A10: Icecrag Monastery (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game/3.5 Compatible Adventure for 4-6 PCs of levels 5-7

Adventureaweek.com PDFs are fully supported by Hero Lab files (included in download), minimum requirement: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game core system.

Icecrag Monastery is located atop a towering mountain peak and has long been a haven for those that choose a peaceful and meditative way of life. After receiving a dire plea for help from the Icecrag monks the PCs make the long and dangerous journey to the isolated monastery.

Upon arrival they discover a once stable relationship between neighbors has been shattered, though the catalyst is not readily known. Strangely enough an orc shaman, a lesson in herbalism from the old monks, and an old legend may help the PCs resolve the conflict and once again bring peace to the region.

Also included in "Icecrag Monastery":

  • The new "Herbalism" Feat introduced in the Apothecary of Icecrag Monastery
  • A new magical plant form to go with the new feat
  • Two new magical items; one used for good, the other: evil
  • An exciting location to use in future games complete with maps by three time ENnie Award winning cartographer Todd Gamble
  • Different ways to complete the primary quest
  • HERO LAB files for everything contained within the adventure

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An RPG Resource Review


Whilst I usually keep technical comments for the end of a review after talking about the content, this time I shall start with them. It's the hyperlinking... if you subscribe to the Adventureaweek.com website, and are able to run your games someplace you have access to the internet, it is well worth doing so. About half a sentence into the Introduction, there's a named location that is hyperlinked. Click on the link, and there is a glorious visual of the location, along with notes on the place and a map showing where to find it. It's like that all the way through, a wealth of additional resources at your fingertips. Some you may wish to show to your players, others you'll prefer to keep to yourself but use them to inform the descriptions and information you do pass on. Being a webhead, it's something I've done for my own games, but with the full weight of a publisher behind it this is quite spectactular!

Back to the adventure itself, the Introduction sets the scene with a local population under environmental pressure as their own numbers and a newly-arrived predator stretch resources to breaking point. A peaceful monastery's calm is shattered as the beleaguered locals seek sustenance... even as the newly-arrived predator munches on them as well as on their flocks and herds! The adventure hook is thus quite simple: a plea for help. The characters must unravel the conflicting interests and find a solution to the problem.

Whist just the single hook is provided, you have considerable flexibility in how the bait is presented to the characters beyond the method given - a bird bearing a note, if you're curious. The Adventure Synopsis lays out the expected course of the plot, that the characters should gather information as to what is going on and then decide what action to take. Three options are presented, along with rather judgemental labels as to whither they are good, neutral or evil acts; or of course your players may have other ideas...

The area that the characters have to traverse in the course of their investigations presents challenges of its own: being mountainous and deep in snow. Copious notes are provided on the environmental and wildlife challenges that they will face, all again resourced with hyperlinks to both D20 and Pathfinder SRDs, so that running the adventure under the ruleset of your choice is made easy.

The monastery ought to be the first port of call, and both inhabitants and the place itself are well-described. Worth tucking away for any occasion on which a remote monastery built into the side of a snowy mountain may be of use; whilst it is embedded into the area well and - unless destroyed during the course of the adventure - is likely to remain a permanent feature against any return to the area. A new skill, that of Herbalism, is practised by the monks and is detailed here should any curious character wish to study it. The monastery is full of those little details that make the place really come alive, things that perhaps have no bearing on the plot to hand, may even not be noticed by characters just passing through. The level of care, love even, lavished on a single location is noticeable, both here and in the lair of the predator which must also be visited before the adventure is done. But there is no rest for the wicked or for that matter the good...

For this is no mere set of locations to wander and people to meet. Action piles on thick and fast, and the characters will have to think on their feet and prove competent with weapons and offensive spells as well as with investigation and diplomacy. At points the action seems a little forced, it's plain what outcome the author is looking for at several encounters, but handled delicately there's no reason for your players to know that - and there's sufficient supplementary information for you to accommodate players who make different choices.

The appendices contain several interesting magical items, some useful local berries, and full stat blocks (dual statted for both Dungeons & Dragons 3.x and Pathfinder for everyone (and thing) you'll meet.

The actual plotline is a good one, that should prove interesting and exciting whilst being well-embedded into the area in which it is set, building on an established alternate reality. It is well-supported, both within this module itself and even more if you are a subscriber to the website: a textbook example of how an adventure can be presented with thought, care and good use of available technology.

Uninspired module that falls short of its own premise


This module is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 34 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right!
The Icecrag monastery has coexisted with a tribe of goat-herding orcs since its inception and the population of the latter has been on the rise - unfortunately to an extent, where the tribe is dependent on wild-life to supplement its dietary needs. More unfortunately, the wild goats and other potential food sources have been diminished. Now the orcs have attacked the monastery. A hawk escapes with a blood-smeared note (included as a hand-out) to Rybalka to warn and ask for assistance. Enter the PCs. Now, as any self-respecting remote monastery, the Icecrag one is located far off from civilization and the trip there is the first thing to do. Some suggestions for hazards and wandering monsters are provided with hyperlinks, but are not reprinted in the pdf - which is a pity if you're like me and print out modules to run them and somewhat feels a bit lazy. Once the PCs reach the monastery gates (which come as a sketch drawing and a one-page map of the locale), they are instructed by the abbot about the recent sudden onset of orc-raids, only to have one happen at their door. Thankfully, this time the PCs can rebuke the raid and perhaps even learn the new herbalism-feat, which comes with complete rules to create 6 mundane salves/poultices.

After rebuking the attack, the chief of the orc tribe comes to the monastery's door - in peace. The orcs have been starving due to a white bird demon and provide a crude map to said creature's home - if the PCs take care of the threat to the local eco-system, the orcs may stop their raids. At the cave, the PCs will have to brave an ice basilisk and then defeat the white dragon that has been the underlying source of the conflict. Once vanquished, there's again peace between the two groups and PCs may actually get a neat staff from the monks, an orb of illusion and a fully detailed hoard. Rules for rare berries are also provided alongside a stunning artwork of the dragon.

Unfortunately, I have also some criticism regarding the adventure's straight-forward plot: While convincing the monks to abandon their home or killing all orcs are also options suggested in the beginning of the module, these paths are not explored in the slightest. No sample DCs for a conversation to convince the monks to leave, no information on the orc tribe/its camp. essentially, this module pretends to offer a freedom it does not deliver.
Additionally, the attack on the dragon is rather anticlimactic - one paltry minion and that's it? The overall defenses of the dragon are pathetic and while whites are not the sharpest tools in the shed, more defensive measures would have been appropriate. In fact, I think dragons always deserve special care and an array of tactics. This critter, though, is a static foe at the end of a lair that, in spite of numerous height levels, makes nothing of this terrain - where a cool, modular battle could have taken place (the dragon taking several levels at once etc., nothing really happens and the DM gets no unique tactics that help make the encounter memorable and in the end, reading this finale left me with a distinct feeling of disappointment.

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed some minor glitches, though nothing serious. The pdf adheres to Adventureaweek.com's 2-column standard and comes with nice drawings/maps. Unfortunately, though, in a step back, we don't get any player-friendly maps this time around - disappointing! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with an extra, printer-friendly version and hero-lab files as well as stats for all involved creatures in both 3.5 and PFRPG.

This adventure is not exactly bad. It just has one massive problem: The last two modules by adventureaweek.com were vastly superior to this one. Where the "Secrets of the Tristone" provided neat puzzles and iconic locations and "Rogue Wizard's" weirdness was a joy to behold, the trip to the Icecrag monastery remains formulaic at best and its presentation does nothing to help: From a handwaved trip to the place sans anything unique or any sense of narrative foreboding, to the rather bland monastery, I was not captivated even once by what I read here. The short herbalism-feat and idea could have been great, were it expanded upon and supplemented by herb-write-ups - as presented, it feels like a half-baked homebrew-rule (including rather static Knowledge (nature)-checks) that has imho no place in a professionally done module.

Especially when e.g. SGG's Ranger's Options book has demonstrated how e.g. herbs could be used to create extracts. And then there are the essentially two encounters: Rebuke tribal foe, slay true culprit of tensions between people. It does not get more formulaic than that. Worse, the true foe is blatantly obvious (white call it by some other name?) and falls terribly FLAT. As one, if not the most iconic beast, its lack of tactics and pitiful defenses make victory for the PCs almost laughably easy if played by the book. Don't get me wrong, the prose is generally good, but the overall plot is so terribly trite, its execution so unimaginative that I could scarcely believe that it came from the same feather as the last two adventures. Let's sum it up: No player-friendly maps. Dropped alternative resolutions of the scenario that are mentioned and then not followed up on. An extremely formulaic plot. A hand-waved wilderness journey. Locales that lack the iconicity of other modules by AaW. A rather lame herbalism-feat that feels like a cut-down chapter in a gazetteer. An unfortunately utterly disappointing finale. "Splinters of Faith 6" does the icy monastery in a much more iconic way and is the overall superior module. Try as I might, even when taking the neat maps and the nice piece of artwork into account, I can't go higher than 2 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.

Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine. Pity that this one fell so short.

Ouch...still, I Thank You for the feedback Endzeitgeist, and will make sure your observations get added to the lists when it comes time to revisit our back catalog for updates and rewrites.

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