, Mar 2, 2002.
  2. Bastion of Broken Souls. Wizards.com.
  3. Magic of Incarnum Designer Interview. Wizards.com, Sept 9, 2005.
  4. A Talk With Bruce R. Cordell. MonteCook.com.
  5. Bastion of Broken Souls (3e) at DriveThruRPG
  6. Trogdor Is Frozen In Time. D20 Source, May 17th, 2006.
  7. Buffy the Vampire D&D Scene. YouTube, Mar 28, 2017.
  8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Red Wizard Enclave Map CHOSEN, Worthopedia.
  9. BUFFY -DUNGEON AND DRAGONS MAPS-"CHOSEN", eBay item 6628423858, ended May 16, 2006. Archived July 20, 2008.
  10. Image from eBay auction 6628423858. Archived May 16, 2006.
Sunless Citadel series
The Sunless CitadelThe Forge of FuryThe Speaker in DreamsThe Standing StoneHeart of Nightfang SpireDeep HorizonLord of the Iron FortressBastion of Broken Souls
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0
Core rules
Player's HandbookDungeon Master's GuideMonster ManualDungeons & Dragons Adventure Game
Supplements
Arms and Equipment GuideBook of ChallengesBook of Vile DarknessDefenders of the FaithDeities and DemigodsEnemies and AlliesEpic Level HandbookFiend FolioGhostwalkHero Builder's GuidebookLiving Greyhawk Gazetteer (Dungeons & Dragons Gazetteer) • Manual of the PlanesMasters of the WildMonster Manual IIOriental AdventuresPsionics HandbookSavage SpeciesSong and SilenceStronghold Builder's GuidebookSword and FistTome and Blood
Adventures
The Sunless CitadelThe Forge of FuryThe Fright at TristorThe Speaker in DreamsThe Standing StoneReturn to the Temple of Elemental EvilHeart of Nightfang SpireDeep HorizonLord of the Iron FortressBastion of Broken SoulsCity of the Spider Queen
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