Witches of Frostwyck

By Joseph R. Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
OSR/5E
Levels 1-4

The ancient world of Harth is dying, but you’re going to die even sooner if you can’t escape from Frostwyck. You’re lost in a frozen forest of deadly predators and mysterious recluses. Your only refuge is the tiny village of Frostwyck, where metal is rare and kindness is rarer. And there are worse things in the shadows than mere bloodthirsty beasts. Witches haunt the groves of the north. Most keep to themselves, content to guard their secrets and powers. But one torments them all. Dama Zhadna has cursed the village so that none can escape. And now you’re trapped here. You’re going to die here. Unless you find a way to defeat the Witches of Frostwyck.

This fifty page adventure describes a small region around a village with about 22 locations.  Lewis knows how to write an adventure of this scale, and delivers again with something terse, easy to use, and evocative with great situations to explore.

You think my negative reviews sound like a broken record? I think my positive ones are super shitty, saying only things like “its good” and nonsense like that. Whatever. I swore I would review more stuff from “good” designers AND that I’d work through my entire request list before delivering the depths once again of that cesspool known as DriveThru New Releases,

There are 5e and OSR versions of this adventure. Which would make Lewis one of the best 5e designers in existence since the open-ended nature of his adventures style perfectly match the OSR sandboxy style. Notably, Lewis states that this adventure can take a 5e character from levels one through four or five, and that in either system you’re look at twenty to forty hours of play … five to ten sessions at four hours each. And I believe it! There’s a lot to see and do here, without there being any dungeons, proper. This could be a little self-contained campaign!

You can think of this as a kind of Ravenloft thing going on. You’ve got a Baba Yaga running around in her spider house and a cursed village/region that no one can leave, always getting turned around and coming back. Enter the party. There are the usual “wandering down the road” hooks, but, also, a hook where you are prisoners on a river barge, being transported, and the brage gets attacked by river pirates … leaving the party with nothing. And the first few encounters on the map, near the river, are set up as such, with some supplies like clothes and a few simple weapons and so on. Then you roll onin to the village, assuming you are following the main road in from the river, and discover the troubles.

And troubles there are, aplenty! As, I guess, you’d expect if a Baba Yaga lived in the woods nearby. The local priest is missing. As are a few villagers. Oh, and the pond in the center of the village has a monster living in it. Rumours of witchcraft IN the village! And outside the village. And in your head. Pretty much everyone is stupid paranoid about witches. For good reason, but, still! Oh, also, that river monster is going to eat everyone in the village if they don’t make their annual offering of 300# of meat. And by “annual” I mean “it’s time to do it.” 

Witchy McWitcher has captured the soul of several others, as her allies, if you call her name three times and summon her to fight her. You can find out more about them in the woods, and/or find her house and destroy their coil bottles, freeing them from her service. One s a doppelganger of an old babushka living in a hovel in the woods with her husband and daughter. The real old lady is buried under a nearby bridge. The husband is good natured and hen pecked. The daughter is a snow construct that just looks like her. (What’s that recent eastern/central european horror movie where they sell their soul to the devil for constructs?) It’s perfectly done here, as both folkish and a doppelganger. The encounters, the locations, they are situations and vignettes. People(ish ..) to talk to and things to resolve.  Sure, there’s a fight or three, at random, but also a lot more complexity if you want it. Clues to other locales and situations to resolve. It’s interlinked in a way that is DESIGNED.

The format is DungeonAge house style, which is an easy to read triple column. How the fuck he does this I have no idea, but he does. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone else ever do triple column in a way that doesn’t need a magnifying glass, but not here. Basic locations fit in a single column, with terse and evocative overview/read-aloud text with bolded and underlined keywords that lead you to other paragraphs and butt information. For how Lewis uses it, it perfectly matches what he needs to accomplish. The perfect amount of information provided and the perfect format for what he’s doing to communicate that information. I can’t say enough kind things about it.

And, he does the small stuff also. Cross-references abound, and magic items can be unique and wonderfully done, both normal magic items and minor items and effects. There’s reference sections for monsters. The DM is WELL supported here.

Well, except … some travel times/distances for the map would be nice, so I had some idea how long to run an overland journey. And a single page of NPC summaries would have been nice, to better manage some NPC’s talking about other NPC’s and situations. 

Oh, wait, hang on. DId I mention the villagers mistrust witches? Yeah? That includes magic users. And others who are unholy. There’s a paladin out there, also, stalking about, illing the unholy. Like the party. “Irena – Steam rises from her bare head. Dried blood clings to her dented armor. A heavy chain-and-sickle clinks in her hand.” A relentless one, that one!

Lewis does a terrific job. Traditional dungeons don’t appear here, but for a
“Plotty” sandboxy adventure its perfect. A great adventure for both 5e or OSR folks looking for that in their lives, I can’t recommend Dungeon Age enough. They should all be pretty much an auto-buy from you.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is half the product, at 25 pages, more than enough to get a sense of the product and if you want to buy it. $8 for 20-40 hours of adventure, that you can essentially use immediately? (You need that NPC summary sheet man …) That’s a steal!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/354011/Witches-of-Frostwyck?1892600

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23 Responses to Witches of Frostwyck

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the review Bryce!

  2. Ben says:

    The film with the construct (a Kratt) is “November”, it’s Estonian.

  3. Edgewise says:

    “They should all be pretty much an auto-buy from you.”

    Some of the earlier ones are not quite as tight or interesting, but I’d say that Lewis is REALLY hitting his stride lately.

    • Thank you!
      And I agree, my early stuff definitely shows a learning curve in progress! I keep trying to improve a little bit with every adventure. Thank you for your support, and please let me know what sort of stuff you would like to see in the future.

      • Edgewise says:

        I think that the implied setting of Harth is very interesting, and it would be cool to see a supplement with more details. As for adventures, I’m a big fan of these open-ended region-based deals. As one might note from my own adventure (which Bryce reviewed immediately prior to this). Just keep on keeping on and follow your muse.

        • Funny you should say that, because I am currently working on a Harth RPG game system and a Harth setting guide, so there will be lots of Harth content this winter!

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            That’s very cool. The implied setting of your adventures always struck me as very interesting, sort of a Numenera/Dying Earth vibe.

          • Edgewise says:

            Awesome, I’m very much looking forward to it. One of the aspects of your setting which has most piqued my interest are the angels; the idea of these defective clockwork wardens of divine order is just super cool.

          • Evard's Small Tentacle says:

            Love the post apocalyptic dark vibe mixed w a mythology and fairy tale feel…

  4. Anonymous says:

    This seems like the most long form adventure yet! Thats tough to do well! Heck only one PF adventure bryce liked

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hypeeeee

    What are the core mechanics of the rpg system?

    2d20 like Conan or dice pools?

    D20 target numbers like 5e?

    2d6 traveller or heck fudge dice

    • The Harth RPG is a classless skill-based PbtA-style game, so it is 2d6+Trait but there are no playbooks. Chargen takes 3-5 minutes. Most of the game guide is tables for the DM to generate quests, NPCs, items, and monsters. Very rules-light. Very freeform and chaotic, and can be deadly. Easy to start a game with zero notice or prep. Playtesters love it.

  6. D.M. Ritzlin says:

    Is there really an NPC named Witchy McWitcher?

  7. ifryt says:

    I ran this adventure with Cairn. It took us 5 sessions to conclude. It was great experience. The play report is available on my blog: https://ifrytrpg-blogspot-com.translate.goog/2022/07/witches-of-frostwyck-przebieg-kampanii.html?_x_tr_sch=http&_x_tr_sl=pl&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=pl&_x_tr_pto=wapp

  8. Anonymous says:

    No Artpunk 3 lets go. Prince make McWitcher high level happen

  9. 3llense'g says:

    “And by “annual” I mean “it’s time to do it.” ” Yeah, this is where shitty module writers fuck up. They’d put a random table in or give a percentage chance that the sacrifice is “now”. Hell, some would include a whole calendar. But if it’s not “now” it’s not relevant, so might as well skip it. Well done!

    • lol, thanks!
      It can be tricky to balance “random and realistic” with “scripted for drama”. I think both are important to make a good game happen.

      And a lot of that comes down to how the DM brings all the pieces together for their players. So I’m just trying to support the DMs as best I can with easy-to-use information and inspiration.

  10. Daniel Boggs says:

    Sounds like it would be an easy fit to my Blackmoor campaign. TY.

  11. This is an excellent writeup Bryce — at this rate the Dungeon Age adventures will take over the entirety of my OSE sandbox

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