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The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
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The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
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The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Electro Z. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 07:08:41

Fantastic storyline detail but confusing reference maps.

4.5 stars is what I'd give because of all the fantastic storyline detail, but as a DM, I found the layout difficult to follow at times. And some of the maps were only representations of what was described. The crypt for instance. I found myself having to re-write and organize each of the chapters so that it was more easily referencable during game night.

Again, GREAT story. Well worth the pittance I paid for it as it was included in a package of other items. (I of course modfified to fit my world.) But when I need to run it, and it's 2 am, and I've had a couple of Belseg's Brews, and I don't want to miss an important point, then some better organization for the GM would help.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2014 04:42:03

An review

This mega-adventure clocks in at 133 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 page ToC, 2 pages backer list, 2/3rds of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 125 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We kick off this massive module with a foreword by Frank Mentzer and an intro of TPK Games' Brian Berg - novice-DMs: Read these! Why? Because if your players are used to level-appropriate challenges, CRs they always can defeat etc. - then this is a change of pace. This module is old-school and a sandbox, meaning the PCs will encounter foes they'd better pass by - and also meaning that there's no easy plot-train to jump on. As a sandbox, this module endeavors to be modular and player action driven, so make sure your players know what they're getting into. Now before I get into the module's plot, I want to address two more things: Difficulty and structure.

TPK Games isn't exactly know for cakewalk modules and this one is no different - if your players don't fight smart, take care of their resources and if they think they can charge into any encounter without thinking, they will die. Still, difficulty is below the at times downright brutal classics Frog God Games provides -this is no Rappan Athuk-level meatgrinder. In fact, it is actually easier than the "Reaping Stone" - if you make sure that your players are at least moderately capable regarding stealth.

This has a reason that becomes evident soon - first of all, in the level of detail offered regarding the two settlements herein, the town of Westden Falls and the ailing mining town Bertram's End. The towns come with copious details, often offering a b/w-picture per NPC - yes, shopkeepers, landlords etc. - quite a lot of illustrations there. More relevant for the type of DM who isn't used to improvising stats for townsfolk (or their dialogue) - both are provided. Especially the read-aloud texts for likely questions asked of the respective NPCs should help DMs that tend to experience problems with the thespian tasks of DMing. It should also be noted that the villages come with village statblocks and neat b/w-maps (though player-friendly maps of the two, sans numbers etc., would have been nice...). Furthermore, the adventure comes with quite a few quests - these can be considered mini-quests for the fulfillment of one of the adventure hooks, for completing optional goals etc. - personally, I tend to structure my adventures like this, so nothing new for me, but most AP-players coming fresh to a sandbox will probably enjoy having these explained in detail as well.

Now, while this is a sandbox in the true sense, the module still has a plot and a progression, which hence comes with milestones (levels) that make it easy for the DM to judge whether the PCs are ready for (read: Have a chance to survive) the challenges ahead. What's also rather nice (and something I've been doing as well) - the module offers tangible benefits for eating good food and drinking certain beverages, rewarding players for the arduous task of food tracking - why? Because this module, in part, is a wilderness scenario, including a table of weather by the day, temperatures etc. - the later in °F AND °C, btw. - awesome! For once I don't have to on-the-fly change °F to °C - great service for all customers there.

Now the PC's adventure starts off upon arriving in the town of Westden Falls (whose NPCs, as mentioned, are extremely detailed and offer quite some material for further adventures/sub-plots) via one of several VERY detailed hooks, which btw. all potentially can work together.

Since from here on out, I'll be going into the details and challenges of the plot, I'd like to ask potential players to skip to the conclusion NOW - from here on reign the SPOILERS!

Only DMs left? Good! Sooner or later, the PCs will have to leave the comfortable safety of Westden Falls behind - whether to find missing spice merchants, missing elves, re-open trade-routes by killing off a bunch of harpies or escort a seamstress to a scheduled wedding. Unfortunately for the PCs, weather turns sour...extremely sour. In fact, weather has been foul for some time, but a winter-style cold snap in the middle of summer is impending and the PCs will have to track not only supplies and stand up to terrible storms, they will also have to cross a terribly fragile bridge and finally, hopefully reach a ruined church at the half-way point between the two settlements. Said dilapidated church by now is not only a dangerous environment, it's also the base of the harpies that have been plaguing the area, offering chances for the PCs to vanquish these foes. Beyond that, the church also hides the lab of the missing spice merchants, which in truth were merchants of poison and death.

Beyond the church, the forests hide a massacre of elves - which introduce a further meta-plot element: The wood elves, who sold their lives 15 to 1 against gnolls and ogres and worse, were the caretakers of the magical seed of the Arsae Laidir, their powerful tree of life, which stands at the center of their enclaves. Upon overpopulation, wood elves go out with a seed in an exodus to start a new enclave....only this time, the exodus has been stopped dead in its tracks. The seed is missing and via speak with dead or similar means, the PCs may find out about it - and it spells bad news indeed. The seed is tabula rasa when it germinates and can be forced to gestate - by creating special circumstances of blood and death, the seed could be tainted with terrible consequences.

If the Werewolf-ogre barbarian crashing through trees wasn't enough implication - Bertram's End has fallen. The village is now a truly grim reminder of the dread consequences of failure on the side of adventurers, with the mining town being wholly overrun by gnolls of the Bloodfang tribe. It should be noted that both their wolves and the gnolls themselves are variants - the gnolls more often than not lupine creatures with their unique tricks. (And if you want more variants, Krenshar-style or even two-headed gnolls are part of the appendix of the module, where some great variants are provided.)

Beyond that, the mining town by now is the place of dreadful atrocities committed daily against the remaining populace - and it is here, stealth becomes relevant. While nothing keeps PCs from starting guerrilla warfare, a group of PCs trying to take the village by unsubtle force will suffer. Thankfully, the module includes patrolling routes etc. - and beyond saving the groups of villagers (or administering euthanasia - there are shades of grey-decisions here), the PCs can also find another subplot: The town's founder is known nowadays under an alias, having faked his death back in the day and the insane alchemist has indeed made his mine a dangerous place to traverse - whether to escape the town, escort NPCs outside or just to finally end the mad alchemist's experiments, there's a dangerous dungeon here. Things get even more complicated by a honey-tongued accomplice of the alchemist, ready to try to bribe the gnolls with the last, polymorphed survivor of the elves remaining... (It's a bit of a pity said elf gets no stats, but oh well...)

The clock's ticking, though -every day, a child is sacrificed to the seed in order to corrupt it and to truly vanquish the evil, the PCs not only have to get rid of the dread gnolls besieging the city, but also interrupt the ritual conducted by the vile druidic lycanthrope mastermind behind the woes that have befallen the area. The ritual itself and stopping it turns out to be a truly tough final battle in the titular bleeding hollow, with the ritual's properties offering some rather unique effects that make the combat against Jirak Thoole a memorable final encounter. It should also be noted that some (though by far not all) encounters come with scaling advice +/-1 level.


Editing and formatting are very good, but not always perfect - I noticed a couple of minor glitches, though not enough to truly hamper the overall experience. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column, full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the hardcover is solidly crafted. The b/w-maps are glorious, but the absence of player-friendly maps makes for a minor detriment. Especially the mine's levels could have used hand-out style maps, since they are VERY small in the pdf/book. So map-wise, in spite of the quality, some minus-points here.

Brian Berg, PJ Harn, Rick Cox and Bernie McCormick's Bleeding Hollow is per se a great dark fantasy sandbox and a surprisingly beginner-DM friendly one - while not as easy to run as more linear modules, the detail each statblock provides (often explaining each ability), the copious sidebars and extensive, well-written read-aloud prose, make this sandbox surprisingly easy to run - which wasn't what I was expecting, to be honest. The Bleeding Hollow turns out to be a challenging, dark adventure, yes, but also one that is relatively easy to run. Now branding-wise, I have somewhat of a problem with this being labeled "wilderness" or "survival" - after the journey, the survival aspect becomes more of a background theme, but I won't complain about that - while generally, I would have preferred a second journey section to the finale, I won't hold that against the book. In fact, this sandbox makes for a great introduction of moderately experienced DMs to old-school style gaming and its peculiarities and is defiantly dark in tone - all in all, a fun sandbox with a believable villain and iconic areas. If I had to voice gripes, it would be that "The Reaping Stone" spoiled me regarding epic boss fights (a multi-phase final fight would have been nice) and, more importantly that the maps are problematic - whether in the dead-tree version or in the pdf, printing them out in their at times VERY small depictions, cutting them out etc. just doesn't make for a comfortable use, requiring you to essentially redraft them, if you want to hand them out. Having these as hand-outs would have made the module so much easier to use...

Still, the overall module is great, deadly, fun, atmospheric and easy to run - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform and this nice introduction to old-school sandbox gaming. Just make sure to take some time to get the maps done...

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Tim W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/12/2014 11:25:31

TPK Games has an awesome incentive and business practice of awarding their friends on their birthdays with a gift from their catalog. It was my recent birthday that allowed me to acquire "The Bleeding Hollow".

This is a fun adventure that combines Urban, Wilderness and Dungeon settings. It has many different plot hooks to appeal to different character types. It provides various quandaries and decisions based on various character alignments. It is designed for a party of five 5th level characters (but contains guidelines for adjusting the encounters for higher level parties/CRs).

I plan on running this and will probably get the "prequel" adventure mentioned in the book ("The Reaping Stone"). Between the two I "should" be able to get a party from 1st level at the beginning of the first book up though possibly 8th level at the end of "Bleeding Hollow".

I enjoy how the adventure manages to incorporate some of the "old school" feel within the "new school" Pathfinder RPG system. I also enjoy "variations on a theme" to allow characters to have a "comfort zone" of familiarity along with some (perhaps unpleasant) surprises to keep the party on their toes.

Keep up the good work TPK!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Jason L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2013 00:00:00

Brian Berg's introduction makes it clear that this adventure was a labor of love for TPK and it really shows. Where else are you going to find nearly thirty pages of plot hooks, NPC backgrounds and little side quests to start the adventure. It makes the town FEEL populated by real people and any GM that can't get his or her players invested with that much to work with should go sit in a corner and reevaluate their life choices.

Players have to contend with weather, gathering or buying food, and all sorts of little details that are often glossed over but serve to ratchet up the tension and make players decide whether they want full bellies at the cost of...well lets not give too much away.

Without giving away too much in the way of specifics, there are moral choices here, often difficult ones. Traps abound, a great variety of monsters lurk, and (sorry, I can't resist this one spoiler) THERE IS A WEREWOLF OGRE. This is where I sign up, right?

Get it. Get Reaping Stone, too, and start your players there. Murder them. Make them start over. MURDER THEM AGAIN. They'll thank you.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Bleeding Hollow Deluxe Adventure
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2013 11:16:24

This is a cinematic, epic adventure, chasing the party across a wide and scary landscape as they struggle to survive with body and mind intact let alone rescue anyone else - they scarcely have time to draw breath long enough to remember why they came to Westden, a once sleepy rural town.

Harking back to many tropes of 'old school' gaming this is quite a sandbox of an adventure, the character may go where they like, when they like and it doesn't matter... they will probably get attacked anyway! Whilst aimed at a 5th-level party, there is a refreshing approach in that some encounters will be overwhelming and there are times when the best tactic is to take to your heels and run until you feel your chest is bursting. Characters who survive will be seriously considering a nice quiet life in trade or craft, their players will remember and reminisce until they are too old to lift a d20 let alone roll it.

The adventure is outlined for the GM at the beginning, but most of the meat of what is going on is to be found in the events and locations throughout the book - this is one for which study beforehand is recommended, indeed vital, if the adventure is to be enjoyed to its full. An interesting and recurring theme is the constant moral dilemmas with which the characters will be faced. There are no easy answers, and every choice has its consequences.

Like the best of sandboxes, this adventure is filled with 'quests' which the characters may take on or ignore as they choose. (And yes, these choices have consequences!) To begin with, there are a clutch of quests aimed at different character classes or interests just to get them to Westden in the first place, which if carefully set up could have different members of the group trying to achieve different ends at the same time. Even if they have come for other reasons, however, they will soon be asked to help rid the township from a band of harpies who have been making quite a nuisance of themselves in the area.

The settlement of Westden has been set out in great detail, giving it an air of reality. Everywhere the party turns there are people to talk to, things to look at, things to find out. Each inhabitant is described in detail, down to his answers to likely questions, along with appearance, attitude.. even hobbies and interests. The place should really come to life as the characters visit. Indeed there are notes should you wish to use this settlement outside of this particular adventure, it is certainly well-designed enough to be worthy of consideration as a permanent location in your campaign world.

A note suggests that players keep track of what their characters eat and drink. As the adventure escalates it might become important - do you stop to forage, or do you tighten your belt and keep running? As a 'reward' for troubling to keep notes, a good meal can grant minor bonuses or buffs so eat well when you can!

And all this is just Chapter 1! It is followed by Chapter 2: Hunters and their Prey, which begins to touch on the wider picture: there is a lot more going on in the area than a bunch of pesky harpies! Travelling around to deal with this, the party will have to contend with adverse weather - 'inclement weather' seems to be about as good as it gets, sounds a bit like Cheshire UK in winter! - and wandering monsters as well as those going about their nefarious business. Given the bad weather, most of them are hungry and probably grumpy.

Chapter 3 takes the characters to a small hamlet called Bertram's End, home to a failed mining enterprise and quite a few ruined buildings. Naturally, all is not quite what it seems... but again everything and everyone here is presented in loving living detail, all ready to spring into life within your shared alternate reality. Chapter 4 leads the action on into the mine itself... if you dare plumb its depths!

Finally, Chapter 5 takes the party to the Bleeding Hollow. Here is to be found the centre, the nodal point, of all the troubles besetting this area. The backstory here presents a sad and haunting tale, study it and weave it into your presentation of what the players encounter here: the adventure will be all the more potent and poignant for it.

This is an adventure that should linger on in the memories of all those who participate in it, cinematic in scale, dramatic in scope, granting a freedom of action within a structured story in elegant style. Now to round up some players...

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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