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Dark Waters Rising (PFRPG)

***** (based on 5 ratings)
Dark Waters Rising (PFRPG)

Add PDF: $4.99

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible adventure for 5th-level PCs by Ron Lundeen

Catastrophe strikes the frontier village of Swallowfeld! With a grinding groan, the town’s mill slews into the Kilian River and breaks through the ceiling of an ancient subterranean dungeon. This accident frees a long-imprisoned evil to prey upon the shocked townsfolk. When several Swallowfeld residents—some innocent and some not so innocent—are spirited away into the rapidly flooding dungeon, it falls to a brave group of heroes to venture underground and rescue the missing before dark, rising waters seal their fate.

This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

For free samples, visit ragingswan.com/darkwaters

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Product Reviews (5)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 5 ratings)

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Adventure with urgency

*****

I'm a big fan of Raging Swan and have bought most of their adventures. Retribution, their first module and the first one I bought, still stands as classic but this is definitely my second favourite and sprang off the page the moment I opened it.

The adventure is a race to rescue prisoners from a flooding underground prison which is a fairly novel idea but the brilliance is in the detail. The opening scene is brilliant and leads the characters into the action straight out of the box in a way that will stay in players memories in big way. There are several levels to the mission, who has taken the prisoners, why they've taken them and who has been snatched all add levels of complexity to the story. Lastly, and for me most notably, the pace of the scenario allows you to push the players every step of the way as the rooms they are moving through fill with water (in an easily trackable way).

The module should take only a single session to run but where sometimes this feels like a shame it's all over so fast Dark Waters Rising needs to be short because it allows you to keep the intensity up for one evening without any respite at all.


Dark Waters, Dark Deeds

*****

Game of Thrones pun. On to the review!

Crunch
A product's crunch is its rules content, and you don't usually expect to see much when you look at an Adventure Path. The opponents that are presented in this product are built top-notch, and as always Raging Swan gives us additional ways to customize the encounters, making them easier or harder (I always make mine harder for my PCs because I'm particularly malicious). The one piece of crunch that I was particularly impressed by was this neat little table that helps the GM quickly calculate distances between multiple locations in the adventure path, so if you use all of those places, the table is really handy. I absolutely love how its set up; if I may be bold enough, I'd call it a genius design. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
A product's Flavor refers to its story and overall feel, and without a doubt this is the most important part of an Adventure Path. The adventure starts with a very awesome concept; ghoul monks. You had me at those two words, Raging Swan. The set up for this cannibalistic order is very nicely done, and the encounters presented in the product are well planned and thought out. There are plenty of characters to interact with, notable the ones who appear within the dungeon itself. The adventure has a very real flow to it, and while previous Raging Swan adventures I have reviewed have been two or three encounters, this product is clearly designed to be a major adventure and it pulls off this feeling very well. The ending is very thought-provoking, as is the "Continuing the Campaign" section. I don't want to spoil anything (I bet other people have in this thread) so I'll leave you with the promise that this is top-notch stuff. 5 / 5 Stars.

Texture
The final section is texture, or how the product looks and feels. This is layout, this grammar, and this is Raging Swan Press, so I always to remind myself which side of the pond this product was made on; if I don't, the British spellings drive me crazy, personally. That said, everything looks very well set up in this product; it has a very professional feel despite Raging Swan's minimalist design. There are PLENTY of maps in this document's layout; they have this really cool look that perfectly sits between a professional-looking map and a map that you'd expect a cartographer from the era to draw; as much as I love crazy awesome maps, I sometimes feel guilty about giving my players Paizo handouts for that reason alone. This product does a very good job of holding itself together and in check, and it even manages to avoid the dreaded "table split." Most of the time. 5 / 5 Stars.

Final Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 5 / 5 Stars

When I saw this product's price, I was like, "Geez, you trying to kill us, Crieghton?" $5.99 (or however many euros that is) is quite expensive for a Raging Swan product. But when you open it up, its very clear why the price is as high as it is; everything is spot-on perfect with this product. The adventure is very solid and it is massive; we're talking over 35 pages of content, which is like 17 cents a page. You really can't beat that! If I had one comment about this adventure, its that Dark Waters Rising has a bit more identity than, say, Gibbous Moon. The adventure is a little bit more set upon itself, and therefore it might not import into people's campaigns as well as the smaller adventures do. But that is an honest risk that you take when you make a bigger adventure, and it should be one that consumers are willing to risk. If they do, this product is head and shoulders above any other 3PP adventure that I have read so far.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


A No Stress, No Mess Adventure

*****

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32079.

Catastrophe strikes the frontier village of Swallowfeld! With a grinding groan, the town’s mill slews into the Kilian River and breaks through the ceiling of an ancient subterranean dungeon. This accident frees a long-imprisoned evil to prey upon the shocked townsfolk. When several Swallowfeld residents—some innocent and some not so innocent—are spirited away into the rapidly flooding dungeon, it falls to a brave group of heroes to venture underground and rescue the missing before dark, rising waters seal their fate.

Reviewers Note: I have done my best to keep spoilers down to a minimum. But if you plan on playing this adventure, please do not read this review to prevent the terrible curse known as “meta-gaming”.

OVERALL

This is a no-stress, no mess adventure that you can drop in and out of your campaign/game night with little to no prep as needed. It is indeed a very fun adventure worth it’s weight in gold (in and out of game!)

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: The layout of the adventure is done in the traditional Raging Swan Press style of minimalist black and white. While it’s not a bad thing, it kind of irritates me. When you look at an adventure, you want there to be some color, you want there to be some life and energy in the adventure that makes a GM want to run and a player want to play. With the format, the way it is, it’s kinda… Unexciting… But it doesn’t take away from the adventure in the same respect as well. It’s just something to note for those who are used to full color adventures.

Ease of Mobility: The file is light and easy to manage from mobile to print. The plus side of minimalist formats is that they are ink friendly.

Maps: The maps are simple and light. Easy to draw for those who hate drawing maps, but if you wanted to blow them up and print them out, that can also be arranged quite easily.

Storyline: 9 out of 10
Plot Development: The plot of the story is pretty linear–Bad stuff happens to a mine, and the party needs to go down and not only save the innocent people who are still trapped down there, but in the same respect they need to destroy whatever is down there causing bad things in the mine. Although the plot is pretty linear, it’s still a great adventure! Ron Lundeen is one of my favorite adventure writers in Pathfinder Organized Society Play.

Pacing of Story: The pacing of the story is rather quick and rightfully so due to the nature of the adventure. It always has this sense of urgency, but it does leave a GM time to add in roleplay before and/or after the adventure as needed. If you want to expand from there, you also have that option.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
NPC Interactions: The NPC interactions are a little flat, but there is room for a GM to expand upon them and make them memorable. If you have charismatic characters, I would recommend fleshing them out a bit, as they can be quite fun!

Encounters and Rewards: The encounters are appropriate to the level, and leave a good amount of a challenge for those who are combat oriented. The XP is fine, and the treasure is a little lacking. GMs can make up for that by dropping their own special items.

Overall: 9 out of 10
For Players: Dark Waters Rising is a great adventure for players who like crawling through dungeons and discovering the many secrets this city and area have to offer! The possibilities are endless and you will have no problem going where and doing whatever you want.

For GMs: If you are having a campaign dry spell, or looking for a new location, Dark Waters Rising definitely helps with that! You can run it standalone and have a good time, or you can add it into a campaign or even expand from this one adventure alone!


Fast-paced old-school crawl in a flooding dungeon, awesome, but short

*****

This pdf is 36 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page on how to use the adventure, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 26 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

Still here? Okay! The Lonely Coast, Raging Swan's unique (and FREE!) mini-setting is home to a plethora of interesting people and tribes and also the location of a town called Swallowfeld - a frontiers town that is fully depicted in its own excellent location supplement, also available from Raging Swan Press. While Swallowfeld serves as the default location of the module, just about any other village could also be used, so a maximum of insertability into a given campaign is guaranteed. For those not owning the supplement, a short run-down of notable characters is given in the beginning. But onwards to the adventure: Once an order of monks under the command of one Odwain lived where now the city of Swallowfeld can be found and said monks found an untimely death when they were sealed in a crypt they excavated, which promptly collapsed on them, curtesy of their foes. In recent decades, Swallowfeld's stream, the Kilian, has changed course and ran right over the buried and sealed complex, now home to the tormented undead. Erosion and the construction of a mill right atop the complex also took their toll and thus, the grist mill collapses. Having been warned of the impending collapse, the crypt thing mastermind of the undead strikes and has his ghoulish minions kidnap the closest unsuspecting villagers to swell teh ranks of his undead lackeys. When the city's would-be rescuers under the leadership of half-orc Fang Reterson also get trapped in the mill, it falls to the PCs to mount a rescue, this time hopefully successful...

But before we jump into the adventure per se, 4 pages detail not only the lonely coast at a glance, locations of note etc. and the village of Swallowfeld, including 2 neat b/w-maps - then we're off to the very first encounter, the grist mill collapse, where in an obscuring cloud, the Pcs will have to face off against ghoul initiates hunting for more villagers to abduct and not only have a cool introductory encounter including obscuring clouds, but also suffer the potential danger of dust explosions. In order to rescue Feng and his men, the Pcs will have to succeed at a cool skill-challenge like social encounter in which they calm down the men and finally get them free - then, it's all about going down into the crypt - which slowly floods. The cool, cool, cool component of this adventure is the slowly rising water and the sense of urgency it imparts on the players - thus, we also get several stages of progressively harder conditions if the Pc dawdle: Where soggy, few inches deep water only marginally hinders acrobatics, 4-5 foot deep water means 4 squares of movement and an impossibility to tumble as well as required swimming by small characters...

Worse, the crypt is slightly sloped and the further the Pcs progress the deeper the water will be. In the second adventure by Ron Lundeen I reviewed, Headless Hydra Games "Wreck of the Keening Crone" I complained about exactly such a thing missing and here we are - an adventure devoted to it: Very cool indeed! Even better that we get a full sidebar listing all the consequences of fighting in water next to the one page beautiful b/w map of the complex alongside a miniature side-view of it.

This module pulls no punches and the very first battle, a struggle against the 3 Caryatid Column guardians is but a taste of the things to come as well as a cool foreshadowing technique, for the statues depict the boss of this module - oh, and of course they have navigate the moving water-wheel of the tumbled mill in order to gain access... Each of the rooms in the module, btw., has the time elapsed and the relative water-levels listed in a comprehensive list - commendable service for the DM. In order to proceed, the PCs will also have to brave the monk's training grounds and thus, their training construct and traps, which may prove to be rather challenging. Jory Mayne, the town's conjurer, is the captive of one of the most iconic creatures herein, the blind ghast monk Garsel: While blind, the ghast monk should still prove to be a formidable foe, even when hassled by the captive wizard's acid darts - I can wait to have my players get pummeled by this cool adversary, especially due to the room's pillars and walls emitting a short glow, but making all the rest of the room rather dark and a stealth+15 is nothing to be sneered at...

And then, the adventure starts to become truly awesome, at least in my opinion: The chamber before the bosses room contains a cool puzzle that can be solved via smart deduction and the correct sequence of stonepanels bearing pictures. Even better, no skill-checks are necessary to solve it - plain old logic and deduction from the players are all that's required. Even better, the panels all get their own pieces of b/w-artworks. Puzzle with graphic representation? HELL YEAH! Oh, and while skills can be used by the DM to sprinkle hints, both the time-limit and potentially misleading information can be a hindrance if the players think they can just roll the problem away. PCs don't necessarily need to solve this puzzle, though. What they do need to accomplish is defeating the crypt-thing Odwain on its sarcophagus-throne, his ghoulish initiates and save the remaining villagers - before the whole complex and the innocents are drowned.

As a further twist, not all of the captives are especially good people - dread cultists of Braal are among them and might serve as further complications/antagonists. Also a great way to nest this adventure in a cult-investigation, by the way! Even better, if you choose to do so, redemption for one of the evil-doers and freedom from the person's tragic past is only one intense roleplaying encounter away. The pdf also provides 3 rather interesting options for further adventuring for DMs to develop and closes with 6 pregens.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I've come to expect from both Raging Swan and Run Amok Press. Layout adheres to RSP's crisp and elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks and cartography are quite nice indeed. The pdf comes with full bookmarks and two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. It should be noted that zips of the maps and the tifs of the sigils of the puzzle can be downloaded on ragingswan.com as web-enhancements.

Ron Lundeen is an excellent adventure-author and has proven so for several companies, none the least his own Run Amok Games brand and this module is no exception. The synergy with Swallowfeld is unobtrusive, but adds a nice edge and continuity to the whole module. The idea to delve into a flooding dungeon is awesome and add to that social encounters and a professionally-presented puzzle and we have a stellar scenario including some awesome antagonists. However, I still have some (minor) complaints:

The first being that there is no player-friendly map without numbers etc. to chop up and hand to your PCs. The second is the brevity of the module. While it's a fast-paced romp and keeping the pressure of the flooding necessarily makes this module a stressful one for the PCs, I would have enjoyed some branching paths, some special treasures that can only be unearthed by fast PCs or special complications at a certain water heights, like acidic sludge seeping from long-defunct traps etc. - if you take the pregen-section away, you're left with only 19 pages of adventure.

Excellent, cool adventure, yes. But I can't help but feel that making the module more complex and longer could have easily made this a legendary adventure - perhaps we'll see a slowly flooding city one of these days as a sequel...please? But back to the verdict: It is due to these factors that I will omit my seal of approval, which this module would otherwise fully deserve and add a caveat to my verdict: If the brevity is a factor for you, you may wish to detract a star, but not more - the module is still a great offering. For me personally, I still will settle on 5 stars for this nail-biting, old-schoolish and fast-paced dungeon-crawl.

Endzeitgeist out.


*****

Dark Waters, written by Ron Lundeen, weighs in at 36 pages (with roughly 8 of those tied up in covers, OGL, Ads, credits, intros and such). Following the dual column format approach, the PDF carries the typical clean and crisp look one has come to expect from the Raging Swan camp. Cartography is reminiscent of the retro camp, with a hand drawn feel, but in all the right ways. Artwork is stock, with most of it coming from the Elmore collection and being used to support the collection of pre-generated characters at the end of the adventure (six of them total). Set in the town of Swallowfield, the adventure is written with more then enough detail to take advantage of without the source material PDF for this town also released by Raging Swan, but I would recommend a GM pick it up regardless, as it is filled with some extremely useful material in regards to this town, and will greatly help flesh out the community better for one's PC's. It should also be noted that the community of Swallowfield is within the Lonely Coast setting, also available from Raging Swan, and a setting you should seriously think about adding to your collection as it is filled with excellently written material as well. This adventure offers up a quick cheat sheet (if you will) of the specifics of the Lonely Coast in the form of a one page write up accompanied via full page cartography. The same approach to giving specifics beyond the scope of this adventure are handled for Swallowfield itself as well, a one page write up covering town info, and a full page overland cartography.

OK, we all know what's coming, right? Spoilers...so, players, BEGONE!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, time for GM's to talk, go polish your dice, or plan your next GM appreciation party or something, we'll let you know when you can come back...OK, so now that it's just us GM's, let us discuss this adventure module, shall we?

Swallowfield has an issue, and that issue falls within the realm of the player's bread and butter. The local mill has just managed to break through to an ancient crypt, falling into the hole and beginning the flooding of these previously unknown lower chambers. Now, in and of itself, that is not the issue, it is the series of ghouls and undead living within the crypts that are the issue, as they spill out and begin kidnapping folks to present them to their leader to be turned into additional undead to serve him. The local guards do what they do best, try to save the day and turn themselves into more people who need to be rescued. See, told you it was a problem suited for the players. Mr. Lundeen has written a classic dungeon crawl with all of the feel of a rushed pace thanks to not only the idea that you must get to the kidnapped townsfolk before it is to late to save them from an undead conversion, but also that the river is flooding this series of dungeon, and therefore adding to not only the difficulty of traversing the terrain, but the sheer amount of time the playgroup can function as they delve further from the only way out and back to air. Add to the environmental dangers of the flooding and collapsed building, we've got the undead who have no fear of the rising water, and are at a serious advantage when it comes to attacks within flooded areas, the original guardians and traps of the dungeon complex, and a moral issue for the players. Two of the victims are not what one might call so virtuous, being members of an evil cult. GM's are giving the opportunity to allow their PC's to explore the moral complications of being tasked to save the less then desirable within a community, and possibly leading one of them back to a more virtuous path in so doing. Well done in including such a concept, as I love to see the levels of difficulty and challenge be about more than simply smash, kill, retrieve and run. Remembering that a PC's actions affect everything around them, in a world filled with more greys than black and whites, throwing in a moral issue of “do we or don't we save the bad folks?” is a great addition,in my book.

The crypt offered up for this rescue adventure is in fact a burial chamber for the head of an order of monks, known as Odwain. When interring their leader's body to his final rest, the monk came under attack, and found themselves sealed in. Over a span of weeks, several died out from starvation, others took to the route of cannibalism, and began the transformation into ghouls. Upon opening their former master's tomb seeking food these ghouls discovered that his will had not passed on, and he had in fact returned as a crypt thing. Reclaiming his position of mastery over what remained of his order, Odwain and his followers, now an eternal threat, waited in the dark for the day that release would come.

Cartography for the crypt itself gives us a birdseye view as well as a sidecut, helping drastically in understanding the depth levels for the differing sections of the tomb in relation to each other so as to be able to properly handle the flood effect of the river pouring through the mill wheel's breach point. The cartography again carries with it a very retro feel, staying in theme with the two overland maps.

Danger starts right off the bat in this adventure, with the PC's facing starving ghouls within minutes of the initial mill accident, as some ghouls attack whilst others kidnap and retreat. Following them into the wreckage the PC's will find a group of local town's guard have already attempted to give chase, and have gotten themselves pinned within the breach point, and will surely drown if not saved. From there the PC's are set to face a trio of carytid columns within the first room they enter of the tomb, and that's after figuring out how to get in safely in the first place (it is a height of roughly thirty feet, accessed through a hole that a river is rushing through, to a floor covered in rocks and debris...not the most ideal circumstances for entry). The PC's can utilize the waterwheel as a makeshift ladder as it comes within 5' of the ground, dealing of course with the water making the climb hazardous.

From the entrance chamber the group proceeds to a training chamber, complete with pressure point floor tiles that unleash javelin traps, and an automaton in the form of a four armed training construct, albeit with one broken arm and a state of constant breakage and repair. Very cool concept for a room in a setting of this nature, would have loved to have seen any form of artwork depicting the training construct to better visualize what exactly the author had in mind with this design.

A meditation chamber occupied by our first kidnap victim and a blind ghast are on the menu next, with that blind ghast being far from at a disadvantage. An interesting room that offers a glimpse into who these monks were in life as the depictions of carvings and illustrations adorning these walls where they meditated give a great deal of information upon the teachings of Odwein in life to his disciples. An excellent form of delivering this style of information to a playgroup, subtle enough that you aren't beating them over the head with it, and yet just enough hook and catch for a craftier playgroup to snag on and start analyzing. Well done, well done indeed. Our victim, if rescued, bravely offers to join the quest, although he is a woefully under-equipped wizard, having had his components and wand taken and destroyed...leaving the group with a living possible liability to decide how to handle.

The treasure chamber preceding the main burial chamber comes complete with an old timey combination lock of large stone buttons depicting different carvings, of which the PC's need to not only figure out which keys they actually need, but what order to press them in, to gain access to the hidden treasure room. A very cool puzzle, and one that while it may slow a group and force them to think, should be solvable by all but the most puzzle resistant groups out there as long as they are paying attention to the details of the dungeon. Each stone button is detailed in illustration which is insanely helpful in my opinion, as those images can easily be extracted and printed out for a playgroup to be able to work with making the puzzle a much more hands on encounter for them, which adds a great level of interactivity and fun.

The burial chamber finally brings us to the encounter between Odwain the crypt thing and the PCs. Odwain has taken his stone sarcophagus as a throne of sorts, standing it on end, giving him a height of ten feet, putting him at quite a stretch for most PCs with melee weaponry unless they also have reach. He opens attack with his Teleporting Burst ability, scattering the PCs around his dungeon, possibly to points underwater, and releases his ghouls to attack the stronger members of the group while he focuses on the weakest. Unable to leave his own burial chamber, Odwain none the less has a fairly proficient method of assault. It is within this chamber that the remaining four kidnap victims will all be found, chained to Odwain's sarcophagus, and suffering from ghoul fever due to multiple bites.

The adventure wraps up with the returning of the victims to the town, the potential interactions with the two cultists amongst the kidnap victims, and a couple of potential hooks to continue adventuring in this locale.

All in all a well written, fast paced adventure with an emphasis on a stress filled rescue operation against an entrenched enemy with the advantage of home field in their favor. Bringing to the table all of the great things about a classic dungeon trek without bogging down to deep into unnecessary side paths, this is a focused and well handled adventure, and one that could easily give a playgroup a great night of fun. Well worth the price of admission, and an easily given 5 star rating!



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