When players sit down to create characters for an adventure path, it helps to have an idea what the adventure path is about and what kinds of characters will best fit in. After all, if you create a swashbuckling pirate character and the campaign ends up set entirely in a desert without a sailing ship or water in sight, you might be just a little disappointed. The campaign will likely end up not being much fun as a result. With some adventure paths, this is more of a concern, as they have specific themes or centre around specific locations. This is why there’s a player’s guide to accompany each adventure path.
Reign of Winter is a very linear adventure path. One event leads into the next in a somewhat preordained manner, and given its constant movement from one location to the next, there’s not a lot of opportunity for the PCs to stop and do their own thing. There’s certainly no opportunity for side quests. For this reason, characters need to be well-suited for what’s ahead, and their backgrounds need to reflect their abilities (although there are otherwise very few restrictions on appropriate character backgrounds and origins). The Reign of Winter Player’s Guide helps players create such useful characters, and it accomplishes this quite admirably.
Like the guides for all adventure paths, by necessity, the Reign of Winter Player’s Guide must include a few minor spoilers for the campaign ahead—namely that, although it doesn’t start in a cold climate, it very quickly moves to one and remains in cold climates for pretty much the entire campaign. It’s important that characters be equipped to survive and excel in the cold. The guide offers a number of suggestions for character types and archetypes that would fit into the campaign well, such as the winter mystery for oracles or the winter witch archetype for witches. Players may notice that this does create an odd sort of dichotomy since the campaign begins in the warm lands of Taldor, yet the characters are strangely optimized for cold climates and, to a small extent, this may ruin some players’ sense of verisimilitude. This is particularly true for a character with the winter witch archetype (and possibly aiming for the winter witch prestige class) as that would be a character from Irrisen (or having spent a significant amount of time in Irrisen) somehow being in Taldor only to end up in an adventure taking him/her back to Irrisen. But this is a pretty minor thing and it’s easy to ignore the rather convenient coincidence of a bunch of cold-optimized characters all arriving in Taldor at just the right time.
The guide also makes suggestions for language choices and advises that ranks in Linguistics will be useful. This is something I hadn’t thought of, but it’s a wise inclusion, and is a good demonstration of the usefulness that these player guides can provide.
The campaign traits are fairly straight-forward. When it comes down to it, the characters’ backgrounds before the beginning of the campaign will have little impact on the campaign itself. Once the adventure path starts up, it really doesn’t matter what the PCs did before or where they came from. As such, the campaign traits provide some abilities that will be useful, but they aren’t necessarily essential. It would be easy to create characters that work well in Reign of Winter without taking any of these campaign traits. Still, there’s nothing bad about them either.
The guide then gives an overview of Heldren, the town where the adventure path starts out. Since PCs aren’t necessarily expected to be residents of Heldren—and they certainly won’t be staying there very long—the overview is understandably quite brief. For players with characters who come from Heldren, it recommends speaking to the gamemaster for further information about the town (The Snows of Summer contains a full write-up on Heldren for gamemasters).
After this, there is a “Cold Weather Primer”, which handily summarizes the game rules regarding cold and weather effects so that players don’t have to flip through the Core Rulebook to find them each time they’re needed.
The final section of the guide contains “Additional Class Options”. The winter witch archetype and winter witch prestige class are reprinted here from their original sources (Inner Sea Magic and Paths of Prestige respectively—the prestige class does contain the corrections to the misprinted table in Paths of Prestige), and there is a table of Arctic gear. However, the most interesting part of this section is the expanded list of animal companions and familiars that will be best suited to the Reign of Winter adventure path. There are several new familiars (including Arctic hares, lemmings, puffins, and more), as well as the game stats for each of them.
Overall, the Reign of Winter Player’s Guide does its job well. It helps players make characters that will work well in the Reign of Winter adventure path, and you really can’t ask for more than that!