The Frost Spire

Jacob Hurst
Self Published
B/X
Level 3

This is an entry in my Wavestone Keep adventure design contest. Which I held to combat the crushing ennui I feel when reviewing too many bad adventures in a row. The challenge was to write and short adventure, eight pages, inspired by the concept and marketing tagline of the Wavestone Keep adventure. Now, to combat my crushing boredom, and the perfectionism which prevents me from working on larger projects, I’m going to review the entries!

Long ago, when the world was new an elf king was banished from his kingdom and tossed into the sea. His hatred was so great, and so cold that it froze the water into a tall spire and he was cursed to drift forever bringing Winter to the world. But sometimes, he hungers for the blood of bad children. And on nights, when the fog is thick, and the ice piles up in jagged sheets upon the shore, he sends his wives to steal away crying babies, and the kinds of children that fight and do not do what they’re told. So beware sweet voices in the fog, and stay close to the fire, or you might be carried off, howling to the frost spire.

Well, Fuck you all, Picasso entered the jr high Art Fair. 

This ten page adventure features nine rooms in a tower off the coast. This one has a fey theme, with the Winter King abducting children. The use of language and image is masterful, with the entire thing only have a few minor flaws. Great job of channeling that Fey energy.

As i sit here, drinking too much, smoking too much, fucking too much, and not paying enough attention to work, family, or other trivialities, preparing for another sybratic weekend, I ask myself, well, where does that highway go to? My god, what have I done? Not yet halfway through, I think … and to stumble upon this!

I want you to reread that intro blurb again. “He sends his wives to steal away crying babies …” What an interesting framing for the elf king, banished and cursed to forever bring winter to the world. That just FEELS right, doesn’t it? The wives thing? I mean, the entire intro is written like it’s a REAL thing, like it IS a fairytale, or some Hollywood hacks spent 5 mil to write up the intro scrawl for a movie. It’s real fucking writing! I botch, a lot, about failed author writing. Inserting flowery phrases and hack fantasy phrases in to an adventure, in to the fiction piece, the intro, the read-aloud and DM text. There’s a time and place for that shit, and the fucking marketing blurb is ABSOLUTLY the place. This is the place to get inspired. To set the framing in the DMs head. To preload that frontal cortex for that stimuli to come. Mythic. Folklore. A fairytale to come. Who’s ready for some fey action?

And Lo, this is not the end! For while the flowery shit comes to an end, the great writing does not. But it shifts, to where it needs to be, to DM focused to run the game. And every paragraph, almost every sentence, has something REALLY great in it! “Large, impossibly fast growing holly sprouts outside the home of any child marked by the Winter Court, and in the fall and winter it hangs heavy with berries of crimson so deep they’re almost purple.” Hanging heavy. Berries of crimson. No, not flowery shit, but great imagery! And so it goes, on and on and on again. Line after line. 

Concept after concept. For if the writing lacks then the IDEAS it communicates does not! “On the first night fog rolls in thick and cold and does not leave” That’s some fucking omen level shit right there man! “A village near the sea.” The populace is completely shellshocked. Last night, 10 children vanished. Women are weeping inconsolably. Men are burning a huge pile of holly bushes in the town square.” I can run that fucking shit! I know what to do with that! I need no more! That’s what I fucking want! Inspiration! A scene, set, and primed, ready for me to go. Fuck you and your pages long village description; all I need is that short paragraph. There are nice little other hook-ish things, like a troll bargaining for his life, selling out the Winter King because he didn’t give him the children he was primoosed for dinne. Or a hedge witch who has figured out the holly bush thing, but no more, and is hounded by villagers and the local lord. Or a harpy, flying flowy overhead, struggling with a heavy lumpy sack, thes pounds of crying children clearly coming from it, heading towards a distant bank of heavy fog. Yeah man! Adventure Fucking Time!

Following that are a hort series of encounters the DM can insert in to the fog. “A father (Dylan) walks alone in a heavy fur coat, carrying a sword and lantern. His boots ripped and he can’t feel his feet anymore, but his daughter has been taken and his wife died in childbirth,” Uh huh. Thta’s kind of fucking grim. A merchant and a keg of ale, a woulded elf surrounded by wolves. The fucking shit is GREAT. It cCOMPLETEELY sets the tone for whats to come, setting the players minds to the correct framing for the content its to receive. A couple of adventures have done this, providing some context for the tower vibe to come, and I think they’ve all made good choices in trying to do so. It really does help!

The ice tower has a couple of approaches to it, none easy, a few easily seen, blue lights coming from a cave with a dark fog rolling out of it. The entrances, obvious, are not easily gained and there’s no provision to make it easy. You’re level fucking three poindexter, figure it out. 

Inside the encounters and imagery continue to be great, but transition to the Room Format that Jacob uses. A room title, a short sentence, some bolded keywords about major elements and a few words in parens to describe them, followed by some DM text. I like this format, terse and scannable. It’s the les sis more approach, just highlighting the important bits to get you in the mood and the important elements for the adventure and letting the DMs imagination do the rest, leveraging it for the players benefit. I will not, that, it seems a little less effective here. Something to do with the layout, perhaps? It’s still good, I think, but it is taking me just a little more time to figure things out and get the big picture Maybe another edit? Idk.

Inside the interactivity is strong. A thick blue bonfire, burning bones, a sword in the middle of it, bones in piles in the room, dancing rainbows on the ceiling from refracted light. The environments are magical, fey0like, from ice cave to forest walkway. A sleeping polas bear cuddles a skeleton wearing an ornate helmet of bright bronze with a plume of red horsehair. Shiny! Who wants to risk being eaten for it?! I fucking love push your luck shit. 

And the NPC’s, well, there are a couple of things to just hack, but, also, the ones you can talk to? How about a witch inside challenging you: “And just what will you do good adventurer? Return this babe to a hard life in a rundown hut of frozen dirt? A forgotten 5th or 7th child? Please, tell me again how untrained magic users benefit these lands?”Nice job witch lady! You’re making a compelling case! Akso, the winter king could be your patron and provide a moving base of operations “if they have a certain level of … ambivalence.” Ha! I fucking love it! Of course, the true answer is “Who appointed you CPS bitch?” STAB STAB STAB. But, of course, the truer answer is XP XP XP. 🙂   Still, great job making the PLAYERS lives a little bit harder. I love that tone. Have the gobbo beg for mercy and then stab the fuckers when they do it. 

I’m not really communicating the interior vibe, but, it includes staring too long at ice sheets, seeing long dead relatives. (not dead, LONG dead. The overloading of the phrasing brings so much more to the imagery!) And the, staring longer, having your own looks transformed to look like those long dead relatives. Because that’s what SHOULD happen in this circumstance, right? I mean, it FEELS right. And that’s what this does, over and over again. The encounters, the writing, it all FEELS right.

Yo, you need one paragraph on how the enemies react. Also, harpies? I mean, yeah, ok, But, like, emphasize the frozen wife aspect more so they are not genero?

Snag a copy at:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1T-jq1C5__G3OVG54jrFy4WzX0dWGMwTz/view?usp=sharing

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21 Responses to The Frost Spire

  1. Boom!
    My copy is snagged and will be printed at work tomorrow for a leisurely read.

  2. Stripe says:

    I don’t have time to read everything right now, but just skimming the review and the book, I can tell this writing is the highest level of excellence. The top 3 spots in my mental ranking are getting crowded.

    I’m still pulling for Greth, which I think was the second review. Something about that one that was just perfect for me.

    Looking forward to reading this one!

    • Glenn Robinson says:

      Greth is good value. My school group have just escaped Greth, and are trying to paddle back to shore on driftwood in the dark, while an iguanaman has been circling, and has just submerged…

      • Stripe says:

        Dude! That’s so cool to hear. The author is playing in my Keep on the Borderlands group tonight. I’ll let him know!

  3. Left Nut of Vecna says:

    Question?

    Is the winner going to be ranked on just quality or does how close they stuck to the script matter.

    I mean this thing sounds awesome but other than a tower it doesn’t seem to feature much of the key elements of Wavestone Keep, lizards, moving tower in the ocean, ect.

    I mean this seams like a great cake that was entered in a pie contest.

    I’m not complaining, free quality modules are awesome ! I just wonder how you will pick the winner out of so many great entries. And how that will influence future contests.

    • Jacob H says:

      Ice harpies are hotter than lizardmen and if I am disqualified for this fact I will suffer gladly. But it’s a spire of ice “cursed to drift forever bringing winter to the world”, so I think I covered most of the etc.?

      I once made a grapefruit meringue pie (with black pepper and rosemary). It needed some work, but it was a pretty solid first pass. I keep meaning to go back and revisit it.

      • Kubo says:

        It seems to me that having a keep, lizardmen, and page count should matter in the contest. Otherwise it creates an unfair advantage to those that go outside of that box. In fact, it seems to me that a lot of contestants wrote their adventures before the contest and reworked them to try to fit the contest (which is why so many exceed the page count, don’t include a keep or lizardmen, etc.). It looks like they meant to draw attention to their work for publication and did not simply write it for fun and general OSR community use. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to create a new adventure, draft, and edit it in 2 weeks time. In fact, no one would do it if they actually wanted to publish something as a commercial endeavor. Perhaps by this contest Bryce is shining a spotlight on how poorly designed these commercial adventures are in that within 2 weeks we can all put together 8 page (or less) adventures from scratch that are at least just as good as or better than what is out there like Wavestone Keep (WK). Bryce never rated WK, but let’s face it, it probably is a 2 out of 10 or My Life Is A Fucking Hell. It’s a dumb premise with a boring lizardman chieftain inside a big floating rock. It takes creativity to polish that turd into something anyone would want to play, and the easiest way is by scraping the premise or swapping out the lizardmen chieftain. As for page count, shouldn’t a quality product with only 9 rooms take less than 8 pages to write?

        • Anal Wart of Vecna says:

          To be fair we all won, because we have got I think 4 or 5 “The Best” adventures so far from this contest.

          For mine I stuck to the memo, using a similar name, the slightly rewritten marketing blurb, number of rooms, and page count. I wrote mine in the timeline given starting from scratch and made original maps. What I turned in wasn’t polished or a masterpiece but I am still proud that I was able to turn something out by the deadline that hit the contest parameters. And it probably made me a slightly better writer working with a deadline and rules. I don’t need a $100 that bad or a note telling me what I already know so no big loss if I don’t win. For most of us the 10k is just good exercise.

          But if I knew I was going to get a Full Bryce Editorial Review on a adventure I would have slapped some lizards in and summited my Ground Hogs day Timeloop Dungeon I have been struggling with to get five to six paragraphs of free feedback. I mean I can run it like a champ, but am not sure others would be able to. I’m a good DM and run from extensive notes but i’m not a great writer and turning those notes into a useable product is what separates the masters from the rest of us.

          • Anonymous says:

            “To be fair we all won, because we have got I think 4 or 5 “The Best” adventures so far from this contest.”

            It’s getting sticky around here! Can somebody pass a sock???

  4. Gnarley Bones says:

    It’s quite good. I would quibble with the fact that there are no stats of any kind, including the (ostensible) Head Bad Guy, which is unfortunate as many murder-hobos will not appreciate the finer elements of the scenario and will seek to stab him first first and parley with the corpse. However, I fully acknowledge and appreciate the time and space limits!

  5. Jordan Rudd says:

    I am 100% using this for Dolmenwood campaign. Ties in really well with the Cold Prince.

    Fantastic work! Feels like stealing to download it for free.

  6. David Cinabro says:

    This is really excellent but please tell Jacob to put his name in the pdf. I am going to save it, print it out, and forget who made it.

    • Jacob H says:

      lol I didn’t even think about that. I’m working on a more polished version to go up for sale with stats for the monsters, and art, and a few more tweaks like my name I guess….

      • Anonymous says:

        Jacob, I would love to see/own a physical copy finished to the very high standards you set in Tomb of Black Sand or The Dark of Hot Springs Island!

  7. Anonymous says:

    The best take is the fruits of our labor! Fan created quick 4 beats? Thats crazy cool

    We are the cool

  8. Yora says:

    How many more of these are there?!

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      you and me both, buddy …

      I’m reviewing the last one today, and then a summation post with award.

      I got start charging more for this ice …

  9. Anonymous says:

    HOPEFULLY MORE

    THIS HAS BEEN THE BEST

  10. Anonymous says:

    OH YES CHRISTMAS SWEET SWEEET

    VLOWNS THIS TIME LIZARD CLOWNS TO THE COFFEE W BRYCE

    LETS GO ROBUSTA

    LIGHT UO MY LIFE KOFI QUATTT

    MARMETS FERMENT

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