The Bitter Reach Review

The Bitter Reach - Free League Publishing
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Game title: The Bitter Reach

Game description: In the southern lands, elders speak of cold storms from the north. Cursed voices borne on the icy winds whisper of secrets from ages past that would plunge realms and kin into ruin if only someone could understand these ancient words. They are the desperate confessions of the lost. They are the legends of the Bitter Reach. Deep beneath its frozen surface, creatures told of only in the oldest of legends dwell. They guard treasures that can give their owner power beyond their wildest dreams, treasures that could lay waste to the Bitter Reach if they were found. And the treasures will be found, sooner or later, so why shouldn’t they be yours to claim?

  • Play (Mechanics)
  • Presentation (Art/Quality)
  • Plan (Rules)

Full The Bitter Reach Review

North of Ravenland lies The Bitter Reach, an icy, lawless domain and one of the coldest places in existence. For over 3000 years, it remained untamed and unchanged. Now, that’s about to change. The Bitter Reach greatly expands Forbidden lands in its 200+ pages containing new magical disciplines, monsters, items lore, and the Wake of the Winter King campaign.

More than just a campaign setting, The Bitter Reach contains so much more, most notably the Elemental Magic and Ice Affinity disciplines. That’s 22 new spells in total. Then, of course, is the lore. Containing information on The Bitter Reach and the politics concerning it, travel to and from it, and so much more. It’s all a great read, and it’s hard to put it down once you start flipping through the pages.

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The Bitter Reach is cold, dangerous, and amazing

Also included in the book is the new Champion profession, along with new general and profession talents. There are 40 new random encounters, eight new monsters, ten new adventure sites, and expanded rules for travel, including snow, cold, and fuel. The Bitter Reach is a brutal, untamed place. The cold is a constant factor the players must consider with every action, and warm areas are few and far between. Travel to The Bitter Reach is also not easy and is almost as dangerous as the land itself.

The campaign is well thought out and breathes life into the world explained beforehand in the book. It leaves plenty of wiggle room for the GM while making sure every encounter is memorable and serves a purpose. The entire 29 pages contain encounters, puzzles, and unique NPCs. It’s deadly, but would you expect anything less from Forbidden Lands?

Traveling in the snow in much more deadly

The physical book is a marvel as well. The textured, matte cover is covered in its entirety with fantastic artwork, and the interior pages are thick and filled with the same style black and white artwork that the previous books were. The layout and print are just as easy to read in the PDF version as they are in the printed text, and the slightly smaller size of the physical book feels great in the hand while reading.

The Bitter Reach is a book that contains almost as much information as the core books, and even though it’s optional, it is a must-have for Forbidden Lands players. The book comes in at around $41.43, while the bundle containing the book, map, stickers, and cards is approximately $47.38. There’s absolutely no reason not to snag the bundle, as the map is an excellent addition to the game, allowing the GM to layout The Bitter Reach as they see fit with the included stickers.

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So much awesome

The Bitter Reach and Forbidden Lands, in general, is not for everyone. It emphasizes the GM being able to take information and run with it. Being a narrative system, the Year Zero Engine contains tons of wiggle room that fans of crunchier RPGs might find intimidating. Though vague in places, it’s a rewarding endeavor for the GM looking to weave a web of danger in the freezing wastelands.

Forbidden Lands was a Platinum Pawn winner in 2019, and The Bitter Reach is just as great as you’d expect a Free League product to be. My only hope is that Free League expands the world in such quality books as this.

A copy of The Bitter Reach was provided free for review by Free League Publishing

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