Jun 242019
 

Advanced Adventures: The Mouth of the Shadowvein (OSR)

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review is part of a series of requests undertaken at the request of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

 

Okay, so, as always, this module is penned with the OSRIC rules in mind, but conversion to other OSR rulesets is relatively painless. As always, we don’t get read-aloud text herein, and there are a couple of formal differences from the formatting conventions that OSRIC employs, but these, for the most part, apply in a mostly consistent manner. Nominally intended for 6-10 characters of level 3- 5, the adventure is challenging, but mostly in a way that is contingent on how the PCs interact with the environments found and encountered. Attempting to murder-hobo through everything can and will get you killed here. While in the previous module, murder-hoboing PCs could still potentially get away with quite a few things, this stops here – dumb decisions can get PCs killed. Quickly. But similarly, smart PCs may actually be able to best foes far beyond their ability to defeat by force of arms alone. (More on that in the SPOILER-section.) In short: If your PCs is Lawful Stupid, they will die.

 

There is one more aspect you may need to be aware of: This module represents a taking up of a dangling thread from the very first Advanced Adventures-module, “The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom” and may be run as a direct sequel to said adventure; knowledge of the previous module is not required, and it is pretty easy to integrate this module into the context of any prolonged underworld campaign or exploration, whether they are mega-dungeon-based or subterranean sagas like AAW Games’ excellent Rise of the Drow campaign. This module also represents the second of two modules that expand the material based on the eponymous Shadowvein, which means that, unless you really don’t want to play the prequel, it’s recommend that you first play “Down the Shadowvein”. The Shadowvein, fyi, is a subterranean river, a black ribbon of water illuminated by purple and green lichen, with tendrils of almost snot-like strands hanging from them – colloquially known as “faerie sputum” to those traveling its length.

 

From a genre-perspective, we have, much like in its predecessor, a pretty free-form sandbox here – a subterranean hexcrawl, which cleverly uses the subterranean river Shadowvein as a kind of red thread that the PCs may or may not follow. The module does a pretty neat job at depicting the differences regarding the environment and sandbox style play: For one, we not only get different random encounter tables, they differentiate between passage types: You see, the overland hexcrawl map knows primary, secondary and tertiary passages, with different encounters suggested for each.

 

As a small digression: There are generally two aesthetic design paradigms regarding the underworld, two “genres” if you will: One would be the “civilized” underworld – a realm of vast dwarven fortresses and drow cities, where civilizations both alien and familiar thrive, and then there would be the “weird” underworld, where anything remotely resembling the civilized world vanishes, where strange and chthonian phenomena and creatures roam, where, depending on the setting, one might find entrances to the literal underworld, or even hell. This module, in a smart decision, provides a transition – the Shadowvein, as noted in my review of the predecessor module, very much starts as a trip through “civilized” underworld, while this module represents the PCs leaving these subterranean shores behind in favor of a stranger environments where few upperworlder soles have tread before. However, it does so without a hard cut into the strange, instead using the course of the river to slowly emphasize a transition towards these regions – and VERY FEW modules manage to achieve that; this is the primary reason I copped out and went with two final verdicts regarding my review of its predecessor. In a way, this module represents the payoff and continuation for the exploration of the first Shadowvein adventure.

 

Considering this, I do have to complain about something: Much to my chagrin and disappointment, the random encounter tables are the exact same as in the previous Shadowvein module (and no, some typo-level glitches haven’t been purged). The encounter tables focus primarily on humanoids, with very few other critters thrown in. This, to me, was somewhat galling, as the module starts transitioning between what one would dub the “civilized” regions of the underworld, and the region that starts to become truly alien and wondrous. As such, a change of pace regarding the tables would have been appreciated. I strongly suggest investing the time and making the random encounter tables more interesting, or rather, different, for this one.

 

Noja, undal and wyrdwolf stats have been included in this module as well, alongside 3 other creatures – since the exploration of the subterranean realms and the surprise they can elicit is part of the module’s charm, I’ll relegate my discussion of these to the SPOILER-section below.

 

As before, the player-map of the Shadowvein has been included with its intentional idiosyncrasies still representing one design decision I really enjoyed, and we do get 5 “zoomed-in”, fully mapped encounter areas. I minded the lack of player-friendly maps for them slightly less in most cases than I did for the previous adventure, though one in particular was just BEGGING for a player-friendly map: You see, there is a pretty massive hexcrawl region, with the map spanning two-pages – that one should have been included in a keyless, untagged version at least.

 

The module contains a couple of new magic items, which include the utilitarian svirfneblin forge stone, a rod that brings the undead back to horrid unlife, an amulet that enhances undead control, a chest that can store a spell to unleash upon intruders, and one item that would represent a SPOILER of sorts – just let it be known that there is a touch of science-fantasy included in the weird herein, with one of the “zoomed-in” adventure locations adhering to that aesthetic.

 

 

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

..

.

 

Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first complex featured herein is already more interesting than all in the previous module combined:  The lair of Tyrhanidies the lich features his well-concealed subterranean abode, and the mighty spellcaster is using undead as a toll-collecting means. This would per se be unremarkable, were it not for a curious effect  haunting the labyrinthine caverns hiding his belongings and lair: There are strange magical effects here, where gravity doesn’t work properly, and something about them makes those exploring these caves turn stark, raving mad: An innocuous slime causes these visions magically to affect all intelligent creatures (yep, RAW, including the undead!) and the lich has found a way to deal with this, employing the curious property to further shore up his seriously impressive defenses. Now, granted, the PCs may find themselves bypassing this region relatively painless, but we all know how undead spellcasters tend to enjoy press-ganging PCs into doing their bidding…and how PCs are bound to come into conflict with such entities. Cool: Smart and observant PCs either called and escorted to the lich’s abode may realize that there is one object with tremendous sentimental value for the mighty master of the living dead. This, obviously, represents an angle to really annoy the fellow – or to negotiate with a being far beyond the capabilities of the PCs at this level to actually destroy! This is a great area indeed, and its focus on atmosphere, global effects and various means in which you can run it made me really appreciate what was done here.

 

The second encounter area is pretty much…boring. A grimlock ambush. It exists, but it doesn’t contribute too much to the module’s appeal. After that, we have a svirfneblin outpost that can be construed to be the final waystation of civilization along the Shadowvein’s course, a last chance to rest in a safe environment before the massive, aforementioned hex-crawl sub-region: In a ginromous cavern, the overgrown ruins of a drow city lurk in basically the equivalent of a jungle-choked city of ruins. You see, at one time, the drow that used to reside here managed to capture and harness the godling known as the Pod-God with the help of a demonic patron. It is said entity that ultimately managed to destroy the city, including the artifact employed in imprisoning the entity – this actually did slay the pod-god, but fungi will find a way, and as such, the deity is gestating currently – there will be centuries before the potent deity can reform, but this creates a wondrous environment indeed, one suffused with magic, where stone giants from eastern realms (with an inconsistency in nomenclature), mongrelman and more loom; this region is clearly intended to be expanded, and much to my joy, there are 4 different random encounter tables for each sub-biome of the massive cavern. Oh, one more thing: The gestating pod-god actually wasn’t neutral or evil – it was actually a good entity, and thus, its puffball is guarded by a planetar! With a gate that emits screaming noise and similar, unique environments, this cavern oozes panache and flair galore. This is a great cavern, and would be one of the highlights of the adventure – even remotely capable GMs will have some seriously fun time running and expanding this inspiring environment.

 

The final encounter are would be unique as well: It depicts the “Green Death Isle” – setting foot upon this island used to see those that dared to do so evaporated, so the hunk of metal there remained unexplored. Well, guess what? That hunk of metal? It’s a actually a flying saucer, and since then, the reactor has run out of fuel, and the defensive disintegration ray? It no longer works. In the aftermath of the reactor’s radiation, a unique people has developed here, namely the terplip, a race of sentient, humanoid mantis-shrimp people! If you’re like me, you raised your hands in the old devil’s horn-gesture and went “Hell yeah!” I mean, come on – mantis-shrimp people? Awesome! We have two different random encounter tables for this region as well, and this becomes even cooler once you learn about the crustacean dragon and the remaining robots – smart PCs may actually be able to save the terplip from their servitude to the draconic creature. Did I mention the laser pistol?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good, on a formal and rules-language level – apart from a few minor inconsistencies and the like, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to the series’ classic two-column b/w-standard, with a few decent b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography does its job, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of a player-friendly map for the Shadowvein’s environments. It would have been nice to get player-friendly maps for the trade/social encounter areas at least, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Joseph Browning’s “The Mouth of the Shadowvein” delivers in spades – while two of the zoomed-in encounter areas provide pretty obvious functions and are here to facilitate play (the safe zone) or act as filler (the ambush), the other three regions are amazing. They require smart players and are more deadly than anything the PCs have found so far; there are implied quest-lines that may or may not be taken and used to motivate the players to interact with the factions, and the combination of unique vistas, as a whole, delivers on the promises slowly built up during the previous adventures, while taking up the leitmotif of the original adventure that spawned the notion of exploring the Shadowvein. In short: This is a great little adventure that does a nice job at depicting a region of the underworld that feels like it’s tip-toeing the line between the civilized and weird subterranean realms. It captures the best of early AD&D-aesthetics regarding these realms and molds them into a fun and rewarding expansion, one that ostensibly, like in the previous module, may be taken apart or expanded upon, should you choose to go that route. All in all, this is worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up since the lack of a player-friendly map for the sub-region hexcrawl does not warrant rounding down, and this also receives my seal of approval. Come on, the terplip are awesome!

 

You can get this adventure here on OBS!

 

You can find the entire Shadowvein-bundle here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 242019
 

Wonders of the Cosmos: Fine and Diminutive Starships (SFRPG)

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this supplement with a 1-page explanation of why you may want to include these smallest of size categories within the context of your SFRPG-game; we begin with an expansion of the starship scale, which makes Diminutive ships clock in at 5 – 20 ft, Fine ones at 1 – 5 ft. The table of scales is expanded to include weights for them, and the AC and TL modifiers (at +4 and +8, respectively for the sizes), reflect in a sensible manner the penalties incurred by ginormous space ships.

 

The ships may be created by taking Tiny size frames and halving HP and cost for each size category below Tiny, rounding down. CT must thus be recalculated, and a pilot must be size Medium or smaller t o pilot the ship at Diminutive ship size. Complaint here: Something seems to have gone haywire with the rules language here when it comes to accounting for pilot sizes in relation to ships, as it refers to numbers, when it  should refer to sizes; otherwise, that should refer to the aforementioned values, but then, listing that caveat after pilot sizes just creates unnecessary confusion. That being said, I consider this to be the proper interpretation here, as the follow-up information makes sense in that context. Piloting bonus is increased for each size category smaller than the listed base frame. Basic and XL escape pods and how they interact with these ships are covered, and calculations based on frame size employ the Tiny size, preventing abuse of e.g. armor or similar cost calculations.

 

6 base frames for Fine and Diminutive ships are provided: Sneakaboard, Stealther and Escape Pod for Fine; Ground Support, XL Escape Pod and Mini Bomber for Diminutive ships, so yeah – this provides a slightly different angle on the escape pod default. The pdf presents a helpful size category to creature equivalency for the new star ships, and it presents easy to implement guidelines for making starships for creatures smaller than Small. Size-wise, as you could glean, this puts the starships at the intersection with regular vehicles and really big critters. The pdf provides easy to implement rules here, and collision damage and its scaling is also covered. Since star ship and regular combat is rather different from another, the pdf provides quick and dirty guidelines for using starships in regular combat – a more differentiated approach would have been nice to see there.

 

The Ramming rules from the Cosmic Odyssee-installment are reprinted here, with ramming speed table provided, and ramming size modifier table modified to account for the new size categories. Movement by thrusters, with speed in hexes (for starship combat) and as vehicle speeds are provided. Things become more interesting with low-range remote control, and rules that make them more viable – they are harder to detect due to their size, and from Stealth to acting as shielding, there are quite a few nice details included.

 

The pdf closes with 5 sample starships –all tier 1. Escape pod and boarder would be Fine, while Lifeboat, gunship ad troopcutter are Diminutive.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its humble size, which is neat.

 

Kiel Howell’s small expansion to the starship rules is nice – while the use of escape pods as vessels is probably something that won’t be too useful beyond some narrative scenes, the supplement does a solid job providing the necessary tools for the integration of these ships. I couldn’t help but feel that presenting tables that did the calculations required would have made the pdf much more user-friendly, but if the math isn’t daunting for you, this delivers – and it does so for a more than fair price-point. At currently a single buck, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this nice little supplement for a single buck here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 212019
 

Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter (system agnostic)

All right, and now for something COMPLETELY different! I’ve had this book for about 2 years by now; I purchased it on a whim, and then never got around to using or reviewing it; there always was something else up, some deadline approaching. So, at long last, let us take a look at this?

 

“Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter” (“Cold Winter” for convenience’s sake below), in its essence, is a survival game of resource-management; it can be played as a stand-alone mini-game, and it can be inserted into pretty much any roleplaying game, though its aesthetics make it most suitable for low magic, dark fantasy and horror games; it should be noted that it’s perfectly functional even in a world without magic. From PFRPG to 5e to DCC to the various OSR-rule-sets out there to e.g. Hârn, this mini-game can be inserted into pretty much every system.

 

The pdf clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page notes –leaving us with 50 pages of content. If you’re looking at this review on my homepage, I’ve included pictures of the hardcover I own – it deserves mentioning, because I love its aesthetics: It has the name prominently on the spine and displays a stark, black darkness, with a field of snow at the bottom whether the dots in the unending black are flakes of snow, stars, or a combination thereof, just gazing at it makes me feel both tranquil and anxious. Really cool. This effect, in the inside, is partially inverted, with negative snow, black flakes, on white pages – it’s not annoying or intrusive, but it creates an impressive aesthetic identity.

How does this game work? Well, first of all, you have to think about your PCs: Cold Winter knows three roles – “Fighter” as a catch-all for martials; “Wizard” as a catch-all for any character capable of casting spells, and characters more focused on agility and skills count as “Thieves.”  These are known as “adventurer jobs.” Each of these jobs matches one type of supply: Fighters match fuel, wizards match medicine, and thieves match food.

 

The premise is that the PCs are snowed in while in a small and remote village, and that they have to last the winter. As such, it makes sense to establish a lore for the village, with some aptly-foreboding examples presented. Three pages of map-geomorphs are included in the book – you can just print them and glue them together in any way you’d like – this proved to render village creation quick and painless, and I applaud its inclusion here. The game talks about some sample hooks to draw the PCs in, and also about rewards for survival.

 

In order to play, you only need two d6s – and to know how to use them to make a d3, a process the book btw. explains – so yeah, even newbie-friendly. The book also cautions you regarding more high-fantasy environments; as a game of survival, it is predicated on scarcity, but frankly, it’s just a matter of scope. No matter how much food you and yours can conjure forth, it’s just a matter of tweaking occurrences that bleed resources, the system, etc. – heck, you can theoretically run this in a Scifi-game or in a high fantasy Fimbulvetr-like scenario; you could tweak the systemfor Banner Saga-like scales, but I digress.

 

The village’s lore and overall make-up has been established (and if you don’t want to do that work, e.g. Raging Swan Press has a vast wealth of villages that you could just scavenge…), and after that, there are three things to populate the village: Village folk, buildings and domesticated animals. Ideally, there will be one building for each adventurer, but my experience has shown that it’s pretty easy to tweak the system to accommodate for larger settlements – for the purpose of this review, we’ll be taking a look at the “vanilla” unmodified assumptions of this game, though.

 

So, there will be one building per adventurer. Each adventurer has control over said building, and per building, there are 5 village folk. (thus, starting population is equal to number of buildings times 5 – simple.)  There will be one domesticated animal per adventurer – these are not subject to the decision of a single adventurer – slaughtering them, if required, is a group decision.

 

The difficulty of the game is also contingent on the number of Turns you decide upon – a turn may represent a day, a week, a month, or any other time-frame you want. Each turn is resolved in 5 steps, with the first two steps skipped during the first turn. Why? Because the first step is the counting of the dead and weather forecasting. Weather forecasting means that you roll a d3 – this is the amount of fuel you need per building to keep villagers from dying during that turn. A building without sufficient fuel will have a villager die in said building.

 

Step 2 deals with supply-rationing. The supplies held in the storeroom are divided among the buildings, and it is here that decisions to make folks go hungry or to slaughter domesticated animals are made. Doing the latter nets you btw. 2 units of food per animal. If a villager doesn’t get to eat, you check the “Is Hungry?” box on the worksheet that is included. If a villager is sick, you check the “Is sick?” checkbox, and a hungry or sick villager that receives food or medicine, respectively, erases the checkmark placed.

 

Now, I already mentioned the 3 supply types: An ill villager that doesn’t get medicine for 3 turns, dies. A single unit of medicine makes them well again. A hungry villager who doesn’t receive food for two turns, dies. Feeding one will result in check marks being erased. Fuel is special, in that villagers will attempt to get as much as possible, even if there is not enough to heat a building – so if you only have 1 fuel left, but temperature is 2, they will take that last one fuel and still have one die. On the first turn, the brief errata included assumes a temperature of 1, but frankly, this is one instance where I consider it to be not necessarily required – you can just as well roll the die.

 

In step 3, the adventurers set out, as a group, to gather supplies – you roll a 2d6, and that’s the amount of gathered units. If the adventurer role corresponds to the supply, you add +1d6. Adventurers that did not roll for such additional units still roll 1d3, gaining units in their associated supply type.

 

Step 4 is the one where you can customize the hell out of the game – Occurences. These are basically strange and unfortunate things that make happen – blood smeared on all doors, an icicle killing someone, etc. You roll 2d6 to determine those, and the majority, but not all of them, are negative. The first d6 indicates the table used, the second the entry – simply, and ridiculously easy to expand upon. These can, for example, entail a sick villager stealing all medicine, overdosing and dying.

 

In step 5, we determine how many villagers become sick – 1d3 is rolled, unless an occurrence gives the settlement a brief reprieve. These are the villagers that become sick. At any point during one of the steps, the PCs may decide to consolidate buildings. The total number of villagers involved in a consolidation can’t exceed 5, and at least one spare unit of food must be available per villager that moves  – consolidation may allow you to spare more fuel, but it has a hefty price regarding food! This has been errata’d to make moving more appealing; originally, the cost was one food per involved villager, which made consolidation riskier, obviously.

 

And that is the base engine – complications stem from the occurrence tables, where food spoiling (eat it or destroy it?), theft and the like may be found. When a villager becomes mad and freezes, he dies…and you can elect to convert his body into 5 delicious units of food… The occurrences are amazing and really inspiring – if they don’t get your creative juices flowing and make you want to add more to them, well, then I don’t know.

 

As previously mentioned, the game comes with worksheets for buildings and the storeroom as well; a quick reference summary on one page makes for a great GM-insert, and the book is littered with examples that illustrate how the game works.

 

Beyond all of those, we receive well-written additional adventure hooks – from a carousing replacement to acting as a board-game of sorts, there are a ton of great ideas here – oh, and guess what? We even get a massive array of sample descriptions that help you generate an appropriate atmosphere. Beyond that, there are suggestions for optional rules, like requiring that you burn dead villagers (which costs fuel), or the dead may cause others to become sick. The funerary pyre may or may not influence temperature, depending on how you wish to tweak it.  Independent supply gathering is noted, and the geomorphs I mentioned could just as simply be used as a die-drop chart.

Suggestions for an easier or harder game are presented, but if you have even the slightest bit of hot designer urges pulsing through your body, you will, at this point, have your mind ablaze with the possibilities of this humble game.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. The errata, while usually something I don’t include in my verdict, ultimately makes the presentation of a few rules-components a tad bit clearer, and makes consolidating houses less punishing – the game worked perfectly fine without it, so I won’t include its impact in my verdict. Layout is surprisingly impressive – with stark b/w-artworks, the neat cartography and the snow theme, this is a surprisingly beautiful book.  Now, I strongly suggest you get the print copy. Why? The pdf, in a grating decision, lacks bookmarks – if you want to go for just the electronic version, please detract a star from ym final verdict for the inconvenience caused by that.

 

From the recommendations regarding background music (+1 for Silver Mt. Zion!) to the evocative, terse read-aloud descriptions and the mysterious, somber occurrences, this book is a brilliant little gem. The beauty of the base-engine’s simplicity means that modifications can be applied by relatively inexperienced GMs and designers, and the engine could easily carry the insertion of a vast amount of modifications, tweaks, etc. While the unmodified version works best for grittier games, even minute modifications regarding e.g. food consumption could account for PCs capable of making food, for e.g. a fire wizard capable of generating 1 temperature if he stays in one building (and doesn’t gather resources…) – the beauty of this system lies in how many different screws to turn there are!

 

Cecil Howe’s “Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter” is a rewarding, inspiring and genuinely brilliant little mini-game that can potentially inspire whole campaigns, act as an interlude, or anything in-between. It is a brilliant little book, and since it’s my list, and since I failed to review it for such a long time, this is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018, and receives 5 stars + seal of approval for the print version. If a gritty, somber and different mini.game is what you’re looking for, do yourself a favor and get this ASAP.

 

You can get this inspiring, rules-lite downtime-game here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 212019
 

Legendary Brawlers

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, so this supplement kicks off with an array of new archetypes for the brawler-class, with the first being the cannon-striker, who gets proficiency with simple weapons and firearms as well as light armor, treating brawler class levels as gunslinger and monk levels for the purpose of feat prerequisites and for the purpose of items. 1st level nets Gunsmithing and a battered firearm, replacing martial training and unarmed strikes. They are locked into bonus combat feats and may only execute ranged attacks with firearms as part of a brawler’s flurry, with -4 to atk and no Strength modifier added to damage. Problem here: This does not help with the reloading issues at low levels or the misfires. Knockout is replaced with a grit-less pistol-whip, which may be used in conjunction with the flurry, though imho, this should be exempt from the increased penalty incurred from the flurry-modification. Instead of brawler’s strike and close weapon mastery, we have the option to reload two-handed firearms as though they were one-handed, as well as immunity to being knocked prone from firing one. 12th level nets deadeye 1/day, and 17th level increases that to 3/day. Awesome Blow is altered to work in conjunction with the firearm instead.

 

The combat Sybil is a changeling racial archetype that gains medium spellcasting at one fewer spell per day per level, governed by Charisma; 1st level nets mage hand  as a knack, 13th level telekinesis as a 4th level spell. Martial telekinesis and telekinetic maneuver are added as 3rd level spells to the spell-list, but aren’t gained automatically. The archetype receives a witch patron, gaining spells at 3rd,8th,13th and 18th level, treating the spells as spell-levels 1st to 4th instead, replacing maneuver training. The combat Sybil treats brawler levels as fighter levels, and the combat Sybil doesn’t gain claws. Here is the unique thing about these guys: They replace the AC bonus with the means to give up the first attack of a flurry to use mage hand  or sustained force telekinesis (if available!) to extend the range of the flurry attacks, codifying these attacks properly as ranged attacks, using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity as governing key ability modifier. The weapon returns to her hand, and the complex rules-operation is executed properly, and if the character has access to aforementioned optional spells, the feature gains additional, related options. Knockout may be used in conjunction with these, and the awesome blow sequence and brawler’s strike are replaced at 5th level with foe fling, with creature size category scaling, as she learns to enemy hammer  foes with her telekinetic powers – this would be rather strong, but is held in check by a hex-caveat. Very complex, technical, and fun tweak.

 

Cursed pugilists replace martial training with an oracle curse, using ½ class level (minimum 1) as oracle level, and AC bonus replaced with a mystery, which does not grant spells. Instead of martial flexibility, the brawler may change out revelations from the respective oracle mystery chosen. The feat-array is thus also tweaked. Faith’s hand, in contrast, deals scaling bonus damage versus targets opposed to the alignment of the archetype’s deity chosen, akin to an alignment-based sneak attack. 2nd and 11th level’s bonus feats are replaced with two blessings, treating class level -1 as warpriest levels. Brawler’s Strike at 12th level can choose two alignment components.

 

The fleetfoot replaces the brawler’s bonus combat feats with dimensional darter at 2nd level, the option to, as a swift action, increase base speed by 50%, usable 1/day, +1/day for every three levels thereafter. 5th level nets storm step as a SP, treating this as dimension door for the purpose of feats, usable 1/day, +1/day for every 4 levels thereafter. The higher levels yield the Dimensional Agility feat-tree in conjunction with these tricks. 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the base movement speed by +10 ft.

 

Knockers treat their monk level as ½ their knocker level (minimum 1) to determine close weapon damage, but get Awesome Blow at 4th level, and they can push the target further back, adding a scaling mechanism. Improved Awesome Blow is similarly modified and gained as soon as 8th level, providing more nuanced control about that component. Interesting engine tweak. Lethal Study gets UMD as a class skill and chooses bard, hunter, inquisitor, magus, mesmerist or spiritualist or warpriest, gaining the ability to use spell completion and trigger items as though they had the chosen class’s spells of up to 6th level, replacing martial training. Instead of martial flexibility, we have the ability to cast 0th-level spells as at-will SPs of the chosen class, and 2nd level nets Arcane Strike, 8th level Riving Strike as bonus feats, using class level as caster level, with 5th level providing Craft Wand, replacing the bonus feats usually gained at these levels. The unique thing: These guys may use wands as weapons, with 5th level allowing for the use unarmed strike damage with them (at the cost of a charge) and the use of charges to also deliver spells held in the wand with such attacks.

 

Prize fighters use essentially the performance combat engine, and may gain performance feats with martial flexibility; Dirty Trick specialization and interaction of knockout and awesome blow with the performance combat engine is provided. Sumpters replace brawler’s strike and maneuver training with the ability to carry massive amounts of stuff and reduced penalties for load. Cool: The massive bunch of stuff these guys are bound to carry is used as the “Big Bag of Pain”, replacing unarmed strikes with essentially an oversized sap. This made me genuinely laugh when I read it for the first time. Love the visuals! Using massive, debris-filled bags as super-saps? I can totally get behind that… XD

 

Trance brawlers are another take on a monk/barbarian-ish crossover, with a Wisdom-governed, scaling battle trance, with some abilities of the core class relegated to the trance. Instead of combat feats, we have some rage powers applying to the trance. The triage medic is neat: Swift action (and more efficient!) use of the Heal skill, as well as Heal affecting damage at higher levels – this may not be a strong option, but it’s one that I like. Weapon specialist chooses a fighter weapon group for weapon proficiency, and applies this as the governing group for the purposes of brawler class features, with unarmed strike relegated to 4th level (and at -3 levels); maneuver training is gained at 7th level, but atk and damage are enhanced with the chosen group. Okay, I guess. Wild scrappers gets Aspect of the Beast and thus would be the claw-tweak for the brawler, modifying flurry and gaining pounce at 12h level. Wyrmfang brawlers would be kobolds that begin play with Elemental Fist, which is assigned to a dragon-based elemental energy and yields corresponding bonus feats at 6th, 10th and 14th level, replacing martial flexibility. Unarmed strike is replaced with tail terror and 2nd level increases Strength by +4 for the purpose of unarmed strikes, natural attacks or close weapon group weaponry, replacing 2nd level’s combat feat. Close weapon mastery is replaced with class level -4 monk damage; kobold tail attachments are treated as close weapon group. The dragon heritage that determines styles also influences the enhancements that apply via the archetype’s brawler’s strike variant.

 

The pdf contains 13 new feats, which include a feat that allows you to unlock the follow-up feats of Awesome Blow (you know, the ones with the ridiculously high Strength-prerequisites), and one that makes your fighter and monk level for prerequisite-purposes as higher, with BAB +11 increasing that further. Limited Strength-based crafting may also be found, and the feats include three new styles: Close Combat Style allows you to expand the close weapon group, while Knocking Style is about moving targets around and potentially knocking them prone. The Rakshasa Style nets you scaling DR and in the end, enhances your effectiveness versus divine casters.

 

The pdf also provides 8 so-called brawler arts, which can be considered to be alternate choices to awesome blow and knockout. Awesome blow may be replaces with super-powered disarms (that also inflict sunder damage), potent drags or flinging of targets. Knockout may be replaced with nauseating gut blows, attacks that confuse the target, an attack that renders the target flat-footed, grapple with autopins or bonus damage based on Wisdom. It should be noted that variant multiclassing rules for the brawler are included as well.

 

The pdf includes the urban aggressor 10-level PrC, which gains full BAB-progression, ½ Fort-save progression, d10 HD and 2 + Int skills per level; the prerequisites can be met as soon as 5th level. The PrC gets a ki pool of ½ class level + Wisdom modifier, or stacks levels with ki-possessing classes. PrC class levels stack with brawler levels for the purpose if brawler’s flurry, martial flexibility and unarmed strikes. The PRC gets Dr 2/- versus nonlethal damage, increasing by +2 at 4th level and every 3rd level thereafter. 2nd level nets aggression points: You choose either active or passive aggression  each day anew. Active aggression nets you 1 aggression point when you confirm a critical hit or reduce a foe with an unarmed strike or close weapon group to 0 hit points or below. Thankfully, this can’t be cheesed due a kitten-caveat.

 

Passive aggression nets an aggression point when the character suffers a critical threat or if the fail a Fort-save, and once more, there is a caveat, though here, the HD-caveat was forgotten, making the caveat somewhat toothless. Aggression points cap at ½ Constitution modifier (minimum 1) and temporary increases do not alter this limit. At the end of each minute the aggressor doesn’t gain such a point, one is lost, but as long as the aggressor has them, their number is added to atk with unarmed strikes and close weapon group attacks. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter nets a ki talent chosen from a list that allows for options that provide further uses for aggression points, use of ki to use martial flexibility, etc, These are interesting, but I couldn’t help but think that the engine per se could have used even more tricks – style strike uses and the like are intriguing, as are kinetic blasts. Aggression points may also be used at 5th level to ignore limited amounts of DR or hardness, and at 8th level, this may be applied to full attacks. 10th level is a nice culmination, allowing for the use of aggression points to get ki talents – including a non-stacking caveat. I really like the engine and its potential here – I think it could have carried a longer class.

 

The pdf also contains 5 different magic items, with wrestling oil making the target count as though grease’d for quite a while. Warlord’s tattoos (available in three iterations), are assigned a chosen feat, which is then temporarily granted access to; they have a cap that prevents abuse, and duration is contingent on tattoo type chosen. Furious biter is an interesting spring-loaded punching dagger that can add a further attack when used with flurries as the exclusive weapon. Drooling fangs are a tekko-kagi that can apply poisons, potion effects (un-)holy water and similar effects – oh, and it’s human-bane. Glowlash manacles enhance the attacks performed with them modifying size category and reach, but only a limited amount of times per day.

 

As far as sample NPCs are concerned, we are introduced to Edelhyde Slagg, a level 11 human weapon specialist using battle poi (awesome!), and Witt the Rimetailed, a level 12 wyrmfang brawler kobold has also been included – both NPCs come with very compelling background stories and pretty darn amazing full-color artworks as well as proper boons for PCs befriending them. Cool: The two are fierce foes, but particularly diplomatic PCs may actually manage to end the strife between them!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re up to Legendary Games’ usual, very high standard on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf employs a blend of previously used and new full-color artworks, with particularly the sample NPCs standing out. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Onyx Tanuki deliver an incredibly technical and challenging pdf here – the rules-operations executed here, time and again, are complex, precise and show a deep understanding of complex rules interactions. I was very happy to see the brawler arts as some customization options, and the archetypes, while primarily focused on engine tweaks, do feature quite an assortment of challenging and playstyle-altering tricks. Now, to be frank, while I don’t exactly love the brawler-class, it is one of the ACG-classes I can get behind. I see its appeal, and I actually use it. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that a more pronounced focus on brawler arts that would provide unique abilities for the class would have been more rewarding than the crossover archetypes. Then again, you may chalk that up to a certain degree of fatigue I have with regards “It’s class x, save that it has tweaked class feature y of class z” style archetypes.

 

Before you get the wrong impression: There are plenty of options herein that do more than that, and even engine tweaks herein tend to fall on the interesting side of things. This is, after all, a well-executed expansion for the brawler-class, one that provides plenty of fixes for holes in the rules, and as such, this is a book I’d wholeheartedly recommend for fans of the class, particularly if one of the more far out concepts (the two racial archetypes are my highlights in that section!) struck a chord with you. It won’t make you love the class if you previously didn’t like it, but it will make you like it more – and what more can you ask of a class expansion like this? My final verdict will be 5 stars – as expected from Onyx Tanuki at this point.

 

You can get this complex, cool supplement here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 212019
 

Starfarer Adversaries: Djinn Plant (SFRPG)

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, first of all: The sample artwork, as always reproduced as a 1-page handout within, rocks this time around. I have a soft spot for plant monsters, and it managed to creep me out, so that’s a good thing. The pdf contains not one, not two, but 4 different statblocks for different stages in the eponymous djinn plant’s life cycle: CR 1/3, CR 3, CR 12 and CR 19. It’s a plant, no surprises there, and the graft has been properly applied. The plants use the expert array as a basis.

 

So, the djinn plant, conceptually, comes quite a bit more explanation than other critters in the series, and there’s a reason for that – the budding, Tiny CR 1/3 version actually feels like a good decoration for most sentient species: It’s basically a venus flytrap-like plant that can’t move and subsist on annoying vermin, parasites, etc. Oh, and they smell nice. Really nice. As in calm emotions (Starfarer’s Companion)-levels of nice. Here’s the problem – while they can’t speak as a Tiny plant, they do learn to speak.

 

Once they’ve grown to adulthood, they get the signature ability that nets them their name “Aid Benefector” – sounds nice, right? Well, they reveal that they are sentient then, and communicate with their benefactors. You see, the plant can actually, once per week, grant you a wish. It just needs you to do this one teeny-tiny thing. Feed it a member of your species with a CR equal to or greater than the plant. DAYUM; that’s dark and would really screw up our entire planet, considering how humans can be!

 

What do I mean by that? It gets better! At CR 12, when they mature, they become ambulatory, have tendrils (with grab) and may swallow targets whole. Oh, and they start emitting those spores. Which will mutate plant-life into more djinn plants. WTF. That’s nightmare fuel. And all the while, everyone remains oh so calm, thanks to their aroma…OUCH. Once they reach their greater stage, they can trample targets and inflict, treant-style, double damage against objects. And yes, I genuinely consider them to be damn scary. Minor complaint: The swallow whole damage listed for the greater djinn plant is incorrect – it should be 6d10 + 25 A.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; apart from the one minor snafu, I noticed nothing serious that would impede your enjoyment. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is really nice this time around. The pdf has a single bookmark to the credits, but needs none at this length.

 

Jacob Blackmon’s djinn plants bring a little touch of a certain shop of horrors to space, and makes them a potentially civilizations-ending nightmare. I love them! How could I not! My one complaint here is that it’d have been nice to see a corruption, Occult Skill Guide style, or a disease-like representation for the “I mutate other plant-life”-angle, since chances aren’t that bad that sooner or later, there’ll be quite a few plant-based PC-races. Oh well, this still comes highly recommended at a final verdict of 5 stars!

 

You can get this creepy critter here on OBS!

 

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Jun 202019
 

Anaximander’s Adventuring Studies

This module clocks in at 75 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

 

This adventure is intended as an introductory adventure for the Scarthey setting that depicts a Harry Potter-esque magic academy; I have covered the basic setting assumptions in my review of the “Welcome to Scarthey”-supplement. It should be noted, though, that, while useful to have, said supplement is not required in order to run this adventure. All the respective components required to run this in a meaningful manner have been included within. This includes, but is not limited to, a representation of the overview map of Scarthey’s campus, which still doesn’t feature a scale to denote the actual dimensions of the massive magic academy.

 

The basic assumption of the adventure is that the PCs are invited/admitted to Scarthey as part of Adventuring Studies, a program that seeks to generate an efficient adventuring party. This process is roughly grouped into not a few weeks, but is intended to cover no less than three in-game years, with the players taking control of their PCs for key scenes, so no, you won’t have to micromanage complex school-day/social life calendars. (Come to think of it: That’d have been awesome for nerds like yours truly…) Anyhow, this focus on a long-term adventure is something I only rarely get to see, so this is indeed something I am excited to see how it is performed!

 

The module features read-aloud text for key-scenes, but not every encounter, and also sports side-bars that help contextualize things, and indeed, it is interesting to note that the summary of the fields of operations the module classifies characters in includes the occult classes – kudos for catching and rectifying this oversight of the original Scarthey supplement. Another thing I really loved: At the end of each year, we get an “End of Term”-Report, a pretty fancy-looking document that makes for a great handout! This also extends to a certain outsider contract and a final diploma, all of which get their own handouts. Going above and beyond the required here, this aspect really rocks. A fully-gridded one-page Undervault map has been included (an unlabeled version would have been nice), and the supplement features a couple of rather nice full-color, unlabeled battle-mat-style maps for more complex encounters. Story awards for roleplaying are noted throughout the adventure, which I something I definitely consider great.

 

Structurally, the module can thus be seen as a primarily event-driven sequence of happenstances that allow for a significant freedom when it comes to the implementation of when and how to modify a given encounter; one could also argue that the structure of the adventure lends itself rather well to poaching components from its pages.

 

All right, that is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players of this adventure should jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

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All right, only GMs around? Great! After the introduction ceremony and welcoming speech of the Arcchancellor, the PCs will have a chance to mingle and become acquainted with the university grounds. Their dormitories are housed in the Undervaults, a massive series of caverns, with the armor of a once famous, nameless paladin acting as an appropriately magical guardian. The PCs are housed in the Octavius dormitory, so named for one of the university’s largest benefectors, and 4 adventurers to be are grouped per room to represent the four fields of operations. A concise list of fellow students, focused primarily on fluff-centric write-ups, but noting alignment, templates and classes if applicable, is provided as well, allowing an ambitious GM to potentially flesh out the class and fellow students in a Persona-like manner without much hassle – kudos here! Indeed, the PCs will have a nice candidate for the snobbish foil with the scion of the mighty Octavius clan, Kellin, being one of their fellow students – and yes, he does come fully statted. Oh, and his cronies? A gorgeous female and a halfing-sized slime-thing called Splish-splosh. Yes, this does embrace the magic-angle more than the “Welcome”-file did.

 

The PCs then will be undergoing a test (in which the best of them will be beaten by a hair’s breadth by Kellin) and then, they’ll be assigned to each other in a narrative conceit the module freely acknowledges to the GM, which I considered to be pretty refreshing. This would also be an excellent point in time to note that academic success is tracked throughout the module, with “Merits” making for a kind of currency and abstract measure of success. Further scenes deal with e.g. a guardian scroll trap left in the library to test the resourcefulness and mettle of PCs, and notes on the location where detention is held, and on a creature if the PCs wander off-limits – these are basically the global and intrdocutory floating scenes.

 

After these, we dive into the nit and grit of year 1, which includes scenes that encompass being attacked by a freed, animated rotating tumbler (in a class on, bingo, bypassing locks), trying to pass a trapped door. Defense class studies, pranks for breaking curfew that may or may not see the PCs outsmarted…and what about PCs being tasked to find the lost laundry building? Nope, that was no typo. The laundry building vanishes,  and it’ll be up to the PCs to deal with a mischievous, but not necessarily evil leprechaun!  Of course, dealing with their rivals and finally passing the exam should also be noted as steps that the PCs will have to succeed at on their way to becoming full-fledged adventurers! (As noted before – cool inclusion that we get an end-of-year document/certificate as a handout!)

Year 2 includes soup animating as oozes that need to be dealt with (surprisingly dangerous!), a brief “micro-dungeon” quest in the Undervaults to get the fully statted magical inkwell of the discipline’s founder at Scarthey (the eponymous Anaximander), and more – for example, the PCs will have to find a miniature phoenix on behalf of one of the deans: The critter is lavishly-illustrated and properly statted, including notes for use as a familiar! PCs (and players, if they’re new!) will learn to deal with swarms, and another test deals with first being afflicted with a curse, and then finding a way to undo it. Additionally, the PCs (and players) will learn to mind AoE-effects when e.g. attempting to secure fragile blossoms. The final exam is rather cool: The PCs are led into the forest, poisoned, and have to secure the eggs of a forest drake from a nearby cave-complex to get rid of the exotic poison.

 

During year 3, we have frost wights stalking the complex via obscure tunnels in the middle of summer vacations – and the PCs learn dealing with outsiders. This includes a smudged summoning circle and a devilish contract – the contract is reproduced, and indeed, the pdf goes so far as to provide not one, but two different addendums for PCs not so easily fooled by the devil’s clever contract – this was a really clever, well-executed version of the old trope. Kudos! During the PC’s time off, they may fight merrow on a lavishly-mapped beach, and then get their first underwater adventuring experience, if they play their cards right. A race to assemble an armor (nice mini-game). The PCs will also get to be paired with their (by now) loathed rivals in an encounter that features a smart badger, teaching cooperation once more.

 

The final exam of the class focuses on a sphere of annihilation that has appeared in a side tunnel, requiring the unearthing of a talisman…and as the PCs are briefed, the rector vanishes when tracing a curious rune – and right after that, dark folk assault from a secret door. The PCs will have a chance to save or leave Kellin to his fate – and ultimately find a secret study, where Anaximander, founder of the program and now a broken lich-thing bereft of his phylactery. Defeating the lich constitutes the end of the supplement and final exam – failure to do so does not result in death, though: Just in the requirement to repeat a year, as in that case, it turns out to be staged. Smart way to avoid frustration for new players!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the lavish and pretty impressive two-column full-color standard that made the first Scarthey-supplement such a joy to look at. The artworks are a great blending of perfectly fitting public domain and gorgeous full-color artworks. The cartography provides ranges from nice (encounter-maps) to okay (Undervault map), and the latter could have used a player-friendly version. It is my huge pleasure to announce that the Rising Phoenix crew learned from their mistakes – not only is the entire module studded with bookmarks that render navigation as comfortable as they should be, you can also highlight, copy and search the text, eliminating two serious gripes I had with the original Scarthey-supplement!

 

Jeffrey Swank delivers in spades in this module – not only is this long and could be deemed to be a sandbox of sorts that you can easily expand, it also does something I like: It teaches newbies the basics of adventuring…both PCs and players. The magical context ensures that veterans will have their fun as well, and indeed, personally, I consider this to be one of the best modules to introduce new players to Pathfinder – provided the GM knows what they are doing. The module does assume that the GM has some experience under their belt, and there may be modules that are easier to run. But as far as “teaching by doing” is concerned, this covers all the bases of the adventuring life. This, interestingly, generates a unity of themes between intent out-game and in-game, a notion I thoroughly enjoy. We also have the depth here that I was sorely missing from the “Welcome to Scarthey”-supplement – we learn about teaching methods, rivalries and the like, and the whole academy felt more vibrant and alive to me here. In short: This can be considered to be an impressive success, particularly since, unless I’m mistaken, this is the author’s first adventure.

 

It should, if the cool ideas and themes mentioned were not ample clue for you, also be noted that the module is appropriate for play with kids. While I probably would suggest it for ages 8+, there are serious differences between how sensitive kids are, so do take that with a grain of salt. This is a wholesome module that manages to capture the themes of rivalries and whimsy rather well. If there’s anything missing from this module, it’d have been nice to see scoring implemented a bit more thoroughly, and to have a player-friendly version of the Undervault. Bereft of any serious pieces of criticism beyond that, I will remain with a final verdict of 5 stars for this adventure, just short of my seal of approval. A grand step forward for Scarthey!

 

You can get this cool, unique adventure here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 202019
 

Advanced Adventures: Down the Shadowvein (OSR)

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review is part of a series of requests undertaken at the request of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

 

Okay, so, as always, this module is penned with the OSRIC rules in mind, but conversion to other OSR rulesets is relatively painless. As always, we don’t get read-aloud text herein, and there are a couple of formal differences from the formatting conventions that OSRIC employs, but these, for the most part, apply in a mostly consistent manner. Nominally intended for 6-10 characters of level 3- 5, the adventure is challenging, but mostly in a way that is contingent on how the PCs interact with the environments found and encountered. Attempting to murder-hobo through everything can and will get you killed here.

 

There is one more aspect you may need to be aware of: This module represents a taking up of a dangling thread from the very first Advanced Adventures-module, “The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom” and may be run as a direct sequel to said adventure; knowledge of the previous module is not required, and it is pretty easy to integrate this module into the context of any prolonged underworld campaign or exploration, whether they are mega-dungeon-based or subterranean sagas like AAW Games’ excellent Rise of the Drow campaign. This module also represents the first of two modules that expand the material based on the eponymous Shadowvein, with “The Mouth of the Shadowvein” representing the second adventure and conclusion of the exploration. The Shadowvein, fyi, is a subterranean river, a black ribbon of water illuminated by purple and green lichen, with tendrils of almost snot-like strands hanging from them – colloquially known as “faerie sputum” to those traveling its length.

 

From a genre-perspective, we have a pretty free-form sandbox here – a subterranean hexcrawl, which, cleverly, uses the subterranean river Shadowvein as a kind of red thread that the PCs may or may not follow. The module does a pretty neat job at depicting the differences regarding the environment and sandbox style play: For one, we not only get different random encounter tables, they differentiate between passage types: You see, the overland hexcrawl map knows primary, secondary and tertiary passages, with different encounters suggested for each. As a whole, this module takes place in the “civilized” region of the underworld, with settlements and outposts providing a reflection of social dynamics and paradigms one could theoretically encounter in the sunlit world as well – it takes place in the realms of drow cities, dwarven holds, etc. The weirder aspects, where society and civilization tend to fall apart and be replaced with the truly strange may be found in the sequel, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The encounter tables thus focus primarily on humanoids, with very few other critters thrown in.

 

This is not to say that there is no strangeness here, mind you: There would, for example, be a need breed of monster, the furnace worm, that consumes rock and excretes valuable metals contained within; we are introduced to the subterranean trade-race dubbed “Noja”, 3- 4 ft. small humanoids with a penchant for mischief and trickery – almost like trader-fey/gnome-crossovers if you will. Interesting: The females and males of the race can cast different spells. The noja act as a kind of linchpin for the other two creatures introduced – the undal being pack animals with weird crowns of horns that allow them to execute nasty charges, and the wyrdwolves, which are basically canine critters with the ability to make their eyes glow in a blinding strobe that can temporarily blind prey. The latter may not sound like much, but personally, I enjoyed them. Their presentation makes them strange, yet plausible enough. It’s also nice to see the umber hulk concept regarding canines executed with a pretty different flavor here.

 

Much to my joy, the module remembered the hook of the PCs finding a map of the Shadowvein – a SPOILER-free player’s map of the Shadowvein has been provided, and yep, it does not feature issues and indeed, has some areas where it’s less reliable. I always like that kind of thing – big plus for going the extra mile here.

 

This module contains a total of 5 different “zoom-in” adventure locales that the PCs following the Shadowvein may find, and the map leaves enough space for GMs to add their own modules and encounters, should they choose to. These individual locales do come fully mapped, but in the case of a few of them, it’s pretty likely that the PCs could attain a map of the region, with no player-friendly version provided. This represents a comfort-detriment for folks like yours truly that suck at drawing maps. It should also be noted that this adventure contains two new magic items, though both, in some way, do influence the narrative, so if you’re curious about them, please consult the next section.

 

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

..

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Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first lair to be found deals with a goblin tribe in the middle of internal strife – two months ago, chief and sub-chief killed each other, and indeed, there are currently two factions vying for control over the goblin tribe. As a nice change of pace, PCs who don’t want to murder-hobo through everything may find themselves recruited into a kind of mini-investigation that may see them uncover the truth about how the unique culture of this tribe, which includes ritual bathing [!!] of younglings, was weaponized for the coup-d’état that split the tribe into its current state. As is wont with such scenarios, outsiders like the PCs may well be recruited to end the semi-stalemate between factions.

 

The second encounter area has some nice horror/dark fantasy-tones: Once an outpost of loathsome bugbears, they have since then been slain by a magical disease that usually only affects those of giant stock, which is particularly likely for half-orcs and similar characters. Only two bugbears remain, both of whom have been transformed into strange horrors. Slaying them has the miasma turn into a kind of entity, which then proceeds to disperse. This scene, alongside the emptied caverns, actually managed to evoke an atmosphere we only rarely get to see executed so well, so kudos for that!

 

The third encounter area, a noja trading post, is a kind of neutral ground, enforced by a unique statue of a six-armed woman with serpentine lower bodies: The aura of peace makes hostilities here a superbly bad idea, and indeed, veterans may have gleaned that the statue is indeed a marilith – who is not happy about her cursed state. One of the encounter locations does include a magical item, the Tooth of Gorim Graal, which fortifies against fire, but also is the focus for the binding…which could result in a massacre if the PCs find it and proceed to ignore the warnings…and unleashed marilith will not be something the traders, noja, etc. can stop…

 

There is a similar connection between the penultimate encounter area and the last one – the second unique magic item included would be the Traveling Hammer of Dorin Graybeard, a mighty weapon sacred to dwarves, which, while providing powerful boons, does consume a percentage of the wearer’s treasure collected, and which doesn’t take kind to any bad treatment a dwarf may suffer from the wielder. Which is relevant, for, at one point, the PCs can happen upon a pretty massive dwarven hold that features a portcullis and toll bridge. Obviously, this region is also more focused on roleplaying than on killing everything, which is a nice change of pace.

 

The final encounter-location is easily by far the most deadly thing contained in the module – “The Snide Dungeon of the Mad Mage Hallach” is basically a gauntlet devised by a mad wizard, one studded with snarky and snide comments delivered via magical means. As such, the PCs and players are warned – this is not a complex to be trifled with, and any casualties are their own fault – well, they had to press onwards, didn’t they? As a gauntlet, it is exceedingly linear and intended as a challenge that requires genuine player skill to beat. It also is a wandering dungeon, that is, it will vanish if the PCs try to whittle it down via repeated sojourns, and could make for a pretty nice 4-hour convention slot game on its own. While challenging, and indeed, in some instances almost sadistic, it always remains fair…though the somewhat random white dragon boss at the end felt like a bit much to me. I just dislike dragons being used as random bosses, but this will not influence my final verdict, as it is part of my personal bias. Then again, the unique magic items noted can be found in its hoard, and the PCs that managed to get this far will have earned the loot.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good, on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ classic two-column b/w-standard, with a few decent b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography does its job, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of a player-friendly map for the Shadowvein’s environments. It would have been nice to get player-friendly maps for the trade/social encounter areas at least, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Joseph Browning’s first part of the exploration of the Shadowvein is a nice subterranean sandbox; in contrast to previous hex-based explorations in the series like “Under Shattered Mountain”, it zooms in a bit more and provides some genuinely fun and diverse locations to visit. I would have enjoyed a few more quest-seeds regarding the respective areas – as written, the loot for the challenge-dungeon represents one of the few connecting components that tie the individual encounter locations together. If you’re looking for a trade route to include into your underworld, one that gets the aesthetics established in books like the ones dealing with a certain scimitar-wielding renegade right, then this delivers. I can see this work well in contexts beyond its system, and while it doesn’t reach the same level of mind-blowing awesomeness as some of the author’s other modules, it does represent a great little adventure. Now, personally, I’d have loved to see more encounters actually atop the Shadowvein, focusing more on the experience of the river itself, but that may be me. All in all, I consider this to be a nice adventure, and as such, my final verdict for this as a stand-alone module will be 4 stars. Please do note, that this also represents a set-up that transitions from more subdued aesthetics towards the ever stranger, its payoffs to a degree  featuring in the sequel, so if you plan on going the whole way down the Shadowvein, then consider this to be 4.5 stars, rounded up instead.

 

You can get this neat adventure here on OBS!

 

Want the whole Shadowvein-bundle? It can be found here!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 192019
 

Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman (DCC)

This module clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, before we do: There are actually 4 pdfs included here:  The regular pdf, one without watermarks, and a second version laid out in digest-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), if you prefer smaller booklets. The fourth pdf provides the b/w-maps in two iterations – one with all numbers and labels, and a second one without the labels. While I very much appreciate the inclusion of player-friendly maps in this mini-booklet, one of them has one instance where a secret-door-S has not been properly redacted, representing a minor spoiler here. While equipped with grids, the maps do not note a scale, which some of my readers would consider to be a minor inconvenience.

 

Theme-wise, this is a homage of sorts to “Against the Giants”, as seen through the lens of DCC. We already had that? Well, in contrast to “Beyond the Black Gate”, this is not intended to be played as an infiltration; we have basically a “take-the-fortress”-scenario here, and thus, difficulty very much can vary. Dumb PCs will probably die horribly, but then again, this is a 5th-level module, and if the PCs haven’t learned by now to use their brains, they deserve what’s coming to them. This is very much a player-driven sandbox that presents a detailed situation, and then lets the players figure out how to deal with it. Occupation bonuses, just fyi, have been noted where applicable.

 

The pdf includes a total of 4 new magic items (not including weaponry with unique properties and the like that can be gained in the module – these 4 items have a somewhat more detailed rendition), and 4 new monsters: The leg-breaking, ape-like squatches, catfish trolls, the dangerous beaver-like gicastors initially introduced in “Attack of the Frawgs!” and the eponymous wood giants. The latter get the most information, with sample treasure and their own, rather nasty and visceral crit-table – kudos for that! Organization-wise, the module also presents a handy GM-cheat-sheet that makes tracking the population of wood giants easier (names for individual giants noted, even if they use rank-and-file giant stats!). Speaking of which: Wood giants use a d22 Action Die and have notes for how to use that provided. The respective areas come with read-aloud text for your convenience, and the module does come with various hooks that the judge can employ to reel PCs in.

 

A nice plus would be that the module establishes global rules for the stronghold, as well as notes on intelligent enemy reactions – the giants will not simply wait as the PCs take them down one by one. Motivations are explained as well, and a wandering monster table for outside of the compound is provided for your convenience. It should also be noted that one of the artworks herein stands out – a massive b/w-one-page artwork of one of the climactic scenes of the module, it not only looks cool, it makes for a neat handout. It is also, quality-wise, better than the cover, so that was a nice surprise.

 

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

..

.

 

All right, only judges around? Great!  So, the first thing you’ll note, is that the stronghold, a fort of sorts, makes sense – from the wolves (curiously led by a demonic canine entity) to the catfish troll used as a living garbage disposal to the squatch-slaves, makes sense; this very much attempts to create an illusion of a plausible fortress, and succeeds in doing so. The outhouse has a truly limitless supply of nasty prune flies, wood spider swarms lair within woodpiles – this is a dangerous place for mortals; after all, the squatches fear their giant masters’ whips more than puny hoomanz.

 

Anyhow, PCs just thinking they’ll be stopping Goothlik the wood giant shaman will be in for a surprise – you see, the wood giant shaman has blasphemed against Veedarkaleesh, a mighty shadow demon, who promptly took note. As a diversion from his existential ennui, the demon has taken the shaman, consuming his soul; his skin is now worn as a flesh-suit by the demon, the shaman’s essence kept as the largest of several blood golem-giant things, with vampiric slugs transferring Goothlik’s essence to the demon in disguise, all while guarded by a wizard who got a particularly sucky deal for his patron bond with the shadow demon. Well. It’s a demon. He should have known better.

 

But I digress. Beyond a demoness (in the guide of a cheetah woman) and aforementioned minor hints may clue to the PCs in that something’s afoul – and there is this one portal that leads to the plane of shadow, where shadow lampreys and ethereal piranhas may attempt to feast on delicious light-bearers. It is also here that curious PCs may, via visions etc., get some ideas as to what happened if they so far haven’t played their cards right. This trip remains short, though. Ultimately, once the PCs return from this place, they will find a massacre if they haven’t yet left one – only the demon and his cronies remain, making for a rather brutal final combat. Plus-side: If the PCs were fooled by the cheetah woman-demon, they have the silver chain that once bound here, which could be just the tool to mean the difference between death and survival. As far as the demonic angle is concerned, I’d have loved to see a bit more of weirdness like the vampire slugs here; the module feels very well like a classic old-school adventure – this is intentional, but I figured it’d be worth mentioning.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Thick Skull Adventures’ two-column b/w-standard, with the b/w-artworks ranging from okay to awesome.  The (mostly) player-friendly versions of the solid b/w-cartography represents a serious plus as far as I’m concerned. The pdf comes with proper, nested bookmarks in all versions.

 

Stephen Newton’s homage to the classics here is a nice, sandboxy adventure. Challenging and fun, it makes for a nice and well-wrought take-the-stronghold type of sandbox. The support provided regarding maps, the details and the general sense of plausibility enhance this module beyond what you’d expect from it. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like this, with some minor modifications regarding the brief sojourn to another place and the final combat, could have become more epic/dire still. Then again, this is me nitpicking a well-crafted bow towards an all-time classic. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this adventure here on OBS!

 

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Jun 192019
 

Welcome to Scarthey (almost system neutral)

This setting supplement clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page acknowledgements, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content – at least in the single-page version. If you prefer e-readers and the like, there is a double-page version of the pdf included as well.

 

This review was added and moved up in my reviewing queue because I was tasked to review a module set in this setting, and it makes no sense and violates my OCD-tendencies to cover a module without first talking about its backdrop.

 

Okay, so Scarthey is a magical university, one that sports 4 different Houses that you’re assigned to; there is an orientation, and courses are assigned based on the things you wish to learn. Anyone wishing to study magic can enroll in Scarthey, and among the staff, there are rectors – basically the sanctioned adventurers of the university, which also contain non-casters. As such, this can create an interesting dynamic, as a adventuring group is assumed to consist of a mix of rectors and students.

 

Archchancellor Gwydion Ambrosius gets a full-page artwork, one that makes him, aptly, look like a cross between Gandalf and Dumbledore – it’s a pretty damn gorgeous piece, and indeed, this is something you realize once you open the pdf for the first time: This is one beautiful book. The pdf sports a parchment-like background with blue highlights and headers and a ton of baroque graphic elements that don’t detract from the text, but rather enhance it – the layout is absolutely stunning and deserves some serious applause.

 

Scarthey is properly mapped in a solid, if slightly less impressive two-page spread map (one page for the double-page version, obviously), which I’d usually applaud. However, it would have been nice to a) get a player-friendly, unlabeled map (though I can, for once, stomach its absence, considering that campus-maps will be present) and b), the map lacks a scale. As provided, it’s hard to glean how sprawling or cluttered those grounds are supposed to be. The map also, obviously, lacks a grid, so it remains pretty much abstract. Scarthey also seems to have only one means of getting there by land (as noted in the description of the gatehouse), but unfortunately the exact dimensions of where the university is can’t be gleaned from the map.

 

The description of the individual keyed locales that follows is written in a semi-IC-prose style, reminiscent of the pamphlets you’re handed when enrolling in a new university – “friendly librarian staff under the direction of Professor Raama Tuko” will gladly assist you, though some levels are obviously off-limits for new students – you get the idea. I enjoyed the implementation of this particular narrative conceit. From a prestigious healing house to a bardic school, there are quite a few different components here – at this point, it’s also worth mentioning that quite a few perfectly-chosen pieces of public domain drawings supplement the academy – there are a lot of those inside, and from alchemy tower to artificer’s hall, this section covered a lot of ground – with curious absences: None of the occult classes seem to receive instruction in Scarthey.

 

Speaking of which: While e.g. stabling is covered with costs for flying mounts and the like per semester, the book, as befitting of its tone, does make mention of e.g. the phantom chariot spell and similar components. This brings me to a crucial thing you need to know:

 

This supplement, while nominally declared PFRPG-compatible, makes many of Raging Swan Press’ offerings look positively crunchy. It is basically almost bereft of actual rules-relevant material in all but cursory references. No settlement statblock is provided for Scarthey, no feats, traits, spells – nothing in that regard. This also becomes pretty obvious with the staff: A total of 13 different NPCs are presented with a gorgeous artwork, a brief introduction, and a sample quote. The artworks deserve mention, as I did not expect to see so many gorgeous pieces herein. However, we don’t even get an inkling about their alignment and chosen classes – not even a brief “N male human transmuter 14” or the like. This is a bit puzzling to me, considering that the pdf for example does present the structure of the university in a handy two-page spread chart. Speaking of gorgeous two-page spreads – there is a rather impressive two-page artwork that depicts Scarthey, which made me think of Neuschwanstein – just with waterfalls and a gothic architecture hall (that seems weirdly out of place in contrast to the rest of the architecture) added – but that may just be me being a Bavarian.

 

Rules for conduct in Scarthey are presented alongside a variety of punishments for breaking said rules – these, fyi, remain pretty lenient and enlightened. A total of 4 pages is devoted to the chronology of Scarthey, with banner like headers denoting the respective year – I mention this, because the banners, while gorgeous, take up quite a bunch of space, and some people are irked by the like.

 

After this, we are guided through the process of choosing a house – and oddly, here we do get stats for the chancellor’s crown of casting, which only enhances your Intelligence by +2 and nets you a bonus equal to your HD to concentration checks. It comes with construction notes – and as you could glean, is just a reskin of the headband of vast intelligence +2, one that fails to note the skill-component correctly, and one that is mispriced rather severely, as its additional benefit should have increased its base price – it costs the same as a headband. It also kinda made me think that it’s weird that a school of magic can’t afford a better item for its most prestigious positions.

 

Anyway, we do get information on the 4 houses, which all feature their own absolutely stunning crests, with house master, motto, alignment, values, beliefs and mascot briefly noted – but we don’t get to know about total strength of the like. Each house comes with its own campaign trait; these are okay, but e.g. ignoring up to 3 rounds of staggered is probably preferable to +1 Diplomacy and getting it as a class skill. As an aside, in the latter case, the trait is missing its bonus type.

 

The pdf continues to talk about wizard supplies and takes another cue from the Harry Potter franchise, in that it presents a variant of wand-based casting – personalized wands can allow you to ignore up to 25 gp worth of material components, and casting without one makes you increase spell failure chance. This is per se a cool notion, but one that would have needed to be supplemented by rules that explain how metamagic, options that ignore somatic casting and the like are balanced within the context of the modified wand-engine. It is a nice notion, but one that will not survive contact with an experienced group of rules-savvy players.

 

After very brief write-ups of a tavern and some extracurricular activities (like dragon boat rowing!) that could have used more crunchy representations to make them engaging mini-games, the pdf closes. The rowing game does have a touch of crunch sprinkled in, but to me, remained somewhat opaque.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level they are solid regarding the presentation, but less exciting regarding the underlying design. Layout, as noted, is GORGEOUS and provides a unique identity to the supplement. I really enjoyed this quasi-baroque aesthetic employed within, and a surprising amount of gorgeous full-color artworks and well-chosen public-domain art, initials and the like make this one beautiful book. Seriously. The cartography’s utility does not live up to the beauty of the artwork or layout, alas, and no unlabeled version is included. Unfortunately, there are two components here that must be mentioned. Neither of the two versions has any bookmarks, which makes navigation a colossal pain. Additionally, printing this, in the absence of a printer-friendly version, will be a massive drain on your ink and toner-resources.

 

More important, and jarring: This book takes the same grating approach as Wayward Rogues Publishing: You can’t highlight or search ANY TEXT in this file. Every page is basically an artwork. Combined with the lack of bookmarks, this renders the pdf a huge pain to navigate, and if you want to create a GM-cheat-sheet, you’ll be copying text by hand. URGHH. Particularly for a setting supplement that provides an overview of a region/organization/etc., this is utterly grating.

 

Bob Storrar and Rodney Sloan provide a very vanilla experience regarding a wizard school here – if you expected intricate notes on courses, an engine to acquire spells or feats or the like, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Then again, considering the gripes I had with the few pieces of crunch within, this may have been a wise decision. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that this book doesn’t really integrate the rich lore of PFRPG and casting traditions into its framework may be a bug or a feature – if you expected to see truly unique and potent faculty members with stats, well, then I’d probably recommend Drop Dead Studios’ “Wizard’s School” sandbox/mega-adventure/bestiary instead.

 

If you, however, wanted a Harry Potter-style wizard’s academy with very enlightened tenets and an overall wholesome appeal, then Scarthey may be more up your alley.

 

To make that abundantly clear: Scarthey’s main problem is not the fact that it’s so fluff-centric; my main gripe, apart from the atrociously grating experience of actually trying to use the pdf, is that it remains solely concerned with the surface level. So, necromancy’s heavily sanctioned. Okay, how? No idea. You can’t cast death magic. There is a great hospital, got ya- how do they research these afflictions that are not easily curable with magic? Quarantine measures? The book never dives beyond a surface level – “this is here.”

 

Okay, understood – how does it work? Well you won’t find the answers within.

 

While beautiful, the layout, at times, with its copious artworks, almost felt like it attempted to make up for the lack of depth regarding the information provided. Ultimately, the text probably could have been jammed into a book half the size of this one. This would be fine as well – but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t comfortable running this as written. The supplement lacks so much information regarding depth that I can’t help but feel that I simply don’t know enough about Scarthey to run it for a prolonged time.

 

And this is a genuine pity, for this book, in spite of its shortcomings, does not feel phoned in. It is a book into which, when all is said and done, showcases energy, time and genuine passion. For me as a person, this represents a failure – while I admired the aesthetics (I really did!), I want more depth from my supplements. At the same time, I can understand and easily conceive of people for whom this would be amazing. There hence are two opposing points of view that can be contrasted with one another, and there’s no reconciliation between them. Do you want mechanical and narrative depth? Then this doesn’t have much to offer. Do you want a stylish pdf that executes its notion of being basically a “start of the semester pamphlet” rather well? Then this may well be fun for you and yours!

 

Usually, this’d mean that the book ends up somewhere in the middle of my rating system, probably on the upper end – however, this also is one of the most inconvenient, asinine pdfs to actually use I’ve seen in quite a while. The combination of the lack of any form of bookmarks AND the fact that you can’t even cut-copy-paste text together renders this pretty much unusable without an e-reader. And that is a huge no-go for me. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the impressive work that went into the overall presentation. If rated for its content alone, you should probably detract at least another star.

 

You can get this absolutely gorgeous, but not necessarily detailed pdf here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jun 182019
 

What Lies Beyond Reason Campaign Guide II (revised edition)

The revised edition of the second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

 

All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.

 

The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which now is properly italicized, with a bonus type also italicized – those usually aren’t printed in italics, but that’s cosmetic. The numerous references to 5e-skills instead of PFRPG-skill notations have been duly purged by the revised iteration of this campaign guide.

Various means of learning a certain NPCS runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game., and they cite the proper item creation means.

 

After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.

 

The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. He does come with a solid statblock. The second would be airship captain Octavio Velderve. Both NPCs not only come fully statted, but also with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a CR 15 iteration as well. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect (you can sometimes find e.g. a missing comma and the like), are more ambitious than what we usually see in heavily story-centric supplements. You should run into no significant issues using these.

 

The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!

 

Anyhow, this is as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

..

.

 

All right, only GMs around? Great!

 

So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision. On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter. In the first iteration, this whole section was basically non-operational, and it is my pleasure to report that the author has gone back and revised the entire section – aside from a single Strength check-reference to jump (which should be handled by Acrobatics in PFRPG), the airships featured now provide a ton of properly codified interaction points, with windows, doors, etc. all noted regarding break DCs, HP and hardness. Huge kudos for fixing this one. The inclusion of the proper airship stats now makes this section really shine, and PFRPG lends itself very well to the dynamic action here.

 

Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine. A reference to a 5e-condition in the previous iteration has been properly replaced, adjusted to PFRPG. As a small aside – conditions are usually not italicized in PFRPG, but that’s a purely aesthetic snafu and doesn’t impede the game.

The artifact in question, the horn, now also adheres properly to PFRPG’s conventions. That being said, while not perfect, the conversion here is significantly better, though e.g. the CMD-value of the officer statblock is off by 1, but chances are you won’t necessarily encounter this as an issue.

 

The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea. The voyage is pretty detailed, and mechanical suggestions for tasks are provided – Reefing the sails or making fast the lines are tied to Strength and Dexterity checks here, when they probably should refer to skills, but as a whole, this is now operational. Nice: The rules for diving gear have been properly adjusted to PFRPG in the revised edition, and the glaring oversight of the boss of this sidetrek, a horrid monster crab, missing from the book, has been rectified. The crab btw. does have a unique rage-aura (Will save should be capitalized) and a displacement effect, making it more than just a big crab. Kudos for fixing this sidetrek!

 

This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. This trip to Hell can be deadly for PCs, but is probably highly entertaining, making copious use of the hellish bureaucracy-angle that makes the DMV look like child’s play. This sidetrek made for a surprisingly fun and light-hearted change of pace that the campaign really could use before the final arc. Nice job, also for fixing the materials

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of the revised edition can be considered to be good, bordering on very good, on both a formal and rules-language level. The new version of the campaign guide can be considered to be in line with the entire series in that regard. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Micah Watt proved beyond a shadow of a doubt a commitment to do the right thing with this revised edition. Instead of shrugging and moving on after the botched first iteration of the guide, he went back with a fine-tooth comb and proceeded to fix the guide – and that, dear readers, is something I 100% want to encourage. It is evident that he cares about his customers, about his saga, and the revised edition of the second campaign guide can now be considered to be a welcome addition to the What Lies Beyond Reason AP. Bereft of all the issues that previously plagued this guide, my verdict for the new iteration of this supplement will be 4.5 stars, rounded up. Kudos and thank you for doing the honorable thing!!

 

You can get the revised edition of this campaign guide here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.