Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sort of a Death Frost Doom Review

Death Frost Doom has hit the top of Noble Knight Games "Most Popular" list, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess hasn't even officially announced it. There's some kind of Finnish legal business thing standing in the way. But that doesn't stop everyone else from talking about it.

I got my copy a couple of days ago, and I've put off writing anything because I don't really do the review thing, and more importantly, because Grognardia already wrote a review. It's good, and covers a lot of ground that I would have, and a lot that wouldn't have occurred to me.

But I still want to write something about it, because Death Frost Doom is darn cool. I mean seriously, I'm already happy I got the thing and I haven't even gotten a chance to run it. I'm leaning much more heavily towards running a location-based sandbox game in the near future now because it'd give me a chance to use it in an organic way. (I might run it as a standalone game for my summer group, but that's not too likely since I don't think they'd like it. More on that in a minute.)

So no exhaustive review from me, but I do have a couple of points to hit. First off, if you get it from Noble Knight Games, it comes with a comic book-style plastic slip case and a cardboard back. I got the Random Esoteric Creature Generator in the same shipment (also in a plastic sleeve) and the whole thing came wrapped up in a bunch of paper inside its box. If that's standard practice, I wouldn't worry too much about the books getting bent up or crushed or anything while shipping.

But on to more important things: this is a fun adventure to read. I don't have much experience with published modules; the few I've read and run were published by Wizards the Coast, and pretty dry in their style. This is not like that. There's a fair bit of snarky commentary (mostly concerning dumb things the players might do), and almost all of the areas are described in useful, engaging detail.

Really, though, the writing style is indicative of a larger feature of Death Frost Doom. This module has an attitude. James Maliszewski touched on this point towards the end of his review, but it bears repeating. This module has a very specific point of view, representative of its author's opinions on how gaming ought to be done. In particular, there's some pretty strong ideas in here on how players should behave -- there are some pretty clear signals to the players early on in that area, and it's rather unforgiving of stupid mistakes. (This is why I say I'm not likely to run it for my summer group. If your players think that horrible, horrible failure is funny, or would treat it as a learning experience, go ahead and run it, but be aware that it's also likely to frustrate people who aren't so flippant about dying in stupid ways or "accidentally" triggering small-scale apocalypses. No, I'm not kidding.)

I'm hesitant, though, to go on at length about the details of what that point of view actually is. Partly this is because I haven't run the thing yet, and I want I want to see how it actually plays before I make too many grand pronouncements about its "style." But largely this is because, like good fiction, it's already as a module a better incapsulation of it's viewpoint than any essay about it could be.

I know that doesn't give you a whole lot of information if you're trying to decide if you want to get it. All I can do to help you there is ask, "Are you interested in what James Edward Raggi IV has to say about gaming?" There's a clear enough connection between the ideas in this module and the stuff that he writes on his blog that you ought to be able to answer that.

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