Synopsis: Occult investigators venture into a shady world of Native American antique collectors and Wendigo offspring in hopes of uncovering powerful artifacts in the New English countryside.
Review: When not working on his PbtA revamped indie-in-the making tabletop game Persona, James Austin has just started developing a line of Cthulhu pre-made scenarios for the Miskatonic Repository, a Call of Cthulhu community program on DriveThruRpg. Night Times – The Frozen Pines is the first in the series and takes place in the New England Countryside.
A bit jittery around the edges when it comes to plot logic, and some make-or-break scenes that may feel a bit like player railroading, the Frozen Pines nevertheless presents a wendigo-themed foray into a struggling Native American community in the throes of rebellion against the encroaching modern world just after the turn of the 20th century.
More of an action/investigative romp, the scenario is presented with excellent layout and design and a clear love of the material and especially the era. It’s a brief scenario, as described by the product itself, and feels more like a filler episode in a larger campaign that offers some interesting hooks for later exploration.
Overall, if you need a quick, uncomplicated side-quest for your investigators, the Frozen Pines should be a good fit, however fair warning as things in the scenario escalate rather quickly towards the end, with little foreshadowing unless investigators are particularly astute, and the conclusion may leave more questions than answers.
You can buy this side trek into the wilderness on DriveThru, giving your players a harrowing experience with The Frozen Pines for 3.00. For more of James’ work, check out his page crimsonparcel over on tumblr.
Now…Is it Horrific?
Fear (Barely a Whimper). The scenario takes a while to build up to its fearful conclusion. Before this, it really only offers a few glimpses of what this conclusion may be, meaning that any real fear factor is tough to engage with until its stands and presents itself to the players head-on.
Setting (Pessimistically Outdoorsy). There is little in the descriptions of the module that offer hints of the horrific and the entire scenario is much more concerned with the dreariness of its inhabitants than the creation of a suitably horrific setting.
Consequences (Late to the Party). The slow burn for the plot essentially means the investigators choices only bear actual consequences very late into the scenario. Even once it becomes clear what these possible outcomes might be, by this point, most if not all of the characters may be in state incapable of having any real hand in their fates, or choose to abandon all hope completely, undermining any sense of real dread or horror.
Suspense (Tumbleweed). Apart from a crucial, deciding scene, the scenario has little in the way of build-up and doesn’t feel overly horrific. A good Storyteller of course can add to this, but as written, the scenario feels more straight-forward investigative than otherworldly and suspenseful.
Is it a Horror? Verdict: Mild-Action Adventure