Yes, I’m more than a bit behind on reviews, but I keep chugging along. This past weekend I had an opportunity to check out A0: Crow’s Rest island from Adventure A Week (AdventureAWeek.com). I’ve been meaning to check their stuff out for nearly a year now, but didn’t have a chance until I received this module as part of the swag bag received for helping out with the Gamerati Gen Con 2013 Fundraiser. And I have to say, I liked what I saw for the most part.
Designed for a collection of four level 1 Pathfinder PCs, Crow’s Rest Island is a pretty straightforward beginning module that can easily be worked into just about any fantasy world near the coast. But it would work really well if your world has Viking overtones complete with coastal raids and longboats. Set up as a ghost story on an island with a troubled past, the module offers a fairly linear path with a few combats to keep things interesting. I think it must have been designed for beginning roleplayers and a potentially newbie
DM because of the linear nature, but it also works nicely as a doorway to the AdventureAWeek campaign world.
First let me say that it’s a beautiful book. The PDF offers some spectacular art from cartographer Todd Gamble and artists Tim Tyler and Ramon Lucha. Set up in a traditional 2-column layout, the fonts for headings and body text are clear and big enough to easily read full-page on my iPad. But what really sets the layout design apart is the use of color. I’m used to muted black, white, and gray interior art, but there are many full color pieces throughout the book beyond the cover. Breakout boxes show up in other colors as well, with “read aloud” text in a light blue, weather or campaign notes in green, GM notes in yellow, and combat notes in red. Even so, though I appreciate the use of colorful text, I had to wonder whether it makes it more difficult for the visually impaired or color blind to read.
Also, I’ve never seen weather used as extensively to introduce a module. There are two pages with four different images of a ship in a snowstorm that are gorgeous, but largely unnecessary. Keep in mind that that’s 2 pages out of 19 pages of content (23 page PDF), amounting to 10% of the length of the module. For me that’s a bit of overkill for what amounts to such a relatively short scene. I would rather have seen the space devoted to details on the ship and crew. Who was the captain? Who’s the sailor with the spyglass? If this adventure is meant for beginning gamers, more hooks and details to build story around for the PCs would have been better.
Beyond the introductory encounter, I found the adventure to be pretty well designed. The PCs are given both combat- and non-combat encounters right off the bat, with hints and tips on how the results might change based on the actions of the characters. And did I mention that the maps are absolutely gorgeous? I must have. If not, let me do that again!
I did find myself wanting more examples of how to do the kind of storytelling the text described in later encounters. If I was just starting out with GMing and cutting my teeth on this adventure, I might have found myself at a loss to describe “visuals from various angles and viewpoints, some tall, some short” to get across that they are encountering something like a movie shown from different points of view. Those techniques come with time and experience at the table. But I could probably make the same gripe about other low-level adventures needing some additional hand-holding for beginning GMs.
So though not perfect, there’s a lot to like with A0: Crow’s Rest Island from AdventureAWeek. The visuals are stunning and I look forward to seeing what else the designers reveal about the campaign world in future modules. It looks like there are 24 modules in the A-series already, with plenty more to choose from at their site and at DriveThruRPG – so tons more to explore!
For more about A0: Crow’s Rest Island and AdventureAWeek…
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