By Luka Rejec
WTF Studio
OSR? Generic/Universal?

The snows are alive. A soft, cold spirit courses through them. Her lace threads the world; watching, drinking, listening, stroking, soothing, killing. Her touch is soft and icy. She is Winterwhite, the daughter of the Waterdrinker and the Northwind, and she is a terrible god. An avatar of ice and hunger, of visions and death.

This 114 page ‘sandbox’ is an empty shell. Devoid of almost anything useful to a DM, it is one idea that is not fleshed out in any meaningful way for play. All concept and no delivery. I am not the fuck amused.

Didn’t Luka write something that I liked? I think so? This thing though, has issues. While it advertises itself as a kind of sandbox, it might be more correct to say that it’s got some ideas that you can dump in to game. There is a small isolated valley in the mountains. A few generations back some settlers came there and found people already there, a rougher folk. They were attacked and driven back to a cave, where they made a sacrifice to the spirit of winter. As long as they do this continually then everything is ok. Recently, the ruler skipped a sacrifice. The setting starts in the fall, goes through winter, and then spring never comes … unless a sacrifice is offered. Winter will last a year. Dumped in to this are some factions. The aristos/rulers of the valley, the first settlers lurking in their hamlets, some werewolf like people with some undead at their call, and The Old Architects that are a kind of mythic people asleep and perhaps waking up. While the Baronials get a few more words, you now know just about as much as I do about these groups. There is really no description of them beyond that. There is a nice little table, for each, though that describes some portents and events that can happen as each faction waxes or wanes. These are nice little guidelines to show their power and drop in to a game. 

And drop in to a game you will. This is meant as the backdrop for a different game, I think. These are events and factions to interact with as you run your normal game in the valley, is what I get the sense of. As strict time records are being kept, winter approaches and things happen as a faction gans or loses power. This is the strongest part of the book. As, oh, eight to ten pages, it provides a good backdrop of things that could happen in the homebases. This kind of thing is great in a setting; as a guideline for making your world more interesting and providing some downtime activities that may lead to more.

A huge portion of the book is devoted to escaping the valley. A mechanism is described using a standard deck of cards, with each suit representing something, like mountains or rivers, and higher values representing more danger. Potentially. These are not actually encounters as much as they are ideas. For example “A stumbling man in a heavy parka and bespoke city shoes is making for the valley. His marten fur cap smells strongly of pomade. Despite the stubble on his cheeks, his curled moustaches still follow the last Eastern City fashions. He keeps mumbling about a hotel in Pey Holzey. His watch is a jewelled TPK Scheephouse with seven complications. “ Is someone you might meet. I’m not sure there is much to do there. Make an ally … during your minigame on the way out of the valley? Or, your ropes get frayed and you have disadvantage on all climbing checks until they are repaired. There is a lack of a situation in most of these encounters. I don’t see the adventure. 

The settlements and people are not described. The factions are not described. There are not really guidelines for adding some verve to things. This is barest of frameworks for a setting. The portents and events like things on the timelines are good, but the supplement could be JUST that and you would not lose anything for your game .. because there’s nothing else to this. 

And then we combine that with something like “They are the oppressed whose yearning for freedom and dignity has become a thing of twisted envy, hatred, despair, greed, longing, hunger, loathing, self-destruction mixed with unrequited love—the anti-eros, the thanatos that comes forth in this long dark” Uh huh. That’s inappropriate for anything other than a political pamphlet. And then, at the end, we have the ever popular eye rolling “narrate your ending” piece “A gruelling escape leaves the heroes scarred and hurt. What nightmares of Winterwhite plague your dreams? Why do you feel like something darker stirred beneath the ice? How do you cope with your trauma? Were there many you betrayed on the way? Why will nobody believe you, when you talk of ice ghouls?” I know, I know, this is personal taste. But, also, effort when in to those things, effort that could have been spent on developing the valley and providing more situations to occur within the setting. 

I am not amused. 

This is $13 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. You get a chance to se ethe winter spirit table of waxes and wanes. A view of a card result would have been ice as well, although nothing is going to prepare you for the lack of a framing to have a game in.


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9 Responses to Longwinter

  1. AndwH says:

    I was excited for this one when I picked it up a few years ago, but yes, there is nothing to this but a concept. Not even a particularly interesting one at that.

  2. AB Andy says:

    Holy Mountain Shaker and Witchburner both got The Beat. But just as this one, they are sort of experimental, or innovative if you like. I guess it’s a risk an author takes when they don’t write “traditional” adventures. That some innovation will be a miss.

  3. Prince says:

    The problem with Luka Rejec is the problem with Patrick Stuart. They are both creative types (Stuart is superior for the record) with many ideas and they are both categorically incapable of converting those fantasies into the framework of the DnD game. Generic is a terrible patch for this problem, the only thing this often indicates is that the author gave zero consideration for the game’s conventions, structure and particularities. We thus get game material that MIGHT be used in a game and the job of making it useful is left up to the purchaser. Why? Are ideas this precious? No. No they are not.

    Why can’t a person learn to fucking play the game of the hobby they are squatting in? It has been ten years. How long do you need? Step out of your hugbox and find some asshole who knows the rules and have him edit your work you lazy fucking bum. And this is a source of income for these slobs.


  4. Gnarley Bones says:

    Holy Mountain Shaker was, likewise, a great idea that did not translate into the game.

  5. Christopher Potter says:

    UVG was a cornucopia of good ideas and fantastic art, and Holy Mountain Shaker looks playable. There’s plenty of good encounters there and player ingenuity will usually provide enough ideas to link them up.

    I was surprised by the high score for Witchburner, that really did look like a slog, lots characters with lots of detail, but not clear idea of what the aim of the game was. There was going to be some end point to Witchburner, but nobody knows what it is, not the DM, not the players, a Schrödinger’s cat adventure.

    UVG on on the other hand offers a road trip, get from A to B with some great encounters along the way.

  6. Daniel L says:

    I bought the new UVG and after reading about 20 pages, asked for a refund because it was not gameable. Is that the correct use of the word? I thought UVG had broad-stroke atmosphere/concept stuff that none but the most hyper-creative could immediately use to run a game.

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