Jun 292016
 

142856[1]By Endzeitgeist

This installment of Raging Swan Press’ Alternate Dungeons series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So this time around, Alexander Augunas guides us through the process of making strange Mystic Ruins an alternate dungeon-area – but what exactly does that entail? Well, first of all, we receive what amounts to incremental degrees of 5 (anti-) magic levels -from dead to wild magic to ruins that enhance certain types of magic, these modifications instantly change the dynamics of your dungeon-ruins – pretty cool! But beyond magic levels, we also receive effects that see locomotive modifications become unstable, hypnotic sounds and yes, grasping vines.

The general suggested features provided, including dizzying haze, multi-level design that allows for the scouting (and potentially skipping) between vertically aligned levels and mutagenic properties (in the form of a simple penalty, but you can always make that one more complex) -thes make for interesting and unique modification-suggestions.

So far, so good – what about sacking the place? Well, from living steel t power cmponents and alchemical and arcane reagents, we receive a bunch of cool, thematically-fitting loot suggestions, some even with nice in-game bonuses.

Dressing of the ruins is also provided for, with considerations of different sample functions and the harvesting of dressings-section features some nice scaling suggestions of the modifications provided. The pdf does include a massive table with 37 entries (plus toll twice/thrice) – and once again, the table is pretty damn glorious: What about having everything in the ruins slowly shrink? A nice coat of nasty mold or slime? Nascent magical auras? Or the fact that unattended woo immediately bursts into flames? A couple of the entries here are downright inspired and should suffice to create a ruin that has its function and history develop organically from its dressing outwards – and if this table does not suffice, just add wilderness/dungeon dressing and you’re good to go!

The next page would be devoted to suggested monsters to encounter within the ruins and while useful for novice DMs, so far in every installment of the series this chapter has tended to bore me, the selection this time around is more interesting and diverse, so kudos! Speaking of kudos – I love what follows next – from mundane collapses and hazards to magical ones and even planar thinning with chaotic surges from limbo/maelstrom, this chapter really is nice and a great cheat sheet to make exploration more memorable.

Speaking of prior issues of the series – whereas so far the adventure hooks were functional, but not particularly inspired, we may not receive less, only 2, but the two that we get actually are pretty awesome -from leaks in the planar fabric to goblinifying devices, the hooks are inspired and cool – two thumbs up!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I’ve come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP’s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.

Alexander Augunas’ latest Alternate Dungeon-installment is inspired in all the right places. When I read “Mystic Ruins”, I was expecting a generic train-ride of blandness and “been there, done that”- tricks. Well, I am happy to report that even experienced DMs can find quite a bunch of cool stuff herein! Best of all, while generic enough for newbie DMs to use, this still manages to maintain the balance between generic and specific, generating its very own identity. A fun, cool little pdf that should definitely help keep boredom away. Surprisingly fun and very inexpensive, this pdf is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Jun 272016
 

The Kobolds of Tzarker MinesBy Endzeitgeist

The Kobolds of Tzarker Mines clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, with the inside of front and back cover being two generic battle-mat-style maps, leaving us with 30 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Thanks in no small part to Kobold Press, no other race can come this close to being as iconic as Paizo’s goblins – so it was a matter of time until we got a review that depicts the hard-knock life of kobolds – and it’s a hard-knock life – enslaved to the magma dragon Tzarkethitor, the kobolds of the Tzarker Mines have a difficult life – and the PCs are part of the tribe.

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

..

.

All right, still here? Only DMs left?

Karken, the chief of the kobolds, has an issue – the crystals and gems have been stolen from the treasure pile of tribute for their draconic master and it’s up to the PCs to mine new ones from the haunted crystal mines – and we arguably get the first issue right from the get-go – in order to lift the plug that seals the mines, the kobolds have to make a DC 20 Str-check. Two issues here – why not state the weight of the plug? Secondly: Aid another + attribute checks is a pretty disputed topic, but since kobolds receive a racial -4 to Str, there is a very real chance that a group of kobolds that has elected to not include a Str-based character can’t open the plug via taking 10 or even 20; With aid another, the task can be frustrating, even with stacking aids. Then again, if ruled like this, the task can emphasize the need for cooperation, so this one gets a pass. The first thing you’ll note here would be the maps – this module sports beautiful full-color modules, though I wished the maps themselves sported player-friendly versions sans keys/legend to use as hand-outs.

So, the task of mining crystal may sound simple – well, it would be, if the mines were safe – which they, of course, are NOT – they are now the hunting grounds of a significant array of gremlins and sport interesting threats like ghost scorpions, a dire corby or an immature phantom fungus. Obviously, the irony of gremlins using traps versus kobolds should not be lost on the players and yes, generally, this can be considered a solid crawl section, with the skill-based loud mining being a nice reason to generate some paranoia and creatures reacting actually to the kobolds. Over all, these threats can be considered interesting, though some issues can be found here as well – while there are some mining tools in case the PCs forgot to bring them, a GM should definitely make sure the PCs have Profession (Miner), Craft (Stonemasonry) or Knowledge (engineering) – none of which are necessarily in the array of a given array of PCs, for they are the tools of the trade required to mine crystal. While the pdf does have a means for forgotten mining tools to be salvaged, no DCs are given for repairing them, which makes this failsafe less useful for the GM. It should also be noted that one of the gremlin traps has the wrong trap-stats – instead of its own stats, it duplicates word-by-word the effects of another gremlin-trap in a glitch an editor or proofreader ought to have caught.

Upon returning from the gremlin-infested mines (no consequences for not re-sealing the place?), the second act begins – Karken sends the PCs to contact Seargal, a kobold trap idiot savant. Now the cool thing here would be a kind of trap generator: Kobold traps as presented here have 4 components: The Pain, The Trigger, Cam-o-floj and Moover Parts, with the latter being optional. This generator is actually rather nice, though I honestly wished it was more complex and sported its own pdf -still, for a module, it uses the space allotted to it rather well. If that was not ample implication – Seargal likes to test her creations against unwitting kobolds and coincidentally, has her lair within a labyrinth not only inhabited by creatures from the ToHC (stats provided), she also has littered the complex with traps. Now here’s the fun part: Take the two flip-mat-like map-pages from the inside of the front- and back cover and put them back to back: Seargal and Karken allow the PCs to place dwarf lures into these tunnels and create traps:

The PCs get to create a trap gauntlet, designed to take down dwarves from the adjacent mines. Upon activation, the hapless experts begin entering the complex and start moving towards the lures. The PCs have to get a total of 10 dwarves. I love this set-up – it is interesting, cool and fun! It also, alas, suffers from a number of issues: 1) The PCs have no limited resource – the pdf fails to specify the number of dwarf lures available. 2) The PCs have no limited resources regarding the creation of traps – they can literally create a huge gauntlet and while a DM “can limit some of the more effective components,” this takes the challenge out of the set-up. 3) at 2nd level, the level 1 expert-dwarves are no significant challenge for the 2nd-level PCs in anything but numbers. The PCs don’t really need the whole trap tricks. What could essentially be an awesome set-up of trapmakers defeating foes becomes a pretty simple exercise. The area is also pretty small 17 x10 squares isn’t that much room to work with and even with the reduced dwarven speed, a lot of ground can be covered by just your average walking. I love the set-up, but the execution falls short of the exceedingly awesome premise.

Part 3 pits the PCs against the complex of Ol’ Lumpy – an oversized grick sleeping on a treasure trove – so not only will the kobolds have to brave the well-chosen, uncommon array of adversaries, they will also have to steal the valuables from under the grick’s nose. This is a great set-up! However, once again, we have problems: “Treat Perception checks on actions made in the room as a total of 22 for the grick for checks that aren’t opposed (12 if the action involves a crea­ture that isn’t in contact with the floor or walls).” – that ought to be not the check, but the DC. Additionally, tremorsense (which the grick has) allows you to automatically pinpoint the location of foes.

Now the wording of tremorsense implies that an active effort is required to notice the target – if that is the case, then eliminating the +10 DC from being asleep makes no sense. If, however, one reads the ability to be always active, the very notion of a check in the first place becomes somewhat redundant for the sense allows for automatic pinpointing of locations – either reading does not gel with the means presented by this module. Now don’t get me wrong – I like for example multiple failures being required to awake the grick and a half-awake state at only +5 Perception DC – I love the set-up. But the execution sports some grains of sand in the fun idea. Now if coup-de-grâce (not “de gras”[sic!]) is the planned option, the creature’s stats make that a bad idea, so good job there. On the annoying side – I have no idea where the creature sleeps in the map’s big lair denoted as the resting place – which is important here, since Perception becomes easier, the closer one is to the target. I don’t mind other creatures not having their exact positions noted, but here, this is a damn issue that makes the cool climax harder on the DM than it should be. Conversely, this will probably pretty much become a one-kobold show for the skill monkey – at this level, it is highly unlikely that ALL kobolds have invested heavily in the Stealth-skill, which, alongside the rules as written for Stealth, makes a single thief more likely to succeed than a group – unless we’re talking stealth-synergy and teamwork-feat granting.

Upon their return, the PCs find out that the jewel thief has been identified – it’s an insane crysmal (which is btw. marked on the map for its caverns) that doubles as a very dangerous and lethal final adversary. Upon their return, the PCs find their draconic master has returned – and he is not pleased. The final encounter sports the PCs trying to appease the powerful dragon to avoid destruction – which boils down to a single skill-check – kind of anticlimactic – why not go the more complex skill-challenge (with two successes required, the set-up is here!) route with multiple checks required and different avenues for the interaction to go? The set-up is awesome and screams discussion, but the module instead opts for a Diplomacy, Profession (Miner) or Intimidate-check for each PC- success hinging on one roll. As a saving grace, at least the PC’s performance in the different parts influences the DC.

The pdf closes with a short gazetteer of the Tzarker mines – with 2d-maps in a kind of isometric set-up (picture a horizontally-sliced cake, with each slice slanting towards you at the same angle) to show how they interact -alas, no player-friendly version is provided and the one-page depiction of the maps means that parts of e.g. level 3’s map is hidden behind level 2’s map. The maps are there – why not provide them sans overlap?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – while a bunch of glitches are there, there could be more – but also less. Especially when the pdf is more opaque than it should be and when a glitch influences how an encounter pans out, this becomes an issue. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard with a surprising amount of original, nice full-color artwork. The adventure comes with a second, more printer-friendly version sans frilly layout and with all artworks in b/w. The cartography is actually rather great, especially for a freshman offering – full-color and beautiful. I just wished one would actually get the maps in an appendix so one doesn’t have to print out and cut up the page. I also wished this had player-friendly maps… Finally, this pdf has no bookmarks, which makes navigation much more annoying than it ought to be.

Brent Holtsberry and Dawson Davis have created an impressive first product that comes with relatively high production values and, more importantly, oozes heart’s blood while also sporting a novel premise and indeed, I absolutely love the premise of each single part of this module – they are fun, engaging and deviate from the old kill-em-all style. The writing of the pieces of prose fiction spread throughout the module is also neat. Where this module stumbles, time and again, is in the details. From enemy placement on the maps to similar small glitches that impede gameplay, this one has a bunch of potential issues for GMs to circumnavigate. While each of them, admittedly, can be ignored and fixed relatively easily, they do tally up over the course of this module.

Beyond these, the lack of bookmarks and no pregens further hurt this module – what would be an instant go-play module for any DM, perfect for conventions, is hurt by their lack. Why? How many players take sample kobold characters to conventions? Furthermore, the pdf assumes certain skill-sets to be available to the group, when the lack of them can spell potentially disastrous results -which makes me believe that it was intended to be run with pregens that are not present amid these pages. I really, really want to like this module and recommend it in the highest praise, but ultimately, it stumbles in one way or another in each of the admittedly conceptually awesome and non-conventional climaxes its acts provide.

This does have the marking of talented authors with a great passion and unique ideas, so I sincerely hope the authors continue what they’re doing and further refine their craft – in the end, all gripes are typical beginner’s mistakes and can be rectified. Since this is Bad Moon Games’ freshman offering, it also does get some leeway from yours truly – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

The Kobolds of Tzarker Mines is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Jun 272016
 

Dark Deeds in FreeportBy Endzeitgeist

Dark Deeds in Freeport is a mega-adventure/anthology and clocks in at 82 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 77 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Disclaimer: I was a patron of this book. I was in no way associated with the production of this book, though.

Sometimes, books seem cursed – most often, surprisingly, when the feature Lovecraftian themes and this was no different: Long-delayed, the adventure finally arrived when I had all but forgotten about it. I read and ran it, but then…it fell between the virtual cracks of my own hard drive, languishing…until this day.

This is a Freeport-adventure, but it is somewhat uncommon as a module: Somewhere between being a mega-module and an anthology, this book works best if used in conjunction with other adventures. Basically, this module sports a metaplot that works best if it is allowed to gestate over a longer time-frame, with the respective small modules herein slowly building up the weirdness of this adventure’s plot, rendering this a rather interesting hybrid of mega-adventure and adventure-anthology.

This being a Freeport module, it obviously works best when used in the iconic city that can be found in quite a few worlds. Advice for integration in Midgard is btw. explicitly provided, hence my tag of this adventure as “Midgard”, even though other settings that contain Freeport like Purple Duck Games’ Porphyra can just as easily run this one. The adventure references the Freeport Companion a couple of times – alas, this does make the module a tad bit dated. The book simply wasn’t that good and for me, constituted one of the low points of Freeport history. That being said, since then, Owen K.C. Stephens has taken the Freeport-reins and I hear that the Freeport-book released since then has been much better – I couldn’t join the KS for it, though, so unfortunately, I don’t have a valid frame of reference here. Back to this module: Since it refers to some statblocks from the older book and since it is steeped in Freeport lore, I definitely recommend running this module in Freeport and not in some other pirate-y city.

All right, no more set-up and procrastination, let’s dive into this beast! From here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs left? This is the final warning…

..

.

So, the background story of this one is pretty unique in that its premise is based on an observation I share: Most humans can’t stand the truth- Lies and deceptions are an integral part of the social glue that holds our society together. If you think that’s cynical, let me tell you a little story: When I was a child, it took me quite a long time to grasp that people do not react kindly to universal truth. In fact, my refusal to lie about anything, whether it was the teacher’s new haircut or my assessment of fellow pupils got me into a lot of trouble and frustrated me to no end – didn’t these people know that lying was wrong? This thinking in absolutes coupled with my sense of justice resulted in some…let’s say, unpleasant experiences. What I learned from the ordeal of this time was that “truth” as a value held up by society was not a monolithic concept, but rather a malleable field with degrees of category membership – a truism that is even more true in a setting rife with deception and criminality like Freeport.

There is another component that makes truth dangerous – the subjectivity of one’s perceptions. Let’s take two cultures I’m intimately familiar with, the German and the American culture. American culture tends to view sexuality as a taboo subject, whereas German culture views violence as something taboo. Different things are censored and edgy. This phenomenon extends to the individual and the individual’s interactions with his or her surroundings. At the most basic line, it’s about the perception of the self versus how we are perceived – ever felt like crap and got this compliment that you just couldn’t believe? When you had this nasty pimple or bad hair day and someone just told you how beautiful/handsome you looked? The other person has not necessarily lied – their truth diverged from yours and voicing yours potentially would have superimposed your own temporary lack of confidence over that of the other person. On a less personal level, consider the topic of philanthropy: Most cynics will tell you that the basis of it lies in a sense of narcissism – but I’m not going there. Let’s run a hypothetic Freeport-y example: Pirate Lord Y donates a huge pile of gold to an orphanage. He doesn’t do this out of the kindness of his heart, but because he once burned one down and now is haunted by dreams of damnation. The result of his action is something positive, good – and we may well cheer him for his generosity. Were his motivation known, we’d smirk derisively, at best. Ignorance in this example, generates bliss – hope, even. Knowledge of his true motivation does neither. Truth as a monolithic concept can be a highly destructive force that needs to be tempered by a social conscience, by compassion.

Now the basic idea of this anthology is that Freeport becomes infected by a kind of truth-plague: People start babbling their deepest, darkest secrets to anyone – from being covert philanthropists to being crossdressers, cultists – you name the taboo subject and the massive tables provided for NPCs will have an entry for it. Ina city built on secrecy and deception, with as many grimy secrets lying below the surface, this, more so than in regular society, may tear asunder the very fabric of the city.

How did this begin? Well, in ages past, the Valossian empire was besieged by the dread agents of the Yellow Sign – and a cadre of secretive Yig-worshippers set about to create a remedy for the cancer of the cult – an artifact most dire, one that would cut right through the layers of deceptions, consume their souls and eternally bind them to guard the instrument of their undoing: This dread artifact of ancient times was a lantern known as the Eye of Yig. To guard this powerful artifact, a powerful qlippoth was enslaved and tied to it – but alas, the completion happened too late, the empire was already doomed and thus, the artifact and the complex were buried…until recently.

The artifact was unleashed and with it, its erstwhile guardian. The unique, nightmarish qlippoth has been changed by ages spent in the shine of the lantern – with an ideology changed to blend the nasty universal hatred of its kind, a brilliant mind and a new commitment to the concept of truth, its sets out to change the world. And this adversary ranks quite frankly among the best parts of the whole module – from utterly disturbing visuals evoked to smart strategies and a disturbing component of body horror and espionage/paranoia, this foe ranks among the best, most compelling antagonists I’ve seen in quite a while. Complicating the Byzantine scheme of this mastermind would be a new cult sprung from this devotion to truth…and an extraplanar sect in service to insectoid collectives, the Authority of the Amalgamation

So, let’s begin with the first task for the PCs, in which Mike Franke challenges 9th level PCs and begins with a task from notorious crimelord Finn – his operations are being compromised and the PCs are supposed to find out how. After a rather rudimentary investigation (which I urge GMs to expand, though thankfully magic is accounted for), the trail leads them to the Dead Docks where undead and a nasty man called Bartholomew Burek hold the Book of Buried Secrets, in which truly volatile secrets are written down…but how did those get out?

Phil Minchin and Christina Stiles provide another clue in the 10th level follow-up: Hired by the Shipping news (taking into account that some characters here may or may not have died during a Freeport campaign), the PCs make the acquaintance of Aletha Dorch, self-proclaimed con-woman turned full-blown oracle of the new Truth Speaker cult that has been gaining traction in the city – her uncontrolled ramblings point towards the ship of an intelligent, gentleman-minotaur captain – who has been smuggling rather interesting items into the city: Thoughtwipes. These are magical handkerchiefs that can soak up memories of secrets one wants kept…alas, unbeknownst to the clientele, they still contain the secrets they assimilated. While I love the concept, the item has massive implications on the logic of how certain things like espionage etc. work – GMs are encouraged to be careful with these. Whether just via stealth or by force of weapons, the PCs have a true scoop for the shipping news…

Mike Franke’s next module, also for 10th level characters, is more straightforward and pits the adventurers against the oracle of the infamous dreaming street – a former prostitute now turned dangerous issue for the city. Infiltrating the Torchlight Academy provides a mixture of infiltration and dungeon-crawl, as the mistress proves to be something way worse than the PCs will anticipate…and the other adversaries here are just as lethal…

Christina Stiles proves at 11th level that she can write nasty, in-your-face horror: Chambers Asylum is on lockdown. The madness spread via the excessive, addictive truth that undermines the city has sent many a person to the asylum, where they now await less than friendly experimentation at the hands of the scrupulous doctors there – alas, these unfortunates, which include Aletha Dorch, torn by the lack of thoughtwipes, have become anchors for primordial chaos – wailing, deadly, infectious bearers of primal forces. The PCs are sent into a place of deadly insanity and chaos. Thing become even more complicated due to the Amalgamation sending in an extermination squad, hell-bent on annihilating everyone that may be compromised by chaos. In the hands of a capable GM, this one is a true joy to run and highly disturbing. Beyond that, this module also provides the leads to the furious finale of this anthology.

Intended for 12th level characters, the pieces all fall into place – and the PCs can finally make their way below the surface, into the ancient Valossian ruins, where dread undead Serpentfolk, a broken dimensional vehicle and the disturbing mastermind with his servitors await for the final showdown in one final eruption of deadly sword & sorcery-ish goodness that exemplifies the virtues of Freeport and provides several intriguing means of continuing the story-line…or ending it with a climactic bang.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color two-column standard in the electronic version. The pdf sports numerous gorgeous b/w-artworks and the print version, alas, is b/w – pity it isn’t full color – the gorgeous layout looks better in color. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, while the print version sports matte, nice paper. One more thing: The cover’s is the least compelling artwork herein, so expect to see better art inside. The adventure sports many maps…but no player-friendly versions, which, even when this was released first, kind of were already industry-standard, so that’s a bit of a downside.

Miek Franke, Christina Stiles, Phil Minchin, Ryan Costello Jr., Mike Furlanetto, Robert Hahn, Spike Y Jones, Carlos Ovalle, Rory Toma -ladies and gentlemen, you have created the most intelligent Freeport adventure out there – with philosophical themes and a brilliant adversary, Dark Deeds in Freeport pretty much has one of the most awesome metaplots I’ve seen in a while. The set-up and everything…is smart, cool and even disturbing. This can be really horrific, psychological horror, if you choose to run it like that. Concept-wise, this stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of Kobold Press mega-adventures…and you all know how much I love them!

Alas, at the same time, this book feels, to me, like it trips over its own format. As awesome as the set-up and metaplot are, the set-pieces and individual modules, barring the last two, fell short of the potential of this whole set-up. The series of modules, ultimately, does not manage to go the step where everything gets personal and this is somewhat system-immanent in the episodic format chosen. While reading this book, I never lost the notion that ultimately, this would have worked even better as a massive sandboxy investigation, with the set-pieces as highlights.

With a couple of free-form encounters and a timeline of random events to witness and the like, this could have been the singular best Freeport module ever released. As provided, this still is a great metaplot with some truly inspired set-pieces/chapters and a glorious villain, but it does not reach the apex level of awesomeness its potential definitely has. A good GM with some Freeport-Fu can make this extremely memorable. In the hands of a less experienced GM, the beginning and connections between the chapters may feel a bit thin, though. It is only due to this and the lack of player-friendly maps that I’m settling on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Dark Deeds in Freeport is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Jun 222016
 

The Community DungeonBy Endzeitgeist

This massive pdf clocks in at 88 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 84 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now the first thing you need to know, if the name has not been ample clue – this a community-based module – it essentially depicts a dungeon, with each and every room designed by another person. The obvious question here being whether all designers were up to their A-game and whether the module still manages to resonate with a unified voice.

The following being a review of this module, from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still here? Great! This pdf begins, as so many before it, in a tavern – a mysterious man, I think a proxy of my friend Joshua Gullion (Rest in peace…) contacts the PCs and proposes a wager – 20% of the loot…and he’ll show them the entry of a particularly interesting dungeon, one which, to his knowledge, has not been conquered. At the entrance of the dungeon, a child awaits with a sprained ankle – waiting to potentially pickpocket the PCs, though not with malicious intent. Apart from this, we soon enter a room, where a complex set-up/trap may have the PCs stumble into an evil wizard’s erstwhile pleasure den – if they survive, they may claim a magical, ruby pomegranate!

Another room acts as a customizable teleport nexus – upon entering it, PCs may find themselves having the option to enter certain rooms, which also doubles as a nice means for the GM to customize the dungeon-exploring experience…or provide further adventuring options/tie in encounters of his/her own making. As aminor complaint, the read-aloud text in the room of doors does not sport the usual box in a minor layout-hiccup -but you should be aware that this in no way impedes functionality of it. Another room contains statues and a concise, well-crafted logic puzzle associated with them – classic and makes sense in the context of the game-world! Another room contains a great set-up: An water elemental scientist (!!!) trying to determine how long it’d take for an earth elemental to turn into a mud elemental.

A snake-summoning fountain is also pretty enigmatic – but in a delightfully, old-school matter – the secondary aspect of it can provide random potions…some benevolent, some…not so much. The dungeon also contains an oasis-style micro-eco-system with numerous intriguing riddles to pose to your players – should they fail, one can only hope that they’re good at swimming… Beyond this place, strange beetles can be found and Dark Souls-level of atmosphere suffuses one of the parts – when direct research provides additional clues and may even provide a well-hidden treasure, gleaned from the hints strewn…well, then we have a component I pretty much enjoy. Speaking of which – I should also not be remiss to mention an intriguing kind of “elevator”-puzzle that phases the PCs through almost identical parallel worlds, allowing for the restocking of rooms…or a nice explanation for the GM to change either campaign setting or retcon some minor issues. But there are dungeon denizens in here that adhere to more…traditional tropes: Gambling gnolls, friendly kobold cooks who *really* know how to make a truly astounding stew and the PCs may dance with the dead herein – literally! In another room, mysterious jewels may bestow boons or banes upon the PCs.

Fans of traditional death-traps will certainly love a particular room that pours a thick viscous fluid into the room….and a shark. Oh, and escape attempts will prompt piranha swarms to join the fray. Pretty cool – it reminded me of Czech writer Michal Ajvaz’ superb satirical travelogue “The Golden Age” – which btw. should be considered a great read for an inspiration-starved designer looking for some means to create a culture with alien morals and perceptions. In a vast array of “I’m the star”-level rooms, I also was positively surprised to see a traditional bluff-room that in fact is not dangerous at all – kudos for that one’s inclusion!

If all of this sounds as disjointed as quite a few old-school dungeons, then you would be correct – to an extent. You see, while the respective rooms may feel a bit disjointed and inorganic in their composition, there thankfully are some thematic leitmotifs and overarching themes that transcend the limitations of their rooms – we do have, for example, an infectious, madness-causing fungus or the interaction between some dungeon denizens that result in some sense of narrative cohesion. Another definite strength of this module would be its combats – when e.g. an animated object’s parts resume attacking the PCs after the original one has been destroyed, you’ll definitely see some wonder (and fear) in the faces of your players and a rather significant array of new creatures helps render the dungeon pretty unpredictable. Speaking of which – there is also a room that amounts to a dungeon’s equivalent of a slot-machine – which much to gain…but also the adventurer’s very lives at stake! Indeed, Stefanos Patelich’s rooms deserve accolades herein (much like the ones of the other designers) – his traps in particular have made me grin rather wide – they are interesting indeed! Oh, and yes, there also would be a flowing encounter with a haunt provided!

The dungeon itself comes with stats for both PFRPG and 3.5 adversaries and the cartography comes with a second, player-friendly version of the map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good – while a couple of entries have minor typo-level glitches, I noticed no undue amount of them. It should be noted that the construction-line of some of the items herein adheres to a non-standard formatting that deviates from the standard, so if stuff like this annoys you, you may be a bit weary regarding some items.

Layout adheres to AAW Games’ beautiful 2-column standard and the pdf comes with quite a few stock full-color artworks as well as some I have not seen before. The cartography is, as we’ve come to expect from AAW Games, superb and beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks.

Take a look at this list: Will Myers, Justin Andre Mason, Larry Wooters, Haakon Sullivan, R.A. McReynolds, Rachel Ventura, Dan Sudkamp, Stephen Yeardley, Gent, Rory Toma, Peter Bayly, Kevin Long, Lance Kepner, Jeremy Kleve, Michael Holland, Andre C. Durston, Jonathan G. Nelson, Stefanos Patelich, Jonathan Hughes – that’s a LOT of narrative voices and GM styles – and, quite frankly, it is a wonder that this pdf is as concise as it is.

So, let’s get this right out of the way: This is classic dungeon-exploration – there is not much going on in the vein of story-telling. This is a dungeon, it contains treasures of old, go and loot it. The dungeon itself does not evoke a particularly concise impression, with the rooms themselves being pretty weird and diverse.

This plurality of narrative voices and oddness, though, also represents the biggest strength of this module – it is odd, far-out and creative – since each author only has limited space to shine, it does seem like this module contains an accumulation of creative A-game-ideas – indeed, not one the rooms herein was boring in the slightest – and quite a few of the rooms could act as the central angle of a whole dungeon-floor! Which is precisely how I recommend to use this module.

You see, playing this provided to be a blast while it lasted – but once it was done, my players asked me whether they had missed the story…which they didn’t. Indeed, the narrative theme, the glue if you will, that holds this dungeon together, alas, is pretty flimsy and in more than one instance, I felt as though one or more of the rooms could have sustained with their mechanics more than just being a singular room.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a SUPERB collection of encounters, traps and adversaries – for scavenging purposes, this is one glorious book, one particularly distinguished by the amount of read-aloud text provided for successful skill-checks, items, etc.. As far as its virtues as a stand-alone module are concerned, it falls a bit flat of the individual awesomeness of the encounters – in this context, I’d consider it “only” a good module. So if you’re looking for an old-school go-play module, I’d recommend the excellent C01: Alagoran’s Gem instead.

If you’re, however, looking for an absolute superb collection of odd rooms and tidbits, of cool puzzles to insert in your game, then get this beast ASAP – for this purpose, the content herein absolutely excels. How to rate this, then? Ultimately, I’ll average the final verdict and settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. If you’re looking for a scavenging-ground, this pdf delivers in spades, though – if you think about getting this module for this purpose, round up instead.

Endzeitgeist out.

C06: The Community Dungeon is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Jun 222016
 

100% Crunch: KoboldsBy Endzeitgeist

100% Crunch: Kobolds is the latest installment of Raging Swan press’ handy collections of statblocks clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advice on reading statblocks for novice GMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Well, first of all, the pdf explains a bit about the basics of kobolds and then goes on to provide a handy list of statblocks by CR – beginning with CR 1/6 for young kobolds and scaling (haha) up to CR 6 for senior kobold inquisitors. The pdf does feature the basic racial stats for kobolds and covers quite a breadth of characters, also sporting kobolds utilizing NPC-classes.

Both kobold adepts and noncombatant commoners can be found herein, for example. Similarly, even kobold skeletons or zombies are featured within this little book. Now as for class dispersal, it’s actually beyond what you’d expect – while obviously, the rank-and-file kobolds sport the warrior/adept NPC-classes, we also are introduced to kobold monks, inquisitors and oracles in various degrees of prowess.

Furthermore, the pdf actually provides stats for crucial specialists – What about medium-sized giant kobold champions? Bodyguards or mining specialists? Well, there would also be foraging experts and scouts (using the ranger class or multiclassing warrior/expert) and the obvious draconic bloodline sorceror is covered as well. And yes, there are fighters herein. What about a bard using the dragon yapper archetype or a half-dragon (blue) multiclass kobold? Yes, from the common to the weird, this pdf strikes a nice balance between classic kobold tropes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not as perfect as usual for Raging Swan Press – there seems to be an internal inconsistency on whether or not to bold the separating lines that divide the section of the statblocks into attack, defense etc. – some are bold, some aren’t, which looks slightly weird. Artwork-wise, we get cool b/w-artworks and layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.

Julian Neale’s collection of kobold statblocks is precise, diverse and nice, with particularly the specialists (giant kobolds? templates ones? NICE!) rising above the fray. While I was somewhat surprised to not see a lot of rogues herein, I get the decision to instead go via experts etc. and it makes sense to me. All in all, this is an excellent, inexpensive collection of kobold statblocks – and for the low price point, you sure get a lot of work taken off your back. This is enough for me to arrive at a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

100% Crunch: Kobolds is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Jan 192016
 
159115

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: A Chill Wind

By Endzeitgeist

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: A Chill Wind clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 6.5 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.

..

.

All right, still here? Large-biter sends the PCs forth to survey an odd, magical weather phenomenon – the frost-line. north of it, the earth is frozen, while south of it, temperate temperatures reign. The odd thing here being that the line moves from day to day. Large-biter assumes that the abundance of nexus gateways may have something to do with this strange phenomenon – the frost line is closer than usual and the PCs are to survey its effects. En route, the PCs can meet a feline champion, one P’tan simply known as “Captain” (would have been nice to have a name here…) – the P’tan is serving the Sanguine Covenant and is here to protect the populace from the Necryos, degenerate frosty vampire-like creatures that travel with the frost-line…and make sure the PCs are not working with the Vesparans. As a friendly ally, there’ll be an option for a nonlethal sparring match with the captain (nonlethal and rewarding characters who elected to learn to deal nonlethal damage…) and we also get a new P’tan magic item here.

Over the next couple of days, the PCs will be continuously harried by the degenerate Necryos (full stats provided) – who even will attempt to lure the PCs directly into a yellow musk creeper and its vesparan slaves…and attack in ever-increasing waves until they’re vanquished. After some friendly duels (and favors in the future), it’s time to take a look at how the PCs fared regarding the suveillance of the frost-line – the more auccessfull checks they made, the more precise the gleaned information will be.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, though annoyingly, the pdf sports several “See page @@”-notes where the proper page-number for the necryos hasn’t been filled in. Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with a second version that is more printer-friendly – nice! the pdf has a neat full-color artwork of the necryos. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity – kudos!

Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. deliver a cool premise here – the frost-line is an unique, imaginative phenomenon and surveying it is a GREAT premise – seriously, it’s fresh, unique and fun. That being said, I *really* wished the module did more with this unique phenomenon – sudden movements of the line, unique hazards, some proper, nasty wilderness survival with quickly changing sweeps of the line…this module can be made absolutely awesome with some minor adjustments/additions of hazards…without them, we still have a solid, if a bit redundant array of combats versus the cool (pun intended) necryos. If this book focused a bit more on its unique premise over combats, this could have been excellent – as provided, it is a solid module with a great scenery – and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up by a margin to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

If you have enjoyed this RPG review, please consider becoming one of our Patreon sponsors.

Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: A Chill Wind is available from:

drivethrurpg_logo423333337343 patreon4222

Remember you can follow us on Twitter and Google+!

Thank you for your support.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)