Feb 262013
 

106054-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

The revised edition of „The Dark Totem“ clocks in at 37 pages (more than double the content we got before), with 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

From the Get-go, if the page-count was not clue enough, we realize that this has not that much to do with its first iteration – designed for the Awesfur setting, the module should nevertheless make for an easy plug and play module into just about any campaign. To help the DM with the respective fluff, we are first introduced to the basics of the the setting – essentially, the backdrop of this module, the city of Varatolo, is located in the Wyldelands, a kind of river kingdomesque collection of fiefdoms and small kingsoms, with dangers lurking everywhere. Varatolo as a town stands out due to housing a rather famous Wizard Academy and is also governed by the academy’s prime wizard – a meritocratic magocracy, if you will. (If you’re scavenging as much in the world of 3pps, why not make the town a colony of Headless Hydra Games’ Mor Aldenn?) In contrast to its first iteration, we thus are introduced in broad strokes to the city’s districts (have I mentioned the full city statblock?) and fluff and to the Blind Basilisk – the tavern that will be a home away from home for your player characters. Named for Bessie, the tame, blind pet basilisk that is the tavern’s mascot, the tavern itself now comes to life, with the triangle of the half-orc proprietor/bar-tender, the dwarven morning maid and the beautiful waitress offering three interesting short write-ups. Not content with just providing a fluffy backdrop, we also get a FULL MENU for the tavern (!!!!) as well as a new piece of local color: As a drunken game, there is Gnome Toss and it’s exactly what you’d think it is – local gnomes let themselves be thrown by others as a kind of competitive sport and yes, betting is going on! Very cool, indeed, especially since we get crunchy rules for this nice tavern game.

Speaking of gnome toss – the adventure kicks off in gnome toss-night, when a distraught farmer interrupts the hijinxs – his son, inexplicably fascinated with a ruined chantry, has gone missing and he needs someone to enter the notorious place and rescue his boy. Once a bastion of the good faith of Galayne, this keep houses a totem, in which a dread demonic entity lingers, watching and waiting – it once almost succeeded in going free, when it tempted a twisted man called Caleb Sutter to murder the clergy after posing as a man in need. Ever since then, its vile siren-call sought to enthrall those nearby, but the overnight haunting has left it isolated – until a boy with a spark of evil in his soul answered the call…

10 miles from town, the keep awaits the PC’s exploration and OH BOY. The outside of the keep is now studded with collapsed ankheg-tunnels, lending a sense of desolation to the keep and when in a small shack outside the PCs may find the remains of a bum tortured to death (again, with skill-check DCs to determine more information), it should become apparent that they are in for a dangerous endeavor. The keep now also features a full-color map and exploring the decayed keep with its evidence of violence and all the details and pieces of information (even the privy yields hints!) is interesting and can actually be quite tense. Caleb, now turned undead ghouls rogue with his small pack stalks the halls and while he may show up in his room, he and his mates react dynamically to e.g. PCs trying to operate the keep’s now ruined pumping system, making the encounters stand out as much more dynamic and believable, but they are not the only threats to be found in this place – a hobgoblin priest of the god of tyrants (also, like Galayne, featured as a brief write-up) acts an agent for a force far worse and while neither he, nor the bugbear brothers that also lair in the place have managed to breach the vault that contains the totem until the PCs enter, they do guard a pit in which little Kristof can be found. Inside the safe, the dread totem prison waits and will feature in the modules to come. Have I by the way mentioned the extremely cool haunt that can be found in the keep’s smithy?

Beyond that, we get the cleric’s spell-selection relevant for battle in the appendix, making the skipping of books unnecessary as well as a cool handout, excerpts from Caleb Sutter’s increasingly maddening diary – VERY cool! Even better, we get 5 pages of blown-up maps for use with miniatures, in full color, that cover each of the combats in the module. Again, two thumbs up!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout deserves special mentioning – whereas the first iteration of this module suffered from the worst layout I’ve ever seen, it actually now is rather pretty and functional – a brownish background, red headers etc. make this easy to read, with relevant skill-checks in bold print, an easy-to-read font and both village statblocks, haunts and stats coming in the required format. The pdf is also bookmarked for your convenience and comes in two versions – the second one being background-less and easier to print out. The maps, while not stellar, cover the locale in full color and the blown-up versions are a great bonus indeed – in any way vastly superior to the first iteration of maps. If I had to complain about one thing, it would be that there’s no number-less version of the overview map and as a second, lesser gripe that the pdfs are rather big – clocking in at approximately 50 mb each. But these both are minor concerns.

WOW. You rarely see me non-plussed anymore these days. In a way similar to the first offerings of Adventureaweek.com and TPK Games, Rocks Fall Games has improved, but honestly, I wouldn’t have deemed it possible to see them improve THIS MUCH, for, to be honest, in contrast to AaW and TPK Games, they at first had NOTHING going for them. There literally was NOTHING I would have considered good about their first offerings.

Whereas the original version of this adventure was inept and amateurish, abysmally bad even, this revision of the module can be accused as neither of these. Learning from their mistakes at a staggering pace, the crew from Rocks Fall Games has: 1. Revised layout so it doesn’t suck anymore. 2. Added bookmarks, serviceable maps and a printer-friendly version. 3. Expanded the content. And it is here the pdf shines. Whereas in the first version, the module was generic and static, it now feels organic, alive, sports a level of detail almost on par with Raging Swan Press-offerings, a hand-out even. Where in the original, the adversaries were generic, name-less blocks of numbers, they now come alive, the chantry keep breathing its own brand of decaying splendor and tragedies long past. While here and there, especially in the setting-introduction, the writing still falters a bit, overall it has improved to a point where I almost felt it hard to believe that the same persons are responsible for the module. Comparing both versions back to back, I almost got whiplash, so pronounced is the jump in quality.

Now don’t get me wrong, the structure of the module, its narrative may not be reinventing the wheel – but it doesn’t have to. With the Blind Basilisk as a cool backdrop, cool pieces of local color and a pronounced attention to detail, all for a VERY fair price of $2.50, this module is a great buy, if perhaps a tad bit on the easy side for level 3 PCs – my group could manage to clear this place at 1st level – but then again my players are insane veterans.

One sentence perhaps describes it best – “From Zero to Hero” – if this is the quality we can from now on expect from Rocks Fall Games, then I’m looking forward to reading their future offerings and I encourage you to give them a chance, for their revised quality standard indeed deserves it. My final verdict for the revised edition of Dark Totem part I will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to the low price.

Endzeitgeist out.

Adventures in Awesfur – The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized5333333333333
If you have enjoyed this review, please consider supporting the on-going costs of this site by donating a small amount
Feb 262013
 

109464-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 1/2 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

This collection offers us first of all new skill uses: You may now use the bluff-skill to fast-talk yourself out of combat, feign injuries or deliver quick secret messages. You may also intimidate foes at massive penalties in a couple of rounds or even as a full round action. Perception-rules to use the skill to listen underwater, soil or pinpoint sounds also serve to enhance the skill – especially useful when using the revised Stealth-rules from Drop Dead Studios’ Rogue Glory-supplement. Via Sense Motive, you can quickly scan for enchantments or analyse your foes, though the latter hits one of my pet-peeves and does not provide abstract information, but rather precise BAB, feats etc. – and “metagamey” information like that is banned in my game. Via Sleight of Hand, you may now conceal held items or steal items usually too large to steal or secretly store items. In a nice piece of awareness, none of these skill-uses overlap with the ones provided in Rite Publishing’s by now legendary “101 New Skill Uses”.

After this section, we’re off to the feat part of the pdf, prefaced by a massive 2 1/2 pages of feat-table. The feats are actually rather interesting in the things the endeavour to do: Using a rudimentary kind of echo-location by clicking with the tongue (behavior btw. exhibited by some blind people irl) allows you rudimentarily determine your surroundings even when you otherwise can’t due to e.g. darkness. Active Avoidance is also an interesting option that requires Dex and Int 15 as well as dodge and combat expertise and allows you to, as an immediate action, double the AC-bonus versus the next attack of the opponent. An interesting design, especially for duelling characters.

In fact, many of the feats herein offer similarly tactically-themed options to e.g. goad foes into attacking their allies and belittling foes can grant bonuses as long as you and your allies don’t get hit. Using sleight of hand instead of the steal combat-manoeuvre is also covered, though I’ve seen better uses of that particular concept n other publications. Teamwork, via aiding one another, evading friendly fire and several social feats that e.g. allow you to place suggestions (thankfully with scaling DCs) and even a feat to offer redemption to enemies (which is a streamlined, updated take on the one from the notorious Book of Exalted Deeds).

Beyond that, the feats in this book can be roughly categorized into different quarters: Some expand the new skill uses introduced in here, some enhance teamwork between members of the party (allowing e.g. the PCs to talk one another through e.g. skill checks), some help with the defensive side of things, some enhance social skill-uses in combat- situations and some capitalize on high Int as well as sense motive to display tactical fighters in battle who can benefit from their genius, much like e.g. characters in battle-of-wills-type scenarios à la Death Note. While especially the latter is an interesting concept, at least in my game, I will disconnect the benefits from gaining metagamey information and had hoped the pdf had done the same. Oh well. There also are some minor filler feats that allow access to low-level domain or bloodline abilities for those not so endowed.

The pdf also offers a selection of new item-tricks for cloaks as well as a cohesive example on how the material in this pdf can make fights more dynamic and less about bashing brains in.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not top-notch – I noticed a couple of rough patches here and there like missing blank lines between feats, minor glitches etc., though nothing glaring. Layout adheres to PDG’s 2-column no-frills standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked.

David Nicholas Ross’ Plots and Ploys was a kind of frustrating pdf for me to review: On the one hand, these skill-uses and feats are compelling and serve their purpose – they should help to get groups out of kill-em-all-ruts and add an interesting dimension to combats heretofore untapped. On the other hand, this collection uses metagamey information (something I abhor) and some of the feats could be taken to ridiculous places – some of them could have really used a caveat that they don’t work on specific types of creatures. That being said, as a DM I’d be wary of introducing this pdf as a whole without some very close scrutiny for respective groups – while the feats per se are not broken, depending on the group they’re introduced to, they may prove to be unhinging and change your gaming experience. Seeing how this is the goal of the pdf, though, I won’t hold that versus the pdf.

That being said, I also feel that this pdf is slightly below what it could actually have been – with minor revision and slightly more polish, this pdf could have been even better. As provided, I can see it being useful, though not necessarily great for all types of campaigns. This would bring me to a review of 4.5 stars, but the editing glitches and filler material here and there make me settle for a final verdict of 4 stars instead.

Endzeitgeist out.

Ploys and Plots: A Skill and Feat Collection is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized5333333333333
If you have enjoyed this review, please consider supporting the on-going costs of this site by donating a small amount
Feb 262013
 

111648-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

All right, you know the drill – 3 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content for 10 new feats dealing with witchcraft, so let’s take a look!

Taking a cue from Super Genius Games’ patron-excusive hexes, many of these feats are only available to witches with certain patrons, adding some unique tools to the respective witch’s arsenals.

  • Eerie Presence: Ignore negative cha-mods you may have, gain +2 to cha-skills to influence unfriendly outsiders and aberrations.
  • Forked Tongues: +2 to Bluff vs. indifferent, friendly and helpful creatures and bluff as a class skill; double the bonus when the creatures are under a mind-influencing effect.
  • Heart of Ice: When successfully demoralizing foes, double the penalty to fort, ref or will-save depending on the patron. Cool!
  • Nightshade Brew: You can lace potions with ingested poisons, increasing the DC for either by +1. Rather weak and circumstantial.
  • Patron’s Promise: When using unarmed or natural attacks, you deal additional damage equal to the highest level patron spell you have prepared. Also get this bonus to saves versus diseases.
  • Pierce the Veil: See ethereal undead creatures. This one is overpowered as hell for my tastes. Not gonna happen in my campaign.
  • Shimmering Illusion: Add an eerie glow to your figments, letting them emit a bit of light and adding +2 to the disbelieve DC. Cool one, albeit a bit on the weak side.
  • Terrible Transformation: When one of your transmutation polymorph-effects is removed/dispelled, the target suffers from an insanity effect on a failed save. Does this extend to such spells cast on allies? The feat fails to specify this, though I assume so. Also: Quite powerful for my tastes.
  • Wise Words: When speaking words of wisdom while casting conjuration (healing)-spells, you may reduce effective spell resistance by wis-mod. Can be useful, but rather limited in its application.
  • Witch of the Wilds: Count your nails as primary weapons and qualify for the elemental or stunning fist feat depending on your patron.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Abandoned Art’s 2-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at this length needs none.

The feats in here are nice and I like that they develop further distinction between witches of different patrons, but they also more than once fall a bit on the relatively weak side of the power-scale, offering very circumstantial bonuses that would make them rather weak choices for a feat-slot. Combines with the fact that none of the feats herein truly blew me away, I’ll thus settle for a solid verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform – a good offering that could have been stellar if the patron-exclusive feats had been developed in a slightly more inspired way.

Endzeitgeist out.

Feats of Witchcraft is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized5333333333333
If you have enjoyed this review, please consider supporting the on-going costs of this site by donating a small amount
Feb 252013
 

111380-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This installment of the FoTS-series from Rite Publishing is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s check this character out!

Following my format for FoTS-reviews, I’ll kick this review off by mentioning what exactly is featured template-wise in the creation of the three iterations of the character: First of the templates would be the phalanx-creature (at CR +1 or CR+2), which makes it possible for the creature to share mental characteristics with other members of the phalanx-creature’s collective mind and telepathic bond. The Dreamwalker-template (CR +1 to +3) reflects creatures stranded in the plane of dreams that have mastered the multiple morphological peculiarities that can be found in the plane of dreams. My favourite template, though, would be the Dread Vampire-template (CR +3): Essentially the REAL vampire-template, this template reflects vampires that are not as wimpy as regular ones, coming closer to the iconic vampires in literature regarding their power-level, updated to PFRPG from green Ronin’s epic 3.5-book. Two thumbs up for that one! The Betrayer-creature template from the Book of Monster Templates (at CR +1) also makes an appearance, as does the simple accelerated creature template (CR+1) from 101 Not so simple monster templates.

A total of 10 different magical items (though no artefact this time around) and 7 armour and weapon enhancements also feature in the creation of Zara. Two dream-related traits that make use of Coliseum Morpheuon’s dream-burning mechanics as are 10 feats: Among these feats, you might know some of them from Way of the Wicked V: The Devil, My Only Master by Fire Mountain Games – in said part of the critically acclaimed evil AP, we get a rules-representation for playable vampire-PCs, the gradual transformation into undead being handled via a succession of feats. All these feats used in the build of Zara as well as some to enhance malefactor-powers are part of the pdf.

Malefactor? Yes, for Zara is a build based on TPK Games’ best-selling, excellent malefactor-base-class. If you’re not familiar with these walking harbingers of ill luck, check them out now. (I’ve btw. also written a review of this one, so feel free to take a look at that as well.) All right, so her least incarnation (At CR 6) has Zara already is already a dreamwalker, phalanx human malefactor (who counts as undead due to aforementioned feats) malefactor. Her mid-level incarnation has her levels upgraded and made her a full-fledged vampire and her epic final incarnation becomes a dread vampire dreamwalker phalanx malefactor 17 that clocks in at a frightening CR 22.

Now astute readers may have noticed that Zara’s build lacks some of the templates introduced – that because this essentially is two creatures in one FoTS: Zara is never seen without her teddy bear – unmoving, unblinking, staring at the marvels of dream with unflinching black button-eyes. This bear, Mr.Bear, is the one she communicates with via her phalanx-template, often talking aloud to an unresponsive bear. The teddy, in fact, is an imp – one slightly insane imp who genuinely cares for the lost girl Zara and who is fanatically devoted to maintaining the facade of just being an inanimate teddybear, though both know the truth. In a twisted way, this relationship is rather intriguing and the 3 builds for mister bear are of the trademark complexity. And come on, swearing that this inanimate bear has moved and getting a glimpse of a blinking knife in a plushy paw should be nightmarish indeed.

But what about Zara’s personality? Essentially, this child once ventured into dream to find her long-lost brother (who turns out to be the Po’Kesteros – the series’ luckbringer and rival of Z.Z. Grimshanks). Dream, though is a scary place and when Zara died, she turned into something different – now it is the time of the nightmares in dream to be afraid – of a harmless-looking girl selling matches and her bear, for this face of lost innocence is the nightmare of nightmares. Woe betide any who have to face her weapons, Pokey and Twang… Dreamburning information, notes on how to use her etc., are also, of course, part of the deal. Now what happens if this harbinger of misfortune and her extremely lucky brother meet up again?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column, b/w rune-bordered old standard and the artwork of Zara by Juan Diego Dianderas is glorious, showing at once a nice little girl, but conveying a distinct sense of creepiness via her gaze that has almost certainly seen too much. The pdf comes with nested, extensive bookmarks.

All right, I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a huge fan of the Malefactor-class. I love it. TPK Games has created a class that actually awards crappy luck (and we all have a player whose dice seem like they’re cursed, don’t we?) and offers a gleeful, nasty, cool class that works differently from any other class out there. I also love vampires and all things creepy. So all awesome? Yes…and no. On a personal level, I really, really don’t like the feat-based vampire-take b Fire Mountain Games. It takes the iconicity out of the transformation. The metaphysical change. The mystic feeling of the wilful change into a bloodsucker is replaced by a selection of feats, making it feel, at least to me, wrong.

That being said, the build of Zara also uses a template to add bits and pieces to her and her companion is absolutely glorious! My gripe with the feats to turn vampire remain completely personal and won’t fracture into the final verdict – especially since character-wise, Zara stands out as one of the best in the whole series, though not being able to topple my all-time favourite Nameless Nil.

My final verdict for yet another glorious, grand addition to the series will be 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only since it reflects more than the verdict my personal taste.

Endzeitgeist out.

Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Zara, the Girl Who Died Dreaming is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Feb 252013
 

111030-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from Super Genius Games is 4 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of content for 8 feats for the Death Knight-class, so let’s take a look!

The feats are:

  • Beyond the Pale Gate: 1/day declare a creature you’ve killed as being killed by death magic, making bringing back the being harder.
  • Death Dealer: Coup-de-grâce as a standard action and don’t provoke AoOs. Also add half your level to the DC foes get to survive your coup-de-grâce.
  • Death Lord: Effective character level +2 when casting death-descriptor spells. When you’re also evil, grant undead you create via spells or spell-like ability +2 to Str or Cha. When being of good alignment, undead suffer a -1 penalty to saves against your spells. This feat is VERY weird, since the base death knight-class (of which you need 4 levels to take the feat) is restricted to not allow good characters. This feat (or the base-class) needs revision.
  • Death Resistance: 1/day reroll a save versus death effects, spells, energy drain, level drain or negative energy. The reroll gets a +4 bonus.
  • Deathly Wounds: 3+Int/Wis or Cha-mod times per day declare wounds you inflict as “deadly”. These wounds heal at half the natural speed and require a caster level check of 11+your level to heal via magic. Nice!
  • Grave’s Embrace: Don’t provoke AoOs when grappling (counts as Dex 13 and improved grapple for purpose of other feats) and allows you to suffocate those you pin. If you also have another feat, you may even suffocate undead, drawing the negative energy out of them.
  • Lingering Spirit: 1/day when you die, apply the skeletal champion template sans the additional hit dice. Your existence as an undead is temporary and you don’t count as having been undead for purposes of returning to life. Interesting feat indeed.
  • Reaper: When wielding a weapon with a crit-modifier of x3 or higher and not scoring a crit, you deal an additional die of damage and half the base-weapon’s damage. E.g. d12 -> d6, d8 -> d4 etc., 2d4 -> 1d2 etc. Interesting approach.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to SGG’s 3-column landscape standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The feats herein are interesting and use mechanics in uncommon ways, adding signature abilities and unique tricks to the Death Knight’s arsenal – though honestly, I would have liked the feats to modify/do interesting things with the class abilities of the death knight as well. The feats per se are solid and interesting, though the alignment-glitch is weird indeed – due to that one, I’ll downgrade this product to a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

With a Bullet Point: 8 Death Knight Feats is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Incoming search terms:

  • bullet point of knights
Feb 252013
 

111317-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This installment of the Treasures of NeoExodus-line is 4 pages long, with 1 page being taken up by SRD/editorial and 1 page devoted to item-cards, leaving two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This gladius was wielded by the fire-and-brimstone preaching religious zealots/terrorists of the Phoenix Guard when they destroyed the Rylosian Hermitage devoted to a religion that was not the Sanguine Lord. After the massacre, which is rendered in a compellingly-written piece of prose, narrated by a convert/survivor, the supremacy of the Sanguine Lord was readily apparent – no small thanks to this blade.

Mechanically, the blade is a +2 heartseeker gladius that deals an additional 2 points of wisdom damage and improves the wielder’s Str-score by +1 for each drain so inflicted. A critical hit resets the 1 minute duration of the buff.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color drop-dead gorgeous standard and the artwork of the gladius, as we’ve come to expect from the line, is a beauty to behold. The pdf comes also in a second, more printer-friendly version and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Fluff-wise, this ranks by far among the best in the whole line, delivering a cool, compelling narrative with a nice twist at the end. Mechanically, I’m honestly not completely sold on the gladius – 2 points of wis-damage sans save feel like a lot and a death-knell to clerics and druids. In the hands of a two-weapon fighter of any decent level, perhaps a hasted one for additional pain, these weapons would be EXTREMELY deadly. That being said, while I’d be wary of letting them fall into PC-hands and especially of making them a TYPE of magical weapon rather than a unique one (at 12 820 GP they are not that expensive to create…), as a unique weapon it might make for a good addition to the arsenal. Still a slight discomfort remains, somewhat similar to the one I voiced regarding silence, and that one WAS unique. Thus, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Treasures of NeoExodus: Emissarite’s Gladius is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Feb 232013
 

105559-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

Disclaimer: I’m a contributing author to Christina Stiles’ current Kickstarter “Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes” and was a patron of this project, though not a contributing one. If you haven’t checked out her Kickstarter, I urge you to do so. My verdict of this book was not in any way influenced by me contributing to “Bite Me!”.

This supplement/adventure anthology is 139 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/Kickstarter-backer-list, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us 132 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This being a combined campaign supplement and adventure anthology, we delve first into a kind of hub for the explorations the PCs are sure to embark upon when utilizing the content from these pages: Barsella, the City at the end of the world in the Midgard setting is the last true fleck of civilization before the Western Ocean and as such an interesting place indeed – a combination of colonial outpost, trading town and frontier-city, Barsella’s write-up includes potential for adventure galore – whether it’s via the plethora of options available for explorations into the unknown or within the town – after all, Nethus, the chained god of the sea is still very much present in this place, as are the seafaring minotaurs and other thoroughly interesting components like gambling dens and brothels with interesting entertainers awaiting. And in the bedrock of the town, the tides have carved out the infamous wash, a set of smuggling tunnels and undercity that provides for an opportunity to crawl and explore other illicit affairs PCs may seek to undertake. An iconic interesting city-panorama, but not the focus of this product – for the true ambition of this supplement is to capture the spirit of frontiers, of trailblazing and wonder at strange locales in the spirit of mankind’s epics like the Iliad or the Gilgamesh-myth.

As such, the following chapters detail new islands to be found and the very first one already blows me out of the water (pardon the pun): The Island of the Morphoi is weird in uncountable ways. Fully mapped in b/w (like all islands in here), this place is the base of Mnemosyne, wife of the lost god of the seas – She also happens to be the goddess of time, history and memory who suffers from an inscrutable memory-loss that drives to obsessive brinks of madness, her weird morphoi-servants and twisted lamia scouring the world for knowledge to finally fill the void ripped into her otherwise omniscient and perfect recollections. The island is also plagued by temporal rifts, unstable areas of temporal flux (including massive tables to determine weird effects on the fly) and provides 3 domains and 2 subdomains as well as potential for adventures galore.

Meshong-Lir and its atoll of savage islands also makes for a truly intriguing setting that transcends traditional backdrops – the prison/remains of a Great Old One from the Far Beyond, these islands are now haunted by Heralds of Darkness and the ghosts of Elysian Titans. Worse, the arcane bonds that hold the creature enslaved are tied to thresholds and doors and every foray into the depths of Meshong-Lir brings the dread entity closer to freedom – if the intrepid explorers manage to survive the maddening taint of the forbidden knowledge engraved in the reality-warped ruins of an empire long since passed, they may yet gain knowledge both twisted and powerful – at least if they manage to surpass the other alienists, mad cultists and things-that-should-not-be. Have I mentioned that in order to live to tell the tale, the PCs also have to brave the fact that the island rises from the waves (including tsunamis) and sinks back below the waves: And yes, rules for all of that are included in the write-up.

There are also write-ups of so-called lesser islands, which, while slightly less detailed, are also lengthy – starting at Aroa, which is the home-base of the Rimegaurd that seek to rediscover the lost technology of the crab-like K’karoan and atolls, some with spatial rifts, also feature in this section, also the crab-like humanoid K’kin. The Burning Shores with its magmins and azers and archmage’s sanctum is also interesting in that it features hazards beyond regular fiery hazards – also including deadly gasses impacting local environment. The Leviathan, a living island inhabited by mongrelman, gliding through the waves (And featured in the module “To the Edge of the World”) is littered with eldritch remnants ready for the picking and intriguing locales/rules to enable PCs the diving leviathan.

Terminus island is interesting especially in the context of Midgard, for the world is flat and this ancient place, with its gigantic guardians and legendary fruit is located indeed at the very edge of the flat world. Finally, there’s Karn’lothra, where the last remnant of a proud race now lords as an undead empress over her realm. It is also here that a vampire philosopher has blended mind-boggling philosopher that essentially made reality reject him, rendering him quite literally beyond the grasp of even the gods.

The book also features a bestiary, where intelligent Coral Oozes (CR 6), Dragon Eels (CR 13), Lamia Mnemosynian Matriarchs (CR 12) as well as 3 Morphoi-variants, the disturbing Obanje (CR 5), Sons of Talos (CR 11 ancient siege-style golems) and CR 6 Totem-Pole Golems. The Prismwings, magical birds, are also nice, though their entry lacks the CR-value.

We also get 4 new magical items, from the modular boon-necklaces of the seas, to a cephalopod’s staff, an enchanted mokomokai (a shrunken head) and one of the tears of Mnemosyne.

After that, we’re off to the new modules featured herein and hence, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! Adventure number 1, “Awash in the Wash” is an uncommon module for low level characters, as it starts the adventuring career of the PCs with an unpleasant surprise for the PCs: They wake up after having been drugged/press-ganged/etc. – in the notorious Wash, Barsella’s undercity. The PCs are the latest contestants in the infamous maze of the minotaurs of the city – and a famous geomancer is betting on their unlikely survival – why unlikely? Well, first of all, the maze is studded with traps and spectator-interference (also great for the DM to help/hinder PCs if required) is a constant addition to the place’s challenge: The aim is to collect 8 special rings and place them upon a specific statue – while avoiding an insane fiendish minotaur stalking the corridors, hunting for the PCs as well as the complex traps/obstacles littering the maze’s regular rooms. Thankfully, the minotaur (who is far beyond PC capabilities to beat) is slow and can be outrun – but not for ever…

Maze residents and multiple rooms with deadly traps make the challenge of the place more pronounced, though I do have some minor gripes with an otherwise great module: The fully detailed maps come without a player-friendly, key-less version and the text refers multiple times to letters and e.g. squares with traps that are not featured on the respective maps. This is one issue. The other one being how running the maze is handled: Essentially, the curving sections and make-up of the place make using traditional mapping hard for the PCs to do, suggesting instead handwaving all in favor of perception/survival-skill-checks – which is fine, though the insinuation that old-school handling of maze-running would bore most groups rubs me the wrong way – especially with a sub-maze of the maze that HAS to be mapped to properly run through is taken into account. A slightly more streamlined set of navigation-rules and help with keeping up dramatic tension with the minotaur-chaser as well as resolving aforementioned map-issues would have been imho nice and made a good module an excellent one.

The second adventure contained (by Dawson Kriska) in this anthology features an unpleasant assault on the docks of Barsella by a strike-force of Sahuagin – unfortunately being infected by a strange curse/disease named skinny-bones, one that defies curing. With the plague endangering Barsella (and quite possibly the PCs, since they’ve probably been infected in the combat), they have to cooperate with a famous captain and his druidic wife (see Pirates of the Western Ocean) and break through the naval blockade. Seeking the counsel of the archmage Allister Dorn, they arrive at his tower on the burning shores, where unfortunately the archmage is nowhere to be found. Having anticipated the PC’s dire need, he has prepared a collection of documents and diagrams that allows for the research of the disease – handling Deus-Ex-Machina-style just about all pieces of information out to the PCs via rather simple arrays of skill-checks, revealing the originator of the plague as an unfettered eidolon incited by aforementioned vampire philosopher. Stepping from the arch-mage’s study, the PCs find themselves stranded on the island of Malkay, where all the lost sooner or later wind up and where the eidolon masquerades as a type of savior/angel. The creature runs from the PCs, thinking them trapped on the desolate island, though they are promptly rescued by their NPC-allies – the journal harrow left behind leading them promptly towards Karn’lothra, the island of undead again where they get a chance to stop the mad eidolon’s plans and gather the ingredients to end the plague. All in all, a solid adventure, though I really didn’t like how the module treats the arch-mage-in-absentia and his notes as a kind of Captain Exposition – alternate means for the PCs to unravel the mystery of the disease would have been nice and feel more organic – as written, the dramaturgy is somewhat askew and suffers from the “Elminster-helps”-syndrome, i.e. the high-level-NPC helps, but can’t be bothered to do the job her/himself. It’s this that made me turn my back on the Forgotten Realms and I sincerely hope that future Kobold Press-adventures will refrain from creating too many of these plot-device NPCs – Midgard as a setting doesn’t need them to work.

Brian W. Suskind provides with a murder mystery in the most traditional way – the PCs are hired by Lord Arvid Olhouser through his aide Delgrade Agador to guard the expedition of his household to the fabled Leviathan-island. Unfortunately, soon after the arrival, the beast dives and thus, the PCs will have to make a frantic sprint to the fabled bubble-tower that contains air and allows people to survive the dives of the living island. Squeezing through the shutting Iris-doors, a group of precious few survivors is stranded in an isolated, claustrophobic locale – the classic set-up for a murder mystery. And said murder doesn’t happen too late – Lord Arvid Olhouser is murdered and the people locked in have motives galore: His wife, Lady Olhouser considers him a bumbling idiot and has an affair with his aide Delgrade. His spoilt son Hagen is a thoroughly unpleasant, cruel racist. Bertram Bodkin and his recently betrothed wife Alyce suffer from Bertram’s gambling addiction and accumulated debt which the lord declined to help with. Professor Myra Dolynn once had an affair with the lord, local veteran Lucas Cabral has an attachment to the unpleasant local mongrelman populace and Fynn, the 12-year old son of one of the Olhouser’s ship’s fist mates just had to see his father perish in the dive of the Leviathan. The mongrelmen hiding in the fleshy tunnels of the leviathan are essentially set up as culprits and the PC’s short excursion proves an exercise in the slaughter of innocent creatures – unless Lucas Cabral stops them in time. Worse for the PCs – after initial investigations, the deceased rises as a wight accusing them as killers, undermining their believability. Worse, Hakon, the scion of the house is the second victim and lady Margrat is next on the killer’s list – who actually acts smart, utilizing dust of illusions to throw the PCs off their guard and sow discord. The cast of dramatis personae allows for a vast array of motivations and the situation is actually more complex than one would believe: Alyce is actually quite a powerful sorceress and bastard-daughter of the late Lord Olhouser, but not the culprit for his murder: Lady Margrat and Hagen killed the lord and Alyce, bereft of her revenge, seeks to end them for it. At the climax of the investigation, she sabotages the tower’s mechanics and has the tower flood while the leviathan surfaces, making for a truly memorable climax. All in all a great murder mystery with multiple tables that makes running the complex motivations more easy for the DM. A minor gripe would be that one read-aloud-text mentions “The NPCs”, a slip in narrative level DMs should be aware of.

The next module, by Ted Reed, is hands down imho the best in the whole anthology, ranking as a pinnacle of awesomeness that lives up to the best of Open Design/Kobold Press modules out there: The basic plot is the following: The PCs are in the savage islands and have their ship sunk by the rise of Meshong-Lir, after rescuing a dashing old salt rake. Surviving the tsunami wave will be hard – to be captured/separated and beset by the dread pygmies and totem pole golems, the PCs will have to steal rafts to reach Meschong-Lir, for a legendary treasure awaits – the fabled ship Last Vagabond was dragged down by a statue jutting from the dread island and now could be claimed – for it requires a living being to serve as captain, though it is manned by a crew of ghosts. Unbeknownst to the PCs, their new ally is actually a servant of the trapped Great Old One of Meshong-Lir who is partly responsible for the ship’s current predicament. The PCs will have to scale the mile-high cliffs, negotiate with the ghost of a titan and impress the ghostly crew enough to become captains and owners of the legendary vessel as well as unmask the wolf in sheep’s clothing (no, not the monster) in their midst. And, they of course will have to drive the ship out of the maelstrom of the sinking Meshong-Lir! (and yes, it uses the vehicle-rules from UC -AMEN!) This module is so great it had me salivate, its locales standing out and its execution, especially how the captain is portrayed ranking among the finest I’ve seen in this type of scenario, the climax being sufficiently epic as well. Two thumbs up for this extremely well-crafted module that works even better thanks to the trouble-shooting interjected here and there.

The final module of the anthology centers on a character that is somewhat of a local landmark in Barsella, the Brine Pauper. The PCs are hired by Barsellan nobility to investigate the fate of the village of Kammae’s Landing, more commonly known as Hell’s Hole. On their ship is the weird, semi-coherent oracle and if the PCs manage to deal with the difficult anchoring, exploring the haunted remains of the coastal town should prove interesting indeed – for the brine pauper deposited a tear of mnemosyne somewhere in the haunted island, one that might contain vital memories. Unfortunately for the PCs, the Brine Pauper was not here alone – the last survivor of his group, they battled a witch that also perished and now roams the island as a witchfire on the hunt for the madman. Worse, the undead has taken control of a coven of hags and their allies and a disgruntled sea hag may prove to be a vital warning or deadly detriment. Guarded by dread Kech summoners and deep inside the island lies an ancient Ankeshelian prison that contains a dreaded nightwave of Nethus and the seal if breaking – only in the pauper’s memories lies the key to finding the hidden vril lock to reseal the dark terror, but only if the PCs can get it before the witchfire. Reaching the nightwave’s prison, the PCs will have to face a fraction of its power and solve an easy, nevertheless interesting riddle to escape. On their way home, though, a powerful Mnemosynian Lamia Matriarch tries to take their memories, which might bode disaster for the future…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I noticed e.g. flavor-texts with “NPCs” being mentioned and the first module’s maps lacking some information from the text is also unpleasant. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and is beautiful indeed – in the pdf in full-color, in the print in b/w. Artworks is a mix of full-color and b/w and ranges from good to serviceable. The cartography of the islands is completely in b/ and beautiful indeed – but I have one mayor gripe: Why don’t we get player-friendly maps? Seriously, a project of this size/scope should have key-less maps of its locales. What good is the STELLAR map of the cliff-side of Meshong-Lir to me when I can’t show it to my players since one of the ledges spells out what kind of creature is waiting there and how to get on the ship? Or another island, that features the name of the threats to be found as well as the location of a certain prison? I can live with Barsella’s map being keyed (though I’d prefer a key-less version there as well to hand out to my players), but in adventures, it’s a no-go for me by now. The maps of the modules are great, but I can’t use them. The pdf is extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

“Journey to the West” is the latest in a series of sourcebooks/anthologies by Open Design/Kobold press and lead designer Christina Stiles has succeeded with accolades in her endeavour of bringing us a supplement that brings the weird, the thrill of exploring, back to the game, with islands both wondrous and terrifying. The campaign-setting information, the island-write-ups, they provide information galore to run whole campaigns, clocking in as some of the most legendary locales I’ve seen in a supplement in quite a while, breathing their owns myths. I also applaud the decision to not contribute overtly to the feat/trait/spell-bloat and, unlike the otherwise excellent “Streets of Zobeck”, focusing on the topic at hand. Mind you, my criticism is at the highest level, but still: The adventures in this module left me partially disappointed at the very highest level of quality possible. They still stand out and are great experiences, but with the notable exception of Ted Reed’s contribution, they all suffer here and there from minor issues that keep them from rising to the insane brilliance of e.g. the offerings in “Tales of the Old Margreve”: The labyrinth-module suffers from its maps and slightly incongruent take on navigating the maze, the plague -adventure from the captain-exposition-flaw, the murder-mystery from e.g. mentioning a magical aura, but not the nature of it and the final one from feeling cut down – the desolate village would have made for a great place to build up tension via a continuing assault of haunts and instead makes the exploration a rather short stop in the module, with the same holding true for the prison. At first, this didn’t stand out to me that much, but Ted Reed’s module, with its perfect pacing and detail, its extremely iconic challenges and its vivid primary antagonist makes these minor flaws that wouldn’t stand out in other publications much more than they should. Though this module’s map suffers most in all the modules of this book from not coming with a player-friendly version.

I get that page-count is an issue, but honestly – I wish this book had been split (even further) – one book for all the setting-information and one for the expanded adventures, to allow them slightly more page-count to shine. As written, they are still great modules, but ones with minor blemishes.

But is that enough to rate this book down? I’ve been wrestling with myself for quite some time and have to conclude: Yes. Yes, it is. By now, player-friendly maps are a staple in most publications and at least for me, not getting any, especially if the cartography is this good, is kind of a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong – I still maintain this is a great book that belongs into the library of any Pathfinder-DM, but I still can’t give it my full 5 stars + seal of approval, instead opting for a final verdict of 4.5 stars plus seal of approval, rounded won to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Note from the Creative Editor: We have two copies of Journeys to the West to give away. Until the end of March, anyone who leaves feedback in iTunes about the podcast, will enter in the draw and two lucky winners will get a copy each. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in! Follow the link below to leave the feedback.

Journeys to the West is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333[1] itunes-logo.artist_page24233

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Feb 222013
 

106911-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from Jon Brazer Enterprises is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Kicking off with in-character journal entries that depict the life of one of the race of seedlings, this book introduces us to the new race called Seedling: These beings get +2 to Con, +2 to Wis, -2 to Dex, low-light vision, +1 natural AC, +2 to con to avoid suffocation, drowning and starvation as they can draw sustenance from photosynthesis, can as a standard-action tree shape (and gain tremorsense 30 ft.), +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects and paralysis, and 1/ day speak with plants. As you may notice, seedlings get the distinct fluff of being plant-like creatures and appropriate benefits without succumbing to gaining the subtype and its associated benefits, going thus a similar route as RiP’s Ironborn did for constructs. If you want more alien plant-beings, I’d point you to Purple Duck Games’ Fehr’s Ethnology: Xhesa.

The race is extremely detailed and up to current rules-developments: From favoured class options, alternate racial traits (which include resistance to fire and electricity, having thorns, hailing from the underdark with darkvision and burrow speed and resistance to disease and poison) to favoured class options, all niches are covered. Better yet, I don’t have anything to complain about!

In stark contrast to many race-supplements, we get quite extensive pieces of information on seedling-culture-lore and land and of course, also on their takes regarding other races and classes – two thumbs up for these avidly and well-written pieces that make the race stand out and feel integrated into a campaign world, not just some addition. The race also gets two racial archetypes, with the first being the Switcher, a fighter that uses the new weapon of the seedlings, the signature switch whip (which is essentially their hair) and allows it to be used to inflict bleeding damage, ooze a poison that makes its victims flat-footed, grow razor-sharp leaves on the head etc. VERY COOL! The second archetype, the tree spirit druid, is extremely adapt at scrying via trees by focusing senses into trees – again, very cool!

The race also gets an exclusive PrC, the negotiator. The PrC gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB and medium will-saves as well as a gamut of abilities that allow them to form binding agreements and make them superb “face”-style negotiators. Nice! The 9 new feats allow seedlings to further expand their switch whip powers and also do some interesting things via their rooting-ability, allowing them to better weather assaults and also increase their healing/photosynthesis.

Beyond aforementioned switch whips, we also get a new armour, glow moss and a serum the seedlings use for ritual scarring and healing. Beyond these crunchy bits, we also get a massive genesis-story told in captivating prose, a write-up of their 4 deities (with appropriate domains, subdomains and mysteries – nice indeed!) and 4 cool new spells, themed for plants and seedling flavour and anatomy. Among the new magic items we get explosive seeds, the dread aurora pendant, heartwood, two iconic artefacts (one of which can grow a forest – over night!) and even more:

5 fluff-only community-write-ups (I.e. no settlement-blocks, but ideas galore) provide further ideas for GMS and players alike to capitalize on and the write-up also features extensive advice for DMs to fit this race into a campaign.

Finally, the pdf includes 4 sample seedling characters, using the content herein, all ready to be dropped into your game and spanning CR 1/2 to Cr 14.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly b/w-no-frills 2-column standard and the pdf comes with extensive nested bookmarks. The pdf also features gorgeous b/w-artworks, all of which are original and up to the cover’s excellent quality – two thumbs up! Finally, we also get Herolab-files for the seedlings.

If you’re following my reviews on a regular basis, the you know that races are a hard sell on me: I require interesting cultures, solid, well-balanced rules and a place and reason to exist in a given world for a race to be even considered for making an appearance in my game. Seedlings did it. This race is interesting and feels alive, with their unique cultural items, the great prose and the balanced, well-crafted rules, we have an excellent supplement for a great new race that is perhaps one of the best takes of a floral playable race I’ve seen so far. Iconic, full of details and cultural tidbits, this supplement misses nothing and is a joy to read as well. Congratulations to author Marie Small for a thoroughly enjoyable, well-made race. My final verdict is rarely seen upon race-pdfs, but here it is justified – with every little component feeling balanced and like it brings something to the table, I feel justified in giving this 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Book of Heroic Races: Seedlings is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Feb 222013
 

108577-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from Legendary Games is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page How-to-use AP-plug-ins, 1 page author-bios, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Pioneered in Legendary Games’ “Tomes of Arcane Knowledge”, this book contains new items, which, akin to grimoires, allow for the learning and access of new feats, spells and the like as well as coming with interesting forms and backgrounds. Taking from their “The Way of Ki”-book, they also offer a very interesting feat for WuXia-style campaigns: Ki Meditation allows you to gain a point of ki, even if your class usually has no access to ki. Also, you choose one skill, for which you gain a +2 insight bonus while thus having the ki-point and the option to spend said point for a bonus of +4. Ki determined by non-wis-mod sources are covered as well. This is vital for the book, since many of the items herein grant access/use ki-abilities – but onwards to the respective items!

“Body outside Body” a tome of vellum, loosely bound by sinew and twine with jade bookmark is the first of the books herein and yes. Yes. The writing of t5he fluff made me salivate a little. Let me give you a short excerpt, if I may:

” This text within is an exploratory narrative plumbing

the auras that permeate the silent twilight sea between heart and mind,

both the mystic emptiness within each individual’s spiritual space as well as

the conjoined communion that links dreamers and the dream of reality itself.”(MotIM landscape version, pg 7)

If all rpg-prose was written in such an evocative, eloquent manner, I could retire from checking fluff ever again. And yes, the writing remains consistently on this level. But back to the book: In contrast to other books, this one grants access to the option to learn new ki-feats beyond the benefits that having it in one’s possession entails. These ki-feats are not simple reprints of Legendary Games’ “Way of Ki”-supplement, instead being completely original: Absorb Aura allows you a degree of protection versus alignment-based spells and effects and allows you to infect other with alignment-auras as well as providing a way to use ki to break curses or reverse magical alignment change. Dream-Travel allows you to enter a dream-state and take others with you on your journeys through the realm of dream in a modification of shadow walking: Better yet, upon reaching your destination, wherever that may be, your bodies fade to come out where your dream-selves have gone to. Especially awesome when also combined with dream-plane-supplements like Rite Publishing’s Coliseum Morpheuon/Tarnished Souk-series. Mindlink allows you to make connections between people and keep track of them as per status and if you like that idea, take Fatelink: Expanding on the mechanics of mindlink, fatelink allows for shield other to be used, even on unwilling targets, and also allow the participants to absorb e.g. the other’s ability drain, poisons etc. VERY cool and a worthy “rare” fate to make questing for this grimoire a worthwhile endeavour! Object reading, detecting thoughts, modified arcane sights – the feats in this book make it interesting, fit in a thematically concise way together and make for a great read to further expand your ki-options. There are also 2 new spells, especially the latter, Paradox, which allows you to rewind one round of your actions, should make this even more desirable for any character really to get his/her/its hands/claws/pseudopods on.

The necromantic instructions of Yin-blood allow the user to gain the option to cast certain spells via using ki – if you pay the price in permanent ki or the sacrifice of sentient life.When turned upside-down, this scroll instead becomes the Instructions of Thundering Yang, which works in an analogue version, but themed for different elements, granting access to other spells, feats and abilities. Glorious idea and nice to see duality and un-dichotomous morality being used this way.

The Prayer of Empty Flesh and Undying Ki is a banned, heretical text that not only allows you access to a variety of different, otherwise restricted class options, the stalwart defender prestige class, new uses for ki and even 4 rare clerical spells – I you can avoid succumbing to the suicidal addiction that studying this prayer wheel. Again, a gloriously uncommon grimoire.

The final item makes up the cover and represents probably the most uncommon of “tomes” herein – the 7 Ghost Needles, is a tome that requires acupuncture needles to properly benefit from its contents, enhancing your heal-skill as well as granting access to 8 special ki-feats that include the option to temporarily disable ki-abilities of foes, heal faster (or cause pain), gaining enhanced senses (deathwatch and blindsense) in a limited fashion, reduce ability scores via touch attacks, delay the onset of a couple of negative conditions, restore the blockage of ki-flow and exhibit a mastery over death and life: Finish or save, heal and restore or bleed out – the choice is yours. There also is a feat that allows you to centre into 3 different ways, making you resistant and less susceptible to different classes of attacks/spells.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. I did notice a minor typo/punctuation glitch here and there, but nothing serious and still on Paizo-comparable levels. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column landscape presentation and the pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. It should be noted that people who don’t like the landscape-format may opt to purchase portrait instead. I happen to have both versions and they both are of an equal quality. Frank Hessefort’s STELLAR artworks are on Paizo-level, perhaps even beyond a couple of their offerings, so art-aficionados: Each grimoire gets a tantalizingly-awesome rendition. Two thumbs up!

I’ve never made a secret out of my love for Legendary games’ stellar idea of introducing grimoires to PFRPG, that is books that do something beyond teaching spells and which are characters, objects of legend of their own. This book now blends these cool concepts with their vastly expanded ki-options for an offering that should turn out to be extremely useful for any type of class, with new options, adventure- and dare I say, campaign hooks, galore. These meditations should be required and the questing goal of many an enlightened scholar and once I run Jade Regent or send my players to the lands of Heroes of the Jade Oath or Kaidan, they’ll encounter at least one, probably all of these – for weal and woe.

My final verdict will be yet another at this point unsurprising final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval for the all-star-team of Legendary Games.

Endzeitgeist out.

Meditations of the Imperial Mystics is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized4343333354333

If you have enjoyed this review, please consider donating a small amount of money to help support this website.

Thank you for your support!

Feb 222013
 

111055-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This installment of the Dungeon Dressing-line is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

What’s in a name? A lot. “The Dungeon of Graves”, “The Tomb of Horrors”, “The House on Gryphon Hill”, the “Desert of Desolation” – all of these have become household names in most gamer’s library. An iconic name goes a long way to make a location interesting and thus, in contrast to most dungeon dressing-offerings, this one deals with the NAMES of dungeons you create.

As a name-generator, the pdf first analyses name components, looking at name complexity, descriptors, subjects and proper names before introducing us to a d8-table that allows us to set basic structures à la The [descriptor] [complex] of the [descriptor] [subject]. Devising legends and taking into account the option that the tables may generate unsuitable examples and how to deal with this is covered as well before we delve into the first table, which features 100 different types of names for the locations – from A like abbey to donjons, cysts and ziggurats, we get a nice variety that is complemented by 20 ready-made dungeon-names to choose from.

The second table deserves special mentioning, since it offers on the surface 100 entries for descriptors, but these don’t mean that there only are 100 descriptors to choose from. In fact, each and every of the entries has AT LEAST 2 words associated – with e.g. entry 6 sporting “Evil, bad, destructive, harmful, vicious, malignant, wicked, pernicious, baleful, cruel, baneful, maleficent, depraved, infamous, vile, degenerate, diabolical, detestable and malevolent” – that’s 19 words for one entry! You get the idea – the table offers much more than its 100 entries would lead you to believe at first sight.

The subject-table uses a similar approach in its 50 entries, though it does not get that detailed, offering for example an entry for a body part or one for material and sample sublevels included. 20 different sample tribal names are also included.

Where the Sword & Sorcery-heart in my chest skipped a beat was with the proper-name-table of 100 entries, which features 100 entries like Carthe or Zshoth and comes with 50 prefixes to further modify these names. Finally, we get a 100-entry table of names of parts of dungeon (like Banquet chamber, Pantry etc.) as well as 20 pregenerated dungeon names.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s crisp, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. Both pdfs are extensively bookmarked and the b/w-artworks I haven’t seen in any other product so far deserve special mentioning due to their high quality.

This generator could have easily been half as useful as it is – just make one entry per word and this could have been spread to an array of up to 5 different installments of the series, all considerably less useful than this turned out to be. Raging Swan Press instead opted for the high road and Creighton Broadhurst’s name-generator in the end stands as one of the finest examples for such a supplement I’ve seen so far. Useful and user-friendly, quick and concise, this is a great little dungeon-name generator. My final verdict will thus be 5 stars for a great generator. If you’re looking for one/a resource to create iconic names, then take a look at this – you won’t regret it.

Endzeitgeist out.

Dungeon Dressing: Dungeon Names is available from:

drivetrhurpg_logo_sized5333333333333
If you have enjoyed this review, please consider supporting the on-going costs of this site by donating a small amount