The first one is a rather easy scenario by Tricky Owlbear Publishing entitled
Sin of the Fathers
This adventure is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 15 pages of content, so let's check this out, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, it contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right. The adventure opens with the PCs getting an invitation to claim an inheritance at a farm in the idyllic town of Shadowfield. Once they have ventured into a carriage and gotten there, they'll have to contend with a rather unpleasant discovery - the originator of the letter is rather dead and musk-creeperfied and some force wants revenge - turns out, the PC's ancestors have brought a heinous serial killer to justice and now his revived form (an undead scarecrow) has prepared an extensive gauntlet of traps and assaults to settle the old score.
While the town is detailed and even all of the NPCs get their own statblocks (and background stories including adventure hooks!), the basic plot is rather obvious from the beginning, as are the myriad ways open to the PCs finding the cave system beneath the farm that hides the sanctuary of the foe. The caverns, though, are rather interesting, as the traps they contain tend to be on the smart side and all of the encounters use environments stacked against the PCs for tactical combat situations as well as mood-setting elements. The adventure has the distinct possibility of the villain being defeated prior to the final encounter, but offers advice on his rejuvenation for the showdown.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and includes all stats necessary to run the adventure. Artworks are b/w and ok. We get 3 maps, 2 of which (the farm and the town) can be handed out to the players, as they contain no spoilers or annoying numbers that spell out the locations for them - excellent service and adds to the value of the pdf.
I like this adventure in that it's simple, can easily be run almost spontaneously and offers a nice first level introductory scenario. That being said, while the writing is atmospheric, I can't see the horror-aspect working well with regards to my players. Why? Because this adventure is very easy. While the traps are rather devious and not to be taken lightly, the main adversary is rather weak and the fact that a special rejuvenation beyond the first per se is not included somewhat drags down the scariness of the foe. Also, the adventure serves the background story/truth behind the assault to the PCs on a silver platter in the first encounter, essentially invalidating any need for investigation and thus depriving the adventure of the phase of rising tension. While this enables the adventure to be run very fast-paced, it also means that veteran players will not be particularly challenged by this module. I know that my players would be done with the adventure in under 4 hours. While you always can complicate the plot, as written it felt too simple for my tastes.
That being said, "Sin of the Fathers" still makes for a nice evening of roleplaying that probably won't see too many PC-deaths and a neat introduction to a new campaign, especially for less experienced players who want to delve into the horror genre without facing the often rather deadly horror-modules out there. My final verdict will take this into account and be 3.5 Rudii.
Are your players rather experienced? Do they laugh about vampires and similar critters? Want something different? Frog God Games has a rather deadly (even for their standards!) scenario you might want to check out
Saturday Night Specials - Hollow Mountain
This pdf is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements and 1 page SRD, leaving 41 pages of content for this adventure, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
The Elves around the Hollow Mountain just aren't what they used to be - in more than one sense. The once peaceful nomadic wood elves have started raiding and killing humans and other humanoid creatures to convert them to the true nature - something that should give druids nightmares indeed: The elves have resurrected a strange cult that has them growing plant-like mutations like deadly spores and briars. It is these strange elves that now inhabit a forest of petrified mushrooms inside a hollow mountain and that make up the major opposition of the PCs.
Their fortress is inside one gigantic petrified mushroom and thus makes for a rather creepy backdrop for the dungeon crawl. The fortress of the elves is well-defended by their tainted nature, their massive capabilities and rather deadly allies (which includes a dragon as well as an awakened tiger who thinks he is a dragon). Have I mentioned the deadly war flowers?
Hopefully, the PCs manage to free the erstwhile druid of the tribe (now utterly mad) and finally reach the hidden temple of the dread cult to reach a highly mutable plane where a deadly, aberrant nature provides terrible hindrances in the PCs final fight: The end the threat of the constant corruption of the nature, they will have to destroy a thing left behind from an aborted version of creation, an utterly disturbing tree-like monstrosity whose mere proximity mutates his foes.
The pdf closes by providing the complex reborn-template as well as a player handout.
Editing is top-notch, however, I noticed a major formatting glitch on the first map, starting room 20 to 26 there seems to be a discrepancy between the map numbers and room numbers, which is a bummer. Layout adheres to the b/w-2-column standard and the pdf is extensively bookmarked. We get 3 maps and the original b/w-artworks belong to the best you can imagine - especially the one-page picture of the final adversary is just plain awesome in its creepiness. Indeed, an almost cthulhoid sense of wrongness pervades the whole module - author Uri Kurlianchik did an awesome job creating a truly disturbing dungeon crawl with interesting locations, smart foes, social interaction thrown in and an overall feeling of being unwelcome in this dark new world order. In fact, I consider this adventure to be quite deeply-entrenched in the horror-genre - if not for its narrative structure, then for the increasingly disturbing foes the PCs face and the furios final fight that truly deserves the name. However, a warning to players participating in this adventure - you probably will come out of this...changed. And some changes are hard to reverse... My final verdict will be 4 Rudii, as the map/room-discrepancy makes running a section of this adventure slightly more complicated than necessary.
And finally, I know that the economy is tough. But even though financially these are not the best of times, we can still enjoy a quality night of Halloween gaming - Rite Publishing offers us the FREE Kaidan-adventure
This adventure is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 7 pages advertisement, 1 page back cover and 1 page SRD, leaving 28 pages of content for the adventure, so let's check it out, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to skip to the conclusion!
Still here? All righty!
Frozen Wind takes place in Kaidan (though any monastery/Asian-themed setting will do) and offers what I've come to love from the series - a brand of Japanese Gothic horror we rarely, if ever, see in RPGs.
The PCs arrive at the monastery when the chill of winter/ice-cold temperatures catch up with them (or due to personal reasons) and are shown their sleeping quarters. The adventure wastes no time, as the PCs are awakened by gaps of the dying - frost-coated monks suddenly convulse as their souls are ripped from their body (which coats them in frost in this particular instance) and the PCs are left in a suddenly very cold monastery - all the fires have gone out. The PCs should probably look for firewood and a way to keep warm while figuring out what exactly has happened.
Essentially, the monastery is a huge trap as the supposedly benign Kami it is devoted to actually turns out to be a Yuki-Onna who made the founder pledge the souls of the monks to her before making him forget this whole deal. Subsequently, her Koori-no-Oni (Ice-Oni) are the first opposition the PCs will have to contend with in an otherwise rather silent monastery - after all, the monks are now all dead. Once they have concluded this first act, the monks rise from the dead as frozen undead and seek to annihilate the PCs, who should at this point not only be fighting against the dread creatures, but also against the growing cold - survival horror at its best. Somewhere in the monastery, the Yki-Onna awaits them for the first showdown and should they defeat her, she tries to escape and seeks to summon a dread ice-kami which (along round 2 against her) makes for the final showdown. The impending summoning of the dread Kami makes for an additional counter that urges the PCs to keep up the pace and not waste any time - if she manages to summon the huge ice-bear, the PCs will have a serious problem on their hands.
The pdf concludes with 3 new monsters (one of which is a template), 6 pregenerated characters (each on his/her own page - ready to just be printed out and handed to your players) and gamemaster aids, to be precise, a temperature tracker and a summoning tracker for the Kami as well as a scoring sheet if you want to run this a convention scenario.
Editing and formatting are ok - while I did notice some glitches and would usually detract half a star/a star, this adventure is free and easily usable as written. Layout adheres to the beautiful 2-column full-color, bamboo-lined Kaidan-standard and the artworks are mostly thematically-fitting, Japanese stock, but do actually contain some original pieces of gorgeous artwork - not something I would have expected in a free pdf! The pdf is also extensively bookmarked.
Special mention should be given to the presentation of the monastery, as it continues to change during the course of the adventure - thankfully, the beautiful full-color map helps picturing the monastery. The pregenerated characters all come with special missions they can complete in the monastery and the gamemaster helps mean that you can run this scenario with a minimum of preparation. While this is a convention scenario, it does not feel like one, but rather like a full-blown, regular adventure, that does benefit from using the pregens, but could easily be run in your home-game. Personally, my sadism will make me reanimate all fallen foes after 1d6 rounds, making this adventure even more lethal, but that's just my preference. What can I say? This adventure surpasses many commercial adventures in quality and atmosphere and is free - essentially a no-brainer, especially at this time of the year. If you're still looking for a nice adventure for Halloween, dl Frozen Wind- it's worth the hd-space and if you like what you see there, check out the other Kaidan adventures - they're awesome as well! Kudos to Jonathan McAnulty, Michael K. Tumey and Steven D. Russell for giving this quality adventure away for free - my final verdict will be 5 Rudii. (If it weren't free, it still would be 4 Rudii, without glitches 4.5 or even 5 depending on the hypothetical price.)
All right, I sincerely hope that you and yours enjoy one of these scenarios and hope you guys all have an awesome Halloween! Thank you sincerely for reading my rambling reviews - next time, I'll be going to the big city for a prolonged stay!