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Friday, 8 April 2016

A Winter's Woe

Although there is no scenario in the rulebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord, the first RPG released by Schwalb Entertainment following a successful Kickstarter campaign, one of the excellent decisions upon the part of the designer has been to release support—and release it early—in the form of scenarios for the game. This way a gaming group can get playing quickly, even if they are just using the core rules presented in Victims of the Demon Lord: Starter Guide and an adventure. In addition, the publisher has also released Tales of the Demon Lord, a complete mini-campaign that takes a party of characters from Zero Level up to Eleventh Level. In the meantime, the thirteenth adventure is Heart of Winter.

Heart of Winter  is the third adventure written for characters who have entered the Master Path, that is of Seventh Level or higher. It is written by Chris Sims, the author of various supplements for Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition and Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, such as DD1 Barrow of the Forgotten King and Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, and comes as an eight page, 22.08 MB PDF. Physically, Heart of Winter is decently presented and includes not only the adventure itself, but descriptions of a pair of new artifacts.

It begins simply enough, in fashion that makes it easy to drop into any location or even another scenario. As the Demon Lord continues to near our reality and rend at the walls that separate his prison from our world, the walls between all realities weaken, and as the scenario opens, a tear was made the previous night, enabling screaming blasts of cold to emanate and plunge the lands of the Empire into the grip of a false winter. Perhaps the player characters might be driven to investigate this rift themselves, to protect a village or sacred site, to look for missing persons or heroes who have already gone to investigate, to locate important information or items, or to stop foul cultists taking advantage of the chaos, but whatever the reason, they will make their way to the rift and venture through ‘Winter’s Door’.

On the other side of the rift is a set of ancient ruins, located high up on a mountain—a mountain clearly many miles away from the other side of the rift. The ruins are icebound and amount to a fairly linear, twelve-location dungeon. It makes good use of its cold and icy location in its choice of monsters and both of its artifacts are well designed and interesting, one holy, one unholy. Yet as written, Heart of Winter never quite lifts itself being a simple dungeon bash, feeling much like a Dungeons & Dragons side encounter rather than an adventure for Shadow of the Demon Lord. This does not mean that a playing group will not have fun with it, but this scenario never quite succeeds in being more than average and it does not feel as if it offers enough of a challenge or playing experience to warrant the player characters gaining a whole new level based purely on completing it.

As good as it is to see so much support for Shadow of the Demon Lord, an RPG only just released, Heart of Winter is simply an average adventure. There are better adventures for the game and there are better adventures for characters of Master Level.

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