By Nickolas Zachary Brown Five Cataclysms OSR Mid-Levels
There is but one mountain in these lands for which the frost never abates. Even in the height of Summer, when crops wilt in the heat, this peak continue to emanate a chill wind. There is a cave in the mountain, its crystalline walls and floors white with frost, with corpses of long dead things encased in the ice. Legend has it that a terrible evil is sealed there, an evil that would encase the world in ice. Where he walks, the forest follows.
This eleven page adventure features a sixteen page dungeon with a “cold” theme. Decent monsters, magic, treasure, and interactivity results in a pretty good environment to adventure in, even though it feels a bit flat, perhaps from the (otherwise excellent) formatting.
This is a pretty classic exploration/interactivity dungeon with lots and lots of cold themed monsters and room, as the name would imply. Almost every room has something to fuck with, with a decent amount having a pretty good haul of treasure. And consequences for careless adventuring. Murals abound. In one room there is one with a dude having three bodies impaled on his spear. Paint the mural with, conveniently provided by a pool, blood results in him stepping out of the mural, bodies still wiggling, impaled on his spear, allowing you to step in to the mural to retrieve the red box inside. Phat L00T! Damaging the mural, though, pisses him off and out he comes. There are obelisks with runs, gemstones on pillars to loot, and icy caskets that can be caused to shatter, releasing their occupants. A frozen fog room with frozen bodies embedded in the fog and box, and a GIANT FACE from which a cold wind blows … Most of the rooms are self-contained, with a few having the de rigueur “need a gemstone found elsewhere” to unlock some effect, or messing with one thing in a room causing a impact somewhere else in the dungeon. Oh, and you’re not going to get too handsy in the dungeon, are you? I mean, you wouldn’t want to release the titular 20HD avatar of the frost god in your search for loot and mindless destroying things/interacting with them. Can & Should are two different words. Great interactivity, if it does get a little heavy on the mural usage in places.
Creatures are great, from ice motes that, essentially, suicide in to the players, with 1 HP each, to a giant hand that erupts from the icy floor to pull someone under. There’s an undead warrior DRAPED in expensive jewelry armed with a flint sword and cold black eyes. Ice wraiths compliment the load out, along with an occasional yeti lazing about, sleeping, not wishing to be woken up. They are all well described, visceral in their description, and those descriptions and stats easily provided in each room for the DM to bring them to life. Treasure tends to be unique, from a weird flaming sword to an ice chalice that lets you breathe frost … with a side effect or two thrown in. The amount of monetary loot seems about right for a Gold=XP game.
Descriptions are short and too the point, with a hint of evocative writing, essentially describing some iconic locations that are easily groked, with the right words generally used in the right places to bring them to life. “Stairs lead to a raised platform against the far wall, whereupon is a large door of pure white ice. The door glimmers with magic. In each corner of the room is an icy stone circle. There is an enormous yeti sprawled across the stairs, fast asleep and snoring loudly. It wears a blue metal helmet.” Bolded words get their own little break out paragraph, with more information on the item, allowing the DM to quickly and easily find the follow up information they need. “A grand casket of ice is embedded in the far wall, flanked on either side by 2 Onyx Obelisks. Each of the obelisks are inscribed with a single rune.” The formatting is great and it’s easy to scan. The evocativeness is … I don’t know. It’s there but I feel like it doesn’t do as good a job as it could in conveying the otherness of the locations. It’s certainly better than most adventures that use many, many more words. It’s concentrating on the right things, but it doesn’t feel like the designer agonized other every description to bring them fully to life. Which is good for the designers mental health, but, I like to really FEEL each room through its description. Again, it’s not bad, and better than most, but it is the area I might recommend them to work on in future projects.
And that may be because this thing is very close, I think, to being very VERY good. As is, I’d have no problem running it and I think you could probably almost pick ip up and run it without reading, or even scanning, it first. That’s a great accomplishment, especially with all the new monsters, items, and interactivity present. A little work on those descriptions, to take them from Good to FUCKING MAGNIFICENT and you’d have an eleven page adventure that people drooled over, that still fit the traditional mode & form of a “normal” D&D adventure.
I’m a fan of this, and with work, I could be the biggest fan.
This is $2 at Drivethru. The level range “mid” is only on the cover. The preview is six pages. The last page shows the first three rooms of the dungeon and is pretty accurate as to the content, format, etc you will be purchasing, so good preview in that regard. You also get to the lead-in, anderers, etc, which is, essentially ALL of the non-encounter pages. It does a good job of keeping the extraneous bullshit to a minimum.
The label “Level 4” means it’s good for a group of 4th level PCs? Great review, sounds like a great module!
Five Cataclysms reviews:
The One-Hundred Clones of Timothy the Wise: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=6186
The Sunken Fort: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4496
The Forbidden Barrow: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4391
House of Flowers (by Christopher Audette): https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=3747
Also, a review by Bryce Lynch I found on RPG Geek that didn’t show any results here:
Oppa is Vecna Style: https://rpggeek.com/thread/1822831/oppa-vecna-style
Sleeping yeti, mural spear dude, frost breath chalices- it certainly doesn’t come across as “flat” although I guess those are the highlights. Is it the environment (physical) that is flat- or a lack of personality supplied (for say Mural guy or sleeping yeti)?
Another Tomb, another “The Best”. Could do a mini campaign of
Tombs of the Whispering Worms (Level 1), Tomb of the Iron God (1-2), Tomb of the Bull King (3), Tomb of the Frost Walker (4), Tomb of Black Sand (4-5), Tomb of the Sea Kings (5)
but it might get a bit repetitive.
I’d call this campaign Tomb Raider.