Game: Blood Runs Cold
Publisher: 0one Roleplaying Games
Review Dated: 17th, July 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Blood Runs Cold is a classic fantasy adventure from 0one Roleplaying Games. As you might conclude this is a d20 Dungeons and Dragons (3.5) romp.
$6.50 US will get you the 44-paged PDF. 0one Games are masterful cartographers (I just have to mention this every time) and Blood Runs Cold is nicely spiced with great maps and illustrations. The cover is spectacular – if a little creepy. I like it.
This adventure is quite high level. The adventuring party will range from four to six characters and they’ll be between 10th and 12th level. You’ll need a mixed group and will certainly need one mage and one fighter. Need a fighter? I’ve taken that synopsis as a synonym for tough fights.
If you’re worried about spoilers then scoot.
Can your fighter swim? This is a question the GM should slyly answer before attempting to run this adventure. I think some of the toughest fights are tough because the heroes might just be on a rickety old boat and so there’s a very real danger of going overboard and into the water. Killer crocs will do that for you.
A word of caution – when the players work out (in about 3 minutes of game play) that people have been kidnapped and vanished without a trace from Rivenwater (by the River of Teeth) that they’ll likely jump to the conclusion that an evil cult is involved and they’re sacrificing the kidnap victims to a dark god. This is a cautionary note because your players will be exactly right! Perhaps you can play it as a double bluff; “I can’t be that simple… can it?” It seems unlikely and so the characters will start to look for hidden twists and turns which aren’t there.
One of the best red herrings is the local Baron. He seems to be looking the other way and not investigating the kidnappings. Why would he be so foolish? He must be involved! Perhaps he’s been replaced by a new type of advanced golem… er, no, well, he’s just been bought off and paid to look the other way. I’m not sure how the evil cult got hold of their money or why anyone in the right mind would look the other way to the actions of a cult in a world where magic and demons are very real and very dangerous. There you go, that’s what the local Baron is doing anyway.
The biggest actual twist the players will face is that they’ll have to get to a large boat/barge for a fight. That might fox them. This will come after a group of would be slavers attempt to jump them. I know what the slavers were thinking – I imagine it went along the lines of; “Oh look, there’s a half dozen, dangerous, well equipped adventures. That one there looks like a mage too. Quick! Let’s jump them!” Er. No. Nevertheless, this is the decision the slavers make. After this fight the players will discover who’s running this nasty business (or who seems to) and will have to get out and to the boat in the River of Teeth. I hope they try something stupid like swim the distance expecting not to stand out like the awkward lumps in the water that they’ll be. I’ve already mentioned the giant crocodiles, haven’t I?
Here’s the back story. There was once and evil empire which got its arse handed to it when the forces of light came a-calling. The Annelids were a human empire which worshiped the Drinker of Life, Lord of Slime and Leeches (at the time it seemed a better choice than preying to a benevolent healing god). The Annelids would raid near and far, capture people and bring them back to sacrifice. Funnily enough this attracted attention. As their city was sacked and their temple destroyed the last of the Annelid clerics managed to sink their dark god’s altar into the swamp. The idea here was that their slime lord wouldn’t mind and it would keep the altar away from the pesky goodies.
The surviving Annelid priests scampered off and hid. Over the generations and years the Annelids survived and changed. They became more animal like and monstrous. The change was due to their, well, monstrous and animal like way of life as they haunted the area of their sunken temple. Perhaps their dark god was rewarding them? At the start of the PDF the GM is encouraged to read up on the Annelids as they have new and complex abilities).
Skip to the current time and we have suitably powerful Annelid priests. Their leader has managed to find the sunken altar. As it happens the Lord of Slime does seem to like it down there and so they’re building a new temple around it. It’s this temple construction which requires healthy human slaves and no small number of lizardfolk too.
The players may or may not work out that some of the villains on the boat aren’t as human as they appear to be. We do have some striking “boat floor plans”. It’ll be good to show them to the players, er, after their encounters.
From The Cottenmouth (the boat/barge) the characters must make their way to the swamp. From there it’s simply a matter of storming the temple, stopping the evil clerics, thwarting the dark god’s plans and maybe even freeing some slaves. Easy.
Okay. It’s simple but it’s not easy. In the outcome possibilities it’s suggested that if the characters do manage this then they’ll come to the attention of more powerful good aligned forces. If one PC is devout then they may even enjoy a divine invitation. This seems like a good adventure to take the characters firmly across the threshold of mid-level to that of high adventure.
I stand by that; I said “good adventure”. I can drive barges (including the cottonmouth) through some of the plot holes and poke fun at the plot shallow adventure (but it is better than an underground complex with treasure in it) but these are issues with this style of linear adventure rather than issues specific to Blood Runs Cold. In truth Blood Runs Cold is entertaining. It has enough plot to carry the characters forwards through the chain of events. We’ll looked after by 0one and enjoy great maps and an easy to read adventure.
The town is generic enough to be dropped into any high fantasy setting. The Annelids are villains that the characters – even the wise ones – will never have heard of before but that’s dealt with in the plot. Alright, the “no one’s heard of monstrous Annelids” is a little weak but at least it’s there.
Blood Runs Cold does what it promises. You’ve a straight forward, tough, adventure for a mixed group of characters expecting high fantasy drama.