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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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.

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

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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Jun 072017
 

mythickingdoms.jpgFour Horsemen present: Mythic Kingdoms  clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page of editorial, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

By Endzeitgeist

Mythic kingdoms? Do we need the combination of mythic rules and kingdom building rules? My reply here would be a yes: While the kingdom building rules do a great job in simulating the machinations of a regular realm, and while Legendary Games’ superb books expanding upon them add aerial and underwater warfare and the like to the fray, it is a fact that the rules do not really account for wars between truly fantastic nations…or a fantastic nation going to war with more mundane civilizations. The question of what happens if Eldorado or Xin-Shalast went to war with mundane realms? You can answer that. Such fabled realms usually have fabled leaders – at the very heart of a mythic kingdom, thus, sit mythic heroes (or villains). The blending of the individual and the kingdom level is as seamless as possible, via two mythic universal path abilities, the 1st tier mythic leader and the 6th tier mythic kingdom; the former affects a settlement you govern, the latter the whole kingdom.

But what are the advantages? Well, you can grant the settlement/kingdom mythic advantages…but these must be paid for with mythic disadvantages. Each of the entries thus features a line to affect settlement and kingdom. And the mythic advantages are AMAZING. I mean…ouch. I get why you need disadvantages to balance them out. If a place, for example, has the army advantage, it receives an army of undead, golems, guardian spirits…that replenishes every day. The only way to defeat it permanently is to eliminate the source of mythic power – i.e. the characters.”We were impervious to the darkness, guarded by the ancient protectors, for as long as our kind king rules…” Yeah, this quality alone pretty much writes its own adventure….or even campaign.

The mythic advantages retain this exceedingly impressive level of quality and imaginative potential: Do you want a settlement or place that has the option to magically exile the unwanted? That can be found herein. A blessed holy city/realm to represent the fantasy-equivalent of Jerusalem/Mekka or Prester John’s realm? In this pdf. A realm prophesized to become something great? Oh, do you want a city of doors and portals that can be accessed via special keys (mythic magic items also depicted within)? A place that can be returned t via keys? Yeah, if that sounds like this nets you the tools to simulate a war with Sigil…you’d be right. What about a mythic kingdom that seems to move, being hard to find? One with legendary buildings? A repository of vast knowledge? A place with different gravity? Yup. You can making flying kingdoms…or those that bring forth particularly powerful beings by virtue of increased gravity…or a tyrannical realm, where the tyrant’s domination literally crushes those under his dominion. Magical planar traits, morphic fey realms, kingdoms that can actually *move* or those protected from negative influences…yes, this has the means of making a kingdom on…for example the negative energy plane…or making simply the city of brass. Fabulously wealthy or technologically advanced realms similarly lie within the realms (get it? sorry, will punch myself later for that…) possibility.

Now if sword & sorcery, fantasy or pretty much any other literary genre have taught us anything regarding such larger than life nations, then that they also generally tend to have a fatal flaw: Mythic disadvantages are the calamities, the chinks in the resplendent armor of these legendary nations. These, in turn, are no less unique and worthy of storytelling: Some mythic kingdoms may be struck by apathy, a crushing world-weariness; perhaps, the kingdom has been beset by a catastrophe that sent it beneath the surface of the earth…or it suffers from a horrid curse affecting magical objects. Perhaps the very people are cursed…or flow of time or gravity behaves erratically. Dead magic, restless dead stalking the streets, places that are tumbling through the planes…or those simply unnatural – if the advantages are what makes a kingdom presented here awe-inspiring, then these are what makes them grounded, what ultimately makes them an evocative place for adventurers to visit, save or condemn.

Now I already mentioned enhanced structures: Taverns with phantom steeds or ghostly carriages; healing chapels that rid pilgrims of curses – the pdf features a ridiculously simple and concise way of presenting such places. The rules presented comfortably fit on one page, but frankly, are impressive in their elegance. And then, there would be three sample settlements crafted with the rules presented herein: The clockwork fortress of Null, the Dread Necropolis and the planar crossroads that wanted to be the center of ever-changing limbo.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed neitehr formal, nor rules-language hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf sports 2 decent full color artworks and one b/w-piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Rowe’s Mythic Kingdoms are pretty much everything I hoped they’d be. When the horsemen asked what we’d like to see and I posted “Mythic Kingdoms”, I almost immediately regretted it; why? Because I end up disappointed more often than not by the particular execution of a concept near and dear to my heart. It is with some trepidation, but also hope that I opened this pdf; after all, Stephen Rowe is a supremely talented designer.

Well, to cut a long ramble short, he has surpassed himself here. In German, there is the colloquialism of the “eierlegende Wollmilchsau” (literally: Egg-laying Wool-milk-pig) to denote a fantastic tool that does everything at once. Mythic Kingdoms is pretty much the eierlegende Wollmilchsau of the theme, succeeding in phenomenal ways beyond my expectations. It seamlessly stitches the levels of character, settlement and kingdom together, provides a bridge between the mythic character and the kingdom, without losing the importance of the mythic character in question. The advantages and disadvantages both universally resonate with the truly fantastic, taking ample inspiration from mythology. The fact that the respective pieces of content can be applied on both a settlement and kingdom level is similarly amazing. Oh, and, as an aside, the book is exceedingly cool, even if you do not play a mythic game; the advantages and disadvantages, frankly, can be utilized by GMs beyond kingdom-building or mythic game-play to add the sense of the epic to teh respective environment.

In short: This is a little masterpiece, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval as well as nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Whether you want more magical settlements or kingdoms, consider this a must-have purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.

Four Horsemen present: Mythic Kingdoms is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Jun 062017
 

savageabilities.pngAdvantageous Abilities: Savage Abilities clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this pdf begins with a handy and easy to comprehend “How to Use” – basically, these abilities may increase the CR of the respective adversary to which they are added and creatures with CRs of less than 1/2 similarly halve their impact on the respective critter’s modification. If in doubt, a save is based on DC = 8 + proficiency bonus + relevant Ability modifier. The abilities themselves are categorized in 3 groups – passive abilities, active abilities and reactions. Easy, right?

Well, let’s look at the passive abilities, shall we? These range from CR +0 to CR +2 and a total of 10 are included. At CR 0, we have, for example, the temper tantrum, which imposes disadvantage on all Charisma checks made to reason with the creature while it’s under the effects of rage. Gaining temporary hit points equal to the damage dealt with bites would be a CR +1 example. There is also an option to crit in particularly bloody manner; on a failed Con-save, allies of the victim nearby must save or be poisoned and take minor psychic damage. The combo of psychic + poisoned is slightly odd to me, but honestly, I’m nitpicking here. The CR +2 modification allows for vorpal slashes – and actually has two different mechanics: One old-school and unforgiving, one that is kinder on the players. Kudos for featuring both!

A total of 8 active abilities are included; these range in CR modification from CR +1/2 to CR +2, with some having fitting refresh conditions – e.g. the  temporary hit points granting and disadvantage imposing battle cry. Minor complaint here: The battle cry should have a proper range. An ability to ripout and eat the heart of recently deceased foes is similarly nice and is prevented from being cheesed by the opponents (so why didn’t he carry a bag of kittens around?) by actually having a nice caveat to prevent such a logic book. Big kudos!  Somewhat weird due to its nomenclature: The legbreaker-ability allows the creature using it to force a saving throw when hitting foes with a bludgeoning weapon, reducing movement to 0 on a failed save…but this handicap can be overcome on subsequent rounds…which does not sound like breaking to me. Similarly, I think that having flying or swimming speeds should probably still allow for movement. Yes, I am nitpicking here, though these are a bit more serious. Bonus damage in exchange for suffering attacks with advantage on subsequent rounds can be an interesting boss-fight engine tweak.

The pdf also features two reactions at CR +1/2 and CR +1, with a frightened-inducing reactive stare and the option to add proficiency bonus to a non-proficient save if below 1/2 maximum hit points.

Big plus: The pdf is considerate and reproduces the Proficeincy bonus by CR and XP by Cr tables on its last page. Nice one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good, bordering on very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly, with a nice stock image in full color thrown in for good measure. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Kelly & Ken Pawlik’s latest collection of advantageous abilities is a welcome, inexpensive little customization toolkit for GMs looking to add some unique tricks to their adversaries. The abilities generally are solid and can make for some nasty surprises. What more can you ask of such a little pdf? Well, there are a few hiccups in the intricate details here, but none are truly glaring. Hence, I feel completely justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars. For the more than fair price, this is definitely worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.

Advantageous Abilities: Savage Abilities (5e) is available from DriveThruRPG.

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