An Endzeitgeist.com review
The first of Legendary Games' modules to support the simplified Beginner's Box-rules clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Before we do, I should not be remiss to mention that this module features a handy "slightly advanced" spellcasting array of options used by some of the creatures herein - they can be cast as a standard action and are collected one a handy GM cheat sheet. It should also be noted that this module is intended to be kid-friendly; as such, it features relatively straightforward themes of fighting bad guys and doing good; if political intrigue or shades of grey morality are what you're looking for, this may not be the place. I firmly believe in teaching via roleplaying games and kids should not just slog through combat upon combat - and the author seems to concur here, stating the directive that social and thinking skills should be challenged by modules as well.
As for the age-range, well, unless the kids in question are particularly sensitive, this module should be appropriate for kids ages 4 up; in case of very sensitive kids, 6+ would be a pretty safe bet. This does not mean that this module is "kid's stuff", mind you - it very much works for adults, but I'll get back to that in the conclusion. As a quick summary: All but those that want something really dark and gritty should find some fun within these pages.
Setting-wise, this module assumes the kingdom of Threll in the author's Terrallien world, which is a pretty "normal" fantasy world; as such, it is very easy to plug into other campaign settings - in this kingdom, the feyweald is basically a protected area, where the spirits of nature may roam free, unimpeded by Threllish civilization....and this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right still here? A strange sickness has been plaguing the Feyweald and the nymph queen Pryhoza has asked for assistance from Threll's king Ambrose I, offering an alliance in return for assistance in this matter, which would in turn render diplomatic relations with reclusive druids a distinct possibility. The problem seems to be gift horse...and hence, enter the PCs, which are assumed to be members or associates of the Zekerian order, as denoted by magical amulets - these amulets also provide a safety net 1/day to prevent death and allow for some healing to further decrease the potential of player frustration. The group arrives at Northrunner Sound, scheduled to meet with the queen and her two advisors ( a leprechaun and a brownie), but an audience with the queen obviously requires the proper gifts - while the king has sent a whole chest, the hustle and bustle of sprites means that the PCs will have to rely on their wits and people skills to present the correct gift to the correct fey. This first social stumbling block out of the way, the feast begins, but as soon as the arboreal banquet is in full swing (and PCs get bored with the interactions), the party is, alas, crashed: Mites riding giant jumping spiders assault the party and it will be up to the PCs to defeat the threat.
After the threat is eliminated, queen Pryozha confides in the PCs: An evil force has taken root in the feyweald, changing it, turning it and its creatures slowly evil, turning it Unseelie. (And yes, if you're using Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary and full PFRPG-rules, you'll have the template used here!) She asks them to seek out the threat and take care of it, but not before granting them a specific oil that is supposed to help them bypass the resistances of some fey - a valuable resource that the PCs hopefully use cleverly.
On their way through the forests, the PCs will have a chance to help awakened badgers from a trap laid by unseelie brownies and fauns navigate where traps and mites await and encounter an aggressive bird that can be calmed down by smart players...and finally defeat a nasty unseelie giant toad...and finally, possibly the first underground complex ever awaits the players: The lost grove, where a sinkhole guarded by mites now speaks of the influence of a nasty, trapped being called Bayaga. In the pit of the grove where the PCs will have to defeat more mites, an unseelie sprite and faun and yaldira, a multiclass forlarren and champion of the evil, imprisoned bayaga. The villains boast in good ole' traditional villain monologue and indeed, during the combat, bayaga creates a crystalline earth elemental as a form to fight the PCs - destroying it takes the unseelie curse from the afflicted fey.
Having defeated this threat, the PCs are hailed as heroes, are granted a blessing from the beautiful fey queen as well as masterwork items as a thank you - not bad for novice adventurers, and yes, PC death can be reversed...and Ambrose's favor/reward is nothing to scoff at either!
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series, though in an odd peculiarity, my readers depict some passages of text in slightly bolder letters than other paragraphs. This is purely aesthetic nitpickery, though. The original full-color artwork by Paul Pederson and Beatrice Pelagatti employed in the book is absolutely gorgeous and makes for cool handouts. Michael Tumey's cartography is similarly nice.
Paris Crenshaw's first kid-friendly module is fun, evocative and has a structure and feeling like a classic fairy tale, which it ultimately is. This renders it not only palpable for kids, it also can be fun for adults and with some rewrites, you can make it as dark as you want to. Structure and diversity-wise, this is pretty cool. That being said, at the same time, the traveling section through the forest and the final dungeon note paths the PCs travel, with letters and numbers pointing...nowhere. You see, the cartography is player-friendly, which is awesome - no distracting keys and hotspots can be found on them...well, all of them but one, which is weirdly inconsistent. But the structure of the module seems to employ a bit of wilderness hexcrawling, some sort of choice regarding the path taken...and the maps provided do not help in that regard at all, which is weird to me; my theory is that the module was supposed to have player-friendly and GM-maps and they have been either mixed up or somewhat confused. Anyways, this is still a minor hiccup that does not detract much from the quality of the module.
One note, though: It depends on the players you have....but kids can minmax and make brutal builds pretty well once they set their minds to it. If your group consists of adults or kids with experience...they'll curbstomp all but the final encounter. So yes, the focus of this module rests on new players and those that have less experience in using the game. Admittedly, this is the very intent of the product line and not every group is as hardcore as my kiddie-group, but it is something other target demographics may want to be aware of.
There would be one more slight complaint of mine, resulting probably from being somewhat spoiled by Playground Adventures: I am a firm believer in teaching children, at least to a certain extent, about morality in games, since it is an easy and unobtrusive manner to do so. Reinforcing good behavior and morals can be easily achieved in games. Personally, I would have loved to see the module actually feature the choice of how the PCs handle defeated unseelie entities more - a bit of interrogation and foreshadowing from prisoners, for example. The module does offer a means of reverting the unseelie transformation, which is a good thing in a kid-related context. This may be controversial, but I do believe that there is a didactic opportunity lost here - if the choice to keep the defeated unseelie alive or kill them was emphasized more, that well could upset some kids, true; at the same time, rewarding players for "doing the right thing" and only knocking the fey unconscious in the aftermath could have been a very educational experience for the players. I once did this in my games and as soon as the kids realized that good deeds would be rewarded, the motivation to be good increased significantly. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is something to consider when running this module, particularly for the younger ones.
Now one final note: This was originally written as part of a girl scout experience and honestly, running this module, with its sequence of civilization, banquet, hike, etc. in the downtime of a family trip to a national park or nature itself can be exceedingly rewarding: Take a break, play for half an hour, eat when the PCs are eating, get to the teensiest bit creepy final when it turns dark - the module very much features a structure not unlike a trip into the wild...and honestly, that's how I'd run it in a perfect world where I had the means.
Ah, right, the final verdict. All in all, Into the Feyweald is an evocative fairy tale to participate in; difficulty-curve wise, it is VERY easy, until the final encounter, where things get tougher. The module assumes a moderately competent GM and features a LOT of read aloud text, so no excessive experience is required on the GM's side - only enough to handle the key/map hiccup sans stumbling and the final encounter; if you can run that one, you're good...and it's not hard to run. The module is beautiful and fun, though it does not reach the absolute apex; its atmosphere is great and playful, but a couple of the finer aspects could have used a bit more guidance or specific rewards for actions. In the end, I consider this a good module for kids with some slight room for improvement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.
[4 of 5 Stars!]