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Night of the Frozen Shadows

This adventure aims to offer ninjas versus vikings which I think is a face-off worth applauding.

Also this is one Pathfinder adventure that doesn't consist of a series of dungeons to be raided.

The story so far is that the PCs are accompanying a friend who has discovered her destiny to be the new leader of a distant land. To get to this land the group are travelling across the globe in a caravan. The metastory never really works for me but the scenery of the caravan journey is a good connecting ploy.

The group are in need of a tracker to guide them over the Roof of the World (one of Golarian's poles). However the group of oni who are opposing the journey are determined to get rid of the few people who have the right knowledge.

In a weaker thread of the story the group also need to acquire an ancestral sword that has been stolen by the same group.

The adventure essentially divides into a series of assaults on buildings divided by periods of investigation and skullduggery in Kalsgard, the large town in the region.

The first location on the hit list is the hall of local blackguard Asvig Longthews and his wife Helva. No background or personality are offered for either, in contrast to more recent adventures, but both get colour portraits showing the Paizo commitment to art.

The raid on the hall is made more interesting by a contrived need to take advantage of the hall's inhabitants inebriated feasting and the incipient arrival of more guests which threaten to overwhelm the PCs.

What is actually interesting about the encounter is the way that it can be approached with a mixture of stealth and violence. The PCs have a goal that doesn't require anyone to be killed (although the scenario, strangely, rewards the group for a massacre).

The raid results in a lead that a suitable guide might be currently awaiting a fiery death in the hold of funeral ship of a pirate captain.

This is a great setup with the PCs paddling out to the ship in kayaks to try and rescue the guide without alerting the watching mourners.

The most inexplicable part of this scenario is the sudden failure of nerve in plotting that turns this great idea into a complete dead end. The guide is not on the ship, returning to shore the PCs native contact has been kidnapped and a mixture of fiat and deus-ex-machina needs to be deployed to get the party back on track.

There is a general theory in roleplaying writing that you can never be too obvious. The obvious thing is to have the guide on the ship, the obvious thing is to still have the kidnapping happen but have the guide demand that the party rescue his friend before they set off on the journey. The guide can then feed the clues required to point the party towards the culprits.

Regardless; the scenario wants the PCs to sneak into the Rimerunner's Guild to find clues as to the location of the sword and the guide. Again the nice part about this is that there is the option to use stealth and trickery rather than violence to acquire the relevant information.

Again the plot gets a bit rickety as it turns out the bad guys have been salting everything away in their secret hideout. Which means everything the party needs is now located in one convenient location. Why they don't just kill the guide and the native allies is not clear. There's something about him being more useful alive, clearly someone's never read a James Bond novel...

And so we come to the final act, an assault on a fortified hideout. Much that is illogical about D&D style games is present here, like the fact that the party might well need to retreat or rest to recover spells and hit points.

Instead of the exhilarating initial raid under time pressure here we have the traditional grinding of enemies into submission.

Still the location is good, with its own plausible mad history. The main boss baddies are located around the complex (which is well designed and very plausible) and one thing that is nice is that they have roles in the guild and normal routines which they have been pulled out of to defend the base from the PCs.

The bosses include an intelligent raven, a half-spriggan half-troll and the big bad is an ogre mage. Locations make up a lot of the interest in the battles with the rooms offering unique challenges.

Night of the Frozen Shadows has lots of good ideas but the plotting is clunky. It's well worth seeking out for the imagination.