Dark Oak—Collector's Edition (PFRPG)

5.00/5 (based on 3 ratings)
Dark Oak—Collector's Edition (PFRPG)

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible adventure for 5th-level PCs by Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood

Beneath the fetid roots of a noisome swamp linger the pathetic remnants of a once proud and noble tribe. Laid low by a powerful narcotic administered by their ambitious (but wildly paranoid) mistress, the lizardfolk of the Dark Oak are but a shadow of their former greatness. Now below the slumbering body of a diseased treant she plots to bring bloody slaughter to the folk of the nearby villages before her followers forget their proud heritage and sink into a lethargy from which there is no escape.

For this first time in print, this newly updated and expanded collector’s edition of Dark Oak includes not only all the original material, but the village of Thornhill to serve as a base for the PCs as well as all new details of the Redfern Swamp. Linking material to tie Thornhill and the machinations of the Dark Oak are also included so a GM can quickly and easily insert this multi-session adventure into his home campaign.

PRAISE FOR THE ORIGINAL DARK OAK

“It’s reminiscent of old-school dungeon crawls but with a bit more definition and purpose other than hack-and-slash and gather the treasure...Dark Oak is a great, short adventure module for Pathfinder.” —RPG Chronicle (five-stars)

“Editing is top notch...formatting also rocks. I do consider it to be a supreme example of an adventure you can just pick up and play with your group without having to prepare it in advance.“ —Endzeitgesist (five-stars)

“Dark Oak is the sort of excellent scenario I've come to expect from Creighton Broadhurst. It is presented in a clear and precise way and comes complete with some outstanding art and maps. Indeed, the art and maps could be considered to be worth the price alone!” —Dave McAlister (five-stars)

“I am planning on using this adventure in my own game, as it is short, and has a nice mix of roleplay and combat.” —Lord Snow (five stars)

For free samples head over to ragingswan.com/darkoak

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.

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An Endzeitgeist.com review of the updated version

5/5

This pdf is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement 3 pages editorial (including SRD), 1 page ToC, 1 page foreword/table of encounters/CRs, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page advice on how to use this module for novice DMs and 1 page back cover, leaving 35 pages of content.

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

Now if you're familiar with the original Dark oak-module, you'll immediately realize that this is no regular expansion/cut and paste-job; Much like Marc Radle's superb Sunken Pyramid, this module now ties in with a fully depicted village from the excellent Village Backdrop-series, namely Thornwood. This dreary, desolate village in the midst of a swamp makes for a great way to set tone and mood: From the decrepit town to the degenerate lizardfolk tribe of the Dark Oak, the step is not that long, a sense of degeneration and decay clinging tightly to all surroundings. Foreshadowing advice, excessive notes on how to get things going and especially the slightly rewritten background story do their best to properly fit both products together in a new organic whole.

The lavishly detailed Thornhill-settlement, rife with intrigue and sporting rumors, demographics, market-place settlement statblocks etc. is not only lavishly detailed, it also sets a superb tone and its great b/w-map should intrigue quite a few players while driving home the notion that this place is on the looming verge of disaster, not by virtue of a concrete doom, but rather as the result of a prevalent gloom that makes the very notion of this place seem like something that the swamp seeks to take down.

I did mention that this is not hack cut-copy-paste job and the subsequent exploration of the fully hex-mapped swamp with extensive notes on overland travel, random encounters, terrain effects on movement etc. makes for a superb connection between village and dungeon. Speaking of dungeon - unlike many a supplement out there, we get lore DCs for the respective adversaries. Speaking of adversaries - in order to even enter the complex, the PCs have to either destroy or negotiate with the degenerate treant guardian of the place - and yes, step-by-step negotiation information is provided - not just here, but also when dealing with mind-crush addicted (a new drug) lizardfolk. In teh combats the PCs face, they'll have to contend with an advanced crocodile and hopefully also manage the combats, which may easily spill into the water - in Raging Swan's tradition, DMs get all rules for said occurrences provided in one concise table, making running the otherwise potentially complex encounters rather easy.

If the PCs actually manage to defeat the lizardfolk's degenerate leaders and if they did not opt to kill the treant, the poor creature may by the way actually reward them. Among the bonus materials provided, we get a new deadly fungus, aforementioned drugs, two b/w-illustrated magic items, 6 pregens. You can also download the map of the dungeon with and without keys and grid in 4 versions on Ragingswan.com and you can also get a player-friendly version of Thornhill on RSP's homepage, but only on the entry for the separate Thornhill-file.

Conclusion:

Editing is top notch, I didn't notice any typos. Formatting also rocks and layout adheres to the clean, printer-friendly Raging Swan standard. As has become the tradition for Raging Swan Press' offerings, Dark Oak comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for print-use. Both come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print-edition of this beauty in particular is awesome and elegant to hold in your hands - and seriously worth the fair asking price.

There are some very minor downsides to report, though: Not all artworks are stellar. On the other hand, the artwork for the treant just ROCKS and the superb cartography more than makes up for this minor gripe.

The adventure itself is straightforward but cool and features roleplaying encounters to solve problems without fighting. While I don't consider this adventure to be genius, I do consider it to be a supreme example of an adventure you can just pick up and play with your group without having to prepare it in advance and the expanded content indeed is well worth the fair asking price and means that this is by far the superior version - especially the short wilderness interlude greatly enhances the module.

EDIT: Check Raging Swan's hp for the web-enhancements/handouts etc.!

the original Dark Oak was good, the Collector's Edition is superb: Enticing, captivating, oozing flair and style, it breathes a sense of desolation only rarely seen in supplements, Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood have expanded a good module and turned it into a great one - a joy to read and a worthy upgrade of the original module and well worth 5 stars!

EDIT: Now that I don't have any gripes left: + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.


The Collector's Dark Oak

5/5

Firstly, I will admit to having not read the original Dark Oak pdf so this will be a first timer's review of the adventure as opposed to a comparison. That being said, the Foreword tells you exactly what's been added to the original version. This is a fusion of the original Dark Oak product as well as the Village Backdrop: Thornhill product, with a few tweaks here and there so it's not just a cut and paste job. For that, I thank Raging Swan for showing their customer that they really do care, and aren't just out to make a quick dollar. And as always, there's web enhancements available on their site for this specific product. Again, not just forwarding you to the previous two pdfs for theirs.

Now, for the review of the pdf itself. The adventure comes with the standard edition pdf as well as a printable copy. It has the same setup as other Raging Swan Press pdfs with lots of bookmarks and a section where it explains how to use this adventure, and an explanation section for how to read the encounters, traps, figure out treasure, etc. While most of this is available in the core rulebook, it's nice to have a quick reference guide available to the more novice of GMs. The town of Thornhill has a few really good notable NPCs for the PCs to interact with, and whom seem as if they'd either bring something to the table in both hindrance and assistance. What's interesting is that a couple of are actually of NE alignment. I've found that to be pretty rare for just the average NPC that's not looking to immediately get in the party's way. There's also multiple locations that are explained to the GM so that the PCs can get a better feel for the different locations. There's also random encounters to involve the PCs if they're not immediately looking to get involved with the main plot, or if the GM wants to add a few more items into the mix.

On page 21 and 25 are fairly detailed numbered hex maps of the Dark Oak itself. Raging Swan Press has also been kind enough to have four alternate versions put up online as web enhancements, and they make note of this near the beginning of the pdf under "Bonus Material". The PCs are going to be trekking through the mire for quite some time, depending on how quick they are, not to mention how much of a survivalist they are. Your average party should have someone with a high Wisdom score, or at least a ranger amongst the ranks. If not, the party could end up lost in the marsh for an entire day, fighting off disease and multiple random swamp encounters. This makes for a much more realistic adventure. An adventure that states can be made into a module that could take four standard sessions.

With regards to the encounters, it's refreshing to see that they're not all hack and slash. The author has given the GM alternatives that can be given to a group who decides that diplomacy is the better course of action. Most of the encounters can be made into friendly allies who are willing to give up information to help PCs that are possibly lost, or even to call a truce. The PCs should be given the same amount of experience regardless of how the situation ended. Each encounter also has a section on how to scale it in comparison to what the average party level is. The majority of the work is already done for the GM as well, with new AC, hp, and sometimes damage changes. This saves the GM a few minutes of work, especially if this adventure was chosen on the fly. During certain battles, there's a table for the GM to make quick reference to should a PC end up doing battle in or under water. Again, this is in the core rulebook, but it makes the GM's job easier.

If the GM is running this as a one-shot, and the players either aren't going to be making their characters, or don't know how, the back of the pdf has six pre-generated characters for them to choose from. Each one has their own specific talent, and the cleric has a detailed background on his clerical order.

Overall, this looks to be a fun adventure, and has lots of room for advancement should one of the main NPCs manage to get away, or the party was too low of level to take on both BBEG resulting in a later revenge plot. However, I must point out something that everyone should make note on. What the gaming party will likely find the most annoying, because so many PCs wear heavier armor and shields, is falling into the river rapids and failing their Swim DC checks to not be swept 10-40 ft. downstream, or worse yet, trying to climb the shoreline. Unless the group has been involved with multiple encounters that involved swimming before, there's a good chance that little to no one will have any actual ranks in the skill. That could make for a very frustrating time. It might be beneficial to everyone if some swimming items were added to the local shops, or GM makes sure that the PCs have at least 1-2 ranks in the Swim skill before going into this adventure. That should hopefully cause less headaches for everyone. That being said, a group should still have lots of fun with this adventure, overall.

I definitely recommend this adventure, and I hope that someday I can run it for my group, or at least as a one-shot at a convention.


An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Drawing primarily on two earlier Raging Swan offerings - the original Dark Oak adventure and Village Backdrop:Thornhill - this product stands proud as an excellent example of adventure, challenging to the 5th-level characters for whom it is aimed. There are a couple of pages of introduction, about reading stat blocks and running encounters, before the adventure background sets the scene. This is followed by a synopsis describing the intended sequence of events. By now, the entire situation should be clear in your mind, embedding history and current events within the setting - which is compact enough that the whole (history and all) could be transplanted into your own campaign world if you are not using the default Lonely Coast setting.

Should you be running this adventure as part of a campaign suggestions are made for 'foreshadowing' rumours to seed into your campaign long before you reach this point, the result being to embed the events of the adventure itself into the ongoing story you and your players are creating rather than having it appear suddenly. Yet despite this, the adventure will work equally well as a one or two session stand-alone game, if that is preferred.

Next come three detailed adventure hooks, to draw the characters in to what is to follow... or you can just have them arrive in Thornhill by chance and unleash the adventure upon them. Several of the locals have a particular interest in what is going on and may well approach capable-looking adventurers anyway.

The next section introduces Thornhill in considerable detail, and there is a small plan. If needed, there's a larger version available as a standalone map (Village Map: Marsh Village) wherever you purchased this adventure. A rather dour place in the middle of a dank marsh, it is a credible and realistic village which you may wish to return to even after this adventure is over.

This is followed by a section titled Into the Mire - as that is where the party must go if they are to complete the adventure. There's a rough map of the swamp and plenty of notes to help you set the scene as the characters splash around. Should you wish to add to this, consult the product Wilderness Dressing: Swamps.

The final part of the adventure proper describes the Caverns of the Dark Oak, which must be explored to deal with the problem... an excellent (if squelchy) crawl around some caverns which again are mapped out in full coupled with detailed descriptions. The characters ought to feel wet and smelly by the end...

Replete with appropriate illustrations, and all the detail you will need to make this adventure come alive within your shared alternate reality, the conclusion offers both rewards and suggestions for further adventure, and a whole section of Play Aids including new items and some pre-generated characters should you wish to jump straight in.

A fine example, now to round up some players...


Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

And you can grab some free samples here! I hope you enjoy them.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks so much for the review, Megan. I much appreciate it. I've never had a dungeon called "squishy" before!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks so much for this comprehensive review, Kevin. I'm delighted you enjoyed Dark Oak

Liberty's Edge

Very nice!


Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20fsrd.com's shop. Cheers!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks for the review, Thilo. I much appreciate it. I'll also be taking care of the web enhancement issues this week. It's bang out of order they slipped through the cracks!

Liberty's Edge

Also really appreciate the nice words about the Sunken Pyramid :)

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Just to let you all know that I've updated the web enhancements for Dark Oak Collector's Edition to take care of the issues Endzeitgeist mentioned in his review. I hope you find them jolly useful!

You can download them here.


Added my seal of approval to reflect the additions of the handouts etc. ^^ Updated my review everywhere.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

That's remarkably decent of you, old chum! Thanks so very much.


You're welcome! It's my philosophy that improvements, even at such a high level of quality, need to be rewarded. ^^

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