Forest for the Trees
By Thilo Graf
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! After having braved the burial mound of the Loi’Tok in Champion’s Rest, the PCs are recruited to take a look at a logger’s camp – not in the deadly Dark Woods, btw., but in the more hospitable west wood. Unfortunately, though, the Klavekian logging enterprise there also has some problems – the loggers have been warned by eerie winds and now the PCs are to look into the matter. On their way across the snow-covered fields, the characters are harassed by a pixie and her harmless shenanigans (via a new spell, btw.) and potentially annoyed, they finally reach the logging camp, only to be accosted by rather hostile, grumpy, soaked and unfriendly loggers who want to take up their work again. Hopefully, the PCs can calm down the rather unpleasant men and then be on their way to find out what the scoop is all about – possibly with an unfriendly, cocky lumberjack as an added liability and complication. It should also be noted that a whole page of hand-drawings details logging equipment to help the players and DM envision the equipment. Neat!
At a clearing, the PCs get a good glimpse on the repercussions of the logging operation – the ceaseless logging has actually destroyed a swath of the forest and made a pond a place of death, inhabited by one last diseased scrag, now hungry due to lack of food and rather aggressive. The desolation of this place, contrasted with the abundant wildlife and beauty of other parts of the pdf makes for a great way to drive home that the issues between the factions here are not simple. The great Hamadryad, a huge tree flanked by 6 lesser fey-trees provides the PCs with an ultimatum: Leave the forest, take the loggers with them or die.
If they complete 3 quests, she’s willing to talk further to them. The first quest has the PCs travel to a local tribe of Kobolds to acquire pickled fish. Only, the kobolds are starving and have resorted to killing a man and have actually eaten him. Whether the PCs manage to find the fish-bones and save the bones of the dead townsman, with or without violence, they’re off to the next place. In the pixie-village the PCs have to find, they are caught and tickle-tortured by the small benevolent fey, for they are losing their magical powers and don’t know why. And finally, the PCs are supposed to find a brownie-village. Here, the module becomes downright depressing and provides a vision of desolation – the tiny village has been crushed by the logs and redirected flow of water to transport the lumber. Now, only 3 confused undead brownies remain, to potentially fight the PCs or be laid to rest and carried to the great hamadryad.
Upon their return, the negotiations are re-opened, but without the 6 lesser dryads at the ready. It is here that the PCs will have to make a weighty decision: Do they negotiate with the wood’s guardian and get the lumber for the village and then have them evacuate the woods? Do they attack the guardian? There are also the lumberjack and a pixie as additional complicating factors to take into account…and then there’s the fact that here, there are no right choices, only consequences for both this part of the world and the PCs. If they heed the ancient Hamadryad, they preserve the sanctity of the forest, but at the cost of unemployed loggers and a stifled growth of the Klavekian colony. If the PCs kill the guardian, they will have secured work and growth for the Klavekians, but the wood will slowly die and whither to give way to a desolate wasteland. And violence by the dryads, who stand ready to attack the camp and the angry lumberjacks who may have followed the PCs is also a real possibility. I love this non-linear climax with real consequences and without any clear-cut good and evil solutions and the option to come to a solution which in the long way, prove to be a good compromise for both factions.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: There e.g. are instances of homophone errors here and there (fair/fare, for example). Layout adheres to a full color, two column standard and the artworks are ok. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks, herolab support, but not a printer-friendly version. Generally, I did enjoy “Forest for the Trees” in that it takes a classic conflict of nature vs. civilization, shows how the conflict can influence those involved without pointing fingers and provides the PCs with a chance to make a real difference. While not per se a perfect adventure or a revolutionary one, I did enjoy reading this adventure – the writing is excellent. All in all, I did enjoy the adventure, though the price is a bit high for the page-count when compared to similar modules by other 3pps. If you like Rybalka, you’ll love this first option to make a major decision and influence the future of the mini-setting and while I did very much enjoy this decision and the way in which the adventure handles its topics, I have to take into account that the module is light on art when compared to other, is not that long for the price and comes with rather sparse maps when compared to FGG, TPK Games or the Headless Hydra-modules and in direct comparison, feels a bit short. My final verdict can thus be “only” 3.5 stars, which however, I’ll gladly round up to 4.
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