Sep 122017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon - The Aura of Profit (5e).jpg5E Mini-Dungeon – The Aura of Profit 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, in the poor section of town, Fritz has an underground alchemist’s laboratory – so why would the PCs try to stop Fitz? Well, his alchemist laboratory creates waste that makes people more susceptible to alcohol, which directly influences the profits of innkeepers all around. So, the PCs will have to stop Fritz – if only to prevent alcoholism skyrocketing. The dungeon as presented is surprisingly varied – we have an engineer-wizard, minor constructs (short-hand statblocks included) and some neat traps, some of which are obviously nonlethal. Big plus for the 5e-version: We get full stats for Fritz! Two thumbs up for going the extra mile there!

Oh, and know what’s kinda cool? Fritz is not a bad guy – he can actually be convinced to make modifications that negate the detrimental effects of his alchemical refuse.

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!

This makes me happy, it really does – Rory Toma delivers a captivating, fun mini-dungeon herein – with things to do beyond killing everything, a mix of traps and roleplaying and an interesting “adversary.” The topical background story also makes sense and opens potential for further adventuring – what if an evil character gets wind of Fritz’ mixture? Kyle Crider thankfully has gone above and beyond in conversion: Diverse challenges, sample stats, hyperlinks all in order – no complaints on my part!

Seriously, what more can you ask for from a small, humble 2-page module? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars plus seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze, please visit DriveThruRPG

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Sep 112017
 

shadows_of_madness_5eThis 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. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains…*drumroll* a .jpg-version and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that’s pretty amazing! The dungeon’s number-less version of the map doesn’t sport any deceptive trap icons or traps – kudos, though the place where the secret doors are can still be gleaned by proximity…but if you conceal that part, it works well. In short: Full, proper VTT-support and help for guys like yours truly that can’t draw maps.

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!

Wizards strive as wizards are wont to do, for knowledge – and much like dwarves digging too deep, they are prone to being destroyed by this thirst for knowledge. Exactly that has, alas, happened to a wizard names Tibor – and now the PCs have found a stair amid the rubble of his former tower.

In this small dungeon, the PCs will fight undead foes and ultimately, save a woman  -who was kidnapped by ogres to facilitate the planned retribution of said aforementioned wizard . This guy, now, driven mad by gibbering mouthers, constitutes the boss of this dungeon.

Loot-wise, there is a mirror of life-trapping to be found here, and skill-wise, you’ll find the usual: Doors to break down or crack…and no social interaction, which highlights a weakness of this module

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from the hyperlinks – there are quite a few that don’t work, which is a bit annoying. 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. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art – which I’d applaud, were it not for the fact that it depicts a bugbear, which was present in the PFRPG-version…but doesn’t show up in the 5E-iteration. The cartography, with player and GM-VTT-maps, is nice.

Michael Smith delivered a nice mini-dungeon in its original iteration. Alas, Kyle Crider has done better conversions in the past. You see, this mini-dungeon, in the original, was pretty much defined by its strong shadow-leitmotif, with templated foes, rare enemies and a medium to save – all of this has been lost in translation, when a couple of minor modifications could have retained that feeling. In short, this leaves the mini-dungeon very much bereft of its soul and renders it much more generic in its 5E-iteration. The damsel to save, relevant in the original, is relegated to commoner status and once again, there is no social skill component here. While not bad per se, this is also a long shot from what I’d consider great. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

You can listen to this podcast in iTunes and Stitcher too. You can download the episode from here.

Please support Endzeitgeist’s work by visiting his website or sponsoring his Patreon.

5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze, please visit DriveThruRPG

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Sep 082017
 

Mysteries of the Endless MazeMysteries of the Endless MazeThis 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 is a ready to use portal-maze, but one with a twist: Upon entering one of the segments, you roll 1d4; on a 1, the segment’s challenge is a riddle; #2 is a trap (4 of which are presented), #3 is a random monster (6 of which are available) and if a riddle is solved, the PCs can get one of 4 prizes. The riddles presented are brief, but not the lame old classics you will have seen before…unless you’re really, really into riddles. If a segment of the maze has been completed, its portals activate. Critters defeated carry keystones and ultimately, these can be used to access the vault, where the nasty boss of the complex is awaiting alongside the sizable treasure. As a minor complaint, only the defeat of monsters will actually net keystones, which could have been handled slightly more flexibly. As a minor nitpick, I did notice a line of text missing blank spaces.

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!

Justin Andrew Mason’s Mysteries of the Endless Maze is an amazing little puzzle-dungeon; it is not one of the annoying mazes that just frustrates players and has a smooth, nice progression rate, at least in my game it had. That being said, one minor nitpick is that you should carefully read how the dungeon works; due to the limited word-count available, its precise functions require a slight bit more observation on part of the GM. Not that it’s opaque, mind you. The dungeon also has a nice replay value and whether as a maze in Sigil, as a sub-level, as the BBEG effing with the players – the complex has a ton of uses and can be inserted literally at any time and any place.

Kyle Crider’s conversion to 5E manages to retain the cool nature of this dungeon and the foes are chosen well – though the massive loot the PCs can gain may be a bit overkill for the more conservative 5E-GMs out there…but that is cut down easily enough.

All in all, a well-crafted mini-dungeon worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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5E Mini-Dungeon #034: Mysteries of the Endless Maze, please visit DriveThruRPG

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Sep 032017
 

savage_abilitiesThis pdf of NPC-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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Sep 032017
 

a_friend_in_needThis module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience – basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module. To be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 – 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I’d suggest this approximately for ages 4 – 8.

The adventure does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic – namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your “What do you do?”-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge…the like.

For parents not sure whether their kids can handle “killing” adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated “returning home.” The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome additions, they tend to be very sound.

Distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification. Puzzles, where included, do mention less complex alternatives for younger audiences and means for the GM to make how items work immediately evident-

All right! Children/players, in case you’re reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I’m going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you’ll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what’s right and jump to the conclusion.

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The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks – and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with only the companion soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted – he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell, which has been properly converted to 5e) and sent it forth – said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.

In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the exhaustion mechanics) and on site, the exploration can commence – the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. It should also be noted that the research and prior knowledge, when player and PC-knowledge diverge, can allow for an easy and painless teaching of 5e’s relatively simple skill rules-

A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi’s location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He’ll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. This would be as good a place as any to note that the statblocks of the wondrous creatures encountered have been converted rather well to 5e’s mechanics.

Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack. In PF, these statuettes were pretty strong, but in 5e, they, at least to me, represent a missed chance. You see, 5e very much focuses on a sensible rock-paper-scissors-type of gameplay with the variant damage-types, resistances and vulnerabilities: Making the dogs resistant to e.g. slashing and piercing weapons would have been a nice way to teach the kids about these mechanics. It’d also make sense and is something most groups would get right from the get-go: Back in the day, my PCs simply assumed that skeletons would not be susceptible to piercing, for example – it makes sense. Alternatively, a vulnerability would have made sense…but that is me nitpicking.

The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the spirit of a non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly test of the PCs, focused on whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell…in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. This is btw. also where disadvantage and the like come into play more.

Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon’s overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects – here, we do have the resistances, but they apply to all physical damage types – and PCs of level 1 are really limited regarding their magical arsenal, so this section can take a bit longer. A centipede whose poison can cause paralysis upon reducing a PC to 0 hp is another minor snag…or rather, something that could have been solved a bit more smoothly: You see, the pdf does contain a logo-less version of the cover artwork in b/w-  yep, like in a coloring book. So, one way to help a player pass the time while the PC is paralyzed would be: “Color this page, when you’re done, you’re fully healed!” – unless, of course, the other PCs heal their comrade first.

When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they’ll think they have a deadly fight on their hands…but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon…and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi’s origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru’s friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi’s house – who now has a friend most unique. As a minor complaint, the rules-language of the crane mentions maneuverability, which does not exist in 5e.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for including those!!

Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. “A Friend in Need” is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect in the 5e-version, but Dan Dillon, being the expert that he is at 5e content, has translated the module very well to the system, ironing out some of the hiccups in the original. At the same time, I do feel that it is, system-immanently evident that the original design was for PFRPG – there are a couple of 5e-rules that could, didactically, be highlighted better. This does not mean that the conversion’s bad, mind you – it’s really good! But it comes close to transcending the original iteration sans making the leap.

Let me state that clearly: The module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.

Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in “My Neighbor Totoro”, for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran the original version with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit.

Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you’ll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits. In my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more – if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with – a tiny scare is okay, but not more.

How to rate this, then? Now that’s the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this and Dan Dillon delivers in the conversion.

I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades – I think somewhat more pronounced tweaks to account for and teach system-peculiarities (backgrounds, for example!) could have heaved this to the levels of excellence.

In the end, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children that does not lose any aspect of its appeal in 5e. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this. While the original version was rounded up due to being Playground Adventures freshman offering, I, alas, cannot extend this courtesy to this version.

Endzeitgeist out.

A Friend in Need 5E is available from DriveThruRPG.

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Aug 242017
 

sepulchre_of_th_witching_hour_sageThis 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.

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Sometimes, the PCs need answers at any cost. Thus, they enter a two-way portal in a cemetery near the ruins of an ancient civilization and enter the sepulchre – where they will soon notice that entering specific rooms may deal small amounts of “negative energy damage” on failed Con-saves. *sigh* That’s supposed to be “necrotic damage” in 5E, right? Worse, I think that 5E’s HP-reduction (see vampires) would have made for a much more interesting mechanical representation here.

Indeed, several undead and shadowy books continue to perpetuate this theme, while an illusion-supplemented trap is a) interesting and b) devious. The little dungeon also sports minor item-scavenging and a terrible final revelation of a horrid price to pay for the information and a unique, interesting showdown with the sage and his gibbering mouther advisors.

While the damage-mechanic that is the unique-selling proposition of the module, has not been translated well to 5E, the skills the dungeon requires this time around are rather diverse, so that’s a plus – as are the dangerous books contained herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glaring hiccups, though 3 of the hyperlinks don’t work. 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.

Stefanos Patelis delivers an excellent mini-dungeon here that has lots a bit of its charm in the conversion, but Kyle Crider did succeed in maintaining most of it – the module, as a whole, is an intriguing one and sports diverse challenges, which I ended up enjoying. While not perfect, it is worth the asking price. My final verdict for the conversion will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

5E Mini-Dungeon – Sepulchre of the Witching Hour’s Sage is available from DriveThruRPG.

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