Often, adventures by independent companies fall into two categories. Dreadfully boring romps that feel like it was written a few decades ago or wildly imaginative pieces that are quite imaginable but too over the top to run with an average group.
To much surprise, the Dead of Winter at Bearhammer Hall by Blackdeath Publishing falls into the narrow chasm between two and into the pit of traditional fantasy with strong bursts of creativity.
On the surface the adventure is one we have heard before. People are missing and the culprit is slowly revealed through a fast paced dungeoncrawl. And despite a twist here and there, the story does not divert too much from what you would expect. But like a sheep in wolf’s clothing, Dead of Winter’s talented writers craft such a good tale with their strong descriptions and tight editing that a group may have found lost children, sheep, doctors, merchants and warthogs in their past adventures and still would feel the all the exciting mystery and suspense of every NPC and encounter in the adventure.
The writers also do a good job of placing DM tools and not getting wrapped up in their own story. There are explanations of the encounters, monster statics in early 3.5 format (my favorite format and the one most easily transferred into other sources) and extra encounters that can be thrown anywhere in the story.
Dead of Winter is strikingly well produced. There are plenty of distinctly designed maps and artwork that capture of the feel of the land. Unfortunately there are no navigation tools, though the adventure is only a mere 29 pages, there are 5 parts to it. The world is also a bit tricky, taking place on another plane, though again this is easily adjusted.
For the Dungeon Master
The writers speak Dungeon Master English throughout the book as opposed to over the top Hemmingway type descriptions some books have. This made the adventure a more natural fit to the party. Often times a player can hear module a mile away because of language not normally heard at a game table.
The Iron Word
The Dead of Winter is a good side-trek adventure with an overt horror tone to it. The writers capture the feel of the region with crisp descriptions that create a suspenseful mood. The adventure does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which makes me excited to read the next chapter.
[4 of 5 Stars!]