Rogue Wizard & Icecrag Monastery

 

Hej everybody,

 

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

 

Rogue Wizard

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.

 

 

Conclusion:

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:

 

 Icecrag Monastery

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.

DriveThruRPG.com

 

Conclusion:

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!

Endzeitgeist out.

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About Endzeitgeist

Reviewer without a cause