Peter
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Carol Stream
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**Disclaimer** - I’m a long time role-player. Almost 30 years of experience. Examples and references below are based on my personal experiences and average responses of the people I’ve played with. This review assumes you have familiarized yourself with the publicly available information about the material discussed. (i.e. Advertised descriptions, RPGG game information entry, Possible publicly available rules, etc.) If you’re concerned about spoilers do not read this review. I try to limit details in my reviews, but some things have to be mentioned to give readers an idea of what is being discussed.

RPG ITEM: Mystery of the Snow Peals


Overall Quality: -

The Product - The answer for the player who cannot find anyone else to play D&D with. Mystery of the Snow Pearls is a Basic D&D adventure for one person to play. This solo adventure uses the Magic Viewer System to keep everything secret until the player chooses to reveal it. Magic Viewer is basically a lighter color ink covered by blotted translucent red ink. This makes the text very difficult to impossible to read without a thin, transparent, red shaded piece of plastic. When the red plastic is placed over an area obscured by blotchy red ink, the text becomes readable. The module included two small pieces of red plastic for this.

The module followed the same standard as other modules released by TSR at the time. A color cardstock cover and a monochrome booklet. Well, in this case three colors of printing were used, (black ink for normal reading and the light grey/red blotchy printing for “secret” information not to be revealed until needed). The adventure was 32-pages long which was the standard length of adventure modules for much of the 80’s. The overall quality of the production was on the cheep end which is normal for TSR modules in this period. The art was moderate in quality and used somewhat sparingly. The cardstock cover comes with a full color map and some additional tools to be used in-game, including a pre-gen character.

So what’s this about being a solo adventure? Well Snow Pearls attempts to give the player the ability to play out a full fledged adventure without any other players required. Using the Magic Viewer System, the authors are able to offer the player a chance to remain unaware of what’s ahead until they information is needed. This allows the player to make choices while not being aware of what might lie ahead. In practice, this module is essentially a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure in an adventure module’s skin. Each encounter informs you as to which new text-box to read based on the results or choices made in the current encounter. If no direction is given, the player is left to travelling to a new location on the map to begin a new encounter.

Overall the adventure is little more than a resource allocation game. The encounters grind down the player’s available resources, including hit points, and the player must choose how best to use them in hopes of retaining enough to finish the adventure. In this respect the adventure is very deadly as finding useable resources in-game is a rarity. Also, the mechanic for wandering monsters means the longer the player travels around exploring the more adversarial encounters they will face, and hence the more resources used. So the game pushes players to be efficient in their actions, while taunting them with a large area to explore. Players can expect to have to replay the adventure multiple times before finding a way to complete the challenge faced.

There are a few puzzles in the adventure. Though they are creative in their design, they can be rather frustrating to resolve. If certain key pieces of the puzzle(s) are not discovered, they can go unresolved until the end of the adventure.

LayoutSnow Pearls follows a pretty standard layout. All the encounters in the adventure are numbered and are numerically listed in the book. Each general area is given its own chapter. The Wilderness is the first chapter and covers everything that isn’t a very detailed location. The other chapters include a local village and other adventure locations. Flipping pages is going to be very prevalent as players are directed to “go to G88” and then “go to G3” followed by another reference based on choices.

Aside from the blotchy red adventure pages, there are two pages in the beginning which explain how to play the adventure, and one page at the end with a pair of new monsters.


Product Content:

Mechanics:New mechanics consist of very little. A brief description on how the in-game puzzles operate, (without giving the answer of course). How to use the “Magic Viewer”, and a pair of new monsters at the end of the module, (Ash Crawler & Gyerian).

FluffThere is a back story about the Snow Pearls and why the hero needs them to “save the day”. But, as far as MacGuffins go, the story was pretty thin. Also how the entire area and its social interactions developed is giving no more than a hand wave.

As you progress through the story some of the story is added to, but no where near comprehensively. And because players may miss several encounters completely, the “story” can feel very disjointed.

Player’s Side:

Character OfferingsIt’s an adventure you can run without a GM. So no worrying about whether or not the GM has time, or wants to run this adventure. Just pick it up and go.

Though as far as adventures go, its pretty much a rail ride. And you are basically told you need to use the included character.


GM Side:

Behind the Screen UseNo GM required. The adventure runs itself. A GM could run this adventure for a group of players. There is even a paragraph that explains how a GM could modify the encounters for a group. The self contained nature of this adventure means it does not require many outside resources though.

Campaign / Adventure OfferingsIt is a self contained adventure. As a solo adventure there is nothing beyond the module to carry the player on with. If a GM ran the adventure and wanted to continue beyond it, the area detailed could be used for further adventures if needed.

But the lack of numerous society, or ecological, background means the area plays very much like and outdoor dungeon crawl.

RoadblocksOften times the disjointed method of resolving encounters referencing numbered entries can become tedious. Also, it becomes apparent that not all the encounters “resolve”. At least some don’t feel resolved. They simply end without giving any reference on what to do next. I’m not sure if this is due to oversight on the designers’ part, or if the player is supposed to know they simply continue on to the next encounter location.


Summary:

I was excited by the possibilities for this module when I bought it. But, personally, I felt less than satisfied by the way it played. As a young player I felt it was apparent the authors had missed critical information and inadvertently made the adventure too difficult to complete. After many years of experience I went back to this product and tried again. I still was less than impressed, but I also understood more of the adventure the second time around. It seemed to me, that the authors made assumptions about their customer base. It seems the designers assumed the players would understand the “implied” actions and directions to take. This was obviously not the case with younger me.

As an adventure, I felt Snow Pearls was lacking. I wouldn’t recommend this adventure. If someone were desperate for a solo adventure, maybe, but even then I’d caution them not to expect too much.

Thank you for reading my review. It makes the effort worthwhile.
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