Night of Frozen Shadows (part 2 of Jade Regent, written by Greg A. Vaughan) is one of those adventures that sound like they’ll either be awesome or tragically bad, based on main idea: this thing has vikings and ninjas. Ninjas and vikings! They go together like… well, they don’t. Not really. Except that here, they kindasorta do.
The plot has the PCs taking a caravan to travel up north, to the frozen
Viking Ulfen lands, in search of a guide to take them over the mountains to lands unknown. The caravan, though skippable, is very nicely detailed – there are lots of NPCs and some minor intrigue. I can see a game session being spent just in the caravan stuff, for some groups. Of course, some PCs will skip that and go on their own, and for those this is arguably wasted word count. I liked it though, it continued the emphasis on NPC relations and social dynamics from part one.
Once they reach Kalsgard, the game changes. Here they need to find a suitable guide, and unfortunately those are rare. As in, none to be found. Except for that one guy, who has recently vanished… I’m sure you can already sense the PC plot hook. So the PCs are forced into so local intrigue, with an interesting twist: there is a subsystem (using “notoriety points”) which determines what moves the antagonists do. If the PCs keep quiet and do their investigations on the sly, they might not raise any alarms. If they are loud and violent (and PCs tend to be)… well, they’ll get ninjas. And other nasty stuff.
Despite the wtf-inducing “vikings and ninjas!” combo, the whole thing is actually very good. There’s a lot of emphasis on NPC relations, as noted, and the optional-event-based structure of events at Kalsgard makes the whole thing quite free-form. Of course, it’s assumed that they’ll hunt down one specific guide – if they insist that they can just go out on their own (or make do with some poor substitute), the GM should be free to show them what happens to random wanderers in the northern mountain wastes. On the other hand, if would probably be reasonable to let them proceed however they like; just be sure to make things significantly harder for them later on if they insist that a good guide is optional.
So far, Jade Regent looks like a very nice “road trip” adventure.