Weird New World is the second adventure module included in James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Intended for characters of levels 4-7, it's an adventure intended, like Tower of the Stargazer, to serve as an introduction and model for novice players and referees, this time not of a dungeon but of a wilderness area. Consequently, Weird New World is much less straightforward, being more of a "framework," to use Raggi's words, rather than a completely ready-to-run scenario. It's in this that I think both the module's virtues and vices can be found.
Weird New World is a 28-page staplebound booklet. Thankfully, it returns to the "classic" Raggi layout: two columns of dense text with most illustrations filling an entire page. The interior black and white artwork is by Kevin Mayle and is quite moody and effective. Mayle's cover piece is a little less so but I think that has more to do with its being in color than any technical flaws on the part of the artist. The cover itself is detachable and unfolds to reveal a large hex map of the northern region where Weird New World takes place. There are also two smaller maps of locations keyed on the hex map. All of these maps are clear and useful, the hex map especially so, as it shows not only terrain features but also climatic zones. I should also note that I found the module's title on the cover a little difficult to read, because of its placement. It's a small point, admittedly, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
Because Weird New World is a wilderness module, it lacks even the thin plot that many such products possess. That's a perfectly reasonable approach and certainly a traditional one. I have no complaints about this myself, but, as an introductory scenario intended for beginning players and referees, I'm not sure it was the best one. Consider that The Isle of Dread, a similarly introductory wilderness adventure module, provided some structure for its contents. For that matter, so did the recently-reviewed A Trick on the Tain, which also coincidentally takes places in the frozen north. As an experienced referee, I don't need such structure but I imagine that novices would and it's for them that Weird New World was written.
That criticism aside, the module is nevertheless full of cleverness and imagination. Great emphasis has been placed on the effects of weather, with simple rules and guidelines for determining weather conditions and their severity. Similar care is shown to random encounters, which highlight not only the dangers of the far north but also its oddities, such as desperate whales trapped in the ice, uncharted islands, shipwrecks, and even living aurorae. Raggi once again demonstrates his inventiveness, providing plenty of fuel for exciting events as the characters explore the boreal wilderness of Weird New World.
The keyed encounter areas of which there are 40 are a mixed bag. Many of them are well done, providing just enough information and ideas to let the referee develop them further as he sees fit. Others are fleshed out in greater detail, right down to maps with individual encounter areas of their own. Others still consist of just a paragraph or two of suggestive prose. Taken together, Raggi succeeds in presenting a stark, unforgiving environment, filled with danger and mystery. However, there are occasions where I think the weirdness of certain areas, most notably one of the two fully-detailed ones, is overdone and to no good purpose. Raggi is justly praised for his ability to conjure up "dread of outer, unknown forces," in the phrase of Lovecraft, and Weird New World is full of such moments. What it lacks, though, is a strong enough counterbalance of normalcy, places and people where things genuinely are what they seem.
The weirdness in Weird New World is thus overpowering at times and, while some will no doubt argue, perhaps Raggi himself chief among them, that that's the whole point of the module, I'm not convinced that this had to be so. Indeed, I think the module might have been better if its weirdness were less extensive and inexorable. As presented here, the weird is so ubiquitous that it could become tedious -- "Ho-hum, another abandoned shrine/castle/cave/ship that fills our souls with unease and threatens our bodies with death." I don't mean to be flippant; Weird New World is a good wilderness adventure and one that's got lots of little touches of which I approve wholeheartedly, like the ancient dwarven oil rigs and the frozen stonehenge. Any one of these things things could easily have served as the basis for an adventure in itself and that speaks volumes about Raggi's ability to elicit creativity in others, but, taken together, I found all the weirdness overwhelming at times, but I admit that's a personal criticism and not necessarily a knock against the module itself.
A more damning criticism, I think, is that it fails as an introductory module. Unlike Tower of the Stargazer, there's very little in the way of referee advice or suggestions. Newcomers might therefore be unsure of what to do with such an open-ended and structureless module as this, especially when most of the encounter areas demand extensive elaboration by the referee before they can be easily used in play. Were Weird New World not written with the novice in mind, I don't this would be a problem and I'd probably be cheering at Raggi's willingness to offer up such an "unfinished" module for our delectation. So I find myself in the difficult position of saying that Weird New World is a good, if flawed, wilderness adventure module that I like a great deal, even as I must also admit that one of its biggest flaws is that its intended audience will probably find it difficult to use.
Presentation: 7 out of 10
Creativity: 7 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for an unusual wilderness module that demands you build upon the author's own work in order to use it fully.
Don't Buy This If: You don't like wilderness modules and/or prefer that your modules be more "ready to run."