Fever Swamp

By Luke Gearing
Melsonian Arts Council
LotFP/All D&D

The air is moist. The moisture mixes with your sweat — the heat is relentless. The drone of insects gives you headaches, and the fever from the infected wounds has left you delirious. Your raft is damaged, and there are spirits in the trees. … You’ve only been here for three days.

This is a 32 page (half appendices) hex crawl in a swamp with about fourteen encounters. It’s evocative and creative and FEELS like a swamp adventure. Well organized and almost dream-like, it presents a weird vision of a swamp in which nearly every aspect feels right. A few encounters suffer from their brevity and a devotion to format, but otherwise this is full of stuff you can work with. It’s more like an actual “module”, a place that simply exists without plot that the DM can twist to their will.

The swamp is 8×12 hexes each 18 miles wide, with fourteen encounters and a robust wanderers table to keep things moving. The hooks are covered in one paragraph and are a little better than most. In particular, there’s someone in the swamp, a scholar, with a bounty on his head. Searching the swamp for him gets the party moving in and through it and discovering other objects. There’s also an oracle, which I’ve always found great for command words for wands, where’s the hand of vecna, etc.

The cover pretty accurately depicts the swamp. There’s an oracular succubus (more like an invisible nymph, I’d say) , a suicidal swamp witch, scumboggle hives, stilt walkers, candle thieves, and so on. This thing is hitting on all cylinders when it comes to interesting and evocative encounter names. The candlthieves are the spirits of lost children desperate for a light to lead them home, pacified with sweet treats. They steal lights and try not to fight. Sweet! The head of the Ghost Olm (?!) can be worn and used to lie once to any entity which will always believe the lie no matter the evidence. A) Nice thing to go looking for and B) Sweet ass magic item!) It does this over and over and over again. The swamp witch is kind of fused to a tree, and begs for death, guarded by demon familiars who want to keep her alive … but she knows everything about the swamp and will trade the info for death. These are all strong, strong ideas.

It can also be inconsistent in places. There’s an encounter with “Hunger, the Crocodile” that has had a spirit fused with it. It’s just a giant croc though, nothing special about the encounter at all. That feels out of place given the gameable extras that most encounters have. There’s also a few encounters that feel too short. There’s a small village, up on stilts, that is less than half a page (not counting NPC’s) and that’s digest pages at that. Likewise a fallen monastery is half a digest page … though there’s a huge fungus colony in the flooded catacombs. Both places are a little too large for the more … abstracted? encounter descriptions that they get. The format works great, except when too short or the encounter too ‘big’.

And the village … I don’t know. The NPC’s feel a little disconnected from it. More like disconnected pieces than a whole. The NPC motivations feel a bit more abstracted; making them more action oriented, toward the party, would have helped here a lot. This strengthens the theme of the larger, more complex areas being the weaker areas and/or being hampered by the half-page-ish encounter. (There’s a dungeon that spans several pages that doesn’t have this problem though. I suspect it’s because it spans several pages.)

Still, it does a good job. It cross-references the rumor table with the focus of the rumor, letting you fill in details. It’s easy to scan almost all of the encounters. It has a great short paragraph on describing the misery of the swamp. The swamp people are organized in to small tribes and it has a very evocative table on making them weird. Almost like shudder mountain for swamp … if a little weirder.

This is $8 on DriveThru. You can see good examples of cross-references in the text and rumor table on page two of the preview, with a great overview of swamp misery on pages three as well as those great wandering monster encounter names.

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4 Responses to Fever Swamp

  1. SolCannibal says:

    Searching for Fever Swamp somehow lead me to a Goosebumps book, so if i get this PDF i might add a wandering lycanthrope kid and some other bits for just a little extra mayhem.

    Maybe give the local yokels some extreme and crazy beliefs and positions too. 😉

  2. cerata says:

    I think I’ll try and splice this together with Challenge of the Frog Idol.

    • SolCannibal says:

      Good of you to point it out – considering how regularly i read stuff here, i’m kind of shocked that i somehow missed the review on Challenge of the Frog Idol. Should make a great mix up indeed.

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