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Empire in Ruins (2022)

Endings are hard! While Empire in Ruins (2022) is vastly and obviously superior to Empire in Flames (it is far more open, dynamic and thematically tied to the previous arcs of the campaign story). Yet it still leaves me a bit wanting, especially after how deliciously over-the-top Horned Rat was.

I think this is partially because the thrust of the adventure is fairly linear and a lot of it involves high-level summits with powerful political figures. These are handled well, and just about every scene in the chain has a lot of room for players to shine, but more than any other volume of the series, it depends almost entirely on the players. Similarly, the plot seems rather nebulous compared to the previous chapters. I think that is intentional — the player and their actions (and consequences) getting here are going to vary a lot from table to table, so there needs to be room to account for all that variety. This final chapter is a vessel that feels empty in the reading because the play is going to fill it up. I can see that! But it is a bit of an underwhelming read. There are some organizational issues too (one key map is in the Companion, for starters, as is a lot of thought on non-canon endings that seems super important), and I generally feel like it lacks the support scaffolding the other volumes have (not much accounting for the various possible if/thens, likely because there are just too many of them). The Companion adds a lot of interesting context but the extra scenarios again feel either too much or too samey to effectively expand the campaign.

It is still a massive improvement over the original and, ultimately, a cohesive capper for one of the biggest and best campaigns out there.

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