A Pathfinder/3.5 Compatible Adventure for 4 Level 1 PCs
Shrouded in whispered rumors, Crow’s Rest Island has been avoided as long as any can remember. Nothing but death, and the memories of those long gone, greet any who take to land upon the isle’s shores. It is to this island that the PCs will find themselves driven as a storm threatens to drive their ship below the waves. Awaiting the PCs are far more than ghost stories upon this island, for there lives a very real threat, hiding here among the legends that keep sailors at bay.
A classic ghost story that casts the PCs not as adversaries to the specters, but rather as their benefactors, A0: Crow’s Rest Island challenges the PCs with a tribe of foul kobolds, a haunted village, and the forgotten servant of a long departed ice devil. An excellent introduction to the Adventureaweek.com campaign setting, this adventure gives the PCs their first glimpse into Vikmordere culture. A0 may also be easily ported to any setting containing a northern wilderness near a large body of water.
Jonathan G. Nelson, Joshua Gullion
Designed as an introduction to the whole Adventureaweek campaign world, the putative setting of all their adventures (although most can be readily translocated into a suitable part of the campaign world of your choice) this short adventure is also intended to serve as a lead-in to A1: Crypt of the Sun Lord, if you’re intending to use that.
The basic concept is simple, and yet an elegant way to get around the constant problem of your character knowing the world he lives in far better than you, his player, does by saying that the characters come from a nearby kingdom which is actively encouraging adventurers to move to an outlying fishing village called Rybalka. It’s a wild and dangerous place, so much so that ordinary citizens are reluctant to move there even if offered payment. Clearly some braver souls, some adventurers, are needed!
The way to get there goes across the massive ice-cold Serpent Lake, pretty much an inland sea, and passes a ill-omened island, Crow’s Rest Island. Sailors are full of tales about people who have been shipwrecked there, tales of horror and haunting far worse than merely being shipwrecked and having to survive.
There’s a comprehensive backstory to inform you about what’s really going on, and then we get into the adventure proper which starts with the characters aboard ship… and there’s a storm blowing up! The ship is swiftly covered in snow to the extent that the captain decides that it is less risky to stop at Crow’s Rest Island than it is to continue the voyage. And so it begins…
Although quite simple, the adventure is atmospheric and there’s plenty of material to aid you in setting the scene, snow-covered and brooding with a mysterious crow that somehow only the party can see. Beautiful illustrations and lush maps provide visual cues to supplement the descriptions. There’s plenty to do, with negotiations with spirits as well as a couple of brawls… and the adventurers should emerge back on shore as the storm dies down and their ship is ready to resume its voyage. But, boy, they will have some tales to tell of their exploits!
If looking to start a campaign with a bang, this ought to fit the bill, excitement a-plenty yet all perfectly do-able by first level characters.
This module is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 19 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Now this being an adventure review, the following review contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
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After a short introduction to the area in which it is set in the default campaign setting of AdventureaWeek.com – essentially, the PCs will be people of the Klavekian kingdom, largest of the human realms and sent to the icy frontier of the kingdom to help the settlement Rybalka, which lies right at the border of Vikmordere-territory: Feared savages that could be considered a wild blending of Viking and Native American cultures. That out of the way, the module kicks off without much ado – the PCs are traveling en route to Rybalka for fame and fortune and on their way, they’ll need to pass the notorious “Crow’s Rest Island”.
When passing the island on their ship of Vikmordere-build (which comes fully mapped in gorgeous detailed full color with maps (on deck, below deck, in a snow-storm and in full-blown snow-storm – awesome), they are forced ashore by the weather and see a weird white crow. In the island’s woods, they encounter a party of kobolds and it is also here, the PCs can start to piece together what has happened here. When kobolds were washed ashore on this island, their shaman summoned an ice demon to get rid of the local Vikmordere population. The wild men, confronted with the demonic entity faced annihilation and in order to save them, an adopted Vikmordere attempted a ritual that was interrupted by the kobolds. This ritual gone haywire has trapped the spirits of the Vikmordere on the island. The lavishly illustrated village of the Vikmordere contains the remnants of the kobolds and there, amid ghostly visions, the PCs can secure the missing item for the ritual and help the spirits of the dead find peace.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s latest 2-column standard with its more streamlined boxes and easier to read fonts and the artworks in full color range from awesome (vista of the village) to not-so-awesome (cover). As I’ve come to expect from AaW, the cartography is simply stellar and especially the weather and its effect on the ship is AWESOME. A great idea and something I’d love to see used in other modules as well. If you register at Adventureaweek.com, you can also download for free all artworks (including a handouts through a spyglass), profiles of the AaW-iconics, high-res jpegs of all the maps, png-tokens for NPCs and adversaries and herolab-files. While usually I would complain about a lack of a backgroundless version of the pdf, this module is free, so it gets a pass on this one. The pdf is extensively fitted with nested bookmarks.
There are sometimes modules that as written are not too exciting, but spark the imagination via iconic locales, nice presentation etc. and this is one of them: The location presented in the module is cool, creepy and offers quite some potential for expansion by the DM – and expanded it should be, for the simple encounters fall flat of the awesomeness of the backdrop. Indeed, I wished this was not a free prequel module, but rather a full-blown haunting-investigation. Think about it: Traps in the wood, a deserted village, the sense of being watched, mysterious crows, weather worsening and keeping the PCs stranded on the place and then, the strange hauntings begin – every DM worth his salt can construct a complex investigation from this yarn instead of handing out the solution to what happened on a silver platter to the PCs. Were this a commercial module, that would exactly be what I’d complain about. It’s FREE, though, and every module that excites me enough to even contemplate expanding it like I just described is worth downloading and in fact, does a great job. Were I only to rate the module as it can be seen in the pdf, I’d probably go for 4 or 3 stars, depending on a hypothetical price. But since this pdf is free, comes with good production values and sparks one’s imagination, I’ll instead settle on a solid verdict of 5 stars – come on, it’s free and you know you at least want to scavenge the maps. 😉
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