May 282012
 

101274[1]

This pdf from Open Design is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 13 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

Since this is a GM-less solo-adventure, I’m not going to give you a run of the whole module or its story and refrain myself to basic information:

Alosar Emanli is a druid and much like his ranger-brethren Elgar Fetch before him, the elf is going through a kind of coming-of-age – in fact, the pdf kicks off with the tests Alosar has to pass to become a full-blown druid. These tests are supervised by his master and thus, the chances of Alosar dying a rather slim, though he may get hurt (and healed). Since the title already gives that away: There is a shooting star and aberrations quell from the fallen star. You master leaves to hold counsel with his druidic brethren and you may find the threat and go after it or follow your master. As with the other “Party of 1”-books, there are two versions of the stats of Alosar, one for level 1 and one for level 2.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are ok, though I still have some things to complain: First of all, the rules-information is printed in red, thus, if you print out the module in b/w, you can’t distinguish the two types of text. Secondly, there’s a problem with the spells: The entry that introduces the player to the prepared spells can be skipped if you fail one of the druid’s tests, which essentially leaves you in the dark regarding your capabilities. The pdf is bookmarked and layout adheres to a 2-column, full-color standard.

Now, If you look at the char-sheet, you’ll notice an absence of e.g. the “burning hands”-spell Alosar is supposed to have prepared, depriving you of a combat option you ought to have. And no, this is clearly not intentional, but a serious flaw in the overall flow of this scenario. It’s also quite fascinating that a LOT of space is wasted on this initiation rite, while the options to deal with the threat almost fall by the wayside and are rather boring. And then there’s the cardinal sin of “Solving the problem by running to your boss”, which is one potential outcome of this module and a no-go of adventure-writing 101. Add to that the fact that beings in the forest don’t respect the main character and in fact hinder his progress and we have a main character that is hard to relate to, an unfortunately rather bland threat and no truly exciting elements like Kalgor’s conspiracy or Elgar’s decisions. Alosar’s adventure not only exhibits a severe flaw in its flow of the narrative, but also is the weakest in terms of story. Thus, my final verdict will be 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Party of 1: Alosar Emanli and the Creatures from the Fallen Star is available from:

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May 242012
 

101675[1]

This pdf from Rite Publishing is 6 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving two pages of content for this no-frills-attached style little pdf, so let’s check it out, shall we?

As with the feats in “Secrets of the Inquisitor”, this pdf provides new feats, which can be used via the inquisitor’s solo-tactics as if they were teamwork feats. The feats are:

  • Anathema Strike: Your bane damage dealt by your weapons can’t be healed by magical means if the target fails a save.
  • Astute Advantage: Lets you make one attack in the first round of combat before initiative, even if you’re surprised, but only with your weapon in your hand.
  • Bane Burst: Makes your bane-attacks work like powerful weapons with the burst-quality regarding your bane-damage.
  • Chastising Stare: 1/day deliver massive penalties via a gaze. If the foe manages to save, the ability is not used up.
  • Instant Judgment: Activate and change judgments as an immediate action.
  • Know Thy Enemy: 3/day if you know a foe’s alignment and succeed at a wis-check, you can get a competence bonus against them.
  • Pronounce Weakness: 1/day you can curse an enemy with a weakness of your choice if it has not already one. If the foe manages to save, the ability is not used up. I LOVE this one, as it encourages smart fighting on behalf of the PCs.
  • Stalwart Determination: 3/day, when your HP are less than con+bab, you can grant yourself temporary hit points to keep on fighting. Cool feat because they’re temporary, otherwise I’d now be complaining about healing surges. With them being temporary, it enables the inquisitor to vanquish a foe and then collapse tragically – narrative gold.
  • Strike down the Liar: The short fluff-sentence says it all: “May the gods strike me down if I’m lie…BOOM” – when you detect a lie, 3/day you can CONJURE A LIGHTNING BOLT from nowhere to strike the liar. This feat is so incredibly awesome in its coolness potential I know one of my players will jump at the chance to take it.
  • Track magic: My absolute favourite of the feats, but this one also provides a challenge for DMs. The feat grants the inquisitor the ability to track magic auras, on-going spells etc., but e.g. not trackless step or dusts of disappearance. Magical discharges work like rain and I can see the a whole range of adventures developing from this feat – a tracker on the PC’s heels forces them to rely on mundane means to hide. A PC inquisitor has to track an otherwise brilliant criminal. What if certain cultists always use a certain spell and it takes the inquisitor to sniff them out before they blow up an aristocratic party?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, though it doesn’t need any at this length. I’m a HUGE fan of Steven D. Russell’s “Secrets of the Inquisitor”, especially due to all the solo-tactics-compatible feats and e.g. the feats that grant a powerful ability that can be used only 1/day, but isn’t wasted if your foe succeeds his/her/its save. This pdf is a logical and extremely cheap sequel to this idea and provides additional oomph for your inquisitor to make them the badasses they were meant to be. That being said, I think that the feats per se are well-crafted, though e.g. “Know Thy Enemy” feels rather weak when compared to others herein. Some of the feats herein are genius – Striking down liars with heaven’s (or hell’s) wrath? Yes, please! And tracking magic is, as mentioned, smart and a stellar example of concise writing – taking such a complex concept and shrinking it down to a feat and have it work is neat indeed. Though I’d love to see a table of sample DCs/magical tracking complications – perhaps in a future Pathways-or AQ-issue? Granted, some of the feats force a DM to be on his guard, but then again, DMs can also use these feats against the players… While the overall power-curve of this one is slightly higher than I like (you know how stingy and conservative I’m regarding that), I’d usually settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, but due to the unbeatable price and awesome ideas, I’m going to settle for the full 5.

Endzeitgeist out.

10 Inquisitor Feats is available from:

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May 232012
 

101376[1]

This pdf from Raging Swan Pressis 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 8 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

Brawls in taverns are among the quintessential iconic experiences of adventuring life and I gladly and fondly recall reading about a certain Cimmerian’s exploits in bars. In PFRPG, though, the overall execution of the bar brawl is problematic – several rarely used rules are utilized in bar brawls, including improvised weapons, unarmed combat etc. This pdf now aims to help beleaguered DMs to run the iconic bar fights, so how does this work?

First of all, we have to get the action started, potentially with one of 20 new barroom brawl triggers and then the action starts – a one-page d%-table provides ample special events to simulate the chaos of such a brawl, including tipped beer kegs, fire etc. Of course, a table of aftermath consequences of such a brawl are provided as well and might make for a variety of adventure hooks.

What’s a brawl without brawlers, though and thus stats for barkeeps, merchants and watchmen are included in the pdf as well. Rather cool, we also get 3 new conditions: Tipsy, drunk and hammered, all three with their progressively increasing bonuses, but also with slowly accumulating penalties. Two thumbs up for these conditions that make scaling between states of drunkenness possible!

Of course, as we all know, brawls are cool because they utilize a variety of taproom features – from kegs to tables to stools, a table deals with neatly-aligned acrobatics and strength DCs for you to consult: Want to know what it takes to overturn a full keg? And which benefits you can get (e.g. higher ground)? Consult the table and you’ll have the Str-DC, acrobatics-DCs etc. all neatly lined up!

The deal is completed by yet another page helping with the most common of improvised weapons, 12 to be precise, ranging from stools to tables and mugs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I’ve come to expect from RSP. Layout adheres to RSP’s elegant 2-column printer-friendly b/w-standard and the artworks provided are neat. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and a printer-friendly extra version. Hell yeah! This pdf is one of the most useful little pdfs out there. Even if you haven’t prepared anything in advance, this little, humble file enables you to run an interesting, exciting bar brawl. The respective rules are concisely presented and the information on the respective components is easy to locate. Were I to utter any form of criticism, then that I would have loved to see more actions with sample DCs (climb up stairs, jump from table to table or head, etc.) and even more events and improvised weapons – to cut my ramble short: I want more! Seeing the extremely low price and the stellar content, I’ll essentially am forced to all-out recommend this stellar little pdf. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a 2-buck file as fun and useful as this one. My final verdict will be 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Barroom Brawls is available from:

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May 232012
 

99562[1]

This pdf from Timeless Adventures is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to ump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! The village of Honningstad is known for their stellar ale and ever since a local brotherhood of monks devoted to oaths has struck a deal with a dragon, an annual tribute of brew has kept the village from harm. Unfortunately for the village, this year is different – the tribute was highjacked by a group of particularly nasty ogres and a hill giant and never reached the dragon. Thus, the brokered oath is broken and the dragon prepares to lay waste to the town- Worse, the benign order of monks actually adhere to a heresy of the belief in the god of oaths and are as evil as it gets, helping the dragon to wreck vengeance. The PCs have a tough choice to make from the start – either try to track down the giant and rescue the people who wanted to deliver the original tribute or venture to the monastery and broker a new deal with the monks and the dragon – in any case, people will die. This Kobayashi Maru-scenario is the basis for this adventure and it uses a clever tool to drive home the importance of time – the scroll of omens.

Almost every action of the PCs that takes up time has a consequence, with a token being moved along the scroll and prophecies/updates of what is happening being relayed to the PCs. This idea is GOLD and the verses are awesome. Depending on the road they take and choice they make, the PCs will have to brave the abandoned elven tree outpost Althair Tulanir (4 levels) and defeat the half-fiendish hill giant Rhott and save the captives . If they instead venture to the monastery (2 larger levels), they will have to defeat the oathbreakers, their bound ghosts and broker a new peace/kill the Fjord Dragon and potentially save Honningstad from devastation.

The pdf also includes an appendix, which details the village of Honningstad and its inhabitants.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are ok, though not stellar – I noticed quite a bunch of editing glitches that could have been prevented, even though none particularly detract from the overall appeal. Layout adheres to a full-color, two column standard with a rune-covered top and bottom. The pdf is rather printer-friendly. The pdf also comes with bookmarks and a map-pack that features high-res jpegs for the maps of the dungeons sans keys, numbers etc. Commendable and cool! However, why no key-less version of the Honningstad-map was provided, I don’t know. The full color maps are neat, btw.! The adventure oozes a somewhat northern flair, which would make it easily insertable into any campaign, but particularly so into any that feature somewhat Germanic/Scandinavian areas. Nomenclature is mostly coherent, though some of the names fall through the roster. Generally, though, the scenario feels organic and well-written. This is essentially Kobayashi Maru for PCs – they can’t win and each choice they make has consequences. Being a huge fan of the “Witcher”-novels and games, I can get behind that – only that I know that my players WILL split the party and might, with the right strategy and luck perhaps even prevail in succeeding at both tasks. While this would be exceedingly tough, almost impossible in fact, it makes for a nice additional possibility… and something a GM has to keep in mind. If your players don’t like no-win scenarios, this one has to be done with utmost care, but if done correctly, may provide for some memorable sessions. All in all, I enjoyed the module and if you think your players can deal with it, this is a good 4 star-module.

Endzeitgeist out.

The Tribute is available from:

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May 222012
 

101163[1]

This pdf from Raging Swan Press is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page information for novice DMs on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 18 pages of content for the latest installment of Raging Swan’s TRIBE-line, so let’s check out these dour dwarves!

The Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel (which btw. comes with environmental information/a city statblock) live in a subterranean fortress built into volcanic caves, toiling away at unfulfilling lives, creating masterfully crafted item upon masterfully crafted item – but with a twist: While they are masters of all kinds of craftsmanship, the grey dwarves also seek to experience true beauty and thus raid the world for charismatic beings – in fact, there’s a whole section that provides guidelines for slavery/ paying for items in beautiful beings.

If you’ve been following the whole TRIBES-series, you’ll know that one can expect some TRIBE-specific rules and this is no different: We get a Sunder Specialist alternate type for the Fighter, 3 rogue talents helping with the duergar’s natural invisibility and stalking capabilities and two focused schools for wizards, the armour and weapon schools. The former can grant you minor DR and add properties to you magic shield, where the second grants access to an energy burst and force weapons. Tribal warfare also gets its due with 7 new feats, many of which are exclusively available to duergar of the obsidian citadel: From extended enlarge-abilities and invisibility to 3 feats that add effects after successful sunder-attempts to a new two-handed weapon defence feat that actually makes for a rather interesting style of combat. The 6 new spells range from reskins/minor modifications of other spells (Obsidian shards deals 1d6 per level damage up to a maximum of 10d6 as a third level spell- in a cone) to a spell that is titled “Greed”, but makes the target essentially view anything valuable as worthless. My favourite spell curses an armour and takes away some of its protective capabilities.

But the truly central ability and quite possibly the one that will make the PCs LOATHE the duergar is their ability to place circumstantial and/or delayed curses on their items: Not only is a feat designed to reflect this capability, but there is actually a whole page devoted to different types of curses for different item catgeories to provide you with sample smatterings if your PC has failed to grovel sufficiently at the feet of the duergar – for there’s also rules to properly reflect how hard it is not to offend the dread masters of the obsidian citadel. Another favourite passage of mine! It should also be noted that 5 different new magic items, from special goggles to a constricting net and a vest that may grapple foes are provided alongside two simple monster templates to reflect constructs made of silver and gold.

And then there are the statblocks. Thankfully, each statblock comes with a version of the statblock to reflect the enlarged version of the respective grey dwarves. We get stats for regular warriors, scouts, captains (including silver horses), a statblock of a sunder specialist, one for the wizards and one for in infiltrators and even one for a golden dire boar.

The true stars of this installment, though, are the fully developed NPCs, each taking up 2 pages and coming with their own, neat b/w-artwork and a most expansive Raging Swan-NPC-treatment, i.e. fully-developed backgrounds: Reigal is an oddball among the duergar: Not only is ha chaotic and belongs to the royalty, he’s also a rogue 3/Sorceror (fey)3/arcane trickster 7 – quite cool and one of my favourite characters to come out of the TRIBES-line. The second is the citadel’s finest weaponsmith, paranoid and xenophobic Kavar Teethgrinder (a more straightforward expert2 /wizard 11).

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pieces of b/w-artwork rank among the most gorgeous yet seen in a TRIBES-supplement. The pdfs come with a printer-friendly version as well as a pdf of collated statblocks for your Raging Swan-NPC-statblock library, still one of my favourite innovations by RSP. The pdfs come with extensive bookmarks. At first, I admit to being slightly disappointed in the duergar of the obsidian citadel – when directly compared to the iconicity of the “Orcs of Eternal Zenith” or the “Bugbears of Frozen Tears”, the dour duergar feel a bit bland. But that feeling thankfully left me rather quick – with the great twist of them being as fine smiths as they are, their craving for beauty and art and especially with the stellar ideas regarding the interactions with the dwarves and their delayed curses turned the whole pdf around. The curses provided and the interaction guidelines more than make up for the spells and feats, which are “only” ok, but nothing to write home about. Add to that the NPCs with their extensive write-ups and we’re in for a quite neat total package. If the line hadn’t put the bar as high as it has, I’d go all out on this one, but since the last installments were as mind-boggling awesome as they were, I’ll “only” settle for a final verdict of 5 stars, but sans seal of approval, as I think they could have been even better with even more iconic metal steeds or e.g. a sample slave auction or a more developed reason for their craving of beauty.

Endzeitgeist out.

Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel is available from:

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May 222012
 

100000[1]

This pdf from Open Designis 109 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 103 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

If you’re like me, the new Open Design is a must and an integral and compulsory drain on my campaign budget and thus, I grew to be more than a fan of the stellar community-driven projects that came out of Open design ever since I stumbled upon it. Thus, this bestiary was essentially a no-brainer I HAD to get. After reading Adam Daigle’s (now of Paizo fame, but known to just about everyone, I gather) introduction and thanks, we jump right into the content with two creatures from “Tales of the Old Margreve” – the disturbing Ala and the woodland Alseids greet me once again from the pages, before we get the first critter that should set a precedent for the imaginative potential herein: The CR 14 Andrenjinyi, direct descendants of the Rainbow Serpent, make for deadly combatants that feature the ability to travel via rainbows. Even cooler, they can swallow foes, baleful polymorph them and regurgitate them after wards. And then, we get one of my favourite entries herein: Baba Yaga’s 3 horsemen Bright Day, Red Sun and Black Night come with a sample statblock as well as one of the best templates I’ve seen in quite a while – have I mentioned their abilities to age you or be banished via just the right spells?

Less epic, but still interesting is the Bagiennik, a strange race of aberration that can heal via their oily secretions and make for unpredictable allies/foes. Fans of Nick Logue’s writing and the stellar OD “Blood of the Gorgon” in particular may rejoice at the conversion of the Blood Hag to PFRPG and the disturbing new artwork provided. Among my personal favourites, the Oculo Swarm is a tangle of acid-squirting, eye-extracting things, while the evil sandmen seek to close your PC’s eyes …forever. The Urochar, also known as strangling watcher, is perhaps one of the most disturbing aberrations I’ve seen in quite a while and at CR 17 is definitely no pushover.

The CR 11 Bone Collective was one of my favourite critters in “Empire of Ghouls” and the subsequent partial reprint in the “Imperial Gazetteer” – for those not in the know: Imagine a humanoid undead that is actually an almost indestructible swarm of bones with a hive-mind. The leaping Bone Crabs are another old acquaintance I enjoyed seeing here.

The CR 2 Broodiken is supremely creepy: Looking like a small babe of the species with a fanged, old face these constructs have to be birthed by their creators. Disturbing indeed! The sonic-blasting Bukavac can be considered a neat alternative for the Destrachan, while the anthropomorphic Burrowlings, who resemble prairie dogs might prove to be interesting allies with a superior grasp on certain teamwork abilities. The beasts of burden of the drakhul-empire and many an underdark civilization are also part of the deal with the Carrion Beetles and the potentially lethal Cavelight Moss also makes a beautiful, but deadly appearance. With the Darakhul and their empire being a part of the canon, we also get stats for these high ghouls, imperial ghouls, iron ghouls and the legendary bonepowder ghouls – one of the creatures that I personally consider awesome. The allied Deathcap myconids also feature in this book

The spellslot siphoning Chelicerae-spider-creatures and the iconic children of the briar (the latter also known from TotOM) provide more earthly foes, while the devilish chorts make for deadly deal-makers at a CR of 15 and their CR 17 Orobas brethren offer infernal advice. Ink Devils, servants to Titivillus, the scribe of hell, also get their revision and the gilded devils in service to Mammon (which you might also recall from a specific KQ/OD…) also see a return. . Part of one of the ODs I have missed (probably Steam & Brass or new, I’m not sure), is the disturbing Automata Devil, which is essentially a hellish clockwork taskmaster.

Very in touch with the folk-background and sense of ancient traditions, the Cikavak is a magical bird that can be called via a ritual detailed in its entry. A bane of the fey, the plant-construct Feyward Tree makes for a truly unique change to the plant+fey-trope with its flaying leaves, while the firebird can be considered to a mortal version of the phoenix. Northlands patrons will recall the Thursir Giants and Valkyries. Goblin sharks and the dust goblins also feature herein, as do the Lich hounds which just may rip your guts out!.

But honestly: What do you think when hearing Zobeck? Bingo, Clockworks! And thus clockwork beetles and swarms, haunts, huntsmen and myrmidons feature just as prominently in these pages. The castoff failures of the gearforged, the Fellforged, also get their own entry, as do the weaving, mechanical spiders of the honourable order of weavers. If you’re going for a more fey-like approach, the Death butterfly Swarm might make for some iconic and disturbing encounters – remember the Fringe-episode “Dreamscape”? Yeah, well these are worse. You can’t even run from these things and once they have you, they may hold you while cutting you to shreds! No less disturbing, possibly even more so, is the Derro Fetal Savant, a prematurely born, mad foetus in an enchanted cage that can exchange souls with potential host bodies. I think this one was part of “Halls of the Mountain King” and it’s great to see this particularly disturbing bugger be converted to PFRPG. More on the cute, but deadly side is the dire weasel and the dogmole. While the latter is so ugly it’s cute again, the derro-created mutation of the Dogmole Juggernaut will send many an adventurer fleeing for their life.

And then there’s one of the coolest critters I’ve seen in quite a while: The Doppelrat resorts to arcane mitosis when stressed out and for 4 rounds when stressed, the number of live doppelrats quadruple up to a maximum of 20 per doppelrat. This critter is pure, iconic GENIUS. If you can’t see the vast multitude of cool ways to freak out players, create seeds etc. with this and create truly disturbing scenarios (Mouse-King of Zobeck, looking at you!), I don’t know which critter can do so.

Fans of dragons and drakes also get their due with the cave (I think that one was also Empire of Ghouls) and mithral dragons and the coral (See Sunken Empires) and the massively powerful CR 15 star drakes, which are to my knowledge, new. Disturbing and rather smart, the Dragonleaf tree are plant-sentinels loyal to their draconic masters. Oh. And the artwork rocks hard!

On the disturbing side, the eel hound, a deep one’s best friend, is included in the book and drowned maidens also feature herein. Will-o’-wisp-like witchlights and sparks are also here to thwart your PCs – e.g. by possessing them!

Golemcrafters also get 3 new creatures, each of which brimming with iconicity – Salt-, Eye-, and Steam golems. All of them featuring more than one signature abilities – great! The disturbing Horakh is a dread version of a cave cricket – the beasts suck the eyes out of their opponents and implant eggs into their victims. Boreas’ Ice maidens, half-merfolk and the Isonade from “Sunken Empires” can be considered among the cooler and more iconic beings from OD-projects.

The Kot Bayun, a magical cat that can cure conditions via their tales and put foes to sleep is another prime example for a creature that can work as an iconic adversary or ally. Devious house-spirits, the horned, crone-like Kikimoras and the Lorelei make for smart fey, while the Leshy, Sap Demon, Suturefly and Zmey (many-headed dragon, btw.) from TotOM complete a selection of stellar creatures with ties to nature. The Shadow Fey also get their write-up here, as does the vulture-like Gypsosphinx.

The hunting Stuhac, a powerful leaper, has the ability to telekinetically hamstring his foes and some neat vermin are included in the book, as are the wharflings – fur-less, ratlike, swarming creatures. My personal favourite little creature at low CRs, btw., would be the Treacle: A shapeshifting, charming ooze that takes on the appearance of e.g. kittens or infants, only to drain your blood while you’re charmed by the cute little bugger.

The pdf also provides lists of monsters by type, by CR, by terrain, by monster-roles, almost two pages of re-skinned monsters and closes with 2 pages of encounter tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – I didn’t notice any obvious glitches. Layout adheres t a 2 column full-color standard and the pdf is BEAUTIFUL. The artwork provided show that they belong to different projects with some being b/w while others are full color, but overall they have in common their top-tier quality. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. I can’t comment on the print version yet, though I’ve ordered it – as soon as I get my hands on it, I’ll let you know. Adam Daigle + Monsters. If that does not make you twitch with anticipatory glee, the you probably haven’t read one of his books. Even better, many of the creatures from the no longer available Open Design projects that were 3.5 have now finally been updated to the PFRPG system and what an update – signature abilities abound and in fact not ONE of the creatures herein feels like filler. Not one. From the expertly done conversions (by Adam Daigle, Chris Harris, Michael Kortes, James McKenzie, Rob manning, Ben McFarland, Carlos Ovalle, Jan Rodewald, Adam Roy, Christina Stiles, James Thomas and Mike Welham) to the great and smooth graphic design by Marc Radle and the neat artworks, this bestiary feel like a true premium work.

While I endeavoured to tell you about some of the creatures herein, I quickly started to realize that I liked all of them. And no, I haven’t mentioned every creature herein, I have e.g. not mentioned the leech vomiting putrid haunt… Well, now I have.

If I have to criticize anything about this pdf, it would be the format: While I applaud the update of as of yet unconverted beasts to PFRPG from ODs that have been unavailable to the general public, I would have loved for ALL of the creatures to be updated – the “Mother of Gorgons” for example, is absent from this book. The monsters reprinted from the Imperial Gazetteer, Sunken Empires, Northlands, TotOM and other sources that already are PFRPG also feel rather unnecessary – after all, these books can still be bought, are up to the current rules and are rather affordable. If the aim was to collect all monsters in one book, I would have understood the reprints, but there are quite a bunch of beasts missing, including the iconic Ljósálfar and the Nightgarms, just to name two. While I guess they can still be included in the second Midgard Bestiary, I would have loved either all of the creatures to feature or at least have e.g. all creatures from e.g. the closed ODs to feature herein.

One can’t have everything, I guess, but complaining about this should give you an inkling of how good this bestiary is – I lack any reasons to complain apart from the recycling of PFRPG-monsters from other OD-books and seeing the amount of unavailable 3.5 project-creatures and original monsters herein, even that is not enough to tarnish the bestiary. Being a stellar monster-book, my final verdict will be 5 stars, but I’ll omit my seal because with all the OD-books I already have, I would have preferred more original monsters or a complete collection.

Endzeitgeist out.

Midgard Bestiary is available from:

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May 192012
 

101733[1]

This pdf from Purple Duck Games is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 26.5 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

We all know the feeling: The Pcs return to town, look around…and instead of well-rounded NPCs, a beleaguered GM has to improvise a badly-conceived standard NPC whose name he forgets until the next session. Purple Duck Games’ latest offering seeks to remedy that by providing new NPCs, at least in the first half of the book.

The NPCs herein thus reign from a soothsayer/diviner that tries to cold-read people instead of using her true power to bored bards and alchemist barkeeps. Cr-wise, the NPCs range from Cr 1 to 8 and all come with full stats for you to use. A total of 12 NPCs are provided and all of them come with quite extensive additional information, somewhat similar to what Raging Swan tends to provide for NPCs, but going even beyond that: Each entry comes with services the character can provide for the PCs, a boon if they are on good terms, information on starting attitude and personal prejudice, a write-up of the overall impression, on the personality of the NPC, the background and a kind of adventure seed in the form of gossip about the respective individual. There are also multiple boxes detailing bits and pieces of Purple Duck’s upcoming Porphyra-setting, which can be easily ignored, but make for interesting bits and pieces, if you care to read them. More impressively, each of the NPC-entries comes with a high-quality full-colour artwork – something I definitely didn’t expect at this low price-point. Great to have these mug-shots to show to your players!

But we all know it: You can create as many NPCs as you like, you’ll still have to improvise sooner or later. To help with these instances, we get 2 pages of d%-tables for appearance, personality, origin elements and motives to randomly generate NPCs.

The second larger section of the book provides us with 4 sample settlements: From the almost lawless frontier-town of Rusty Waters, to the encampment of the halfling quickstep clan to the hidden elven town of Illuriel and the academic town of Rexton, these settlements provide a background against which the new NPCs can be used and come with full settlement statblocks, which are also explained in detail. This section also provides quick and dirty rules to call for the guards and 8 qualities for settlements. More importantly, each of the settlements gets a STUNNING full-colour artwork that immediately evokes a sense of intrigue.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed some minor punctuation glitches in e.g. the settlement write-ups. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly 2-column standard and the full-colour artworks by Gary Dupuis are awesome, especially for the price! The pdf also comes with bookmarks. This pdf’s premise is to provide memorable NPCs and it delivers – while the individual NPCs use some of the stereotypes common in fantasy, they all add some kind of spin via the gossip-section or other components of the write-ups. The friendly barkeep? He’s a dwarven alchemist who might be drugging beautiful females. The stern, xenophobic, prude priestess? She once worshipped a deity of revenge and seduction. You get the idea. The random NPC-generation-table is neat and the settlements are well-presented. However, in spite of the gorgeous artworks, this pdf felt like it lacked something: While the NPCs have some nice twists to the tropes, they still adhere rather closely to what you’ve probably seen before – some more far-out ideas and perhaps even unique qualities/services would have been awesome. The section on town statblocks is ok, but I would have loved to see some new settlement qualities or additional hooks – more information on the settlements would have been nice. Don’t get me wrong – this is a good purchase at the low price and provides what it delivers, but overall, I still feel that the pdf falls short of what it could easily have become. Combine that with the minor glitches and I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, which I’ll gladly round up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Memorable Townsfolk is available from:

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May 162012
 

100975[1]

The fifth installment of Raging Swan Press’s „So what’s for sale…“-Series is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 13 pages of content, so let’s check out what exactly we get here!

The pdf kicks off with two tables of the items herein, the first being organized by price and settlement size, while the second is organized by slot of the intelligent items contained herein. Yep, intelligent items – which implies uniqueness, so are these items up to their supposedly iconic roles?

Immediately, the difference from other installments of the series becomes apparent – instead of a variety of lists, we get rather complex rite-ups of the respective magic items. These notes contain not only descriptions, the true names of the items and lore-sections, but also often at least some kind of idea/plot-seed to introduce them to your campaign. The items range from cantankerous/annoying to truly benign and have their own abilities – which they of course can use at their own discretion. Some of the prompts for the abilities are neat – a particular glaive, for example, wants to be stroked, while a rod of wonders turns out to be truly malicious and adept at calming emotions.

The magic items run the gamut of alignments and several of them actually have the power to conceal their magical nature. Even better, they tend to provide interesting angles and come in unconventional forms – there’s e.g. a sapphire, a socialite’s hand band and even a gruesome corset made from the remains of good humanoids.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect, as I’ve come to expect from RSP: There’s e.g. a typo „wickeT“ which should read „wicked“ and I noticed some similar glitches. While not enough to impede my enjoyment of the pdf, it still is something I feel I had to share. Layout adheres to RSP’s classic two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with two fully bookmarked versions – one intended for the printer and one for screen-usage. I really like the direction the series takes with this pdf – going from simply providing lists of magic items for communities, this on eis actually a magic item book in disguise, that, while still providing information on where they can be bought, does so as almost an afterthought in favour of all the original content herein. The items are smart, come with interesting abilities and form and a lot of cool details. However, you should be aware that e.g. no sample settlements are included in this particular installment, as the focus is simply a different one. If you’re aware that you’re in for a book of interesting magic items with their own intelligence, this pdf will definitely suit your tastes. However, I’m not sure whether it can be truly considered a part of the core-line of „So what’s for sale…“-pdfs and instead should be considered to be „So what’s that intelligent magical item like?“. Apart from that and the very scarce glitch, I have nothing to complain, though. Overall, I love how this installment is brave, expands the focus and provides quality content and thus will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

So What’s For Sale, Anyway? V is available from:

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May 052012
 

Forest for the Trees

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! After having braved the burial mound of the Loi’Tok in Champion’s Rest, the PCs are recruited to take a look at a logger’s camp – not in the deadly Dark Woods, btw., but in the more hospitable west wood. Unfortunately, though, the Klavekian logging enterprise there also has some problems – the loggers have been warned by eerie winds and now the PCs are to look into the matter. On their way across the snow-covered fields, the characters are harassed by a pixie and her harmless shenanigans (via a new spell, btw.) and potentially annoyed, they finally reach the logging camp, only to be accosted by rather hostile, grumpy, soaked and unfriendly loggers who want to take up their work again. Hopefully, the PCs can calm down the rather unpleasant men and then be on their way to find out what the scoop is all about – possibly with an unfriendly, cocky lumberjack as an added liability and complication. It should also be noted that a whole page of hand-drawings details logging equipment to help the players and DM envision the equipment. Neat!

At a clearing, the PCs get a good glimpse on the repercussions of the logging operation – the ceaseless logging has actually destroyed a swath of the forest and made a pond a place of death, inhabited by one last diseased scrag, now hungry due to lack of food and rather aggressive. The desolation of this place, contrasted with the abundant wildlife and beauty of other parts of the pdf makes for a great way to drive home that the issues between the factions here are not simple. The great Hamadryad, a huge tree flanked by 6 lesser fey-trees provides the PCs with an ultimatum: Leave the forest, take the loggers with them or die.

If they complete 3 quests, she’s willing to talk further to them. The first quest has the PCs travel to a local tribe of Kobolds to acquire pickled fish. Only, the kobolds are starving and have resorted to killing a man and have actually eaten him. Whether the PCs manage to find the fish-bones and save the bones of the dead townsman, with or without violence, they’re off to the next place. In the pixie-village the PCs have to find, they are caught and tickle-tortured by the small benevolent fey, for they are losing their magical powers and don’t know why. And finally, the PCs are supposed to find a brownie-village. Here, the module becomes downright depressing and provides a vision of desolation – the tiny village has been crushed by the logs and redirected flow of water to transport the lumber. Now, only 3 confused undead brownies remain, to potentially fight the PCs or be laid to rest and carried to the great hamadryad.

Upon their return, the negotiations are re-opened, but without the 6 lesser dryads at the ready. It is here that the PCs will have to make a weighty decision: Do they negotiate with the wood’s guardian and get the lumber for the village and then have them evacuate the woods? Do they attack the guardian? There are also the lumberjack and a pixie as additional complicating factors to take into account…and then there’s the fact that here, there are no right choices, only consequences for both this part of the world and the PCs. If they heed the ancient Hamadryad, they preserve the sanctity of the forest, but at the cost of unemployed loggers and a stifled growth of the Klavekian colony. If the PCs kill the guardian, they will have secured work and growth for the Klavekians, but the wood will slowly die and whither to give way to a desolate wasteland. And violence by the dryads, who stand ready to attack the camp and the angry lumberjacks who may have followed the PCs is also a real possibility. I love this non-linear climax with real consequences and without any clear-cut good and evil solutions and the option to come to a solution which in the long way, prove to be a good compromise for both factions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: There e.g. are instances of homophone errors here and there (fair/fare, for example). Layout adheres to a full color, two column standard and the artworks are ok. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks, herolab support, but not a printer-friendly version. Generally, I did enjoy “Forest for the Trees” in that it takes a classic conflict of nature vs. civilization, shows how the conflict can influence those involved without pointing fingers and provides the PCs with a chance to make a real difference. While not per se a perfect adventure or a revolutionary one, I did enjoy reading this adventure – the writing is excellent. All in all, I did enjoy the adventure, though the price is a bit high for the page-count when compared to similar modules by other 3pps. If you like Rybalka, you’ll love this first option to make a major decision and influence the future of the mini-setting and while I did very much enjoy this decision and the way in which the adventure handles its topics, I have to take into account that the module is light on art when compared to other, is not that long for the price and comes with rather sparse maps when compared to FGG, TPK Games or the Headless Hydra-modules and in direct comparison, feels a bit short. My final verdict can thus be “only” 3.5 stars, which however, I’ll gladly round up to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Forest for the Trees is available from:

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May 052012