“The air is cold and dank, heavy with the weight of the earth hanging high above your head. Jagged, black stone walls stretch ahead and behind. The torch in your hand flickers as a dead breeze staggers down the passageway. You draw closer and closer to the end of this bleak tunnel until finally, the narrow rock walls vanish on both sides. You can hear the heavy breathing of something in the darkness ahead and…”
“I have darkvision!”
“You… Oh, whatever! You see a feral troll in the back of the cave. Everybody, roll initiative.”
This module is 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, elaving us with 57 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? The PCs, via several different hooks, are coming to the town of Rooknest, a peaceful, isolated town – in which all hell is about to break loose due to an ancient, nefarious plan coming to fruition. More than a decade agao, a wicked hag called Harriot was starting to dread the approach of her final years and her biological clock started ticking its malevolent hum. Being a hag, her only means of reproduction did not fit particularly well with her utterly wicked character and so the weird dreams she had, were quickly heeded: Whispers and dreams spoke of a despicable rite worthy of a hag, including the consumption of the father of the creature to be spawned. True to the formula of fairy-tales, the first two mates were consumed and deemed unfit, granting the hag nevertheless the power to add capabilities of the consumed to the child she conceived from the third father – a child destined to become a hellween, a hybrid werewolf whose very presence is a bane on the land, thinning the boundaries between material and spirit world. What the entity, whose vile whispers spurred the hag onwards didn’t account for is a fraction of maternal instinct, a glimmer of true love between the hag and the wicked werewolf that conceived the child – to give her doomed daughter a chance at a life she could never provide, old Harriot dropped her in the nearby town, sulking back into her swampy domain.
She has been waiting and watching ever since, while the almost forgotten, wicked fertility goddess waited in the wings for her chosen champion to come of full age. When the poor girl turned into a full-blown hellween, she crashed from the temple and fled town, managing not to kill anyone while being guarded by her ghostly father. The curse of her existence and the dark goddesses vile whispers have taken root in Rooknest, though and will keep the PCs rather busy:
The local drunk insists that the “big wolf” is real and while asking him, the PCs will be surprised to see that among the xenophobic, tight-mouthed villagers, some disguised zombies have started drinking in the tavern and gathering outside, making the erupting combat a first glimpse at what’s wrong. The overall module is organized very much like a sandbox of tragedies – from here on, multiple ways are provided for the PCs to conduct their investigation and several stories await their discovery:
There is for example the gravedigger, who, urged by the dark goddesses’ whispers, killed his wife who was unable to bear him children – her ghost now haunts his perpetually gravedigging shovel and laying her to rest may point the PCs towards another component of the puzzle – Harriot has killed the mayor of the town and his family and now shadows the PCs, disguised as him, while the mayor’s revenant is trying to escape his barred mausoleum. Putting said undead to rest and hunting down Harriot is one way to the climax, but just one:
The secretive monks who are researching the transformation of one of their children also know bits and pieces about what is up with the “big wolf”, as does the local smith – if they can get either talking and save the monks from animated suits of armor (which are called skeletons in the text – minor oversight since they use modified skeleton-stats). The local bakery is now haunted by an attic whisperer of a recently-deceased child and throughout the village, the PCs may encounter weird fetishes constructed by an ancient crone, an erstwhile priestess of the wicked goddess that seeks to protect her home.
Via all these small tragedies and encounters, the PCs may pierce together the truth and when they finally slay Harriot, the climax should prove to be interesting: From her blood, a portal to the demiplane-temple of the dark goddess arises and inside, they have the chance to save the sould of the hellween if they soemhow manage to negotiate with her father, not fall to the onslaught of summoned dretches and finally, vanquish the dread exploding-pumpkin-throwing avatar of the goddess that seeks to claim what is “hers”.
The pdf also includes 3 maps and their player-friendly versions.
Editing and formatting, while not bad, are also not perfect – I noticed multiple occasions of jumbled letters, aforementioned minor discrepancy regarding the skeletons etc. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to slightly detract from the module. Layout adheres to AaW’s 2-column standard and the module comes in 2 versions, one of whihc is backgroundless and printer-friendly. The b/w-artworks are neat, especially the one of the BbEG. The cartography is excellent, as we’ve come to expect by now from AaW. The module comes with herolab-support, though as per the writing of this review, the file has not yet been made available.
This module is interesting in that it’s something we don’t get too often – a sandbox investigation with multiple ways to succeed. It’s also essentially a mix of almost ALL themes associated with horror-adventures – only vampires are missing. Zombies, ghosts, twisted undead, human tragedies, ancient rituals, a curse and an ancient, almost Shub-Niggurath-like entity -all is in here and makes sense. The amount of weirdness going on is one of the good things for the module, since it makes determining what this is all about harder for the PCs and they will actually have to WORK to understand what is going on and use their grey matter. Nice. On the other hand, the themes and respective encounters also make the module feel slightly cluttered with information – the component tragedies are interesting and would have made good investigations in their own right if there was more going on in town, if there were more places to visit and pieces of information to glean. In fact, the one thing I’d consider a flaw of this module is that its final presentation, while good, is not up to its potential. This could be a massively awesome horror-themed megamodule -with about 160 pages, investigations for all component-scenes, each contributing one piece of the big puzzle, this could have been one of the most fitting halloween-modules ever. As provided, it’s a very good sandbox-investigation with some cool scenes that you definitely won’t regret purchasing – especially if you’re willing to do some GM-work and enhance/complicate the component-scenes. Due to the minor glitches and the fact that this would have worked better in a larger scale or as a 2-parter, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars and a recommendation for GMs looking for some horror-themed bits and pieces to insert in their own modules or willing to expand the per se neat investigation.
This adventure is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial (featuring a beautiful side-view overview map of the dungeon), 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 48 pages of content, so let’s check this one out!
This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! Setzer Salthazar, rogue Klavekian wizard and murderer has been off the radar for years – hiding in Vikmordere territory. he’s not been idle. Hired by sage Yuri Stael to track down and bring the madman to justice the PCs travel from Rybalka to the jagged cliffs, where, once they’ve braced deadly Razorvine and undead guardian ogres, they’ll enter Setzer’s weird wizard tower, topped by a rather strange organic thing. The tower comes with a BEAUTIFUL full color map where they’ll be attacked by a bear rug taxidermy swarm. Floating, organic eyeballs start watching the PCs and by now they should now that they’re in for a disturbing experience indeed. The restless spirit of the tower’s cook, the torture room and its sentinels and vrocks should further enhance the PC’s sense of brute force horror and estrangement.
In the next room, we get a rather cool graphic puzzle – a vast room with pillars standing from the water. A selection of planks is provided and the PCs are supposed to create the path across the room in order to avoid the electric eels in the water below. A reason why they can’t just fly over the planks would have been nice, though. In the mad wizard’s cellar, the PCs can get treasures if they brave 8 riddles. In the dungeon, though, true horror awaits – a bone-grinding machine and a room covered in the new bone-dust hazard, which is essentially testament to Setzer’s genocidal aspirations.
Now, if you think the upper floors are any less deadly and disturbing, you’d be dead wrong – from a gibbering mouther to a flooding room trap, Setzer has some deadly surprises in store. Especially the latter is interesting, in that it can only be disarmed by the PCs correctly deciphering the sequence of 4 Maya-style glyphs. Oh, and being wet is rather problematic in the Rybalkan climate! Worse, while they can save an Aasimar who, when provided with some levels, might be used to replace a PC who might have died, and die they might: There’s e.g. a room with zero-gravity (and a battle as well as concise rules for this environment) and a deadly room in which the PCs will have to scuttle to prevent fuses from blowing up barrels of gunpowder.
And the deadly part has not yet begun: Well hidden, the highest levels are guarded by a flesh golem amalgam of tortured souls, a black pudding knight and then, the PCs enter NITNAM. The strange, heart-like, demonic flying colossus at the top of the tower, which is now fused with Setzer’s lifeforce. The final battle against Setzer and NINTAM’s hearts is a fittingly climactic boss battle after the weird and strange tower, though fighting while NINTAM is airborne and granting it some additional means to hinder/attack the PCs would have made it even better.
The pdf closes with 3.5 and PFRPG-stats for the adversaries herein (the fleshgolem missing its unique ability in the statblocks, though) and 2 new spells developed by Setzer, his “Storms of sculpted Flesh”, and comes with a one-page handout, where you can print out the planks from aforementioned puzzle.
Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed a very minor glitch that has no central bearing on anyone’s enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to Adventureaweek.com’s 2-column parchment-style standard and the cartography, as I’ve come to expect, is awesome. The artwork is ok for the price and manages to convey some of the disturbing tones of the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with herolab support and also a printer-friendly version without backgrounds, but still in color.
This adventure is a straight wizard’s tower crawl and PCs should expect to walk a gauntlet indeed – even Alchemist’s Errand pales in comparison to what the mad mage Setzer has in store – disjointed, disturbing and deadly and the three “d”s that characterize best what to expect from this very dark module. And I LOVE it. The quicksand-style trap and the grinders. The bombs. The floating eyes and the final battle – all very cool. Though I maintain that making the final battle 0-gravity will make the module even better. With the rules provided, any DM can do so! This module provides an old-school, deadly romp including clever puzzles and traps and is spiced up with disturbing madness and biomancy and a memorable showdown indeed. All in all: A great module, the most original and coolest of the line so far, nothing to complain. Final verdict: 5 stars and Endzeitgeist seal of approval. fans of e.g. Tim Hitchcock or Nicolas Logue or e.g. “War of the Burning Sky’s” biomancy might want to check this out – the module should be right up your alley. And if you want to make Setzer even more memorable, check out Rite Publishing’s #30 Fleshgrafts and add them to Setzer’s arsenal.
And here’s one that for a rather long series of releases remained the last I didn’t enjoy in some way:
This module is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 34 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
The Icecrag monastery has coexisted with a tribe of goat-herding orcs since its inception and the population of the latter has been on the rise – unfortunately to an extent, where the tribe is dependent on wild-life to supplement its dietary needs. More unfortunately, the wild goats and other potential food sources have been diminished. Now the orcs have attacked the monastery. A hawk escapes with a blood-smeared note (included as a hand-out) to Rybalka to warn and ask for assistance. Enter the PCs. Now, as any self-respecting remote monastery, the Icecrag one is located far off from civilization and the trip there is the first thing to do. Some suggestions for hazards and wandering monsters are provided with hyperlinks, but are not reprinted in the pdf – which is a pity if you’re like me and print out modules to run them and somewhat feels a bit lazy. Once the PCs reach the monastery gates (which come as a sketch drawing and a one-page map of the locale), they are instructed by the abbot about the recent sudden onset of orc-raids, only to have one happen at their door. Thankfully, this time the PCs can rebuke the raid and perhaps even learn the new herbalism-feat, which comes with complete rules to create 6 mundane salves/poultices.
After rebuking the attack, the chief of the orc tribe comes to the monastery’s door – in peace. The orcs have been starving due to a white bird demon and provide a crude map to said creature’s home – if the PCs take care of the threat to the local eco-system, the orcs may stop their raids. At the cave, the PCs will have to brave an ice basilisk and then defeat the white dragon that has been the underlying source of the conflict. Once vanquished, there’s again peace between the two groups and PCs may actually get a neat staff from the monks, an orb of illusion and a fully detailed hoard. Rules for rare berries are also provided alongside a stunning artwork of the dragon.
Unfortunately, I have also some criticism regarding the adventure’s straight-forward plot: While convincing the monks to abandon their home or killing all orcs are also options suggested in the beginning of the module, these paths are not explored in the slightest. No sample DCs for a conversation to convince the monks to leave, no information on the orc tribe/its camp. essentially, this module pretends to offer a freedom it does not deliver.
Additionally, the attack on the dragon is rather anticlimactic – one paltry minion and that’s it? The overall defenses of the dragon are pathetic and while whites are not the sharpest tools in the shed, more defensive measures would have been appropriate. In fact, I think dragons always deserve special care and an array of tactics. This critter, though, is a static foe at the end of a lair that, in spite of numerous height levels, makes nothing of this terrain – where a cool, modular battle could have taken place (the dragon taking several levels at once etc., nothing really happens and the DM gets no unique tactics that help make the encounter memorable and in the end, reading this finale left me with a distinct feeling of disappointment.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed some minor glitches, though nothing serious. The pdf adheres to Adventureaweek.com’s 2-column standard and comes with nice drawings/maps. Unfortunately, though, in a step back, we don’t get any player-friendly maps this time around – disappointing! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with an extra, printer-friendly version and hero-lab files as well as stats for all involved creatures in both 3.5 and PFRPG.
This adventure is not exactly bad. It just has one massive problem: The last two modules by adventureaweek.com were vastly superior to this one. Where the “Secrets of the Tristone” provided neat puzzles and iconic locations and “Rogue Wizard’s” weirdness was a joy to behold, the trip to the Icecrag monastery remains formulaic at best and its presentation does nothing to help: From a handwaved trip to the place sans anything unique or any sense of narrative foreboding, to the rather bland monastery, I was not captivated even once by what I read here. The short herbalism-feat and idea could have been great, were it expanded upon and supplemented by herb-write-ups – as presented, it feels like a half-baked homebrew-rule (including rather static Knowledge (nature)-checks) that has imho no place in a professionally done module.
Especially when e.g. SGG’s Ranger’s Options book has demonstrated how e.g. herbs could be used to create extracts. And then there are the essentially two encounters: Rebuke tribal foe, slay true culprit of tensions between people. It does not get more formulaic than that. Worse, the true foe is blatantly obvious (white call it by some other name?) and falls terribly FLAT. As one, if not the most iconic beast, its lack of tactics and pitiful defenses make victory for the PCs almost laughably easy if played by the book. Don’t get me wrong, the prose is generally good, but the overall plot is so terribly trite, its execution so unimaginative that I could scarcely believe that it came from the same feather as the last two adventures. Let’s sum it up: No player-friendly maps. Dropped alternative resolutions of the scenario that are mentioned and then not followed up on. An extremely formulaic plot. A hand-waved wilderness journey. Locales that lack the iconicity of other modules by AaW. A rather lame herbalism-feat that feels like a cut-down chapter in a gazetteer. An unfortunately utterly disappointing finale. “Splinters of Faith 6” does the icy monastery in a much more iconic way and is the overall superior module. Try as I might, even when taking the neat maps and the nice piece of artwork into account, I can’t go higher than 2 stars on this one.