A Shadow Over the Greatwood

By WR Beatty
Rosethrorn Publishing
Levels 5-7

Trouble is brewing in the Rosewood Highlands. Wild Animals, usually timid and shy around the encroaching wave of human civilization, have become very hostile, attacking with no provocation whatsoever. More concerning is the fact that predators and prey are running in packs together. To top it all off, Old Joby swears he was some kind of beast-man up north of Gabon’s Ridge… and then he says a cougar was talking to the other day and then it exploded! (Of course, Old Joby is drunk a lot…)

This one hundred page sandbox region is stuffed full of interesting things, in a lower fantasy setting environment. Interesting areas and some above average writing combined with an organizational style that is not too bad, to create one of the more interesting sandboxes I’ve seen. Almost like a MERP region, but without the stuffiness and with actual adventure.

First off, I’m used to seeing large page counts padded out with appendices that are sometimes larger than the actual adventure. No so here. You’re getting at least seventy pages of locations and people, with the last thirty pages being monster descriptions, detailed new magic items descriptions, a monster summary sheet, and maps. This, alone, is refreshing. And then you get to the sandbox.

This region has some things going on. Chiefly there’s the animal isse, mentioned in the introduction blurb. But, along with that, are wise women, hags, a bear herder, caves, towers, dungeons, a couple of civilized area (with their own things going on) and the list goes on and on and on. 

The entire region feels ALIVE and REAL. There’s just enough specificity to breathe life in to things and make them seem that way without it going too overboard on the text length, bogging down the DMs ability to run the game. There’s a hill, and the locals in the village tend to give directions according to the hill. “Stay to the right of the Old Nob …” or “Through the swamp side of the Old Nob …” The villagers are common folk, and say common folk things, and get riled up in common folk ways. Argumentative meetings, Ghost Hill, hills barren of vegetation, hills that the locals claim they see spirits dancing on sometimes … Let’s talk the criminals to the bog mother and have her deal with them. Fancy some stewed potatoes deary? It’s hard to describe just how interesting this place is, and its those little details that both make it interesting and breathe life in to the setting. Not stodgy. Not bogged down. Life.

Rumors are in voice. Wanderers are doing things. There’s a little chart on who you might find in an abandoned house and what they might be doing. You can talk to people, and monsters, and maybe remove a thorn from one or two of their sides. Goblins are sheltered, unknowingly by the villagers, by a priest in the church. It’s fucking DENSE, man. Almost every single area, almost every single room/encounter, has something to bring it to life. 

Villager descriptions are brief, about one line or two. Locations don’t get bogged down in too much detail and generally have some interesting writing going on, evocative sentences and details. There are some order of battle notes for certain areas and monsters, where appropriate. There are a fair number of cross-references to keep the DM from hunting too much. 

It could probably do with a few more cross-references though. And some of the monsters could use some evocative descriptions, instead of just SPirit Goblins or The White Ghu, and undead knight. I didn’t really see distance notes, or a distance key on the hex map. 

And it’s big. Really big. Seventy or so pages crammed full. There’s a lot to pour over here. I’m not sure “study” is the right word; I do think you could almost run this without a read-over first, but pouring over it a bit WILL result in a more rewarding experience, I’m sure. But unique magic items, mostly unique monsters, and a place that feels ALIVE, even at first glance of the text, is something that you just don’t run across every day. Sure, the text could use a little work, pruning it back a bit would make it have even more clarity, but it’s not BAD in that regard, just not perfect. This one os worth the extra effort.

You could buy this and run the HELL out of it for many MANY sessions, and for only … $4? Uh, fuck yes, please!

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see some of the village some of the wanderers, some of the regional encounters, and all of the other text in the adventure is similar, so it’s a good preview in that you get a good idea of what you are buying first.


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3 Responses to A Shadow Over the Greatwood

  1. Shuffling Wombat says:

    Thank you for reviewing this. I agree it is a superior effort, packed full of material that should generate good gaming.
    You are duly released from the geas of having to review romantic novels. Unless you fancy North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)?
    If only you could be tempted to have a look at a couple of DCC Lankhmar modules.

  2. WR Beatty says:

    Thanks Bryce! Always appreciate your reviews. I’ll try to pay attention to more cross referencing in the future (hyperlinks too…).

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