A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Ice Kingdoms campaign setting. Along with the setting, Yesterday, I reviewed the first of several planned modules, Lair of The White Wyvern. Today I review Into the Mournwood by James M. Ward, $8.99 on RPGNow.
The Mournwood is one of the areas mentioned in the campaign setting book, The Ice Kingdoms. As with the setting book and the White Wyvern module, it fits together and fleshes out the setting a bit more.
This 56 page adventure is for 4-6 characters of levels 3-7. There is a linked index, and three major sections: Introductions, Adventure, and Bestiary.
The Introduction is composed of background and history of Mournwood, Where does the GM start, and 6 pages of More Notes for the GM. In the history, we learn why the Mournwood is also called the Hag Wood. This ancient forest is “full of monsters, fey creatures, and ancient evil.” This forest is so evil that there is a d10 table for curses that afflict those who enter it, if they fail a saving throw.
In the GM section it is specifically mentioned that the GM can use the adventure hook or not, and come up with their own adventure to start things. I really likes that, so that someone new to old school style of play encounters the idea up front.
The adventure section is composed of 35 encounter areas indicated on the region map. I must have missed something, as not all 35 adventure locations are on the map. If there is mention of this, I didn’t catch it, and I tried to read the entire thing carefully. It almost feels like a page with a map is missing. The map is a color map with 5 mile hexes. It would be easy enough to do 6 mile hexes if that is your preference. [EDIT: C.S. Barnhart pointed out, “Page 18, treasures of the fallen explain why encounters 4 to 22 are not on the map and how to use them.” See his other comment and my reply below.]
The pen and ink art fits the tone and mood of the setting, and are well done. There is only the one color map and it is quite nice. The remaining maps are black & white and are simple utilitarian maps. That is, they don’t have any embellishments like cross hatching and the like. All of the maps could easily be used in Virtual Table Tops (VTTs), like Roll20.
There is boxed text indicating read aloud text. There is one that is the initial setup for the adventure that is two pages. The GM can give each player a copy of the player handout to read themselves. The read aloud text is in a plain black box. I was momentarily confused, as there is some boxed text that has a gray background, that is obvious one would not give that information to the players. I don’t see anything explaining the difference. Further adding to the confusion, is the player handout is boxed text with a grey background. I would prefer to see a quick explanation of the two kinds of boxes, and being consistent in which one has grey shading.
This is a tough adventure and players need to play it smart. There are also adventure locations where players find items to help them as they go.
Finally, the Bestiary has 23 monsters and plants, most are familiar for those who play AD&D/OSRIC. Most notably, some of the named monsters are used with permission from WotC. There are a few new creatures or modifications of old standbys to fit the setting.
What I Liked:
- This adventure does a good job of giving the players a feel for the setting.
- This is definitely old school. – Not all encounters are balanced, encouraging players to think before they rush in.
- Having played Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim at a con, I can definitely see his style even in a different genre.
- In the GM section is points out that the GM doesn’t have to use the included adventure hook. The GM is encouraged to make this material their own.
- The maps could easily be used online, such as in Roll20.
- One map is the only color art in the book.
- The pen and ink are is all very good. I feel it is all more consistent than in the campaign setting book.
- The layout is clean and simple.
- After my previous reviews and commenting about the need for more editing, I received an updated PDF. Serendipitously, about the time I was preparing to read the module. I am pleased that instead of one or more errors per page, there are perhaps 5 or 6 in total.
What I’d Like To See: (This is almost exactly the same as my review of Lair of the White Wyvern.)
- There are a lot of text boxes for read aloud text.
- In my case, I have to know a module very well to be able to read such text at the right time.
- Some of it is a bit long.
- I think an experienced GM could give this one thorough reading and a couple quick reviews to get it straight the best way for them to run this.
- There are two kinds of text boxes, but it is left to the reader to notice the difference.
- The player handout has a different background than the rest of the read aloud text.
- This should be noted at the beginning, and have consistent format for read aloud or asides for the GM.
- While the layout is clean and simple, there is very little white space between the columns in this two column layout. It is still readable, and seems OK on my monitor.
If you like this setting and are a completionist, this module is for you. There is enough material here to easily fill multiple game sessions.