DMs Guild Review – Shadow Over Snowhollow

Warring orcs and frost giants stand between the party and a tomb occupied by a white dragon in this tier 2 adventure.

A review copy of “Shadow Over Snowhollow” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: MitchellOdy” Edwards

We discussed using factions in a recent DM Roundtable discussion, and Shadow over Snowhollow would make a great example of using traditional monsters as fleshed-out factions. The tier two adventure involves players in a deadlocked battle between arcane frost giants and necromantic orcs, before taking on (almost) ancient white dragon.

The 20-page adventure (not including over 10 pages of statblocks, items, and maps) begins at a small town at the base of a mountain, and strangely lacks any adventure hooks to get the story started beyond checking up on the mountain village of Snowhollow.

Snowhollow has become a pilgrimage site for seekers of magic and wisdom, founded by benevolent and arcane-powered frost giants from the Plane of Ice. The Story So Far section depicts an intriguing backstory of a dead frost giant leader, an opportunistic orc necromancer, and an evil white dragon. All three could be considered major opposing factions, and during the context of the story, players get a chance to align with either the giants or the orcs (or neither) before battling the dragon.

The adventure has a suggested level range around 8-11, but the designer notes it was originally built for a level 6 party. Most minion enemies are around CR 3-6, with a final dragon that’s just shy of being ancient at CR 18.¬†

I like a solidly tier two adventure, but Shadow Over Snowhollow would’ve greatly benefited from average party level adjustments (APL), especially for the climactic war and ensuing combat-heavy dungeon crawl.

To first reach Snowhollow the party will need to trek up the mountain through Snowhollow Pass. Two scripted encounters are provided: an avalanche quickly followed by an opportunistic wyvern, and a broken bridge that can be mended via magic. Unfortunately “the final push” is left up to the DM’s discretion (“I like to use a remorhaz”). Give me that scripted encounter, dang it!

The village has been taken over by a tribe of orcs, led by a powerful necromancer chieftain who raises his fallen warriors has powerful Dead Guard warriors. Instead of a simple dungeon crawl or big battle, the orc leader parleys with the party, suggesting they help his forces defeat the lingering frost giants, with the ultimate goal of destroying the white dragon that threatens them all.

dead guard orcs

When the party visits the frost giant fortress, they’re treated to a similar offering of alliance. These two sides aren’t exactly shades of grey, however. The orcs are decidedly evil, having already killed many of the giants and taken the town hostage, while these particular frost giants are benevolent and not keen on violence.

The players are free to choose to side with either faction, and go to war with the other. As cool as this sounds, the entire war for both sides is summarized in a measly two pages of montage paragraphs. Much of the actual war is hand-waved away, putting the players in the final throne room/council room of the respective locations to battle the faction leader. A neat set up let down by underdeveloped execution.

After the war is won, the attention is drawn to the white dragon, currently occupying the frost giants’ sacred tomb with his own army of dragonborn soldiers. Getting to the tomb is hand-waved away by whichever faction the party aided, as the forces clash with the dragonborn army.

The tomb is the only real dungeon crawl in the adventure, and it’s astonishingly combat-heavy for how much warfare we just finished. Nearly every single room contains enemy forces. The only goal is to collect keys from defeated enemies around the dungeon to open the way to the CR 18 white dragon, only slightly weaker than a CR 20 ancient white dragon (but does have lair actions).

The adventure features a robust set of custom monsters, including the necromantic-powered orcs and undead soldiers, the frost giant leader, and the dragonborn soldiers, as well as over half a dozen magic items, only some of which the players should see depending on their chosen alliance. Full color maps are also provided, including top-down town maps and grid battle maps of Showhollow canyon, the council rooms, and the final tomb dungeon.

I love the idea of warring factions that the players can freely ally with, reminding me of fun side quests in Skyrim and many of the Fallout games. It’s a shame the actual war is mostly hand-waved, and the final dungeon crawl is disappointingly straight-forward and combat-heavy.

Pros:

  • Two opposing, exotic factions the players can align with: benevolent frost giants vs necromantic orcs.
  • War and epilogue change significantly depending on the allied faction.
  • Full color maps for towns and encounter locations.
  • Over a dozen new monster statblocks.

Cons:

  • No adventure hooks.
  • No APL scaling.
  • Epic warfare with dozens of units is reduced to a few paragraphs.

The Verdict: Shadow over Snowhollow presents an intriguing war between opposing giants and orcs, but the war is underdeveloped, and the final dungeon crawl is far too combat-heavy.

A review copy of “Shadow Over Snowhollow” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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