Oct 182013

1-to-the-edge-of-the-map[1]By Megan Robertson

The first part of the Slayers of the Great Serpent saga for Dungeons & Dragons 4e, this adventure for characters starting at 1st level takes them on an epic journey.

Publisher’s blurb: “The story begins when a messenger arrives at the royal court with a warning of apocalyptic magnitude. A terrible menace that is about to awaken; heroes are needed to cross the ocean and travel to the distant East in order to search for the lair of a gargantuan snake known as The Destroyer and The Eater of Worlds. These heroes must travel far from their homes, and try to find the country where the Great Serpent lives. Very little is known about this land, save for rumours that it lies to the east of distant Xi, a strange and romantic kingdom on the other side of the ocean. Nothing will be certain on this journey, not the final destination of our heroes, or the incredible dangers that they are sure to face. If no one can find this monster and lay it low before it rises from its torpor then the world will fall into an age of darkness and become transformed into a nightmarish hellscape of misery and death.

“The majority of this adventure takes place while the adventurers are traveling; they must contend with both the everyday hazards of life on the road as well as cowardly plots initiated by an agent of the Church of the Destroyer. Before they can think about crossing the ocean, the adventurers must first find and reach the coast of their own continent. The first task they will need to accomplish is to leave the borders of The Kingdom by the Sea and then cross the dangerous Iron Ridge Mountains. On the other side of these mountains the adventurers will encounter a violent and lawless region known as The Outlaw Kingdoms. Should they make it across this land and yet live, they must still face the unknown dangers of the enchanted Forest of Night. It is here that the adventurers will brave a final showdown with the mysterious agent that has impaired their progress from the start. During the confrontation, the cultist summons a horrific Nightmare Snake, a living fragment of one of the Great Serpent’s dreams.”

Megan’s review

A journey begins with but a single step… but here the first stage in what promises to become an epic journey-based adventure, one where much of the adventure is the journey, sweeps the characters from attending a jovial festival across the breadth of the land and indeed towards the edges of explored territory.

Beginning with a campaign overview and then delving deep into background, the product starts with a collection of monsters, items and other game mechanics – including the theme ‘Hero of Song’ which is rather interesting – before looking at an overview of the lands which will be travelled. There’s a lot for the DM to take aboard, but it is well worth it to aid in the development of a rich background through which the party will travel. Throughout, there are suggestions for running the adventure from motivations to participate through to nightmares the characters may suffer.

With the overarching theme being one of travel, the actual adventure itself is presented in a wonderfully flexible way. Once the characters have accepted their task, you are presented with a range of encounters and events to run as appropriate whilst the party travels through the areas which have already been described. The party has freedom to choose their own route and most events can occur as and when you decide during their travels. Random encounters and notes on survival are also provided. It is important to highlight how the journey begins in lands familiar to the characters, but how every step takes them further into unknown territory.

The flexibility of this approach allows the DM to tailor the adventure to his players’ tastes. Events where role-playing or investigation might be appropriate are presented in such a way that challenges can be met through die-rolling or by playing out the encounter as preferred. There are also specific quest targets set which may be attempted or ignored… some are incidental, some will advance the core plot. Everything is well laid out with all the game mechanical information you need to hand, and plenty of flavour text on which to base your descriptions. At the beginning, in particular, there is quite a lot of ‘read aloud’ text to get essential information over. You may need to break this up or otherwise vary the presentation to avoid players being overwhelmed by ‘info-dump’ especially if they are not the sort to enjoy listening to lengthy discourses.

As the adventure gets into its stride, however, there are plenty of opportunities for the characters to engage in combat and in the struggle to survive often hostile environments. Again, game mechanical information, appropriate maps and notes on the opposition’s combat tactics are put at your fingertips. To add variety, there’s a story-telling challenge and even a pub game called Seven Tiles for which sufficient information is provided for you to recreate it if wished, as opposed to disposing of a game with a couple of skill rolls which other groups might prefer. There is even a dungeon-crawl (just the one) which provides an action-packed session… and this episode ends with a good fight!

An appendix provide full-page versions of all encounter maps ready for you to use as appropriate.

Overall, the adventure is excellent with a wide mix of activities to suit all types of group with inherent flexibility to enable you to delve deeper into those encounters that most interest your players and a tight plotline that yet manages to work in a ‘sandbox’ style giving players the feeling that they are very much in control of their own destiny.

Book Details:
Author: David Caffee
Publishers’ Reference:
ISBN: 9781304382900
Paperback, 100 pages
Date: September 2013

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May 132013

crows-rest-island[1]By Megan Robertson

Good introduction to Adventureaweek’s own campaign setting, or just a good adventure for 1st level characters.

Publisher’s blurb: “Shrouded in whispered rumors, Crow’s Rest Island has been avoided as long as any can remember. Nothing but death, and the memories of those long gone, greet any who take to land upon the isle’s shores. It is to this island that the PCs will find themselves driven as a storm threatens to drive their ship below the waves. Awaiting the PCs are far more than ghost stories upon this island, for there lives a very real threat, hiding here among the legends that keep sailors at bay.

“A classic ghost story that casts the PCs not as adversaries to the specters, but rather as their benefactors, Crow’ Rest Island challenges the PCs with a tribe of foul kobolds, a haunted village, and the forgotten servant of a long departed ice devil. An excellent introduction to the Adventureaweek.com campaign setting, this adventure gives the PCs their first glimpse into Vikmordere culture. A0 may also be easily ported to any setting containing a northern wilderness near a large body of water.”

Megan’s Review

Designed as an introduction to the whole Adventureaweek campaign world, the putative setting of all their adventures (although most can be readily translocated into a suitable part of the campaign world of your choice) this short adventure is also intended to serve as a lead-in to A1:Crypt of the Sun Lord, if you’re intending to use that.

The basic concept is simple, and yet an elegant way to get around the constant problem of your character knowing the world he lives in far better than you, his player, does by saying that the characters come from a nearby kingdom which is actively encouraging adventurers to move to an outlying fishing village called Rybalka. It’s a wild and dangerous place, so much so that ordinary citizens are reluctant to move there even if offered payment. Clearly some braver souls, some adventurers, are needed!

The way to get there goes across the massive ice-cold Serpent Lake, pretty much an inland sea, and passes a ill-omened island, Crow’s Rest Island. Sailors are full of tales about people who have been shipwrecked there, tales of horror and haunting far worse than merely being shipwrecked and having to survive.

There’s a comprehensive backstory to inform you about what’s really going on, and then we get into the adventure proper which starts with the characters aboard ship… and there’s a storm blowing up! The ship is swiftly covered in snow to the extent that the captain decides that it is less risky to stop at Crow’s Rest Island than it is to continue the voyage. And so it begins…

Although quite simple, the adventure is atmospheric and there’s plenty of material to aid you in setting the scene, snow-covered and brooding with a mysterious crow that somehow only the party can see. Beautiful illustrations and lush maps provide visual cues to supplement the descriptions. There’s plenty to do, with negotiations with spirits as well as a couple of brawls… and the adventurers should emerge back on shore as the storm dies down and their ship is ready to resume its voyage. But, boy, they will have some tales to tell of their exploits!

If looking to start a campaign with a bang, this ought to fit the bill, excitement a-plenty yet all perfectly do-able by first level characters.

Book Details:
Authors: Joshua Gullion, Stephen Yeardley, Will Myers, Nathan Land, and Jonathan G. Nelson
Publishers’ Reference: A0
ISBN: n/a
PDF, 23 pages
Date: November 2012

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May 132013

wrath-of-the-orc-god[1]By Megan Robertson

Another adventure honed for beginning players – and GMs – but enjoyable for experienced ones too. For 4th-level characters.

Publisher’s blurb: “In the town of Gafolweed, the market is in disarray: toppled barrows and collapsed tents spill their contents onto the muddy ground. Merchants and locals flee the scene as you arrive. In the midst of the destruction stands a muscular, green-skinned humanoid – an orc! Three bodies lie near his feet, the victims of his bloody axe. He turns to you, a vivid red tattoo of a bleeding eye prominent on his brow. The orcs are gathering in numbers unseen in many generations and make war upon the people of the Borderlands. The cause of this deadly conflict is entwined with the history of the unholy mark that all the orcs now bear.

“Will your fellowship of budding heroes be able to quell the Wrath of the Orc God?”

Whilst like the preceding adventures in the Basic Paths series this one is aimed particularly at beginning players and GMs, this is both aimed at slightly more experienced (4th Level) characters and is set in the same township, with the intention that the characters are beginning to get to know, and hopefully care about, the locals.

The adventure opens with a scream, as a lone orc attacks the settlement of Gafolweed. A single orc is no trouble to a whole party of adventurers, but it soon becomes apparently that there are hordes of orcs out there all on the warpath, and the characters’ help will soon be enlisted to deal with the problem. And we’re off…

Background is vivid and engaging, be it the backstory to the adventure provided for the GM, the overview of Gafolweed, or the details of locations and individuals encountered along the way. Particularly of note are sidebars designed to highlight and explain features of the rules for novice GMs – even the most experienced will find snippets of mechanics that will enhance their game knowledge – for example, a clear description of the art of ‘reskinning’ a familiar monster to give it a wholly-new aspect without having to go to the trouble of designing one from the bottom up.

The adventure doesn’t shy away from things that novices might find hard, like mass combat, but settles down to explain what needs to be done clearly and concisely. Worth studying in advance, but even a new GM should find it possible to run hordes of orcs and equally-numerous defending cavalry confidently.

As the adventure unfolds, there is plenty to do and a quite surprising route to discovering and combatting the evil that has come to roost in the neighbourhood. Everything is presented clearly, with discussion of the options available and catering for many of the things that players might do that could so easily catch an unprepared or new GM on the hop!

In classic style, this adventure moves smoothly from the initial set-up and a good brawl, through a journey along which information, resources and even allies can be gathered to wind up with a dungeon-delve and climactic showdown. There’s a lot to see and do throughout, with interaction and investigation balanced well with combat. The dungeon is no mere backdrop to the climatic fight, either, just getting there provides a good challenge with plenty of the things all good dungeons have (traps, monsters, tricky bits…) even before you get to the final showdown.

Everything is laid out clearly and where you’re going to need it, with some flavourful illustrations, delightful maps and battlemaps for the main brawls. There are even paper ‘standee’ miniatures for the main opposition. Overall a well-presented adventure that is a delight to run… and ought to be fun from the other side of the screen.

Book Details:
Author: David Schwartz
Publishers’ Reference: MABP03
ISBN: n/a
PDF, 53 pages
Date: April 2013

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Jan 262013

book-on-pedestal[1]Possibly the ultimate in-character resource, written in a ‘future history’ style and with numerous extras, this is a treat for all Star Trek fans…

By Megan Robertson

Publisher’s blurb: “Assembled as a Special Exhibit on Memory Alpha, Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

“This unprecedented illustrated volume chronicles the pivotal era leading up to Humankind’s First Contact with Vulcan in 2063, the Romulan War in 2156, the creation of the Federation in 2161, and the first 150 years of the intergalactic democracy up until the year 2311. Meticulously researched, this account covers a multitude of alien species, decisive battles, and the technology that made the Age of Exploration possible. It includes field sketches, illustrations, and reproductions of historic pieces of art from across the Galaxy, along with over fifty excerpts from key Federation documents and correspondence, Starfleet records, and intergalactic intelligence.

“Housed in a pedestal display complete with lights and an audio introduction by Admiral Hikaru Sulu, this deluxe edition also features five removable documents from the Federation Archives, including Zefram Cochrane’s early sketch of the warp-drive engine, a handwritten letter from young Jim Kirk, and the first-known diagram of a Trill symbiont.”

Megan’s review

Have you ever wished that the United Federation of Planets was real and that you, too, could bodly go where no one has ever gone before?

You’re not alone. Watching the TV series and the films is not enough… sometimes even the role-playing games don’t quite hit the mark. This book might help.

all-the-bits[1]Imagine, if you will, that you are rooting around in the library at Starfleet Academy, in the history section. In pride of place, on a fancy display stand, your eye is caught by a history of the Federation. You decide to pick it up and have a read…

That sounds like something I might say when running an RPG: this splendid resource makes it come to life, enabling you to enter that alternate reality that is Star Trek! For here is the history of the origins of the Federation written as history, just like any other popular history book you might have on your coffee table or your bookshelves.

Starting with Zefram Cochrane’s first warp drive test flight that led to First Contact with a passing Vulcan ship – and speaking of it as a familiar tale that you grew up on at that! – it reviews the sweep of history since then as Earth humans joined, and quickly assumed a leading role, in galactic civilisation. Much will be familiar to the enthusiast who enjoys everything that comes out about Star Trek, the real joy is in the interspersed images: copies of treaties, exerpts from Vulcan philosophy, from newspapers of the time, sketches of pivotal figures. It’s like a piece of future history fell back through a wormhole in time into your hands. Even the bibliography at the end is ‘in character’ with references to Memory Apha records and historical dissertations published in the 22nd century!

If that alone wasn’t enough, the rest of the package is pretty neat too. A blueprint of the USS Enterprise is maybe no surprise, most of us have assorted ‘technical manuals’ tucked away. But notes about warp drive scrawled by Cochrane himself on an envelope from the IRS? A note from a young Jim Kirk to his Mom? An anatomical diagram of a Trill, and a letter (in Trill script & translation) concerning doubts about revealing their symbiotic nature to the Federation in case they got upset about such a novel lifeform? These are things that those of us who would inhabit the alternate reality that is Star Trek can but dream of… and here they are, ready to be handled and passed around.

A particular gem is the author’s Addendum for the 75th Anniversary Edition… with some further events, more future history, enhancing the sense that this all happened and is continuing to happen, a nice touch!

Overall it is a beautifully-produced work, with a lot to offer the Star Trek enthusiast, something to treasure as you let your imagination boldly go…

For the role-player: Excellent background reading and fabulous props: there isn’t much more to be said. Whilst not particularly useful within the course of an actual game, it’s something keen players will want to study as they get inside their character’s head – perhaps a proud parent bought the book when they enrolled at the Academy!

Book Details:
Author: David A. Goodman
Publishers’ Reference:
ISBN: 978-1612184173
Hardback, 176 pages + extras and stand
Date: December 2012

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Dec 172012

a-childs-game[1]Introductory adventure, also legal for Dark Providence shared campaign play.

By Megan Robertson

Publisher’s blurb: “A child, blessed by the Almighty with visions to aid the fight against the foul Adversary, has been spiritually assaulted by vicious devils of all sorts. Taken to the famed Court of Whispers, birthplace of the accord, Witch Hunters from throughout Europe have attempted to aid her to no avail. The characters are compelled to follow her visions across the ocean to the New World. Can they triumph against the forces of the Adversary before the veil between worlds is torn asunder and devils walk the earth? This introductory adventure represents an ideal starting place for any Witch Hunter campaign.”

Megan’s Review

Designed as an introductory adventure to start both players and characters off playing Witch Hunter, the book begins with some sage advice on building groups of characters who will be able to work together credibly from the outset, as this is what you’ll need for a game such as this. There are also suggestions for how, once you have built a group of individual characters that can cooperate, you get them together as a party.

Next comes the adventure background and details of the main adversary that the characters will face. They are going to be thrown right into the world of Witch Hunter, dealing with an acolyte of one of the Twelve Penitents whose visions will start their mission off, visions that draw the characters from wherever they are to the Court of Whispers beneath Westminster Abbey in central London! An NPC to help get them there is included, as is a wealth of background detail about London in 1689. This covers all manner of topics giving a good feel for life and society, both covert and overt, as well as notable places and people.

We then move on to the adventure proper, with the characters visiting the Court of Whispers. There’s lots of detail that will enable you to set the scene, now or any other time your characters visit the Court. From then on in, events follow fast and furious all over London, culminating in discovering the need to journey to the New World.

Here again the scene is set vividly, highlighting the sheer difficulty of establishing a foothold in unknown, unexplored country and the many superstitions held by those attempting to do so. Throughout, there is information to gather and people to interact with, as well as supernatural dangers (and mere mortals) to combat. Whilst there is a lot to get through, it’s tightly linked and flows well. By the time the adventure is done, the characters will have a good knowledge of several notable locations and some of the more important – at least as far as witch-hunting is concerned – people to be found there… and should have defeated (at least for now) a major threat.

Overall, it is an exciting and informative adventure, tightly scripted and indeed providing a good introduction to this game and setting. There are a few typos but little to complain in what is a clear presentation of a great deal of information. You’ll need to read it all through several times to have it at your fingertips when it is time to play… but if the players are not begging for more, well, this isn’t the game for them! An excellent campaign starter, never mind introductory adventure. Happy witch-hunting!

Book Details:
Author: Rucht Lilavivat
Publishers’ Reference: PCI2403
ISBN: 978-1-931374-38-5
Paperback, 64 pages
Date: September 2008

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Nov 292012

usual-suspects[1]Handy collection of NPCs to suit every occasion.

By Megan Robertson

Publisher’s blurb: “This sound familiar: You take time creating a developing the right adventure, the players have been waiting for this all session, about to meet the Big Bad Evil Guy and his legion minions. And you don’t have the legion of minions’ statistics built. Doing so many stat blocks is going to take you days and you wish there was a better way. Well now there is. NeoExodus Chronicles: Usual Suspects is a sourcebook where you will find stat blocks for nonplayer characters of various level of the unique races and classes for theNeoExodus: A House Divided campaign setting. It doesn’t matter if you are throwing together a quick encounter right at the table or planning out a long term future campaign, this must have sourcebook, NeoExodus Chronicles: Usual Suspects, does all the hard work for you.”

Megan’s review

Here is a fine collection of diverse NPCs drawn from throughout the world of NeoExodus, all ready to serve as bit-part players in your adventures. It dives straight in to the listings after a brief note as to what other works have been drawn upon for a few of the feats, items, psionic powers and spells – mostly other books within the NeoExodus line, with some psionics fromPsionics Unleashed from Dreamscarred Press. (If you are fond of using psionics, this is well worth acquiring, by the way.)

The individual entries are grouped sensibly by organisation or role, with a range within each: so, for example, within the sample Imperial Janissaries – a bunch of wandering monastics dedicated to universal peace who’ll use psionics, diplomacy or even martial arts to resolve disputes – you get several Janissaries of different levels of experience. Pick one of an appropriate level or if you prefer, a number of lower-level ones with a more senior in command. Each entry comes with a brief overview of the group from which they are drawn, and each individual NPC has a full stat block. You will still need to add the ‘fluff’ such as name, appearance, personality, motivations and what they are actually trying to achieve… much of the last, at least, will derive from the scenario you are running, of course. The real advantage is that the mechanical work has been taken care of for you.

The PDF is well-bookmarked, making it easy to pick out what you want, although there is no index or much in the way of introduction or overview. You get a slightly more ‘printer-friendly’ version as well as the full-blown version with a background similar to the cover throughout – personally I think the white background makes for a crisper look and it’s the one I prefer to use on-screen as well.

This is a very handy resource, and if the opposition you plan for the characters to face involves a fair number of organisations – Caneus High Guard, Order of Kaga Augers, those Imperial Janissaries or even a few Phoenix Guard Terrrorists (and many more) – you will find the basis for serried ranks of foes within these pages.

Book Details:
Author: Jeff Lee
Publishers’ Reference: LPJ9439
ISBN: n/a
PDF, 51 pages
Date: November 2012

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