[Campaign Setting/Hex Crawl]
Frostbitten & Mutilated (2018)
Zak S. (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
For levels 6+?
When I read the premise for Frostbitten & Mutilated I probably would have bet money that I would have at least liked it a little bit. Black metal violence in a land of eternal winter? Check! Norse mythology? Check! Attempt to emulate mythology from pre-rational pagan days? Check! Hot babes? Etc. etc. etc. I didn’t like it, and thus falls to me the task of finding out why the fuck not. Let’s kick it off.
Frostbitten & Mutilated is the latest Ennie-laden campaign-fest of the Kim Jong Un of the avant-garde OSR Zak S, and has as its main feature a postmodernist black metal hexcrawl (actually a squarecrawl) in the Devoured Lands, nominally set in the same campaign world as Vornheim though beyond a carryover of a single setting element (snakes as books), one might as well set it anywhere else (Zak recommends historical Norway, a decision that is unlikely to mesh with the postmodernist contempt for emulation, immersion or authenticity of any kind).
The book opens, perhaps prophetically, with vast blank pages of nothingness filled with but a single sentence of asinine nondialog that only resembles intelligible speech if briefly scanned but falls apart under closer scrutiny. The book is dedicated to someone who drew the first lady in a DnD book (?!?) which has got to be one of the most asinine bits of virtue signaling ever before seen in a supplement (for even in failure, Zak S cannot help but create ripples in the fabric of the world). After another bizarre note on cultural appropriation  we get to the actual fucking book part of the fucking book.
Man, I remember the good old days when Zak would just introduce his work by rambling on about some asinine porn starlet or crack some sort of smug joke. Anyway, let’s get going. This review is long as fuck, as both a deterrent to any accusations of laziness or personal bias and to settle the matter once and for all. Be warned.
Part I: The Introduction
THE GODS FROZE SOUNDS—making words—and set the creatures working, to cut
languages from the ice. A troll was set to grinding and was resentful, despising all
improvement. The grinding troll worked, but poisoned twenty-one words in every
tongue—so they would work a mischief in the mouths of men and bring them to ruin.
The She-Goat knew what the gods did not, and sought to thwart the grinding-troll.
She went to the Place of the Ears of Women and whispered into one in each one hundred thousand right ears, saying “Twenty-one words are poison, but I know not which. Take no sense from the tongues of men. Go now uncorrupted.”
When women were assembled, one in one hundred thousand were given these
ears and this mark—that they would be made weary by the speech of men, and avoid it.
They dwell now alone in the long cold crawling—heeding no-one
Let’s not rehash old bullshit arguments. Detractors will say it makes no fucking sense, admirers will claim it is an invocation of ancient pre-rational myth, and Zak mentions Edda as an inspiration. It’s by far the most interesting to treat it as such, which is the author’s intent, so let’s go with that take .
In the mythological take, we can accept seemingly nonsensical events like the world being carved from the frozen body of Ymir or Athena being born from the skull of Zeus as long as the event makes a sort of symbolic sense. One of the most profound examples is the Summerian notion that man was made from the flesh of a sacrificed god…but it was the leader of the evil gods who rebelled against the natural order. In this fashion, man is acknowledged as both divine and fatally flawed. And also it involves God Sacrificing and that is ALWAYS a good thing.
The problem is that even and especially when viewed through this lens the opening crawl and the bulk of the setting thereafter makes no sense. The gods make language (let’s assume frozen sound is a good metaphor for language), the troll corrupts it out of spite and the She-goat warns the women…using what? Language. A single passage where the Goat forges its own language, thus rebelling against the Patriarchical order of the Old Gods as a sort of feminist Satan, would have tied everything up. The Goat seeks to thwart the Grinding troll but her plan only shelters one in a hundred thousand and effectively prevents them from ever interacting with the rest.
The second problem with the opening is that it is dissassociated from the later game. For an excellent contemporary example of a nonsensical creation myth, let us take Dark Souls as an example. Not only do its events, however, bizarre, make a symbolic type of sense, but part of the genius of the game is that all these characters and events are directly relevant in the game.
In Frostbitten & Mutilated the opposite holds true. The corrupted words of men never return and have no payoff, and the central plot of the Devoured Lands, the summoning of Belphegor, Lord of Animals, and the possible freeing of Nidhoggr, is entirely seperate from the creation myth. For all the book wants to be about amazons, they are little more then orcs with chainmail bikini’s. Indeed, this entire opening sets no tone, foreshadows no element and introduces no premise. It barely corresponds to the work that follows. In fact, all the primary powers or their agents that are introduced in the crawl are either absent or mere side-characters and jokes.
Part I.I: Pretentious tone-setting and Appendix N (or Z if you will).
The last segments involve a page of GM Advice and an Appendix N. The GM advice section is pretentious tossfiddle straight out of the worst White Wolf supplements where the GM is supposed to perform a sort of meditative exercise where he envisions his worst enemy on a plain of white and then is supposed to transplant this hate to the landscape and how it interacts with the players. The landscape in the Devoured Land is supposed to be an adversary in and of itself, like Silent Hill in the series of the same name.
This is the wrong tool for the job. Simple advice on how to actually run game so this information is conveyed is infinitely more useful. Auto-hypnotic exercises can probably help you achieve the right mindset but so can self-flagellation or PCP.
Appendix N mostly makes sense but its so damn obvious it might as well be omitted: A tome on Norse Mythology, Leiber’s the Snow Women (great story actually!) & issues of Thor (who the fuck reads Thor?). That’s it? Where is everything else that’s in the book?
The soundtrack suggestions are excellent and convey the author’s intent far better then the writing. Svartsinn perfectly fits the frozen darkness of mountain fastholds and Thorr’s Hammer is the real deal. Distortion laced, sharp, harsh, brutal. Killing music. Dying music. Split skull, cracked ribcage and steaming blood on pristine snow music. Where THE FUCK IS AMON AMARTH ?
Part II: Bestiary
I’ve seen it mentioned that Frostbitten & Mutilated is terse and that is why it is good. I agree with the first part.
Let’s start with the Devoured land itself. The land is almost devoid of features, with one or two major rivers and mountains making up the entirety of its content (this is perhaps appropriate for a wilderness). The two port towns are described with throwaway sentences and exist only as a premise for adventuring, as does Vornheim.
The adventure dives into reasons for going into the Devoured Land which range from the obvious (gold, Wisdom (because of its great age) or refuge) to the somewhat more interesting (Abortion). One of the secrets of the Frost Amazons and Witches is access to a huge stash of harmless abortificants so theoretically the empty waste will occasionally see some armed parties of noblewomen and their escorts in order to get rid of unwanted offspring. Presumably the Amazons and Witches are unwilling to part with the herbs to representatives.
The author tries, through the use of flowery language, to convey the place more in terms of sense and aesthetic then description. At times it is effective, like in the following example:
There are trees that grew in first rain, and horses that have never known a rider, stones cut by the hand of the first women and recut by thousands after, parasites grown from the guts of the first men, there are fortresses buried since the first battle.
It’s said time started and will end in this place.
What follows is an extensive bestiary. Most of the Devoured Land is described through its inhabitants. The titular amazons, that are supposedly the main inhabitant of this barren wasteland are described first. Violent, chaotic, savage, wild etc. etc. By and large, they conform to the warriors of Chaos stereotype and each tribe is given one or at most two characteristics to differentiate them from their siblings.
The Amazons of the Frostbitten Moon are the major human presence in the area surrounding Mount Hellebor. They are known by the patterns of yellow pigment that stain their skins, made from the venom of a strain of cross adder—to which continual contact and/or low necromancy provides them a contact immunity. They wear
jewelry cast from the frozen tears of their foes.
Their current concern is the infiltration of their territory by the Maggot Sisterhood and the Ulvenbrigad.
I am trying to figure out why I am left indifferent. Perhaps it is the absurdity and inconsistency of the writing.
The naming is a postmodernist mishmash (reminiscent of the naming in M. Harrison’s Viriconium ) that clashes with the mythological basis the work is trying to evoke. The Ulvenbrigad, The Thirteen, The Maggot Sisters and the Amazons of the Frostbitten Moon. These are just adjectives and nouns that are meant to kindle some sort of minor sensation but that fall apart upon closer scrutiny or prolonged analysis. The names have no correspondence with and provide no hint of their nature.
The Amazon queen Rindr of the Maggot Sisterhood seeks to liberate Nidhoggr for reasons unknown. Jex Amon sleeps on a bed of snakes that she tells everyone are trained but they are not. The Thirteen almost doubled their membership when they found halluciogenic plants. The details are meaningless.
The secret to terseness is that you boil something down to its essential elements and you convey only what is strictly necessary for the reader to comprehend your intent. The problem is that Frostbitten & Mutilated conveys nothing but its surface elements in singularly autistic fashion. It cannot even rely on the bootstrap of Norse mythology to which it has attached itself, lamprey-like, because the writing both flounders and seeks to distinguish itself from classic elements as much as possible.
Amazons are all 3rd level warriors with ranks in bushcraft (essential in the wilderness)
with different tactics by tribe. Several make frequent use of poison, caltrops/flaming arrows, trained animals and so on. Each tribe is given some notes on tactics and a leader. by far the most bizarre are the Lychwives Kylesamara and Marakylesia, a dual entity somehow made by sawing an evil witch and a good cleric in half and sewing them back together, with the evil undead witch now in control. The conceit is that you cannot kill them without angering the gods and they split all damage between them, requiring some sort of convoluted bissecting ritual involving holy water if they are to be freed. The concept is aesthetically cool but the suspension of disbelief required is appropriately Mabignogion-esque.
This is not to say that it fails every time, I thought the Secret Society of assassins who wear masks of painted bone was alright and the description is an example of decent terseness (if lacking in the sort of PUNCH the thing needs).
The Cold Banner is a secret society within the Frostbitten Moon tribe that carries out targeted assassinations. Each member wears a mask of painted bone. Their esoteric ceremonies are more disturbing than any ritual conceived in the civilized world.
Leaving aside the fact that Assassination is the deliberate act of killing a prominent member of society for either ideological reason or monetary gain and is thus per definition pre-meditated, deliberate and targeted, you are given just enough to work with.
Boars aren’t terribly exciting, thus the name— unless you’re a Maggot Sister, then they kill and eat people for you. Also a baby boar is called a “squeaker” which is pretty cute.
That lukewarm bullshit sentence aside, there is one part in the Bestiary that works really well. All animals (yes, mundane animals!) in the Devoured Land are primal and possessed of humanlike intelligence. That is actually A GREAT WAY to invoke ancient mythology and each animal is given its own sort of nature to follow. All are dangerous and have personalities inimical to mankind that tend to correspond to the seven sins (sort of, there are more animals then there are sins). I’m guessing sins were included because F&M is supposedly metal and nothing is more metal then Satan. Foxes try to lure bands of men into eachother, Crows are greedy thieves (whose peck has a chance of causing permanent mutilation), Wolves are blood-thirsty murderers and so on. Animals are given mythical abilties, like in Celtic Age; crows can only be killed by a person who has killed a member of his own species because they are servants of death, Goats hate trolls and gain regenerative ability if they ever slay one etc. etc. Each predatory species has a few alphas walking around with distinctive tactics to make them feel like personalities and not wolves with extra hit points. The ability to negotiate with something like, say, worms to prevent them from being spontaneously generated into your food and thus ruining your rations is interesting.
King among animals is the marmot Rattatotr, the creature that carries news to Nidhoggr  who is one of the few creatures that knows the entrance to the Dim Fortress (the object of the hex crawl). The animal section is by far the most faithful to its mythological roots and the least burdened by postmodernist jibber-jabber with one fucking exception;
Based off of a single encounter by Kenneth Hite in one of the worst modules ever made
Owls are essentially a sort of house rule and will only appear if you say the word Owl. Though easily defeated singly, each time they attack they steal a word which the player is then forbidden to use forevermore. The effect is, to my knowledge, permanent. The explanation is that Owls are actually some sort of extra–dimensional predator that possesses birds of prey, twisting their body by possessing their mind. In concept this is interesting but in practice I’d imagine this has a fresh-date of about 2 sessions. As a campaign element it is fucking grating.
A decent element of F&M are the Three Witches, the titular villains of the piece (I will explain later). Super powerful and so stereotypical evil and witchlike (one makes pies out of babies or something and the other offers enchanted fruit that will turn whoever eats it into an animal) complete with familiars, I can’t help but crack a smile. This is some classic fucking Black Metal faery-tale Witchcraft turned up to eleven and I would that the entire book reached this level of awesome. They are provided with bizarre milk-stealing golems made of gelatinous dough made of human fat/fingernails and skin and at this point why the fuck not?
The rest of the unique adversaries are a mixed bag. These creatures are usually so large their body parts have separate hit points (disabling the arms or legs means reduced movement speed (how much?) and the arms means attacks are disabled but creatures can only be killed if their heads or chests are destroyed. The Frost Giants are well done if idiotically described; They are terrible news, like the resentful echoes of abandoned faiths. Like you would be, if a swarm of talking lice had taken your parents’ planet from them and you had to live in a mountain made of hate. Maybe get someone to read over it before you hand it in. However, recasting old favorites like frost giants into 200 foot tall, towering, reality-distorting monsters will always win me over.
Baphomael and Nidhoggr are represented as creatures older then gods, 20 HD strong, virtually unstoppable, and looking upon them and surviving gains you +1 wisdom for the majesty of their presence. Nidhoggr is trapped in the Dim Fortress and this is supposed to be Baphomael’s throne. It also happens to be the home of King Ovv, a mythical first king who was apparently so much of a dick the gods ‘invented death by old age’ but he got out or something. If you take his sword you will slowly turn into King Ovv, a classic trope that I know from warhammer’s Lucius the Eternal (Warhammer should probably be added to F&M’s appendix N but it should be added to every appendix N ever so it’s cool).
Good concepts with interesting mechanical abilities conveyed poorly.
The worst section involves trolls and ‘Pearlclutchers’ which appear to be some sort of thinly veiled mockery of christians and internet trolls respectively. The Troll, the very creature that supposedly poisoned the language of creation, is turned into a meme to combat the author’s real-life hecklers. A fucking mistake. The Pearlclutchers are one of the few forces of civilization in the Devoured Lands and turning the entire faction into some sort of gross joke undermines the stark tone of the work.
They are worshipped by Pearlholders, who—as the oxpecker bird services the deep folds of the hippopotamus—ecstatically caress the secret places of the trolls’ chapped flesh, rubbing their crust-sheathed appendages with their faces and the white chrism in the fonts of their baptisteria
Being raised from the fiery crucible of hate and trollery that is YDIS, I feel it is my place to inform Zak that in order to defeat the Troll it must be starved of attention, not struck at with inept bitterness in the guise of a roleplaying supplement. Gone is the wit of Red and Pleasant Land Zak, instead we get this tired wraith .
But Prince! you clamor. Red & Pleasant Land had puns too in the form of Insufferable Boors and animated Puddings and other shit. Truth! says I. But the very nature of Red and Pleasant Land was one of whimsy juxtaposed with horror and thus frequent punnery is in harmony with the tone and atmosphere of the rest of the work. Here it is a glaring tonal inconsistency that festers like an open sore.
Part III: Campaign.
The campaign setting itself is a simple 8 by 8 grid-based map with one encounter per hex. At the 11th hour Zak introduces yet another concept; It is groundhog month! For some vague reason the Witches failed to summon Baphomael in time (he can only be summoned one day in a thousand years) and have wrought some sort of enchantment to loop time hoping some interloper will alter the course of events. It is not a bad idea because it means that the campaign has some resilience to the PCs wandering off track but it is ultimately superfluous and the problem could have easily been solved some other way.
A simple timeline of events is provided with major events across the month but annoyingly AND CRUCIALLY no locations are provided. You have a timeloop anyway, why not use that to your advantage and simply map out where everyone is. A simple notation of the relevant hex would have helped immensely.
For anyone keeping track, Red & Pleasant Land also had fucked up time as did Maze of the Blue Medusa. I think we found ourselves another characteristic.
The hex encounters themselves are ho hum. There is good use of correspondence (i.e in a hexcrawl you want one hex to lead you to another hex), a few hooks for mini adventures and interesting locations to discover but the FUCKING WRITING.
A spidering of pink lichen and a dead goat.
Speaking of massacres, this area of the wood contains the home of a lone girl whose family has been slain by leopards or wolves. There is a beetle in the bath and no chairs.
A pile of eyes lies here, tall as a horse, each impaled on a bodkin. It is unclear to whom this message is intended or from whom it emanates, though presumably they know—their friends having returned from whatever they were doing with far fewer eyes or bodkins than they left with.
Two performing dwarfs—Ordo, a tumbler, and Chao, a juggler—are the new occupants of a squat sentry turret carved from the rockside, hung with wolfskin and loaded with snares, provisions, and crossbow bolts. They search the Devoured Land for their companion—a clown named Manheim (see C3).
Two old men walk along a bridge of whitewood and bog iron bisecting the Slith. Neither knows the other is a disguised immortal. They are Onthryn Star-Eater, Lord of botulism and whales and Vystrid Innyrthronde, Maker of all Claws. They discuss politics and the sea.
This is the most autistic hexcrawl I have ever read. It’s got most of the elements of a decent hexcrawl  and Zak clearly understands the requirements of hexcrawling but its just so fucking bizarre and padded with baffling remarks and tonal 180s it is actively irritating to read. The NPCs are placed in a single Hex which makes no sense if you follow the timetable but whatever. There is an encounter that references a Christian King though the nominal setting of the Devoured Land is Vornheim but it’s clear Zak doesn’t really give a shit so neither should you.
I want to be fair to Frostbitten so here are some of the hex encounters I considered at least somewhat decent.
A surveyor lies dead. Worms crawl into him and then out again. His notebook contains a sketch of the location of the tower of the Cold Banner (unlabeled) (see E1), a drawing of a skeleton in a moldy jerkin, and the names of 2 drowning demons.
The witch called Thorn passes through the wood riding her wolf, Lair Abbess on her way to meet her sisters in G8. She will be offended if fellow travelers refuse her gifts of lutefisk and doghead pie, which are, of course, poisoned and will turn them into lemmings.
A fallen clone of King Ovv lies broken on the ice, holding a sword of Ektesvarsk and bleeding a substance like caramelized agate. Herbs found only on Mount Hellebor cling to his sackcloth hem. Harmless.
If you can get past the autism or you reduce it to its basic mechanical components it’s a functional hexcrawl.
Since there is no other place to remark on it I might as well point out the complete lack of environmental rules in a wilderness hex crawl about surviving in a hostile location, even though a time loop means you can just tell everyone what weather it is each day. The only exception is the Avalanche, which is treated as some sort of monster with hit points and shit, and a single instance of Ice Storm on the Random encounter tables.
Part IV: Dim Fortress & Sevenfold Tower
Frostbitten follows in the wake of Red & Pleasant Land, and thus we get two sample adventures. The Dim Fortress is the most important place in the entire setting and finding the entrance to it is the main goal of the quest. Unfortunately it kind of sucks.
The map is essentially a straight line with the occasional branching room on the left or right. There are no obstacles to overcome and all the inhabitants, while unique, are hostile. King Ovv has three video-game esque servants called The Cryptic Trinity which are bizarre undead monsters that Zak says are indescribable so he instructs you to show your players the picture.
“A 50-foot tall grotesquely fat humanoid waddles towards you on spindly goat legs. Its right arm scratches menacingly at its leatherface mask as it brandishes the two sate-forks in its two left hands, preparing to prick you. Your butt puckers as you are overwhelmed by the overpowering smell of gooseberries and cinnamon from its splayed open chest, which reveals several dozen organs that make no sense. You feel an inexplicable yearning for model trains and Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise.”
Again, cryptic can be interesting, but in general if we see something that has no relation to anything else and is not reminiscent of anything else we don’t care. It’s just a random dungeon monster. King Ovv has all the classic trappings of a great bossfight room (water with drowned warriors and King Ogg upon the Darkthrone, sitting upon a Throne of Skulls). Powerful imagery, I assume the fallen warriors before him represent previous contenders, if not, fuck you. Needed MORE description.
Nidhoggr is in a secret trapdoor beneath the water but the placement makes no sense. You follow a tiny corridor that leads to this HUGE room where Nidhoggr has been imprisoned for nine bazzillion years but THE CAGE IS APPARENTLY BRITTLE AND CAN BE RIPPED OPEN IMMEDIATELY. Whaaaaat? Not that it matters since Nidhoggr can’t actually exit the place since she is too damn big for the corridor anyway, meaning Nidhoggr can’t actually exit the place and fight Baphomael should he be summoned. It’s like a junior high Dungeon. Amateuristic.
The other quest tries to recreate ancient myth, which were always weird tests of morality or courage or whatever. The Sevenfold Tower, which has a map which is essentially superfluous but included to not clue the PCs in that it is superfluous. Each PC faces some sort of test that generally involves choosing between something desirable or saving your friend. There is no reason several maps are included based on the number of party members for such a straightforward format but whatever.
After the PCs have passed or failed their tests, an ancient Crone offers a challenge. You must defeat someone of equal stats! Why its an Ulvenbrigad warrior and not your evil double or Fragrach the Mirror-Knight is anyone’s guess but I dig this sort of mythological shit so it gets a pass. Those who passed the test get an ornate vial of holy water worth 2000 sp, those that failed get transformed into animals appropriate to their sin. One very good idea Zak had was to promise the PCs that are turned into animals 2000 roleplaying xp if they ever lift the curse (which supposedly involves some sort of quest and cannot simply be solved with the application of a remove curse spell or break enchantment, sorceries readily available to parties of high level adventurers).
The Sevenfold Tower is a decent idea, the Dim Fortress feels like a tacked on last level for a video game.
Part V; Classes.
Frostbitten introduces two new classes to replace PCs that have died in the Devoured Lands; the amazon and the witch. Both get random abilities each level in a manner similar to the Alice (another resemblance to Red & Pleasant Land).
The Amazon is a ho-hum fighter class. Will likely end up with inferior attack bonus and saving throws but some special abilities. The powers are about on par with 3e fighter feats and are fine if unexceptional. On the plus side, each tribe of Amazons starts out with a bonus ability so there is some customization (other tribes just start play with one random ability).
The Witch is more interesting, though we are left to puzzle out a lot of the mechanics behind her spellcasting. Witches have access to both cleric, wizard and “Witch” spells. It is mentioned they are ‘mechanically’ similar to wizards, so I assume they must prepare their spells. There are instances of Witch scrolls in the hex crawl so I assume they may be learned in this fashion (as well as via level-up). If this is the case, the Witch is the most overpowered spellcasting class ever. On the other hand, the random Witch Abilities and Witch Sorcery traits are fucking gold.
Given 24 hours, you can use your blood and saliva and other secretions to make a potent hallucinogen that lasts 15 minutes
You have the shadow of an animal. Somewhere an animal has yours.
Anyone having sexual intercourse with you will transform into a toad.
Fucking classic. I love it. Frostbitten’s take on witches is great and replaces the white-washed sociology professors of modern witchcraft with some black-metal faery tale nordic shit that was EXACTLY what this setting needed. See? If you make something about weird nordic mythological shit and black metal you should put things in it that reflect that. The spellcasting abilities are even better (and rare as fuck since you are about 68% likely to get a new spell instead). Dream vision, spell turning, no longer metabolizing food normally etc. This is an odd reversal of the pattern thus far established because the Witch has great flavour but is an overpowered bullshit class mechanically. Zak recommends making it a sort of ‘unlockable’ class that can only be picked once a character is slain by witch, which will slow down your campaign turning into a garbage dump fire somewhat (although nothing in Lotfp that the players have access too is really overpowered).
More WITCH spells are added and they are pretty awesome (magic users may also learn them at the GM’s discretion which means they are sort of a quasi-seperate class). Enchant apples so that anyone who eats them becomes your servant, conjure up rimewinds (Snow Women check!), the Hand of Doom which kills with a touch! poison someone’s eye (so that he must now wrench it out) and this:
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Save: vs Magic to negate
Target’s arm falls off
Maybe do a little bit more work on that one next time ey?
Part VI: Misc.
A new metal is introduced (Ektesvarsk) which only exists in the Devoured Lands but since there are approximately two instances of it appearing (King Ovv and his clone have an Ektesvarsk sword) the passage is superfluous. +1 to hit, indestructible and immune to magic. Maybe make Nidhogg’s cage out of that instead of some easily breakable mundane metal?
The only other novel items are drugs, one an amnesiac that is well statted out, the other a halluciogen with a d20 custom hallucination table that is pretty cool.
There is a decent section on how to make a Wilderness Sandbox that kind of conforms with what I figured out running Carcosa through trial and error. It’s inclusion in Frostbitten is therefore a good idea and renders the whole more friendly to newbies. The division between merely passing through an area and actively searching it covered, which is appreciated.
The last twenty pages or so seem to consist mostly of random tables. Some of them are interesting. The idea of bizarre or seemingly impossible quests to break a curse instead of yet another visit to the cleric is interesting (though the GM should take pains to limit the number of curses to prevent THAT from becoming an annoying waste of time). There is some sort of random adventure seed generator that just forms a list of concepts that can now be randomly tied together, thus forming the seed for an adventure, but fuck that shit, time is precious, the average campaign length is probably less then 10 sessions and you owe it to everyone to run the most interesting fucking adventure you can come up with. If you need a random generator for that you will not live.
Incidentally, now would probably be a good time to mention that the Devoured Lands are FUCKING DEADLY and that you face a 32% chance of a (probably hostile) encounter every 2 hours and a 60% chance of an encounter every 2 hours at night. Barring actual fucking shelter, you will not survive. Obligatory random tables to generate rival NPC parties much appreciated btw.
Alright it’s fucking verdict time. Frostbitten & Mutilated doesn’t make the cut even if you are it’s intended audience (if such a thing exists). The illogical or halfbaked nature of the setting is likely to turn off audiences, and even if you are into Norse mythology and Metal I would probably hesitate to recommend it. The award-winning writing is actually it’s most glaring flaw. Frostbitten & Mutilated lacks a consistent tone, is paradoxically both overwritten and reticent to explain or share ANYTHING. It is a potemkin village, it’s interesting facades hide only cavernous emptiness. Almost nothing seems well thought out and thus its occasionally good ideas are buried in an avalanche (hahaah get it?) of disconnected rubbish. The Dim Fortress SUX. The only thing more autistic then Frostbitten & Mutilated is this review.
I feel like we took a step backwards since Red & Pleasant Land and based on the thus far lukewarm reviews, I doubt I am the only one. Try harder. Perhaps you can make some sort of postmodernist campaign setting with a king, three sisters, temporally fucked up shit and too many women? 4 out of 10
Update: Un gentleman du JDR forum de français écrit; Il a la dent (un peu trop) dure mais pas mal d’arguments sont recevables.
On ne peut pas l’aider, mes amies. La vérité est un marteau.
Update: The paleo-goons of SA weigh in (and 10 bucks is a little steep so my commentary here). I try to give everything a fair grilling, even if I dislike it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of the everyone gets a prize mentality and commentator Xotl (Spider Jerusalem) is more or less correct; I am of trollish ancestry but have decided to walk a more constructive path.
Zak’s dedications are always asinine but I will fully cop to that being a personal dislike. It should not take away from the substantial problems with Frostbitten.
I like the grey on grey. I find black on white fucks with my eyes after a while.
The language I employ is both an affectation and a deliberate choice to filter out exactly the type of audience that would find it too offensive. I’m glad some of you can enjoy a good critical review even if we don’t agree that Karl Marx is the greatest dude ever! World Peace/Hammers & Sickles for everyone!
Update: I urge anyone to check out the sperging going on at SA as a cautionary lesson in child-rearing. There is so much pearlclutching, purity testing and outraged huffing and puffing going on at my single contention of disagreement with their pseudo-scientific dogma they are entirely unable to even get to the content of the review. And nary a bant or a well-placed blow, only the impotent shrieking hatred of the perpetually offended. This is why people don’t like you guys. You should have been bullied more when your parents got divorced.
 Cultural Appropriation is a rhetorical term used by marxists to attack artists and creators of perceived different political leanings who utilize any sort of element in their work that can be attributed to another culture. Never used consistently. About as real as Planescape (though not actually as cool).
 My nerd lore in Norse Mythology, my copy of the Mabignogion and the Epic of Gilgamesh and my collection embaressing fantasy novels shall serve as my proof of qualification.
 Destroyer of the Universe, Twilight of the Thunder God et. al.
 Of course in Viriconium the mishmash was deliberate to portray a sort of accumulation of different influences over time and the whole point of the Viriconium sequence was that each part was more of an echo of the other rather then taking part in the same universe. Incidentally, if I were to point to out one major influence on Zak’s writing it would probably be China Mevielle, specifically the Bas-lag series.
 A butchered version of the serpent in Hel that gnaws at the roots of the world tree.
 If we take the correspondence further and do some seat-of-the-pants psychological mumbling, recurring elements in Zak’s work are Three Women, presumably representative of his coterie of harlots and the King, which I believe to be a subconscious representative of Zak himself (based on his avatar). But where the Red King was an awe inspiring figure, secure in his keep and with his Three Brides, here Zak represents himself by King Ovv; a lonely, bitter sentinel that sits alone in a dark hall, largely unconnected to the pivotal events of the plot.
 Interconnected hexes to prompt exploration/decent variety of encounters that do not automatically lead into combat/secrets to discover/navigational hazards/shelters/fetch-quests