Game: Deadly Ice
Publisher: 0one Roleplaying Games
Review Dated: 9th, February 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
I always think of absolutely stunning floorplans whenever anyone mentioned 0one Roleplaying Games and so when I opened up Deadly Ice I whisked through it to see whether the adventure would give me any more. It does! Deadly Ice has two full-paged “battlemaps” – one room per page – as well as a few wonderfully illustrated maps and multi-room floorplans. 0one call again on their prodigious artistic talent to produce a set of four beautiful player handouts. Handouts are one of advantages of PDF products like Deadly Ice have over books. You can print these handouts off as many times as you need – one for each player, one for each game and a GM copy too – and there’s no danger that they’ll be forever ruined if someone spills their pepsi on them. Those of us without colour printers will not enjoy the full benefits but it’s still very much better than cutting up your only paper copy of the game. 0one Roleplaying Games are adapting well to the PDF media in other areas too; this is the first e-product I’ve come across in a while that has internal bookmarks. That is to say, you can click on the PDF’s contents page (rather than open the bookmark sidebar) and skip straight to the matching chunk of text. Deadly Ice’s default display is to have “continuous – facing” of the pages and although this is great for scanning through their battlemaps on-screen it doesn’t make it easy to read the adventure on-screen. That’s a small grumble though because I think it’s more than likely that Deadly Ice will be printed off by GMs before running the adventure.
Deadly Ice is an adventure and therefore you should assume that this reviews contain spoilers.
It can be hard to spoil a dungeon crawl. You go in the front, battle your way through and if you’re lucky you’ll encounter some new and interesting monsters. If everything goes well then the characters escape with the treasure. There are new and interesting monsters: Snow Trolls and the wonderful Whitemonks. I love the Whitemonk critters, tiny snow beasties with lots of teeth. There’s also a collection of ice aspected dwarf undead. These enjoy top quality illustrations too. The illustrations are just sketches, not quite the full colour of monster manuals but the effect is quite appropriate for ice and snow creatures and very much more easy to print off.
Deadly Ice is only half dungeon crawl though. The first bit is surprisingly successful and influences the dungeon crawl hugely. If the players pick fights with the orc tribes before the dungeon crawl then they can continue to expect trouble from them. If they talk to the orcs and buy themselves some time then they can concentrate on the already challenging task at hand without extra hassle from the orcs. I think Deadly Ice is a challenging scenario, it’s designed for four or so players of fourth level but early in the download we’re talked through possible adjustments if we want to lower or raise the power level slightly.
The dungeon crawl gets going when the characters decide they need to enter a dwarven tomb and chase down a rogue wizard who has exchanged bodies with someone they’re trying to protect. It’s almost a shame about the exchange of bodies; it’s the only element of cheese fantasy in an otherwise traditional fantasy adventure. Nevertheless the body exchange continues in the theme of messing with the player’s heads and that’s always a winning combination. Once in the tomb they’ll be… okay, they won’t be surprised to find that there’s an added undead complication.
I’m far more interested with the first half of the game though, the prelude to the tomb. I think Deadly Ice is a good game to begin weaning your players away from dungeon crawls and towards interactions with NPCs. The good work begins with the extra effort put into the human the group of characters are supposed to be escorting through the dangerous pass. The GM told to really get to grips with Stolypin’s strong accent and his quirks – such as insomnia. Honestly, with your GM hat on can you imagine how your players might react when the fellow they’re supposed to be escorting is discovered wandering around by himself the very first night of the scenario. Then there’s the villain of the piece, the body swapping, Griska, he’s escaped the orcs once and he could escape them again – even if the characters think they’ve sorted everything out. He has that special potential to become a re-occurring bad guy. He could be one of those NPCs that the players love to hate. The other NPCs at the Fang aren’t quiet as engaging but that’s mainly because they’re one hit wonders, there to shine just while the players are in the Inn. The Fang is the name of the dwarven inn that persists in the middle of the icy pass despite all the orcs that would rather it wasn’t there.
The events in the Fang are planned well. The whole game hinges on the body exchange taking place and Griska running off in Stolypin’s body. I suspect in 9 out of 10 attempts Griska will manage to do this. The players need to work out where Griska’s gone and decide to go after him and I suspect in 8 out of 10 attempts they’ll do just that. That’s good going.
The success of the first half of the adventure is two fold – it’s fun, it has engaging interaction with NPCs, and it’s important, how the PCs treat the NPCs has wide reaching implications.
Still, despite the first half of the scenario, Deadly Ice is mainly just a linear adventure. There is always the risk that the characters won’t take the bait. If they decide to persist with the orcs then the GM will have to wing things. The GM will have to get the weather conditions just right as to ensure the players decide its in their best interest to seek shelter in the Fang without resorting to railroading them. Deadly Ice suffers from other typical pre-written adventure problems. The game’s default beginning has the places sitting in an inn when they’re approached with the job offer. That’s the most strained of all RPG cliches. The GM will have to work out why the players are in the inn, why the dwarf employee knows to come and contact them and be sure that his game geography can cope with a near artic mountain pass patrolled by orcs so close to a big city. To Deadly Ice’s credit it suggests a few other possible hooks and leads into the adventure.
I don’t expect much from pre-written adventures, especially ones that involve orcs and dwarf tombs. Deadly Ice is a pleasant surprise though, rather than falling to the worst cliches (inns, orcs and dwarven tombs!) it climbs up and holds its own on top of the pile. It’s just not a very impressive pile. The 0one Roleplaying Games quality maps and battlemaps are an added bonus and a real lure especially if you happen to be fond of pre-written scenarios.