EZG reviews End of Autumn
This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD, 1 blank page, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS, thus potential players are advised to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here?
The Wandering River area into which the PCs stumble makes one thing relatively clear – they’re in for trouble, as ominous mists are rising and no matter how well they fare survival-wise, they always seem to end up in the same location again. Healing magic seems to be impeded in certain areas as well. Sounds familiar? Well get this – the area, suffused by dark magic and tragedy, is about to be drawn into becoming a full-blown domain of dread.
Yeah. DMs like yours truly started smiling exactly upon reading that, for this module is shamelessly and unabashedly a Ravenloft-module in everything but IP-protected name and as such comes with weird details as well as a creepy children’s rhyme make sure that the module manages to actually convey a slowly rising sense of terror and dread, something only scarcely seen in modules nowadays that all too often focus on blunt-force horror. All Hallow’s Eve draws near and with it, the decision whether the PCs and the whole region are sucked to the domains o dread.
I mentioned a tragedy and it is what lies in the past of the small town River’s Edge that is directly responsible for the terrible fate that is about to befall the region. Where once, druidic old sacred stones held the encroaching mists of the Demiplane of Dread at bay, a misguided cleric of a radical religion (the Lightbringer – easily inserted into just about any setting), one lord Theodon, toppled several of these stones with his fanatics.
While his life has ended many moons ago, his spirit yet wanders, impossible to vanquish, these lands, ready to become the Dark Lord of the area. In order to avert this dread fate, the PCs need to decipher the insane ramblings of the last senile member of the old faith as well as cryptic clues of the benevolent spirit only known as Autumn Lady, and determine the location of the right sacred stones and re-erect them – all while the clock is ticking and All Hallow’s Eve draws closer.
In order to succeed, the PCs have to properly research the location of the correct stones from the archives and aforementioned insane ramblings as well as manage to survive – for both the spirit of Theodon and ghostly hounds will start hunting the PCs, essentially immortal and rejuvenating as long as the dread grip of the mists has not been broken. As soon as they show up, the module switches mood from a rising suspension of subtle horror to one of desperation and a run against the clock – when the PCs finally encounter the spirit in the tunnels that contain the last of the stones, they will have been sorely tested.
The pdf provides a total of 9 pages of battle-mat-style, grid-studded maps in full color and 1 page b/w player map of the area.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the pdf has a full color background, which renders the pdf slightly less user-friendly than necessary. Out of some weird reason, the statblocks adhere to a one-column standard and the statblocks, while adhering to standard formatting, lack bold print etc., making them harder to read than necessary. The maps are ok, but nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which serves a quite a detrimental factor.
Oh boy. End of Autumn gets Ravenloft and proper Gothic Horror more than any self-proclaimed homage I’ve read. The mood, the characters, the slow build-up and its deserving pay-off – all those conspire to make this module by Jeremy Cusker, writing-wise, to rank as a stellar example of its craft and a must-have for fans of Ravenloft. But not all is well – whether it’s the not particularly compelling font, the lack of bookmarks or the statblock presentation – layout-wise, the module suffers from some beginner’s glitches that detract from its appeal.
Most detracting, though, is the unfortunate brevity of the module – a proper detailing of the town of River’s End, more encounters that are not directly tied to the story, a red herring or two – and this would be a superb example of the art of adventure-crafting. As presented, it unfortunately falls a bit flat in these regards.
That being said, if you’re a fan of Ravenloft (or atmospheric, dark modules that don’t rely on an overabundance of gore) and if you can see past the less than pleasant presentation, this still might be a 4.5 or 5-star file for you, in spite of the module’s relative brevity. As a reviewer, though, no matter how well this suits my tastes, I’ll have to take these issues into account. If the presentation/brevity bug you, then this pdf would be a 3.5 or 3 star file for you. In the end, my final verdict thus shall be between both and clock in as a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.