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Forever Winter - Adventure for Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/23/2020 19:44:39

I normally wouldn’t review an indie book if I was going to give it a bad score. However, given that this is a multi-adventure 10 dollar product, the investment makes it worth examining. You can get Tales of the Demon Lord or Queen of Gold for lower prices, and these are entire campaigns. So how does “Forever Winter” stack up?

First off: the book as written is a missed opportunity. The writers created five adventures and five mini-scenarios, and designed every one of them for novice-level characters, leaving the GM to either A: significantly slow down character progression. B: Rebalance everything, or C: Only use some of the content provided in a given campaign. This could easily have been something designed to take a party from level 0 to level 5. But as-is, you'll have to tinker with quite a few things to turn it into that.

The writing is generally flawed. Sometimes it’s purple (overly descriptive), other times there are significant grammatical errors. Sometimes it's in past tense when it shouldn’t be. There are (very few) points where it’s incoherent. The read-aloud text should be ignored if you want your sessions taken seriously.

The writing problem can also be found in how information is laid out. Paragraphs are spent on what to do if players do X, Y, or Z (and how to get them back on the railroad in most cases). It’s often vague in places that matter, and strangely specific about trivial things. A monster will be introduced and discussed for up to an entire page before its stats are mentioned.

Chapter by Chapter: (With star ratings)

1: Slaves to Fate: 1 This adventure is a railroad of pain that starts with enslavement and starvation, and ends with every player dead or corrupted at an inevitable bad ending. The scenario justifies this contrivance by how it sets the Forever Winter into motion, but the pivotal events feel a little weak. The most interesting part is potentially the most problematic, and it’ll likely be fun for a single jerk player at the expense of everyone else.

2: The Brand: 1 An improvement over Slaves to Fate. But still deserving of one star. This is more of an encounter than a scenario. There’s no setting, hardly any characters, and the text suggests either changing a PC backstory or making an unnamed NPC the star of the show, with a subtle bias toward the latter. There’s just very little here. At least one of the mini-scenarios later in the book is larger.

3: The Witch’s Desire: 2 The first adventure to potentially be fun. but also the vaguest. The story is murky, as are several of the environments and encounters. It really wants at least one person to use a premade character for unclear reasons. There’s a dungeon without a map, and at one point the text expresses the sentiment of: “Have them run into a few traps in this room, decide how many.” There’s an Ice Queen antagonist(?) that is alluded to but never shows up. Why?

4: Fat of the Land: 3 The best adventure is a little clumsily executed, with paragraphs of italicized read-aloud text and RAW: the GM asking players to make challenge rolls to attempt to do things they never announced they were attempting to do. But there is some actual meat on these bones (not sorry). Throw in the SOTDL concept of ghouls and you’ll end up with a good horror scenario that does something different. Just don’t read that entire introduction aloud.

5: Veil of Summer: 2 The adventure that is most defined by the book’s writing problems. This is a short railroad of combat and roleplaying encounters dressed up with overwrought descriptive text. It’s not as flawed as The Witch’s Desire, but it’s also less interesting. Definitely one of the more playable scenarios, and the final combat encounter can be a spectacle, but also the second-most railroaded adventure.

6: Wintery Death: 4 I had given up on this book. Then out of nowhere there just happens to be a fairly interesting abandoned town exploration scenario. But that’s not the only thing. Mini-scenarios contained here feel as though they’re the result of player choice, and take it into consideration. There’s some weird bits, but for the first time, in one of the last chapters, I felt the book making good on its premise. If Forever Winter had been just this, and it had cost 3 dollars, I would recommend it.

7: Bestiary: 3 More monsters. Undeniably useful. But why is the Dullahan in this book, and why is it not even frightening? I also feel that some of the other monsters fill niches that are filled already.

Overall: It’s not all bad, but even the good ideas feel like they need work from the GM and/or players in order to function. It’s all thematically linked, but it’s not going to work together as part of the same campaign (Fat of the Land, despite being the best adventure, is difficult to connect to any of the others). I could see it best done as a series of interconnected oneshots, but the mini-scenarios in Wintery Death beg to be folded into a larger campaign, and those are the best part of the book. One last thing: The art throughout is GREAT, and I’d feel bad not mentioning that in such a long review. Rachel Bonds, Matthew Brooke, et al deserve to be commended. But good art just doesn’t translate to good adventure design.

Edit: So I looked back here out of curiosity, and saw that shortly after my review, EOF added a map for "The Witch's Desire." Giving credit where it's due: I'll commend them for responding to criticism and taking it constructively.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Forever Winter - Adventure for Shadow of the Demon Lord
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Trapped in Bone and Flesh
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 17:03:52

This, in my opinion, is the absoulte best monstrous pages. Both for quality and quantity it hasn't been outdone. I don't know if "walking corpses" is just a template ripe for inspiration or if Schwalb has a thing for undead the way he does for demons, but I'll take it either way. If you're intimidated by all the different monster expansions and you only want to get one, make it this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trapped in Bone and Flesh
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Ghastly Gourmands
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 17:00:30

I've snatched up most of the monstrous pages, recently, I would put this as definietely one of the best ones. Ogres always seem to be a ripe fantasy monster for an interesting spin, and this does not disappoint, so long as you and your players have strong stomachs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ghastly Gourmands
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Beware the Bayou
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:58:29

A hex-crawl for a dollar? With a lot of risk vs reward encounters and a sense of time-based urgency? Put me down for yes. Well done overall. My only grumble is that I don't think there's a distance given for the hexes, or an amount of time that it takes to navigate them, in an adventure where time is such a vitally important resource. It also seems like the hexes are a little undepopulated with interesting occurrences, leading to the players wandering through a lot of empty hexes with a chance of random encounters before they find something. Thankfully that forementioned urgency will keep them focused. If they spend too much time wandering it'll at least lead to some interesting chaos.

Overall recommended.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Beware the Bayou
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Creator Reply:
Matthew, thank you very much for the constructive review. We're glad you enjoyed the adventure and we will definitely toss in some hex-navigation guidelines for future crawls!
A Baker's Dozen of Islands in the Void
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:42:20

It's exactly what it says it is, and it's cheap. If you combine this with Hunger in the Void, you have more than enough material to run an entire void-based adventure, if not a short void-based campaign. If that's what you're looking to do, why haven't you bought this, yet?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Baker's Dozen of Islands in the Void
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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:38:29

What is there to say? A game that does everything that D&D is supposed to do, but better, and makes running sandboxes easy - IN SPACE. I could recount everything that is good about this, one of my favorite RPG systems, but I feel like it's praised endlessly by everyone who plays it, and I'd just be a broken record.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
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Rest and Recuperation
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:36:27

Strange and interesting. It really is a system in and of itself, and can possible be applied to other RPGs without much issue. A lot of crazy and interesting stuff can happen, and I find myself sitting back and wondering how some of it is supposed to be run at the table. Should this be managed between sessions? In the middle of sessions between adventures? It's hard to say.

I find myself a big fan of the events that have 1d6 permutations, though I think there should have been a much higher chance of nothing happening in a given week so that your players don't end up with event fatigue. I also think that the choices for actions empower players to make a life for their character that the GM is not constantly adjudicating over. If that was the design goal, it's met here. Overall, I do consider this to be worth my money, and I'm curious to run it at the table.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rest and Recuperation
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review. And I'm glad that you enjoyed the supplement! :D To attempt an answer to the question in your first paragraph: I have used this both to run downtime as a session by itself and something the players use to find their character's downtime between sessions. And I have found both works well, depending on both the story and the players. I would love to hear how it runs at your table when you get around to it :)
He Sees You When You're Sleeping (Expert)
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matthew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2020 16:30:46

One of the best SOTDL adventures I've seen. I got it for free during the Holiday season, and I find myself wishing I'd paid for it. It manages to incorporate investigative elements along with a brief creepy dungeon crawl and advice for what to do if players just ignore everything. New and intresting monsters really cement this as an adventure worth having. Fun, flexible, and better than a Holiday-themed product even should be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
He Sees You When You're Sleeping (Expert)
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