VIRTUAL TABLETOP MAP
This month there’s a grab bag of content from the AaWBlog for folks to enjoy! In addition to the normal magic items, traps, haunts, GM articles, sidequests and creatures you’re used to, for April we’ve got some high-quality maps by Jonathan G. Nelson with Web Extras – Maps!
These are ideal for GMs running Rise of the Drow, but can be used by any group in the Underworld of Aventyr (or other subterranean locales). Below are a map for the Gamemaster’s eyes only, one for players to use, and another ideal for use with VTT programs!
VIRTUAL TABLETOP MAP
Want to know what it’s like to run AdventureAWeek.com?
Check out this episode of Gamer Lifestyle, where the inimitable Jonathan Nelson breaks it down for Johnn Four (of Gamer-Lifestyle) and Brian “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (of Moebius Adventures)!
Jonathan tells all – the struggle to get started, the Do’s and Don’t’s of publishing, what programs and services are the best value for what AdventureAWeek.com provides, how to get started in the gaming industry, the pressures of publishing the hardcover monster that is Rise of the Drow – it’s all inside this interview.
If you just want the really good stuff, where he plugs me, check out the last 5 minutes. ; ) -Mike
Today I’ll take a look at AaW’s latest classic play module,
This module is 27 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 24 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 Sufferhorn Orc clan, leaders of the Gorrok empire of Orcs (also having subjugated ogres, trolls etc.) is trying to expand the borders of their empire and unfortunately for all other races, they seem to be succeeding: The PCs are hired to take Mosshammer castle, which has fallen to the Boarhut tribe, themselves related to the Sufferhorns.
Now logic dictates that retaking a castle, even when manned by orcs, is not that simple and indeed, the approach of the PCs can be rather sandboxy, enabling them to e.g. take out a hunting group to thin the ranks, pass undead former human soldiers guarding the castle unharmed etc. Smart thinking is rewarded – a sidequest, for example, would have the PCs enter the former chapel of the castle to retrieve a relic – unfortunately, the chapel is now home to not one, but 4 dire boars. If the PCs have found a particular set of bottles and douse foes with the “pig sweat”, they can actually have the creatures attack the doused foe exclusively – great way to reward smart thinking. Speaking of side-quests – a treasure map (provided as a hand-out – the second after a one-page rendition of the castle exterior) could lead the PCs to a place where they can unearth a treasure – provided they survive the journey.
But back to the castle: The orcs have truly created a monstrosity: A *drum roll* DEMON SHEEP! (which is actually undead) -hilarious and awesome and yet another way for stealthy characters to sow discord and sabotage their foes! To triumph truly, though, they’ll have to vanquish chief Dolaken Boarhut and his sorcerous brother Harveken – once these two are done for, they castle will finally be back in non-green hands: But for how long?
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s two-column standard and the module comes in two versions: One with a background and one rather printer-friendly one sans the background. The module is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and comes with two nice player’s handouts as well as a player-friendly map of the castle, which is nice to have.
At first, this module may seem simple and uninspired. Take back a castle from orcs. Yeah, ok. There’s something about Sufferhorn, though, that makes it interesting and it’s not only the nice sidequest, but rather it’s the details and the obvious sandboxy intention of confronting the players with a situation and have them either try to grind through it or use their wits and guerrilla warfare to succeed. Smart PCs can avoid the worst battle in the module and even turn a significant potential asset of the orcs against them. If they’re dumb, players could die, yes. But much like “Goblin Cave” (seriously, Goblin Cave?), this module is a solid challenge and a great introduction to the mindset and playstyle of the classics. Add the nice humor inherent in one creature that had me grin and we’re in for a good module, though not one that can stand up to the stellar C1. Much rather, consider this a nice, short sojourn that will provide a fun time for you and your players without taxing them to their utmost limits or being too easy. In the end, it is a solid, good module that can be considered a good piece of writing. It is only due to the module’s shortness that the final verdict will thus be 4 stars.
today I’ll take a look at AaW’s second classic play module,
This module is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving 25 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. Oh. The module is called “Goblin Cave”. Guess what you’ll get? Goblins. In a cave? Perhaps. Yeah that might be it. Seriously, though. The title is lame as hell.
Still here? All right! The village of Svor has recently suffered from incursions of goblins that are oddly well trained and since the isolated village is rather small, it falls to the PCs to put an end to the threat. After a round of investigation gathering (if desired), the PCs can track their way to the cavernous hideout of the goblins and it’s all old-schoolish dungeon crawl from here on out: In order to enter the cave situated at the edge of the murky lake, the PCs will have to wade through stagnant water and then best goblin sentries and make their way through a complex, in which they’ll be challenged by slippery cooking oil, worg-riding goblin cavalry and even make an uncommon ally: Grog the former chief of the tribe of greenskins is now a ghost that has been supplanted by the wizard Taraxian.
In an ironic twist, neither filth fever, nor poisonous spores make for the most deadly hazard in this place, but rather an overstocked storage area that might have the PCs buried in an avalanche of goods. Have I mentioned the rust monster that will add both to the chaos and frighten the players fearing for their precious goods…
Both the stolen goods and Taraxian’s library are rather detailed and the finale is also rather neat, offering not only a classic tactic, but also a circle which is a representation of the Circulus Sanguinus-spell the wizard employed to take command of the goblins. Whether with or without the help of the goblin ghost, the PCs will have to face down the wizard and hopefully manage to avoid slaying a controlled acolyte. If they have helped the ghost, he may even point them towards his hidden treasure stash, which is a neat mini-puzzle to end the module.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s two-column standard with a white background, following the standard of the C-series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and will get herolab support, though the files have not gone online as I write these lines. The cartography provides us with an awesome full-color map of both the dungeon and the overworld, with the latter coming in two versions, one of which is player-friendly – kudos!
I expected to hate this module. It’s rather short and has one of the most boring titles imaginable. But, here’s the catch: It’s actually rather good and has some memorable moments: If worg-riding goblins flinging disgusting, hot goblin soup at PCs doesn’t sound like fun, what is? The option to unearth a hidden treasure (even one as paltry as a goblin’s) is also rather iconic and a cool idea and the complex storage encounter is neat as well. All in all, this is definitely a solid, well-written module, but also one that sports a distinct lack of je-ne-sais-quoi. The spark. The additional environmental challenge. The encounter that will have the players talk about it for days to come. While it won’t win any prices for ingenuity and lacks the vast iconicity of C1, it is still a low-level adventure that has its moments. I’d also consider it a good introduction to old-school play-styles since it can be difficult, but not nearly as deadly as comparable modules like C1 or the offerings of Frog God Games. Also, the module is rather on the short side and in the light of all of this, I can settle for a (at least for me) surprising verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform – for a module named “Goblin Cave”. Yeah. I still can’t get over the title.
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.
All right, still here?
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. 😉
Today I’m going to take a look at AaW’s only (so far) A-series adventure that does not take place in the frontier-town of Rybalka:
This module is 62 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, we are left with a total of 57 pages, so let’s check this one out!
This pdf is the first of Adventureaweek.com‘s modules that does not take place in the wintry peninsula that contains the settlement of Rybalka and instead begins in the city of Cherrian’s Rest, which is loyal to the Black Gold Consortium at the border of a vast swamp. Thus, we are first introduced to the city and its surrounding, swampy area as well as diseases, infestations, complex rules for bug bites and even a rather large table for environmental and meteorological circumstances, assigning random encounters to the respective conditions. And yes, black gold is essentially oil…
That out of the way, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion!
Still here? All right! The PCs are hired to find a missing boat called the “Wasp” and especially the beautiful maiden and chief negotiator Sandalia, who’s been aboard. In order to navigate the swamp, the PCs will have to charter one of 3 vessels, all of which come with their own respective stats. It should be mentioned, though, that these vessels use a simplified abstract rule-set, not Paizo’s naval combat rules. What’s quite cool is the introduction of swamp points: Depending on the vessel and the captain’s skill, the PCs may spend swamp points to avoid random encounters. While abstract, this simple mechanic adds a tad bit of tactic to the exploration and serves as a nice justification for the DM to spring some unpleasant encounters in the way of the PCs. After checking the ship’s last known whereabouts, the PCs will have to track the missing ship, only to find a shipwreck and the gruesome reminders of the attack that cost the lives of most crew-men. After that, unfortunately for them, it’s time for some exploration, sand-box style: The PCs may, via logical thinking, find an abandoned camp-site on one of the islands and there encounter an empty potion bottle that once contained a variation of a philtre of love – the plot thickens.
A more gruesome encounter with an undead family in an old cabin may also provide for rather disturbing encounter at the island of traveler’s rest, but sooner or later, the PCs will have to brave the Fire Fields: Here, highly volatile, flammable gas erupts from the ground and being from the elemental plane of fire roam free. Finally, the Big Rock hearkens and after an exhausting climb, the PCs will find a cave. Unfortunately for them, the inhabitants have prepared themselves: the approach of them cavern is riddled with traps and especially the zigzagging way down the side of a cliff will provide for an interesting challenge against the bog troll Nimbit and the girl who loves him. The missing Sandalia, alchemically manipulated by drinking the potion of true love the PCs may or may have not found, are actually happy and have prepared this gauntlet to get rid of his brothers, who don’t look kindly upon the budding, unlikely romance of the two. The finale thus may have the PCs not only fighting Nimbit’s brothers, but also make an interesting decision: Whether to wed the strange couple or kill Nimbit and drag the screaming Sandalia back to civilization.
The pdf also comes with new magical items, full stats for the creatures featured in the module in 3.5 and PFRPG-stats and THANKFULLY again player-friendly maps, which omit traps! Hell yeah! Especially the map of the area surrounding Cherrian’s Rest without any letters is awesome: Give it to the players and have them explore! This should be the standard for such wilderness sections.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I did notice some minor glitches. Layout adheres to Adventureaweek.com’s two-column standard and the pdf comes with an extra version sans backgrounds. The pdf is fully bookmarked and provides hero-lab files as well. The maps are of the high standard I’ve come to expect from AaW, while the cartoonish artworks left me cold – my PCs probably won’t get to see them. This adventure is interesting to say the least: While a more detailed look/map of Cherrian’s Rest would have been nice, that’s only the starting point of the module and this one actually delivers something interesting: The mini-game with the swamp-ships/skiffs makes for a neat idea and adds a bit of depths to the exploration of the swamp.
The sandboxy formula makes adding encounters easy and journeying through the Fire Fields will definitely be a memorable experience. Seeing the hints spread throughout the module come together, we’re in for an interesting take of the “Beauty and the Beast”-trope that has more than one resolution and thankfully does not dissolve into a simple good/evil-conflict, but a question of ethics, emotion and the subjectivity of free will. Or you could just kill everything. The zigzagging escape down a cliff makes for an at first somewhat hard to grasp, but interesting showdown. So, what’s my final verdict, then? For the low price of $5.00, you get quite a bit bang for your buck and the module once again provides some interesting, uncommon situation and mechanics. In contrast to “Icecrag Monastery”, we thankfully get original environmental factors, neat ideas like the bug-sting/bite-system etc. to drive home how unpleasant the swamp can truly be. Thus, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars due to the minor glitches and none-too-great artwork and round down for the purpose of this platform – Wild Thing was an enjoyable experience and can be considered to rank among the best of the AaW-modules so far.
And I’m going to introduce you to one of my favorite modules by AaW so far:
This pdf is 78 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/front cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 74 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right! Still here? The weather around Rybalka has not been the best and that is an understatement of epic proportions. When the seasoned captain Duglig Merimies (identified via a captain’s token – a cool piece of culture that is also represented via a neat artwork) is found adrift in the seas, his tongue missing, dead and tied to crates, something is obviously amiss and it’s up to the PCs to find out what happened and accompany captain Ertaran Honamatrus. After an extensive research-section (nice), there unfortunately are some problems – Huriendor, obviously upset about the PCs (by now probably accomplished heroes in and around Rybalka) leaving and has gathered a mob to keep their precious heroes – thus we are introduced to the first cool bit of crunch in this module – a crowd-control tug of war between the sailors and the Rybalkan locals, both groups of which want the PCs. That is, the Pcs are not facing a straight-forward combat, but rather a complex, yet easy to run and ultimately more or less harmless and fun encounter, which may nevertheless turn easily ugly, making this perhaps the best introductory scenes in the whole line of adventures and making it rather easy for the DM to make his PCs encounter the results of their actions from prior adventures.
The journey per se will be a kind of paper chase aboard the vessel and feature elementals, a potentially friendly ice roc that may clear up what has happened and even an ice-water Elasmosaurus. And then, they reach the island that is the location of the adventure. AaW does it again. Turns out that the strange weather phenomena are the result of an artifact, the Troposheroscope: Housing a shard of the sun (see also the latest Pathways e-zine…), the device was utilized and kept in the care of a storm giant’s floating island. Unfortunately, said keeper has died in a maintenance accident of the device, which has promptly turned haywire. Worse yet, the floating island’s keel has been torn off by a collision with a cliff, flipping the whole floating island upside down. Yes. The PCs will have to explore a floating, upside down fortress of a storm giant above a lake. Now if that’s not awesome, what is? Even better, the top of the structure is guarded by multiple traps that belong to the good category – they can be observed and worked around, much like good puzzles. The location also gets neat artworks and the fortress itself is plain awesome – magical horns, a devious trap (paralysis, gelatinous cubes, force cages – ouch!) including a respective warning, mobs of mephits, a library (including 3 sample, rather interesting books) and one of the funniest ways to die, impaled by giant cutlery, are part of the deal. Have I mentioned the electro-hydra and the showdown against 2 young blue dragons (tundra is also a kind of desert, after all) that comes with hoards as well as a selection of tactics? And after the PCs have braved this section of the island, they still have to navigate the upside-down caverns (with side-view map) and stop the malfunctioning artifact and defeat the now undead former keeper of the weather-control device while solving the puzzle on how to disable the artifact and avoiding its deadly blasts. Ladies and gentlemen – THIS is a climax worthy of the name! Iconic, challenging, with both a cool location, an interesting adversary and even a puzzle strewn in, this is an awesome final battle… that may see essentially a kind of magical equivalent of an atomic bomb in the hands of the PCs to determine whom to give the artifact or keep it themselves. I know that my players would try to keep it, if only to give new credence to the phrase “blaze of glory” – removing the lead from the shard, they’d look at a whopping 444 points of damage – some forces are not for mortals to tamper with…
26 pages are taken up by the full stats of the creatures encountered herein, both for PFRPG and 3.5. We also get player-friendly versions of all maps in the module, and a map of Rybalka and a typical Rybalkan house.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches that would have impeded my enjoyment. Layout adheres to the Pre-B2-two-column layout and the maps, as I’ve come to expect by AaW, are top-notch. The artworks are ok. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and while the player handout bookmark doesn’t work, it’s nested bookmarks do work – no harm done. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version. At the time of me writing this review, Herolab files have not yet been added, but I’m positive they will. This module is AaW at their best – an awesome, iconic location, a cool mini-game, internal consistency, cool effects and a climax that deserves the name and provides us with an excellent set of cool effects. The only potential gripe a DM should be aware of is that the Pcs may very well end this adventure with a powerful weapon of destruction that they may use as a last resort – at the cost of all their lives. However, this is easily remedied by making it impossible to dismantle said tool. Let me say it again: This one of the modules that is not only good, it is excellent, fun and exciting and your players will enjoy exploring the cool location. My final verdict for this one will be 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval.
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!
today I’m going to take a look at one of the best modules Adventureaweek.com has released so far and at also one of the worst! Let’s first check out how great a module they can deliver with
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.
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!
Today I’m taking a look at another 2 Adventureaweek.com modules, this time at ones that continued to set the bar higher and led the way towards what can be seen in current offerings, namely
This pdf is 41 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content, so let’s check this one out, shall we?
This is an adventure-review and as such, the following contains SPOILERS. I encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! This adventures starts off rather simple: Yuri Statel, sage of Rybalka, needs some special kind of mushroom (perhaps for his drug cocktails?) and tasks the PCs with contacting famed devil-slayer and hermit Cual Beartooth (whom they might know from earlier adventures). The problem is – said hermit lives in the aptly-named Dark Wood, where perils abound. After being harassed by swarms of deadly creatures (like evil ravens, rats and even vampire spawn), they reach Cual, who promptly points them in the right direction. Overtly-ambitious PCs may also slay a certain Troll, who unfortunately also acts to keep the devils of Dark Wood in check – his demise will potentially have unpleasant consequences in future adventures, but that only as an additional piece of information.
Unfortunately for the PCs, the mushrooms have already been picked – fortunately for them, though, the perpetrator is a gnomish wizard who left a trail of crumbs leading to his ice-wall-sealed cave. Said gnome comes out at night and is willing to haggle with the PCs – for two sacks of food, craddleberries and gold. If the PCs acquiesce to the demands, he sends them off to the jagged crags, where the berries grow amidst thorns and near a tri-tongue monstrosity. Unfortunately, the gnome’s accomplice, a babau demon also tries to bully the PCs into giving up even more of their loot/pillage/kill them.
Once they return to the mischievous gnome, he sends them home with shrooms – unfortunately, though, the wrong ones. On their return to the gnome, the PCs are hopefully furious, especially once they realize that gnome and babau are accomplices – seemingly caught in the act, the two retreat into the cavern and it is here that the adventure turn to the more sadistic end – the gnome and demon retreat into a gauntlet of traps, and what traps! From a fake puzzlebox to a lake of oil that is ignited, a lake of sulfuric acid-laden water, a radioactive island set up like a beacon in a small subterranean lake, to zombie pits, ratswarms etc., the PCs are in for quite a ride! If they can defeat the two villains at the end of the gauntlet, they might also finally find the rare mushrooms they sought as well as a secret treasure hoard that contains a neat magical amulet, which also gets A LOT of background story in the back – be sure to check this out. It should also be mentioned, that the final battle comes with a battle-mat-style map of the cavern with its natural rock pillars.
The adventure ends with full stats for 3.5 and PFRPG-versions of the antagonists
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any jarring glitches or the like. Layout adheres to adventureaweek.com‘s two-column standard and this one comes fully bookmarked and with herolab-files. Special mention deserve, as always in adventureaweek.com-modules, the cartography: The dungeon is actually 3 pages of maps and we get *drums* PLAYER-FRIENDLY MAPS! Yes Key-less, letter-less, but unfortunately showing the secret passage. Oh well, but that’s a step in the right direction! The battle-mat-style map for the final battle is nice and generally, while the plot per se starts like a simple fetch-quest, it turns nasty VERY quick. This feint is a neat idea to catch the PCs off guard and the dungeon is very well done. The hazards and environmental traps are clever, downright sadistic at times and make the whole experience really feel like running a deadly gauntlet. On the content-side, this is also one of adventureaweek.com’s modules that offers quite a bit bang for buck – 36 pages is perfectly fine for the price-point. That being said, I really enjoyed this module and in the end will settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.
And then there’ a module, that can be considered truly excellent:
This adventure is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 27 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? This one kicks off with rather interesting quest – the PCs are called upon by a man named Sultowik with a rather delicate proposal: A local tribe of Vikmordere has contacted him to locate a certain artifact – which unfortunately lies in Klavekian territory. Not wanting to risk an uproar, the PCs have to discreetly get the Tri-Stone to prevent further tensions between ethnicities. Unfortunately, the location of said artifact is codified in a rune-stone.
Very cool idea to start with: Runic alphabets of the ancients – a sample runic alphabet based on the FuÞark is included as well as an artwork of a stick that provides the runes with their regular letter-equivalents. While not 100% accurate, the inclusion of the runes makes for an awesome idea. Even better – once the PCs have found the rune-stone (with a one-page artwork), they can use the rune stick to decipher the inscriptions. VERY cool puzzle!
Once the PCs have correctly deciphered the rune-stone’s message, they’re up for a short trek along some steep cliffs and then, they’ll have to climb down the cliff – hidden by illusions in the middle of the cliff’s wall lies the ancient burial ship of King Rytan. Let that sink in: The PCs will have to explore a viking burial ship (complete with a LOT of undead, traps and even, yes, zombie handmaidens!) to find the artifact. Also cool: There are traps that make sense in their placement and which can be avoided by cleverly deciphering a warning via the rune-stick. I would have loved a piece of artwork depicting the room and the runes to show to the PCs instead of one showing the undead handmaidens, though – as written, you have to make the runic inscriptions that warn them of the trap yourself.
Even if the PCs manage to claim the fables Tri-Stone, they will still be ambushed by a rival tribe of Vikmordere and will have quite a tough battle on their hands. Now, if the PCs have not robbed the burial ship, they are awarded (possibly also in a future adventure), but if they opt to do so, they can score the ancient king’s magical sword and shield. Full stats for the powerful artifact are included and thankfully, the thing can’t be abused by greedy PCs. Clever writing! The pdf concludes with full stats for the adversaries as well as a player-friendly map (YES!) without keys and letters you can hand out to your players. It’s not over, though: A vampiric shaman of the Vikmordere takes the Tri-Stone once the PCs have parted with it, leaving us with an exciting cliff-hanger.
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect – e.g. the description of the aftermath suddenly and for no explicable reason turns the text to italics. Layout adheres to adventureaweek.com’s full-color two-column standard and provides awesome maps and neat pieces of artwork, especially for the puzzle. The pdf comes with bookmarks as well as Herolab-support, but no printer-friendly version. Wow – a great puzzle, neat maps and a location that oozes iconicity and coolness. Just when I thought I knew what to expect at best from adventureaweek.com, they pull this one out of their hats. Let me spell it out for you: This is as of yet by far their best module – from the awesome puzzles (that should stupefy no player, but be fun and come with DM-aids to help stuck players) to the iconic dungeon and sense of ancientness, I can find no weakness in the narrative or the module’s overall presentation. In fact, I was positively blown away by how neat and concise the narrative is presented. In fact, apart from aforementioned “missing” artwork (one would have been useful) and the lack of a b/w-version sans background, I have nothing to complain. Due to these two minor gripes, I’ll omit my seal of approval, but I’ll nevertheless settle for a final verdict of 5 stars – especially for the fair price of $5.00, this is a good purchase indeed.
And that’s it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings!