Tales of the Old Margreve (PFRPG) (based on
Put out the fire, shoulder your pack, and enter the deep woods...
Tales of the Old Margreve contains 8 eerie forest adventures for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in a unique Old World setting inspired by the medieval folktales and superstitions of Eastern Europe. Its authors include Paizo regulars Tim Connors and Richard Pett, among others.
Here in the Old Margreve Forest, heroes trek past crumbled griffon towers, over stiles and shepherds' fields, to where the lonely road thins and branches under the dark canopy of the trees. Deep in the forest's misty hollows, you may hear the rusalka's song rising over the crackle of a midnight fire or glimpse the white flash of a deer centaur's tail as it vanishes between the trees
In this place, those who ignore the old ways are never seen again.
Inside you'll find:
8 adventures for player characters of 1st to 10th level
Dozens of Margreve sites, inhabitants and adventure hooks
12 unsettling new monsters
New spells and incantations
Unexpected powers wielded by the living forest itself!
Whether you choose to take your players into the legendary forest between the realm of the vampire knights and the clockwork city of Zobeck, or cherry-pick its contents for your own campaign world, Tales of the Old Margreve will challenge your players to earn a place in fireside tales.
Travelers through the the Old Margreve forest stop at the midpoint of their journey at Eye of the Forest Coaching Inn. The curious always take a peek inside the cast iron oven in the center of the inn. What you see might set you to wondering if those Grimm fairy tales are true!
Each one of the adventures in this product are a treat to read. Riffing off old world stories of witches, enchanted maidens and wolves that devour little girls wearing red riding hoods, these stories are fresh looks at tales we all know and love. A GM presenting these adventures to their players will be able to delight, and yes, even frighten them a little. After all, the players might *think* they know the ending, but adventures in the Old Margreve rarely turn out the way anyone expects.
As a sourcebook to adventuring in dark woods, it's also a great resource. There are locations and NPCs and a host of story hooks, in addition to the prepared adventures. Best of all, though, is the bestiary. Creatures of slavic lore are fully explained and statted out for your use.
The adventures can form the spine of a campaign or serve as the backdrop to adventures of your own creation using the tools within. Either way, this book makes the dark forests dangerous again ... what else could a GM ask for?
I'm not going to launch into a long detailed review, as other reviewers have written ample descriptions of what's in the book. I will however testify that is really is that good. This is a must-buy.
While the adventures don't use the Margreve itself as an entity, they are all solid, interesting and playable. I would run every last one as written, which is unusual for me.
My only upset is that almost the entire book is in b&w, including the maps. I would like the option to have the art in color, especially the maps. If I want to print in b&w and lose detail, that should be my choice, not the publisher's.
Since it is in black and white, get the PDF and save some dough at the printer's. 4.5 stars.
This adventure anthology/sourcebook is 113 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 107 pages of content, so let's take a look at it!
The anthology sets the mood immediately via a two-page short fable about fey and beer and offers thus a great lead-in to the gazetteer-section on the Margreve, the ancient forest of Midgard, where both the wonder, strangeness, creepiness and awe of the forest come back to live and intermingle with the cruel Germanic and Slavic folktales. Both attitudes of the folk, their old ways and rites and customs and the global powers of the forest are detailed in a prime example of concise and flavorful writing. The culmination of this section is both the advice on how to play the "character" Margreve, different takes on it and a plethora of adventure hooks of the highest caliber for your perusal. The detailed subsections of the forest, ranging from creepy shadowfeyish to creepy dream-like and creepy primeval offer a vast plethora of potential ideas for DMs especially and even players on a minor scale. I guarantee that you'll find inspiration in these pages if your creativity hasn't completely dried up. Have I mentioned that e.g. Baba Yaga is a firm and unique part of Margrevian mythology?
On a rules-perspective, we also get a whole section on how magic works in the Margreve (subtly different, including visual clues) and mechanically different for those not versed in the Old Ways. We also get the obligatory part on new magic and, while this section more often than not, elicits yawns from me, let me assure you that each and every one of the 6 spells herein is pure killer and rocks - hard. Even better, for people like me who enjoy the primeval and dangerous flair of incantations, we get three new ones - Awesome!
Next up is the bestiary and in the fine tradition of Open Design, all of them, I repeat, all of them, are killer, no filler. From the Ala storm-witches, the supremely creepy children of the briar, the noble deer-centaurs, green hussars, undead mylings and rusalka brides, the extremely disturbing sap demons up to the majestic and lustful zmey, each and every critter herein has several unique abilities. Almost all of them feature their own unique artworks and concluding the oomphteenth time I read this section, I'm still all up in arms about the quality. If all bestiaries were of this quality, I could put my virtual reviewer's pen down.
All right, that's as far as I can go without spoilers, as now begins the adventure section of the book. Potential players, please stop reading NOW, SPOILERS abound!
All right, the first adventure, "Hollow" by one of the masters of horror, Richard Pett, pits the 1st-level PCs and a tiny hamlet under their command against both mad animals and the dread harvester of the singing tree, the hollow man. The Scythe-wielding CR 5 Hollow Man makes for a very disturbing enemy, as PCs of their level don't truly stand a chance against it: While it is harvesting the heads of townsfolk and not interested in the PCs per se, they have a strict timeline in which they can try to stop the deadly enemy and finally confront and destroy the tree adorned with decapitated heads, which coincidentally sings unperceivable through the skulls and thus drives the animals of the forest insane. An awesome, smart and creepy introductory adventure!
Next up is "The Honey Queen", a completely different fare: Dreamlike and somewhat reminiscent of the Alice-novels, Jonathan McAnulty weaves a yarn of excellent narrative quality: The PCs are hired to acquire a special kind of honey that supposedly prolongs your life. Problem is, though, that the awakened queen bee lairs around hallucinogenic flowers (necessary for the honey) and that she does trade exclusively with the scáthsidhe, the shadow fey. As spokesperson and foe to the PCs on their way through the awesome, creepy hive is the adopted stepdaughter of the queen, a girl in temporal stasis who has developed the power to use bee-swarms as surrogate bodies. The PCs have to act smart to bring the girl back to life, get the honey and brave the bee-hive-dungeon. This adventure also rewards non-lethal problem-solving and can end on a plethora of notes, depending on the PC's actions.
"Challenge of the Fang" by Dan Voyce has two excellent adventures to follow up on and succeeds - Challenge of the Fang can have severe repercussions for the PCs if they fail: Every 3 generations, the battle between wolf and man is fought again, in a dread ritual that will determine whether wolf or man reigns supreme and earns the favor of the Margreve. How is the outcome determined? Well, think "Little Red Ridin' Hood" with the PCs and the wolves trying to get to the red-cape-wearing girl first, including a very fairy-tale like, cool series of tests, portents that come true etc. It's hard to capture the mood of a fairy-tale in an adventure and Dan Voyce succeeded with grace - One of the best takes on the material I've seen - sufficiently close for the players to get it and far enough and creatively different to make it challenging and surprising.
"The Griffon Hatchling Heist" by Michael Furlanetto is a nice change of pace, from the grim and fantastic to an adventure that could very well have your players smile: When they are being approached by a housecat, they may very well have one of the most unlikely quest-givers ever - the housecat turns out to be the polymorphed griffon-leader Lesharrkk, who wants the PCs to infiltrate a tower where she and her brethren once nested and which is now the base of a huge amount of bugbears led by ogres and a cyclops. The PCs should get in, take the eggs and get them out before they hatch - of course, just as the PCs reclaim the griffon's offspring they begin to hatch and getting them out without any one of them being perceived by the critters - after all, PCs probably don't want to raise griffons...or do they? Depending on the amount of griffons saved, whether they consider the PCs their mother, Lesharrkk might make for a cool ally in future adventures. All in all, a great change of pace and one that made me smile!
After the rather light-hearted heist, we get a disturbing race against time in Tim Connor's "Gall of the Spider Crone". When the PCs enter a tavern featuring a lot of Kariv, they quickly realize that the gypsies have something to hide: Just prior to the PCs arrival, one of the legendary spider-crones has stumbled into the inn and, while morally dubious, suffers from a huge gall that, in a disturbing perversion of pregnancy, is eating up the crone from within - operation seems to be not an option and the desperate crone offers the PCs the same rewards as the Kariv to embark on a race against time to procure the means to save her from one of her sisters. What she does not mention is, that temporary possession is a part of the cure... As the PCs embark on a stormy hunt through the trails of the forest, they are hounded by various complications before finally arriving at a spider-legged home clinging to a huge vine across a canyon. In order to return in time, the PCs will have to use the spider-legged house to navigate the Margreve back to the inn, save the crone and kill the ala that will burst from the gall. The iconic usage of the spider-house to travel back to the inn alone is worth playing the adventure - another winner!
There are several very good reviews already. I'll just say I have gotten great use out of this. Players have found the added adventures making the woods even scarier and strange then the Kingmaker Adventure path had them. A great addition!!!
I'm in the process of making a campaign centered around a border town on the edge of a vast wilderness. This wilderness will contain - ultimately - a doorway between this realm and the Fey(wild) that must be closed. Sort of like a PFRPG Buffy series. Anyway, these adventures fit in perfectly. I find myself wanting to use most if not all of them at some point.