A Wolf’s Whisper is a Dungeoncraft module written by Paul Gabat of A Dragon’s Breath fame. It’s the first in The Crimson Star series, and at time of writing it has one sequel- DC-POA-GSP01-02 Crypt of the Mind Flayers.
Like most modules which use the Awake and Afraid seed, this module involves a ton of Awakened Animals. In this module, they’ve been awakened by a mysterious druidic antagonist, and though there’s something sinister about that, for the most part, the animals mostly come off as cute. If you enjoy roleplaying talking animals, this is for you.
This module is also ideal for TOTM play- the combats don’t demand battlemaps, and the scenes are best if the players can focus on the Roleplaying anyway.
I had the joy of running this module in real life at Grex (my condolences to those still in lockdown) and had a good time. But is the module good? Here’s how I rate it:
A Wolf's Whisper
Designer: Paul Gabat
Editor: Angela Sabas (angelasabas.com)
Cover and Interior Illustrator: Amei Arts (@AmeiArts)
Level Range: Tier 1 (Level 1-4)
Season: Season 10
Release Date: 2020-12-06
Seed: Awake and Afraid
Base Price: $4.99
This just isn’t a combat module.
There are two “mandatory” combats in the two hours. The first is really a social encounter in disguise, while the second is an obligatory boss combat.
Neither encounter is interesting in a mechanical or strategic way, although they’re probably enough to satisfy that player at your table who just needs to roll some attacks. They do serve other purposes, though: the first allows PCs the choice of taking a social route, and the second encounter- the boss fight- is evocative and worthy of being called a climax.
They’re just not good combats.
There’s another problem- encounter difficulty is poorly balanced in this module. The module is balanced around APL 1- meaning nearly every party will require some adjustments from the original combats. Expect to do a lot of combat encounter adjustment.
Strangely enough, the boss battle is absurdly deadly for an APL 1 party. A party that’s Strong or Very Strong won’t have it much easier either, as the official difficulty adjustments are severe enough to keep up the deadliness. I found myself having to nudge and fudge combat a lot in my run to avoid killing anyone.
To be clear, this module is a series of scenes that are effectively linear (unless you go off-book), so by that narrow definition, there’s no exploration.
However, what this module does have are scenes that are evocative of the harsh environment in Icewind Dale. You’ll get to go ice-fishing, run into a blizzard, get lost in the frozen wastes, and more.
There’s also plenty of opportunity for characters to use their abilities and features to interact with things. A few are explicit, like skill challenges, others exist by merit of having to navigate the frozen wastes.
I dock off points for the mechanics of some of the environmental effects being poorly described. Here’s a hint: the reason why the saves needed in each area vary is because the temperature is different in each area. Similarly some of the skill challenges are poorly described, you may have to do some interpretation of your own.
This module shines for its roleplaying and social encounters. Most of the encounters are skill challenges and minigames that are really an excuse for PCs to interact with silly animals.
Most of the social interactions lean toward the silly side, with the side-NPCs having rather contrived motivations that just happen to require the characters to do play a minigame. However, if you can look past that, they’re really entertaining. You get to play hide and seek with hares, talk with grumpy fish, and take a quiz with a tiger.
The side-NPCs are light on description and to be fair, you’re probably better off putting your own spin on them anyway. The main-NPCs are full of curious details. Willow (the Wolf on the Cover of the Book) has a tragic story that I enjoyed getting into the headspace of; it took some work, but it was worth it.
Plot & Vibes (4/5)
Given that this is just the first of a series, it’s hard to make full judgement of the Crimson Star as a plot element. The module doesn’t explain what it is; presumably, that’s a matter for the sequel. I can’t say I’m a fan of series keeping such details from the DM. However, for the purposes of the module, it’s really the message about the star that’s a plot element, not the star itself, so it doesn’t really matter.
Vibe-wise, I feel mood whiplash. The opening and closing scenes are serious and mysterious. Everything else in between? A funhouse. I prefer the serious tone, but the silly encounters are better for casual fun.
Some might say this multi-note approach helps ensure there’s something for everyone, I’ll agree to disagree.
Taken separately, however, I find both parts are enjoyable. There’s the sense of looming dread of a mysterious prophecy, there’s Willow’s existential crisis and attachment issues, there’s the harsh unforgiving Icewind Dale. There’s also fun with foxes and un-bearable fun.
Legitimacy is what I’ll be calling the overall presentation of the product.
In this case, the production is good. The layout is aesthetically pleasing and that counts for a lot. The module also has great custom art, I especially liked the illustration of the talking fish.
There are few errors and no fundamental ones. The language feels slightly awkward in places, but it gets the job done and it’s way better than most.
A Wolf's Whisper
Rating and Breakdown
Plot & Vibes: 4/5
Overall, this module is solid and ideal for players who want a game full of mostly-casual fun with the occasional dramatic note. In his modules, Paul Gabat puts a focus on getting the PCs into “shenanigans”, and this module is no exception.
If you wanted a crunchy combat module, you’re out of luck. There’s just enough that your players probably wouldn’t complain and not much more.
The storyline hints at more, and I find myself anticipating preparing and running the sequel to this module so that we can all find out what all this Crimson Star business is about.