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Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/24/2019 06:14:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, and now for something COMPLETELY different! I’ve had this book for about 2 years by now; I purchased it on a whim, and then never got around to using or reviewing it; there always was something else up, some deadline approaching. So, at long last, let us take a look at this?

“Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter” (“Cold Winter” for convenience’s sake below), in its essence, is a survival game of resource-management; it can be played as a stand-alone mini-game, and it can be inserted into pretty much any roleplaying game, though its aesthetics make it most suitable for low magic, dark fantasy and horror games; it should be noted that it’s perfectly functional even in a world without magic. From PFRPG to 5e to DCC to the various OSR-rule-sets out there to e.g. Hârn, this mini-game can be inserted into pretty much every system.

The pdf clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page notes –leaving us with 50 pages of content. If you’re looking at this review on my homepage, I’ve included pictures of the hardcover I own – it deserves mentioning, because I love its aesthetics: It has the name prominently on the spine and displays a stark, black darkness, with a field of snow at the bottom whether the dots in the unending black are flakes of snow, stars, or a combination thereof, just gazing at it makes me feel both tranquil and anxious. Really cool. This effect, in the inside, is partially inverted, with negative snow, black flakes, on white pages – it’s not annoying or intrusive, but it creates an impressive aesthetic identity.

How does this game work? Well, first of all, you have to think about your PCs: Cold Winter knows three roles – “Fighter” as a catch-all for martials; “Wizard” as a catch-all for any character capable of casting spells, and characters more focused on agility and skills count as “Thieves.” These are known as “adventurer jobs.” Each of these jobs matches one type of supply: Fighters match fuel, wizards match medicine, and thieves match food.

The premise is that the PCs are snowed in while in a small and remote village, and that they have to last the winter. As such, it makes sense to establish a lore for the village, with some aptly-foreboding examples presented. Three pages of map-geomorphs are included in the book – you can just print them and glue them together in any way you’d like – this proved to render village creation quick and painless, and I applaud its inclusion here. The game talks about some sample hooks to draw the PCs in, and also about rewards for survival.

In order to play, you only need two d6s – and to know how to use them to make a d3, a process the book btw. explains – so yeah, even newbie-friendly. The book also cautions you regarding more high-fantasy environments; as a game of survival, it is predicated on scarcity, but frankly, it’s just a matter of scope. No matter how much food you and yours can conjure forth, it’s just a matter of tweaking occurrences that bleed resources, the system, etc. – heck, you can theoretically run this in a Scifi-game or in a high fantasy Fimbulvetr-like scenario; you could tweak the system for Banner Saga-like scales, but I digress.

The village’s lore and overall make-up has been established (and if you don’t want to do that work, e.g. Raging Swan Press has a vast wealth of villages that you could just scavenge…), and after that, there are three things to populate the village: Village folk, buildings and domesticated animals. Ideally, there will be one building for each adventurer, but my experience has shown that it’s pretty easy to tweak the system to accommodate for larger settlements – for the purpose of this review, we’ll be taking a look at the “vanilla” unmodified assumptions of this game, though.

So, there will be one building per adventurer. Each adventurer has control over said building, and per building, there are 5 village folk. (thus, starting population is equal to number of buildings times 5 – simple.) There will be one domesticated animal per adventurer – these are not subject to the decision of a single adventurer – slaughtering them, if required, is a group decision.

The difficulty of the game is also contingent on the number of Turns you decide upon – a turn may represent a day, a week, a month, or any other time-frame you want. Each turn is resolved in 5 steps, with the first two steps skipped during the first turn. Why? Because the first step is the counting of the dead and weather forecasting. Weather forecasting means that you roll a d3 – this is the amount of fuel you need per building to keep villagers from dying during that turn. A building without sufficient fuel will have a villager die in said building.

Step 2 deals with supply-rationing. The supplies held in the storeroom are divided among the buildings, and it is here that decisions to make folks go hungry or to slaughter domesticated animals are made. Doing the latter nets you btw. 2 units of food per animal. If a villager doesn’t get to eat, you check the “Is Hungry?” box on the worksheet that is included. If a villager is sick, you check the “Is sick?” checkbox, and a hungry or sick villager that receives food or medicine, respectively, erases the checkmark placed.

Now, I already mentioned the 3 supply types: An ill villager that doesn’t get medicine for 3 turns, dies. A single unit of medicine makes them well again. A hungry villager who doesn’t receive food for two turns, dies. Feeding one will result in check marks being erased. Fuel is special, in that villagers will attempt to get as much as possible, even if there is not enough to heat a building – so if you only have 1 fuel left, but temperature is 2, they will take that last one fuel and still have one die. On the first turn, the brief errata included assumes a temperature of 1, but frankly, this is one instance where I consider it to be not necessarily required – you can just as well roll the die.

In step 3, the adventurers set out, as a group, to gather supplies – you roll a 2d6, and that’s the amount of gathered units. If the adventurer role corresponds to the supply, you add +1d6. Adventurers that did not roll for such additional units still roll 1d3, gaining units in their associated supply type.

Step 4 is the one where you can customize the hell out of the game – Occurences. These are basically strange and unfortunate things that make happen – blood smeared on all doors, an icicle killing someone, etc. You roll 2d6 to determine those, and the majority, but not all of them, are negative. The first d6 indicates the table used, the second the entry – simply, and ridiculously easy to expand upon. These can, for example, entail a sick villager stealing all medicine, overdosing and dying.

In step 5, we determine how many villagers become sick – 1d3 is rolled, unless an occurrence gives the settlement a brief reprieve. These are the villagers that become sick. At any point during one of the steps, the PCs may decide to consolidate buildings. The total number of villagers involved in a consolidation can’t exceed 5, and at least one spare unit of food must be available per villager that moves – consolidation may allow you to spare more fuel, but it has a hefty price regarding food! This has been errata’d to make moving more appealing; originally, the cost was one food per involved villager, which made consolidation riskier, obviously.

And that is the base engine – complications stem from the occurrence tables, where food spoiling (eat it or destroy it?), theft and the like may be found. When a villager becomes mad and freezes, he dies…and you can elect to convert his body into 5 delicious units of food… The occurrences are amazing and really inspiring – if they don’t get your creative juices flowing and make you want to add more to them, well, then I don’t know.

As previously mentioned, the game comes with worksheets for buildings and the storeroom as well; a quick reference summary on one page makes for a great GM-insert, and the book is littered with examples that illustrate how the game works.

Beyond all of those, we receive well-written additional adventure hooks – from a carousing replacement to acting as a board-game of sorts, there are a ton of great ideas here – oh, and guess what? We even get a massive array of sample descriptions that help you generate an appropriate atmosphere. Beyond that, there are suggestions for optional rules, like requiring that you burn dead villagers (which costs fuel), or the dead may cause others to become sick. The funerary pyre may or may not influence temperature, depending on how you wish to tweak it. Independent supply gathering is noted, and the geomorphs I mentioned could just as simply be used as a die-drop chart. Suggestions for an easier or harder game are presented, but if you have even the slightest bit of hot designer urges pulsing through your body, you will, at this point, have your mind ablaze with the possibilities of this humble game.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. The errata, while usually something I don’t include in my verdict, ultimately makes the presentation of a few rules-components a tad bit clearer, and makes consolidating houses less punishing – the game worked perfectly fine without it, so I won’t include its impact in my verdict. Layout is surprisingly impressive – with stark b/w-artworks, the neat cartography and the snow theme, this is a surprisingly beautiful book. Now, I strongly suggest you get the print copy. Why? The pdf, in a grating decision, lacks bookmarks – if you want to go for just the electronic version, please detract a star from my final verdict for the inconvenience caused by that.

From the recommendations regarding background music (+1 for Silver Mt. Zion!) to the evocative, terse read-aloud descriptions and the mysterious, somber occurrences, this book is a brilliant little gem. The beauty of the base-engine’s simplicity means that modifications can be applied by relatively inexperienced GMs and designers, and the engine could easily carry the insertion of a vast amount of modifications, tweaks, etc. While the unmodified version works best for grittier games, even minute modifications regarding e.g. food consumption could account for PCs capable of making food, for e.g. a fire wizard capable of generating 1 temperature if he stays in one building (and doesn’t gather resources…) – the beauty of this system lies in how many different screws to turn there are!

Cecil Howe’s “Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter” is a rewarding, inspiring and genuinely brilliant little mini-game that can potentially inspire whole campaigns, act as an interlude, or anything in-between. It is a brilliant little book, and since it’s my list, and since I failed to review it for such a long time, this is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018, and receives 5 stars + seal of approval for the print version. If a gritty, somber and different mini-game is what you’re looking for, do yourself a favor and get this ASAP.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
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Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by Mike I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2019 13:28:56

Barely a system. I could create something better to simulate this.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2019 14:15:19

This setting/rules agnostic book is an extremely lean mini-game meant to represent the harshness of winter as its own "chapter" of an adventure. I'd say it does an excellent job on all of those fronts.

  • The book assumes that the village within is nameless, but applying the methods in the book to any of your own established borderlands homestead is not a problem due to the generic terminology used.
  • The worksheets provided are clean and though I do wish they were labeled, I understand that the author wanted an aesthetic that made it plain to the GM that this is system agnostic. It is worth mentioning even if it is easy to fix and I don't think it warrants docking a point.
  • Tables are concise and not overly large, they don't need to be anyways.
  • The quick reference page provided on pg. 34 (n.p.) provides a snapshot of the game as a whole for the GM's ease-of-use
  • The optional difficulty rules and provided map tiles in Chapters 4 and 5, respectively, are just fantastic. The former makes it so much easier to run this for any group of players without any additional work from the GM, which I always appreciate. Too many supplements assume extra work from the GM that this takes care of for you.

I've already run this on a test run with the PDF but I'll be much happier to run it with the stylish, barren-covered print version that just arrived.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by Colin C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2019 07:12:42

I'll keep this short. The game cracks the code on character downtimes by making them into a mini-game. I hope the author comes out with more of these.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by Luke M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/25/2018 08:50:24

This was a real treat.

Easy to use and adapt to a variey of settings, I moved it from a fantasy villiage to a crippled space station where the party had to salvage supplies to keep everyone alive.

We had about a 50% survival rate, and a ton of great drama and tension.

The resource management was a fun excercise -- gamey but still allowing lots of stories to emerge from it.

The table of events in the back are great little story seeds, and I was able to adapt them to a sci-fi setting on the fly.

Lots of little jucy bits in here. Great if you're doing some grisly games for the winter season :D

Luke



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: The Black Spot Tileset
by Dustin N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2018 13:37:34

A great addition to my hex kit tileset. That parchment look is so nice.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: The Black Spot Tileset
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Hex Kit: Desktop App
by Matt A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2018 10:15:26

The program is super easy to use. Within 5 minutes I was making the exact map I needed. The aesthetic of it sets it apart from any other hex program i've used. Can't recommend it enough.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Desktop App
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Hex Kit + 3 Tile Sets (Collection)
by Markus D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2017 01:49:41

These tiles are beautiful ( 5 stars), and the editor is very helpful especially as you can import hexes from other publishers and I also love the random map creator. There is ONE DOWNSIDE, though: the random map creator creates a map only on the base layer and so you can't move this layer up or down. But with GIMP or PHOTOSHOP you still can work around that "error" - it just takes additional time. When this feature gets fixed it will be perfect. Absoulutely recommended, even with random map basic layer fault a 5star rating!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit + 3 Tile Sets (Collection)
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Hex Kit: Desktop App
by Donald W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2017 08:30:09

Works like a charm, and lots of fun to use! Has hundreds of hand-drawn tiles, with add-on packs for more colors & styles. Randomly generate a quick map for tonight's RPG, or "paint" with tiles of a selected type, or even pick out each hex by hand. Has layers so terrain features like roads and settlements can be added to the DM's map while hidden from players, even fog of war so players can be shown a limited selection of the map during play. One slight negative: the hex tiles are drawn vertically to show off the art, so there's no option to make maps with flat-topped hexes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Desktop App
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Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by Sebastián P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/02/2017 10:10:46

It is a very fun game. We use to play it as its very own game. Easy to set up and it has some very interesting happenings.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
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Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/26/2016 02:14:04

A few decades ago it seemed like every game had some mini-game type mechanics to handle situations outside the regular scope of the game. Lately more games have their scope so narrow that their mechanics are close to those mini-games of the past. Take that to its natural conclusion, and you get Don't Let Us Die. A supplement that can be used with any game, and adds mechanics for the PCs to help a desperate village survive a harsh winter. While it delivers on its premise without dazzling, it's in its auxillary content it excels.

The first two chapters sets up the situation. Winter is hard, a village is in need, and the PCs are the solution. The supplement lays out the ground work for how this situation could arise. It gives attention to both the mechanical and roleplaying side; showing how to immerse the players into what is basically a dry numbers game.

In the second chapter, it falters somewhat. It begins by stating that there is only one unbreakable rules, then follows by describing two. One of which is that all players must now all the rules perfectly. It might be a simple game, but still; pretty harsh for an unbreakable rule.

Live and let die To survive winter, the players and village must survive a set number of rounds. Each round is divided into steps. Here food, fuel and medicine is found and consumed, and people starve, freeze and cough to death. Pretty harsh. The rules demand you track certain aspects of the village, but nothing too complicated. A round might be a week or a month; a "person" might be a household. It is all very flexible. Frankly, even though the supplement assumes a gritty, medieval fantasy setting, you could easily use this for a mining colony on an asteroid, low on energy, air and water.

The mini-game itself is streamlined and simple, but I do miss some more talk about how roleplaying could fit into it. That is what sets this apart from a dry board game. For instance, I could see myself having this run in the background of a campaign, having rolls being made at the end of each session.

The beauty of winter The next three chapters contain as assortment of tools for the mini-game. This is where the real gold is! The game sheets made for tracking the village's situation and resources are superb. There are also several tables of random events that could easily spark an entire session of play. Some of the creativity here is worth the supplement alone, which makes it even odder that roleplaying gets so little emphasis earlier in the supplement.

Finally there are map tools and tiles, suitable for constructing your own village. Again, beautiful work. Overall, the quality of the art and design of the supplement is amongst the best this year. Not because of any costly art work, but rather thematic and purposeful illustrations. Its black and white illustrations of crosses, leafless trees and wooden hovels, really enhances the feel of the entire product.

In many ways, this product sells itself short. It might not seem that interesting given the limited application of its mechanics. There is more than meets the eye. The tables, maps and illustrations are very useable for those that want some tools and inspirations for their depressing, little village. And when winter finally does come, you have the mechanics waiting.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Fantasyland Utilities Tileset
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2016 12:21:43

Great work as always. Very useful to have these additional tiles to get the job done.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Fantasyland Utilities Tileset
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Hex Kit: Fantasyland Tileset
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/19/2016 10:39:19

A very consistent product, given that it's hand-drawn, with enough variation in common tile types that I don't feel I'm repeating too often. Coasts are just bonkers, I've had to use three monitors to transcribe a map-- one with the new map, one with the old, and one with all the coast tiles! There are a few things I would've liked out of this edition and a few more that I'm looking forward to in the next.

I'll start with the next-edition territory first. I think it goes without saying that the dynamic coast tiles are the most interesting part of this pack. I would be very interested to see that system extended to the Mountains and Hill tilesets especially, but Mushroom, Crystal, and Volcano tilesets as well. I'd also like to see road tiles in the same vein as this edition's river tiles. Multiple styles -- cobblestone, dirt, asphalt, major, minor, etc. would greatly enhance the usability of the existing tilesets.

In this edition, my complaints are almost entirely related to the consistency of tileset construction. While some tilesets incorporate bare-background tiles, some of the more complex tilesets like forests, hills, and mountains do not include these tiles. For some of the more complex coastal tiles, it's essentially impossible to attractively represent a coastal forest. Riparian forests are similarly affected, as are rivers in hilly areas. Coastal jungles are right out, except on the most simple coastal tiles.

But those are really my only gripes with what is, taken in its totality, a fantastic tileset which absolutely exceeds my (admittedly measured) expectations. It's an absolute steal for $10. Here's hoping the next edition is as fantastic.

As a side note for Roll20 users, these tiles are 2 units wide so you'll need to adjust your grid spacing accordingly to get them to line up properly.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Fantasyland Tileset
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Creator Reply:
This is a great review! I\'ve jotted down some notes from your review on things to include in the first \"booster\" pack to this kit. Roads are coming in a free \"utility pack\" any day in one style, but further styles could definitely be included in the future. This upcoming utility pack also includes a handful of blank (color only) hexes that you can use to bolster those coastal situations. Thanks again!
Hex Kit: Fantasyland Tileset
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2016 19:27:04

Do you want to make cool maps that look like you drew them yourself? Would you like it to be about as easy as playing with Legos? This is the product for you. The recommendation is to use GIMP, but I got pretty good results in MapTool (turned off "Snap to Grid" and just laid things in the Background free-hand). This is worth every penny and then some.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Kit: Fantasyland Tileset
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2016 12:26:50

Every single hex is lovingly crafted in a delightful art style. It's hard to make a map that's not beautiful with these.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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