Jan 012017
 

Return to Crypt of the Sun LordReturn to Crypt of the Sun Lord clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It feels like yesterday when I first reviewed a module that was flawed, but had promise: A1: Crypt of the Sun Lord. The short level 1-dungeon crawl introduced to PCs to a nice little complex and provided some pretty easy challenges…but it also introduced us to the fascinating frontier’s village Rybalka, saw some improvement, and, more than that, it already exhibited what I consider the most crucial strength of AAW Games’ modules: A mix of action and brain-teasers and, more importantly, an admirable ability to depict cultures that feel “real” – yes, they feel alien and fantastic, but a sense of realism and detail suffuses the best of AAW Games’ works that can’t help but draw one into the diverse world of Aventyr….though, back then, the world had no official name yet. 😉

Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds, so let’s revisit the crypt of the sun lord and see what now can be found in the place where the PCs first hands on the mystical blade of the sun lord. It should btw. be noted that the blade of the sun lord, even when you have not played A01, will be found and gets full stats. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? Great! The previously explored upper floor (with a graphically enhanced map) has seen better days – beyond bandits, a sense of dilapidation haunts these halls and thus, the PCs venture forth – and may find that a stair is not what it is supposed to be: The wards that keep a mimic in stair-form suspended in time are about to fall, thus adding a level of danger and eureka-effect to the exploration of groups that have braved A01 back in the day. In Ka’Teek’s final resting place, the PCs can now unearth a secret door that leads from the muck-filled, crumbling tomb to the halls below – and here, you’ll be blown away. No, really. The lower level not only sports one glorious full-color map, it also has a lavishly-detailed isometric version of the already beautiful map. And yes, the isometric map is full color and drop-dead-gorgeous. I’m talking about as detailed as back in Ravenloft, only in color! A key-less version of this one is provided as well, though I’d only hand out the respective rooms after the PCs have explored them – e.g. traps and the like can still be found on the isometric version’s key-less one. Still, this map is gorgeous and greatly enhances the sense of immersion – not that the module required that, mind you.

What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, the exploration of the temple of the sun, hidden here in these depths, does sport bulettes that have dug into the temple…but the temple also has an ingenious intrusion-countermeasure: The very doors of the complex. You see, the exploration itself is an interesting puzzle, with doors preventing the opening of others while open: Some doors can only be opened while others are open and some can only be opened when others are closed. While the puzzle can potentially be brute-forced by capable PCs willing to spend time and resources, exploration with it intact proved to be much more rewarding. I mentioned, in the beginning, the strength, as a company, to create a blending of the fantastic and realistic and indeed: From paralytic flees to spikes of searing light, this oscillation is well-represented in the hazards of this complex. On a cultural note, a fountain of balance that provides boons, but also dishes out pain to those dishonest – and yes, there is a clear and interesting logic to this test of a creature’s honesty, one that can be gleaned from experience and one that constitutes a great example of unobtrusive storytelling.

The temple also houses iron-pyrite clad guardian warriors and indeed, the interest of PCs and players and the understanding of the dynamics of the temple may prove to be helpful – for the challenges faced inside are nothing to scoff at: The respective combat encounters are interesting and dangerous with not a single boring one among them. PCs will thus be motivated to actually unearth the methodology of the temple’s beliefs – if they understand it, they are rewarded.

Things become, at least in my opinion, even more interesting once the PCs manage to bypass the crysmals and breach the sanctuary – for here, the runes of the ancient people are provided as inscriptions that the players can decipher. I really liked this section, particularly since I can fluently read runes and since we have a pretty simple letter-substitution, so no, your players won’t be flustered for a long time, even if they have no idea regarding the meaning of runes. Within the depths of the complex, a secret altar awaits, providing not only a glimpse into ages long past, but also offering perhaps one of the coolest boss fights I’ve read in a while: The blade of the sun lord can be used to conjure forth the spirit of Ka’Teek – when have you last fought an honorable LG spirit of an ancient priest-king with a blinding aura that also may yield you a better blade? Oh, and this is NOT the end – You see, the temple also hides Ka’Teek’s suit, which is the only way to handle the true treasure herein: The Sliver of the Sun. Unprotected exposure to this artifact can lead to many very dangerous effects – and the table of these effects also constitutes a great scavenging ground for more lethal exposure to radiation and the like.

What does the sliver do? Well, it friggin’ CHANGES THE CLIMATE. This may break a particularly nasty winter or make a summer truly devastating…and its weaponized use can carry whole campaigns on its own – the potential outcomes presented certainly suggest different ones and can be used by any GM worth his craft to make plentiful follow-up modules. In fact, this could easily be the story for a whole campaign, should you wish to go that route… And yes, if you don’t want such a game-changer in your campaign, you can easily destroy the item in a cataclysmic blast…which coincidentally, with minor modification, would make for a compelling adventure in the plane of shadows…

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no problematic segments. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The book offers a significant amount of gorgeous artwork and the cartography by Tommi Salama and Justin Andrew Mason deserve special mention: The maps are GORGEOUS. The inclusion of an isometric map (including a key-less version of it) render the map-material of this book, at least in my opinion, absolute top-tier; not only regarding 3pps, mind you.

But, know what? All of that wouldn’t be enough, were it not for the crucial part – the writing. Jonathan G. Nelson & Stephen Yeardley have surpassed themselves here: The core-authors of AAW Games deliver a perfect culmination of the development of the company in this module: With formal quality turned up to eleven, the duo has retained the unique feeling or realism blended with the fantastic, the fascination for these cultures that makes the module feel like exciting, fantastic and strange archeology. The inclusion of material to occupy one’s mind via several unobtrusive puzzles also improves the module’s feeling of diversity beyond the varied encounters and hazards. However, the true accomplishment here is, much like in Stephen Yeardley’s superb C07: The Sussurus Tomb, the fact that the players are rewarded for engaging in the indirect storytelling the complex offers.

If the above was not ample clue: I *LOVE* this module! It feels like a great culmination, at least up until now, of the development process of AAW Games as a company and the authors: While retaining the key-strengths of the captivating cultures depicted, the diverse challenges herein are much more streamlined than in previous modules. Better yet, the rewarding of players engaging the indirect storytelling as well as the inspiring end of the module render this one exceedingly well-rounded dungeon, perhaps one of the best in this size out there. My final verdict with clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 – a wonderful tribute to Cliff “CJ” Jones, to whom this module is dedicated.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 012017
 

13th Age Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes13th Age: Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes of clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what this 13th Age: Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes provides is interesting – we get items that are obviously the result of the craftsmanship of minor sorcerors, here called alchemists and talismancers – basically, everyday items. However, beyond the basic concept provided, each item sports 13 rumors related to it, some of which may be true, some of which may be false…all depending on the GM. This customization option is something I truly cherish here…so what do the items do?

The first item would be Blacklight Candles – mundane candles of black wax…but only the wielder can perceive the light they shed. Sounds boring? Well, what if it’s true that only drow make these things? Or what if the fire started from such candles also is invisible? The latter is a genius hook I’m going to craft a whole adventure around. Clay of Life helps stabilizing the dying and can even be used to help re-attach severed limbs…and it may be fermented dragon droppings…or it may a plot of none other than the Lich King! Obviously, it would be pretty awesome if the extremely expensive clay sold in Horizon works – it returns the dead to life…but it could also transform them into mindless golems…

Dancing Shoes are a great idea: they allow you to dance like a pro…ONCE. As soon as you stop, they’ll burst into flames. Need a variant on the Cinderella-trope? Here’s an interesting one for you! (Oh, and yes, if you’re VERY unlucky, they may burn you – but hey, the show must go on…right?) What about arrows that are particularly lethal versus ethereal foes (and less lethal versus physical targets), allwoing the PCs to better fight the threat of dybbuks and similar adversaries? Featherlight Skirts are also awesome in just about any decadent environment – these skirts puff up like a parachute and feather fall the wearer. The sample stories suggest e.g. a cadre of bored noble women using these skirts for what amounts to illegal base-jumping – and the idea alone is glorious: Think about the narrative potential here for an uncommon murder mystery…or a conspiracy waiting in the wings.

Finally, Grave Dust has a chance to work as a pretty potent sleeping agent…which is okay…but what if it’s true that gelatinous cubes and similar slimes hate the taste and may spew forth immediately anyone covered in the material? Or what if it’s true that the effects of the material end immediately in the vicinity of royalty? What does that say about the tavern-brawl featuring the material you just witnessed?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age’s neat two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Artworks are full-color and nice.

ASH LAW delivers some cool low-magic/alchemical items here. Yet, on their own, the fall somewhat flat. It is due to the absolutely inspired amount of narrative potential provided for each of them that they truly come into their own – what, on paper, sounds like a selection of solid, if a bit unremarkable items, becomes pretty awesome pretty fast by virtue of the inspiring 13 hooks provided for each of them, transforming the items into something more than the sum of their mechanical benefits.

Granted, I could nitpick some of these potential options: “Does the invisible fire created by blacklight candles visible burn objects or does it create an illusion of things being in order?” and similar reasoning – but that would be a disservice to the inspired ideas herein…and it would take a bit away from the GM’s options to customize the living hell out of these items to suit his or her need. I consider this to be an inspired installment in the series, one that oozes flair and panache, not only for 13th Age. The one reason (beyond aforementioned nitpickery) this does not reach the highest echelons of my rating system is that the items are story-items, one and all – they don’t really do something mechanically interesting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Dec 062016
 

152736[1]By Endzeitgeist

The first installment of Raging Swan Press’ new campaign events-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, masquerade balls there are a couple of scenes in a given GM’s arsenal that boil down to being simply awesome and memorable – in my case, one such experience was a time loop masquerade ball that required the PCs to not be noticed by all previous incarnations of their previous runs of the time loop. The adventure was one of the most challenging I’ve ever run, not simply because of the time loop premise, but also because of the ridiculous level of detail required for the proper depiction of a masquerade ball in the first place.

If I had had this pdf back then, I would have had a much easier job – for example, we begin with a 50-entry table of sample masks – from elegant masks of lions to veined marble make-up, the list is diverse and cool – but we’re talking fantasy here. Hence, the second table, covering 50 entries as well, sports magical masks for the truly decadent: From snapping crocodile’s jaws to live squids you can wear or multi-hued bubbles, it is here that the book lights a whole array of idea-fireworks, with unique enchantments and mechanical benefits just being asked to be added to these masks.

Beyond that, though, two more tables provide the finery we really want to see – 50 entries for male and female costumes span the gamut of inspiring ideas, from dresses made all of pearls to insubordinate duplicates of the regent’s attire and military attires as well as stylized dragon costumes, this section is downright awesome.

Of course, anyone that has tried to run a masquerade ball knows that, while costumes and the like are interesting, what truly makes such an event difficult, ultimately boils down to the number of people required to properly pull the event off – and here, a massive, fluff-only table of 50 entries provides in spades – from half-orc wizards on staff to use mending and prestidigitation to fix costumes on the fly to disguised gnomes in the clothes of a roast pig, decadence and fun seep from each and every entry – and yes, there are obvious foils included in here.

Conclusions:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes with two versions – one optimized for the screen and one for printer-use.

Kat Evan’s Masquerade Ball is a pdf I did not look forward to reviewing, mainly because I do believe that masquerade balls are hard to capture in their style – and on one hand, this pdf spectacularly succeeds: As a dressing-toolkit, this is pretty much the apex of what can ask from a pdf on the subject matter and it is a great buy. At the same time, I do believe that the subject matter covered would have vastly benefited from a more in-depth coverage. What Do I mean by this? Disguise-DCs. Sample entertainments. Sample dances and mini-games – the whole party-shenanigans, would have made this a pdf I’d use for years to come, a book of pure awesomeness. A more thorough blending of fluff and crunch with GM-cheat-sheet-tricks and mechanical tidbits could have made this a prime candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.

At the same time, I’d be an unfair reviewer, if I did not acknowledge the level of quality and detail of the fluffy bits that *are* here – and these still warrant a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Nov 262016
 

a_fliration_with_feyFlirtation with Fey. A simple scribe vanishes from his shop during a suspicious fire, leaving the heroes the only people he can trust.

By Endzeitgeist

This module clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 62 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always with modules, the following text does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion to avoid spoiling this adventure.

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All right, only GMs around? Great! We enter the stage this time around in the town of Thaven (fully mapped), where a former adventurer-turned notary/scrivener, the gnome Gustavus Hodgedar, hires the PCs, who has inadvertently stumbled over a dastardly plot – but he doesn’t know that yet. What he does know is that a shipment has disappeared – oddly, one containing histories of the local town and its eminent families…strange target, right? Anyways, the man who was supposed to bring them hasn’t shown and thus, the PCs happen upon a complex plot that transcends the humble beginnings. Upon finding the missing cart, the PCs will have to deal with lethal traps and gremlins, but, upon returning, they will not find an open office, but rather the charred remains of Gustavus’ house, with a fire brought under control only to a nearby shop of weird contraptions. Investigating the onlookers, watchmen and checking out Gustavus’ shop, the PCs will realize pretty soon that Gustavus hasn’t perished in the fire – instead, he’s nowhere to be seen.

This would be as good a place as any to comment on the extensive diversification of skill-result benefits: Scaling degrees of success yield different information, with most checks providing not only 2-3, but even more diverse results. I really like this from a design perspective. Similarly, I enjoy the sense of concise magical realism evoked by the utilization of proper spells: You see, as the PCs are investigating, they stumble upon an animal messenger with a handout note, telling them about Gustavus being held hostage in a wine cellar. Unbeknown to the PCs, their investigations are already shadowed by an agent of the antagonists, who then continues to exert subtle pressure as the PCs try to piece together the clues in a massive, detailed investigation scenario.

The wine-label upon which they received their message makes for an obvious clue that yields the information, that it’s from a rare vintage indeed – only two bottles having been sold in recent history. beyond training with clockwork dummies in the local fighter’s brotherhood, the PCs may also learn about Gustavus less legal endeavors, while a lavishly detailed tavern becomes the staging point for an assault by the PC’s adversaries. Beyond clockworkery and *A LOT* of means to unearth details (sporting counter-intelligence-info for the foes of the PCs) and several rather detailed encounters, the PCs will note that the esteemed Reniverrea family might be involved. In order to free Gustavus, they will have to infiltrate the massive, gorgeously mapped Renvierrea estate, which, coincidentally, hosts a massive birthday party – and here, things get full-blown magic spy-genre. Handling the party and investigating the Gustavus-connection may yield some rather surprising pieces of information, a corpse and some rather disquieting implications – however things go, the trail does lead towards the untamed wild, for it seems like Balanidhren’s daughter has fallen in love with a satyr – and perhaps, they may recover the books and piece things together and confront the conspirators: You see, an evil fey has secretly seeded changeling-like creatures, the Paoternosh, born from the vile womb of the evil belgar. Said creatures has executed a hostile take-over of the Renvierrea family that included a doppelganger, aforementioned satyr, its spawn and copious amounts of gaslighting….a plot that was jeopardized by Gustavus’ books.

How things ultimately turn out and how much your PCs find out about the plot, though, depends on their prowess…and yes, this module’s aftermath can yield certainly many more adventures as follow-ups, particularly since the city of Thaven is actually provided in the appendices in lavish detail – including a feat for Mephit familiars and 3 solid traits for local PCs. Thaven most certainly is an interesting village that can act as a great starting place for subsequent adventures.

Beyond this, the module contains very detailed scaling rules for PCs of 2nd and 5th/6th level, including an upgraded CR 8 version of the satyr. The module’s new monsters, much like many of the NPCs herein, get full stats and accompanying high-quality b/w-artworks and no less than 4 handouts and 5 pregens supplement the module and make it pretty easy on the GM to run.

You know what’s even better? The adventure comes with a massive 25-page map-booklet, which sports the maps in regular size AND in an enlarged battle-map size that you can print out and cut up. Quality-wise, the maps (with two exceptions) are Paizo-level of beauty – so yeah, this may be worth the low asking price for the maps alone. Oh, and in the map-bonus, the maps are in gorgeous full-color!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to run Amok Games’ printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and sports numerous beautiful B/w-artworks, none of which I’ve seen before. So yes, this is an aesthetically truly pleasing book. The map-booklet with its superb cartography and the blown-up maps for battle-map use, all player-friendly, is just the icing on the awesome cake regarding the use of cartography as handouts and GM-friendliness – publishers and authors, take a look here: This is how it’s done.

Gregory Hanigan and Ron Lundeen deliver, let me state that very clearly, one absolutely awesome investigation module – barring means to get unduly stuck, the constant presence of thwarting agents and modular nature of this module, alongside its overarching plot and compellingly written gazetteer make this not only a great, fun module, but also a compelling starting point for more adventures in and around the surprisingly concise and alive city of Thaven. With relatively subdued clockwork-elements, this is easily transported to Midgard and, should you dislike steampunkish elements, you can easily explain them away as magical or simply ignore/reskin the few of these elements that can be found in this book. With different degrees of success and easy tools for the GM to control the pace (the rats), we have an investigation that is surprisingly fast-paced, but still manages to build up tension and even end with a nasty “darker things to come”-realization if your players have truly grasped the threat behind the adventure’s plot. Well written, concise and very considerate for the diverse needs of different groups, this is a stellar adventure well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Oct 312016
 

Chronicle_of_the_gatekeeper

By Endzeitgeist

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: In His Bad Books clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Just because you’re a creepy, poisonous scorpion-person doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings, right? Large-Biter, the sassori-contact of the PCs as they investigate the incursion of the Vesparans into NeoExodus, has a past – and this time around, it’s a delicate matter. You see, the sassori’s former adventuring companions split after he confessed his love to the Cynean (crystal-person, for NeoExodus-newbies) conjuror of his group. Yep, the cynean is a man, so we have a queer romance backdrop here – personally, that is something I enjoy to see. And no, this is not something particularly dominant or the central theme here, but still – nice to see some diversity here.

Anyways, the Cynean Raxe has his own issues, as will become readily apparent upon the PCs finding his cottage, built around a dormant Nexus Gateway: There is a stone pedestal outside, and in it, you can see A BARBED DEVIL. Yep, CR 11. No, the PCs should NOT try to kill him…or…well, they kind of should. You see, when the Nexus Gateway flared to life, Raxe summoned the creature, but had it locked in the circle. Unfortunately for him, he lost the book containing the means to dispel the devil to clumsiness and the machinations of a nasty imp and has been locked inside his safe room ever since. (Which btw. is the only component along the access tunnel to it not mapped.)

The PC’s task is clear – Stop the annoying imp and get the formula book…or find the well-hidden dispel-roll buried in the garden (taking anti-detection spells into account – kudos!!) and get rid of the devil. Sure, they could also haggle with it OR destroy it from afar with the proper strategy (it’s what my PCs did), but at this level, all such options are potentially dangerous. Raxe is thankful for being freed from this predicament and has a nice ritual to open Nexus Gateways to share alongside a warning (and yes, if they elect to kill him instead, there is an alternative to get the info), thus leaving this sidetrek with a crucial piece of information and some interesting insight into their employer’s past. A new magic item is also included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though at one time, the GM-only part of the text refers to the devil as a demon…yeah, I know, nitpickery…Layout adheres to LPJ Design’s elegant 2-column full-color standard for the series and the module comes fully bookmarked and in a second, slightly more printer and mobile phone-friendly version. Tommi Salama’s map of the cottage is glorious and the added inclusion of a player-friendly map is much appreciated.

Set-up-wise, this is probably the most boring of the CotGK-sidetreks I’ve read so far, but it played as the most interesting: First of all, we have CHOICE and player-agenda: This is a mini-sidebox that very much leaves how to handle it up to the players: There are ample choices to deal with the threat in various ways and variations of the two major approaches to handle the issue. It’s also a good module in that it emphasizes a sense of caution and shows the PCs that not every threat can be defeated by brawns alone. Yes, the backdrop may not be particularly exciting, but the playing-quality of this one is high – it’s basically a big puzzle-encounter that can be solved in various ways – and for that, I really like it! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Oct 272016
 

101_forest_spellsBy Endzeitgeist

101 Forest Spells, the second of Dave Paul’s massive 101-spell books centered on terrain-specific spells clocks in at a whopping 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with spell-by-level-lists, containing, btw. also the ACG bloodrager and shaman – and then, we’re right at the spells. I’m not going to go through the spells one by one, instead trying to provide a showcase of the best and worst of the bunch – so let’s dive in!

At low levels, better options to forage for food and water can be found – but thing become interesting pretty immediately after that – let’s take a cloak of acidic mist: In a 5-ft.-radius around you, you generate acidic mist that moves with you -and it lingers, decreasing its damage by two dice per round – the issue becomes pretty much apparent for all spell-designers – in order to move, you’d have to pass your own acidic cloak’s first 5-ft.-AoE, thus dealing damage to you when you move. Know what? the wording manages to elegantly fix this rules-language conundrum. And yes, I consciously do not say how here – I won’t you folks to take a look at this. Much like in the predecessor book, casting the spells herein in the correct, wooden environment, obviously increases the spell’s prowess – which may translate to numerical increases of the spell’s parameters. But the pdf actually goes one step beyond that – you see, there are several different forests (D’UHHH) – and quite a few spells herein have different effects when cast in e.g. cold or temperate or warm forests. This would be pretty much “going the extra mile” as far as I’m concerned.

Indeed, this adds a strategic component to the pdf I did not expect to see in such a pronounced manner – the spells here, in short, manage to tie the aspect of magic and the world in which it is cast even tighter together than the previous book. Beyond terrain variants, there also would be spells that allow you to emulate different aspects of trees, thus granting the type of buff you require in a given situation. Another component I enjoy about the spells herein would be that they act as a kind of roleplaying catalyst in quite a few of the cases – buffing yourself to become an aurumvorax may have nice imagery, yes. But the spell becomes cool when it states that this prompts a powerful drive to act alone…and rewards you when you go solitary on your scouting rounds. See, that’s how you make spells that enhance roleplaying by granting tangible benefits, providing a unity between crunch and fluff.

Calling bear guardians to perform either tasks or be on guard duty is interesting due to the LONG duration of the service – and if you’re like me, you immediately looked for the obvious army of bears-exploit – guess what? The spell has a caveat that prevents it. Purging the undead, outsiders and constructed from the area may sound okay – until you realize how hard this spell is – with variable alignments and the option to purge them in large areas of the caster’s home, one pretty much immediately realizes that the rules-language here is not something any designer could have crafted – beyond that, though – the spell also manages to represent pretty neatly the trope of home-advantage, of the requirement to get the powerful druid back in time to halt the encroaching horde – Love it!

Druids cultivating flower-based plant-guardians will appreciate the cantrip that allows them to bloom faster. We also know the trope of undead, held together by plant-matter – well, the spell’s in here for the root-suffused undead. High-level druids may actually call a powerful hamadryad to their aid.

On the iconic image side, what about bards conjuring forth a chorus of nonlethal damage-dealing, deafening cicada chorus – oh, and if there actually are cicadas around, you’ll definitely enjoy the proper power-increase. What about conjuring forth a variant of solid fog that deals damage…and is particularly nasty versus cold iron-susceptible creatures while ALSO acting as a combo-set-up for certain damage-types? Yes, that would be an interesting terrain-control spell! Conjuring forth curtains of swirling, autumnal leaves, dropping branches on your foes, summoning rot grub swarms – the spells range from absolutely glorious to intriguing.

Declawing temporarily animals, reducing the efficiency of their claws, is pretty cool. Psychological warfare via eyes in the dark and a series of interesting fey form-spells further supplement this obvious thematic connection – speaking of fairytales – what about a compulsion that takes grains of a fine material and compels the targets to count them? Yes, this resonates with our real world mythology perfectly and puts it into concise game terms.

The pdf also continues the absolutely awesome innovation utilized in the first such book – there are spells which allow you to designate a target creature as a friend of the forest – hereafter, you can call such beings to your aid via other spells. Once again, this type of magic ultimately allows not only for interesting tactical options – it provides an in-game rationale for terrain superiority of a certain group of beings and has roleplaying potential, friendships and the like, all rolled up in its frame. Love it!

You and your allies may also transform into sparrows (great for reconnaissance), gain a slightly more flexible form of feather fall (at an appropriate level, btw.), render forests truly labyrinthine for those succumbing to your magic. What about coating allies in acidic repellent? Sounds okay? Well, it is. It goes that extra mile by featuring information on how it can be dissolved and countered – it’s these small bits, not necessarily required though they may be, that add this sense of magical realism to the spell-books, that make them feel like they’re part of a concise setting.

There also is an interesting terrain-control variant of healing – create a gorgeous, glowing garden – each square traversed heals(or harms the undead) – when fighting the living dead, this definitely is intriguing – and it may free the healer to do other, awesome things – interesting indeed! There also would be quite a few spells that let you duplicate some of the iconic tricks of various fey and there also would be the powerful 9th-level ritual that renaturalizes 10 miles of land – reverting the natural order in the area – whether at the PCs or NPC’s hands, this is an adventure on its own. Need to conceal the rather anti-stealthy, clunking Joe Platemail-Fighter? The Spell’s herein. If you’re on the less scrupulous side, summoning a moonflower may offer a rather creepy ally. Oh…and you can temporarily make a tree. With full stats, hardness and everything. need a tree? Cast Tree! You may be stumped as to why I consider this awesome, but the sheer plethora of things you can do with this spell if you’re creative is pretty impressive – if you need some ideas, drop me a line! Another star should be mentioned: There is a spell that allows a creature to bound itself to a forest in exhange for more power – spells like this make the trope of creatures with their own domains and stalling feuds between terrains and dominions so much more believable!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience by spell-level, spell list AND individual spell! The pdf sports numerous absolutely gorgeous full-color artworks.

Dave Paul’s first terrain spell-book came at a time when I was quite frankly burned out on new spells. I had seen too many and, with Deep Magic, to me, being a deeply frustrating book, I was not excited to read it. Well, I should have. Right when I thought I had seen everything, he singlehandedly changed my opinion – this is due to various factors:

1) His rules language is precise, even when tackling highly complex spell-effects.

2)The general power-balance of the spells is well-reasoned and so far, I felt no need to complain about any spell being OP.

3) The spells go above and beyond in tying their effects to terrain by rewarding players for planning and making them feel unique and magical.

4) The spells feature unique visuals from our shared mythologies and put them into concise rules.

5) They do so in actually innovative interesting ways that emphasize player-agenda, while showing his experience in academia and teaching – even complex concepts are conveyed in concise and easy to grasp ways.

One great spell book is an occurrence – two are a tendency. This is pretty much a textbook example of what a spell-book should be – inspiring, intriguing, exciting. Here, the crunch actually makes you come up with storylines, plots and enhances narrative options rather than limiting. This is a great example of Rite Publishing’s key-strengths of evocative concepts married with neat crunch and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, given without hesitation – I consider not a single spell herein problematic. Not one. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.

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