Wildheart is a module published for Trudvang Chronicles, the Swedish roleplaying game that was chosen the most anticipated RPG of 2017. The module and the game itself is due to be published in a few weeks.
The module Wildheart was first released in Sweden shortly after Riotminds got publishing rights for Trudvang Chronicles predecessor, Drakar och Demoner. In it you will find the story of an enchanted forest that was once good, but after tasting a dragon’s blood, it hungers ever for more. Anyone can enter the forest, but no one leaves without paying a price. It’s an adventure about old forgotten places, mysterious encounters, trolls and lindwurms – not to mention a frost giant! The Swedish version was hailed as “one of the best adventures of all time” shortly after its release.
Spoiler alert! Players, read no further.
Wildheart is a force to be reckoned with. It is an old, evil and bitter forest, with insatiable hunger for blood, but it is so much more. It is the home to myriad of creatures, trolls, giants, wurms and goblins. It is a place of legends, where many adventurers have become lost, never to be seen again. It is a place which will do it’s very best to make sure that no one leaves.
For one reason or another the PCs have found their way to Wildheart and enter the forest. The module suggests at least two options, though both of which have the same origin point. Once the PCs have entered the forest, they soon discover how easy it is to get lost and after many twists and turns, that they can’t seem to find the way out if it. After a few encounters with the creatures that inhabit the forest, they learn that to leave Wildheart they must discover at least four of its secrets.
Still, things are never just as easy as that, for the forest itself is ever hungry. The PCs must beware, for every drop of blood that is spilled onto the moss clad forest floor could draw forth the Dark Dwellers, which are evil and blood hungry undead creatures of the forest, eager to spill more blood to grow in numbers.
As the PCs travel through the forest and gather as much knowledge they can, in order to discover the secrets, they will perhaps come across a frost giant’s trope. The frost giant, Blodughadda, is searching for the Stone of Sagas, which is the focus of another module. If they manage to find their way out, they will happen to come across a cot, where a dying elf hands the PCs the Stone of Sagas, before escaping the dire woods.
Wildheart has many great encounters, which can both be used to convey the oppression and hunger of the forest, just as well as offer the players many changes of comic relieve (e.g. the gardener wight and Barkbull, the vidrjotun).
The artwork is superb and can be really helpful in creating the right atmosphere for the module. This is something that is often looked over by many publishers, but showing players an image instead of going through lengthy and often complicated descriptions. There are also many maps, which are beautifully laid out and easy to use.
The module is non-linear and there isn’t any obvious way to find the right path through the forest and figuring out all the secrets. By rolling for encounters the PCs (and even the DM if she doesn’t fudge the rolls) have no way of knowing what Wildheart has in store for them. I can imagine that no two runs of the module are the same.
Finally, and this is what I think makes this module really good, the PCs are punished for “thinking with their sword!” The more creatures they kill, more blood they spill, more dangerous Wildheart comes. This is absolutely brilliant way to teach new roleplayers (and even some veterans too!) to ask questions first, sling spells later. So, going murder-hoboin’ through Wildheart is a sure way to kill your character. You’ll need to be more cunning, more diplomatic. There are of course some encounters where you need to draw your sword, but the players will think twice before doing so, if they know what horrors they can summon by spilling blood in Wildheart.
…and the neutral good.
The module has a few shortcomings that I feel the need to address. First of all, the secrets that the PCs have to learn is a double-edged sword. If read as written the narrative assumes that the players discover pretty soon that they need to learn four secrets in order to leave Wildheart, because they are simply told so, instead of coming to that conclusion by themselves. Secondly, most of these secrets have nothing to do with Wildheart as a natural force or its history. So, instead of investigating why the forest is the way it is or how the forest came to be as evil as it is, the PCs wander about, taking notes about the things in the forest, speaking to many creatures and NPCs and hoping that any these and the information gained is a part of the secrets they need to uncover.
The second thing I would like to mention is the lack of foreshadowing, especially when it comes to Kirjonti. While the PCs are onboard the ship they could hear about the forest, even in Grim village they could hear some rumors about the evil nature of the woods or Remlaug, the merchant, could warn them not to go to close to the forest because a few weeks ago an elf friend of his, called Kirjonti, went there, and he hasn’t returned. This could also help with building the right atmosphere once the PCs have entered Wildheart.
Neither of these is a showstopper and can be easily fixed by a Game Master who has read the module through, even twice, before running it. Adding more secrets takes only a few minutes and the same goes for enriching the introduction.
Finally, the module assumes that the Game Master makes a map of the area. Though this doesn’t bother me, I can imagine that rookie Game Masters could find that difficult.
Wildheart has many great encounters and playing through it offers many opportunities for the players to shine. It’s a superb introduction to the world of Trudvang Chronicles and the many dangers the world poses to the characters.