Advanced Adventures: The Frozen Wave Satsuma (OSR)
This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back-cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested by one of my patreon-supporters.
All right, so this module does have a bit of a culture-clash vibe, in that it taps into some Oriental Adventures-style content, but fret not – the material within can be slotted into pretty much any quasi-early-modern-period gaming. If you’re not familiar with some terms employed within, a brief glossary has you covered. As always for the series, the module is penned with the OSRIC rules-set in mind, but can be translated to most OSR games with relative ease. Similarly, as has become tradition for the series, formatting conventions do deviate from the standards set by OSRIC, but are pretty concise in these instances.
The module contains 5 new magic items – one that allows a horse to move through underbrush and not be tracked, a figurine, and two ice-themed items that help mitigate the environmental challenges faced within. The most interesting item presented would be a harp that can lock listeners ina loop of their last actions. The new monsters aren’t particularly interesting as far as I’m concerned. Two are provided, an ice-squid and a sahuagin-variant with tentacles for legs. The latter is, somewhat unfortunately named “Krabben”, which is the German plural for crabs. They have nothing to do with either meaning here. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
The complex to be explored within is fully mapped in b/w, but no player-friendly iteration is provided. The adventure is intended for a group of level 3 – 5 characters, though it should be noted that the players should behave in a smart manner – otherwise, they may encounter something that may well see them wiped out. Apart from a brief section of introductory prose, the module has no read-aloud text.
In order to discuss the adventure in more detail, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great! So, when an oriental magic-user turned bonkers, things took a rather uncommon turn: The magic-user turned north, supporter by his ogre-mage and ice-elven buddies, and managed to secure the eyes of frost men, using them in a rite to craft a ginormous junk (the ship!) from ice itself – the eponymous Frozen Wave Satsuma. Recruiting the notoriously nasty wako (basically pirates), he set sail to plunder the realms of barbarians (i.e. Westerners, i.e. the realms of your players), just as the magics that hold the vessel together continuously chip away at his mental state. It’s been a few weeks since the alien vessel has started haunting the coastal regions, and it’ll be up to the PCs are trouble-solvers to stop the raids that set forth from the unearthly ship once and for all.
As far as premises are concerned, this is already better than a ton of modules out there, and the ship of ice, with its frigid temperatures, icy mists and slippery surface makes it clear that the complex is just as much the enemy as the foes faced. The global effects of the dungeon help to constantly remind the players in which type of weird ship they will find themselves. Lighting conditions etc., the need for footwear and the like – all is concisely presented, including taking tracking etc. into account – and that is important, for the module has a timer of sorts. When the PCs assault the Frozen Wave Satsuma, a seriously massive raiding party is currently…well…raiding! They will return sooner or later, and if the PCs have by then not made sure that they have a valid plan to deal with them, they will find themselves overwhelmed.
The good thing here is that the terrain and “dungeon” offer plenty of ways for clever players to deal with this issue: You see, the ship is VAST, cavernous, and actually pretty dangerous. The deeper holds and decks are infused with darksome magics, generating an almost palpable sense of foreboding, one that is contrasted in interesting ways by small tidbits like noting that a character is a master of rhino-karate. The hostile NPCs/commanders present also feel alive – curious players that play their cards right may find out a lot about the power-dynamics, relationships etc. of the characters on board, which could well yield the edge they need to survive if things go wrong. Or, well, they can also try to murder-hobo everybody…but considering that there is e.g. a level 8 samurai on board, this may be a tougher call than what you’d imagine.
The PCs can free slaves, reclaim pillaged relics, and end the threat of the Satsuma, they can free e.g. a snow leopard to attempt to get the beast to deal with the overwhelming force of wako; they can attempt to use the creepy (and deadly) haunt-like effects inside to shake off pursuers…there is but one thing that felt like an utterly unnecessary addition here, and that would be the partially flooded lowest level, where the Krabben, including the ice-squid lurk. Their presence doesn’t make that much sense and feels like a late addition that dilutes the focus of the module a bit. On the plus-side, if you don’t mind their inclusion, they can act as a good further adventure hook – not that the module would have required it.
Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect –a pronunciation guide for the glossary would have been nice and I noticed a few instances of spell-references etc. not formatted correctly. Layout adheres to the no-frills classic 2-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf sports a few pieces of solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The lack of player-friendly versions of the b/w-maps is a comfort-detriment.
Joseph Browning and Andrew Hind joining forces on this one was a good call indeed. “The Frozen Wave Satsuma” may be a short module, but it actually manages to capture the spirit of old-school modules, the nostalgia these types of adventure aim for WITHOUT being derivative. This is a huge plus in my book. The interesting complex, combined with the design-aesthetics highlighted throughout the module, ultimately makes this feel like a lost classic. It recaptures that ephemeral flavor AND manages to be novel and interesting. Is it perfect? Nope. I’d have loved to see more detailed tactics, perhaps means for PCs to hijack the vessel…
But honestly? This module has entertained me more in its 13 pages than many modules of twice that length. It is easily one of the best installments in the series, and one that I’d definitely recommend checking out. This managed to capture my imagination, and really achieves attaining the goal that this series of adventures has – to provide new modules that feel like classics. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars…and while the formal criteria-hiccups would usually prevent me from doing so, this one really captured my imagination, which is why it also receives my seal of approval.
You can get this genuinely cool (haha!) old-school module here on OBS!