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Formerly a PC-exclusive gamer, Kae was introduced to the tabletop world by gateway of the World of Warcraft TCG. Since then, her interests have broadened with her favorite games including Battlestar Galactica, Pathfinder, Lord of the Rings LCG, WarmaHordes, and more. Kae is willing to try just about any game and loves learning new strategy.

Written Review – Reign of Winter (1 of 6) The Snows of Summer

pathfinderreignofwinter_thesnowsofsummercover

In 2013, Paizo published The Reign of Winter series, which started off with The Snows of Summer, the first of 6 Adventure Path books to take players on the adventure of a fictional lifetime. The Reign of Winter is a campaign seemingly about a winter-touched world, when at its core, is the tale of Baba Yaga and rescuing her from a wayward daughter in the land of Irrisen, and the witchcraft involved in her fate. Players will encounter monsters, powerful NPC’s and harsh environments in The Snows of Summer as their journey begins.

The Snows of Summer contains 96 pages in all, broken down into different sections. The sections include a foreward, the AP, a NPC gallery, a list of treasures, town map information, a toolkit, the first part of The Bonedust Dolls, and a Bestiary. Neil Spicer is the author of The Snows of Summer. Spicer has appeared previously in the writing of other Adventure Paths and Pathfinder material, and is a 2009 RPG Superstar winner.

I will be using some abbreviations throughout the post. If you’re a Pathfinder player, you’re likely to already know these, but for those who don’t : GM – Game Master, PC – Player Character, NPC – Non-Player Character, AP – Adventure Path.

Appearance of the Book

The Snows of Summer is bound inside a wintery blue soft cover featuring Baba Yaga and a few iconic Pathfinder characters fighting off a giant Mantis. The artwork on the cover and contained inside is beautiful as usual, and framed with snowflake designs on the top and bottom of the pages. The inner covers of both the front and back of the book feature black and white sketches with information about Baba Yaga and her strange huts. These are framed in intricate celtic knot work with small images of Baba, mushrooms, dancing huts, and more.

Inner cover

Inner cover

The Path Itself (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

The characters start off in the city of Heldren, where the PC’s hear a lot of bustle about a mercenary that has been returned to the city, wounded after a bandit attack on himself, Lady Argentea Malassene, and other bodyguards that accompanied them. Along with this, local hunters have been telling all about an unnatural cold that has taken over the forest of Border Wood. Undead are found at the bandit ambush site that the mercenary points the PC’s to, as well as traps and winter-touched sprites that mock them as they press forward. Their journeys lead them to a lodge where the bandits, known as Rohkar’s Raiders, are located.  A half-orc rogue being held against her will named Ten-Penny Tacey is found here, and can aid the PC’s for a while, or will try to get the raiders to slay them, depending on the approach. Rohkar Cindren, a cleric, tries to ward of the PC’s once they encounter him here, trying to get them to leave him alone and go after the other NPC’s along the way, which will be encountered soon. Once Lady Argentea is found, she expresses her gratitude the best she can.

Beyond this, players will encounter frost skeletons animated by Rohkar before they find him, as well as a hunter that has been brutally killed. Perhaps the strangest part of the adventure so far is a clearing with a maze of ice blocks and a small hut on a hill. While the players have the potential to set off a haunt, a peek inside the hut will leave the PC’s puzzled. A old and withered doll sits in here, with a gemstone for one eye, and a mirror for the other. Once past the doll, PC’s will find a giant beast, a weasel, savage and unrelenting. Successful searching of the slain hunter will tell PC’s that this weasel is the beast that he was hunting. During a period of sleep, players will be ambushed by Izoze, or Hommelstaub, her second in command, with the aid of Squald, a small air elemental. In the cent of Border Wood, the winter is the most harsh, and PC’s find a small camp. Depending on the time of day, PC’s will encounter Teb Knotten a large moss troll charged to protect the area. This area is the entrance of a large portal in the center of a ring of icy spikes, where snow swirls and wind bites. Once Teb Knotten has been dealt with, PC’s have little time to discuss where to go, as a Black Rider (a herald to Baba Yaga’s return) emerges from the portal, wounded and worn. He attempts to give the PC’s as much information as he can about the current Queen of Irrisen’s betrayal of Baba Yaga, and the her intention to spread winter over the world. With his dying breaths, the Black Rider will pass on his charge to rescue Baba Yaga to the PC’s, as well as keys to her huts.

pathfinder_tebknotten

After this, players enter through the portal into the land of the White Witches. Shortly after arriving, PC’s will encounter a Giant Mantis from the Border Wood, confused by surroundings and panicked, along with a group of peasants and one unconscious victim being held by the mantis. After this, the leader of this group of travelers expresses her thanks and assists in setting up camp. Once set up, a strange Forlarren bard attempts to join the company. The next day, the travelers will continue to press on towards the closest city of Waldsby, but they are not met with the friendliest of hosts. Once the PC’s have settled into Waldsby, however, Guards from the Pale Tower come to the city in search for the PC’s, but will take their main host as prisoner if not intervened. Information from a small creature named Hatch that lives in the host’s home will tell PC’s that they must go to the Pale Tower in order to close the winter portal.

In the last part of this adventure, PC’s will encounter a witchcrow on their way to The Pale Tower, which is currently largely unmanned due to their search for the Black Rider. Players must do some searching to discover the way to navigate the large tower, as there are no visible doors leading to the inside, though to gain entrance to these, a wall must be scaled. Once inside, an ice troll awaits them, hungry and raging. Searching the levels of the Pale Tower will allow the PC’s to gather some treasures, encounter other PC’s such as a Captain, more guards, animated statues, a sylph cleric, and Radosek, a cleric responsible fore assisting in the spread of the Queen’s winter, which calls for the assistance of an animated ice dragon. The PC’s then must research the tower’s resources on how to close the winter portal, which will leave them stranded in Irrisen.

Reference Material

Pages 56 through 59 contain a small NPC Gallery featuring a widow with a strong hatred for the White Witches of Irrisen, and a practitioner of witchcraft that serves the White Witches. The fluff lets the GM know how they correlate with the story and allows them to pick and choose what information is given out to the players and what can remain hidden, as well as their individual roles in the campaign.

Pages 60 and 61 contain Treasures that can be picked up from encounters in the game by the PC’s. Each item has standard stats such as its slot, CL, price, weight, and any auras that may be attached to them. Detailed descriptions of what the items do are provided next to the items, with sufficient information that may be needed by players.

Pages 62 through 69 give maps and details about some of the cities that players will encounter, including where they may find merchants, inns, people of importance, and more.

The toolkit on pages 70 through 73 contain information on Baba Yaga, the creatures found within Irrisen, and a guide to making your own NPC’s, whether they be people, creatures, Fey, etc. After that on pages 74 through 79 contain the first part of a story by Kevin A. Murphy, The Bonedust Dolls.

The last section of the book contains mainly a detailed bestiary of the creatures the PC’s may encounter, including fluff about their motives and history. The last part gives a preview of the rest of the AP’s in the Reign of Winter series.

The source of this unnatural winter.

The source of this unnatural winter.

Impressions

Overall, the book is very streamlined with little need to turning back and forward for reference material, as most questions a player may have can be answered fairly quickly with information provided for every encounter. As a first time GM, my biggest issue was not having all of the Bestiaries for referencing beasts and NPC’s that didn’t have stats listed within in the AP, though I made do with borrowed materials from local friends and the help of the internet. The artwork is wonderful and fits the chilly and eerie feel of this winter terror-land that PC’s enter.

I found that the beginning of the adventure was pretty slow, as much of the information in the beginning of the book is only for the GM and the players themselves will have to learn this information over time. A missing noble starts off the adventure, the discovery of which is shrouded in mysteries NPC’s and happenings. I think that the intrigue of these confusing components and the desire to find the source of this strange weather is really what drives the players through the first part, though I feel that the second part really grabs players and drags them into the core of the story.

Having no previous experience with being a GM for a game, I found that the AP is very guided in the beginning, not giving the PC’s much wiggle room in regards to taking alternate paths to their destination, especially without missing a lot of encounters to enable them to level their characters. The adventure gains speed at the end of the second part, and I like the small period of rest time enabled to the players in part three once they reach the first village in Irrisen.

Besides the railroad-effect of the beginning of the adventure and what I felt to be somewhat of a weak hook, the story is compelling and keeps players wondering how each encounter ties into Baba Yaga’s story, which is revealed as the PC’s press onward to rescue the legendary witch. Everything I needed to run a fun game was here with the assistance of some other reference material by Paizo, and if you’re looking for an intriguing story with a winter-esque setting, I would pick this up. Reign of Winter – The Snows of Summer retails for $22.99 and holds the key to your next Pathfinder campaign!

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Many thanks to Paizo for providing a review copy of Reign of Winter – The Snows of Summer!

Great game, plenty of fun, but might not be for everyone.

Great game, plenty of fun, but might not be for everyone.

Pros

  • Beautiful art
  • Backstory is interesting
  • World conditions are compelling
  • Well-woven story

Cons

  • Not much wiggle room if PC’s stray from the intended path
  • Starting hook isn’t very strong
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2 Comments on “Written Review – Reign of Winter (1 of 6) The Snows of Summer”

  1. Heather Bowles December 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM #

    So far, our group has played up to the cabin in the woods, or thereabouts, 3 times. We have a new GM, so I’m not certain if it’s the fault of the GM or the module itself, but it seems inordinately hard for a group of level 1 players. The random encounter chart has dealt us 2 yetis, 2 polar bears, and a troll. Needless to say, the players are tired of dying and rerolling characters. So far, we’ve had 3 players come and go. I’ve spent months looking for like-minded people and getting a scheduled time together that everyone can meet, and this module is going to destroy the group before it even gets well established.

    • Raine December 4, 2013 at 10:40 AM #

      Make sure that the GM is handing out XP appropriately. Don’t wait until the very end of the book to do so. Leveling through the adventure helps you greatly!

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