By Thilo Graf
This module from Adventureaweek.com is 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, elaving us with 57 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? The PCs, via several different hooks, are coming to the town of Rooknest, a peaceful, isolated town – in which all hell is about to break loose due to an ancient, nefarious plan coming to fruition. More than a decade agao, a wicked hag called Harriot was starting to dread the approach of her final years and her biological clock started ticking its malevolent hum. Being a hag, her only means of reproduction did not fit particularly well with her utterly wicked character and so the weird dreams she had, were quickly heeded: Whispers and dreams spoke of a despicable rite worthy of a hag, including the consumption of the father of the creature to be spawned. True to the formula of fairy-tales, the first two mates were consumed and deemed unfit, granting the hag nevertheless the power to add capabilities of the consumed to the child she conceived from the third father – a child destined to become a hellween, a hybrid werewolf whose very presence is a bane on the land, thinning the boundaries between material and spirit world. What the entity, whose vile whispers spurred the hag onwards didn’t account for is a fraction of maternal instinct, a glimmer of true love between the hag and the wicked werewolf that conceived the child – to give her doomed daughter a chance at a life she could never provide, old Harriot dropped her in the nearby town, sulking back into her swampy domain.
She has been waiting and watching ever since, while the almost forgotten, wicked fertility goddess waited in the wings for her chosen champion to come of full age. When the poor girl turned into a full-blown hellween, she crashed from the temple and fled town, managing not to kill anyone while being guarded by her ghostly father. The curse of her existence and the dark goddesses vile whispers have taken root in Rooknest, though and will keep the PCs rather busy:
The local drunk insists that the “big wolf” is real and while asking him, the PCs will be surprised to see that among the xenophobic, tight-mouthed villagers, some disguised zombies have started drinking in the tavern and gathering outside, making the erupting combat a first glimpse at what’s wrong. The overall module is organized very much like a sandbox of tragedies – from here on, multiple ways are provided for the PCs to conduct their investigation and several stories await their discovery:
There is for example the gravedigger, who, urged by the dark goddesses’ whispers, killed his wife who was unable to bear him children – her ghost now haunts his perpetually gravedigging shovel and laying her to rest may point the PCs towards another component of the puzzle – Harriot has killed the mayor of the town and his family and now shadows the PCs, disguised as him, while the mayor’s revenant is trying to escape his barred mausoleum. Putting said undead to rest and hunting down Harriot is one way to the climax, but just one:
The secretive monks who are researching the transformation of one of their children also know bits and pieces about what is up with the “big wolf”, as does the local smith – if they can get either talking and save the monks from animated suits of armor (which are called skeletons in the text – minor oversight since they use modified skeleton-stats). The local bakery is now haunted by an attic whisperer of a recently-deceased child and throughout the village, the PCs may encounter weird fetishes constructed by an ancient crone, an erstwhile priestess of the wicked goddess that seeks to protect her home.
Via all these small tragedies and encounters, the PCs may pierce together the truth and when they finally slay Harriot, the climax should prove to be interesting: From her blood, a portal to the demiplane-temple of the dark goddess arises and inside, they have the chance to save the sould of the hellween if they soemhow manage to negotiate with her father, not fall to the onslaught of summoned dretches and finally, vanquish the dread exploding-pumpkin-throwing avatar of the goddess that seeks to claim what is “hers”.
The pdf also includes 3 maps and their player-friendly versions.
Editing and formatting, while not bad, are also not perfect – I noticed multiple occasions of jumbled letters, aforementioned minor discrepancy regarding the skeletons etc. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to slightly detract from the module. Layout adheres to AaW’s 2-column standard and the module comes in 2 versions, one of whihc is backgroundless and printer-friendly. The b/w-artworks are neat, especially the one of the BbEG. The cartography is excellent, as we’ve come to expect by now from AaW. The module comes with herolab-support, though as per the writing of this review, the file has not yet been made available.
This module is interesting in that it’s something we don’t get too often – a sandbox investigation with multiple ways to succeed. It’s also essentially a mix of almost ALL themes associated with horror-adventures – only vampires are missing. Zombies, ghosts, twisted undead, human tragedies, ancient rituals, a curse and an ancient, almost Shub-Niggurath-like entity -all is in here and makes sense. The amount of weirdness going on is one of the good things for the module, since it makes determining what this is all about harder for the PCs and they will actually have to WORK to understand what is going on and use their grey matter. Nice. On the other hand, the themes and respective encounters also make the module feel slightly cluttered with information – the component tragedies are interesting and would have made good investigations in their own right if there was more going on in town, if there were more places to visit and pieces of information to glean. In fact, the one thing I’d consider a flaw of this module is that its final presentation, while good, is not up to its potential. This could be a massively awesome horror-themed megamodule -with about 160 pages, investigations for all component-scenes, each contributing one piece of the big puzzle, this could have been one of the most fitting halloween-modules ever. As provided, it’s a very good sandbox-investigation with some cool scenes that you definitely won’t regret purchasing – especially if you’re willing to do some GM-work and enhance/complicate the component-scenes. Due to the minor glitches and the fact that this would have worked better in a larger scale or as a 2-parter, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars and a recommendation for GMs looking for some horror-themed bits and pieces to insert in their own modules or willing to expand the per se neat investigation.
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