Aug 192017
 

The Ashen King.jpgThe first pdf depicting the diverse cults of the Celmae-setting (also known as Shattered Skies), clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The believer’s of the Ashen King’s creed hold the conviction that the cataclysm that shattered the lands of Celmae, the central, original catastrophe of the setting, was but a means of staving off a yet worse apocalypse. Worshiped, unsurprisingly, by the duergar and similar underworld-dwelling creatures, the creed  of the Ashen King, fully reproduced here, begins with the words: “We follow the shadowed path of He who destroyed the world and saved it.” – yes, this is indeed an interesting duality.

The aforementioned beings receive further coverage and, if you will, contextualized origin-myths: Adherers, for example, once were leper-bandits, transformed by their worship of this deity. Similarly, the kobolds also receive a brief history of their interaction with the deity…and we hear of the hell-candle of Brynndell, where strange dust rendered miners sick, hellish lights began dancing in tunnels and ore containing the undead make for a nice set-up for a high-concept mine-crawl. Finally, orcs whose skin has sloughed off, with sinew and muscles turning grey, represent a nice take on the classic creature with a distinctly Ashen King-like flair.

The Ashen King is depicted as a Lawful Evil deity with 4 domains and subdomains and two favored weapons: Pick and scythe. As always with Celmae-deities with multiple favored weapons, that leaves me to question how this interacts with class features and proficiencies pertaining the favored weapons of the deity. A deity of fire and ash as well as of rigid principle, the write-up manages to evoke a resonance with the Dark Souls-series in themes, which is a nice touch as far as I’m concerned.

The pdf provides 3 fully statted servants of the Ashen King – a deep dwarven (duergar) warpriest at Cr 11, a rogue (charlatan) at CR 11 and an adherer dread mummy cleric at CR 9. I’d be significantly more well-disposed to using these fellows if their statblocks were properly formatted: There is not a single italicization in sight, which renders running the statblocks more tiresome than it should be. Also annoying: One ability of the mummy uses the second person instead of the third, making it quite obvious that the ability was just ccp’d. On a more positive side-note, 3 complex and relatively detailed adventure-hooks are included.

The pdf also features a selection of spells, namely 3: Ashen King’s Gloom is  cloud that imposes fear-based effects on those inside and may even panic those trying to dispel/disperse it from the inside. Lava Ball is just a renamed Giant Lava Ball from Rite Publishing’s 1001 Spells. Similarly, Sphere of Disintegration is just a transparently renamed Disintegration Sphere from that book. You know, I don’t mind this type of borrowing, particularly of good pieces of content, but the renaming is odd and does look a bit to me like to me like obfuscation, since the spell-names are not closed IP. Generally, I consider it a sign of courtesy to denote when one is borrowing another person’s design, beyond the confines and demands of the Paizo-standard books/OGL. I won’t penalize this book for it, but it also shows in the spell presentation, with the first spell’s formatting being incorrect in several cosmetic details.

The pdf introduces the gloom helm, which can duplicate aforementioned spell, enhances Intimidate versus said targets…and gets a per se cool trick that allows for a premature end of the cloud, as it draws towards victims, heating their equipment. All things that should be italicized….are not. Also: +4 to Intimidate versus targets affected by the spell plus a 1/day spell-in-a-can with a unique modification feel a bit underwhelming for the massive price of this helm: 28 K.

We get a specialized summon monster-list for the servants of the Ashen King and also, and that is quite nice, an Inner Sea Gods-style write-up of the deity, with full-blown obedience, evangelist, sentinel and exalted boons. These are, for the most part, nice, though adding disintegrate to an attack should probably be SU, not SP. The option to truly dissolve corpses in sticky soot, preventing the return to life is nice, though, once again, the formatting of abilities is slightly inconsistent here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in previous offerings by Wayward Rogues Publishing, but formatting in particular is still off in several immediately obvious ways that could and should have been caught. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a solid blend of original and stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment.

Jeff Lee, Robert Gresham and Ewan Cummins deliver a nice deity write-up here; the ashen king tapping into visuals that have been popularized by the souls-franchise certainly generated some interest on my end. That being said, if you’re expecting notes on a cult or religion’s structure, fame or prestige benefits herein, you won’t find them – so if you’re accustomed to e.g. fat Goblin Games’ “Order of Black Blood”, you’ll consider this to be a bit barebones. I do know now about several of the servants of the Ashen King, but not much about an agenda, modes of operation or the like.

The flavor that is here is nice, though: In particular how adherers have been fitted with a cool origin story makes me consider them more than just a lame twist on mummies, so big kudos for this one. There is quite a bit to like in this pdf, but at the same time, the flawed formatting of the pdf, its inconsistencies that become even more obvious when comparing material that has been ccp’d and renamed from other sources…that aspect is really, really rubbing me the wrong way and further decreases the oomph the pdf offers.

Don’t get me wrong, the fluff herein is pretty nice and has some cool ideas, but mechanics-wise, I found myself less than impressed by this. If you’re just looking for mechanics, consider this a 2-star-file. However, if you do not mind the reprints and are in it primarily for flavor and ideas, then this may be something worth checking out and closer to 3 stars. Since I make it a habit of trying to see the positive in a given book and since this is primarily intended as a flavor-book on a cult, I will rate it as such…though honestly, as much as I like the ideas here, I still feel that the whole religion and its structure are pretty opaque to me. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo, with the aforementioned caveats.

Endzeitgeist out.

Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 192017
 

A Nightmare AwakeningThis little module clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page patreon-recognition, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 36 pages of content, though it should be noted that these adhere to the A5-size-standard (6” by 9”) and as such, you can fit up to 4 on any given sheet of paper when printing them out.

This is a module for 2nd level characters, set in the Last Kingdom region of the patchwork planet of Porphyra, though adaption to other settings should be relatively easy, particularly in the context of Rokugan or a similarly slightly Asian-tinged environment. The ratfolk of the Last Kingdom have thrown off the chains of the oni, driving them back into the Shadowlands under the wise leadership of the Five Clans…eh, I mean “Truths.” It should btw. be mentioned that there is a nice full-color regional map included in the deal here.

Anyways, this is pretty much as far as I can go without delving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? Great!  Doom has befallen the isolated Oran’Rai clan – their hospitability has been met with murder by the dread spirit Tailaan, slain in the conflict beneath the oni and the Five Truths, this wretched entity has taken command of the isolated ratfolk, driving them deep into squalor and servitude once more – but the ambitions of the entity range further, as a plague has been decimating the fish of the rivers…only a harbinger of what ill will befall the common folks if this thing is not stopped.

Thankfully, poisoned rivers have a habit of bringing adventurers to the fray and thus, it is via one of several hooks that the PCs sooner or later arrive at one of the warren entries towards the realm of the Oran’Rai. The different means of access to the warren also mean that different encounters may be had here, one of which makes use of a cool creature from the excellent Monsters of Porphyra II book. And yes, the pdf does contain full stats of all critters – including the alternate racial traits of the Oran’Rai.

The Oran’Rai warren…is pretty much a plague rat’s haven, an otyugh’s paradise: Under the dread oppression of Tailaan, the ratfolk have learned to resist poisons and diseases and now are perfectly capable of using rusted and basically broken equipment sans penalties. The defenses of the warren follow the theme of poverty and squalor – tetanus, trash heap traps…the atmosphere of desolation, decrepitude and decay is almost palpable and, from the river that winds its way through the warren to the respective caverns, the pdf sports a nice amount of detail and includes, among other things, an unreliably ally that may well lead to further adventures.

Ultimately, the PCs will have to not only destroy the blighting brew of the Oran’Rai, but also deal with the rogue creature tatterdemalion Tailaan, a powerful and cool boss, though I wished it had full stats – the base tatterdemalion can be found, once again, in the excellent Monsters of Porphyra II book, has been modified accordingly and the build makes the boss a nice change of pace as far as low-level dungeon crawls are concerned.

The pdf also features a magic item called blameless shroud, which helps the wearer attempting to lie, even when caught when doing so. Further adventure hooks and possibilities and a nice monster/challenge by region table with CRs, locations and XP and a similarly detailed treasure list help running this module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue amount of hiccups. Layout adheres to PDG’s 1-column standard in booklet-size, as mentioned before. The neat full-color artworks contained herein are cool to see for such an inexpensive module. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The map of the dungeon is in nice b/w, though unfortunately no player-friendly, key-less version is provided. The overland map of the region in full color is nice.

Matt Roth’s “Plague of Paucity” is what I’d consider to be an unpretentious, well-crafted little module. It has a lot of details for skill interaction, some nice combats and a pretty deadly boss, offset to some extent by the relatively easy difficulty of the dungeon itself. Personally, I think that a good group of 1st level characters can handle this, though the boss will be a deadly challenge if you opt to go that route. The dungeon itself sports a variety of challenges and exploring the place certainly makes for a solid module with an uncommon theme. Unpretentious, easy to insert and run (big kudos for the tables that allow for easy GM-modification of treasure and XP!), this is very much the epitome of a nice module, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Adventure Avenue: A Nightmare Awakening is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 172017
 

pleasure_denThis pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

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Still here?

All right!

This mini-dungeon does not make any prisoners – no introduction, nothing – but what we do get from the get-go, is a module that depicts a complex devoted to the pleasures of the flesh (non-explicit): Vampire spawn and succubi can be found within these rooms and the interesting thing here is rather unique: This mini-dungeon may see relatively few combats: Compliant and courteous PCs that are not foolhardy may experience this as a kind-of lethal respite from e.g. mega-dungeons like Rappan Athuk and the like. Fire elementals in ovens? Check. A disguised spirit naga? Check. Oh, and yes, there’s a medusa.

Now conversion-wise, the respective NPCs and critters have been translated rather well this time around and we actually have social skills we can use: Charisma (Persuasion). Loot-wise, this works and I noticed no hiccups in the hyperlinks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art – kudos!

Rachel Ventura delivers a rather interesting mini-dungeon – while the theme could have used some elaboration or suggestion, I do enjoy the significant amount of read-aloud text that sets this apart from every other mini-dungeon. If this pdf has one weakness, then it’s not in the complex itself, but rather in the lack of a central plot-line: It’s just “Put PCs in, see what happens.” – which is nice and not usually something I complain about, but with a disparate roster of foes, a narrative base-line would have enhanced the sense of cohesion of this module. This is not bad mind you – especially not for the brevity imposed by the format. Kyle Crider’s conversion loses nothing of the original module’s appeal and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

5E Mini-Dungeon – Halls of Hellfire is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 172017
 

neotomas_paradiseThis pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

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Still here?

All right!

So, beggars have been vanishing and thus, it falls to the PCs to venture forth into the sewers to find them – and yes, they may contract sewer plague here – which is a nice deviation from the tired. Exploring the dark tunnels, the PCs not only have to brave rat swarms, they will also encounter a ghost of a slain beggar before finding the culprit of the disappearances – a nasty wererat slaver on a recruiting spree and by now transformed were-rat beggars…oh, and yes, the PCs can walk into a gelatinous cube.

On the downside, the ghost is once again not an encounter supplemented by social skills or interaction in that way…and the wererat boss uses the same stats as the wererat beggars…which feels a bit lazy. Which not provide some statblock modification shorthands here?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups, though there are two hyperlinks that are not functioning properly. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Michael Smith’s good sewer level in the original had it all – environmental hazards, lighting, social interaction…and apart from the lighting issue, all are lost in translation. Social interaction? Not really covered – the ghost is just window-dressing. The boss uses the same stats as his servants (which sucks) and any skill information is curiously absent as well – fallen into sewage? Well, no idea how hard it is to get out again. Not impressed. The conversion, in short, gets rid of what made this fun, at least to me. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

5E Mini-Dungeon – Halls of Hellfire is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 162017
 

halls of hellfireHalls of Hellfire clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

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Still here?

All right!

The Halls of Hellfire were once a sacred neutral ground, a place for peace talks – now, the halls are a beacon for creatures of pure evil, tainted by the darkness that saw the downfall of this once-sacred space. The lamia of the desert have been drawn to this place and both regular specimen of the feared species as well as a spirit naga and a young blue dragon await the PCs to toy with their minds and break both their bodies and souls.

Conversion-wise, we have protection from good on the whole complex, which is solid, but skill-wise, we have Str and Thieves’ tool DCs equal to one another…and that’s it. No interesting terrain tricks or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups, though, unlike in earlier mini-dungeons, DCs and skills are not bolded. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Jonathan Ely’s Halls of Hellfire provide a storied locale with per se cool combat encounters and some solid traps. Alas, at the same time, I did feel like this locale fell short of its awesome background story – some tantalizing hints, a bit more fluff, perhaps a series of short special terrain features – something to make the PCs experience the tragedy of the place first-hand would have gone a long way to make this more than a cool ruin inhabited by some lethal lamia. Since 5e doesn’t have PFRPG’s wealth of lamia, the other monsters also detract a bit from the strong leitmotif of the PFRPG-version.

Kyle Crider didn’t do a bad job with the conversion, mind you – but I still felt like this could have used something more to make it properly unique. As written, it is a decent offering and hence, my verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I can’t bring myself to round up for this.

Endzeitgeist out.

5E Mini-Dungeon – Halls of Hellfire is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 162017
 

The Goblin WarrenThe Goblin Warren clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

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Still here?

All right!

Situated amidst a barrow thought to be curse, the quasit Viletongue has had a good run – what demon doesn’t delight in driving mortal priests mad and have them kill one another? Alack and alas, today, he is still imprisoned, though he has found new ears to whisper in – those of goblins. Bilemaw the Impaler (stats as a bandit captain – nice reskin) and his warparty, complete with worgs, has since moved in and followed the quasit. The PCs, sent to eradicate the goblins, may actually do the crafty outsider a favor by dealing with some traps – a desecrated shrine housed a mechanism that ironically makes it harder for the demon to escape. So yeah, the PCs may unintentionally unleash a pretty nasty beast…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

 

I wasn’t looking forward to Jonathan Ely’s Goblin Warrens, mainly due to hating the exceedingly generic hobgoblin lair. With an interesting shape and set-up, traps thrown in the mix and a background story as well as things to do beyond “kill everything”, this one is a proof of an author who is coming into his game – seeing how limited the space allotted is, I was pretty impressed by the level of detail provided and implied and firmly believe that a capable GM can make this warren rather memorable, in spite of the classic themes. Conversion-wise, we actually have a few skills, some nice environments and traps and a nice translation of the quasit’s motivation. Kyle Crider’s conversion is solid and retains the flavor of the original.

Now, sure, this does not reinvent the wheel, but is has fun ideas and deserves a rating as a good mini-dungeon, scoring a final verdict of 4 stars.
Endzeitgeist out.

5E Mini_Dungeon – The Goblin Warren is available from DriveThruRPG.

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