||This module is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving 27 pages of content for this adventure by Dennis Sustare, author of the original druid-class. The cover-image by Paul Jaquays enhances the cool old-schoolish feel of the module from the get-go, so let's dive in!
This being an adventure-module, the following review contains SPOILERS, thus potential players might wish to jump to conclusion.
Ursined, Sealed and Delivered jumps off with the PCs returning from a polar expedition with a sage, when a seal surfaces from icy waters to ask them to find a golden fish, another seal and kill a bear who supposedly cursed it and its brother. If the PCs want to help the seal, they're in for quite an adventure, for the ship will return thrice, once every 7 days and they may take rations from the expedition, but only 8 crates. From the get-go, the harshness of nature and detailed notes on survival, not only for the PCs, but also for their dog-sleds are covered and staying alive in these frozen reaches proves to be dangerous - scaling the cliff from the point of arrival and pulling up the dogs/ crossing an icy river with them make for not only cool, but intriguing hazards. The adventure is sub-divided in 3 general section at this polar coast-line:
The first location is a snowed-in tower in which skeletons and wights dwell that is the prison of the seal's brother. The second is a polar outpost manned by corrupt men under the leadership of an evil were-bear (with a cloak that can transform you into a seal) and finally, a set of icy caves in which golden fish dwell, the only way to reverse the seal-transformation. Following broadly lesser-known motives from Inuit-legends, this adventure thus has a distinct feel of antiquity, even of fairy-tales with it. The triple trial to saves the siblings-turned-seals serves to further enhance this general feeling. Unfortunately, the survival aspect of the module, broadly set up via cool ideas, a plathora of rules etc. goes...nowhere. The distances between the 3 locations are too short, PCs won't be pressed to survive this trip, let alone manage their resources well. In fact, from one end of the coast to the other is only a two-days dog-sled travel, which makes the survival aspect/conservation of food etc. more or less moot - PCs have to be very foolhardy/stupid to suffer from any detrimental environmental consequences in this module, at least as it's presented. The locations per se, apart from the ice caves, also feel like they woefully fall short of the hazardous potential a polar expedition could provide and even the exploration of latter caves feels unfortunately a bit like a slightly more complex, white-painted cavern-exploration. Hazard and foe-wise. much more and iconic encounters could have been possible with each location.
Imagine the tower of the seal - first some haunts, then corpses and slowly, suddenly, an undead onslaught, an artic storm and the tower starts getting covered in snow - once the PCs have to spend a week or two inside, they will know the dread of wasting resources. The adventure does no such thing. The were-bear villain has no motivation, no true ecology and both he and his man remain painfully bland as well, once again, not utilizing his seal-enchanting cloak to full, disturbing potential. In the end, the PCs will reverse the transformations and be on their way.
Editing and formatting are ok - I noticed bold lines to help the DM, that are inconsistent in their boldness and a keyed location missing from the maps. The b/w-artworks are top-notch and the maps provided do their job. Layout adheres to a cool, ice-float-style b/w-2-column standard I wish FGG had also used for the Northlands-saga. The pdf, insultingly, comes without bookmarks - in this day and age not something I enjoy, especially with all the survival aspects to keep in mind. My main gripe with this adventure is not it's fairy-tale-like set-up, nor its convention-style approach to Xp, but rather its content: We get this wonderfully set-up arctic exploration, awesome survival rules, an iconic landscape in its presentation if there ever was one...and then the module falls terribly flat on its face. The 3 locations of the trial all suffer from at least one major shortcoming, be it bland and repetitive fights against one kind of foe (who don't utilize the environment to their advantage), cardboard cut-out villains or just plain wasted potential.
If this adventure had been 64 or at least 48 pages, with actually good locations in the midst of this wilderness, I'd love it to death and be raving about its qualities right now. In fact, that's how it begins! With a stellar introduction to polar survival, neat rules, great help for the DM...that won't be needed. The adventure is a) easy, b) too short (both in page count and distances covered), c) fails to utilize its own antagonists/enemies to their potential and d)presents us iconic, stellar even locations only to disappoint us with blandness incarnate when populating them with foes, hazards and traps. I'm going to run this adventure, mind you. But I'm replacing just about every enemy, add hazards (OD's Northlands, how I love you...), haunts and traps etc. and THEN have fun. As a reviewer, though, I'm in a bit of a pinch. After all, I'm supposed to review what's there and not necessarily potential. Unfortunately, apart from the locations and the survival-rules, I can't recommend this adventure. Seeing that these two aspects are awesome and provide a saving grace, I'll settle for a final review of 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2. If you're just looking for a stretch of coastline to populate yourself, you might still enjoy this.
[2 sur 5 Etoiles!]