Today I'll take a look at a nice horror-module that should have the Horror-aficionados cackle with glee, Run Amok Games'
This adventure is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's check this out!
This being an adventure-review, this text contains a bunch of major SPOILERS - potential players should jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! This module kicks off when the PCs are finding their way through the lands of the mysterious Klaustad family and happen upon the carnage of the aftermath of a dread attack on a retinue of guards on a stone bridge while the nightly storm is pouring torrential rain down on them. Rescuing the beautiful maiden Alayna Vedellic (who gets a stellar piece of b/w-artwork, as do all major NPCs in this pdf) pinned beneath the carriage - worse, the dead start to rise and the PCs will have to defeat the rising guards while keeping them from feasting upon Alayna's flesh. It should be noted that the encounter comes with its own map, complete with grids for use with miniatures. Worse, the PCs hear a bellow from under the bridge, first sign of a bridge troll awakening - the PCs better depart hastily with the lady to the (again, fully mapped) Gravedigger's Rest, an inn led by an almost gypsy-like crone (with again, a great artwork) when Lord Klaustad, the local reclusive nobleman shows up - essentially as a vampire red herring for the PCs, but cool in that he interrogates them. The bridge troll meanwhile has awakened -drawn by the scent of his quarry, he circles the inn, but doesn't dare enter -for now. Strangely, he seems to be after Lord Klaustad, though he hasn't crossed the bridge in weeks and Alayna described her attacker as medium-sized, not such a hulking brute.
Lord Klaustad thankfully comes clean - he hands the PCs equipment and tells them of a harrowing tale- the attacker is his undead son, returned from the grave via a dire curse in spite of the Lord's precautions - he wants his son put to eternal rest, preferably while staying alive. After receiving some folk charms (or denying them), the PCs will have to figure out how to outrun the troll to the high road where he dares not follow. A multitude of plans and a clever exploitation of his fixation on his quarry may provide the PCs just the edge they need to outrun the deadly brute via a chase with 10 obstacles. After that, the horror does not subside - undead Holst Klaustad waits at the bridge and without the folk charms, one attack is enough to kill a first level PC! Once the wight is vanquished, the troll takes a bite of his undead quarry and goes to sleep, but the madness is not over - they still have to make sure the undead horror is stopped once and for all: At the local cemetery (also fully mapped, including a cool isometric version), they will have to deal with deadly lightning, giant maggots, negotiate with the creepy groundskeeper and enter the crypt of Holst without being killed by his trap. Of course, evil is not easily laid to rest and he returns in a vampiric misty form to haunt the PCs once again if they attempt to lay him to his final rest - hopefully, they use the sacred seal received from Harald to good effect.
Evil does not die easily and the epilogue hints at the troll becoming infused with Holst's essence, making for a great sequel-idea as well as the eponymous "It's not over..."-ending. I wouldn't mind a direct sequel...
The pdf also has information on scaling the adventure and comes with 5 pre-gens, all of which get mug-shots. Furthermore, there is a cool innovation interspersed throughout the pages of this module - "Ultra-horror sidebars". These are made for sadistic bastard DMs like yours truly and are guaranteed to make a tough module ridiculously hard, challenging even the best of players - E.g. touching the cemetery gate will result in the storm hit it with lightning, potentially roasting PCs alive. Another option would be to have the troll ALWAYS be one step behind the slowest PC in the chase -deadly, yes, but oh so rewarding and guaranteed to amp up the adrenaline for your PCs and players alike - just make sure your players are all right with characters dying left and right for every bad decision. These boxes are optional, mind you, but I'd still suggest you take a look at them!
The pdf also comes with a second pdf containing the full-color maps of the bridge and the cemetery in a blown-up version so you can print them out and use them with miniatures. The maps are detailed, beautiful and awesome, though I would have loved to see the isometric b/w-maps of the locations as player-handouts in large as well.
Editing is top-notch, though a slightly annoying formatting glitch has crept into the statblocks and rules-information, showing a plethora of letters, mostly "l"s as bold - this, however, is a reader-glitch and does not show up on my printed out version of the module - just something you should be aware of. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the original mugshots for _all_ the NPCs alongside the gorgeous maps are simply awesome -props to Joshua Bennett, Chaz Kemp and Blake Wilkie for doing such an excellent job. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
I'll come right out and say what all of you who follow my reviews probably all know: My heart belongs to Gothic Horror modules. I like my fantasy dark and gritty and while I enjoy high-fantasy forays, my one true love, genre-wise will always be the dark and creepy. So is this a yarn of gothic horror? Yes and no - on the one hand, it is definitely a horror adventure that will provide ample adrenaline and make your PCs feel hunted and as if the world turned against them (if using the extremely hard ultra-horror version detailed in the boxes). On the other hand, it is not especially gothic in its build up of suspension - this module drops the PCs in a nightmare, kicks up the gears and relentlessly pushes them to their absolute limits. Yes, there are downtime phases, but the horror elicited from this module is not too subtle. But oh boy, it works AWESOME! If you've played Resident Evil 4, you probably can get what this module does, pacing-wise: While there are less threatening encounters in here, dread and destruction always loom and the mood set in the module is superb. This may not be a gothic horror module in the classic sense (mind you, most Ravenloft modules didn't manage that), but it IS a stellar horror module.
Add to that the joyously sadistic ultra-horror options to ramp up the body-count and we have yet again a truly stellar module by Ron Lundeen and, if I may say so, once again an instant classic. Especially taking the low price into account and the quality you get for your bucks, I can wholeheartedly recommend this excellent module. My final verdict will be 5 stars plus endzeitgeist seal of approval.
Hope you'll enjoy this - don't let the troll get you!