Alternate Dungeons: Frigid Ice Cave
This installment of Raging Swan Press’ Alternate Dungeons-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The frigid caves of eternal ice inspire anyone who has ever ventured atop a glacier and beyond that – as a dungeon backdrop, they present unique challenges, which this pdf is designed to address: With cliffs and their scaling DC, chasms and ice-sheets, ledges and levels, there is a lot of cool terrain to consider, all presented with tight and concise mechanics to back up the evocative imagery. Similarly, this acts as a concise GM-cheat sheet, listing the effects of environmental cold, starvation and supplies and crumbling columns and stalagmites, going so far to even include the dangers of ice-cold water.
As has become the tradition with this series, we do receive information regarding the sacking of the dungeon – from the mundane (deceased explorers) to sunken vessels and objects encased in ice, this section has a lot to offer in terms of considerations for the GM. Similarly evocative would be the section discussing the function of the caves – whether to act as a place that houses ancient guardians or an elemental conduit, the ideas are intriguing…or let’s flip that, shall we? Perhaps the caverns are more hospitable and thus offer shelter to hibernating creatures…or are subject to a sympathy spell that may attract creatures…perhaps to recruit guardians or for more sinister purposes, only the GM knows and decides…
As always, the pdf does feature a dressing-table, here spanning a whole page – though the reader will grin here, probably more than elsewhere. Why? Because the table sports a plethora of rules-relevant modifications – whether it’s chilly blankets of mist, unstable ice that can be detected by Knowledge (engineering) or ominous stalactites that threaten to fall (and potentially crush the floor) in response to loud noises – this table goes one step beyond and is a joy to read.
Now the sample denizen section sports the usual suspects from frost giants to remorhazes and yetis, yes, but the pdf also features the wendigo and in some cases offers apt guidelines that even veteran GMs may use. Have you ever thought about reskinning goblins to be blue-skinned (no, they don’t *have* to have psionics as per this pdf…but while we’re at it…why not?) walrus-riders? Yeah, me neither.
Where the pdf goes the extra mile would be with the rather evocative hazards-section -from avalanches to cracking ice ledges and chilling winds to ice that acts like mirrors of life trapping, this page alone may be worth the fair asking price for the mundane and magical hazards collated.
Finally, we end this pdf with 3 adventure hooks – incursions by frothing mad yetis would be well…but what if a wendigo chased survivors to a dead-end, to watch them struggle and either become ghoulish undead or food to their erstwhile brethren? Yeah, that makes for an evocative survival adventure. Oh, and have I mentioned the dread gnomish necromancer demanding tribute, carrying his undead hordes in the belly of an undead worm to discipline settlements that fail to provide their tribute? Yep, these hooks are versatile and well-crafted.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features several nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer and both are bookmarked for your convenience.
Daron Woodson’s frigid ice caves are a truly wondrous, wonderful environment to adventure in – whether it’s via Frog God Games Northlands Saga, AAW Games’ Rybalka or a similar environment, I can’t wait to whip out this well-crafted pdf to supplement my next icy dungeon. Evocative, considerate and well-crafted as a whole and in the respective details, this is a shining example for the virtues of the series. It also shows how exceedingly useful this product line can be – for a ridiculously low price, you have great cheat sheets and all the tools to craft yourself…or simply reskin an otherwise less than interesting adventure. A fantastic supplement, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
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