Short Module Review: The Frozen Forge (Dustin Martens): 3.5 Stars
The blizzard bomb was dropped down the chimney of the furnace and exploded when it came in contact with the fire elemental trapped within. The furnace and the fire elemental took the bulk of the damage from the blast, but everyone inside the forge was also exposed to the cold necromantic magic of the bomb. Everyone that was cursed, the living and the dead, now seek to draw warmth from anyone and anything.
The Frozen Forge is a tier 1 adventure that uses a unique spin on common monsters to deliver a moderately interesting semi-dungeon crawl with a nice smattering of skill checks and roleplay intertwined. While we’d love to see more detail and plot development, The Frozen Forge‘s strong and interesting premise carry it as a fun, short, module that changes a few monster tropes in an effective manner.
Premise. I love the premise of this adventure, and it has so much potential. A frost giant, and exploding furnace, sabotage, and transformed undead threatening to freeze the entire area. Not only is this a relatively unique spin on typical adventure plots, the plot transforms the monsters within it. It is not just a plot with applicable monsters inserted to serve the purpose of encounters, rather the premise and encounters work as a unified whole create a new and engaging premise–sabotage has unintended consequences. The fact that a misplaced bomb can transform an entire region is rather brilliant.
Unique Monsters. The monsters included in The Frozen Forge aren’t unique so much as being simple spins on common monsters. Though the changes are simple, for me they added an element of excitement. The simple fact of changing a fire elemental into a type of cold fire isn’t particularly “brilliant” but I found it exciting. The whole premise that these cold zombies are searching for heat, leaching it from other creatures in an attempt to just stay warm is engaging. Add to this a winter wolf that seems to be “not so bad” and an ambitious giant, and trope-subverting monsters become one of the best parts of this module!
New Magic Items. I’m a sucker for most new magic items, so I’m glad that author Dustin Martens included some new ones. Though there’s only four of them, and they are relatively simple, it’s their ability to be inserted into just about any campaign that makes them appealing. The everburning brazier for example is a simple source of light that burns continually. It’s not game breaking, but it’s a magic item that resourceful characters could use in various narrative and tactical ways.
Spin-off Potential. Dustin Martens has done a superb job of suggesting possible ways this relatively short adventures could spin off or affect your larger campaign. Depending on how the players handled things, the author gives over a half dozen suggestions for ramifications of the adventure. Not only does this serve to give the DM more tools (always a good thing), but it has the effect of orienting this adventure into a larger world, giving it life, rather then relegating it to a simple one shot that makes no difference in the long term. These suggestions make this product more than the sum of its parts, adding to overall play time and value.
Plot Execution. While the premise of this module is excellent, the plot fails to deliver on the promises the introduction set. Perhaps some of it was personal preference, but I found myself skimming sections and struggling to stay interested in the main parts of the adventure. I would characterize this module as a “semi-dungeon” crawl, which I usually like, but something just didn’t click for me. I think in Mr. Marten’s attempt to find a balance between being brief and being informative, he made the common mistake of being too brief. Many (but not all, those that were plot related were excellent!) of the encounters don’t really aid the plot, the NPC’s seem vague and unrelatable (except perhaps one), and I was just left wanting more of everything–but unfortunately, not in a good way.
Details. It is perhaps the lack of detail that gives the impression that the plot has a few holes in it. There were many times I looked for information that I wanted, or needed, and couldn’t find it. For example, we know a bit of the winter wolf’s motives, but we don’t know why he won’t attack the players. The first couple chapters are only a page long and seem rushed in order to get the players to the “good parts” even though those encounters could be amazing with a little more details. I did appreciate that the author added boxes to help roleplay NPCs, but overall, I just wanted a bit more detail in almost every area of the module.
The Frozen Forge has a lot going for it–an awesome core premise, fun monsters, and great spin off potential–but some of the encounters are bland and it would be nice to have more details. Still, it is a fun adventure and provides a lot of opportunities when inserted into a larger campaign. At (currently) $2.99, it’s well worth it! We’re giving it 3.5 Stars and are recommending it to tables that like the themes of cults, frozen monsters, or need something to fill a hole in their larger plot. Click the picture below to grab the adventure!