The River Queen

This is a small wilderness area adventure that can probably be completed in one session. It has several touches of whimsy and classic fantasy which I really enjoyed, although the core villain fell flat for me.

A river barge did not arrive as scheduled! The Baron had something on the barge that he wanted badly, so the party is sent to find out what happened and recover the box!

This is a small wilderness based adventure that could probably be played in a single session. I was more than a little thrown off by the background in this, much as I was in Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti, by Frog God. In that case the module cover, a picture totally unrelated to the module, threw me for a loop and it took a LONG time for me to orient my self to the atmosphere. In this case the module background conjured forth some kind of mental image of a Mississippi river boat. THAT lead to magical economy thoughts, which I loathe, so I was very put off. I know it sounds silly, but there it is. Once I got that taste out of my mouth and started envisioning The African Queen, a P.O.S. boat, and small jungle trading posts, then I did a much better job of getting in the mood. I generally don’t care about art in products, however I must admit that it certainly does have it’s place in setting the mood or style, especially on the cover. Now that we all know I hate riverboats and it may have tainted this review, unjustly, let’s move on.

The maps is a pretty basic one of a river crossing. It fills an entire page with one inch equaling about 160′, or about 1,300′ by 1,700′ in total. Essentially, the east bank is forest on the north side and marsh on the south, split by a trail that leads to the river. The river is wide, has depth markings and a three small islands in the middle. The islands are connected by a marshy/waters/ low spot in the river. The west side of the bank has some hills. There are three wandering monster tables provided, a general one, one for the river, and one for the shoreline/bank. The author correctly notes that they are minimal. They are themed appropriately, but they have no detail and no stats. I like stats with my monsters, inline, and I like my wanderers to be doing something; looking for food, digging a new house, etc. The bank table does have a noble with a small backstory; that’s the sort of detail I’m looking for in a table. In addition, let’s beat the dead horse of ‘expectations’ once again. Buccaneers appear on the table. That word conjures up a certain image in my mind. “Dirty river bandits” conjures up a different image. There are a couple of supplemental maps for a small way station that appears on the island. It’s pretty straight-forward map of an inn, two stories and a basement, with it’s own vermin-filled wandering table. I don’t like to context shift. There are about 16 or so keyed wilderness encounters and another 16 or so in a small way station on the central island.

The encounters are rather straight-forward, with a few vignettes thrown in. There’s a series of four encounter areas that relate to a group of bugbears caught in the act. The creatures encountered contain a lot of wildlife with a few fantastic encounters thrown in. Those few contain the whimsy that I’m primarily looking for in module. Cyclops & Centaurs in love. Pegasi women (topless & hot!. I’ll let you decide where I come in on the “women in realistic armor” debate.) River hydra! A troll at a bridge-like thing! I love that kind of stuff. You know what I don’t love? Were-rats. I hate them. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like they are COMPLETELY overused. Were-WOLVES on the other hand are underused. I’m sure there’s some cognitive zeitgeist that dictates when to use a wold and when to use a rat. There’s a wolf here, but it feels like a rat. Hmmm, maybe it’s something like treachery/hiding vs raw violence? There’s a decent little backstory integrated in to the inn encounters and several of the wilderness encounters and the party should be able to piece what happened together. It’s nicely integrated, subtle enough to not be a slap in the face but obvious enough to make catch even the densest and inattentive parties eye.

This is a nice little adventure, probably suitable for one night or convention slot. I like the heavy use of vermin and wildlife and very much enjoyed the whimsy/fantasy aspects. The core plot was ok, and it probably could have been enhanced by focusing on the violence, as opposed to the treachery/hiding aspects that are instead used. The magic items are pretty much all book items, and I like mine more unique, tending toward the weird.

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