Stephen J Grodzicki
Low Fantasy Gaming
This fifteen page adventure has an eighteen room ruined temple inhabited by frogmen. With the bulk of the adventure in six pages, it manages relatively focused room descriptions while making some decent stabs at evocative writing. But good wanderer actions can’t save an also ran in the frog man adventure arena.
Challenge of the Frog Idol and Tower of the Were-Toads weigh heavy in this review, alas. Unfair to compare! Unfair to compare! Yes, life IS unfair.
Some dude wants you to go with him so he can collect artifacts at a abandoned elf temple. Not exactly an archeologist, it’s more of a “elves are extinct and I’ve got a thing for them” than it is the academic archeology of so many adventures. Any way, the old temple is partially flooded and has some frog men living in it. The history, background, and hook all come in a single page that gets in and out quickly and is fairly forgettable and ignorable for folks just wanting some frog men in an old elven temple.
There’s a good action-oriented vibe to the various encounters. This ranges from the wilderness encounters, to the wanderers in the temple to the actual rooms. A snake looks for food, frog men play in the water splashing, or giant eagles land in trees engaged in a mating ritual. It’s enough to get the DM going to create something, which is what they should be doing.
The descriptions are going just a little extra also. A forest is ancient and lush, with trunks as broad as houses and an intricate canopy obscuring direct sunlight. Snakes try to drown their prey, stirge swarms buzz, frogmen playfully leap out of the water, a mirror is stained and spotted with mold while objects gleam in a clearing. Nothing if “big” or “large” or “red” or “huge.” Note the use of intricate, or laping, or buzzing, or other more descriptive word choices. There’s an attempt to paint a picture and that’s the kind of value add that I think adventures should provide.
That said, it’s still not the most evocative writing. There’s a … layering? Missing. Rooms feeding off of each other to layer up a vibe. Yeah, the frogmen flooded rooms are next to each other, but it doesn’t feel like the whole is more than the sum of the parts, as far as evocative writing goes.
It’s also the case that the designer cuts a few corners. That gleaming from the wooded clearing (a clearing full of foreboding, good writing in that) isn’t described. And laughing coming from a hollow in the tree is not either. I get it, the designer is allowing room for the DM to expand further and riff of of unexpected things. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve bitched so long and so hard in thousands of reviews about the lack of value add that when I see someone TRYING to do something it still sets me off. Anyway, it probably deserves a pass.
What doesn’t deserve a pass is room nine, and I want to use this to illustrate a larger point. There’s this HUGE partially flooded cavern. If you drew two lines across it to divide it in to thirds you’d have rooms seven and eight and nine. Seven and eight are the entrance and middle and nine of the back third, up above water. Nine has an frog god idol on it. And a torch illuminates it. But no mention of that is made in roos seven or eight. So you get to nine and suddenly there’s this eerie torch illuminating an idol. LAME. LAME LAME LAME! Think of the effect, in entering room seven, of the DM noting the flickering light in the distance, and then it becoming more distinct, the frog idol, etc. There’s a kind of lack of “big open area” awareness in this, and this is not the first adventure to ignore it. A bonfire on the roof of an abandoned castle, or eerie lights in one corner of a graveyard … designers don’t seem to take a look at the map and note sounds, lights, or monsters drawn in from other areas. That’s too bad, seeing something in the distance can be both a good motivator to get the party going and a good way to get them focused on something so they ignore something else. 🙂
There’’s some good magic items, nice and unique, and some poorly thought out org choices, like putting monster stats before room one instead of at the end. I should think that would make it harder to locate the stats during play?
Anyway, bullywugs, errr, frog men, riding dragonflies are cool, but things are a little too … staid for me, where frog men are concerned, especially considering what Challenge and Were-Toads did with them. This is a decent adventure, it’s just not a GREAT adventure. And I can’t tell you what a pain it is to live like me every day, with standards that high.
This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is only two pages long and only really shows you the one page of background/hook. A page of room descriptions would have been nice, to give people a good idea of what they are getting. Also,how about trying to put a level in the DriveThru description?
Some (more) Adventure Frameworks are now free: Revelry in Northgate (which Bryce has reviewed), Gift of the Silent God (which I recommend), and Call of the Colossus. Some of the more recent offerings are a few pages longer and in colour: the latest, Night at the Green Goblin, has a WFRP Rough Night at the Three Feathers feel as there are multiple plot strands in play.
I think the author is at his best when he embraces the unusual (e.g. gladiatorial games come to a city in Carnifexum, or a fight against an army of beastmen and allies in Battle for Rivertop), rather than traditional “someone pays you a bag of gold for going into the dungeon of death and massacring everything that moves” adventures.
Also, “The Fane of St. Toad” and who could forget the original OD&D “Temple of the Frog”?
You could probably run a whole con on croaky-themed adventures at this rate.
Sounds like this one could have gotten a “no regerts”
Yeah it sounds quite good.
Bryce should perhaps also note that although there are imaginative elements (dragonfly riders etc) and he criticises it for not going FULL gonzo or being too staid- that the guys company is called Low Fantasy Gaming. So at least you’re getting what you expect/a magic or word level you expect.
I used to subscribe to this creator’s Patreon and have gotten use out of several of his frameworks- they suit a Conan style game I’m running quite well. Players have enjoyed it and I have USED those gaps to weave into my own world or just leave them unexplained for players to shrug & move on or improvise on the spot.
The review is fair though about good & bad points- bad guys and encounters are always up to something or have a gamble motivation without a complex “plot”. I often have to read careful & annotate my own map to help me run- especially when it comes to how one room affects/interacts with others, this across several of his products.
I do like that frog idol on the cover.
The scribbley illustration style reminds me of one of your drawings. I honestly thought it was when I clicked on this review.
The Forge does pretty good artwork (the cover).
Hey but Bryce, there weren’t any frogmen in Challenge of the Frog Idol. It wasn’t a frog-themed adventure at all, in fact. Little harsh to give this an unfavourable comparison to a better adventure just because they both have the word “frog” in the title, innit?
This the first in a series of several hundred Old School reviews I will be posting here now that I have remembered a source for this tripe.
Evreaux — Dragonsfoot
G2, The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl by Gary Gygax
An adventure for 9 PCs, averaging level 9
Following on the heels of its predecessor in the giants series, The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl likewise offers a surprisingly rich adventure for its scant 8 pages. Composed of a minimal arctic wilderness environment leading into a 2 level cave complex, the module continues the theme of “punish the giants” that was begun in the expedition against the hill giants. Gygax suggests that a party capable of dealing with G1 should be sufficient to tackle the second installation, but this would seem to depend heavily on their use of tactics and their discovery of key magic items and potential allies within the Rift; if anything, the frost giant lair is even deadlier than the Steading. Fewer role-playing opportunities are to be found in G2, as well, as combat is really the main dish. Two last introductory notes on G2: it also appears in full in the compilation G1-3, and (less substantively) the image of the Rift on the back of the module looks suspiciously like North America, for whatever that’s worth.
Having discovered clues leading to the frost giants’ lair in their foray against the hill giants, the party has either traveled (or made use of the magical chain found in G1) deep into the wintry mountains in order to further their investigation into the recent giant attacks. While punitive retaliation will be the modus operandi of the mission, the PCs’ true goal is still to uncover whomever is behind the scenes, providing the organizational strength to motivate the giants to war. Yet another conveniently located cave is found to serve as the party’s base of operations, and from there the adventurers launch themselves into the howling snow and wind of the Glacial Rift. Reaching the caverns is no easy task, requiring the negotiation of icy paths and ledges with near-zero visibility and then traversing the maze of ice and rock formations that populate the floor of the canyon. Unlucky parties may even stumble across white puddings, a pack of winter wolves, or a remorhaz, denizens of the snowy terrain within the Rift. Eventually, however, the PCs begin to see cave openings along either side….
The top level of the complex holds several interconnected groups of caverns, as well as a number of self-contained caves, all opening out onto the canyon. Chambers on this level are ice caves and a translucent, blue-green light filters down through the ceilings and walls to illuminate the space below; torchlight and small cages holding fire beetles augment dimmer areas. In addition huge boulders have been used as doors at various points and the brawn of stronger party members will be required to move them. Several guard stations are manned by alert frost giants, who will attack on sight, and prominently placed near the entry to the Rift is a “warning cave” aimed at any aspiring intruders: whole bodies of various human and demi-human adventurers are frozen upright in the transparent ice of the walls, their faces locked in grisly death rigors. Aside from these areas, the PCs will find visitors’ quarters (holding hill, stone, and fire giants), storage caves with butchered and disturbingly-recognizable carcasses preserved in the ice, a cave of yetis serving as scouts for the giants, and barracks housing the bulk of the Jarl’s frost giant and ogre forces as they prepare for war. One shunned cavern bears the giantish mark for “danger,” and any party ignoring this warning will find themselves suddenly in uncomfortable proximity to a gigantic mass of brown mold.
Below this icy warren lies the second level, composed of rock caverns pitting the actual earth beneath the glacier. Descending to this level, the adventurers find themselves in a great rocky cavern replete with bas-relief carvings that detail the victories of frost giants over their various enemies through the years. The only immediately visible exit leads through a couple of abandoned caves to a giant skeleton, half-buried in a collapsed tunnel. If the party survives an attack by ice toads while they are distracted with the remains, they will find a map in the dead giant’s hand that suggests that the rest of the complex lies beyond the cave-in. This is merely a red herring, designed to waste the party’s time and keep them away from the actual remainder of the lair. Returning to the bas-relief cavern, a search will uncover a pair of cleverly disguised boulders hiding two more exits. Behind the first, a pair of white dragons should provide quite a surprise for any group that enters their abode; moving aside the stone that keeps the Jarl’s “pets” contained will make enough noise to ensure that the drakes are alert and ready for the interlopers’ entry.
The second boulder in the entry hall leads to the rest of the complex. Beyond it the party will discover yet more alert and ready guards, further visitors’ quarters housing a cloud giant seeking work and a team of ogre magi bearing a signed treaty scroll to return to their lord, a prison cave where a manacled storm giantess is tormented by food and drink left just out of her reach (if freed, she eagerly becomes a POWERFUL ally to the party), the kitchens and common rooms for the women and children, and the Jarl’s Great Hall. This last cavern will have to be handled carefully by PCs, since two giants on high ledges cover the entrance to the Hall with ballistae, and two others lurk with plenty of boulders behind the Jarl’s carved ivory throne (complete with a white dragon skin draped behind it and a polar bear fur rug before it). The party can gather some reconnaissance from a group of haggard humans caged in the kitchen, awaiting their fate as the main course for an impending feast. The last portions of the level house the frost giant nobility, including Jarl Grugnur and his mate, as well as their trained pack of polar bears. A secret exit from the Jarl’s private quarters leads to an escape hole far outside the Rift, but more importantly the tunnel houses a magical mechanism that transports those gathered around it to the abode of the Fire Giant King. Also found among Grugnur’s ample treasure is a map leading to that same locale. Apparently, there are further giants for the party to seek out and punish in this growing conspiracy….
Strengths: As with G1, a surprising amount of verve and dynamism is teased out of a relatively small amount of text. The eerie translucent light of the ice caves, the giant-sized carvings of famous battles, the cages of fire beetles used as “torches” by the giants, and the caverns of frozen food carcasses really bring the place to life and give it a unique feel wholly different from the Steading of the hill giants. And where their smaller cousins were somewhat hampered by stupidity, the frost giants provide much more intelligent and organized foes for the adventuring party–the guards are all alert and usually in position to overlap their attacks, if necessary. Hasty parties can find themselves caught in a crossfire of boulders at several points. Fortunately, the module makes it fairly easy for PCs in over their heads (if I can say that) to escape, as the swirling wind and snow make it highly likely (5 in 6 chance) that they can lose pursuers by simply darting aside in the chaos. Of course, the giants will be on guard when the adventurers return, but at least the party can regroup if need be. In addition, the growing conspiracy against the settled realms becomes vastly more apparent in the Glacial Rift, as several dangerous species of monsters appear to be on the verge of joining the war. There is a fantastic Box of Holding in the possession of the ogre magi; disassembled into a stack of ivory plates, the pieces must be put together in the proper order to form the item, with any incorrect pattern triggering a poison needle trap. Also, Grugnur’s trophy room is a masterpiece of evocative description, loaded as it is with heads, skins, tusks, and wings of over a dozen creatures. And, finally, DMs will greatly enjoy the extent to which the “storm giantess as ally” element sends your party’s estimation of its own badassness through the roof, should they rescue her and accept her aid. Of course, then you throw the remaining giants at them.
Weaknesses: Although it’s not necessarily a weakness, DMs should be forewarned that some serious magic can be found in G2 (including a Two-handed Sword +4 and a Ring of 3 Wishes, among others). Naturally, they are seriously guarded, as well, but low-magic groups will probably want to tone down the loot. Also, groups who dislike strong NPCs appearing and helping the parties at key moments may not like the inclusion of the storm giantess (with her 94 hit points) in the midst of the adventure. Most importantly, we are told that the scroll with the fake map found by the giant skeleton was placed “by those who motivate the giants”; this strikes me as unnecessary and implausible. The ruse works just as well with the giants placing the map there to fool anyone who might get so far, but suggesting that the drow placed a fake map this far into the Rift just doesn’t really make sense. Having said this, I should also point out that this “clue” is the only one presented in G2 that has anything to do with the power behind the giants (and even here there is no way the party could know who planted the red herring)–there is otherwise no hint in the text that anything is driving the attacks other than giant ambition. This stands in opposition to the letter from “Eclavdra” and the drow wine in G1. The map and transportation mechanism to the fire giants will hopefully motivate the PCs simply to continue their investigation there, but they will gain no new information in the Rift regarding the true nature of the conspiracy–individual DMs may want to add in some further hints. Finally, the magical mechanism provided to transport the party to the Hall of the Fire Giant King is disappointing: an iron lever on a wall that teleports everyone around it when it’s pulled down. Especially after the wonderfully creative chain from G1 (which must be looped into a figure 8 and then travelers must stand within the hoops), this is a real letdown.
I have never run or played through G2, although after the fun we had running its predecessor as a one-shot, The Glacial Rift is scheduled as the next holiday beer-and-pretzels scenario. We’ll see if my group, freed from any concern over long-term survival or common sense, gets any further than they previously did before the TPK smackdown arrives.
Anybody else played G2? How was it? Did you make changes, or go with it as is? All comments, opinions, disagreements, quibbles, equivocations, and perspectives welcome!
An excellent review. Unfortunately Evreaux seems to have beaten you to it on Dragonsfoot on 5th May 2005.
Sorry, missed the citation at the top of the review. But why not visit Dragonsfoot and contribute to their forums?
Good lord, don’t send him over there.
Because Kent won himself a Perma-Ban there quite some time ago, Gnarley Bones said, surprising precisely no one. 😉
These Bones don’t forget!
That was a useful series of reviews. I remember them well. Of course, they already have a home . . .
“This the first in a series of several hundred Old School reviews I will be posting here now that I have remembered a source for this tripe.”
Well done for engaging in good-faith debate then, you sociopathic ninny.
Kent, what’s up man? You want older reviews, but you also refer to them as tripe?
I thought the idea was to ridicule this stuff? I am confused.
Kent’s modus operandi is to strike with seeming indecision and let his opponent skewer himself on the counter-offensive. He is remarkably adept at it when he is sober and can even be subtle. Don’t wrestle a pig if you fear getting dirt on you.
Bryce – I enjoy the site very much, and I think I understand your strict adherence to “free speech and all” (and sorry for putting words in your mouth if I got it wrong…)
BUT – that clown is not engaging in speech, and over all is detracting from the great reviews and interesting comments. can individuals hide his comments somehow?
Thanks for your work.
Perhaps Bryce could be persuaded to email you to ask you how you are doing whenever Kent posts.
A boring sockpuppet named Ed
Was dropped, as a child, on his head.
His shitposting bent,
Betrayed him: he’s Kent,
Who trashed his brain snacking on lead.
This is what the OSR is – or at least has become… if only people could write decent 5E adventures.
What good is gained by the constant disruptions and irritation of others? (Not a rhetorical question).
The disruption and irritation of others.
Why is that good?
I’ve been reading up on narcissists lately. I always took the name at face value, I conflated it with self-centeredness, but clinical narcissism is a more complex -and darker- bundle of traits than the name suggests. Real narcissists actually feel sad when they see other people happy. Extreme narcissists even feel happy when they see other people sad. This leads to some apparently bizarre behavior in person, but it’s actually rational to them given their warped priorities.
And the analogy to internet trolls should be obvious. They want you to be disrupted and annoyed. That’s how they “win” – how they gain a brief moment of respite from the agony of their own inner life. Yes it’s petty, yes it’s pointless, but at the end of the day it’s all they have.
I was going to post the very same thing. If you look up ‘narcissistic rage’ you’ll see how closely the description matches with our favourite troll’s behaviour.
Sadly narcissists lack all capacity for self reflection and most are doomed to sad lonely lives because they’ve managed to push away everyone they like. Their self esteem rests on a cracked foundation that can only be propped up by pushing others down.
Psychological labels are the stuff of Comic Books.
Interacting with you people is like patting goofy little yapper dogs and watching your tongues jet in and out and your tails dance.
I am fond of you but I can’t respect you.
I’m not fond of you and I can’t respect you so if your lot in life is to be an unlikable assbag, then well done!
Agreed. It’s pointless trying to psychoanalyse someone whom you’ve never met and only been exposed to via comments on the internet. I regret my honest question degraded into bickering.
Likely there’s some history here I’m unaware of, but I probably should have just minded my own business and will do so from now on. My mistake.