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Dark Waters Rising (PFRPG)

***** (based on 6 ratings)
Dark Waters Rising (PFRPG)

Add Print/PDF Bundle $11.99

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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 (6)
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Average product rating:

***** (based on 6 ratings)

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An RPG Resource Review

*****

In essence, this single-session adventure is a dungeon-crawl but one which incorporates time pressure caused by a flooding dungeon, tricky puzzles to circumvent, interesting terrain and lots of undead. If that's your thing, you are in for a treat!

An entertaining foreword from publisher Creighton Broadhurst and his customary masterclass on the anatomy of an encounter later, we reach the Introduction, which explains a little about the frontier village of Swallowfield, the jumping-off point for the adventure. Naturally, you can substitute a similar starting point from your own campaign world or - if you like the sound of the place, Raging Swan Press has a whole product devoted to it! Next is the Adventure Background which gives the rationale and backstory for the adventure, for the GM to read and understand. Basically, a concatination of unfortunate events lead to the collapse of a mill and the release of some undead which have been trapped for a long time... just when the party happens to be in town, of course!

There's an ancient crypt down there, you see, that nobody knew about... and the river that powered the mill is now threatening to flood the place and drown several villagers who fell into the hole or were captured by the undead. And presumeably the undead themselves, if they can drown, that is. That's the nature of this adventure, a race against the river to explore the crypt and rescue people.

There are notes on the Lonely Coast setting, which is where Swallowfield is to be found: this is a good introduction to the area, or provides indications as to a suitable equivalent in your campaign world, and a lot more information about Swallowfield itself, complete with a couple of maps showing both the village and the surrounding area. The adventure proper begins with the collapse of the mill into a sinkhole... which releases a load of ghouls which all appear to be spoiling for a fight. The intention is that the characters will be swept up in the action even before they are asked to investigate what lies beneath.

Several people are trapped in the wreckage and need rescuing, and the various options available to the party are laid out clearly - as are rules for fighting in water, which will come in useful later on. A map of the crypt - quite a small place, no wonder the ghouls want out - and detailed description follow, and the exploration may proceed without delay, necessary as the entire place will be completely flooded within 24 hours.

The wealth of detail about what's down there lifts a basic delve into something far more interesting and the time pressure of the water pouring in adds an edge to proceedings. It's a delightful way to ruin a nice quite afternoon in the local village for your party!


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.


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