Nov 142017
 

Dear readers,

 

My week-end was less than pleasant. My godmother brought me a nice roast from my mum – unfortunately, the cooling chain must have been interrupted – the week-end and yesterday was mostly spent dealing with the fallout from the food-poisoning. It’s not an experience I’m keen to repeat.

 

While I don’t have the chills anymore, I still do suffer from profuse sweating and serious kidney pains, which means I’ll lose some time going to the physician, getting a check-up, etc.

 

I’m not sure how many reviews you’ll see this week, but I’ll try to have at least one per day for you! (Prioritized reviews will all get done!)

 

All the best,

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 142017
 

Neoclassical Geek Revival (OSR/NGR)

This roleplaying game clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of ToC/editorial, 2 pages blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 106 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is this? In short, we have an OSR-rule-set here, one that, however, deviates so strongly from the roots of the game-chassis that it basically becomes its own beast. As such, we begin with asserting the global rules: The book denotes some of the rules with a “B” – these would be basic rules; for more complexity, there also are “F”-rules, with “F” standing for “Fiddly” – self-explanatory so far.

 

Interesting: The pdf does note basic rules for rolling dice: All modifiers need to be mentioned in no more than 2 statements before the roll – total modifier or total roll. If a modifier is forgotten, it does not apply. Coked dice and those outside of the dice-rolling area get rerolled. Positive or negative rerolls (à la advantage/disadvantage) get rolled at once, with the highest/lowest result, respectively, being used. Repeating/Exploding dice means that, when the die shows the maximum value, you roll again and add the result together.

 

Here, things become VERY interesting: The total modifier of a d20 (or any dX-roll) cannot do more than double the roll of the die. E.g. a d6 +3 that comes up as a 2 would result in 2 + 2 =4. The Dice-notation ?d8 refers to the required maximum roll to escape a given predicament/succeed – In this case, an 8 would be required to avoid/escape the hazard. Dice-steps refer to this sequence: d2 –> d4 ->d6 ->d8 -> d10 ->d12 -> nada -> nada -> nada ->d20. (If you’re using weird dice from e.g. DCC, you can modify this sequence accordingly.) However, please note that this stops working with the concept of inverted dice. Basically, the total of the original die and the inverted die result in 16. A d12 inverts to a d4, a d10 inverts to a d6 – you get the idea. D20s invert to 0.

 

“Cumulative” refers to a value increasing in a manner that reflects adding the integers of the previous number. Doubling refers to the interval being doubled – fro simplicity’s sake, the system assumes 64 doubling to 125 – unless you’re like me and my group, this solution will probably be more elegant for you as well – kudos! If a PC attempts to perform an action and the player doesn’t know the rule for it, he must select another course…or look up the rule. Doing so, however, yields a -1 awesomeness penalty for the player; GMs needing to look up rules grant all players +1 to awesomeness. More on that later. If these rules seem complex, rest assured that a nice cheat-sheet page of die steps, cumulative charts etc. are included – put them on the inside of your screen and there we go!

 

Next up would be character creation – the section btw. also contains a really nice, aesthetically-pleasing character-sheet. The character generation follows a principle dubbed “Schrödinger’s Character” -the PC will select a name, species, gender and distribution of attributes. During the first session, skills, traits and starting inventory will be developed. NGR provides 80 attribute points, which are to be distributed among 7 attributes. Alternatively, rolling 3d6 and adding 10 free points to distribute is suggested. Attributes may not be below 1 or above 20. The summary of their effects fits comfortably on half a page.

 

Strength determines the maximum damage limit, encumbrance and starting inventory. The modifier is used for melee bonus damage and the die is used for Stun Damage attacks. Agility’s modifier is used as a bonus to combat modifier and the die is used for initiative. Health is used for healing, maximum poison and disease limit. Perception’s modifier is used for bonus damage for missile attacks and the Stealth modifier. The die is used to accrue suspicion in stealth conflicts. Intelligence determines starting skill points. The modifier is used for the bonus to occult and reduces XP-costs. The die is used for social influence in social conflicts and may be used as an optional initiative die. Charisma determines you maximum Infamy limit; the modifier nets you a bonus to presence and the die is used for Luck points regained with a party. Will, finally, determines the maximum Stress/Influence limit. The bonus is used for faith and the die is used for mana per level for some wizards.

 

Attribute modifiers range from -3 (1) to +3 (20) and the corresponding die ranges from d4 to d12. Supernatural attributes have a score of 30, a modifier of +7 and a die of d20.

 

Okay, next up would be races. Here would btw. be a good place to note that, for a book of crunch, this is a surprisingly fun read. To quote the entry on mankind as a race: “If you are reading this and expecting great insight into the biology of mankind, please stop reading until you can find an appropriate safety helmet to wear.“ It may rub some folks the wrong way – personally, I had surprisingly much fun with these interjections. Now, in an interesting change, the respective entries actually focus on interesting peculiarities: Dwarves have problems in bright light, but can see farther than humans – oh, and they are immortal…provided they stay out of the sun’s reach – sunlight calcifies them slowly over the course of a human lifespan. Interesting! Elves can’t stomach meat very well and have a bloodline, which grants them an innate spell that ignores the difficulty. They gain an additional health die of mana in their mana pool. The wee folk have a size modifier of ½, while the brutish wodewose (half-ogres, half-giants, etc.) need raw meat and is immune to some sicknesses and natural hazards, but traveling in civilization is very hazardous for them. They have a size-modifier of 2.

 

Okay, this would be where Schrödinger’s character comes into play: Players can select a number of skill points equal to their Intelligence scores, an inventory of item with dots equal to their Strength score, 2 traits, 2 or more relationships, a major and minor morality and 3 pie pieces for class.

 

Speaking of which: NGR assigns three pie pieces per character (2 if you start with level 0). 10th level provides another pie piece. Each class increases one of the five modifiers: Warriors improve Combat, modified by Agility. Wizards improve Occult, modified by Intelligence. Rogues improve Stealth, modified by Perception. Bards improve Presence, modified by Charisma and Priests improve Faith, modified by Will. 0 pieces of pie are equivalent to a +1/3 modifier per level and 0 powers. 1 piece nets +2/3 per level and one power; 2 pieces provide +1 per level and 3 powers; 3 pieces yield +1 per level and milestone and all 6 powers. 4 pieces retain these benefits and add the locked power – more on that later. There is one more option: You can put a pie in “fool” – this grants no powers, increases no stat and has no special item roll at the end of a session. However, each piece of pie spent on the fool increases the luck die and luck bonus of the character.

 

So, each of the classes presented comes with 6 different powers, a locked power and personal items – for achieving important tasks, each class can gain a special, signature item benefit at the end of a quest/task/session. The fool is a special case: Beyond the aforementioned benefit, he gains a +1 bonus to awesomeness at the end of every night – why is that relevant? Well, the luck die determines your luck points per level – these are pretty important, for they keep you from suffering serious damage – they basically are the hit points of the character!

 

Now, there are a couple of traits provided to provide guidance, though the system does encourage making new traits: Being a barbarian e.g. lets you reroll Health checks and Health die rolls, but forces you to reroll Charisma-checks and Charisma die and take the worse result.

 

Skills fall in 3 categories: Languages, Knowledge and Weapon: There is no common tongue (thankfully!), so languages will be important. Knowledge provides a +2 knowledge bonus on related attribute checks or +1 to a lone attribute die. Weapons where you have no skill gain the unsuitable tag. Characters gain a new skill for each season spent training full time – at the end, they make an Intelligence check, gaining the skill on a success. Less time equals a higher difficulty. Nice: Upon establishing a party, you determine a group relationship – family, protector, employed – all have individual benefits. Similarly, 6 starting packages of pre-defined item-kits are provided – simple, convenient and easy to grasp.

 

Character morality is important: Major terms of morality provide the leitmotif and primary concern; the minor concern of the character is the priority of self-interest versus the good of the community. Finally, you choose a lucky number between 1 and 20. When it comes up on your roll, something cool’s supposed to happen.

 

Spellcasting works via mana and piety, respectively – they fuel the spells/miracles/etc. Fate points are basically rerolls and you gain more by being risky and stylish.

 

Let’s recap: We have 7 attributes, 5 modifiers, luck points and 1 fate point – at this point, you can basically start playing!

 

Okay, so, regarding global adventuring rules: 20s are critical successes, 1s are critical failures. A character that is CALM can take 10 with any roll. If a roll seems unlikely to suffice, a character may choose to become ON EDGE and instead roll 3d6. A character who is CALM or ON EDGE can become RECKLESS, you can roll 1d20. Here’s the thing: Once you go from CALM to ON EDGE or RECKLESS, you can’t go back for the remainder of the adventure! I really like this rule! When a character spends luck points, he becomes ON EDGE; a character spending fate points becomes RECKLESS.

 

On easy attribute check is DC 15, the standard man vs. nature check is 20. Saving throws are interesting: The d20 rolled correlates to the milestone achievements of the character – and here’s the thing: The more creative and cool your description is, the less damage you’ll take on a failure or success! NICE!

 

So, here’s the thing: NGR knows more than damage – it has one “damage”-value per attribute! Damage, Stun, Suspicion, Stress, Influence, Disease, Poison – these values all accrue against an attribute and cause penalties, effects and come with different removals etc. – really cool! This makes relevant debuffs and hazards feel very organic and easy to grasp: From Intoxicants to Fear and Infamy, Mutations or the Unknown, we also get concisely-defined uncommon hazard types. Here’s the thing: As anyone who has played e.g. Shadowrun can attest, such accruing penalties can result in a death spiral – hence, luck points may be spent on a 1:1 basis to negate the various types of detrimental points you can accumulate. Healing is based mostly on rest and conditions – and luck, just fyi, regains at 1 point per day. On the flipside, character partying hard may regain more luck points! Misers regain less luck for being stingy. Mana regeneration depends on the environment you’re in – orderly cities and structure seems to be anathema to mana regeneration – interesting choice there!

 

Now, we already mentioned creature size modifiers: Basically, you multiply damage by the size modifier: 4 becomes 12 with a x3 size modifier, for example – so yes, the big dragon will squash you. Similarly, the modifier applies to opposed Strength checks; for Agility, things are reversed – a size modifier of x2 would halve the Agility-result, for example.

 

NGR knows three types of conflict: Covert actions, arguments and combats. They have rounds. Each round, a character gains two actions. Initiative is governed by the Agility or Intelligence Die, with d6s as tie breakers. Note that initiative based on Intelligence does not make the character count as defending him/herself, requiring an action as a balancing strategy here. Skill bonuses may be applied, but only when all actions taken that round pertain to the skill in question. If no one chooses to go first, the character with the LOWEST initiative goes first – however, any being with a higher initiative can interrupt the character! The highest initiative interruption is resolved first, then the second highest…Really cool system!! This system also ties in with weapon reach. Aggressive rolls are compared with defensive rolls (not the biggest fan of such swingy systems), but in a nice change of pace, characters focusing on defense can roll again with a do-over – this means that offense is not necessarily better than defense. Some tricky maneuvers require multiple successes. All the tricky maneuvers you’ve come to expect from modern games – you can pull them off in an easy to grasp manner. Simple, right?

 

Covert action and social combat follow a similar stratagem and can be considered well-made. Morale, vehicles, quick and dirty mass combat rules, simple rules for incorporeal beings, trampling, trials, exorcisms, swaying the mob. Heck, if you’re like me and love the Thief games (the old ones…), you’ll like the 0 – 10 scaling between light and darkness. Now, I already mentioned that items are codified in “dots” – basically, they are abstracted by size and cumbersomeness – Large items have e.g. 4 dots, Reinforced plate 8 – you get the idea. Easy and simple to track. No complaints. Containers, with quick search times, different item materials…really cool.

 

Armor provides a base armor modifier, which penalize Agility and ½ of it applies to defense rolls. However, armor provides damage reduction – per damage dice incurred! If you take 3d4 damage and wear a DR 2 armor, you reduce the total damage rolled by 6 – cool idea for a finer-grained take on damage! Armors are further defined by tags. Helms, in a callback to the days of yore, help decrease the likelihood of being critically hit. Weapons follow a similar presentation – dots for weight, tags – and once again, the presentation is clear and well done.

 

Okay, do you want a strategically engaging combat beyond the aforementioned options? Something where charges, throwing opponents etc. matters? Well, that’s where the combat trick section comes in – they can be taught, have difficulties, effects and limitations – and succeed where A LOT systems fail: They make playing melee characters engaging and fun – you won’t be just standing around, saying “I attack (with most efficient combo of feats/features/etc.” every round. I adore this system to bits. Cool: There are preset trick selections and you can find a handy table to choose them on the fly.

 

Now, magic works as follows: The caster announces casting the spell, selects a spell power and pays any costs required, then casts the spell as a conflict action. Power level increases also increase difficulty, cost and scope of the spell in question. Occult is added to the roll. For each point by which he failed, the wizard must pay an additional point. Magic has a cost – you suffer 1 point of stress per point of cost. Components matter, because they can decrease difficulty and or offsetting costs. The counterspelling rules make use of the unique initiative system presented and similarly make sense. Dispelling is similarly easy and does NOT require a spell – though it is unreliable and has a stress point cost. Spells are simple and follow, in presentation, a system that is pretty close to how combat tricks work – now, we begin with a massive selection of spells that also act as a template to convert spells from a vast variety of resources; then, the book provides a sampling of spells converted from other sources.

 

Miracles work differently: The resource employed, piety, is directly related to the behavior of the character. Starting characters have 20 piety. Following the doctrine of the divine patron, spreading the faith, etc. all can earn piety points. These come, just fyi, in a similarly concise and detailed array, featuring tongues, summon wind, making a golem – the result of the piety mechanic being directly tied to the behavior of the character is amazing: Miracles actually feel different from spells!

 

The system, as hinted at before, knows two types of randomizer dice: Fate points represent minor tweaks – rerolls. Destiny points are tied to the character’s destiny and are more potent – and rare. At the end of a round, one player is voted MVP – most valuable player – this player’s character gains +5 to the awesomeness roll. At the end of the session, the player rolls a d20 – if the player manages to roll below the awesomeness collected, he regains a fate point, subtracts the die roll from the awesomeness result and rolls again – 20s are always fate points. On a failure, the awesomeness-rolling is concluded. Awesomeness is reduced back to 0, regardless of fate gained – you track it anew each session.

 

NGR uses a 10-level (plus optional level 0) character progression and level 1, 5 and 10 sport milestones that need to be completed to gain the level. XP values for wilderness survival, for finding strange places, defeating minions, etc. – all provided. Slaying proper monsters can yield massive luck, fate and even destiny. XP-values for solved riddles, treasures, etc. – all provided. The final section of the book deals with strategies to end a campaign in style.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a crisp and clean two-column standard with printer-friendly, white backgrounds. The pdf does have a few color-highlights. Artwork is thematically-fitting b/w-public domain art – so yeah, there is actually art in the book, and I’d rather have good public domain art than bad stock art. I can’t comment on the physical version of the book, but I’d suggest getting it. Why? The pdf, in a puzzling and annoying choice, lacks any bookmarks. Subtract 1 star for that massive comfort detriment for the electronic version.

 

Zzarchov Kowolski’s NGR was a surprise for me. I expected yet another retro-clone with some nice houserules and was surprised in a positive manner: For one, the author’s sarcasm is something that made me chuckle more than once – this may be a massive RULES-book that focuses on crunch, but I had more fun reading it than in almost all other supplements.

 

Moreover, and let me reiterate that: This is NOT just any OSR-system. NGR deviates strongly from the classic chassis and is better off for it. Why? Because the system is surprisingly easy to grasp and surprisingly fun. We have martials that have tactical choices available and thus no big issue regarding caster/martial disparity. The different accruing damage types may sound complex, but they really aren’t and lead themselves really, really well to gritty gameplay. Conversion into NGR is surprisingly simple and the system covers pretty much everything from pestilence to mass combat.

 

Let me talk about combat for a second: The initiative interruptions are brilliant; so are the social/covert ops tricks, as they make such scenarios exciting. You won’t just be “hitting it with your axe” and the system manages to retain quick gameplay while providing a depth of options. In short: This retains the virtues of old-school gaming combat while also presenting choice, player agenda – fun. The de-facto class-less, free combination pie-system is cool and I love the inclusion of fate/destiny points, how luck points work – in short, I loved reading this. Even if taken just for scavenging purposes, this is well worth checking out.

 

Here’s the thing, though: NGR plays really, really well. Playing it feels like OSR gameplay, but at the same time is fresh, evolved and engaging. It’s a bit like experiencing old-school gaming for the first time once more, just with, you know, the progress in game design aesthetics being taken into account. NGR plays actually better than it reads. And it is a very engaging reading experience. If you’re looking for variant rules or an old-school setting that is radically different from Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry or LotFP, then please, check this out. It manages to feel fresh, its presentation is didactically concise and easy to grasp and the mechanics marry simplicity with choice – what’s not to like? Well, the missing bookmarks in the electronic version suck. For that version, consider this a 4 star verdict. For print, make that 5. And I really loved how different, yet familiar this system is – hence, this gains my seal of approval as well.

 

You can get this cool, creative rules-set here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 142017
 

Everyman Minis: Unchained Kangaroos

This everyman mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, why unchain the kangaroo? Well, they don’t trap foes like e.g. wolves and analogue creatures: They actually have claws. And even the front paws aren’t as harmless as they look. Hence, we get cool alternate stats for unchained kangaroo animal companion stats on the first page – no complaints regarding them in comparison to other animal companion stats. (They advance at 4th level, just fyi.)

 

The regular kangaroo presented herein would be a CR ½ creature, whose kick causes bludgeoning and piercing damage (which can be a bit odd in DR-interaction) and a threat-range of 19-20. They can’t kick as part of a full attack unless their BAB is equal to or exceeds +6. Crits with kicks can disembowel you, causing bleeding wounds and Con-damage – OUCH!

 

Things get cooler, though – there’s a second statblock in here. Jack. Jack isn’t like other kangaroos. He is actually an awakened unarmed fighter 5 that uses Everyman gaming’s cool Unchained Fighter-rules. He is quick, deadly, and damn cool!

 

Oh, and folks observing him have reverse engineered his fighting tricks – represented by a Style-feat chain: Kangaroo Style decreases the penalty to feint non-humanoids to -2, -4 against animal intelligence foes. Additionally, high ranks in Acrobatics increase the bonuses gained from fighting defensively or using the total defense action. The feat also doubles as both Acrobatic and Combat Expertise for the purpose of prerequisites. The follow-up feat is Kangaroo Gait, who allows you to feint as a swift action when moving more than 10 ft. When using Spring Attack, you can instead feint the target as a free action. Kangaroo Roundhouse, the third feat in the chain, lets you add Acrobatic ranks to the damage roll on all successful attacks versus a target you feinted successfully via Kangaroo gait, replacing Strength modifier. Kudos: Feat takes the Vital Strike chain into account.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column standard with a printer-friendly, white background. The full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at its length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ unchained kangaroos are amazing. The critter is cool. The companion stats are nice. The awakened character? Glorious. The feats are interesting as well – what’s not to like? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get these deadly, kickass (haha!) kangaroos here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 102017
 

Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (5e)

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them.

 

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

 

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

..

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All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

 

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

 

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits– stats for all 4 variants are included, just fyi. Big plus in the 5e-version, btw. – the lizardfolk get, at least partially, unique actions that represent their culture: We get e.g. the Tlaloc’s Blessing reaction and similar design decisions to represent the influx of draconic blood and the peculiarities of the tribe.

 

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi warpriests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

 

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – who btw. comes with legendary actions as well as access to lair actions.

 

Speaking of which: Beyond the numerous variant monsters mentioned, I enjoyed the variety of the builds: The 5e-version goes above and beyond to make the respective lizardfolk feel unique and concise; the versions of the new creatures, similarly, are interesting. As a minor complaint, though, it should be noted that here and there, very minor hiccups can be found – an attack value that’s off by one (challenge 8, thus +3 proficiency bonus, with Str 16 = +6 to attack, not +5), but these glitches are rare and the exception – the stats, as a whole, as surprisingly well-made. Among all versions of the module, they are my favorites.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module apart from a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

 

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the Gm to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

 

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. 5e’s as a whole well-crafted mechanics help as well; to the point where I honestly believe that the mechanics of this version may be the best of the bunch in terms of creativity and how they enforce a succinct cultural identity. Were it not for the minor hiccups in the stats, I’d award this version my seal of approval as well. While thus not absolutely perfect, this still remains my favorite version of the module, directly followed by the PFRPG-iteration, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – recommended as a fun, challenging module.

 

You can get this cool adventure here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 102017
 

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Puppet Show

This installment of the unique „Letters from the Flaming Crab“-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this pdf with, as always, a nice, letter from the eponymous planes-hopping vessel, before diving right into the crunchy bits – which, this time around, would be a new hybrid class – the marionetteer, whose parents would be both summoners and vigilantes. Interesting combination, right? Well, chassis-wise, the marionetteer gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves.

 

The marionetteer can conceal the animated nature of a puppet – checks to Disguise marionettes as regular, inert puppets receive a +20 bonus; dual identity pertains the puppets. The marionetteer begins play with a Tiny puppet, the marionette. This puppet has hardness 3, 5 hp, 3lbs. weight and is bonded to an entity who brings it to life at the marionetteer’s command. In effect, the marionette is two things at once: The inanimate puppet receptacle and the animating spirit – these are referred to as the inert and animate forms. Calling the spirit into a puppet requires 1 minute. At 14th level, the marionette may be animated as a full-round action and the marionetteer doesn’t have to touch it – it just has to be within 100 ft.

 

Unless chosen otherwise, the puppet is inconspicuous and attempts to scry on the puppet work only when the puppet’s form is what’s searched for. The marionette is not a summoned creature, but may be forced into the inert state by being subjected to dismissing effects à la banishment etc. It acts on the same initiative as the marionetteer. It requires commanding, which is a move action that provokes AoOs. The commanding process, however, is pretty subtle, requiring a challenging Sense Motive DC and observation of both marionetteer and puppet – the DC scales with class levels and Cha-mod of the marionetteer. Marionetteers can only command marionettes up to 100 ft. away and they require line of sight; a marionette sans commands doesn’t act, but is not helpless – pretty important, there. Replacing an inert marionette takes 12 hours and class level times 10 gp and replenishes ½ maximum hit points. The marionetteer may only have one active marionette at any given time.

 

Since marionettes and eidolons work similarly, the rules for eidolons, including table, have been reprinted here for your convenience, which is nice. Now, where marionettes and eidolons differ in how they work would be the base form available – there are two base-form chassis types available for the marionette, the Arsenal and the Proxy. Both get a different set of accessible evolutions, allowing for different playing experiences – the Arsenal is Medium, the proxy is Small – both get claws, arms and legs, but the proxy also gets precise strike (basically a 1d4-sneak analogue that may be taken multiple times); the proxy is basically more subtle; they do not gain share spells. Arsenals get good Fort and Ref-saves, Proxies get good Will-saves. Arsenals have a base speed of 20 ft., proxies have a base speed of 30 ft. The claws inflict appropriate damage (1d4 for Arsenal, 1d3 for Proxies). Evolution points are reassigned at a newly gained level or when the marionette is replaced. Starting at 8th level, the marionetteer no longer needs line of sight to control marionettes within 100 ft.

 

At 1st level, 4th and every 3 levels thereafter, the marionetteer gains a social talent, using his class level as vigilante levels for the purpose of prerequisites. Marionetteers are always considered to be in their social identity. At 1st level, they add ½ class level as a bonus to Perform when using the inert marionette – I assume minimum 1 here, a minor oversight. Starting at 2nd level, they gain +1/2 class level to either Perform or Bluff. At 7th level, 1/day a marionetteer can cause those watching his performance cause suggestions for those watching the performance.

 

Starting at 3rd level, the marionetteer can repair damage done to the marionette 3 + Charisma modifier times per day as a standard action. This restores 1d8 hp. At 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the healing increases by +1d8. The ability can only used while the marionette is in inert form. Returning a marionette into inert form, just fyi, takes a standard action.

 

Starting at 5th level, a marionetteer can, as a standard action, animate Tiny, non-magical, unattended objects within 100 ft., as if using animate objects. The animation period spans 3 + class level rounds and at 7th level and every odd level thereafter, the number of puppets or their sizes increase. Multiple objects thus animated may be commanded with the same move action. At 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, the marionetteer can maintain an additional marionette – only one may be active, but the marionetteer may basically switch through them, which is surprisingly cool!

 

At 12th level, as a standard action, the marionetteer can cause a humanoid target within 100 ft. within line of sight to make a Reflex save (DC governed by Cha-modifier); on a failure, the creature is dominated by Charisma modifier rounds; the dominated creature can be commanded as a move action that provokes AoOs. Creatures thus ensnared by the commanding strings of the marionetteer can attempt to escape the mystic bondage via Strength or Escape Artist checks. Nice one and, due to the lack of limitations apart from duration, a powerful tool.

 

As a capstone, the class gains either the option to split the animating force into 2 marionettes at once (both of which suffer -3 to all d20-rolls while the animating force is split thus) and may command them at once, or the marionetteer may share senses with the marionette and command them as a swift action.

 

Evolution-wise, we get full movement while using Acrobatics and Stealth and the option to make startling attacks when unaware of the marionette, rendering the target flat-footed versus the marionette (gets uncanny dodge interaction right); we also get increased speed. Scaling DR to represent the constructed body, firearm training, a second life (banishment to a home plane) – all in all, a nice array. The class gets archetypes: The performer replaces social talent with bardic performance and social grace with +1/2 class level to Diplomacy – basically, an archetype for less social-heavy games.

 

There is more, but, unlike what you might have expected, we go one step beyond: The pdf now proceeds to contextualize different, interesting puppeteering traditions; these are represented in more than one associated archetype; take Bunraku, one of the traditional Japanese traditions: We get the Phantom Puppeteers bardic masterpiece, which creates buffing mirror image-like shadow assistants – pretty cool! The marionetteer archetype here would be the Joruri: The puppet they use to animate needs to be bigger and as such, is more conspicuous: The puppet is as tall as the animated marionette (remember: The puppet for the regular marionette is Tiny!) – the archetype loses the animate objects-ability tree in favor of 3 + Cha-mod make whole, the ability to have the animated, sentient marionette guard them while sleeping and allow the puppet to heal them when dropped to 0 hp or below via Heal. At higher levels, we have a puppet that heals class level hit points per night. At 13th level, the marionetteer may accept the damage taken by the puppet and he may, 1/round, take a condition inflicted upon the marionette. 15th level nets the ability to share senses and commanding the puppet no longer requires hand movements. 17th level allows the puppet to drain spell-completion objects held to gain fast healing temporarily; at 19th level, the puppet gains temporary hit points and a buff against the caster upon succeeding a save against a single-target spell. Additionally, reduced effects on a success are completely negated.

 

Amazing: We dive into Afghan Buz-Baz, puppetry accompanied by music, next: The bardic masterpiece associated here would be the Bolero of Obedience, which allows you to issue commands or murderous commands, but lets the target retain mental and verbal command of his actions…now here’s a creepy visual for you… The archetype provides would be the Markhor Maestro, an archetype for the druid, which gains a modified class skill list and modifies the skill bonuses gained by nature sense to apply to perform (string) instead. They use Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute and are locked into a ram companion. They also gain inspire courage as a bard of their level, but only apply the benefits to the companion and summoned creatures. Flavorful one.

 

Giant puppetry comes with the Manipulation of the Massive masterpiece, which allows you to penalize the saves of bigger creatures or buffs allies to ignore size modifiers or restrictions based on size against creatures taller than you – this one can, depending on your campaign, be potentially be really overpowered – in e.g. an anti-dragon/giant campaign, I’d ban this masterpiece. The archetype presented for the marionetteer replaces the ability to have multiple marionettes at the ready with a single marionette that grows in size – space/reach, modifiers etc. are provided.

 

Chinese/Taiwanese glove puppetry (Du Dai Xi/Po Te Hi) is represented by the Battle of Sheng Mountain, Final Act masterpiece nets 1-hour per class level inspire courage sans performing, and targets may, as a swift action, end the effect with moment of greatness –cool. There also is the puppet partnership spell, which ties a puppet with an ally, allowing you to buff the ally while concentrating on the spell – per se a standard buff made cool by the visuals, which render the spell unique. The puppet protector is basically a figurine type that animates as a puppet fighter – three variants are included.

 

Indonesian Ondel-ondel comes with the Invocation of the Guardian masterpiece, that calls forth a protective ancestral spirit. The ondel-ondel sentinel would be basically a costume/puppet that you enter – you can sense evil inside and may merge with the puppet – think of it as a non-scifi-ish paladin-y power armor. Really cool! Punch and Judy are represented by Slapstick Reaction can cause targets to attack allies on failed saves; the Punchman bard archetype replaces well-versed with increased demoralize durations; lore master’s 5th level use is replaced with an immediate action option to grant allies rerolls versus enchantments/compulsions by expending bardic performances. They replace suggestion with dispel magic. Shadowgraphy is represented by The Nightmare Revue masterpiece – which can be brutal. AoE phantasmal killer…OUCH! And yes, minimum level etc. make that okay…and yes, I can picture that being one cool story angle… The archetype associated with this tradition would be the umbral pupetteer summoner: The eidolon gets the shadow creature template, but the creature can only be called in darkness. Summon monster is replaced with shadow conjuration, which expands to greater shadow conjuration at higher levels.

 

Ventriloquism comes with the Phantom Voice masterpiece allows you to hijack the utterances of other creaturesm which can be used for all kinds of cool shenanigans. The focused arcane school associated with necromancy that is presented here, gastromancy, lets you listen to the stomachs of the dead, listening to their wishes. (Yes, that’s a thing!) The final tradition of puppetry depicted herein would be Mua Roi Nuoc – Vietnamese water puppetry. The masterpiece we get here would be The Crocodile and the Farmer’s Daughter combines communal water walk with the option to gain, as a swift action, expeditious retreat for 1 round while still on the water. We also get a spell here – water dancer – basically the significantly improved and amazing version of water walk: You can walk up steep inclines, and even up waterfalls! Water elementals don’t get water mastery against you, etc. – cool!

 

Now those of you who, like myself, tend to enjoy researching other cultures may be aware that quite a few of the puppetry traditions here are associated with rituals/festivals – well, guess what? There actually are kingdom-edicts for kingdom-building rules herein: Glove puppetry, ondel-ondel and flood festival all come with their own edicts that helps the respective kingdom. Really cool!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect – there are a couple of minor hiccups (like “arionette”), but those don’t influence the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf features several really nice public domain artworks and photographs that do a better job at conveying atmosphere than bad stock art could. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

J Gray, Jeff Lee, Neal Litherland, Michael McCarthy and Anthony Toretti are all experienced designers – and it shows here. Siobhan Bjorknas and J Gray in development certainly did a good job unifying narrative voices. For one, while this is most certainly a very, very crunchy book, its crunch is constantly grounded in cool ideas, flavorful descriptions, etc. – even in engine-tweak-style archetypes, there is some soul, some unique identity and cultural context, which does a lot to endear these concepts to me. The marionetteer class is GLORIOUS – it is not necessarily a great class for mega-dungeon exploration, but for e.g. Ravenloft-esque adventures, intrigue/social/city-campaigns or those focusing on the occult (or on explorations of different cultures!), this is GOLD. The hybrid class manages to retain the influence of both parent classes without being just a collection of recombined parts and ranks as one of the most flavorful examples for hybrid classes I know – it has a distinct and unique identity I enjoy.

 

The grounding of class options in the diverse puppetry traditions covered is a great idea and opened my eyes to some cultural traditions I wasn’t aware of – in a manner, this pdf actually ended up educating me, which is something I love. The diverse options for the traditions kept me glued to the screen, and frankly, in spite of this review having been more work than the average letter, I was honestly bummed when I reached the end of the pdf – the concept of puppetry and the notions explored herein, these cool traditions, they inspired me more than I expected and I’d frankly love to see more. What more can you ask of a short pdf like this? Excellent job, 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of minor blemishes here and there – the totality of concept, flavor and crunch is too cool to rate it any lower.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 102017
 

Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (PFRPG)

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them. The PFRPG-version comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

 

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

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

 

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

 

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits that employ a modified unholy template – stats for all 4 variants are included, just fyi. The PFRPG-version, just fyi, employs both variant templates (here: unholy) and archetypes in the respective builds, making the opposition generally an interesting cadre.

 

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi warpriests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

 

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – who btw. actually has class levels as a standard bearer cavalier, making her a potent commander!

 

Speaking of which: Beyond the numerous variant monsters mentioned, I enjoyed the variety of the builds: From the numerous variants of monsters to the archetypes and templates employed in their creation, the respective critters are interesting, challenging and fit the thematic angle of the tribe. Also relevant: The module does not break the WBL-assumptions: While the hoard of the big boss is massive, the majority of coins are copper – it’ll be a logistics-challenge to get the coins to civilization…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

 

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the Gm to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

 

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. The PFRPG-version of this module does a lot right: It doesn’t break the WBL-cap and can be inserted as a fun. Challenging module into any campaign without breaking its power-level. All in all, this is a well-made anti-dragon crawl with a smart foe. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this well-crafted anti-dragon module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 102017
 

Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (13th Age)

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content. It should be noted that the extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps is not included in the 13th Age-version.

 

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

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

 

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

 

A big plus for fans of 13th Age would undoubtedly be the inclusion of notes on how the respective icons and Nyrionaxys II’s agenda interact, providing some proper contextualization for that aspect of the game. This level of attention to detail also is represented by a sidebar talking about creature sizes and their more abstract meaning in 13th Age.

 

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits. Here would be a good job to comment on the 13th Age stats – the book does a rather good job at converting to the system – from creature-type classification to internal consistency, the creatures presented make sense – when something should have a draconic ability like resist acid 16+, it does. Both natural even and uneven hits, damage types, etc. can be found in the respective entries and builds of the adversaries encountered. Some of the critters also make good use of the escalation die, which is another mechanical big plus.

 

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi priests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet. As a minor complaint regarding design aesthetics – while the optional cover rules covered are nice, terrain-wise, the adventure could be a bit more dynamic in 13th Age – you can tie cool effects to the escalation die…but that’s just me complaining at a high level.

 

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – and no, she is not a simple black dragon; she actually has more than 300 hp, making her less prone to being killed off too quickly, an issue that dragons in 13th Age tend to have.

 

Big plus, btw.: Instead of focusing just on treasure, the conclusion-section here talks about the repercussions for the champion tier into which the PCs undoubtedly have ascended at the end of this module.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color. The 13th Age-version of the module, as per the writing of this review, did lack the player-map bonus pdf, which makes that aspect a comfort detriment. The 13th Age-version comes with a second, more printer-friendly version with a white background. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

 

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the GM to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns. The 13th Age conversion of the module has been handled with care and is well-crafted.

 

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. The well-done mechanics help as well, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – though I have to round down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this well-made 13th Age-module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 102017
 

Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (OSR)

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them.

 

As you can glean from the cover, the OSR-rule-set employed in this version of the module would be Frog God Games’ Swords & Wizardry. We get both ascending and descending AC-values.

 

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

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi. Thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda. Which brings me to a problem that’s somewhat inherent in the system and the faithful version to the system: In S&W, dragons can be pretty fragile – and compared to her servants, the dragon boss of this module unfortunately adheres to this formula; here, a deviation from the standard rules to account for her boss-nature would probably have made sense.

 

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

 

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits…

 

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi priests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, kobold trappers, spirits, mummies and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

 

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon. Still, while S&W obviously uses smaller numbers and her AC and defenses are impressive, at 32 hp, the dragon still remains comparatively fragile.

 

Speaking of monsters – the stat-conversions to S&W are solid, as far as I’ve seen. Spell-names are adjusted, etc. Big plus, btw.: The hoard of the dragon, while massive, is WBL-appropriate and shouldn’t pose a problem for ongoing campaigns. In fact, being mostly copper, transportation may yet pose some interesting problems…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. The OSR-conversion to S&W is solid and generally well-crafted.

 

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the referee to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

 

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. A minor issue of the S&W version, at least if your PCs are lucky, may be the relative fragility of the boss – but that’s something inherited from the system. Still, compared to the other versions, I feel that this version is slightly less compelling – mainly since the versions for the other systems work so well due to the mechanics; to make up for their brevity, more flavor and/or bonus-content for the OSR-version would have been nice. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this adventure here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Nov 092017
 

Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs Collector’s Edition

The collector’s edition of Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page designer’s foreword (including stats by CR etc.), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, so what do we get here? Well, first of all, we begin with notes on how to use the adventure properly as well as a page of advice on how to read statblocks – particularly useful in this module, since, let’s get that out of the way, this makes for a great first module – both for a new campaign and for completely new players. That out of the way, we get a massive page on general notes pertaining the eponymous valley: These include lore DCs for the PCs to unearth, a couple of hooks to make the PCs get into the action and 6 sample whispers & rumours for further hooks. Similarly, traveling to the valley from Dulwich, with different base speeds, and a couple of flavorful minor events during the journey can make for great supplemental material.

 

We also get an incredibly gorgeous b/w-map of the Duchy of Ashlar: The cartography by Simon Butler, Dan Dyson and Tommi Salama employed herein is…well glorious. Oh, and guess what? If you’re like me and get a LOT of Raging Swan Press books to supplement your gaming experience…you’ll notice something. The map tells you, which direction the lonely coast is, where Deksport can be found – and indeed, in this duchy, you can see Wellswood, Longbridge, Kingsfell, Ashford -some of the unique villages and places my groups have visited and come to love (or abhor) – oh, and the map also sports a wide array of as of yet unexplored places. And, in case you’re asking – this whole region, contextualized, can easily be dropped into just about any campaign setting, though theme-wise, settings like Greyhawk, The Lost Lands or the like probably work best – and yep, the Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands is also mentioned.

 

Now, in the collector’s edition, we also get the complete Dulwich Town Backdrop penned by John Bennett – I wrote a review for this gem, so feel free to check it out, if you require further guidance. I should also note that the absolutely glorious Gloamhold region map can be found herein. So pretty…

 

This module is explicitly made for (relatively) new players and with the potential to use it with minimum preparation in mind- Core is assumed to be known, but that’s basically about it. Hence, the challenges in this adventure are somewhat less pronounced than veterans would expect. At the same time, it should be noted that this pdf does not necessarily feature themes explicitly designated as “kid-theme” – it is not gory or grimdark or anything…it is just fantasy. I tested this module with kids and ran into no issues. This is very much an adventure that allows the GM to utilize tropes of adventuring and fantasy, but sans being inappropriate. So yes, I’d consider this appropriate for all but the youngest and most sensitive of kids. That as an aside, though – this is very much a traditional fantasy adventure intended for the usual demographic – but since some of you out there tend to ask whether “easier” modules are child-appropriate, I figured I’d point that out.

 

The pdf also provides extensive scaling advice for each encounter – by +1/-1, which means that you can also run this for more seasoned adventurers sans the players becoming bored. One more thing – while this module introduces PCs and players to some of the classic tropes, its structure allows the GM to include ample options for rest…or not, allowing for pretty concise control over the pacing of the module itself. And no, thankfully my most loathed adventuring clichés, the shadow and ogre bosses are absent from these pages. Thank Gygax!

 

All right, this is as far as I can get sans diving into SPOILERS. Potential players of this module should jump to the conclusion NOW.

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All right, only GMs around? Good.

The valley itself can be pictured as one that sports, obviously, multiple tombs – said tombs are the mini-dungeons in this book, but they are not the only graves there: Cairns can be looted and a table of items can be found there. Similarly, an 8-entry dressing table for the valley allows you to customized the dressing and generate more atmosphere. From the small waterfall to tracks, the valley has several interesting locations as such – but the interesting component, at least to me, would be that the mini-dungeons (usually only a couple of rooms) sport unique challenges: In the tomb of the stone woman, one can, for example, face an animated statue, with some traps that are painful, but not necessarily lethal, teaching this component of adventuring. And yes, from chests to sarcophagi, the level of detail provided in this pdf is excessive and makes running this very easy. This detail also extends to NPCs, with attitudes, distinguishing features, etc. all included.

 

The tomb of the champions features unique adversaries and has a completely different flavor – inside lie the now undead remains of two erstwhile champions of the hobgoblins, emphasizing the component of combat in the exploration here. Finally, there would be a third mini-complex, wherein an owlbear and its young lair – these caves can be seen as introductions to animals and terrain – with bat guano, a bat swarm, uneven footing and the like, the focus here is admirably different. It should btw. be noted that the owlbear is part of the dynamic aspect of the adventure: We get several “planned” random encounters that can be used to further control the pacing of the adventure.

 

This, however, is not nearly the extent of adventuring the pdf contains – the module also sports a rival adventuring group that can act as a major complication for the PCs, feigning friendship and loyalty, while waiting to backstab them. Beyond these low-lives, there is another optional encounter that will introduce the necessity of ROLEplaying to PCs and players alike: The ghost of a perished adventurer haunts this valley’s lake and putting her to rest is one of the more unique and rewarding challenges in this pdf. It’s not hard, mind you – but it makes it clear that sometimes, words are more powerful than thrown spells and drawn swords. The aforementioned add-in-encounters, including the potent owlbear, obviously can also be used to save the PCs – if the aforementioned adventuring group’s too much to handle, for example…well, then the arrival of a pack of wolves or said owlbear may act as a save…and teach the valuable lesson of considering that the world is dynamic and that actions have consequences.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features copious b/w-artworks (some of which I’ve seen before). The cartography is excellent, though no map-key-less versions are included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Kudos!

 

Creighton Broadhurst’s Shunned Valley is a great introductory module – it is a bit creepy, but not overly so; it introduces a wide variety of challenges from all walks of the adventuring life and allows for sufficient control regarding the components of the pdf. The insertion of John Bennett’s Dulwich in the collector’s edition adds additional, quality bang for buck to the offering. Now, this module is honestly beautiful in its simplicity and level of detail. This is a great introductory module for the game we all know and love – and for this purpose, it should be considered to be a 5 star+ seal of approval module. Veterans and grognards who have seen it all may be slightly less intrigued, though the old-school vibe and aesthetic employed here may tug at one’s heart’s string. Still, for experienced and jaded audiences, this may be slightly less compelling and should be considered the equivalent of a 4 star module.

 

It should also be noted that fans of Raging Swan Press’ supplements and Duchy of Ashlar/Gloamhold meta-backdrop will certainly adore getting a nice way of starting the adventuring career in the duchy. What will be my final rating? Well, ultimately, I have to take all audiences into account, which is why my official final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool starter’s adventure here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 092017
 

To Slay a Dragon

This mega-adventure clocks in at 150 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page monster/NPC-index (handy), 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 143 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was requested as a non-prioritized review by my patreons.

 

The focus of this module is something that should provide no surprises for the GM or players – it’s to kill a dragon. The adventure comes with notes on character advancement and tables of Quest Xp-awards for the PCs, conveniently collated in a table. The module takes place in the rural county of Holdenshire and starts in the village Hengistbury, which comes with proper village stats, though these do sport a formatting deviation from the standard – but that as an aside. We begin this adventure with basically a gazetteer of the village, which goes into details, including tavern menu for the Bleeding Heart tavern, notes on locations of interest and fluffy write-ups of the NPCs featured – these btw. include a good hill giant, Ugg, who is a kind of mascot for the village. The massive cast of characters here is impressive and their full-color mugshots are nice – however, if you’re planning on running Zeitgeist, then these may irk you: Not only is there overlap in the nomenclature of NPCs, the art assets employed here have also been used in the Zeitgeist AP. It’s a purely aesthetic thing and will not influence my final verdict, but it is something that irked me.

 

After a brief bit of introductory prose, the adventure becomes pretty free-form, with several (11) quests and a full page of rumors providing plenty of adventuring potential.

 

However, to go into details here, I’ll have to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the quests per se are interesting – they e.g. deal with an evil fey dubbed spring-heeled jack, kidnapping kids. They feature a werewolf; dealing with a troll under a bridge, caravan duty, dealing with some lizardfolk and a green hag, a retribution for a prank that went too far, dealing with a manslayer particularly fond of traps, accompanying someone on chimera-safari – the quests, idea-wise, are interesting and feature copious amounts of read-aloud text – they are, thankfully, not the basic and bland ogre/shadow-slaying standard level 1-quest. That being said, they do, at one point, start feeling like filler – the quests are all very brief and while they mention terrain, skills, etc., they don’t sport encounter maps or the like and almost always boil down to: “PCs venture forth, find villain, dispose of villain.” – They are basically a series of boss fights. They are a good series of boss fights with interesting foes, but yeah – structurally, I would have loved to see a bit more variety. Though there is one interesting task: Finding a poltergeist and freeing her requires a bit more than brawns and the quest is supplemented with a basic map of the ruined keep that’s haunted – this quest is also pretty much non-optional, for it provides one of the tools the PCs will definitely need…

 

As soon as the PCs have reached 3rd level, they will hear of kobolds kidnapping a girl – hunting them down provides the catalyst for the main-quest – Lord Pemberton bestows the sword secured in the ruin-adventure to the PCs. The sword is called Dragonbane and is a +3 wounding dragon bane greatsword. Which nets +4 to saves against breath weapons, SPs and spells cast by dragons. And critical hits cause an additional “2d10 holy damage” against dragons – this damage type does not exist in PFRPG. On a nitpicky, aesthetic side, the weapon’s write-up also lacks some italicizations. On a less nitpicky side, you can probably glean one issue of the module. That’s a 90K weapon for 3rd level characters. For comparison: The suggested 3rd-level PC-value is 3K gold. And unlike many a artifact, the blade does not come with a drawback or the like – apart from the promise to slay the red dragon Cirothe.

 

This leads into Act II of the mega-adventure, the section that is about doing the eponymous deed. In order to defeat the dragon, the PCs will have to explore through the massive wilderness, collecting 4 items: The coward’s map (so named for the dwarves that fled Cirothe), said to be in the hands of the Fedap clan. The hammer of vengeance remains in the dwarven fortress Deephall Point – Cirothe devastated the fortress and left it to giants – ostensibly due to this mighty weapon. The quiver of the dragon’s bane is said to have been developed by the elves of Greendell Forest – though their sage has been lost in dubious circumstances. Finally, the PCs will need to find Cirothe’s true name – something only known to the by now mad fairy queen of Greyfell Forest. Each of these quests sports three steps – progress in them is measured by stars. The further the PCs are, the more stars they’ll have assembled. Here’s the issue: You roll the dragon die each day, which simulates Cirothe’s actions – this would be a d20 and you add the total number of stars and consult a table: On 20+, Cirothe flies forth, which means that the PCs will at least encounter more kobolds; from 21 to 32, each entry in a corresponding table denotes one or more areas utterly destroyed by the dragon. While this is intended to simulate the assault of the dragon and the devastation caused, it does come with a bit of an issue: What if the PCs are in the respective town? There is a solid chance for that to happen and the adventure tens to relegate these instances to off-screen events, replacing destroyed places with ruins inhabited by kobolds.

 

The chapter also employs injury and illness rules – which are tacked on and make not much sense within the context of PFRPG. Illness reduces, for example, maximum hit points – and oddly, both types can’t be healed with magics. Which makes no sense within the context of the system. The wilderness section also introduces a decent way of tracking overland supplies. As a whole, I considered both to be a bit cumbersome and, ultimately, superfluous. The settlements featured, just fyi, lack settlement statblocks.

 

Anyways, the quests themselves are pretty interesting in their concepts: For the coward’s map, the PCs will have to break an alliance between orcs and bandits and liberate the town; after that, the PCs will have to break the orc horde besieging Halfpoint and finally wrest a mace from nasty ogres to trade for the map. It should be noted that this quest’s first segment also represents the start of the quiver-questline.

 

The quiver quest focuses on aforementioned elven sage, one Sonina, getting the unicorn king kidnapped – freeing him from the goblinoids is not easy. Once he has been freed, the problem remains – the sage needs the poison of the intelligent queen of a race of smart spiders!

 

In order to secure the hammer, the PCs will have to test their mettle by presenting the head of a troll elder to one Theobod – he tells the PCs about a route to Deephall Point, which is now held by a few cave giants. Ultimately, the PCs will have to destroy a rift crystal and thus secure another tool.

 

The quest for Cirothe’s true name deals with the PCs first trying to rescue an elf from the mad plant-creatures within Greyfell forest – if they do, the elf’s master will tell them where to find the mad fairy queen’s castle – in order to get there, the PCs will have to pass a drowhold and finally convince the queen to tell the PCs Cirothe’s true name.

 

Okay, so what do these items do? The Coward’s Map can show the PCs the way to any place noted – and conceals them from Cirothe and her minions; the quiver coats arrows in dragonvenom – this means that hits auto-crit and “lower all of the creatures defenses by 5” – whatever that is supposed to mean. Rules-language this is not. The hammer auto-dispels all spell effects on the dragon on a failed DC 25 Will-save and costs the dragon 1d8 spell-levels per hit. When the dragon’s true name is spoken, the speaker can dictate the actions of Cirothe for one round. Each speaker may only use the name once and never relearn it. The quiver is btw. a “back slot” item – guess what doesn’t exist in PFRPG? Bingo. A back slot.

 

This section is btw. also complemented with a massive array of random encounters, treasure generation tables, etc. You may note one thing: From this vast amount of quests and their ideas and a quick glance at the page-count, you’ll notice that all of these cannot possibly e fully detailed. You’d be correct. There are no maps provided for them and while different plans and PC-actions are noted, all aspects of the adventure remain sketch-like – the module presents a cool idea, a couple of suggested strategies and stats – the rest is up to you. Personally, I don’t mind that too much, but it’s something to bear in mind. The wealth of ideas may be, at least a bit, too much – one quest less and instead more details regarding the quests themselves would have probably done the adventure good.

 

Act III, finally, is about climbing the active volcano Skull Mountain, entering the dragon’s lair and slaying Cirothe. The volcano comes with a great, full-color side-view and venture down skull mountain. There also is a really nice isometric map – but unlike many comparable maps by EN Publishing, this module does not sport a layer that lets you turn off the annoying numbers, secret door indicators, etc. – that would be a comfort detriment. Now, to give the adventure credit: Cirothe is a fearsome beast. At CR 14, we have an adult red dragon here. She is significantly more powerful than anything the PCs could hope to deal with sans the artifacts. Speaking of which: They cause their wielders to fail the first save against a red dragon’s breath – and said breath destroys them. While this allows the GM to get rid of them easily, an autofail save can mean instant death for many characters. The dragon’s superior power in the final encounter is offset by the name – basically, the PCs get 1 round per character knowing the name of free pot-shots…which makes the final encounter anticlimactic rocket-launcher tag. If the dragon can kill off the PCs before they lock her, she wins; if the PCs manage to lock her, they can potentially have a pretty easy battle on their hands – a decent sniper can, with the autocrit quiver, take down the dragon in a round, provided the “defense lowering” applies to AC. In short: Instead of an epic battle, we get a briefer altercation. If the artifacts focused more on defense instead of offense, the whole battle would have imho been more exciting.

 

On the plus-side: We get a COLOSSAL dragon’s hoard spanning multiple pages. The pdf also provides a couple of notes for dealing with the colossal wealth, though, frankly, that train’s probably gone, considering the potent blade. I strongly suggest keeping this a contained one-shot campaign.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the same can’t always be said – from some wonky subsystems to a couple of issues with terminology that directly influence the integrity of the rules, there are some issues here. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard – the pdf is layered, allowing you to take away the used-paper look and making the pdf more printer-friendly. Artworks are a combination of stock and re-used assets. The modules sports a few maps that range from really cool (Act III) to decent – they are in full-color, but we get no player-friendly versions for any of the maps.

 

To Slay a Dragon, penned by Russ Morrissey, Jacob Driscoll and Christopher J. Herbert, with additional text by Brian Casey, is per se an epic take on the “Kill the super-powerful dragon” trope. That being said, it is one that falls short in a couple of the details: The adventure shows in several instances a disregard for some rules of the game, which is annoying; the WBL-breaking, if used in a continuous campaign, can be problematic. More jarring, at least to me, would be that the adventure, ultimately, feels almost like it’s…not really done? It’s a strange feeling, but from the lack of maps of a majority of the environments to the massive scope, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this tries to provide too much.

 

Don’t get me wrong – the respective quest-lines in Act II are really cool and fun…but they remain sketch-like, opaque, and require serious GM-work to fully flesh them out. Significantly more so than in the big APs by EN Publishing. When run as written, a significant amount of this module will feel like a sequence of montages. Cool ones, yes – but ultimately, this adventure feels like it could, and probably should, have spanned more pages – 50 to 100. Act III is more detailed; Act I, ultimately, is lead-in level-up filler and doesn’t really contribute that much to the overall proceedings. Structurally, this falls short of the promise that its ideas deserve. I also have an issue with the way in which the final encounter will boil down, at least to an extent, to rocket-launcher tag, courtesy of the artifacts assembled. A properly-built ranged weapon specialist could theoretically solo Cirothe when handled properly and getting halfway lucky. I get and applaud that the artifacts allow the PCs to deal with a proper dragon – I like that! I just maintain that defensive artifacts would have made the final showdown much more rewarding. Speaking of which: If you’re lucky/unlucky, the dragon die-mechanic, while interesting, can really screw over the PCs. A more nuanced cat and mouse game between PCs and dragon would have probably been more rewarding.

 

Is this module bad? No! If you want a cool set-up for an against-the-dragon campaign, then this should provide what you’re looking for; just be aware that you’ll need to do some serious work fleshing things out – and redesign the artifacts/rules-relevant components. I will rate this module for what it is; if you want go-play/minimum fuss adventuring, detract another star. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this massive adventure here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.