Thanks for responding Thomasvp! I am jealous of all the activity on the German side of the forums.
I just want to reiterate that my problems with the adventure are more "nit-picks" or small irritations rather than game-breaking issues, so I do not want to sound too negative.
- I think the main issue with the text arrangement in the game is that it is written more in a linear style with the three main chapters as opposed to a more usable location break-down. For example, when the party is dealing with Jadewine the Huntress and her hunting shack, there are two or three different text passages that discuss the shack and Jadewine in the book and I have to flip back and forth and look at the sidebar to know what type of plants are growing there and the total contents of the hut. (And this is important because the plants and items are clues to the adventure, and there is a real possibility to the players visiting the hut two different times.) I think the text would have been more usable if everything was listed by location (Grain Room Tavern, Smithy) and then each location had notes about what the village characters are doing at different points in time. This is because the players might investigate something early in the narrative that has important details discussed later in the pages of the book.
For example: when the village tithe box first goes missing, the players want to investigate Priaonde's wardrobe where the box was kept to check for clues. I told the players that there was no trace of anything to find (because there is nothing mentioned in the early text). Only later in the book (after the players have to break into the temple) does it mention that there is are rat droppings close to the wardrobe. I could have used that clue earlier, but didn't remember it. Typically, when I GM a game, I like to thoroughly read or outline the adventure and then reference the books as little as possible at the table. I only look at lists or combat stats when called for. For last session, I printed out the "stat-blocks" of all the possible combat encounters and pasted them into my notebook so I could have a writable area for all the combat when it happens.
- My gaming group and I have played a lot of different RPGs and I don't think it was my players inability to interact or ask questions, or my inability to set a flavorful scene in the session. I think that there is just so much "GM-facing" story information without quite enough play events given to get that story to the players. The story is really good, it just needs a way of presenting itself to the players "in-play". Here is what I would do in the beginning.
- Guneld the tavern keeper is a key part of the adventure and it mentions how she is one of the main foundations of the village of Oldenbridge. But there are no events in the story that show her as being very important to the village. Priaonde the Blessed One is the other pillar and leader of the community and she has two scenes showing her leading the villagers at the temple and commissioning the players. This establishes her as vital to the village. I would give Guneld a scene of curing Irmi the injured shepherdess, and actively bossing around villagers. Perhaps she could lead a meeting for calm after the tithe box has been stolen to soothe the panicked villagers. This way, Guneld's betrayal will have more of an emotional impact.
- There are a bunch of Kosh folk-tales, rumors, and menu items at the tavern that build flavor for the story. I would have a drinking contest in the tavern where the players have to exchange tall tales and stories with the villagers. This way the players have to make stuff up and the Kosh folk tales can all come out. Make it a specific event and work it into the game. Also make a game out of squeezing rumors from the villagers. Perhaps every time the players buy a new item of the menu to share, they get a rumor. General roleplaying and talking to characters is effective but I think with all the information presented in the tavern at the beginning (admittedly optional) I think it is good to build in game challenges and events top draw it out.
- I wrote all the names of villagers down in my notebook for quick reference and I wrote all the characters names on index cards with colored marker and short description that the players could share in the middle of the table. That way all the NPCs could be referred to by name instead of "the lumberjack" or "the innkeeper" . I would also have the two families that were stolen from have a more active role as background and red herrings (Oakenbush?). This kind of fleshes out the village as a community.
- I do understand the hell-bear is a great threat to the villagers in the story, and it makes for a heroic victory worth celebrating. BUT, it also could very easily kill off a couple players if the party group is not large enough or does not have the right mix of characters. Once again it is a matter of good story, but difficult to play with. It seems particularly odd since it seems to be the most dangerous encounter in the adventure, but is at the very beginning, of a "beginner" adventure. Hard for a new GM to judge that threat. I don't think it would have been bad to include stats for a slightly less-vicious bear along with the big one. (It is also odd that that encounter is the only one without the red and green difficulty/challenge sidebar to advise to make it easier.)
Overall, I think the adventure is a good story with a lot of character and flavor to offer. My comments are just little things that I would rearrange to make the book more usable in play and not just reading. My group has played two more sessions that went more smoothly and we left on the cliffhanger of the Blessed One of Priaos going missing in the morning.