Nov 302016
 

Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargaming in the Frozen City

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This rule-book clocks in at 136 pages, minus 4 if you take away ToC, editorial and the like.

 

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in question.

 

So, what is Frostgrave? Well, in-game it was once the center of magics, a metropolis of ridiculous power, steeped in arcane might; then, the ice came and swallowed the city; winter had come and devoured it wholesale. For untold years, the powerful magics of the place had been kept below the grinding glaciers…but now, thaw has come, unearthing ever more of the labyrinthine ruins that make up the city, unearthing countless mystical treasures, rife for the taking for those foolhardy or brave enough to venture inside. From all traditions and lands, wizards and their entourages flock to the place, all hoping for supreme magical power…

 

So that would be the in-game reply. Out-game, Frostgrave can best be pictured as a beer-and-pretzels, quick-play hybrid between fantasy wargaming and roleplaiyng, one that requires no GM and yes, the game supports more than two players. So how exactly does it work?

 

Well, you need a couple of things to play, but significantly less than for similar games: You need miniatures…but not more than the average gaming group has on its hands; 28 mm miniatures are assumed as default. Per player, you cannot have more than 10 minis under your command, so the game’s pretty tame as far as that’s concerned. You also need dice – one d20 suffices, though one per player is better. Frostgrave can be played easily on most household tables; 2′ by 2′ is enough for quick games, 4′ by 4′ or larger tables allow for more impressive games, though. A crucial difference between Frostgrave and other games of this type is the emphasis on terrain – the game taking place in the frozen ruins of the eponymous city also means that the ruins are supposed to be crowded and maze-like; if you *have* a ton of terrain, well, perfect; if not, anything from clothes to books suffices. Heck, I once played a game with clothes and coins for a lack of minis (I always carry dice with me) and it worked.

 

So, the “avatar” and most important figure under the command of each player would be the wizard. The wizard is further diversified by his focus on one of ten schools of magic, specializations, if you will. Each of the schools has one opposed school, 5 neutral schools and 3 aligned schools – these represent the grades and ease with which you can cast spells beyond your school’s field. Aligned schools increase the DC by +2, neutral ones by +4 and opposed school spells by +6. In case you’re interested, the specializations are Chronomancer, Elementalist, Enchanter, Illusionist, Necromancer, Sigilist, Soothsayer, Summoner, Thaumaturge and Witch. For most people with any degree of familiarity with fantasy traditions, these should be pretty self-explanatory. When creating a wizard, you begin play with 8 spells: 4 from your own school; 1 must come from each of the aligned schools and finally, 2 are chosen from the neutral schools, but each must come from a different school.

 

This choice made, we must talk a bit about the stats: Creatures have 6 stats: Move (M) denotes how far a character can move per turn. Fight (F) is the character’s melee capability. Shoot (S) depicts the ranged capability. Armour (A) represents the armor of the creature – natural or otherwise. Will (W) is the character’s willpower and ability to resist spells. Finally, Health (H) is basically the hit points of the character. Fight, Shoot and Will are noted with plusses, denoting the modification to the roll – for roleplayers, think of that as basically the respective BAB or base save. In some cases, stats will be noted with splits, like +2/+3, for example – the first stat denotes the actual stat, the second the effective stat, modified by magic, items, etc..

 

A wizard’s unmodified stats are M6, F +2, S +0, A 10, W +4 and H 14. All creatures in Frostgrave can carry items. Wizards can carry up to 5 of them, apprentices 4 and soldiers 1. Wizards begin play with a staff or hand weapon and may buy a dagger, two-handed weapon, bow or crossbow for 5 gold. Dual-wielding sword + dagger nets you +1 effective Fight. This would be the most important character all done…now let’s assemble our warband.

 

I already mentioned the apprentice, who is the most important character beyond the wizard – you may never have more than one and the apprentice costs a whopping 200 gp. The apprentice is the only way to have a second spellcaster and his F, S and W-values are based on the wizard: The wizard’s stats -2, to be more precise. Health is equal to the wizard’s -4. They get the wizard’s spells, but cast each spell at -2. The system also provides a total of 15 types of soldiers you can hire, ranging in price from 10 gp war hounds to the costly 100 gp veterans. The price for these guys, just btw., goes up exponentially with skill. The stats of these soldiers never increase via spells or magic items – they are basically your lackeys or mooks. The system does not distinguish between races – elven or dwarven soldiers use the same stats, though admittedly, you can easily introduce racial modifiers, if you so choose.

 

Frostgrave knows a total of 6 item classes: Daggers reduce damage by 1; two-handed weapons increase it by +2; staves come at -1 damage, but also decrease the damage received in hand-to-hand combat by -1. Bows have a maximum range of 24”; crossbows take one action to load and one to fire, but hit at +2 damage, with a maximum range of 24”. Finally, unarmed combat means -2 Fight and -2 damage.

 

Now, since I already talked about setting up the table, let me mention that, at the beginning of the game, after terrain has been placed, the players put 3 treasure tokens per player on the ruins, taking turns when doing so. The tokens must be placed at least 9” from a player’s table edge. After placing the tokens, you do roll which designated player side becomes your starting side…so just placing them close for convenience may fire back big time.

Ok, that covered, we have begun talking about actions, let’s take a look at the structure of turns. At the beginning of each turn, every player rolls initiative, ties are rerolled and players act in sequence of the result rolled. Each turn is divided in 4 phases, which, in sequence, are as follows:

 

The wizard is activated (the term for using a miniature) first and may also activate up to 3 soldiers within 3” of the wizard alongside with him. When a figure is activated, it gets to perform two actions, one of which MUST be movement. The other action may be a second move, fighting, shooting, spellcasting r any special actions eligible. A figure may only perform one action, if it so chooses or is otherwise handicapped. The use in conjunction with the nearby soldiers is called group activation. During the wizard and apprentice phase, soldiers within 3” of the caster may be activated alongside him/her/it. The thus activated soldiers must all move in conjunction and the first action of group activation must be movement. All figures thus activated get to act. Once a wizard’s turn is done, the next wizard may act. Yep, you don’t have to wait through x phases to act – this keeps the game pretty dynamic. After the wizard phase, it’s time for the apprentice phase – which follows the basically same structure. Then, it’s the soldier phase and after that, the creature phase.

 

Movement is pretty simple in general: The first move is at the full Move stat in ”; any subsequent move takes half the Move stat; a character with move 6 could e.g. use both actions to move 9”. Moving over obstructions (you agree on those when setting up the table) costs 2” per inch; rough ground similarly halves movement. Which brings me to one of the very few rough edges of the system – as you may have noted, there is some halving going on. The lack of a grid means that you don’t have something and you don’t round up or down. For people used to the metric system, this becomes slightly more annoying; at least alternate distances may have helped there and rounding guidelines would have sped up play; in my playtests, the lack of rounding up/down constitutes one of the few instances where the game did not play as smoothly as a well-oiled machine. When two creatures are in contact, they are designated as “in combat” and may not move. Why am I talking about this now? When a figure moves within 1” of another creature, said creature may force combat, placed immediately next to the creature passing. Movement by spell etc. is btw. not considered to count as movement, but any creature using this that ends movement within 1” is forced into combat.

 

Figures moving off the board are out of the game and may not be involuntarily be forced off the board. A creature can jump as part of the movement if it moved at least an equal distance prior to jumping – a creature with move 4 can e.g. jump up to 2” after moving 2”. If a creature falls more than 3”, the critter takes 1.5 times the number of excess inches in damage.

 

Combat is simple: You spend one action and both figures involved roll 1d20 and add their Fight stat plus any additional modifiers. The figure with the highest number wins. After that, you subtract the armor score from the winner’s roll. If the score is positive after detracting the armor score, the target takes damage equal to the remaining points. In the case of both rolls being equal, the combatants hit each other and cause damage to one another, allowing for double K.O.s. After determining damage caused, the winner can decide to either remain in combat or push back either figure by 1”, directly away from the opposing figure. Figures thus moved are no longer in combat, Combats with multiple figures are slightly more complex, but they are explained in a very concise and easy to grasp manner. The system, as you can see, is pretty lethal due to its swingy nature of opposing d20s – which means that it emphasizes tactics over strategy. You can, if you’d like to, also use a critical hit optional rules for even more lethal combat.

 

Shooting has two terms to keep in mind: In range, which means within 24” and line of sight, which is self-explanatory. The comparison here is btw. 1d20 + Shoot vs. 1d20 + Fight., with damage being determined analogue to melee, though cover types and terrain hamper shooting with modifiers. Shooting into melee is random: You have a random chance to hit any participant. Creatures reduced to 0 health are presumed killed, unless you’re playing in a campaign (more on that later); as an optional rule, characters reduced to 4 or less health are considered to be wounded, taking -2 to all die rolls and only gaining one move; I’d strongly suggest playing with this rule, it adds some neat drama to the games.

 

Spellcasting is handled similarly: You roll a d20 and compare that to the spell’s casting number; on a success, you cast the spell. The game has a degree of failure system; the worse you fail the casting, the more risky it gets; on a failure, you can take damage. Spellcasters may empower spells, which is determined after the casting roll is made, but before effects are determined. The spellcaster may choose to lose health to increase the roll; if a spellcaster would, for example, fail a spellcasting roll by 4, he may sacrifice 4 health to still succeed. When a wizard colossally fails at casting a spell by 20+, he may empower spells to actually take less net damage. This is intended. The target resisted by the spell rolls 1d20 and adds the Will stat; if the target succeeds, he resists the spell. Spellcasters may empower Will rolls by expending Health on a 1:1-basis akin to how empowering spells work.

 

The game is about treasure, and a character next to a treasure token may use an action to pick it up; thereafter, it moves with the creature. If the creature carrying treasure is killed, the token remains there, ready to be picked up again. A character can only carry one treasure token. In order to secure a treasure token, the carrying figure must move off the board. Now, Frostgrave features more than just competing warbands – the ruins are haunted by various creatures. The system presents basically the analogue version of an AI for them; simple steps of handling them and priority sequences. So no, you do not need a GM, though obviously, it is possible to play the game with a referee/GM. A game of Frostgrave usually ends when the last treasure token has left the board or when one side has been completely wiped out.

 

So yeah, short instant games are fast play and can last between 10 minutes and an hour….but you’ll get the most out of Frostgrave when playing a campaign. Ina campaign, a creature reduced to 0 Health is not considered to be killed, but out of combat, which means you get to roll on a survival table; wizards and apprentices have better chances to live…and yep, you can suffer permanent injuries; a total of 9 of which are provided with rules-relevant repercussions. After a game in a campaign, you award experience to the participants: Successfully cast spells, enemy soldiers, apprentices or wizards defeated and treasure tokens secured net experience per default. Every full 100 experience points for a wizard grants the character a level, which can be used to improve a stat, a spell (granting +1 to its spellcasting level) or learning a new spell. Each treasure token secured in a campaign nets a roll on the treasure table. There is also a potion table. Scrolls are one-use fire and forget spells; grimoires are books that allow a wizard to learn a specific spell and, if you choose to, you can determine spells randomly with a table. Magic Weapons and armor, magic items, etc. – there is a lot of material here – and yes, the magic items come with concise rules.

 

Gold crowns accumulated allow the wizard to replace slain apprentices, hire new soldiers, buy items, etc. However, in a campaign game of Frostgrave, the game adds another cool option to using your hard-earned gold: Namely establishing a base, which may contain labs, inns, breweries, etc. – the rules presented here are concise and have relevant repercussions in game. Kudos for that addition!

 

Now obviously, a game focused as strongly on spellcasters needs a massive magic chapter – and indeed, it is BIG. Some spells are out-of-game spells and happen “off screen”; other are self only, have line of effect, area of effect or a range of touch; each spell has a base casting number, as mentioned before…and that’s pretty much already the extent of the framework’s rules – concise, easy to grasp and elegant…with a couple of minor hiccups: The damage-causing elemental spells or poison dart are very powerful if a wizard increases the quickly, making the respective character a nasty arcane artillery. The other spell that is somewhat OP is Leap. Yeah, I know, I didn’t expect that either until I started testing the system. Leap’s benefits: Immediate 10” move, not hindered by terrain. Considering table size, it’s very easy to grab treasure and jump off the board with this one, basically grab and run. Having the spell scale with table size and nerfing it, may be a smart choice; similarly, including a caveat that you can’t jump off the table would be appreciated – getting at least one turn to defeat the escaping wizard would be nice. As an optional spell-goal for campaigns, researching transcendence and successfully casting it can be used as a generic campaign goal.

 

Now, while campaigns make Frostgrave more rewarding, this also holds true for playing scenarios – these would be games with unique rules modifications. Creature spawns are very conservative in the default game and e.g. in “The Mausoleum”, you get infinite skeleton spawns; Genie in the bottle unleashes a very powerful and nasty genie when picking up a treasure and being unlucky. Featuring a tower that kills all magic inside and has the best treasure. Libraries with limited exits; museums where statues may come to life, exploring an area where giant worms dwell, exploring a haunted house…pretty cool. Or what about the super-lethal well that also may grant health when drunk from? The keep with the teleportation arcs? These modifications, which may btw. be combined, greatly diversify the game – and they engender roleplaying…when you and your fellow player agree on the need to research and thus pit your wizards against one another in a library…it’s an easy means of generating a bit of roleplaying. Speaking of inspiration and dressing – the book features a ton of small boxes that contain VERY evocative little quotes describing the wonders and horrors of the frozen city, acting as a great way to make the reading experience more inspiring and pleasant.

 

Now, I already mentioned creatures and the optional rule for very limited random encounters…but the book also features a ton of monsters that range from undead to animals and yetis/werewolves or trolls.

 

The book also contains handy spellcards by school and an easily used wizard sheet; speaking of which – I happen to have a nice, high-quality cardstock version of the sheet, which actually manages to collect the crucial rules of the book on this one less-than-GM-screen-sized sheet.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent; I noticed no significant glitches in either the formal criteria or the rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to a mixture of a two-column and a one-column standard and is in full-color and aesthetically pleasing. The artwork is copious and features both pictures of neat minis in full color…as well as absolutely stunning artworks of the same quality as featured on the cover. This is, in short, a beautiful book. The hardcover I receives has nice binding and has borne the brunt of all my use well. I can’t comment on the electronic version.

 

Joseph A. McCullough’s Frostgrave is an amazing game. I came to RPGs from a wargaming background and this book should prove to be amazing for both types of gamers. Wargaming strategists that want to have an edge via placement etc. will not be too keen on it, but personally, I loved the swingy nature of the game here; Frostgrave keeps you on your toes and features these unique moments where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat. The focus of the game is certainly PvP, but you can actually roleplay; wizards clashing again and again will enact feuds over campaigns and the game becomes particularly amazing when using more than 2 players, as alliances are formed and abandoned; if you have a passionate GM who likes making complex scenarios, you can bring a campaign up to a whole new level and increase the nastiness of the creatures featured; potentially, you can make scenarios where the wizards have to ally themselves against superior odds, etc. – in short, you can play this wargame like a wargame, like an RPG or like a mix. It’s also very fast play: I managed to run a 10-game campaign in a single day without any problems and had a blast.

 

More important for a core rulebook, the Frostgrave-system used here is extremely simple. Anyone who has ever played a d20-based game will immediately get how to play this. Reading the totality f the rules takes about an hour, tops; you can explain them in 5 minutes to someone else, though. Frostgrave is easy to learn and the presentation of the rules is EXTREMELY concise and well-structured. At no point did I think I could have presented the rules in a more concise, stringent manner. That being said, as mentioned before, there are a couple of rough edges; the lack of rounding up/down guidelines was remedied by house-rule in my games after a few playtesting games. Leap and the wizard artillery spells can imho use a bit of a nerf and thus, balance is not always perfect; so tournament style gaming, admittedly not the focus of the system, is not something it does too well.

 

If you are looking for an atmospheric, easy to learn and play game that allows you to play a game or two during lunch break and scratch that gaming-itch, then this absolutely delivers perfectly. The game may not be perfect, but it is a good offering…though one that fully comes into its own when adding in more material…and yep, I have the expansions…so expect to see those reviews soon!

 

The core book, on its own, is a fun, evocative and easy to learn beer-and-pretzels style game with a ton of narrative potential. While short of perfection when played on its own, the core book as a stand-alone still manages to score an impressive 4.5 stars, though for the book on its own, I’d have to round down; if you want to get the game, I’d strongly suggest also getting at least one expansion; with more material (or a creative GM/players designing more), Frostgrave does become 5 star-material, though I can’t represent that in the core book’s rating.

 

You can get this cool fast-play wargame/rpg-hybrid here on OBS!

 

The print-version can be purchased here on Osprey Games’ shop!

 

If you want the official miniatures, they can be found here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 302016
 

Tinkering 302: Modules – Tinker Magic Items

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This expansion for the Tinker class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, the tinker class by Interjection games, by now, has a ton of amazing expansions and we begin this pdf with a recap of the invention subtype introduced so far in a handy cheat sheet. The pdf also offers a crucial component missing from the tinker class so far, namely magic items for the Tinker-class. These are called modules and can be fashioned via the Craft Module feat, which btw. requires CL 1st and deploy automaton, and yep, even though the tinker has no CL per se, only a quasi-CL, the feat explicitly notes that he qualifies.

 

The pdf offers 4 innovations to work in conjunction with modules: Juryrigged modules lets you improvise one module of less than 100 gp cost for the day; and no, it can’t be stacked upon itself. Mastermaker increases your CL by +4 for crafting purposes as well as quicker module crafting. Module Maximizer lets you employ a module with a CL less than or equal o 1/2 your class level 2/day instead of 1/day and Rapid Infiltration lets you apply modules to yourself as a swift action via the organic infiltrator greater innovation.

 

Wait, what? Yep, there are 4 greater innovations here as well: Organic Infiltration lets you apply up to 3 modules to yourself, as though you were a better automaton cap. (More on that below!) Master Modifier allows you to change deploy automaton’s activation action to a full-round, but also lets you add two modules to the automaton deployed. Energy Capture is an amazing high-level option with combo-potential galore: When using a module, you gain the benefits of the module until the end of your next turn. Finally, Alpha Modifier lets you add modules to your alpha and change it when you regain your daily deploy automaton class feature.

 

I mentioned the automaton cap – this is basically the item that makes it possible to apply modules to non-automatons – 1/day. The Directive Beacon is absolutely amazing: It lets you program a directive into an automaton, which is then stored – this directive can then be activated as an immediate action. The next item herein would be a whole class – inventor’s helpers exist in 6 different categories. These contain a non-alpha, non-design, non-arcanotech invention or a series of inventions wherein one both requires and replaces another invention contained – basically, they can contain inventions with prereqs that build/expand a basic concept. Maximum BP-value for these is determined by the category of helper employed. The contained invention may 1/day spontaneously add its contained invention to a given automaton, allowing you to transcend the BP-cost maximum for the automaton thus, which is an interesting option.

 

Obsidian-Lead Spray Coating grants your automata scaling SR. Omega Modules allow for a more reliable hitting/damage. Overcharger allows for more uses of limited use inventions. Peepers are cool – they allow other characters to peer through automaton eyes in a certain range. Plasticizers also come in various versions, allowing you to add temporary hit points to automata. Propellant Pumps allow for the addition of propellants to a single firework, whereas Protectors can increase the AC of deployed automata. Refraction Modules provide invisible automata, while Spray Paint allows for the replacing of paint inventions – amazing! Now many of these modules need to be held like a one-handed weapon to be applied…and this is where the utility belt comes in – it lets you use a module sans holding it thus.

 

And finally, there would be weaponized backup, which is a gigadroid-only: 1/day, when wielded as a two-handed weapon, this one lets you substitute your gigadoid’s blueprint with that of your alpha. Yep. This allows you to have an autonomous mecha with rudimentary intelligence. OH YES!!!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ printer-friendly, elegant 2-column b/w-standard with fitting b/w-stock art and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

 

Whenever I think I’m done with the tinker, that I have seen everything Bradley Crouch can coax out of this amazing class, he one-ups himself. The modules presented herein are absolutely phenomenal and allow not only for a wide array of new combos, they also retain compatibility with the more complex components the tinker-engine by now offers. The enrichment the options herein provide and the added flexibility make this an absolutely must-have iteration for the tinker-class, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval. Can we get more modules…like…now? I haven’t been this excited about the class since the combo-fest of paints was introduced…

 

You can get this amazing tinker-expansion here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Interjection Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 302016
 

Fire & Ice (revised edition) (5e)

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This revised edition of this module for 5e clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Wait, Fire and Ice? Sounds familiar, right? And indeed, this module has previously been released as part of Adventure Quarterly #6 for PFRPG, so let’s check how well it translates to 5e, shall we?

 

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

..

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All right, only GMs left? Great! This adventure begins with the annihilation of an adventuring party.

No, not the PCs. A company of competing adventurers has been all but wiped out while trying to thwart an evil organization’s plan to harvest divine essences – this organization, the Godling Cabal, is NOT fooling around. The sole survivor of the adventuring party, as it happens, is on the same longship as the PCs, the Brightstar – which, strangely, seems to be making a detour, as PCs with the appropriate background can determine. The tranquility of the journey is interrupted rather harshly, as an icy finger of an iceberg-vessel (!!) hits the ship and the vessel is boarded by magelings and a being called Malkin, who doubles as the primary antagonist. In the first encounter. How does that work? Well, turns out that Malkin is frickin’ immortal.

 

In the original iteration, this was represented with a variety of unique rules-operations and they have been translated here -and it is here that the revised edition does the RITE thing: Where before, we had serious issues, now the revision sports lavish, detailed NPCs with unique abilities and tactical options, with the statblock-formatting and general integrity improved by more than just a bit. Kudos for going the extra mile here!

 

Upon temporarily defeating the threat, the poor survivor comes clean and asks the PCs for aid and so they’re off to the island of pleasure, Mibre – including a gorgeous map, mind you. This place is a small paradise, where an order of enigmatic monks poses an interesting puzzle (including trouble-shooting advice and means t brute-force it) – here, the conversion is working as intended. The strange order of monks living here will prove to be pretty important, for without their help, the PCs will have a hard time bringing the magical crystal to the plane of fire to sunder it and thwart the plans of the evil cabal. Only by understanding the monks and participating in their tests (sans being killed by the cabal’s forces!) do they have a solid chance to destroy the crystal in the plane of fire. The whole structure of the module and its use of 5e-mechanics has improved dramatically.

The pdf does feature notes on the iceberg vessel, but don’t expect a write-up as a full vehicle; the maps are functional, but not high-res version of player-friendly iterations are provided…which is puzzling, considering that the AQ-issue that featured the module had high-res jpgs of the maps included!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have improved significantly on a formal level, but more importantly, are now up to the task on a rules-level as well! Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The artworks featured are solid full-color and the cartography by Tommi Salama is nice, though the absence of the *existing* high-res map-versions feels odd; indeed, since they act as handouts/ready to go, the rather small depictions of the maps in this iteration of the module is odd – in the Mibre map, you can barely make out the places!

 

The original 5e of Bret Boyd & Keith Byers’ “Fire and Ice” was a horrid mess…and Rite Publishing did the RITE thing here and got the 5e-specialist of the Four Horsemen, Dan Dillon, on board – and Dan delivers. In spades. He has basically taken a bad conversion and improved it to the point where the book now really works, where it is a fun, challenging high-concept 5e-module…just goes to show what a good dev can do. Anyways, the revised edition, superior in every way to the original, receives an updated rating of 4.5 stars, though I do still have to round down; this should not, however, keep you from checking this out – now 5e players may quake and shake before the Terminator-level assassin as well!

 

You can get this nice module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Nov 302016
 

Chemist Base Class

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This base-class clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The chemist-base class presented here receives d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and alchemical weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The class gets full BAB-progression as well as good Fort-saves.

 

Unfortunately, we have a minor hiccup in the first ability of the class alchemical study, namely that they add + level, not class level, to Craft (alchemy)-checks. The class begins play with 1/day alchemical smite: This is activated as a move action and adds acid, cold, electricity or fire damage equal to the class level. The ability lasts for class level + Int-mod rounds and a weapon thus modified is treated as an alchemical weapon for master of alchemy. You get +1/day uses at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter.

 

2nd level nets poison resistance, which improves by +1 every 3 levels thereafter. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net you your choice of either a bonus feat (combat feat or Brew Potion, the latter not being properly capitalized) or an alchemist discovery chosen from a small selection, with most focusing on gaining mutagen/enhancing it. 4th level unlocks extracts, which proceed to scale up to 4th level, acting as basically alchemist -3 levels, akin to how ranger, pala, et al deal with delayed spellcasting.

 

5th level provides some serious overkill regarding math: +1/2 class level “to all saving throws allowed by his alchemical weapons or items” – or at least that’s what I think it’s supposed to do. It could also mean that the class gains this bonus to avoid damage from his own alchemical items…but ultimately, no matter how you read it, the ability is lacking in precision. 13th level nets resistance 5 to acid, cold, electricity and fire, which increases by +5 at 16th and 19th level. The aforementioned master of alchemy wold be the capstone, which doubles the threat range when using alchemical weapons and also lacks a verb somewhere. I don’t know what “their damage improved one step” is supposed to mean. Additionally, crit multiplier is increased by one and they cannot be disarmed or sundered…which is a sucky flat-out immunity. Not even gods? Seriously? When not go with a big bonus instead?

 

The pdf also offers a new discovery: Variable smite lets you change the smite element at the “Cost of an additional turn of his alchemical smite” – does that mean round? Or activation? No idea, opaque, next.

 

The pdf then concludes with 3 alchemical weapons, all of which come with nice b/w-drawings/artworks. The first would be a 1d8 touch AC-attacking palm that deals 1d8 acid damage that can be opened as a move action, lasting one minute after being opened. Chilled Scourges would do the same for cold, but open up a question: The palm is, flavorwise, a glove, which eliminates that item-slot. The scourge is not…so…why? Finally, the lightning rod would do the same…well, for electricity. Same question applies.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal level. On a rules-language-level, some ambiguities have crept in, though. Layout adheres to a solid two-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks provided are nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Angel “ARMR” Miranda’s chemist is per se a decent class in theme; the full BAB-alchemy-user is a neat idea and one I most certainly can get behind as a huge fan of the witcher; that being said, it falls pretty flat. Alchemical smite, the one active class feature at low levels, sucks hard and the class, as a whole, just feels wrong; just feels like it doesn’t really get to do what it’s supposed to do. The chemist presented here isn’t that good at blowing stuff up, at adding cool effects to his weapons…at pretty much the niche chosen for it, theme-wise. It is not a bad class per se, but it certainly can use a power-upgrade, more options…you get the idea. As a whole, in spite of the fair proposition of this being PWYW, I can’t go higher than 3 stars on this fellow.

 

You can get this price for PWYW here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 292016
 

Scorpions of Perdition

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This module clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This module is intended for 8th and 9th level characters and can be easily inserted into Iron Gods, obviously…

…and that is pretty much as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs left? Great! The Drifter has wandered the ominously named region of “The Dust” for as long as anyone can remember, hunting a similarly long-lived outlaw named Shadrax. The drifter was once in charge of a prison ship that crashed on Golarion – and he is basically android Clint Eastwood with a laser gun. He has spent hundreds of years hunting down the escaped convicts, but Shadrax, the engineer of the riot that caused the ship to crash, has evaded him. Since then, his programming has changed and he considers himself the law in the region of “The Dust”, hunting down evildoers and seeking his nemesis. Shadrax, meanwhile, is as nasty as it gets: Infused with nanites, the xill has time galore and as such, has tried breeding out the nanites that keep it confined to the material plane over generations, but to no avail; worse, her little slave empire has fallen, the dread xill buried in a stasis pod…and now, hundreds of years later, the Drifter’s fuel starts running out. When the PCs, by one of the angles, come to the region and hopefully help him taking care of some harpies, he already shows signs of decreasing efficiency.

 

The dialog with the drifter does feature some read-aloud text (nice!) and the drifter tries to recruit the PCs to help him acquire a means of charging him – he knows where the object is, but needs help getting it. Oh, and if you’re wondering: Shadrax’ spawn do get modified abilities noted in a sidebar. Arriving at Perdition (fully statted, fyi), the overseer Perdy is facing down a mob of people who want to leave; as its name points out, Perdition has seen better days…and thus, the PCs are off into the mine to deal with the issues of the town…only that this is easier said than done. You see, there is a so-called mud-spawn of shadrax stalking the mine and it is a delightfully sadistic critter with paralysis and earth glide, a perfect adversary to generate paranoia, fear and an atmosphere of frickin’ HORROR. Oh, and it is glorious – you see the mud-spawn pretty much is a puzzle boss that you *can* try fighting fairly, but a massive 1-page guideline of running the critter should make sure that that doesn’t happen – instead, exploring the complex and paying attention as well as clever problem solutions will be required by the PCs to defeat this adversary. And yes, there are other critters in the dungeon as well…so yeah… in the best of ways, the module rewards smart actions here.

 

Making their way through the mine, the PCs find a location both wondrous and frightening, a massive necropolis with a palace and an irradiated river, all under the ground and lavishly illustrated with a one-page artwork that doubles as a cool handouts. The map provided here, just fyi, is player-friendly and in the place, Shadrax awaits with its priests – the progenitor is deadly indeed: A xill gunslinger (depicted with a cigar in one of the 4 hands!) makes for a truly deadly adversary.

 

The second part of the module deals with the so-called “Temple of the Burning God”, aka the wreckage of the ship…part of which hangs over a cliff, vertically, only attached to the remainder by a catwalk. Yep, vertical dungeon exploration. Yes, the adversaries obviously make good use of this uncommon environment. Yep, the dungeon is amazing and one of the few places where paltry CR 2 adversaries will really make the PCs sweat. As a minor complaint, the maps of the ship and the aforementioned palace do not come with player-friendly, key-less versions, so if you’re like me, that may be slightly annoying.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ neat 2-column full-color standard for Iron Gods-plug-ins and the pdf sports a mix of previously used full-color artworks and amazing new pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in full color is nice, though the lack of player-friendly maps for some of the adventuring locales does constitute a downside in my book.

 

Alex Riggs and Nicholas Logue deliver a wonderful lovesong to Clint Eastwood’s legendary “High Plains Drifter” – I adore the dirty, grimy Westerns and, seen through the lens of science-fantasy, with ample horror spliced in, Scorpions of Perdition can be considered to be one amazing module indeed, with the Drifter making for a potentially glorious ally for the PCs. The flavor of each and every location is unique and internally consistent; the locations themselves sport details galore and represent unconventional, intriguing challenges for the PCs. In short, this module does everything right apart from the lack of player-friendly maps. That being said, this should NOT keep you from getting this inspired, amazing module – it ranks as one of the best Legendary Games modules released so far. It should also be noted that, much like the excellent Starfall, this module very much works perfectly on its own – in fact, I’d encourage getting it for a taste of the unusual in just about any context.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 292016
 

Fat Goblin Games Presents: Creating New Armors

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This little pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, we have all probably been there, at least the GMs and designers among us – the point where you want to make a new armor. The system presented herein is simple – there are 3 base armor types and shields featured: First, you take the basics and base-price…and then you multiply the price by the DP – the design points. You can have armors or shields of horn or stone and then you determine the armor qualities.

 

The heavier the armor, the more often you can gain additional design points, a 0 DP quality. Adding boots, helmet and gauntlets is covered and modifies cost, but not DP; camouflages/muffled armor etc. and the different base types, like chain, can be added via DP to modify the basics of the respective armor, fleshing out the abstract proto-armors. Pretty amazing: Lamellar material, dependent on the base material, can be found. The book is also VERY useful in that an easy one-glance table codifies the DP for the respective qualities and to which type of armor they can be applied: Once glance, done. Two thumbs up!

 

Obviously, there need to be shield-only options as well – want a lightweight tower shield with a blinder? Sure, why not. Quickdraw, weapons and weapon slits…really neat! The pdf also presents two sample items created with the system. Oh, have I btw. mentioned that NOT using the points makes the armor/shield less expensive? Yep, rewards for not going feature-bloat! Cool!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column, full-color standard. The pdf sports nice full-color art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience – with nested bookmarks. Kudos for going the extra mile for the brief pdf!

 

Garrett Guillotte’s little system is amazing; for the low-price point, it provides a balanced, immediately useful design tool at the tip of your fingertips. Simple, elegant and fun, the system is easy to use, fun, inexpensive…in short, this pdf is awesome and more than worth the fair asking price. Can we have expansions for special materials, please? This is a fine purchase, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this amazing, humble and inexpensive pdf here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 292016
 

Mariner Hybrid Class

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This hybrid class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

The mariner as presented her gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields. As a minor complaint: The header is not bolded here. The class gets a full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves and begins play with +4 to Swim checks (untyped) that is increased to +6 when the mariner has 10 ranks in the skills. The mariner gets +1/2 class level (minimum 1) to Survival checks made to follow ships and aquatic creatures. The class also gains +1 to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Survival and Sense Motive checks and +1 to atk and damage, increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. They may also make untrained Knowledge checks to identify marine creatures.

 

2nd level provides the net and trident style – basically a nice combat style, but the feats may only be used while in medium armor or less. 3rd level provides endurance as well as aquatic armor training, which is represented by the fighter’s armor training and being treated as class level +4 fighter levels for the purpose of armor training. A slight complaint here. The ability mentions the “normal swim speed” – but swim speed is a rules term of its own. It’s clear that it’s supposed to apply to the speed reduction inherent in wearing medium armor. Anyways, 4th level lets the mariner spend a move action to gain allies flanking with him or an ally +2 to atk; range here’s 30 feet. 4th level provides limited prepared spellcasting that goes up to 4th level, governed by Wis. Spells are drawn from the ranger list. 5th level provides weapon training, with every 4 levels after that adding another group.

 

At 7th level, the mariner gets a coastal variety of woodland stride as well as +4 to Swim checks. 8th level unlocks scent, 9th evasion, 16th level improved evasion. 12th level renders you immune to the detrimental effects of the depths of the ocean (like pressure etc.) as well as the option to hide in aquatic terrain sans cover or concealment. 17th level provides a kind of Hide in Plain Sight you may use in aquatic terrain and 19th level nets you DR 5/- when wearing armor or using a shield. As a capstone, the class gets Weapon Mastery, may move at full speed while using Survival to track underwater and make an attack as a standard action against an aquatic enemy (Does that refer to the subtype or the environment he’s in?) – on a hit, it’s save-or-die. Alternatively, there’s a nonlethal option. It can be used 5/day.

 

The pdf also contains 8 feats: Fast Folder lets you fold nets faster, Net Combat increase the DCs to escape your DCs and concentration to use it. Improved Net Combat provides quicker trailing rope control. Ocean Brawler lets you use a bludgeoning or slashing weapon sans penalty as long as you’re not off-balance. Sudden Brace lets you use an immediate action to brace 1/round. Wiggle Free nets you + 2 CMD versus a grapple by a net…which may be too specific. Finally, Underwater Shot helps using thrown and ranged missile weapons underwater – it’s still not perfect, but you can at least use them! The pdf ends with a quick note on tracking underwater.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid; I noticed some minor editing/formatting hiccups, but nothing too serious. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf’s art is solid and full-color – one piece original, one I have seen before.

 

Robert Gresham’s mariner is pretty much what you’d expect – a coastal themed ranger with bits of fighter sprinkled in. It’s not brilliant or mega-creative, but a couple of the net-feats are pretty worthwhile and before you design the material yourself…well, you can get this. Personally, I think the class should probably grant swim speed at some point instead of piling ever more Swim-bonuses on it, but that’s an aesthetic gripe. It should be noted that this is a PWYW-book – and as such, it is definitely worth downloading the book and then, if you like what you see, leave a tip you consider appropriate. Personally, I’ll settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, and while I like it’s PWYW-nature, I can’t really round up.

 

You can get this class for PWYW here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 292016
 

Maiden Voyage of the Colossus (PFRPG/DCC)

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This module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

First things first: This module was written for the Iron GM-contest (which is frickin’ amazing!) that basically makes GMing a competitive sport and it’s cool to see a module published based on this amazing event. Seriously, huge fan of it!

 

That being said, the module as presented here is dual format, for PFRPG and DCC, with PFRPG-material being denoted by purple headers, DCC material by black ones – the color-coding is a nice touch here.

 

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

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All right, only GMs/Judges around? Good!

We begin with optional hidden agendas to assign to PCs, though these obviously hearken from the convention circuit: Sabotage is interesting, for example, but e.g. the need to gather proof of a traitor in the PC’s midst with the threat of assassins nearby feels weird: How can assassins be there all the time? The rationalization doesn’t make much sense here, but I digress. The city’s abuzz as the notorious Gearswave Inc. is about to launch the eponymous, gigantic airship, but their competition, Clock-Works, is supposedly determined to see the maiden voyage end in disaster. Via various offers, the PCs may choose different rewards for trying to save the maiden voyage. Smuggled into the colossus as covert operatives, the PCs leave the crate to find that they have 4 hours. The colossus is pretty interesting, featuring e.g. levitate-based parachutes. There is a bit of discrepancy to be found – e.g. forcing a lever has only DCC-rules, none for PFRPG.

 

The PCs will have to explore the airship, with the crew mostly drunk, handle tiefling saboteurs, oozes, undeed and e.g. sober up the pilot, who has a chance to ” fix any mechanical problem on the airship with 75% efficiency” – whatever that is supposed to mean. From decadent upper classes to weird gnomes, to the unique means of internal communication, handling the ship etc., the exploration of the ship is interesting, and the BBEG’s combat is also relatively neat. The pdf comes with stats for both PFRPG and DCC, a deity-write-up of Gearswave Inc. that has a nice spell to enhance/penalize Disable Device and a DCC-patron-iteration of Gearswave Inc. The pdf comes with full-color maps of the vessel, but no key-less player-friendly iteration is provided.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent – I noticed a couple f formatting and editing hiccups, but nothing too grievous. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, is printer-friendly and the pdf sports several full-color artworks. The cartography is nice, but hampered by the lack of player-friendly maps.

 

Perry Fehr’s Maiden Voyage has a couple of issues; DCC’s DCs are pretty high; the chance for success is smaller in DCC than in PFRPG. And this is where we have to discuss dual format modules. You see, it is my firm conviction that they unanimously are a bad, bad idea. From a customer point of view, you pay for one system you will not use.

 

There is a more galling problem here, though: Different systems have different math, different expectations of player and PC capability, etc. No matter how good your crunch design is, you ultimately will always stumble over something, unless you do a proper conversion, including modifications to plot etc. The example of flight would be pretty famous: Easily achieved in PFRPG at certain levels, much less common in other systems. More currently, 5e’s cool exhaustion mechanics translate less fluidly to other systems.

 

There are examples, when design has managed to cover wildly different systems, most famously perhaps EN Publishing’s legendary Zeitgeist AP. However, even that one basically cheats by modifying the ground rules of the world to nerf Pathfinder’s options and bring player capability in line with the options available for 4th edition characters. The only reason it got a pass from me is that it concisely presents these changes as a fundamental aspect of the rules governing the whole world. Similarly, Pelgrane Press’ Esoterrorists/Trail of Cthulhu/Fear Itself/Night’s Black Agents share a common rules-frame-work with different expansions/modifications and thus allow for a sequential progression/switching of systems, though one that takes serious work; still the general rules-frame-work is the same, the tones are similar, so in those cases, yes, it works. PFRPG and DCC do not have either capability- or tone-consistency.

 

Where am I going with this? Well, this may sound harsh, but the book is utterly delusional regarding its compatibility with DCC. I’m sorry to say it, but apart from DCC-rules being here, this pdf has NOTHING that even remotely pertains DCC’s aesthetics. DCC’s general assumption is that magic’s weird, uncontrollable and volatile; its whole premise is grittier, darker and the whole depiction is radically different, with the emphasis on patrons etc. On the other hand, Pathfinder features reliable magic and is geared significantly more towards high fantasy gameplay. At one point in the introduction, there is “A Note for DCC Players”, which reads as follows: “The Porphyra Campaign Setting is great for locating your DCC adventures, with its epic conflict of Gods and Elementals! Check out Lands of Porphyra and our other Porphyra game setting materials soon for lots of neutral-system game ideas today!” This is patently false. Porphyra is an amazing setting; I really, really like it. But it’s as high fantasy as they get. Several cultures and races that are present violate pretty much all relevant design aesthetics of DCC. The flavor is all wrong for gritty DCC gameplay and frankly, while some elements of the setting certainly can easily be used in DCC, the vast majority CAN’T. Or rather, shouldn’t be to avoid tonal whiplash. Porphyra is excellent high fantasy, but about as compatible to DCC’s tone as 4th edition’s modules were. I called this “delusional” for exactly this reason – there is nothing in tone, scope or…well…anything, really, that would gel, resound with DCC’s implied world(s), the manner in which the system’s rules govern the world, etc.

 

Which brings me to another aspect that hurt me in this module: As we’ve come to expect from Perry Fehr, this is a great, high-concept environment – there are a ton of cool, small ideas herein…but as a whole, the module felt static. The airship always remains just an evocative backdrop; there isn’t much happening in the environment category and the utter incompetence of all NPCs is galling. It may be a personal gripe, but I hate it when NPCs behave like the biggest idiots around and the story of this module, high-concept and evocative though its environments may be, made no sense to me. The ship is also very static – there isn’t much dynamics to be found, either regarding the ship, or its inhabitants, making the module, even if taken at face value, frankly lifeless and the weakest module I’ve read by Perry Fehr…and with some minor work, it could have been truly amazing, which renders this doubly painful.

 

So let me reiterate: This is NOT a DCC-module in anything but numbers provided; it does nothing to reconcile DCC’s aesthetics with the changed assumptions of this module and should be considered to be a disaster for the system, a 1-star offering. Alas, Pathfinder does not fare that much better – the internal flaws of the story and static behavior are baffling to me, particularly considering that Perry Fehr has created more dynamic environments in the past. I’d strongly suggest getting the cool Purple Mountain Dungeon modules for an example of what kind of awesomeness he *can* generate. This module, though, at the very best, can be considered to be a 2.5 stars offering, from which I’d round down. My final verdict will take both into account and thus clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and me enjoying the set-up/idea, if not much else.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 292016
 

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Hygiene (revised edition)

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This installment of Flaming Crab Games’ delightfully oddball Letters-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we begin this installment with a nice letter from the planeshopping vessel, thankfully salvaged for our collective delights by J Gray.

 

Now we’ve all been there: The PCs have just battled through a horde of foes, are covered in blood and guts…and then, they walk into a tavern. As if that does not look weird. And no one cares. We begin this pdf thus, appropriately, with a nice and handy table pertaining social modifiers – these can be added or subtracted, depending on the context, from the respective social skills: A foppish Taldan dandy may indeed consider someone covered in gold dust to warrant +4…while the savage orc chieftain will be more inclined to hand an asswhooping to the pansy that came before him thus clad. This includes filth/bathed-status and perfumes, including race-specific ones as well as notes on hair/beard-care or the status of one’s teeth…which were notoriously problematic before the advent of modern dentistry.

 

And indeed, hygiene may influence a lot: Disguises that do not correspond to expected hygiene levels may suffer from a penalty; whether fleas or bedbugs, lack of cleanliness may net you itching, annoying parasites. (Yep, provided as a nice infestation) and concise and simple dental cavity rules allow you to track bad breath et al. Similarly, a handy table pertaining body odor and how easily you may be tacked via scent etc. can be found. And yes, you may actually develop a disgusting stench aura!

 

Now, the medieval period had a significantly different concept pertaining hygiene than we do: Performing the act of love on piles of mist was not uncommon – the offal and straw kept heat pretty well. Similarly, throwing the bedpan on the streets was pretty much common practice prior to the advent of proper sewer systems. At the same time, though, this time wasn’t as filthy (or prude!) as you’d imagine – in Nuremberg, for example, the existence of bath houses is well-documented. They were a space for citizens to relax, consume food…and yes, also indulge in more carnal activities, much to the chagrin of many a hardliner or prude. The exact structure and conventions of places related to bathing differ wildly amid cultures – and thus, much to my delight, we receive several fully mapped bathhouses: The Ishiyu Onsen hot spring with a feudal, Japanese touch; the quasi Greco-Roman Thermae of Pulsatilla and the White Blossom Bathhouse, which should make fans of WuXia or European bath culture both happy – the respective entries also feature notes on nomenclature, showing that the team did the research. Nice!

 

Obviously, though, hygiene on the road would be a slightly more difficult subject matter – and here, we receive the also fully mapped cascade pools, which may draw washers (or make for a phenomenal boss-fight arena). A barber shop and a salon further complement the ready to drop in locales (again, mapped) that are depicted within, all with adventure hooks…though frankly, I would have enjoyed an acknowledgment of barbers doubling as physicians and the type of “healing” they provided.

 

The pdf does provide concise lists of the services offered, all collected on one page in a handy GM cheat-sheet and similarly features a neat selection of associated mundane items – from the collapsible bathtub to alum, an oil that prevents you best suit from being spattered in blood and guts, shaving kits…and for the more magically-inclined actually working hair-growth tonics are included. And yes, singed hair may be regrown as well…and a collective sigh of relief went through the dwarven population…

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is a mix of b/w-art and stock and manages to generate a concise visual identity. The maps provided for the locations are generally minimalistic and b/w with blue and green highlights – amazing, btw.: Flaming Crab Games listened – now, we get scales for the maps and the pdf also features player-friendly maps for each of the locations! Kudos for improving the book in this crucial way!! (Seriously, the cascades alone make for such a cool arena…)

Lukas Buergi’s installment on hygiene can be a godsend for intrigue-heavy campaigns, particularly those favoring a simulationalist approach…like mine do. Personally, I enjoy this VERY much.

The component of magic in such a context deserved a bit more coverage in my opinion: While prestidigitation and the like are acknowledged and talked about, I wished that this took the fantastic angle up a slight notch. While I adore the sample bathhouses included, general toolkits for the design and development of hygiene traditions would have made more sense to me – you know, sand baths, cleaning by fire for fire resistant beings…the like. The bathhouses can be used once…a general toolkit could be used all the time. Similarly, suggestions for culturally specific social modifiers based on hygiene or uniquely elven/dwarven/weirdo race xyz-suggestions for traditions would have elevated this further.

 

The pdf, as a whole, is a more than fairly-priced, evocative file and deserves being bought, even if it does not reach the level of depth and coverage that the coin-installment offered. In the end, this is pretty much a good buy and should be considered, particularly in light of the topic not nearly being covered in its totality – and weird little books like this require and deserve support! With the integration and improvement of the maps, the book offers now some seriously fun set-pieces for a more than fair price-point, though – which is why my verdict for the revised version is upgraded to 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS and here on tabletoplibrary.com!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 282016
 

Shuigong – The Emperor’s Watery Secret

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This module clocks in at a total of 16 pages, minus 3 for the editorial etc., leaving us with 13 pages of content, so what do we get?

 

This module was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of this book at Gencon.

 

The world of Orbis is one where steampunk influences abound, thanks to a special type of wood called scaldwood, which allows for the cleaner and more efficient generation of steam. Situated on this world, there is a nation roughly modeled after China – the Ten Thousand Scales, where the truth about the function of scaldwood and the actual use of steampunk-y technology is a jealously guarded secret, kept by advisors and bureaucracy from falling into the hands of the public, with the scheming at court keeping most issues far away from the emperor’s notice. The PCs are contacted by the bureaucracy to deal with a rather significant issue – with 5 sample traits providing justification for them being chosen. The traits generally are solid and have but one issue: They do not specify their trait type.

 

Where should they go? Well, the deal offered to them provides a HUGE monetary benefit to go into Shuigong, the eponymous and restricted access filtration/sewer/water-processing system.

 

Anyways, this module is intended to be used with Gaming Paper’s Mega Dungeon 3: The Sewers game aid, but does not require it – the final page is devoted to depicting the set-up of the gaming paper sheets, but also doubles as a map of the complex – player-friendly, in case you were wondering…

…and this is as far as I can go without SPOILING anything. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion from here on out.

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All right, I mentioned the huge reward before, right? Well, players should be skeptical and if they manage to get on the bureaucrat’s good side, they may gain some additional information: There is a monster hiding in Shuigong, and its body-count is rapidly rising. While details are scarce, public persons have been eliminated and the military had been sent in. To no avail. The dread “Beast Below” that has been causing the deaths in no monster, at least not in the classic sense of the word; rather than that, it is a man named Zihao, one born as a fourth son, but with serious magical talent. Emotionally and physically tortured by his brothers for the perceived favoritism he received, they sought to break his heart via a courtesan…and instead broke his mind. Zihao stalks the tunnels and has created a web of death below…one the PCs are now in the process of entering.

 

Shuigong is not a cosmetic backdrop – it is a proper environment: Pitch-black, slippery and potentially lethal, the place’s structure influences CMD and Acrobatics and you should definitely know what you are doing – high Dex-characters will have some chance to shine here.

 

Exploring the dungeon that is Shuigong is btw. an internally consistent manner – it makes sense from the perspective of the deranged mastermind as well as from that of the GM: The obstacles the PCs will encounter focus on crippling PCs, on generating slowly a means of decreasing their potency; from deathblade poison-covered hidden blades to the creatures – which deserve special mention: The first would be hungry fleshes, which not only are diseased, they also accrue growth points and regenerates when hit by the wrong type of weapon, making for basically a puzzle-foe from the get-go.

 

This level of imaginative potential has been applied to more critters – take the plasmic otyugh, which can change its shape when in water – the interesting component here being definitely that the creature does not need to adhere to the standard formation of creature space, allowing for a creative application of flexibility and interesting tactical options I have not seen executed in any other critter so far. Even skeletons with filed feet or amphisbaena can be found here and astute players will slowly notice a sense of cohesion, that something is amiss – and indeed, the whole structure amounts to a gauntlet to soften up the pesky adventurers. From huecava and necrocrafts, the PCs will need more and more resources, as they slowly make their way towards the darkness and madness of Zihao and his ghoul retinue…

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are generally very good; while my print copy lacks some formatting among the statblocks (bolding/italicization), I have been told that this was cleaned up. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports several nice, original b/w-artworks. The print-version is a nice softcover. The cartography-overview page is solid and unfortunately, I can’t comment on any pdf-versions, since I’m not sure there even exists one.

 

Dan Comrie’s Shuigong is a nice, unpretentious, internally consistent dungeon crawl against relatively challenging foes that shows some sparks of brilliance and creativity among the builds for the adversaries; less so for the BBEG, but there is some true creativity herein. Considering the evocative twist on the classic sewer level trope, one can definitely consider this a nice module, particularly for slightly more experienced groups and convention play. While certainly not super-hard, it is definitely a potentially challenging module and I mean that in a good way. Not all encounters reach the highlight-level of brilliance, but for the brevity, the module does indeed deliver a fun excursion. All in all, a fun module – which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this module, per the writing of this review exclusively, here on Gaming Paper’s shop!

 

You can get the massive mega-dungeon gaming paper aids for sewers here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.