By Ian McGarty and Jayson Gardner Silver Bulette 5e Levels 1-5
In Creeping Cold, the players find themselves trapped at a remote waystop with a group of travellers and employees. As the days creep into nights, a mystery unfolds as creatures and people begin turning up dead. Who could be behind the murders? Will the characters find out? Will they survive? Or will their bodies be uncovered by the next group of adventurers seeking shelter from the Creeping Cold?
This forty page adventure uses 24 pages to describe being snowed in at an inn, when bodies start to show up. It ends with the party trekking through the snow to track down a missing girl, to end up in a small cave lair where they kill a were. Decent summary sheets are present, along with walls of text and LONG read-aloud. A S&W version is also available.
I was surprised when I cracked this one open. There is a summary sheet with all of the NPC’s in the inn, to aid in running the social portion, along with a timeline and a summary of winter/cold rules to assist the DM in running the adventure. That’s great; it shows an understanding of prepping materials for the DM to assist them in running the game. This continues with summary sheets details various information for various skill checks at different success levels. That’s all great; it puts what you need in an easy find and reference location. Big NPC social situations, in particular, benefit from summary sheets, and putting the scenario-specific rules and timelines on the summary sheet also illustrates the kinds of things a designer can do to help the DM at the table.
To top it all off, it says something to the effect of “make sure and award situational bonuses for creative play during the investigation.” I love it when 5e D&D is run like this, as opposed to boring old “the rulebook has all knowledge and must be followed religiously!”
It also is smart about the map of the inn. A map, with room names on it for the DM, showing various large items in the room, augmented with descriptions of each room in something akin to, but not exactly like, room/key format. This is an exploratory dungeon, it’s an investigation in an inn. Room 7 tells us nothing but “Franks room” tells us what we need to know when the party goes off to search Frank’s room. We can find it instantly instead of digging through the text until we stumble on to room 7.
And then the designer messes it all up.
There are mountains of read-aloud. A column in some situations, representing something happening during the timeline. There is NO way in HELL my players are gonna let me read that much. I’d get interrupted in a hot second. I guess I can allow a small pass for a scripted event, but this comes off more naturally with NPC reactions and bullets for information imparted, or something similar. That leads to a much more naturalistic environment for play.
Further, the text, in most places outside of the summaries, come off as a wall of text. Bolding, whitespace, indents, bullets, etc are not used at all to break things up and pull out important information. It’s all “let me read this long paragraph and hold it all in my head.” Not good. This extends to the cold rules summary page, which needs bolding and better formatting to call out the important stuff and/or a reduction in “padding” text to concentrate on the pertinent details. “If a creature’s hands are mildly affected by frostbite then they have a -1 to attack rolls” could better communicated. Frostbite – Hands – -1 attack or some such. IE: an actual reference.
It also has to fight against the default D&D spell list, full of divination, curse removal and the like. It’s hard to have a plot with the standard D&D spell list, you have to target low levels. This DOES do that, but it also handwaves that the were is a special type that normal stuff doesn’t work on to help get around the issue.
Finally, the summary sheet for the NPC’s could be better. It tries to concentrate on the their goals and a few personality traits, which is great. That’s what it should do. It also misses in that area though .One NPC is highly superstitious but that’s missing from the summary. Self-assured, cocky, rude, SUPERSTITIOUS would have been better than just the first three alone. That alone adds a lots to the NPC and should be a shame to miss. Also “infected” would have helped some. About half, I’d say, are missing that key trait. “Shrieking” is a great character trait, mentioned in the text description, for example, and the “excitable” word chosen. Both, together, make a strong NPC in summary.
Still, a much better effort than the first few Bullete adventures I reviewed. Getting the read-aloud under control, as well as the wall of text issues, would go a long way to bumping this up. The extra issues, like the NPC summaries, are really just tweaking and hard edits.
This is $10 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Bad publisher! No cookie for you!