The seventh cousin to a nearby Dwarf king needs to be escorted through a mountain pass. As a blizzard sets in the party seeks shelter in a local inn, only to have things take a frightful turn for the worse.
What makes a module OSR? Is it enough to slap some THAC0 in a product, and is there a difference between “OSR” and 1E, 2E, Basic, Holmes, OSRIC, S&W, etc? There is to me. OSR means weird stuff, idiosyncratic rules, whimsy and the FANTASTIC. The High Fantasy style that I associate with 2E onward just doesn’t qualify. This is the same old boring stuff that has been coming out since the end of the 1E era. I don’t like it and I feel betrayed when I buy it. I have only myself and my irrational exuberance to blame.
The hook for this module is very long and involved. The party is contacted by a dwarf who wants escorted through a mountain pass. The pass is patrolled by a band of orcs. The party goes in to the pass, is confronted by a blizzard, and retreats to an inn in the pass to wait it out. During the stay their customer is assaulted/replaced and the some really mean orcs break in, threatening to kill their charge. An investigation reveals someone has recently left the inn and the party needs to track him down to save their customer from the orcs. The party sets off to a local tomb to find the evildoer.
That is a lot of build up for a hook, and yet hook it is. Everything needs to happen so the betrayal at the inn can happen, the suspect flee, the orcs break in, and the party pursue to the tomb. There’s a decent amount of interacting with NPC’s and yet there is no freedom involved. If the party doesn’t do what they are supposed to then the adventure will not happen. The villain is armed with a boatload of portion to make his task of treachery easier: invisibility, sleep, gaseous form, etc. FOLLOW THE PLOT. GO TO THE ADVENTURE. It has to happen. That’s a hook, not an adventure. I would suggest glossing over as much as possible and pushing the party along to the core of the adventure: the Deadly Ice Tomb.
The tomb is that of an ancient evil king. Our evildoer is hiding in it, having killed his guide and entered with some of his gaseous form potions. The tomb complex has about 20 rooms and is laid as a kind of hub & spoke map with four spokes, one of which the party enters from. There’s a few vermin outside of the tomb, and some Ice Warrior guardians inside the tomb. I doubt any of it it going to be a challenge for a 4th-5th level group. That’s just about it for the tomb. There’s one or two interesting things just before the party gets in to the tomb: a walled up passageway to be cleared and a narrow bridge crossing a crevice. Otherwise, this is really just a historically accurate representation of a burial complex with a few ice guardians. While on the subject, I’d like to pick a nit about those guardians. The idea is that if the party messes with certain things then the guardians rise up from their tombs and attack. Pretty standard. But if the party opens the tombs first and destroys the bones/skeletons and THEN mess with the stuff … then the skeletons reform and attack anyway. WTF?!? This is no way to reward intelligent play. This reminds me of that “Bad Video Game Gamemasters” meme that floated around awhile back. Why are you punishing the players for thinking ahead? In fact, MOST of the adventure seems to punish the players and railroad them. If they guard their customer really well then the DM gimps them anyway so he can be replaced and the adventure can go on. If they think ahead in the dungeon then the DM gimps them and ignores their actions just so some crappy ice skeletons can attack. That. Is. Not. Good. The tomb has almost nothing nothing going for it and is uninteresting except to an anthropology/archeology major. Most of the magic items are of the “+1 sword” variety. Not counting the ice skeletons there are two new monster types: a snow troll and a whitemonk. The troll is a troll with a cold breath weapon. The whitemonk is more interesting. It’s a small pac-man like rodent with 2 legs and a GIANT MOUTH WITH TEETH. It looks like it came out of Malifeux or something, a really nice little monster.
That orcs that are a part of the hook are presented as a noble band, probably more so than many of the PC’s I’ve played. I’ve toyed with this idea in the past however I still think I’d prefer my orcs to be subhuman beasts who rend and tear small children as snacks and do other odious things … if I were to use orcs at all. I’d much prefer to use human tribesmen who rend and eat small children as snacks.
This is available on DriveThru.