I’ve never made a secret out of the fact that I like grand plots and this is the first of an arc that should challenge your PCs indeed:
This module is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? A swathe of supernatural cold is cutting through the regions of the Klavek Kingdom, courtesy of a mysterious force and the PCs are on route towards Whitespire Abbey. The isolated place has been all but been wiped out and is now home to cultists and other cold-related beings – a few pages missing from one tome as well as one portal to a demiplane are all the PCs will find clue-wise apart from a surprisingly eclectic array of cold-themed adversaries.
Taking the step through the portal, the PCs go on to explore the Roots of Winter, floating frigid isles connected via fragile bridges, where a Marid, cold elementals, cold based undead spirits and finally, Ofas, the arctic minotaur druid and henchman to the true mastermind of the sudden cold snap, who guards a teleportation spire that leads to the disturbing fortress depicted on the cover.
The beautiful full-color artwork is evocative and sets the mood, for it turns out that in the arctic fortress, beyond her minions and reanimated undead father, Midwinter waits – a very old white dragon! Upon her defeat, the adventure is over – for now, for Midwinter was just the first in a series of draconic incursions masterminded by one seeking to resurrect the empire of Saatman.
The pdf also has one new massive teleportation spell, a write-up for a new god/religion, 3 magical items and a short 2-page appendix with information on hatching/training dragons.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column-standard and the respective headers have a nice frost-covered tinge. The cover artwork is glorious and the pdf comes with full bookmarks. As per the writing of this review, Hero Lab-files are not yet part of the deal, but from whaqt I can glean, are planned. With teh layout revision, no more printer-friendly version is included, but honestly, it’s not absolutely required with a relatively printer-friendly layout.
Midwinter’s Chill is an interesting adventure in that it offers us extremely iconic, glorious locations – perhaps the biggest strength of author Michael McCarthy’s writing in any of his modules and the locations are provided with the gorgeous cartography we’ve come to expect from Todd Gamble. That out of the way, not all is well with Midwinter’s Chill: The locales are superbly cool backdrops that remain just that: Backdrops.I can’t, for the life of me, not fathom why aqrctic dangers, slippery bridges biting winds, blizzards that grant concealment and the like are not part of the module: At the very latest in the demiplane included, hostile environment used to the advantage by the inhabitants should not be considered optional, but compulsory. What use are rope-bridges suspended over an endless chasm of white cold when the PCs can’t fall down/ be pummeled down? Where are the sheets of ice? The same holds true for the iconic, cool final fortress:
With such a look, why can’t the BbeG of the module e.g. partially animate the fortress to attack PCs? Why is the fortress so short/relatively ill-defended? The latter could be explained by the PCs bypassing much of the defenses via their means of egress to the area, but still: While not as bad as in Icecrag Monastery, the module still feels like its BbeG spinning the wheels. A section on tactics and some nasty surprises would have gone a long way to make the BbeG feel more menacing. But in contrast to the lack of environmental peculiarities, this is in the case of this module, a minor weakness that can be neglected.
All in all, the module feels like its content has been trimmed down to the point where a couple of additional pages to provide a crunchy foundation to the awesome fluff would easily have been in the realm of possibility. The finale feels a bit abrupt as well and could use a slightly more expanded build-up, e.g. via braving multiple ice elementals in a blizzard, trekking through deadly frozen wastes, etc. to drive home the epic, iconic location in the end. In spite of the stellar locations, I thus can’t rate this module higher than 3 stars.