Aug 312016
 

Plight of the Tuatha – Dark Sails & Dark Words

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The third installment of the somewhat Celtic-styled Plight of the Tuatha-saga clocks in at a massive 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 116 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, before we dive into the nit and grit of the module itself, let us take a look at the supplemental material featured herein: The pdf contains 4 sample pregenerated characters for your perusal, all with full-color artworks. Beyond these, the book also contains the Lawspeaker PrC. IT spans 10 levels and provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression. The PRC gains d8 HD and requires ~5th level to take, with the Imperiums Interrogate-skill being required alongside a story-relevant task. The character must also be proficient with martial melee weapons. Lawspeakers gain 6+Int skills per level and gain universal proficiency with all armors and shields and all melee weapons as well as ranged simple weapons; however, they may not use martial ranged weapons sans losing their class abilities for 24 hours. Okay, so proficiency-wise, the PrC gets ALL exotic melee weapon proficiencies at first level…that is pretty nasty. Providing the proficiencies upon taking the PrC and then dispersing new ones gained through the levels would have been more elegant and less prone to dip-abuse. Starting at 1st level, the lawspeaker becomes the beacon of a modus lex, a type of law if you will. The save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + both Wis and Cha mod – two attributes to DC is nasty.

 

Also, the rules-language violates formatting standards here – lower case save and the sequence and formatting of the DC formula, while functional, also deviates from the standard. The lawspeaker can choose from 7 types of modus lex and the ability radiates an aura that penalizes actions pertaining the modus lex chosen. Unfortunately, this is where the rules-language falls apart a bit; not so it’s unsalvageable, but to the extent where it definitely requires clarification. Higher levels net additional types of modus lex and allow the character to further increase the penalties imposed for specific types of modus lex – the higher the penalty, the larger the range of the aura – as mentioned, pretty functional per se, but it took me 3 readings to get what the ability is supposed to do. Lawspeakers gain masks that allow them easy ingress to gatherings and they may prepare one specific one- or two-handed weapon as a weapon of judgment that increases its weight, but gains enhancement bonuses for every 3 such increases. Cool: Only the lawseaker or an angel can lift the weapon. As a nitpick – the ability should specify that the +5 maximum cap remains in effect.

 

At 2nd level provides mystic knowledge of the letter of the law as well as social skill bonuses and 3d level hampers divinations targeted at the lawspeaker as well as bonuses to perceive criminals. 5th level provides more skill bonuses and the option to erect a structure from the ground – the spell referenced here is not properly italicized. Not the only one, just fyi. 6th level provides a general sense for crimes in proximity that assumes a level of severity from 1 to 3. 7th level is wonky – it nets 2 fighter levels when attempting to punish the target of a judgment. Why not codify this with proper bonuses? Also: Any 1st level inquisitor can issue judgments. The ability itself needs a trail to activate, making it obvious that it’s supposed to refer to that, but using “judgment” here still renders the ability ambiguous and needlessly clunky. 9th level nets slippery mind and, as a capstone, the lawspeaker can suspend a law in a whole area, sanctioned by the gods – the larger the area and the more severe the law, the higher the cost. All in all, I like a lot of the PrC and it is functional, but the numerous deviations from formatting standards and the similar hiccups in rules-language depiction make it harder to grasp than necessary – still, it has some serious flavor and style.

 

The pdf also features a bestiary section that features the creatures featured in the module – these include classics as well as new ones; however, even in the case of the old ones, we do get lore-sections for the respective creatures and new creatures featured do have unique and rather cool signature abilities like ignoring AC-bonuses granted by force effects. Also glorious: Know how back in the days of old, creatures actually had more detailed notes on interaction and ecologies? Well, such things are included. Rather nice here is that the pdf introduces the lamia subtype – those cursed by the gods; said creatures are susceptible to the divine and minotaurs, medusae and the like are codified with this subtype, with unique abilities to make them more minotaur-like, more medusa-like, than usual – you know, with e.g. labyrinth-themed abilities ; think of that as basically a more interesting iteration, not unlike the Mythic versions Legendary Games champions, but without the power escalation associated with Mythic Adventures. Cool!

 

This level of detail regarding interaction and the like also affects the significant array of NPCs featured herein. The pdf also features the rules used in the Imperiums Campaign Setting, including the awesome idea of emergences and faction approval tracking rules. Beyond that, cities and structures can be found in the appendices – the respective settlements come with full statblocks and the membership, leadership or summaries are truly intriguing…oh, and there would be rules for a powerful tower that delivers increasingly powerful blasts of heat damage…think of that one as an obelisk of NOD or scorching towers. The pdf also features a serious amount of magical items, which include doublets to enhance items…and then, the pdf gets completely unique in its takes on magical items: You get a metric TON of information, including a massive array of diverse items that also feature e.g. the tools of Senmut, three enchanted architect’s tools…all with truly unique options. The magic items featured here breathe a spirit of the magical; they feel like items truly infused with powers beyond. The artworks featured for two of the items featured here are absolutely glorious full-color pieces.

 

Okay, but you’re not here for all of this material, right? So let’s take a look at the main meat – at the module. The following, thus contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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The PCs are still tasked to bring the Antecedent of Erasement to the city of Chandegar at the request of their Tuatha ally Philiandrius – and they will need the rather long trip to recuperate from the unpleasant things the adversaries will have inflicted on them in the previous module. Open questions left in the previous module and sidetrek suggestions are provided for your convenience, including chances to potentially get up to the level required by the module – the suggestions are pretty neat. The section also features some rather nice poetry, with six stanzas of an epic poem repeated, providing a great means to immerse the players in the world.

 

The arrival at the lavishly-detailed city of Chandegar is next, the shining gem of Aeliode – if the general theme of the Plight of the Tuatha so far focused on an old world early middle ages, Gaelic-influenced aesthetic, the town of Chandegar is closer in style to a blending of the Minoan/Greco-roman themes combined with those of quasi-Egyptian style. Arrival at the town will see the PCs probably foil a pickpocket trying to steal from a gorgeously depicted woman wizard – and they are not the only ones; a tribune of the fifth pillar witnesses everything and proceeds, as lawspeakers, to pronounce judgment; getting involved in the trial will change their relationships with factions.

 

After this introduction, the module becomes one of the best written towns I have seen as a backdrop in a published module; the city features extensive information pertaining skill checks to unearth unique bits and pieces of information as well as links to the Imperiums CS homepage, where a whole array of random names for NPCs can be found; similarly, dressing events for Chandegar and additional shops and items make the city grow beyond the confines allotted by the page-count of the module. The GM’s map of the city, absolutely gorgeous and in full color, spans two pages. From chances to catch diseases and reaping consequences from previous modules, there is a ton of codified dressing, more than you usually see in all but sourcebooks explicitly devoted to depicting a city.

 

This level of detail is further upgraded . the module, in several parts, has “Up the Ante” sidebars – and if your players are as hardcore as mine, you most certainly appreciate these suggestions to make the module more challenging; beyond simple scaling, you also can use these to cater to the tastes of your players. When the PCs arrive in the Gilded Peacock, the Inn not only gets a full menu, the PCs also walk into the tail-end of a discussion between the Culling and the proprietor, as they seem to be on the hunt for a specific individual. When the PCs finally meet up with Chondus…it is a winged humanoid…a quasit! While this does not change the dire threat the Fomoire pose, it is a component that needs to be handled with care by the GM, as it is a full-frontal mallet-to-the-face hint that Philiandrius does have a darker side to him as well…and indeed, with demonic tact, refusal to be of further assistance will leave a dark threat hanging over the PC’s home. And indeed, while subtle this is not, the pdf does provide advice on PCs refusing to work with the demonic thing.

 

Either way, it looks like Philiandrius requires a book called “Corporeal Bindings and Sunderings of Transmigratorial Spirits”, written by one wizard named Iaret, studded with 4 sigils that would need to be copied; to the demon’s knowledge, the book would be situated in the library of the Governor Mamet…and then, the PC’s privacy is crashed, as the Fomoire crash in…and don’t try killing the PCs. Instead, a diplomat tells the PCs that Philiandrius is basically only using humans as meat shields, caring nothing for them and that he will use the power gained by the sigils against all not of elven blood. The diplomat then process to make a counter offer…but whom to trust?

 

In either way (or if the PCs completely try to go off the rails), the trip to the library, however ingress is gained, will feature an unanticipated confrontation with some powerful and notoriously nasty outlaws/adventurers. After dealing with these dangerous rivals, the librarian will note that…all of Iaret’s texts are gone. At the living cell erstwhile utilized by Iaret within the library, the PCs will have the means to pick up the trail that rapidly cools…oh, and the Culling seems to be after her. The notes of the wizardess do mention several people by name…and structure-wise, this is where this module fully comes into itself. Ina sense of irony, the wizardess the PCs met at the docks, as they are bound to find out, was none other than Iaret!

 

You see, the PCs have a ton of different leads with the names of the allies of Iaret and the module suddenly turns into a glorious free-form investigation with a lot of cool ways to interact with the various factions…oh, and the PCs get to participate in politics, influencing the vote regarding the city’s stance toward the Avitian Empire – the PCs will have all the tools at their disposal and the names; basically, the task is to utilize the overt and covert means at their fingertips to radically change the course of history via flattery, assassination, bribes, pandering to religion or simply rhetoric. This section, when handled right, evokes the glorious tropes of byzantine shadow politics so often depicted in fantastic fiction set in such an era. If I were to go into the particulars of this section, this review would be bloated by several pages beyond its length! Suffice to say, I absolutely LOVED this section; it is smart, evokes a great atmosphere and I’ve seen the like not done this well in ages. The trail of Iaret mentions the Dust of Aeliode, a sect that believes the gods to not be creators of the world, but rather despots that perpetuate a lie to maintain control over the world – the temple of the thrice eclipsed seems to be the headquarter of this sect…and it is here the PCs will explore a dungeon that features scarab golems, chances to deal with lamiae and reach a manor in the fantastic undercity of the metropolis – think of it as a twisted mini-crawl in decadent surroundings that features the tropes of classics like Caverns of Thracia and Greek mythology.

 

Euryale, legendary being (yes, pretty much what we’d associate from the myths…with a twist) confirms that Iaret was brought to the Tower of Light, to be handed over to the Culling – in order to save her, the PCs will need to secure a boat…oh, and guess what: Time for a boat chase…and deal with the tentacle of the kraken and dealing with the Culling’s vessel…and follow it through a rift in reality, fighting foes and emons alike – and in the end, Philiandrius’ masterplan will have been completed; he’ll gate in, use the power accumulated to transform into a lich…and inform the PCs of the genocide he has planned; after all, by making all the elves liches, he’ll save them from the fomoire doom encroaching right? And if it takes a continent of humans to die, who cares? He’ll even graciously leave a couple alive for them! Such a nice guy…

 

Kidding aside, it may seem like things have suddenly escalated rather badly…and indeed, they have. A dire prophecy calls the PCs back to Iria, and with war and revolution brewing in the grand city, with quite possibly a couple of factions on their heel, the PCs will have to venture homewards sooner or later for a cold homecoming indeed…

 

The pdf does sport a player map of the gorgeous city; the city map, though, unfortunately still sports the large letters of the map key, which, blue and jarring, stick out from the per se gorgeous drawing. I really wished the module had a version of this map sans the key.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level; on a rules-level, the pdf is similarly precise, with the notable exception of the PrC, which, while functional, does feature some deviations. Layout adheres to Mór Games’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the artworks featured herein are absolutely gorgeous and Paizo-level in quality. Kudos indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

William Moomaw’s third part of Plight of the Tuatha is in equal parts byzantine city politics and smart free-form investigation sandbox for smart players, great sourcebook, homage to the classic Caverns of Thracia and high-action finale, with a finale that will leave a clump within the stomachs of your players – the stakes are truly high for a level 6 module and the end leaves you craving the finale to this unique saga.

 

More so than the module component, I think one of the stand-alone components in the pdf is that its design and aesthetic hearkens back to the Classic period and truly Medieval period, as opposed to the early modern period aesthetics most settings like the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, etc. sport. The atmosphere conveyed here is simply evocative, the production values great. While the PrC does have a couple of rough spots and does not reach the level of awesomeness of the module itself, as a whole, this is a truly glorious module. The Plight of the Tuatha saga is one of the hidden gems the 3rd party circuit has bestowed upon us – after the somewhat rough first module, Part II and now this truly upped the ante.

 

This is an evocative, fun and unique module for the thinking player, for the roleplayers and those of us that enjoy immersing ourselves in a world and culture that resonates with an uncanny sense of fantastic realism. In short – this is a great, glorious offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this superb module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 312016
 

Tangible Taverns: Trio of Taverns

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This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1.5 pages advertisement leaving us with 20.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a brief introduction, we dive right into the first tavern of the trinity, the Angelic Imp: Dim, yet romantically lit, with red candles and vases of red and white roses, the tavern utilizes a romanticized aesthetic oscillating between the reds of passion (associated with blood and sin) and the purity of white – this is the place to go when you’re looking for a prime spot for a discrete candlelight dinner with excellent accompanying food – from grilled swordfish to saffron-tomato seafood stew and jasmine rice, the food did make my mouth water a bit; while the pdf does not sport menus with sample prices for the dishes, the tavern itself is fully mapped in a player-friendly little, functional map. The angelic imp, as such, has a reputation for privacy and rumors (4 of which are provided in pretty nice detail) are usually something you’d stumble across outside of the establishment. The 6 sample events provided deal with the obviously exquisite and delicate nature of the place; with customers being enraged at the prices of the bill, an artificial wine shortage and love and lust reciprocated or denied, the events fit well within the context of the tavern. Bellamy Brook, the establishment’s owner, receives the full NPC treatment (expert/sorceror multiclass, just fyi), while his striking server Malena is provided as a detailed write-up, including stats. There is also a love-triangle/jealousy-story waiting in the wings, with Albright Ansuer, son of a self-made man and bored and spoiled aristocratic debutante Jenna Saunderville featuring fluffy write-ups and quite some potential for intriguing scenes. EDIT: The ad that was here before is now gone, replaced with a nice piece of b/w-artwork. Kudos!

 

But perhaps the PCs aren’t the biggest fans of romance. Well, then Blackberry Bill’s may be what their looking for – small and cozy, with a focus on pastries and the like, the tavern is run by the eponymous Blackberry Bill…who is btw. a brutal pugilist with some serious class levels – the grizzled dwarf is indeed a former adventurer and those stuffed heads on the wall…they’re not hanging there for nothing. Famous for his jams and massive infatuation with blackberries, Bill may not have the best people skills, but his food makes up for that. His waitress, Braybin Mockingson, a speckled and energetic halfling seems to make up for that in energy and impulse. A total of 6 rumors, from tall tales about Bill’s adventuring days to how in fact his blackberry creations reached their level of deliciousness, are provided. Now Bill, obviously, is relying on a secret patch of blackberries and hence, his obsessions with the fruits feature in the sample events: From experimental dishes to the quest for ever more blackberry recipes, thefts, customers bringing a cockatrice into the shop or kids gone missing near the patch…the adventuring potential is there and diverse/creative.

 

The third of the taverns featured herein would be the Pattering Platypus – and unlike the previous two, this one has an explicitly stated menu that changes by weekday, though it sports no prices. Much like the previous two taverns, the tavern comes with detailed and well-crafted prose depicting the owner, Titus Muldoon as well as Devon Winterhall and a local celebrity bard. Devon, just fyi, does get full stats and is a maneuver master monk that can make for an interesting bouncer. It should be noted that the food here is pretty much diner fare – with burgers in all but name, delicious fried chicken – and before you start complaining about anachronism here – there are reliable accounts on frying practices in the 17th century and considering that magic and our default setting come closer to the early modern period than the middle ages, I am fine with that. The rumors featured here deal mostly with the NPCs mentioned before and patrons misbehaving; in direct contrast, these are the weakest among the rumors/events herein – they aren’t bad, mind you – just not as diverse.

 

Now, the pdf also has more people to add to the respective taverns -we have an amethyst-eyed punk-aesthetic gnome sorceress looking for thrills and fun and her gruff, practical and realistic elven friend. You can also encounter Dizzy Izzy (full stats included), disheveled-looking and rather successful mesmerist/conman/information-broker or the charming, intelligent Harding von Orcson, gentlemen trader; you can try to best local legend Pie-eating Pete (fully statted), encounter an eccentric, but harmless pretend-noble. Finally, there is the powerful guard captain Ervyn Blackwall and his mount (again, full stats included); always a likely source of employment for adventurers or a powerful foil for less scrupulous forces. So yes,a dding these beings to taverns (or just scavenging them for other purposes) increases the conflict/adventuring potential for the respective places by quite a bit!

 

EDIT: In a REALLY cool service for the customers, a plaer-friendly collection of all maps can now be found, all collected on one page – kudos!!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are tight in both formal criteria and rules-language departments – I have no complaints here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features b/w-artworks for EVERY SINGLE NPC herein. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have seen none of these before as well; for the more than fair price point, that is quite a feat and yes, even the fluff-only NPCs/non-combatants have their mugshots. Kudos! The cartography in b/w is nice and does its job well and EDIT: now, the maps are collected on a player-friendly handout page: Print out one page, cutit up, there you go. Two thumbs up!

 

Kelly & Ken Pawlik’s trio of taverns is a supplement well-worth getting; for a more than fair price, you get some nice builds, NPCs and places to drop in your campaign. While the absence of prices for the food and beverages is a minor detriment in my book, the places indeed capture the imagination, with the first two outclassing the third in my book; after the quirky and creative first two taverns, the third did feel a bit more common in direct comparison. That being said, this is still a great little supplement. Considering the slightly improved layout, new art, minor fixes and collated maps in player-friendly versions, my final verdict is upgraded to 5 stars.

 

You can get this cool, inexpensive sourcebook here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 312016
 

Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves

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This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is this? If AAW Games’ critically acclaimed Rise of the Drow has taught me anything, then it’s that modern gaming had lost some of its sensibilities; when the saga took the wonder of the 2nd edition’s Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide and the general notion of believable environments and infused it right back into the subterranean realms, I was ecstatic. The underworld hadn’t felt that alive, that wondrous, in a long, long time.

 

So, this little pdf can be considered to be something of a mini-dressing file: The idea is as follows: The things in the underdark need to eat, right? Well, fungi grow below and so, the pdf does contain subterranean spore groves for your perusal. in power-level, they are rules-interaction-wise mostly at the lower scale and the pdf works as follows: You have 12 entries to determine weird fungi; then, you determine the size of the grove with a d12, which also modifies all subsequent tables, so yes, size does matter here.

 

Next up, you determine the food value to be scavenged from the grove…and then the effects. Sure, the shrooms might be poisonous…but there is similarly a chance that one of 8 strange effects may kick in upon consumption. These range from mild hallucinations to bonuses to Cha or medicinal properties, and while slightly more precision here pertaining conditions, bonus types and the like, the basic functionality is there. A sample hazard table modified by the number and CR of PCs is included, with hazards and foes ranging from CR – to 7. A little table to determine fungal themed monsters is next (15 entries strong and pretty much what you’d expect) and 12 non-fungal sample monsters (standard underworld fare) can be used to include here.

 

The pdf concludes with a sample hazard – the CR 3 cyan fungus, which sends discus-like projectiles towards anything nearby when subjected to light. The fungus is awesome, though the rules-language for the attack and damage is a bit jumbled.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level; on a rules-level, there are some minor deviations, but none that break the material. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column, printer-friendly standard in A5-size (6” by 9”). The pdf has a nice one-page artwork of a vegepygmy in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Perry Fehr’s little pdf has the heart at the right place: The visuals are nice and while it does not reach the level of evocative wonder of RotD’s fungal jungle, that’s not the goal – this is a great fungus fields generator and it does not purport to be more than that. The new fungus is pretty cool and something I’ll definitely use.

 

All in all, this little pdf is a fun addition to subterranean gameplay and particularly lower-level underdark adventuring will benefit from the quick and easy food generation tables here; for longer or survivalist treks through the lightless depths, this can be a boon indeed, though I found myself wishing it had devoted more time to the fungi and provided slightly more in that terrain, less to the pretty generic sample creatures encountered tables. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – an inexpensive, fun and very useful little pdf, but one that falls short of what it could have been. Still, whether it’s Second Darkness, Rise of the Drow or the quasi-defunct Throne of the Night – subterranean campaigns will enjoy this one.

 

You can get this cool little generator file here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 302016
 

I awoke early in the morning, giddy as a boy heading out for the first day of school. I strapped my exhibitor’s badge in and ventured forth with Jonathan and Dashiell to check out Indy and get some supplies before erecting the booth with BJ and Daniel – and, as a German hailing from one of the most notoriously unfriendly and gruff regions of Germany, the culture shock was pretty pronounced.

 

The streets were huge and so were the cars, the monuments…pretty much everything; it makes the European moi pretty conscious of why Americans tend to consider even the busiest of European metropolises as somewhat quaint. And that’s “just” Indy. Woa. A brief trip to the stores did show me a vast array of softdrinks, food and products I had never even heard of, with only precious few familiar ones stocked in the shelves. Similarly, being accustomed to practically being yelled at when paying, I was pretty unprepared from the sincere kindness exhibited to me: When I saw Dr. Pepper infinite refills in a café, I almost started jumping around…and when the barista handed me a free cup to get as much Dr. Pepper as I could stomach, I was somewhat blown away; you will not experience the like in Germany…at least I haven’t.

 

Anyways, entering the convention center proved to be a humbling experience as well, as the whole SIZE dwarfed pretty much anything I had heretofore seen…just picturing the finished booths everywhere made me grin from ear to ear and so we began setting up the booth…and I met other folks. I *think* the first people I met would be none other than the immensely talented and kind Jason Nelson as well as the fabulous Rachel Ventura from Legendary Games and the absolutely awesome Stephen Rowe from the Four Horsemen. Well, turns out Stephen is not only exceedingly talented, he is also an all out amazing person; just talking to him time and again made me wish I could talk to him more often, share stories and discuss designs. Humble, kind, friendly…little did I know that this was to become a leitmotif for the people I’d meet, though Stephen did indeed stand out.

 

Another shout-out here goes to Ben McFarland, who is a true trooper:  He not only is extremely talented, he is exceedingly kind, down to earth, and actually provided food for the hungry 3pps manning the booths; at the point where he shook my hand, I flashed back internally to all the glorious moments my game had thanks to his modules and material and I think I may have gone full-blown starstruck fanboy for a while there…something that would happen more often throughout the con. I really wished I could just take Ben aside and annoy him with detailed accounts of how his works played in my game and have him sign all those delightful tomes gracing my bookshelves.

 

So, let me make this clear…if I was tripping over my own words, stammered and wouldn’t let go of your hand or became repetitive, it is mostly due to, well, my brain short-circuiting in this moment in time. Still, this day was pretty much defined by getting the lay of the land down…and it blew by as if in fast forward. Much like one life may only be a blink to the sun, so did this day begin…and then, it suddenly was evening.

 

I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that the passing of Steven D. Russell has ripped a whole in my heart; has shaken me to the point it took me weeks to touch a RiP-book again, since I knew I couldn’t let grief compromise my reviewer’s integrity. His passing is the one regret associated with my trip; I would have given a lot to actually talk to him, play with him…At the same time, I am absolutely confident that Steven would have loved the atmosphere at his Irish Wake – it is here, I felt, more so even than in the huge convention hall that dwarfs the paltry mortals inside, like part of a huge family – whether it was Monica and Andrew Marlowe and their great kids, Mike Welham, wit whom I wished I had the chance to talk more, the talented Wendall Roy or the great Dave Paul…with both of whom I thankfully had the chance to speak, at least a bit, more later…but I didn’t know that yet.

 

It is also here, I met none other than Lou Agresta, a man I’d consider a brother in spirit indeed, for the first time in person and a man I sincerely hope to see again and spend more time with: Here’s to you, my brother! Similarly, I was completely blown away by meeting Greg A. Vaughan: Ladies (and gents so inclined), he *does* look a bit like George Clooney and is smart, funny and exceedingly cool as well; While the Slumbering Tsar and similar Frog God Games books were too heavy to carry along, I couldn’t really bring them along to sign; but beyond his titanic creativity and generous heart, master Vaughan definitely ranks as one of the most impressive persons I had the honor of meeting at the con.

 

While I was oscillating between being overwhelmed by bittersweet nostalgia tinted with grief and sheer ecstasy of meeting all those folks, I also made the acquaintance of Tim Hitchcock, Dan Dillon and Steven T. Helt – Tim has btw., as a talented musician, provided the “going to Indy”-soundtrack with his convention hymn, a song that perfectly encapsulated in positivity my whole experience. Pretty overwhelmed, I also got to tell Owen K.C. Stephens via skype finally kinda-in-person what his designs meant for me and my game…thank him…and while I felt woefully inadequate, it still was simply glorious. When we toasted Steve, the spur of the moment took me and I did my best to try to put the impact Steven D. Russell had on me, as a friend and as a publisher/author, into words – I know that I won’t ever be able to properly enunciate everything…but I sincerely hope that he would have approved of my paltry few lines.

 

It is also here I met Alex Abel of Flaming Crab Games, Michael Azzolino, none other than Adam Daigle, with whom I’d have the pleasure of talking more through the days – and indeed, so many, many more of you – I know I will forget to list more than one of you if I ever try to generate a concise list, so I’m just leaving it at that – please do not take this as an insult; Instead, consider it a reflection of my thoroughly emotionally and intellectually overwhelmed state. To me, this congregation felt more like a homecoming, like family, than the usual festivities I attend.

 

I was totally overwhelmed in more than one way and I don’t really know how I must have looked; oscillating between joy and remembrance, looking at folks with fish-eyes and often, downright confusion as everything overwhelmed me; we did move on after the wake…but at this point, I honestly have to give up trying to put all my impressions into chronological order; the whole convention became a blur of frenetic activity, so next time, I’ll tell you all about how the convention itself was as an experience.

 

See you there and thanks for reading my undoubtedly rambling account!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 302016
 

Mystic Marketplaces: Einjhall’s Hall fo Exotic Equipment

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The second installment of Flying Pincushion Games’ Mystical Marketplaces-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with approximately 11 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

 

Einjhall’s is a lavish place for those with means -a purchase limit of 120 K and a base limit of 20K mean that the shop’s inventory, both mundane and magical, is geared towards the wealthy and discerning connoisseur. Situated in a two-story chateau, manservants bringing warmed meads and sweet treats, the place has an air of opulence and decadence, with richly carved mahagony pillars hold stone pillars atop merchandise smelling of silk and saffron.

 

As such, this place is a thankful purveyor of ettercap silk, blink dog hide,d ragon’s teeth and similar rare objects – the distinguished pair of owners Einjhall Alpinsonne (the last name meaning, just fyi, Alp’s sun and literally also denotes a lesser known mirage-like phenomenon; and I butchered the name to “Einhjall” every time I wrote it…) and Ophan are certainly gentlemen of wealth and taste.

 

Yes, this reference was intentional, for the two not only sell decadent trinkets toward the fops and dandys and dandysettes- they also have a second, lesser known specialty. Before we come to that, though, I should mention that both the patronage point system introduced in the first installment and the bartering system make a return here.

 

The shop does feature an array of sample magic items that usually are available in the shop, but the place is by no means restricted to offering just that; in fact, returning customers can not only enjoy meals on the house, they may actually custom order items or gain spellcasting services: The two owners have found a way to make glamours permanent, with sample prices for several given as a means of orientation. Being clothiers at heart, the two aren’t the perfect choice for gaining the doom-slayer sword of utter destruction…but more subtle means? Oh yes.

 

The supplement features3 sample quests that include bidding for a live ettercap on the black market auctions, getting more wraith shawl from the barrows…pretty creative hooks here! Similarly, shop tasks for less risky ways to increase the patronage score can be found herein.

 

Just take heed when shopping at Einjhall’s – this place is very much a caveat emptor type of place, where those that are less scrupulous and know to ask (or just offend the owners) may purchase illicit and cursed items – which may or may not (depending on what the GM decides), be the reason this mob of dandys is causing trouble in the sample encounter. Generally, one could take that as an easy means of introducing the store and hinting at its nature of more than what it seems to be. The situation can be resolved via social skills and combat, with the nobles getting statblocks. Similarly, the owners receive a statblock (both share the same stats) and one glance should make clear that they are not to be trifled with. As far as encounters go that introduce a place, it certainly is a nice encounter that does its job well.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches in the formal and rules-language – Jeff Harris did a good job here. Layout adheres to a full-color 1-column standard – apart from the blank space on the final page that could have been filled with slightly more text, I don’t have much to complain here. The pdf has a nice artwork of a dashing noble’s portrait as a sample for the request to be drawn by the owners as well as some neat stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Frank Gori, Richard Litzkow and Taylor Hubbler’s Einjhall’s is a great second installment for the series: The place features unique benefits that make returning here a worthwhile proposition. The general hooks and presentation are fun, with the writing letting the place come to life…though only in a general sense. The framework is here, but if you require a room by room breakdown or want to know the precise merchandise and architecture, that the pdf will not deliver, being map-less and mostly focused on the concept of the store. That being said, since the store is less focused on individual “hotspots” than its predecessor and more on the general experience of shopping here, the lack of a map does not hurt Einjhall’s – smart decision here!

 

While most would associate the kind-of Scandinavian-sounding name with a more rough and tumble place, playing against the trope here works to the pdf’s advantage; similarly, the edge and duality of the shop as a leitmotif makes sense and is conveyed rather well via the interesting owners. If I have one complaint versus the content, then that would be the lack of guidance regarding the handling of the less savory items handled by the place – tying access to those via patronage would make sense. I *assume* that 10-point invitation to dinner with the two would be just that, but the pdf does not explicitly state this. In short – Einjhall’s is a worthwhile and inexpensive purchase that makes for a fun and interesting place of opulence and decadence that would be right at home within the bustling streets of Oppara or a similar metropolis.

 

At the same time, I believe that this pdf does sell itself short a bit: Take the hooks, for example: Why not go for unique, dyed ettercap silk cat-burglar suits? What does one of these nifty wraith shawls do? The ideas here are so cool, I really wished they had also been translated to full magic item/material status! I am, however, complaining at a high level here – this one is imho better than the first installment in the series, mostly due to focusing on the overall experience rather than the individual interaction hotspots. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, still rounded down for now – but if the series keeps this up, the next installment may make the 5!

 

You can get this cool shop here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 302016
 

After School Adventures: Adventures in Wonderland #2 – Down the Rabbit Hole

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The second module in the Wonderland-inspired series of mini-modules for the youngest gamers clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Young ‘uns – sneaking a peek here can spoil your fun – don’t do it, okay?

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All right, so the PCs have chased the white rabbit through the forest in #1 and this module begins as the players fall down the rabbit hole…wait, no, they are not…they basically are floating, with no means of propulsion and the sides of the tunnel too far away to reach. As the PCs ponder their predicament, a blue dictionary will float over…you know, it’s hungry and wants to be fed with words from A – Z. This little vocab test, including a skill-check to help them for the more difficult words, is a fun start. Then, things get more difficult with the letter “I”: The next array of words needs to have the letter AND two syllables. Once the PCs reach “R”, they will have to work backwards from Z to S. Oh, and the read-aloud text of the dictionary is intended to be sung to “Pop goes the Weasel” and rhymes appropriately. And yes, I had to look the tune up. XD

 

As the party finally floats down, they will reach a table with a drink and a cake…and we all know what these do, right? But there’s a twist: A) If the PCs are itching for a fight, the table will happily oblige. And B), the doors open to show the peek-a-boo – a unique monster that has the proper key to pass…and it teleports to other doors when the PCs try to take it from its mouth. Here, multiple strategies help: Making the creature laugh, guarding doors, using logic, making it cry – oh, and the module does use this chance to teach the players about using skill-checks pertaining monsters.

 

Bypassing the friendly creature in this game concludes the adventure for now and should see the PCs reach level 2.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to Playground Adventures’ beautiful two-column full-color standard with Cheshire Cat on top and all. The pdf’s art is sparse, but similarly child-friendly. Spells etc. are hyperlinked to the PRD for your convenience. In spite of the module’s brevity, it features bookmarks – nice. This time around, the module has no cartography, but it doesn’t really need maps for the encounters herein.

 

J Gray’s second Adventures in Wonderland-module is more rewarding than the first: Where the first module focused its efforts via a boardgame-like playing field on teaching the very basics of roleplaying, this one focuses a bit more on the actual roleplaying aspect and problem-solving skills of the kids that play it. This renders the module more palatable for older kids as well. The content herein is btw. appropriate for kids ages 4 and up (with my suggestion being that players ages 8+ will probably start having less fun with this due to its cute tone) and even the most scaredycat sensitive child will not be frightened by this one; this is pretty much the definition of wholesome and harmless, with literally each encounter focusing on unobtrusive engagement of the mental faculties of kids rather than just rolling the dice and defeating foes. Even the optional combat is not something anyone would consider problematic.

 

So yes, this very much achieves its goal; it has versatile challenges, nice visuals and is a fun romp. My one complaint would be that a hard-mode version for the challenges would have been nice for particularly smart kids, but then again, one can easily improvise the like on the fly, based on the material that is provided here. (The syllable angle can be easily expanded; I had them actually spell the words…but only do that if the kids are already reading a lot and capable of spelling…you know your audience best, GM!)

 

So, how to rate this? As mentioned, I consider this to be better than the first module and while older kids won’t have as much fun with this as the young ones, for the target demographic, this is awesome indeed. The unobtrusive educational angle’s here and the locations are unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this rewarding, kid-friendly, brief module here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 302016
 

Village Backdrop: Revenge

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This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement

 

Situated none-too-far away from the pirate town of Deksport, the village of Revenge was founded by the infamous captain Tarvin Brineshadow after he was deposed by his treacherous first mate Jaska Purho – surviving the trip into shark-infested waters, he eventually got the eponymous revenge against the first mate and settled for a quieter life. He may have sunk Jaska’s ship and ended the reaver…but recently, adventurers have plundered it and disturbed the rest of the vile captain. Now, Red Jack is back…and life will become interesting for the aged captain brineshadow.

 

As always in village backdrops, we are introduced to the village, including statblock information, a surprisingly high danger value (+20 this time around) and some sample notable folk with fluff-centric write-ups. Information on uncommon items available at the market place and 6 whispers and rumors are included. Similarly, canny PCs can unearth lore about the village and information on local nomenclature and appearance are provided for the GM’s convenience.

 

The beautiful b/w-map depicts revenge as sitting around the buccaneer river, with one small ferry connecting the two halves of the village and palisades defending the halves both in the northern and southern half. In the local trading post, strange cabinets of wonders await. The captain is pretty paranoid, just fy, so talking to him will not be that simple…and he’s paranoid for a reason, for the small town hides a doom from beyond the grave waiting to claim him…a doom that arguably could render the town pretty empty if not confronted by the PCs. The pdf, as always, does feature sample events, 6 to be precise, to kick off the action., in case you’d need the like

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

 

Richard Green is a talented author; no question there. The village of Revenge is not a bad place to visit and its craftsmanship is solid. At the same times, it did not do anything for me. Deksport is more detailed, the village of Sea Bitch has a more intriguing angle…and revenge, ultimately, focuses pretty much on as cliché a storyline as you can find in pirate lore. Don’t get me wrong – to an extent, we need such tropes to work…sure. But as a backdrop for it, as far as metaplot implementation is concerned, the very name of the place acts as a spoiler. PCs are bound to ask what’s up with it; they’ll hear the story. They’ll expect what happens next…and when it does, no one will be surprised or particularly excited. Apart from its structure, this place simply doesn’t have much going for it, as loathe as I’m to say it.

 

The village is pretty much defined by its metaplot and that one is as standard as it gets; Some additional intriguing features and more room for creativity would have been a blessing here. In a series defined mostly by unique and evocative places, revenge’s shortcomings show all the more. Don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad supplement. If you’re adventuring in the Deksport region or just need a generic village with a nice map to introduce, this will do the trick just fine. Just don’t expect to be blown out of the water (haha) by it. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get this village here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 292016
 

101 Hill & Mountain Spells

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This collection of spells clocks in at a massive 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a massive 47 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, so, as has become the tradition with these books, we begin with a general introduction before we get the spell-lists; as always in Dave Paul’s spell-books, the respective environment has a significant impact on the respective mechanics, potentially changing the effects of the spell in question. In this installment, a leitmotif suffusing the spells would be the hybrid nature of hills, serving as a bridge between the wilderness and the civilized realms; as a whole, this duality and focus on the environment is pronounced.

 

Spell-list-wise, the classic classes, including the APG classes and magus are covered and bloodrager and shaman receive their own spell-lists as well. At least for now, the pdf does not directly provide support for the occult classes.

 

Now, let us take a look at the spells, all right? We begin with interesting spells, as they take a mechanically relevant stab at depicting altitude sickness and the means to counter it; beyond their mechanical ramifications, the spells have interesting operations done. The save DC for aforementioned spell is increased if the material component is taken from a sufficiently high mountain…which is simple, elegant and just awesome.

 

The series has been pushing the boundaries of spellcasting and what you can do with it – and so it should come as no surprise that there are spells in this pdf that are hard to judge in terms of their potency: Amphisbaenic caster, to name one prominent example: As a level 7 spell, it allows you to split into your own self and a shadowy duplicate. Yes, we’ve seen the like before, but bear with me: The duplicate actually has a significant array of options – it’s not just an image, it acts like you do; spells are evenly distributed among the two and while the duplicate’s effects cause less damage than the real caster’s powers, the doubling of actions this entails is impressive and very powerful. It should be noted that the spell features several peculiarities that render it exceptional in the level of precision, but also make it slightly uncommon. The damage-decrease of the duplicate is, for example, an inverse take on usual shadow-themed spells: Where usually, such spells are only 20% real, here, the reduction of damage caused is subject to percentile effects. I am not against such effects, though it is slightly uncommon to employ such mechanics. Beyond that, the spell actually works better for casters with certain patrons or bloodlines, which is something I most definitely appreciate. The dual action mechanic is similarly precisely codified…and still, I’d call OP on this spell, were it not for significant risks involved with perished doubles, making this spell an option casters won’t want to spam all the time. This balancing mechanism makes it actually work out – sure, it’s a spell that requires some preparation by the player, but when employed, it is impressive indeed.

 

Speaking of balancing – the pdf is interesting in that spells like argentine’s grace are variants of an already existing spell, increased in potency and balanced via unique, potentially story-hook worthy material components…in this spell’s case, just fyi, a silver dragon’s scale…

 

Of course, such variants tend to end up as the rather rare exception to the rule considering the spells otherwise found herein: Want to make your foes magnets for big boulders/avalanches or just conjure them forth to throw at foes or characters? Possible. (*cough* Giantslayer GMs, get this one */cough*)

 

These would, however, not even be close to the spells you actually will keep in mind when reading this book. For example, which spellcaster than reaches lofty 9th level with actually resist the temptation of smashing enemies by literally letting a mountain top fall on them? Suddenly, “rocks fall, all die” has taken on a whole new dimension. A similar trope that just about every group will probably encounter at one point or another, the spell catapult ally is simply GLORIOUS. Why? Because it actually manages to codify the complex issues pertaining action economy implied by the action, one that is VERY hard to represent in the turn-based combat system, in a compelling and airtight rules-language. And yes, it takes weight and sizes into account.

 

If the mechanical aspects or high-level awesomeness are not what you’re looking for, what about a low-level spell that lets you walk on clouds (long overdue!), the option to make cloud bridges or blasting cones of ash? It should be mentioned that the latter can be taken as a nice example for spell balancing and the value of secondary effects when compared to similar magic effects of the same level.

 

Not all of the spells are 100% perfect, though – if you look for nitpicks, tehre are a precious few to be found herein – a curse that unleashes an inner beast and devolves the target grants you bite and claw attacks – while the variable, size-based damage-values are accounted for, the spell does not specify whether the attacks are treated as primary or secondary natural attacks. Established conventions exist to make this omission a non-issue, sure, but it still would have been nice to see that specifically mentioned. An entrancing dance that compels those that succumb to it to accompany you conjures up images of Hekate-rites or the pied piper and cantrip-based infliction of light sensitivity on the target similarly makes sense.

 

Those of us who are into philosophy will enjoy a spell where the author’s expertise show through – the illusion deep in the cave, based on the famous allegory of the cave in Plato’s work, is genius – not only are the effects well codified, it actually manages to illustrate a complex concept easily, teaching a slightly simplified experience by the mechanics of the system. I LOVE THIS. Considering the fact that many a spellcaster in fantasy worlds is supposed to be hyper-smart, the absence of spells that illustrate complex and intriguing concepts by means of game-mechanics is something that has always galled me…so kudos…not only for the educational aspect this spell contains. While we’re at it – what about a spell that eliminates your face and renders your whole body a sensory organ…albeit a deeply unsettling one? You’ll get two cookie points from me if you can tell me the theory that one is based on!

 

If giant form is too generic for your tastes (and/or you need more variety for giant-themed campaigns…), variants for fire/frost giants in this book will have you covered. Transforming into nightgaunts or wyverns may be cool – but not half as cool as making floating hills or mountains. Yes. Floating mountains. Awesome. Using the pun-tastic Grimm Resistance, you can get a powerful buff versus the fey creatures. Generating a magic-powered movement to compel large amounts of people to dig for you may sound specific…but the spell is basically at least one adventure practically spelled out for you.

 

Tapping into the characteristics of the savage humanoids living in the hills via an array of spells would be another component of the book. Very unique: Phase runner lets you oscillate between the material and ethereal plane, becoming ethereal while moving and substantial while standing still/attacking – this sports a LOT of unique applications for tactics – and, interestingly, the spell takes mounts and vehicles and the like into account. Perhaps, you, as a high-level druid, are just fed up with the encroachment of civilization…if you are, just Raise Mountain Range. 2 square miles per level. The summon spells herein are nothing to sneeze at either – they contain actual simple templates to add at your convenience.

 

Oh, and to make that reference…since I’m from Germany, I need to mention this, in spite of not being the biggest fan of the whole volkstümliche Musik concept – there is a spell in here called yodel. Yes, you can reskin this one to work via smoke signs. Yes, it is kinda funny, but works. Yes, I will probably use it and require my players to actually yodel when trying to use it. Because that’s how I roll. 😉

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two column full color standard and features some neat artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Dave Paul’s spells are the most anticipated spell books for Pathfinder for me; let’s not kid anyone. They’re pretty much the only spell books I truly look forward to reviewing right now. I’m mostly burned out on spells and the significant majority of spells either is a variant on something or doesn’t feel magical enough for me. Dave Paul’s spells, on the other hand, either do something mechanically interesting, breathe a sense of the wondrous, stitch shut gaps in what spells let you do, provide unique tactical options…it may sound weird, but I actually prefer his spells and variants of other spells over many an “original” spell. Why? Because even his spell variants stand out with unique rules-operations or concepts that breathe the spirit of the fantastic to an extent unrivalled by just about every comparable book. It is a boon for a lot of authors that he got into the spell-writing gig only relatively recently; otherwise many a book of magic would have received less praises from yours truly. The terrain-based 101-spell-series raises the roof for the whole concept of spells and this is no different. Evocative and unique, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, with an explicit extra recommendation for fans of giants, dwarves and humanoids and classic Against the Giants/Borderlands/Giantslayer-style gameplay.

 

You can get this great collection of spells here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 292016
 

Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald (5e)

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The first of Legendary Games’ modules intended for new players clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Before we do, I should not be remiss to mention that this module features a handy “slightly advanced” spellcasting array of options used by some of the creatures herein -the module does sport some discrepancies regarding some spells that are due to the conversion from PFRPG’s beginner’s box: Bane, for example, is utilized in a version that does not require concentration. While I get why this decision was made, it is something 5e-purists may sneer at as an non-required complication – why not simply grant the creature in question a unique ability? This, however, remains the exception; for the most part, the rules, conforming to the simplified standards, work.

 

It should also be noted that this module is intended to be kid-friendly; as such, it features relatively straightforward themes of fighting bad guys and doing good; if political intrigue or shades of grey morality are what you’re looking for, this may not be the place. I firmly believe in teaching via roleplaying games and kids should not just slog through combat upon combat – and the author seems to concur here, stating the directive that social and thinking skills should be challenged by modules as well.

 

As for the age-range, well, unless the kids in question are particularly sensitive, this module should be appropriate for kids ages 4 up; in case of very sensitive kids, 6+ would be a pretty safe bet. This does not mean that this module is “kid’s stuff”, mind you – it very much works for adults, but I’ll get back to that in the conclusion.

 

Setting-wise, this module assumes the kingdom of Threll in the author’s Terrallien world, which is a pretty “normal” fantasy world; as such, it is very easy to plug into other campaign settings – in this kingdom, the feyweald is basically a protected area, where the spirits of nature may roam free, unimpeded by Threllish civilization….and this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right still here? A strange sickness has been plaguing the Feyweald and the nymph queen Pryhoza has asked for assistance from Threll’s king Ambrose I, offering an alliance in return for assistance in this matter, which would in turn render diplomatic relations with reclusive druids a distinct possibility. The problem seems to be gift horse…and hence, enter the PCs, which are assumed to be members or associates of the Zekerian order, as denoted by magical amulets – these amulets also provide a safety net 1/day to prevent death and allow for some healing to further decrease the potential of player frustration. The 5e-conversion of the item is solid.

 

The group arrives at Northrunner Sound, scheduled to meet with the queen and her two advisors ( a leprechaun and a brownie), but an audience with the queen obviously requires the proper gifts – while the king has sent a whole chest, the hustle and bustle of sprites means that the PCs will have to rely on their wits and people skills to present the correct gift to the correct fey -this may be achieved via respective skill-checks.

 

This first social stumbling block out of the way, the feast begins, but as soon as the arboreal banquet is in full swing (and PCs get bored with the interactions), the party is, alas, crashed: Mites riding giant jumping spiders assault the party and it will be up to the PCs to defeat the threat. Here would be as good a chance as any to notice an aesthetic deviation from 5e-formatting standards in the statblocks: We have colons instead of full stops and e.g. Melee Weapon Attack and Hit are not properly italicized. Similarly, spells are not italicized properly in the respective statblocks. It should be noted, though, that these hiccups are aesthetic in nature and do not compromise the integrity of the creatures faced.

 

After the threat is eliminated, queen Pryozha confides in the PCs: An evil force has taken root in the feyweald, changing it, turning it and its creatures slowly evil, turning it Unseelie. For 5e-purposes, this quasi-template, a collection of abilities you can slap on fey creatures, has been included for your perusal. She asks them to seek out the threat and take care of it, but not before granting them a specific oil that is supposed to help them bypass the resistances of some fey – a valuable resource that the PCs hopefully use cleverly – and one whose effects have been modified to work better in conjunction with 5e’s more rock-paper-scissors-style design paradigm.

 

On their way through the forests, the PCs will have a chance to help awakened badgers from a trap laid by unseelie brownies and fauns navigate where traps and mites await and encounter an aggressive bird that can be calmed down by smart players…and finally defeat a nasty unseelie giant toad…and finally, possibly the first underground complex ever awaits the players: The lost grove, where a sinkhole guarded by mites now speaks of the influence of a nasty, trapped being called Bayaga. In the pit of the grove where the PCs will have to defeat more mites, an unseelie sprite and faun and yaldira, in Pathfidner a forlarren, she, as the champion of the evil force Bayaga, has received a unique, conversion. The villains boast in good ole’ traditional villain monologue and indeed, during the combat, bayaga creates a crystalline earth elemental as a form to fight the PCs – destroying it takes the unseelie curse from the afflicted fey. It should be noted that the crystalline boss does conform in rules-tricks to what earth elementals can do in 5e, which is a pretty nice touch!

 

Having defeated this threat, the PCs are hailed as heroes, are granted a blessing from the beautiful fey queen as well as masterwork items as a thank you – not bad for novice adventurers, and yes, PC death can be reversed…and Ambrose’s favor/reward is nothing to scoff at either!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no grievous glitches, but there are some minor deviations from 5e-formatting conventions in the statblocks. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ neat two-column full-color standard for the series, though in an odd peculiarity, my readers depict some passages of text in slightly bolder letters than other paragraphs. This is purely aesthetic nitpickery, though. The original full-color artwork by Paul Pederson and Beatrice Pelagatti employed in the book is absolutely gorgeous and makes for cool handouts. Michael Tumey’s cartography is similarly nice.

 

Paris Crenshaw’s first kid-friendly module is fun, evocative and has a structure and feeling like a classic fairy tale, which it ultimately is. This renders it not only palpable for kids, it also can be fun for adults and with some rewrites, you can make it as dark as you want to. Structure and diversity-wise, this is pretty cool. That being said, at the same time, the traveling section through the forest and the final dungeon note paths the PCs travel, with letters and numbers pointing…nowhere. You see, the cartography is player-friendly, which is awesome – no distracting keys and hotspots can be found on them…well, on all of them but one, which is weirdly inconsistent. But the structure of the module seems to employ a bit of wilderness hexcrawling, some sort of choice regarding the path taken…and the maps provided do not help in that regard at all, which is weird to me; my theory is that the module was supposed to have player-friendly and GM-maps and they have been either mixed up or somewhat confused. Anyways, this is still a minor hiccup that does not detract too much from the quality of the module.

 

There would be one more slight complaint of mine, resulting probably from being somewhat spoiled by Playground Adventures: I am a firm believer in teaching children, at least to a certain extent, about morality in games, since it is an easy and unobtrusive manner to do so. Reinforcing good behavior and morals can be easily achieved in games. Personally, I would have loved to see the module actually feature the choice of how the PCs handle defeated unseelie entities more – a bit of interrogation and foreshadowing from prisoners, for example. The module does offer a means of reverting the unseelie transformation, which is a good thing in a kid-related context. This may be controversial, but I do believe that there is a didactic opportunity lost here – if the choice to keep the defeated unseelie alive or kill them was emphasized more, that well could upset some kids, true; at the same time, rewarding players for “doing the right thing” and only knocking the fey unconscious in the aftermath could have been a very educational experience for the players. I once did this in my games and as soon as the kids realized that good deeds would be rewarded, the motivation to be good increased significantly. Considering 5e’s choice regarding killing or just subduing foes, this feels even more like a missed opportunity. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is something to consider when running this module, particularly for the younger ones.

 

The 5e-conversion of the rules from the original PFRPG-iteration was handled with care, though the 5e-version, to me, seems to actually be a bit more difficult…which is a good thing. Why? Because my players curbstomped everything to smithereens in the PFRPG-versions. Who said kids can’t make killer-builds? 5e’s less mechanics-centric focus does make the module feel a bit more rewarding.

 

Now one final note: This was originally written as part of a girl scout experience and honestly, running this module, with its sequence of civilization, banquet, hike, etc. in the downtime of a family trip to a national park or nature itself can be exceedingly rewarding: Take a break, play for half an hour, eat when the PCs are eating, get to the teensiest bit creepy final when it turns dark – the module very much features a structure not unlike a trip into the wild…and honestly, that’s how I’d run it in a perfect world where I had the means.

 

Ah, right, the final verdict. All in all, Into the Feyweald is an evocative fairy tale to participate in; difficulty-curve wise, it is VERY easy, until the final encounter, where things get tougher. The module assumes a moderately competent GM and features a LOT of read aloud text, so no excessive experience is required on the GM’s side – only enough to handle the key/map hiccup sans stumbling and the final encounter; if you can run that one, you’re good…and it’s not hard to run. The module is beautiful and fun, though it does not reach the absolute apex; its atmosphere is great and playful, but a couple of the finer aspects could have used a bit more guidance or specific rewards for actions. The balancing of the module generally worked better for me than in the PFRPG-version, but the slight deviations pertaining the statblock-formatting somewhat cancel that out. In the end, I consider this a good module for kids and a nice conversion with some slight room for improvement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this nice module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 292016
 

The Jötunfolk: Descended from Death

143239

This racial supplement depicts the Jötunfolk race as employed in the Rhûne campaign setting. It clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/preface, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After the Ragnarök clock began its inexorable countdown to the end of days, the jötunfolk started roaming the lands; discarded and unwanted children of the Thrall Lords, exposed to jötunstones, these children were changed in the womb to be born into the shape of half-giants. Increased fertility of the land was the first sign of the influence of jötunstones- it seemed like a golden age in the waiting – but then the burðr morðvíg began, the birth murders, began and saw women die to the births of their monstrously large offspring, leaving countless fathers widowers. The ostracization and negative take on the jötunfolk has remained to this day, the stones now called dreyurgr, curse stones – and thus the Jötunfolk still roam the lands, feared testament of the taint of the land and the thrall lords’ influence. Racial-information-wise, age, height and weight tables are provided for these supposedly cursed folks and nomenclature and the like is covered as well.

 

Racial trait-wise, the jötunfolk get +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha and are considered to be “Giant humanoids (giant)” – that should probably be Large humanoid (giant)…but then again, they are considered to be Medium until they are subjected to a spell or effect that alters their bodies, whereupon they exhibit bestial features, imposing a further -2 penalty to Charisma while in effect…which is interesting, but does it influence the availability of spells for Cha-based spellcasters? Jötunfolk receive a +1 bonus (should be racial) to CMB and CMD and get carrying capacity as though they were Large creatures and are treated as such for purposes of whether they can e.g. be swallowed whole. They also suffer a -1 penalty to AC. Their build does demand fuel, though, and thus they require twice the sustenance of humans. Jötunfolk get low-light vision and the Intimidating Prowess feat as a bonus feat. This feat can be exchanged, alternate racial trait-wise, with rock catching.

 

When casting divine spells not granted by the thrall lords, they suffer a -2 penalty to caster level checks and a -2 penalty to spell DCs due to their inherent connection with the Thrall lords. Their curse also manifests as healing-impediments: When cured by creatures not beholden to the Thrall lords, they halve the amount of healing received.

 

Now generally, I *REALLY* like the jötunfolk’s racial set-up: Evocative, infused with setting fluff and cool ideas, the race has all the flavor of the half-giant trope and none of the Large-creature adventuring issues in small tunnels etc. However, at the same time, I need to note one thing: Formatting is really bad here. There are a lot of annoying, unnecessary deviations from presentation standards: Non-bolded ability names, no italicization in the spells, wrong type…Similarly, there’s a paragraph after the attribute modifiers that lack blank spaces. This very flawed formatting can be seen in a lot of the content herein. Rock catching lacks the ability type, for example…etc.

 

On the more positive side, the classic Paizo-classes (Core, APG and magus + gunslinger) get favored class options. The pdf contains a new bloodline for sorcerors, the Jötunblooded bloddline, which lets you enchant a limited number of rocks per day and fling them at foes, turning them into lethal boulders as they fly and higher levels provide a potentially dazing bellow, the option to summon lesser giants and in the end, undergo giant apotheosis.

 

The pdf also provides rules for chain swords (F*** YES!) and they are pretty cool: the weapon is versatile and requires both a Str and Dex-check to quickly return to its base form…though, much like the giant’s mitt allows the wearer to throw and catch boulders with it. Annoyingly, the weapons only have stats for their L equivalents, not for M or S versions. Yes, Jötunfolk may use Large weapons…but still a pity, considering how cool I consider both to be.

 

The pdf also contains 7 feats – here, the formatting is btw. precise: Beyond the obvious Rock Throwing and gaining the rock throwing and catching racial traits and throwing creatures, the feats also allow for a reach increase to 10 ft., a proper size increase to Large and a racial feat to increase the potency of spells and effects requiring sonic components (excluding verbal material components) increase in potency.

 

The p0df also contains 4 magic items – while the general presentation here is solid, spells once again have not been italicized. The items contain spaulders that allow for size increases, enchanted throwing stones…and a belt of lesser kin that allows the Jötunfolk to be treated as a regular humanoid for the “purpose of resolving spells (such as enlarge person or reduce person.)” Here, the italicization is there…but there’s an issue: You see, giants already are humanoids in PFRPG. Don’t get me wrong: I hate this and in my game, I use a lot of the fixes suggested in Legendary Games’ Mythic Monsters-series to make giants less wimpy; and in Rhûne, it makes sense to hearken closer to 3.X’s treatment of giants as a separate type…but as a stand-alone, when judged only within the context of this pdf…this item thus does NOTHING. Finally, a minor rune pebble that helps with against and against fear can be found. The pdf contains 3 spells, the first of which duplicates the animosity exhibited towards the Jötunfolk as a nice curse; beyond that, we have a 4th/5th level cold damage/slow-combination and a powerful high-level buff with the mantle of the thrall lords’ champion, which includes a disease-causing gaze attack.

 

The pdf ends with perhaps one of the coolest aspects herein: The dreyurgr aura: This manifests as a vast array of strange effects that spread in a radius of 2d10 miles from the cursed stones -and the massive table is 95 entries strong, with the final entries denoting rolling twice or thrice, respectively. These effects are simply glorious if you’re looking for magical, rules-relevant effects of weird magical zones and areas, this table delivers: Women don’t need to sleep; universal poison immunity; using sticks as wands with random charges (though that could use CL-info); no lying; tasteless meat, fish that are black on the inside – this section is narrative gold and ends the pdf with a positive bang.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly formatting, is what deprives this pdf of the honors it is due. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous two-column full-color standard that is thankfully relatively printer-friendly due to a lack of colored background. The pdf sports multiple Paizo-level drop-dead gorgeous artworks that are simply astounding. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

 

Mike Myler’s stand-alone Jötunfolk-pdf has since been revised and included in the Rhûne campaign setting and I’ll soon return to it in the context of review for that one, when I’ll also analyze it within the overall context of Rhûne. This review just pertains this file, as an isolated entity.

 

As a standalone book, this pdf does feature a truly imaginative race with great fluff and horribly botched formatting in some cases. The rules-language isn’t bad either, but it isn’t always as precise as you’d want it to be. Concept-wise, this is a definite 5 stars book and it does have all the makings of a unique and evocative race; I am not a fan of the lopsided design that gears them towards the martial bent, but that is a matter of taste. However, the editing and formatting of this book leave much to be desired, in contrast to the jötunfolk’s presentation in the final book,.

 

Try as I might, I can’t go higher than 3 stars on this file; that is not to say that is has nothing to offer you, though: The extensive dreyurgr table, for example, constitutes a great little resource and the pdf is relatively cheap, particularly considering the glorious artwork.

 

You can get this racial pdf here on OBS!

Interested in Rhûne and don’t want to wait for my review of the CS? You can get that one here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.