by Joseph Browning & Andrew Hind
for Expeditious Retreat Press
OSRIC
6-8 adventurers of levels 3-5

This is a culture clash adventure. A crazed sorcerer from the far east builds a huge magic ship made of ice and sails it to the west to loot & plunder to get back in favor back home. His madness, and a evil frozen gods presence in the holds below, spell DOOM in the long-term. The party however it certain to spell DOOM in the short-term. They are hired to stop the coastal raids by a band of marauders, and retrieve some holy relics from a monastery the ship has just raided.

The adventure locale is an unusual one: a giant ship made out of ice. There's a small backstory about it however the important elements are that the ship is freezing cold and the floors are very slippery. Both of these environmental factors give the party some negative modifiers in adventuring (the cold) and in combat (the slick decks.) The crew is taken care of: they all wear ice cleats and have "ice rings", a kind of ring of warmth made by the ship itself ... which will melt when the ice ship that made it melts. And that's going to happen when the PC's kill the mad sorcerer in charge. We've seen this "gimp the pc's" previously, both in plane-travelling and with the Drow radiation weapons. I have a problem with it that I will not completely blow out of proportion. Why not just give the Drow a +2 or +3 to hit? Why not fill the ship with cold-resistant clawed feet humanoids? Ok, you're a Raggi-ist and want people not humanoids. Just ignore the issue then. Or, just say the mad sorcerer cast a spell to protect his crew from the cold and slipping. He made a giant magic ice ship. Besides, it's magic, you don't need an explanation. Roses bloom with my touch and I think you think too much.

There are touches of asian thrown in and Oriental Adventures is suggested. There are a few spells that the sorcerer has that seem to come from OA, however they could be replaced or done on the fly. There are some OA monks and barbarians as well. The ice ship is a junk. There's an Oni and an ice elf. Everyone carries oriental weapons and the backstory is asian. It would have been nice to see it treated as a truly alien culture and have that aspect advanced in the module. Too many time demi-humans, humanoids, and other cultures are treated as just "western europeans with point ears." It would have been nice if that had not happened here.

The adventure proper has the pc's raiding/boarding the giant ice ship. A raiding party has left the ship and will return sometime after the pc's have boarded. Mostly this is just a dungeon adventure in which the dungeon is made of ice and looks like a ship. There's the potential for a couple (three or four) large pitched battles with the ships crew when they are encountered returning from their raid, or in in their quarters. It would have been nice if there had been an order of battle presented: who runs to fetch help and how it takes for the help to show up. That may have been considered unbalancing though; the levels are for 3-5 and a large battle with 40 or so 1hd pirates and their 5th & 6th levels leaders would be hard to survive. The upper decks are full of rooms for the ships crew and named NPC's/officers in a typical ship layout, which should allow for a good deal of free-form exploration, especially given the multi-deck nature of a ship. The lower decks, avoided by the crew, is a more linear arrangement with some beasties being influenced from a dark god trying to get a foothold. This would be a tough fight, but the party doesn't need to venture down here. The mad sorcerer, the slaves to free, and the relics to reclaim are all up above. There's a nice push-your-luck feel to this section; if the party gets in to fights it doesn't need to then they aren't going to last very long. That's a very nice element to the adventure.

There's a decent wandering monster table, if short. The encounters are not really wandering monsters but more like events. Ghost pirates, drunk sailors, stowaways, and environmental issues dominate. The creatures encountered are given a reason for wandering around and the environment issues fit in: think falling icicles and cold winds. This is the kind of wandering table that I enjoy. Everything fits in and there is some story in the table that enhances the adventure proper.

This is a pretty good module. I like the non-linearity of the exploration element of it as well as the interesting wandering table and the push-your-luck level. The location is nice and 'fantastic', while the asian elements could have been emphasized a little more to add more color. If you're looking for a module to grab and play then this would be a good one.