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Mystery at Ravenrock - Pathfinder
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 12:14:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for PF1 clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

All right, so, first things first – this is the second of James Thomas’ modules dealing with the frontier’s region of Ravenreach. The module focuses on a very Borderlands-ish feel and should slot seamlessly into such regions – or e.g. the River Kingdoms in Golarion. Of course, you can also use it in the Lost Lands-setting without any hassle. The module is intended for 4-6 characters of 4th to 7th level – a well-rounded group is strongly recommended. The module does feature read-aloud boxed text, and e.g. does come with extra boxes for looking through keyholes, creatures bursting through furniture and the like – kudos!

While this module does benefit greatly from being ran as the follow-up to “Menace in Ravenreach”, the adventure does feature several adventure hooks that allow it to be used as a stand-alone adventure. While the players will be slightly less invested in the proceedings, the module does not require exposition dumps or the like to catch them up – in a way, it behaves very much like a second episode, as it assumes that the PCs return to Ravenreach after being absent for a while.

Genre-wise, this module offers a dungeon, but its central premise is that of an infiltration – in the way that most such modules will devolve into fighting; the module very much assumes that your group won’t be Stealth-ing through the materials. The adventure also certainly has a touch of irreverence and very dry humor – I know the author doesn’t live in Britain, but I’m not sure regarding nationality; the humor? Pitch-perfect. And n, this is not a funny-haha-module, nor is it gonzo, but it does have plenty of scenes that can be funny at the table. Very subdued and subtle – I like it.

The module includes three nice, mundane/alchemical items – one type of toxin that helps deal with a specific monster defensive ability, and two means of delivering this substance. This does add a nice tactical angle here. Speaking of which: As a nice bonus, the full-color maps (with grids and scale noted) are included as player-friendly, key-less versions as well – and yes, they’re full color. As a minor nitpick, two of the maps use a 10 ft.-grid, when a 5-ft.-grid would have been more useful for PFRPG, but that is me nitpicking.

Now, as far as the system is concerned, this deserves some serious praise: More so than most Frog God Games modules, and modules that exist for multiple systems in general, it is readily apparent that the author really KNOWS PFRPG. Not just gets it, but knows how it behaves, how it plays. This can be seen in a variety of choices: We have e.g. reskins of monsters with custom attacks and special abilities presented herein, with said text being delivered in the most concise form possible: acid arrow 1/hour +5 ranged touch, 2d4 acid damage for 3 rounds – simple, easy to grasp, no book flipping, complete. Like it. In spite of the relative brevity of the adventure, there is thus more content herein than you’d expect. The module also shows off this degree of system familiarity with the challenges posed – this is an old-school module, and as such, it is challenging and can easily result in a TPK if your players act stupidly – but more importantly, it does provide very in-depth tactical information for the GM, which is particularly helpful in the final encounter, which is truly and aptly-named “boss battle.” These tactics are btw. obviously bred from contact with actual players – the module has been playtested, and it SHOWS. The capabilities of the characters actually influence the plot and are reflected by a narrative – the adversaries have enacted a plan that represents the abilities they have. This, in short, makes the module feel very much “realistic” as well. Authors, take note – this is smart. This is a module worth winning, and won’t require that you redesign every single NPC to be an actual challenge. So yeah, mechanically, the PFRPG-version is certainly one of my favorites from Frog God Games’ oeuvre.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS, Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, while the party was busy adventuring, Master Minder has enacted his master plan (pardon the bad pun) and seized control of Ravenrock – with the Baron geass’d into essentially an imprisoned vegetable, he put a simulacrum of the Baron, one subservient to his whims, in charge. See what I mean regarding capabilities? Anyhow, he has managed to do so without arousing overt suspicion, though his lockdown of the keep Ravenrock does raise some eyebrows. Worse, his experiments with troll bi-livers have yielded fruit, and thus, the keep’s charmed guard captain and his men now have a serious case of immortalities – i.e. they regenerate. If nobody stops Minder, things’ll look grim indeed. Enter the party of stalwart heroes.

Via one of the hooks provided, the party will need to get inside the keep and stop the nasty wizard’s plans – and thankfully, there is a convenient means of ingress, which will be shared with the party as the primary hook: There is an all but forgotten cheese cave that was abandoned when the sewage system of the keep started making it…well, disgusting. You can’t see it from the keep, and only the family of the erstwhile cheese-maker knows about it, knowing it colloquially as the “Raven’s Arse” – and it’s up that metaphorical rump that the party will attempt to secure access to the keep. Told you this had some dry humor.

Which does bring me to the perhaps most pronounced weakness of the module: While access via this brief dungeon is the intended route, the issue of PCs charming/sneaking/flying etc. into the keep is mentioned, and the GM is encouraged to point the players towards the dungeon. I get why. And yet, it represents a serious lost chance – the keep begs to be an infiltration scenario, it really does. However, there is no summary of the total inhabitants and most likely rooms anywhere, nor is there information on watch shifts and the like. The module teases a freeform, sandbox infiltration and then goes the safe route, telling you to urge your players to use the dungeon. With a single page, at the very most, this module could have had all the necessary information to allow for a truly free-form experience with a variety of vectors. You can still easily run the module as such with a bit of work – but you’ll need to map the vicinity of the keep (since no map of the surrounding area is included), and you’ll have to piece together the number of available characters, etc. This is work that is a) unnecessary, and b), ultimately detracts somewhat from what this module feels like it is set up to be.

In a way, the whole infiltration angle is ultimately just an excuse to delve into the dungeon, and treat the keep like one. This is, once more, not something that makes the module bad, but it most assuredly is an exceedingly puzzling decision, considering that the adventure has all the pieces in place to go that route. This structural decision also extends to a degree to the keep itself, making it behave a bit more like a dungeon than I would have liked.

That being said, the dungeon that is here? It is not a place that will have your players grumble for playing it – it is genuinely interesting. Aforementioned Raven’s Arse, as it turns out, has become the home of filth fairies, and the first part of the dungeon, where we explore the sewage system, is genuinely icky and hilarious – the fairies in PFRPG are an example, btw. one example of those heavily modified stats mentioned above – they are based of ooze mephits, but the players will never notice, believe me; the modifications are this helpful. This part of the dungeon also ties in with the region’s history and the legend of the dragon slain – one combat encounter features the immortal ire of the dragon, and the fairies have used bones and the like to generate some funny vistas.

Obviously, the main meat of the module will thus be covered by the party exploring the dungeon of the keep and the keep itself; the well-designed component of the module is reflected here in traps, in lists of Perception DCs that yield varying amounts of information and the like. It should also be noted that, from holding ells springing open to the labs themselves, the module does a good job blending themes and providing variety within a given adventure. Obviously, the PCs will have to defeat Master Minder (who’ll most likely have prepared a devastating ambush with his troll bi-liver enhanced super-soldiers), rescue the Baron and depose of the imposter-simulacrum to bring peace back to the region – but easier said than done…the wizard does have a pretty devastating tactical array, and the fact that the players might not want to kill everybody doesn’t make things easier either. That’s a good thing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules language level, with only a terrain feature, namely a room that adds a bonus to a certain skill check not noting a bonus type being my only admittedly petty nitpick. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard, including the usual amount of lots of text per page; locked door DCs are noted in the room headers, if applicable, which is a great way to handle that. The pdf does feature a couple of really nice full-color artworks, and I certainly appreciate the full-color maps, particularly the inclusion of a full set of player-friendly maps. Kudos! The IndieGoGo-version offered token in b/w and color – cool! I am not sure if those components are included in the retail iteration.

James Thomas’ second foray to Ravenreach is a module I actually enjoyed more than the first one in many ways; he seems to have found his own distinct voice, and the execution of the challenges herein is great. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed by it. Because it is SO CLOSE to being a phenomenal adventure that embraces nonlinearity, and then elects to go the safe route in a pretty predetermined and linear dungeon-crawl. With but a single page, this could have been elevated to the ranks of modules that deserve to be called an example of excellence; as provided, the adventure is certainly good; whether you consider it to be very good, though, is mostly contingent on what you want from a module. If you want a great little dungeon-crawl that is challenging, at times funny and at times scary, then this delivers in spades. If you want a free-form adventure that presents multiple ways to tackle its challenges and focuses on providing a dynamic environment, then this might leave you wanting more. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mystery at Ravenrock - Pathfinder
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Mystery at Ravenrock - Fifth Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 12:13:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-iteration of this adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

All right, so, first things first – this is the second of James Thomas’ modules dealing with the frontier’s region of Ravenreach. The module focuses on a very Borderlands-ish feel and should slot seamlessly into such regions – or e.g. the River Kingdoms in Golarion. Of course, you can also use it in the Lost Lands-setting without any hassle. The module is intended for 4-6 characters of 4th to 7th level – a well-rounded group is strongly recommended. The module does feature read-aloud boxed text, and e.g. does come with extra boxes for looking through keyholes, creatures bursting through furniture and the like – kudos!

While this module does benefit greatly from being ran as the follow-up to “Menace in Ravenreach”, the adventure does feature several adventure hooks that allow it to be used as a stand-alone adventure. While the players will be slightly less invested in the proceedings, the module does not require exposition dumps or the like to catch them up – in a way, it behaves very much like a second episode, as it assumes that the PCs return to Ravenreach after being absent for a while.

Genre-wise, this module offers a dungeon, but its central premise is that of an infiltration – in the way that most such modules will devolve into fighting; the module very much assumes that your group won’t be Stealth-ing through the materials. The adventure also certainly has a touch of irreverence and very dry humor – I know the author doesn’t live in Britain, but I’m not sure regarding nationality; the humor? Pitch-perfect. And n, this is not a funny-haha-module, nor is it gonzo, but it does have plenty of scenes that can be funny at the table. Very subdued and subtle – I like it.

The module includes three nice, mundane/alchemical items – one type of toxin that helps deal with a specific monster defensive ability, and two means of delivering this substance. This does add a nice tactical angle here. While we’re on the subject of items – considering that 5e has less standard treasure books than e.g. PFRPG, I very much applaud the inclusion of a variety of magic items here. As a nice bonus, the full-color maps (with grids and scale noted) are included as player-friendly, key-less versions as well – and yes, they’re full color. As a minor nitpick, two of the maps use a 10 ft.-grid, when a 5-ft.-grid would have been more useful for 5e, but that is me nitpicking.

Now, as far as system mastery is concerned, Edwin Nagy did a surprisingly good job – the PFRPG-version excelled via its mechanics and the very well-DESIGNED components of its challenge; the 5e-version does not shirk from this challenge, and presents a surprising amount of different critters (which make up the bulk of the additional pages of this version), and the statblocks I checked do check out! That’s usually one thing that multi-system adventures fail horribly at, so kudos for providing proper stats AND getting the formatting for 5e right! The book also uses proper rules-language and default stats for guards etc. where applicable. Moreover, the version manages to retain the sense of being very tightly-wound and controlled, being well-designed as a hard, but fair adventure. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Big kudos for the conversion here. On the nitpicky side, I did notice some very minor formal hiccups here: A Languages line that reads “[stuff]”, a “Wand, uncommon” that’s not in italics, etc. – but the rules language-relevant materials? Precise and pristine. My only complaint here would be that the module has no inherent mechanic or rationale to prevent or dissuade from long-rest-scumming.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS, Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, while the party was busy adventuring, Master Minder has enacted his master plan (pardon the bad pun) and seized control of Ravenrock – with the Baron geass’d into essentially an imprisoned vegetable, he put a simulacrum of the Baron, one subservient to his whims, in charge. See what I mean regarding capabilities? Anyhow, he has managed to do so without arousing overt suspicion, though his lockdown of the keep Ravenrock does raise some eyebrows. Worse, his experiments with troll bi-livers have yielded fruit, and thus, the keep’s charmed guard captain and his men now have a serious case of immortalities – i.e. they regenerate. If nobody stops Minder, things’ll look grim indeed. Enter the party of stalwart heroes.

Via one of the hooks provided, the party will need to get inside the keep and stop the nasty wizard’s plans – and thankfully, there is a convenient means of ingress, which will be shared with the party as the primary hook: There is an all but forgotten cheese cave that was abandoned when the sewage system of the keep started making it…well, disgusting. You can’t see it from the keep, and only the family of the erstwhile cheese-maker knows about it, knowing it colloquially as the “Raven’s Arse” – and it’s up that metaphorical rump that the party will attempt to secure access to the keep. Told you this had some dry humor.

Which does bring me to the perhaps most pronounced weakness of the module: While access via this brief dungeon is the intended route, the issue of PCs charming/sneaking/flying etc. into the keep is mentioned, and the GM is encouraged to point the players towards the dungeon. I get why. And yet, it represents a serious lost chance – the keep begs to be an infiltration scenario, it really does. However, there is no summary of the total inhabitants and most likely rooms anywhere, nor is there information on watch shifts and the like. The module teases a freeform, sandbox infiltration and then goes the safe route, telling you to urge your players to use the dungeon. With a single page, at the very most, this module could have had all the necessary information to allow for a truly free-form experience with a variety of vectors. You can still easily run the module as such with a bit of work – but you’ll need to map the vicinity of the keep (since no map of the surrounding area is included), and you’ll have to piece together the number of available characters, etc. This is work that is a) unnecessary, and b), ultimately detracts somewhat from what this module feels like it is set up to be.

In a way, the whole infiltration angle is ultimately just an excuse to delve into the dungeon, and treat the keep like one. This is, once more, not something that makes the module bad, but it most assuredly is an exceedingly puzzling decision, considering that the adventure has all the pieces in place to go that route. This structural decision also extends to a degree to the keep itself, making it behave a bit more like a dungeon than I would have liked.

That being said, the dungeon that is here? It is not a place that will have your players grumble for playing it – it is genuinely interesting. Aforementioned Raven’s Arse, as it turns out, has become the home of filth fairies, and the first part of the dungeon, where we explore the sewage system, is genuinely icky and hilarious. In 5e, we have a wide array of supplemental creatures. This part of the dungeon also ties in with the region’s history and the legend of the dragon slain – one combat encounter features the immortal ire of the dragon, and the fairies have used bones and the like to generate some funny vistas.

Obviously, the main meat of the module will thus be covered by the party exploring the dungeon of the keep and the keep itself; the well-designed component of the module is reflected here in traps, in well-chosen DCs and proper application of 5e-mechanics. It should also be noted that, from holding ells springing open to the labs themselves, the module does a good job blending themes and providing variety within a given adventure. Obviously, the PCs will have to defeat Master Minder (who’ll most likely have prepared a devastating ambush with his troll bi-liver enhanced super-soldiers), rescue the Baron and depose of the imposter-simulacrum to bring peace back to the region – but easier said than done…the wizard does have a pretty devastating tactical array, and the fact that the players might not want to kill everybody doesn’t make things easier either. That’s a good thing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules language level, and evry good on a formal level, with only cosmetic nitpicks. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard, including the usual amount of lots of text per page; locked door DCs are noted in the room headers, if applicable, which is a great way to handle that. The pdf does feature a couple of really nice full-color artworks, and I certainly appreciate the full-color maps, particularly the inclusion of a full set of player-friendly maps. Kudos! The IndieGoGo-version offered token in b/w and color – cool! I am not sure if those components are included in the retail iteration.

James Thomas’ second foray to Ravenreach is a module I actually enjoyed more than the first one in many ways; he seems to have found his own distinct voice, and the execution of the challenges herein is great. Edwin Nagy’s conversion to 5e manages to retain the strengths of the adventure, and is simply well-executed. The main complaint against the PFRPG-version, though, remains: I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed by it. Because it is SO CLOSE to being a phenomenal adventure that embraces nonlinearity, and then elects to go the safe route in a pretty predetermined and linear dungeon-crawl. With but a single page, this could have been elevated to the ranks of modules that deserve to be called an example of excellence; as provided, the adventure is certainly good; whether you consider it to be very good, though, is mostly contingent on what you want from a module. If you want a great little dungeon-crawl that is challenging, at times funny and at times scary, then this delivers in spades, particularly if you like old-school style gaming and are fed up with sloppy conversions to 5e. This does actually operate properly in 5e. If you want a free-form adventure that presents multiple ways to tackle its challenges and focuses on providing a dynamic environment, then this might leave you wanting more. My final verdict will clock thus in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mystery at Ravenrock - Fifth Edition
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Mystery at Ravenrock - Swords & Wizardry
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 12:11:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The OSR-version of this module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

All right, so, first things first – this is the second of James Thomas’ modules dealing with the frontier’s region of Ravenreach. The module focuses on a very Borderlands-ish feel and should slot seamlessly into such regions. Of course, you can also use it in the Lost Lands-setting without any hassle. The module is intended for 4-6 characters of 4th to 7th level – a well-rounded group is strongly recommended. The module does feature read-aloud boxed text, and e.g. does come with extra boxes for looking through keyholes, creatures bursting through furniture and the like – kudos! The rules-system used herein would be Swords &Wizardry (S&W), which is based on 0e, and the adventure ultimately can thus easily be converted to other OSR rules systems.

While this module does benefit greatly from being ran as the follow-up to “Menace in Ravenreach”, the adventure does feature several adventure hooks that allow it to be used as a stand-alone adventure. While the players will be slightly less invested in the proceedings, the module does not require exposition dumps or the like to catch them up – in a way, it behaves very much like a second episode, as it assumes that the PCs return to Ravenreach after being absent for a while. Nice: The OSR-version makes use of the room freed by requiring less rules language for optional encounters

Genre-wise, this module offers a dungeon, but its central premise is that of an infiltration – in the way that most such modules will devolve into fighting; the module very much assumes that your group won’t be Stealth-ing through the materials. The adventure also certainly has a touch of irreverence and very dry humor – I know the author doesn’t live in Britain, but I’m not sure regarding nationality; the humor? Pitch-perfect. And n, this is not a funny-haha-module, nor is it gonzo, but it does have plenty of scenes that can be funny at the table. Very subdued and subtle – I like it.

The module includes three nice, mundane/alchemical items – one type of toxin that helps deal with a specific monster defensive ability, and two means of delivering this substance. This does add a nice tactical angle here. Speaking of which: As a nice bonus, the full-color maps (with grids and scale noted) are included as player-friendly, key-less versions as well – and yes, they’re full color. Two of the maps use a 10 ft.-grid, another a 5-ft.-grid.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS, Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, while the party was busy adventuring, Master Minder has enacted his master plan (pardon the bad pun) and seized control of Ravenrock – with the Baron geass’d into essentially an imprisoned vegetable, he put a simulacrum of the Baron, one subservient to his whims, in charge. See what I mean regarding capabilities? Anyhow, he has managed to do so without arousing overt suspicion, though his lockdown of the keep Ravenrock does raise some eyebrows. Worse, his experiments with troll bi-livers have yielded fruit, and thus, the keep’s charmed guard captain and his men now have a serious case of immortalities – i.e. they regenerate. If nobody stops Minder, things’ll look grim indeed. Enter the party of stalwart heroes.

Via one of the hooks provided, the party will need to get inside the keep and stop the nasty wizard’s plans – and thankfully, there is a convenient means of ingress, which will be shared with the party as the primary hook: There is an all but forgotten cheese cave that was abandoned when the sewage system of the keep started making it…well, disgusting. You can’t see it from the keep, and only the family of the erstwhile cheese-maker knows about it, knowing it colloquially as the “Raven’s Arse” – and it’s up that metaphorical rump that the party will attempt to secure access to the keep. Told you this had some dry humor.

Which does bring me to the perhaps most pronounced weakness of the module: While access via this brief dungeon is the intended route, the issue of PCs charming/sneaking/flying etc. into the keep is mentioned, and the GM is encouraged to point the players towards the dungeon. I get why. And yet, it represents a serious lost chance – the keep begs to be an infiltration scenario, it really does. However, there is no summary of the total inhabitants and most likely rooms anywhere, nor is there information on watch shifts and the like. The module teases a freeform, sandbox infiltration and then goes the safe route, telling you to urge your players to use the dungeon. With a single page, at the very most, this module could have had all the necessary information to allow for a truly free-form experience with a variety of vectors. You can still easily run the module as such with a bit of work – but you’ll need to map the vicinity of the keep (since no map of the surrounding area is included), and you’ll have to piece together the number of available characters, etc. This is work that is a) unnecessary, and b), ultimately detracts somewhat from what this module feels like it is set up to be.

In a way, the whole infiltration angle is ultimately just an excuse to delve into the dungeon, and treat the keep like one. This is, once more, not something that makes the module bad, but it most assuredly is an exceedingly puzzling decision, considering that the adventure has all the pieces in place to go that route. This structural decision also extends to a degree to the keep itself, making it behave a bit more like a dungeon than I would have liked. Particularly in the old-school version for S&W, this does feel like an unfortunate oversight when contrasted with comparable modules.

That being said, the dungeon that is here? It is not a place that will have your players grumble for playing it – it is genuinely interesting. Aforementioned Raven’s Arse, as it turns out, has become the home of filth fairies, and the first part of the dungeon, where we explore the sewage system, is genuinely icky and hilarious. This part of the dungeon also ties in with the region’s history and the legend of the dragon slain – one combat encounter features the immortal ire of the dragon, and the fairies have used bones and the like to generate some funny vistas. The filth fairies are presented as a new creature in the OSR-version.

Obviously, the main meat of the module will thus be covered by the party exploring the dungeon of the keep and the keep itself; the well-designed component of the module is reflected here in traps and the like – it is hard, but generally fair. It should also be noted that, from holding ells springing open to the labs themselves, the module does a good job blending themes and providing variety within a given adventure. Obviously, the PCs will have to defeat Master Minder (who’ll most likely have prepared a devastating ambush with his troll bi-liver enhanced super-soldiers), rescue the Baron and depose of the imposter-simulacrum to bring peace back to the region – but easier said than done…the wizard does have a pretty neat ambush ready…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard, including the usual amount of lots of text per page; locked door DCs are noted in the room headers, if applicable, which is a great way to handle that. The pdf does feature a couple of really nice full-color artworks, and I certainly appreciate the full-color maps, particularly the inclusion of a full set of player-friendly maps. Kudos! The IndieGoGo-version offered token in b/w and color – cool! I am not sure if those components are included in the retail iteration.

James Thomas’ second foray to Ravenreach is a module I actually enjoyed more than the first one in many ways; he seems to have found his own distinct voice, and the execution of the challenges herein is great. Jeff Harkness does a great job converting the module to S&W, and all in all, the adventure holds up. However, system-immanently, the module loses one of its most pervasive strengths in this iteration – the system simply doesn’t offer as much tactical options, and since there are less rules to finetune, this impressive aspect is simply not there. Conversely, OSR-adventures do tend to assume that the players use their brains, that they can approach a challenge from various angles, and particularly in this context, the module’s baseline of railroading the PCs away from other means of ingress, ultimately, hurts the adventure. In this iteration, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo – provided your players can stomach that. If not, round down. If you have the luxury of being able to choose your system, I’d suggest getting the version for a more complex rules-set instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mystery at Ravenrock - Swords & Wizardry
Click to show product description

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The Mutants of Ixx
Publisher: Karl Stjernberg
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 08:42:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pamphlet roleplaying game is essentially a hack of Chris MCDowall’s popular underground game “Into the Odd.“ Pamphlet RPG? Well, yeah. The game is essentially 4 pages – one 2-page pdf for players, and one for the GM. If you print them, you can fold them alongside two dotted lines into a pamphlet like the ones you’d get in theater, etc. Much to my pleasant surprise, the game comes in two iterations – one for the A4 paper-size convention, and one for the US letter-size. Kudos for going the extra mile there.

One third of a page is the same for both the player booklet and the GM booklet: These contain the artworks that you can see on the cover – essentially, that’s the equipment list, and small indicators note the damage die of a given weapon – these range from d6 to d10, just fyi. Weapons that deal d10 damage require two hands to wield, and small items come in bundles of 5.

Character creation is simple – roll 3d6 four times, and you may swap two rolls. Strength (STR) denotes fighting, fortitude, etc.; Dexterity (DEX) is used for sneaking, athletics, etc., and Willpower (WIL) is your persuasion, shooting, tech understanding, etc. The fourth roll denotes the slugs – that’s the term used for ammo and currency.

After this, you roll a d6 for Hit Protection (HP); once this is depleted, you can suffer critical damage – 6 entries are provided for that, and you essentially can lose parts or be knocked out. If HP reaches 0, damage is applied to Strength, and once you take Strength damage, you make a Strength save to avoid critical damage.

Attacks and saves are handled the same way – you roll a d20 under the related ability score; 1 is always a success, 20 is always a failure; if you have advantage, you roll an additional die and choose the better result; the inverse holds true for disadvantage.

If it’s unclear who acts first, the player must make a Dexterity save to act before the enemy. On the player’s turn, they can move and perform one action. How far? Alas, not stated. Nor is initiative clearly explained – I’d suggest using the Death is the New Pink standard there.

A character dies at 0 Strength; at Dexterity or Willpower the character is paralyzed or catatonic, respectively.

But back to character creation: You then roll a random mutation and choose a specialty, and pick one weapon and 2 items. To randomly select a mutation, you roll a d6 twice: The first die indicates whether you check the combat mutation, utility mutation or mental mutation table. Each of these subtables comes with 6 mutations. Combat mutations include firebreath, acid spit, crushing pincers, etc.; utility mutations feature camouflage, web-spinners, regeneration, etc., and mental mutations feature mind control, inducing horrible visions, etc. These don’t feature range, but do come with a general duration formula – 10 minutes per experience level. When you use a mutation, you roll a d4; on a 1-2, you decrease the die size of the mutation by one; if the mutation already has a d4 for its die, it is spent for the day. Elegant.

What are specialties? Well, these are essentially the class-features/feats/Special abilities of the game. If you’re an assassin, you bypass HP and deal d12s damage versus helpless or unaware targets. Melee or ranged specialists are included, as well as being lucky (1 reroll per session). There is one that lets you always act first (what if multiple beings have this?), and there is one that nets a loyal pet.

The game features 4 fleshed out level titles for experience levels, and progression is based on finished adventures. In order to level up, you have to rest in a safe place. You gain 1d6 HP and roll a d20 for each ability score – if you roll higher than your ability score, it increases by 1, to a maximum of 20, and you get to choose either a new mutation, or a new specialty.

Now, regarding items: Basic items cost 1-5 slugs; weapons cost their damage die (I assume, maximum number) in slugs, and armor costs 10/25/60 slugs; armor acts as DR, with a maximum of 3, obviously. You can carry up to Strength items, weapons and armor; anything beyond is unsafe, but that aspect is not elaborated upon.

These are the pieces of information presented on both pamphlets; on the player pamphlet, we also have 2/3rds of a page devoted to essentially a character sheet, where you put HP in the drawn heart, armor in the drawn armor, melee weapon damage in the nail-studded club, ranged weapon damage in the drawn gun – the sheet is self-explanatory, and smooth – I like it. Chow, water and ammo also have their icons to track them.

Oh, and this humble pamphlet gets something right that many full-blown games botch: 1/3rd of one of each pamphlet’s pages is devoted to a nice, hand-drawn b/w-hex-map of the jungles of Ixx – and guess what? The version in the player-pamphlet has no annoying numbers and is player-friendly. Nice.

The GM’s pamphlet explains 7 interesting locales briefly – from the adventurer’s home (Scrapwheel Village) to the glowing maw, swamp rig, etc. – I liked these brief touches, and travel + random encounter tables for travel is included, as well as 6 entries of one-sentence adventure inspirations. Speaking of adventure: 1/3rd of the GM’s pamphlet is devoted to a sample adventure, the lair of the clonelings: This little dungeon is pretty nice, considering the very limited room it has, and we get a solid b/w-map here as well – oh, and guess what? It manages to be non-linear! A minor niggle: The dungeon references a WIS save, when that should reference WIL instead. Yes, I am nitpicking.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is subservient to the requirements of the pamphlet formula, and the aesthetics deserve special mention – from the char sheet part to the maps and items, the b/w-drawings are nice and capture the vibe this goes for. The pamphlets have no bookmarks, but since they’re literally two pages each, that would have been patently absurd anyways.

I got Karl Stjernberg’s “Mutants of Ixx” on a whim, and promptly forgot about it. I shouldn’t have. This is a great example of efficient gaming minimalism in practice, and does a lot of things right. In fact, more than right. There are precious few concessions made to the minimalist presentation, and while a GM obviously will have to expand this when running it, there will only be the range and movement issue to truly contend with; both of these could have been easily clarified without breaking the formula or taking up too much space. So no, this is certainly not perfect.

HOWEVER, and some people will be surprised by this: I prefer this tiny booklet over DIY RPG Productions “Death is the New Pink (DitNP).” Not only in themes, which are subjective, but in character progression engine! Where DitNP uses essentially arcana substitutes, this little booklet presents a robust engine for both mutations AND class features that is easy to expand, and rewarding to use, taking a step away from the item-defined component. I genuinely think that this booklet has a better designed basic framework, and one that is very simple to build on. I love this from a design perspective – it’s incredibly elegant.

Now, it is not as streamlined, or expansive as DitNP, obviously – this is me comparing a 2-page booklet with a game that almost sports 100 pages. This pamphlet game is fiercely DIY in its aesthetics, and it’s not as precise as DitNP; I do have to account for that in my verdict. But I still seriously prefer it for what it achieves in its ultra-essentialist frame. As such, this is one of the few instances, where this gets 4 stars, but also my seal of approval. If you’re looking for a rules-lite post-apocalyptic game that can theoretically entertain you for years, for 2 frickin’ bucks, then get this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Mutants of Ixx
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ꙮ The Panopticium: an Entry From the Soggy Warlock's Compendium of Curious Creatures
Publisher: Ian Woolley
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 08:41:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages – 1 page is an interesting artwork/hand-out-style version of the creature, the other page contains the text.

The pdf does not note a particular system or presents stats per se – instead, it lists the numbers that may be encounters, the suggested level range, and for Armor, it notes e.g. a name and then (as plate); similarly, weapons note analogues, like stating that it works like a two-handed sword. So yeah, you’ll need to do some adjustments.

The creature notes special defenses and attacks – in the former case, the creature here notes e.g. that they are only surprised on a 1-in-10, regardless of invisibility. The movement is noted as a normal person afoot, or thrice as fast when flying – nice: It mentions perfect maneuverability, which is helpful for plenty systems.

The panopticium is a race of peacock-feathered giants (12 ft. tall), with skin covered entirely with eyes; they can substitute their attacks with eye-beams,. And the pdf does note how certain spells may be used to counteract them – this includes a unique non-instantaneous delivery-method of the effects, which I considered to be rather cool – and no, I’m not spoiling it here. I also like that their AC can change, depending on how they’re fought.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay; I noticed a minor typo, but nothing bad. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a nice, collage-style artwork in full-color. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ian Woolley’s Panopticium is a cool concept for a creature; the design can be implemented pretty easily in most systems if you know how to design creatures for the game system you’re playing. To my pleasant surprise, the creature can be fought in a pretty unique manner, and rewards player-skill and tactics. All in all, I consider this to be a worthwhile creature. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ꙮ The Panopticium: an Entry From the Soggy Warlock's Compendium of Curious Creatures
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The Nautilium: an Entry From the Soggy Warlock's Compendium of Curious Creatures
Publisher: Ian Woolley
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2020 08:39:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages – 1 page is an interesting b/w-artwork/hand-out-style version of the creature, the other page contains the text.

The pdf does not note a particular system or presents stats per se – instead, it lists the numbers that may be encounters, the suggested level range, and for Armor, it notes e.g. Unarmored or Dressed for a Ball (as leather or mail); similarly, weapons note analogues: Attacks with their opium pipes are resolved as though they were black-jacks; radiant pistols use the stats for crossbows. So yeah, you’ll need to do some adjustments.

The Nautilium are essentially a highly-sophisticated race of pseudo-18th-century aristocrats that are known for being super-charming to those they consider to be their equals or betters. Bad news is that this doesn’t include most beings. In fact, they are small nautilus-like creatures that subsist on mammalian organs and brains, consuming them and then piloting the bodies of the victims.

If smoking, they may exhale 60 ft. conical bursts of opium that render non-nautilium confused and sluggish for 10 minutes or a Turn. (“Turn” here being used in the old-school way, not in the modern use of the term.)

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, and I liked the collage-style artwork of this weird race. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I like the idea of Ian Woolley’s strange critters here; the execution does suffer s a bit from being system agnostic, but personally, I was slightly more irritated by the prose, which the author can do better: “These well-dressed folks hail from the stars. They are an aristocratic people.” – you get the idea; not exactly poetry. All in all, this is a solid idea, but less interesting in its execution than it deserved. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Nautilium: an Entry From the Soggy Warlock's Compendium of Curious Creatures
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Legendary Planet: The Depths of Desperation (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:52:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 102 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page TOC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 91 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I was a backer of the legendary Planet AP, but not otherwise involved with the creation of this book. It should be noted that this module comes with an art and map folio that clocks in at a mighty 39 pages – that’s all the art inside, ready to be used as a handout, AND player-friendly maps of ALL of the maps featured in the adventure. That is not only AWESOME, it should be industry standard. Huge kudos for this!

The module is written for 4 PCs of at least 14th level and 3 mythic tiers, and the PCs should achieve 17th level over the course of the module, if you’re using the suggested Medium advancement track. The module features the mythic trial to attain the 4th mythic tier. Structurally, we follow the well-established AP-formula of the series: Chris A. Jackson provides aneat piece of fiction, and we get a plethora of supplemental material.

Article-wise, we have a detailed observation on mixing science-fiction and fantasy here that goes into quite a lot of detail for the GM – salient advice, which is supplemented by rules for orbital re-entry and space vacuum; these do include more mystical takes on vacuum. If you do want to include spacefaring in your game, the book offers rules for warp engines and technomantic countermeasures (which makes tampering magically with tech harder); these are kept intentionally pretty wide open regarding the flavor, allowing for maximum customization options. 4 feats are presented: Daunting Interface makes technological items you craft harder to identify or activate. New Best Friend halves the nonproficiency penalty for weapons and equipment (if taken twice, it completely eliminates it), and lets you use even equipment that would otherwise be incapable of being used, provided you can train. Translated Spell is a metamagic feat that eliminates the [language-dependent] descriptor in exchange for +1 spell slot. Finally, we have Environmental Adaptation, which helps dealing with dangerous environments, including space. Minor nitpick: This references “points of mythic power”, which should be “uses of mythic power” instead; this does not otherwise compromise the functionality of this mythic feat, though. The section also features 4 spells: Flicker and its greater version hamper electricity-based effects and tech with specialized suppression fields; mundane paradigm nets an object SR, and mundane resistance nets objects a scaling bonus to saves versus magic. All in all, Steven T. Helt delivers a cool section here.

The gazetteer section this time around covers the gorgeous waterworld of Vareen – and I strongly, as always, recommend reading it prior to running the adventure. The item section includes equipment wielded by the octopus-like bil’djooli, including armor, rods that can fire different types of energy, glassteel helmets, magical ink bladders, stasis grenades and a substance that allows for breathing of water/air, a new material, the varianian coral, as well as toxin filters and vents, the latter being particularly relevant for bil’djooli. The module’s bestiary btw. comes with 4 bil’djooli stats, ranging from CR 6 to CR 13/MR 2. Beyond that, we have stats for several aquatic threats: Conch trees, two cool fish, the varinian sky spore (CR 11), as well as for the Loran race (CR 5); these are engineered mutations based on undine, and are pretty potent; while player-race information is provided, I wouldn’t allow these in my games, unless featuring generally high-powered races. Beyond the deadly monster depicted on the cover (which is pretty awesome), my favorite monsters herein were the invertebrates: We have varinian seastar (Large starfish), a crab that can share emotion effects of others, and a Colossal deep tiger anemone that has frickin’ fantastic artwork.

Okay, all of this out of the way, it’s time to discuss the adventure – and you know what that means: From here on out, the SPOILERS reign! Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! Relstanna, the elali ally of the PCs, comes to them with the krang warrior Khedri, showing off the substance stralleth, which allows for the breathing of water and withstanding of pressure – they show this substance to the PCs, because we go to the water world of Vareen this time around – once more in search of a gate home. Plus, good news: the planet#s locathah civilization is actually nice, friendly even…bad news, though: Recently, the Hegemony has started an all-out war on Vareen, with the octopus-men bil’djooli leading the charge. These toxic octopus-people ooze literal poison, and have a rigid hierarchy – think of them as tyrants of the deeps. Relstanna sent an ambassador to the place – but so far, no news has spread back. From submerged Pol-Nephar on Argos, the PCs should travel to Vareen…

…and the module makes no prisoners. The scene on the cover? That’s what happens! The massive Lasiodon, one of Vareen’s deadly predators, has, alas, eaten the ambassador. If a PC gets swallowed, they’ll find the corpse – and the module accounts for information gained by reviving the dead ambassador or talking to their spirit! This’d be a good place to talk about this being a massive, aquatic adventure: The PC’s Morphic Form feat does allow the PCs to ignore many of the limitations of underwater combat, pressure, etc. The module explicitly calls out the importance of visibility, though…and this is 3D in many instance, obviously. In case you want to go another route, I can recommend Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting for aquatic hazards, rules, advice on running such adventures, etc. Adding that rules-material is pretty simple, but not required. In short: If you usually shirk away from underwater adventuring, this has a means to run the adventure without needing to include all the default underwater adventuring rules.

First contact with both locathah and bil’djooli will probably happen at Surface Station Nine, and meet Strael, a locathah engineer – ultimately taking them to Simrukoth, grandest of locathah cities…and last line of defense for the locals! For the war against the Hegemony is one that the locathah are losing currently big time! As the PCs converse with the emergency council, they’ll have a chance to thwart an assassination attempt by several Hetzuud slayers, which may or may not dissolve in a chase through a bazaar – hopefully, the PCs can take down the shapeshifting spies!

The second part of the module is pretty epic: It’s a big sandbox with several keyed missions that are all about strengthening the war effort; these operations include attempting to take the surface station six, which has been converted into a soldier-slave procession facility, sabotaging the Hegemony’s communications relay, a diplomatic mission to ocean giants…and three rather cool trips to recruit unique monsters: These include the Land-Eater (the mommy of the ginormous monster the PCs might have slain when they arrived…hopefully, they cleaned up well, washing off the scent…), a colossal mantis-shrimp (heck yeah!) and the last of the Bardezites, now undead, as a further unlikely ally. We also have ruin exploration here (including an interesting puzzle combat of sorts), and timed assassination/response tactics help keep up the pressure here. Oh, and the PCs may well have to deal with a rather deadly scouting troop coming for the city.

Ultimately, the fate of all of Vareen, and that of planets beyond, hangs in the balance when the vast battle for Simrukoth commences, and the vast battle begins. Yes, BATTLE! The module makes use of the mass combat rules! If you’re not interested in those, fret not: The pdf does come with a full recap, and you could theoretically ignore them as a whole – for the battle also sports a whole selection of key-scenes, which the PCs resolve on a character level (though I do recommend running the combat!), which include daemonic allies, attacks on Surface Station One – and finally, direct assault on the bil’djooli flagship, the Subjugator, where the powerful bil’djooli navarch and hgis genocidal daemon-ally commanding the Hegemony forces need to be dealt with! And yes, the PCs can, provided they did a good job in aforementioned ruins, actually go home now…but the saga is not yet over! After the epic conclusion of the battle for Vareen, more is yet to come…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf-version comes with plenty of original full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, with bookmarks provided per chapter-header/part, but not per sub-section. The inclusion of the handout/map-booklet is AMAZING, and the cartography in full-color, which includes player-friendly versions of the maps, is super-appreciated.

Steven T. Helt’s “The Depths of Desperation” represents, at least to me, a return to form for the AP. While “Confederates of the Shattered Zone” had a fantastic environment to explore, it honestly felt to me like it tried to do too much in its page-count, and became a bit busy as a result. “The Depths of Desperation” knows exactly what it wants to be, has a tight focus and theme, and executes it. This doesn’t feel like it could have used 20 or so more pages, or more maps or the like – the module delivers upon the promise of underwater warfare and really makes the PCs feel like they are waging a grand war, focusing on a variety of challenges, many of which don’t center around slaying foes...so here’s to hoping your PCs do have some social skills or magic in that regard.

The sheer sense of epic adventure this breathes is great; the PCs are incredibly powerful, and thus, the module lets them do incredible feats – like recruiting essentially Godzilla-class beasts for the war-effort, like single-handedly turning the tides of battles. It also brings the threat of the Hegemony more front and center, because the PCs finally get to directly confront large-scale forces of their foes. Better yet, all the build-up is successful: The AP has shown remarkable restraint with regards to its villains, and after this module, the PCs will know why the Hegemony is so damn feared throughout the setting of Legendary Planet. Throwing these villains sooner, in weaker iterations, at the PCs en force would have diminished the impressive impact this module has. Very few players will want to “go home” and call it quits after this truly epic scenario; at least, I can’t picture a group that’d stop now.

If your group is really into the nit and grit of rules, you might want to check out Cerulean Seas and add the rules therein; if your group loves mass combat, get Ultimate Battle and Ultimate War. And if not, fret not, for the module allows you to run both the underwater aspect and the mass combat without using either sub-system., should you prefer a more narrative approach: You can just run the events, if you’d prefer that. This potential for customization is just the last bit that elevates this module beyond its already impressive basics for me. So yeah, this is definitely one of the highlights of the AP for me. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Depths of Desperation (Pathfinder)
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DAA1 - The Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:51:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page hyperlinked ToC (only in the pdf), 1 page editorial, ½ a page ToC, 1 page SRD; the print-version, obviously, does have a back cover as well. We have 21.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, who sent me the Dark Albion books, to be reviewed at my convenience.

Okay, so this is an introductory adventure/setting book, and it is billed as a dual-format book for both Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (one of the most underappreciated games ever), and generic OSR. A few notes here: I usually consider dual format books bad deals for the customer, because you invariably end up with content that you didn’t want or planned on using. For games with complex rules, this also usually results in issues with the logic, power-levels, etc. The Dark Albion books did not fall prey to this, both due to the systems in question being pretty compact in their demands regarding real estate, and due to a pretty meticulous approach to rules. This adventure is no different in that regard, so kudos there.

Which brings me to another aspect: I vastly prefer OSR books to actually subscribe to a specific rules-set. Why? Because playing in Labyrinth Lord or For Gold & Glory, or LotFP for that matter, are very different experiences, and power-levels. While many referees have a relatively easy time adjusting components on the fly, this book goes a step further and genuinely walks you through the rules that are employed: We get BOTH ascending attack bonuses AND THAC0s (called TaAC0 here); one save is presented, with notes for 5-save systems provided, and even a default DC noted. Skills can be resolved via d6, via d%-checks, or with d20 vs. DC, accounting for both 5-type style saves and those based on ability scores. Interestingly enough, this does a better job with these guidelines to allow the book to be used with e.g. 5e than many of the bad conversions to 5e I’ve read. In short, this is one of the VERY FEW books I’d consider to be truly successful at being a universally applicable OSR-module without losing details or bad hiccups.

The module is intended for 1st to 2nd level characters, though personally, I’d suggest using this as a first level adventure. In case you were wondering, btw.: The rebellion of the eponymous Jack Cade was a very real thing. Cade’s rebels were beaten on London bridge due to his men starting to loot, earning the ire of the populace, so there is a historical background here – when the module starts, the rebellion is obviously already over. Nice, btw.: The book does come with a pretty significant epilogue and suggestion for further adventures, with hooks often based on actions the PCs may have taken. The module has no read-aloud text, just fyi.

In order to talk about more this module, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. . All right, only referees around? Great!

The module’s rules deserve further applause: One of the few magic items (this is Dark Albion at its best), is a spellbook that contains a variety of different spells that don’t properly work – like a charm person accompanied by insane jealousy. I liked these. In fact, I’d have loved to see a similar treatment for all spells in a rulebook, as these can be easily used as a kind of spell mishap.

Anyhow, what you should know, is that London Bridge as depicted herein, is not only fully mapped (including sideviews) and illustrated (some gorgeous b/w-pieces), it also pretty much is an excellent generator: The pdf sports a generator that lets you determine the number of levels of a building, the number of shops, the type of sold goods, the number of rooms per level, room contents, room occupants and attic content and current occupants. The maps provided help render this place alive, and better yet, the book comes with 20 VERY DETAILED NPC/sample occupants-angles to further make the bridge come alive.

The bridge is more than dressing, though. Indeed, the module provides rules for navigating the constant throng of people on London Bridge, including chases and vanishing in the crowd, as well as chases by row boat. Concise rules for falling into the Thames are provided as well. In a way, it may even be more salient to think about this supplement as a local environment sourcebook with a detailed adventure hook.

You see, structurally, this is aimed at the experienced GM: It presents an environment and a problem, all associated rules you’d require, and then throws in the PCs – in a way, this is as wide-open a sandbox in this context that it can be.

LAST WARNING. SPOILERS. PLAYERS, SKIP AHEAD.

Now, plot-wise, I love that this module subverts superstition – you see, Jack Cade’s ghost has been seen on London Bridge (his decaying head on a pike being one of the b/w-artworks), and people are spooked. Well, if you’re gathering your trusty Undead-EX-gear right now, you’ll be surprised to hear that it’s no ghost plaguing the bridge, but rather an enterprising criminal who happened upon a mage suffering from a botched spell; he quickly absconded, and, being illiterate (nice catch!) starting fumbling about with a crystal, a rather malfunctioning magic item. This item lets you use a ghostly project image – and the criminal has been using the item rather well in his scam! If people are running from ghosts, they’re less likely to notice missing valuables, right? This is a genuinely cool angle I enjoyed, and if you execute it properly, can provide more than one day worth of gaming. You can run this is a quick manner, in a slow one, and anything in-between – but however you run it, make sure you have a very detailed knowledge of the content herein. The sandboxy nature and open structure, coupled with the locale and density of content do mean that you should properly prepare this module. If you do, you can use all those sample PCs and mapped locales to evoke a genuinely plausible vision of London Bridge.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dark Albion’s nice two-column b/w-standard, with a surprising amount of neat b/w-artworks and an impressive amount of cartography. I wished the maps had been collected in the back as well, for printing them out, though. Similarly, the lack of player-friendly maps is a downside for the module – more so for this than for many others. Why? If this had player-friendly maps, it’d allow the GM to just hand out house-map after house-map as the PCs explore, making the bridge “grow” on the table! This is still possible, but requires some obvious work. I do suggest you do that, though – it’s totally worth it!

Dominique Crouzet’s first (and much to my chagrin, so far only) Dark Albion adventure is a successful venture; while I’d argue that this is closer to a regional sourcebook than an adventure in the traditional sense, its adventure components can be executed with rather impressive results in the open, exceedingly-detailed sandbox provided here. I consider this module to be very much worth getting, and a great way to get into Dark Albion. Now, beyond Dark Albion, this would require some serious reskinning, obviously, so do bear that in mind.

While the map-shortcomings did irk me, there is one more aspect to consider: The pdf clocks in at a grand total of 2 bucks, with the print version (saddle-stitched softcover) clocking in at what looks like at-cost at just $6.99, the price you pay for many pdfs. Considering the great bang-for-buck-ratio, I’ll round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DAA1  - The Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge
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Pollute the Elfen Memory Water
Publisher: Gorgzu Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:47:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, this does not subscribe to a single OSR-system per se; instead, when ability scores are required for an NPC, the pdf suggests just rolling 1d6 – 3d6 to spontaneously determine ability scores for saves. HD of monsters are randomized: d4HD@d6, for example, means that the creature rolls a d4. Then you take that result times the die indicated after the “@” to determine HP. Each HD = +1 to attack/hit. The pdf assumes ascending AC. “Testing “ e.g. “WIS” is not explained, but it is evident that rolling under the ability score is the way to go. No default movement rate or morale is given. In short: This assumes ability score-based saves akin to 5e, as well as ascending AC, and a direct 1:1-correlation between number of HD and to hit values.

Once you’ve understood that, conversion to most customary OSR-games should be simple. The pdf bolds rules-relevant components, which makes parsing the module rather simple. Two hand-drawn artworks of specific individuals are provided. Each NPC/monster has a motivation noted (NICE!) under “Wants:” Unfortunately, AoE-attacks, such as a cloud of sleeping dust, has no range/area noted.

The module comes with a hand-drawn, colored map that uses color to differentiate between e.g. closed and open doors, and we get them all on one page, as well as in larger versions for the respective levels. The maps are functional, but nokey-less version is provided, and the maps sport no grid, which can make getting a grasp on the dimensions of the compound a bit tougher than necessary.

The respective levels actually have entries for individual doors – you roll e.g. a d4 and get a brief description – awesome! Not so awesome – some doors are trapped without a means to discern that beforehand...which is usually one of my pet-peeves. That being said, for the genre, this kinda makes sense. Presentation of individual rooms is handled via bullet points, with underlined segments providing the details at one glance. Random encounters are provided

Beyond the module, the pdf also includes a fully mapped suburb of Infinigrad (same complaints regarding the map); what is Infinigrad? I’m glad you asked! Picture a ginormous planar metropolis, an infinite sprawl, less Sigil or City of 7 Seraphs, and more of a Bas-Lag-like moloch of a city. The genre here is definitely fantasy-punk, and I mean that in the best of ways. Indeed, if you enjoy the weird and the notion of a planar metropolis, Infinigrad is a great recommendation – I’ve been using the material the author provides to expand e.g. the City of 7 Seraphs and make it more grimy/gritty and strange. How cool is Infinigrad? Let me give you two examples of stores you can find on Leoptera Shores:

“Vac Maz, Oily stone golem, offering the hire of a semi reliable flying device he stole from his ex master.”

“Cecckz, creamy white beetle man preacher, clicks and clacks and causes congregation to sway in ecstatic stupor”

Come on, that’s awesome! There are more ideas in these brief descriptions than in many comparable chapters of other supplements!

Genre-wise, this is a low-level module of a genre we almost never get to see – it’s essentially a Shadowrun/infiltration in a fantastic context. The PCs are assumed to be Guild Dogs (In my City of 7 Seraphs version, guilds serve the parities, just as an aside), i.e. semi-legal troubleshooters.

And this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the PCs are hired by Ovos Pool on behalf of a wealthy merchant names Equis Jud, with Ovo being an eyman. What’s an eyman? Picture a humanoid whose head is a ginormous eye, with an amulet of lips hanging from his neck, doing the talking. Ovos wants the PCs to infiltrate the compound of the elfs and taint their memory water.

Wait, what? Oh, yeah, should have mentioned that: Elfs here? They are brainchest elfs! Blank-faced and bare-chested, with rippling, brain-like timorous growths on the chest. They live forever, but forget everything every 100 years or so to maintain their sanity – memory water is used to “reset” them and produce memory spheres to prevent the loss of the accumulated knowledge. This process btw. involves weird worms that are fed with meat…these are not nice elfs…

The compound of the elves is organic, almost like a biotech greenhouse, with strange plants, moths and their weird tech; fumes can intoxicate nonelfs, and the strange creatures do not take kindly to the presence of non-elfs in their compound. The 3-storey-tall building comes with a note on patrols and a TON of things to interact with and screw up – the compound rewards casing the joint, but it also is obviously assuming that the PCs, at one point, will have to escape. The main adversary and commander of the facility is super-deadly, and attempting to murder-hobo through this module is not something I’d recommend.

To give you an example of a room:

  1. Moss carpet room. Stone pipes snake from east wall to west wall. D6 Nightmare Moths lurk on ceiling.

• Stone pipes curve up in the center of the room and are crested by a round, grated misting device. Green mist puffs from the device. • All non elfs must test CON when entering green mist or fall asleep for d6 hours (at which point ceiling dwelling Nightmare Moths will feast their prone bodies). • Pale roots dangle from ceiling. • Stairs down.

This is all information you need to know; it provides weird stuff to interact with, danger, and a unique atmosphere.

Conclusion: Editing is good for an indie-offering; I noticed a few typo-level glitches, but nothing that impeded my ability to run this. Layout adheres to a one-column no-frills b/w-standard, with some nice hand-drawn drawings and public domain artwork used. The cartography is full-color, but lacks scale and player-friendly versions. EDIT: The pdf now comes fully bookmarked! Yeah!

I should not be half as excited about Michael Raston’s Guild Dogs adventure as I actually am. The complaints about the lack of player-friendly maps alone would usually suffice to sour me somewhat on it.

But I absolutely ADORE this module. The eymen, the weird elfs, the strange compound with its even stranger plant/fauna-tech-things, the strange plants – this module elicits something I rarely encounter, a jamais-vu. It is exciting, fun, and oozes creativity. Its focus on a Shadowrun/Cyberpunk-ish action-infiltration is amazing. I want MORE of this. I want so much more of Infinigrad, and I’d pay serious bucks for a full book or campaign of this quality and imaginative wealth. I genuinely love this!

Now, I can’t bestow my highest accolades on this module, courtesy of the few formal shortcomings, but guess what? This is PWYW to boot! That makes this easily one of the most unique, awesome little PWYW-scenarios you’re bound to find out there. Seriously, get this, leave a tip. The author frickin’ deserves it for the amazing material and vistas here. My final verdict, considering that this gem is offered for PWYW, will hence be 4.5 stars, and this gets my seal of approval. Can we PLEASE have more? Pretty please?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pollute the Elfen Memory Water
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The Blasphemous Roster - Guilds of Infinigrad and their Machinations
Publisher: Gorgzu Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:45:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive toolkit clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 69 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, first of all, this is a toolkit I didn’t realize I wanted. I love me some weird planar metropolis; whether it’s Sigil, the City of 7 Seraphs or some other place; I love Bas-Lag, and I enjoy the outré weirdness of, let’s say, the assumed settings of Troika. Infinigrad, in a way, is a ginormous such metropolis, one sprawling on a planar scale, and it just makes sense in such a context to have the city controlled by a plethora of guilds both strange and wondrous. (As an aside, in my interpretation of the City of 7 Seraphs, I have made the guilds essentially subcontractors of the parities.) Infinigrad’s assumption is that the PCs serve the guilds as Guild Dogs, a kind of fantasypunk shadow/edgerunners, and in the so far only module in the setting, the PWYW “Pollute the Elfen Memory Water” this cool concept is executed exceedingly well. It should be noted that this book can be used as an infusion of nonstandard fantasy aspects in your regular fantasy game – you don’t have to embrace the entirety of Infinigrad’s assumptions to use this.

So, first thing you need to know: This is peak indie roleplaying game design in many ways; the book straddles the realm of art, courtesy of the expert use of public domain images and sentences that look like they have been cut out and put inside; in many ways, this reminded me of my first use of Burroughs’ cutup technique with Naked Lunch, just…well, coherent. The entire book feels like a massive collage. This might strike you as pretentious at first glance, but once you realize that the functionality of the book is never compromised by the aesthetics, that feeling will go away. This is very much a book intended to be used. It is a tool.

Now, if you’re familiar with the PWYW “The Transient Bazaar”, you can picture, to a degree, what you’ll get herein – a ridiculously mighty generator, where page upon page of tables to determine the components of the guilds in detail – from modus operandi to realms of expertise.

The SCALE is what sets this apart. You get 10 pages of expertise and forename tables, and guild examples are provided as well. Like the Transient Bazaar, this supplement also makes use of the cool visual generator idea, where essentially collages of public domain images, codified in grids, allow you to get instant inspiration. This way, you determine guild member looks, how the base of operation looks, and combine it further – these instances once more cover a wide array of pages.

The book also presents a massive job generator that covers, once more, page upon page of targets. “Haunt a target or replace it with a ghostly copy” – now that is an interesting task for the PCs! “Cause target to grow to enormous size”? Heck yeah, why not! We also have desirable actions covered, job locations, and dangers at site – and the combination is genuinely better than what I’d be able to convey with this review. This also extends to the rewards. Beyond that, a room layout generator is included alongside a brief dressing table.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch; I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout is ART – 2-column collages with public domain art in the back, blended and combined in an effective manner that serves to enhance the overall, unique feeling of this toolkit. I printed it out, and I strongly suggest you do that as well (though it’ll be BRUTAL on your ink/toner) – or get the print copy. I don’t yet own the print copy, but I will get it. EDIT: The pdf now comes fully bookmarked, so getting pdf-only? Now a valid strategy! :D This is meant to be USED, and as such, I really suggest getting a physical iteration. It just makes the process swifter.

Michael Raston’s blasphemous roster is frickin’ amazing. It has all the hallmarks of artpunky indie RPGs, with its aesthetics, its genuinely novel ideas and sheer density of cool notions. And at the same time, it maintains its serious focus on functionality. This is a capital letters TOOL, and yet, it feels unlike e.g. all of New Big Dragon Games Unlimited’s excellent D30-toolkits. Why? Because it is genuinely FUN to use. This book is at once a thoroughly USEFUL book, and at the same time, a genuinely FUN book to flip open and use, time and again.

In short: This is one impressive beast of a book. If you have at least a small place in your heart for the vast fantasy metropolis, for the punk aesthetic, for the indie production that has an art-budget of exactly zero, you’ll absolutely adore this book. I genuinely consider this to be one of the highlights I’ve come across in the last couple of months. The generator not only delivers factions and quests, it does so in a manner that genuinely makes me, more often than not, contemplate how I’ll execute them – because I want to. If you’re tired of standard quests and factions, this’ll be a breath of fresh air. Heck, even if you don’t consistently use this, adding one or two guilds from this book to your regular fantasy setting’s city or region will make it feel fresher, stranger. Need a weirdo neighborhood? Use this.

The lack of bookmarks costs this a star for the pdf version, but in print? Full-blown masterpiece. 5 stars +seal of approval, and though this was released in 2018, I only now got around to reviewing this; hence, this gets a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. We need more Infinigrad.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Blasphemous Roster - Guilds of Infinigrad and their Machinations
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The Demon Stones (Pathfinder)
Publisher: MonkeyBlood Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2020 09:50:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/author’s notes on making this, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of notes, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page MonkeyBlood Design glyph, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 71 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first: This adventure is intended for 4 characters of 5th level, and it was the first big production of Glynn Seal, who handled everything but editing and cover illustration. The module was playtested, credits its playtesters, and it shows. In many ways, I consider this to be the first big production by the company…and oh boy does it do things right that many others get wrong: The two pages of counters to represent the monsters and adversaries? They’re nice enough. However, where I seriously started drooling, was with the cartography: Not only do we get a LOT of it, we get player-friendly versions of everything. Yes, this includes not only the dungeons, but also lavishly-depicted roadside encounters! Fully mapped! Player-friendly! Heck yeah! Now, the village featured herein is the one exception – its map is the only one that comes only with a keyed version, but considering the module’s plot, I can kinda live with it, even though I don’t get why the pdf-version, which is layered, fyi, doesn’t at least feature that – don’t get me wrong: Having a version sans key would have been better, but at least it doesn’t spoil anything.

Speaking of which: There are two types of player-friendly maps: The ones that do the minimum (remove numbers and the like), and the ones that go one step beyond. This book features the latter. What do I mean by this? Well, not only are secret door “S”s excised, there are proper walls here, so if you’re using VTTs, or if you’re like me and cut up maps and hand them out, then this is AWESOME. Serious kudos for getting that right! Another aspect this gets right: I own the perfect-bound softcover of the book, and it properly spells the module’s name on the spine. It may be a small thing, but it’s something I appreciate.

Now, regarding themes, this obviously deals with meteorites, but if you’re thinking automatically about Lovecraftiana or mythos creatures, let me assure you that the module is smarter than doing the obvious.

Regarding themes, the module is billed as “medieval”, and it certainly fits that bill regarding its aesthetics and theme: The module does feature magic, but said magic is not commonplace or something everybody knows about; furthermore, while using fantastic tropes, these are always grounded. If you need a comparison, my best direct references would be Greyhawk’s grittier side, or Raging Swan Press’ offerings. The latter is also a great reference, because, much like Raging Swan Press’ modules, this is not a brutal adventure regarding its difficulty; you can run this with groups that are not that into min-maxing their characters. This doesn’t mean it’s trivial, mind you – just that, depending on the power-level of your group, you should contemplate running this at an earlier level than the indicated 5th.

Regarding rules, the module tends to gravitate to the simpler side of things, with builds being relatively simple; on the plus-side, the rules are much better than what you’d expect from a first foray into the gaming system’s complexities, and the book certainly knows what it’s doing The adventure’s new monsters come with unique b/w-artworks, and the same holds true for the NPCs. Apart from important characters and the like, stats are placed throughout the module where they’re needed, which renders running this a pretty comfortable enterprise for the GM.

The depiction of aforementioned village deserves special mention: Not only do we get names and behavior patterns/oddities for the NPCs, we also get a few sentences for important information to paraphrase. The attention to detail here is far beyond the usual. The module comes with atmospheric read-aloud text. More importantly, it does something I didn’t know I wanted to see, but which I adored: In the dungeon, above the read-aloud text, we have values: The first value denoted how far below the surface the keyed locale is; then, we get values for width, length and height, and a few key notes for the construction, overall feeling, and immediate sensory inputs – so if you’re in the camp that prefers terse, bullet-pointed lists, this has you covered. Even if you like the read-aloud text, this lets you reference dimensions in one glance without consulting the map. It’s a great piece of convenience for the GM.

Anyhow, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The PCs are contacted by a mysterious dwarf, who may seem kinda crazy – Rhuin Graystone babbles about “The Great Basalt One” sending him on a sacred quest to hand a holy symbol to the PCs, and task them to travel to the village of Gravencross, to guard the “stones that feel from the sky”; en route, the PCs will be attacked by strange wolves that seem to be suffering from a magical disease, and, well, as the PCs arrive, they’ll see a farmer burning crops, trying to stop the blight. Which obviously comes from the stones, right? Well, no. After the PCs have acclimated themselves to Gravencross and researched the details about the environment, the module goes into full sandbox mode and lets the characters explore the vicinity, with several biomes and random encounter tables presented. Arriving at the first stone will prompt visions for the holder of the divine symbol, and over the course of the module, the party will be able to piece together more and more.

This presentation of information is handled in a smart manner as well; everything happens pretty organically, and isn’t subject to requiring huge exposition dumps. Anyhow, beyond the dangerous wildlife and the mysterious wychblight, the PCs will see a strange, humanoid pteroglyph, and essentially do a wilderness investigation, as they try to find all three demon stones – these stones are not responsible for the magical blight; instead, they are part of the cure.

In a clever twist, the stones are a defensive meachnism of the god Basaltor, for the glittering geode, an important artifact of the deity, is in the process of being found/breached by a very nasty criminal, who dubs himself “The Underlord”; the bitter necromancer has a whole mercenary company under his sway, and the PCs will probably have crossed blades with them by now. The stones, in fact basalt elementals, are basically a safety precaution! The resting place of the geode? Right in the middle of the fallen stones! Atop a high ridge, the Wardcroft ruins hold the dungeon that contains the means to access the geode – thus, the final act is all about the PCs exploring this plausible dungeon, and trying to stop the dark necromancer…and the devil he has just summoned! This dungeon is well-executed, and sports diverse and fair challenges.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, particularly for a first foray into PFRPG. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the module sports A LOT of neat original b/w-artworks. The pdf version is layered, allowing you to customize it, and the module comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration. The cartography is exemplary: Not only is there a lot of it, the player-friendly versions are super appreciated. There is but one formal issue the pdf version has: It lacks bookmarks. That’s an annoying comfort detriment, that’d usually cost the pdf version a star…but guess what? The pdf is PWYW! I am not even kidding!

Glynn Seal’s The Demon Stones” is a great adventure if you liked the gritty feel of old-school Greyhawk, if you gravitate more to the down-to-earth aesthetics of Raging Swan Press. While the module has high-fantasy-ish themes, it clothes them in a layer of plausibility, mystery and superstition that makes them feel appropriate for the overall atmosphere. The module achieves a high level of immersion throughout, with plenty of details and love evident. Now, I bought this module when its pdf was not yet PWYW, and I was thoroughly happy with it. If you’re just doing pdfs, I’d suggest something in the range of $5 – $6.99 for it; the book is certainly worth it. I’d strongly suggest getting the print version, though. My final verdict for this adventure will be 5 stars – with my seal of approval added for the fair gesture of making the module PWYW. This is 100% owning.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Demon Stones (Pathfinder)
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The Demon Stones (Swords & Wizardry)
Publisher: MonkeyBlood Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2020 09:47:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/author’s notes on making this, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of notes, 1 page of SRD, 2 pages MonkeyBlood Design glyph, 1 page occupied by a tentacle skull, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 68 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first: This adventure is intended for 4 characters of 4th - 5th level, and it was the first big production of Glynn Seal’s MonkeyBlood Design, who handled everything but editing and cover illustration. The module was playtested, credits its playtesters, and it shows. In many ways, I consider this to be the first big production by the company…and oh boy does it do things right that many others get wrong: The two pages of counters to represent the monsters and adversaries? They’re nice enough. However, where I seriously started drooling, was with the cartography: Not only do we get a LOT of it, we get player-friendly versions of everything. Yes, this includes not only the dungeons, but also lavishly-depicted roadside encounters! Fully mapped! Player-friendly! Heck yeah! Now, the village featured herein is the one exception – its map is the only one that comes only with a keyed version, but considering the module’s plot, I can kinda live with it, even though I don’t get why the pdf-version, which is layered, fyi, doesn’t at least feature that – don’t get me wrong: Having a version sans key would have been better, but at least it doesn’t spoil anything.

Speaking of which: There are two types of player-friendly maps: The ones that do the minimum (remove numbers and the like), and the ones that go one step beyond. This book features the latter. What do I mean by this? Well, not only are secret door “S”s excised, there are proper walls here, so if you’re using VTTs, or if you’re like me and cut up maps and hand them out, then this is AWESOME. Serious kudos for getting that right! Another aspect this gets right: I own the perfect-bound softcover version of the Pathfinder version of the book, and it properly spells the module’s name on the spine. It may be a small thing, but it’s something I appreciate.

Now, regarding themes, this obviously deals with meteorites, but if you’re thinking automatically about Lovecraftiana or mythos creatures, let me assure you that the module is smarter than doing the obvious.

Regarding themes, the module is billed as “medieval”, and it certainly fits that bill regarding its aesthetics and theme: The module does feature magic, but said magic is not commonplace or something everybody knows about; furthermore, while using fantastic tropes, these are always grounded. If you need a comparison, my best direct references would be Greyhawk’s grittier side, or Raging Swan Press’ offerings.

Rules-wise, we have an adherence to S&W (Swords & Wizardry) here, with ascending and descending AC noted, single saves, etc. Special bilities are properly called out, and traps are codified properly as well. The adventure’s new monsters come with unique b/w-artworks, and the same holds true for the NPCs. Apart from important characters and the like, stats are placed throughout the module where they’re needed, which renders running this a pretty comfortable enterprise for the GM. In contrast to the PFRPG-version, we use the space that S&W’s compacter rules offer to present a whle page of stats for non-essential NPCS! Kudos for going the extra mile here. This is NOT one of those bad conversions we can see so often from 5e; this was done with obvious love for old-school aesthetics, and knowledge of the system. You won’t find references to skill check DCs or the like, and the adversaries have been properly adjusted. The module is harder in this iteration, due to PCs not being as strong, but that was to be expected.

The depiction of aforementioned village deserves special mention: Not only do we get names and behavior patterns/oddities for the NPCs, we also get a few sentences for important information to paraphrase. The attention to detail here is far beyond the usual. The module comes with atmospheric read-aloud text. More importantly, it does something I didn’t know I wanted to see, but which I adored: In the dungeon, above the read-aloud text, we have values: The first value denoted how far below the surface the keyed locale is; then, we get values for width, length and height, and a few key notes for the construction, overall feeling, and immediate sensory inputs – so if you’re in the camp that prefers terse, bullet-pointed lists, this has you covered. Even if you like the read-aloud text, this lets you reference dimensions in one glance without consulting the map. It’s a great piece of convenience for the GM.

Anyhow, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The PCs are contacted by a mysterious dwarf, who may seem kinda crazy – Rhuin Graystone babbles about “The Great Basalt One” sending him on a sacred quest to hand a holy symbol to the PCs, and task them to travel to the village of Gravencross, to guard the “stones that feel from the sky”; en route, the PCs will be attacked by strange wolves that seem to be suffering from a magical disease, and, well, as the PCs arrive, they’ll see a farmer burning crops, trying to stop the blight. Which obviously comes from the stones, right? Well, no. After the PCs have acclimated themselves to Gravencross and researched the details about the environment, the module goes into full sandbox mode and lets the characters explore the vicinity, with several biomes and random encounter tables presented. Arriving at the first stone will prompt visions for the holder of the divine symbol, and over the course of the module, the party will be able to piece together more and more.

This presentation of information is handled in a smart manner as well; everything happens pretty organically, and isn’t subject to requiring huge exposition dumps. Anyhow, beyond the dangerous wildlife and the mysterious wychblight, the PCs will see a strange, humanoid pteroglyph, and essentially do a wilderness investigation, as they try to find all three demon stones – these stones are not responsible for the magical blight; instead, they are part of the cure.

In a clever twist, the stones are a defensive meachnism of the god Basaltor, for the glittering geode, an important artifact of the deity, is in the process of being found/breached by a very nasty criminal, who dubs himself “The Underlord”; the bitter necromancer has a whole mercenary company under his sway, and the PCs will probably have crossed blades with them by now. The stones, in fact basalt elementals, are basically a safety precaution! The resting place of the geode? Right in the middle of the fallen stones! Atop a high ridge, the Wardcroft ruins hold the dungeon that contains the means to access the geode – thus, the final act is all about the PCs exploring this plausible dungeon, and trying to stop the dark necromancer…and the devil he has just summoned! This dungeon is well-executed, and sports diverse and fair challenges.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; if you don’t know any better, you won’t realize that this is a conversion. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the module sports A LOT of neat original b/w-artworks. The pdf version is layered, allowing you to customize it, and the module comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration. The cartography is exemplary: Not only is there a lot of it, the player-friendly versions are super appreciated. Unlike the PFRPG-iteration, the OSR-version does have its full complement of bookmarks! This version also has another bonus: An easy-read iteration of the pdf. Cool! The pdf is PWYW! I am not even kidding!

Glynn Seal’s The Demon Stones” is a great adventure if you liked the gritty feel of old-school Greyhawk, if you gravitate more to the down-to-earth aesthetics of Raging Swan Press. While the module has high-fantasy-ish themes, it clothes them in a layer of plausibility, mystery and superstition that makes them feel appropriate for the overall atmosphere. The module manages to pull off not feeling like a conversion, and as a whole, is a resounding success.

The module achieves a high level of immersion throughout, with plenty of details and love evident. Now, I bought this module when its pdf was not yet PWYW, and I was thoroughly happy with it. If you’re just doing pdfs, I’d suggest something in the range of $5 – $6.99 for it. My final verdict for this adventure will be 5 stars – with my seal of approval added for the fair gesture of making the module PWYW. This is 100% owning.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Demon Stones (Swords & Wizardry)
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Village Backdrop: Poxmire (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2020 09:46:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

5 miles of the main land, there is a small island, and few go there nowadays; if the charming name was not ample indication – this is a colony of the sick, of the quarantined, and from it, an autocracy rose, one that supports smuggling and piracy, and one that few guardsmen or tax collectors will be willing to visit – for obvious reasons. Of course, disease cults would also thrive potentially in such an environment…so who better to send here than expendable adventurers?

This set up is gold. The lore and rumors circulating about this place enforce the angle, and from appearance to dressing and nomenclature, we get the usual, detailed information for PCs doing their legwork. Guards do exist to prevent escape, but obviously those stationed here aren’t exactly nice fellows – having to manage the wards comes with a certain harshness as a requirement. The pdf presents a 20-entry dressing/event table to render the village’s squalor more dynamic. 2 detailed NPC write-ups are included, both, as usual, in the personality/mannerism/fluff-centric style of Raging Swan Press, and the governor’s mansion comes with its own 6-entry subtable of events

As has become custom, we do get information on the surrounding locality, and each of the 8 keyed locales comes with a sentence or two of read-aloud text. A total of 4 further suggested quest-angles are included as well, adding further use to the settlement.

If there is anything to complain about here, it pertains the way in which this uses PFRPG – it basically doesn’t. There is no settlement statblock, there is no marketplace section, and we don’t even get disease stats or the like. With a tiny bit more effort in this regard, this could have been an outstanding offering, with its quasi tropical plague colony vibe.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Mike Welham knows what he’s doing – he’s a veteran and one of the authors who always make me excited when I see their names on anything. Poxmire rocks with its atmosphere somewhere between a Caribbean plague colony, a pirate’s nest and a proximity to the mainland that reminded me of Venice. The set-up and execution are glorious, but as far as integration into the system is concerned, this could have done better. My final verdict can’t exceed 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Poxmire (Pathfinder)
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Village Backdrop: Poxmire (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2020 09:45:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

5 miles of the main land, there is a small island, and few go there nowadays; if the charming name was not ample indication – this is a colony of the sick, of the quarantined, and from it, an autocracy rose, one that supports smuggling and piracy, and one that few guardsmen or tax collectors will be willing to visit – for obvious reasons. Of course, disease cults would also thrive potentially in such an environment…so who better to send here than expendable adventurers?

This set up is gold. The lore and rumors circulating about this place enforce the angle, and from appearance to dressing and nomenclature, we get the usual, detailed information for PCs doing their legwork. Guards do exist to prevent escape, but obviously those stationed here aren’t exactly nice fellows – having to manage the wards comes with a certain harshness as a requirement. The pdf presents a 20-entry dressing/event table to render the village’s squalor more dynamic. 2 detailed NPC write-ups are included, both, as usual, in the personality/mannerism/fluff-centric style of Raging Swan Press, and the governor’s mansion comes with its own 6-entry subtable of events

As has become custom, we do get information on the surrounding locality, and each of the 8 keyed locales comes with a sentence or two of read-aloud text. A total of 4 further suggested quest-angles are included as well, adding further use to the settlement.

The 5e-versions makes proper use of the respective default NPC-stats in its references; on the downside, no marketplace section of unique tools or items is included, and personally, I’d have loved seeing some plagues properly statted, or at least some custom features for plague-ridden NPCs, but that may be me.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Mike Welham knows what he’s doing – he’s a veteran and one of the authors who always make me excited when I see their names on anything. Poxmire rocks with its atmosphere somewhere between a Caribbean plague colony, a pirate’s nest and a proximity to the mainland that reminded me of Venice. The set-up and execution are glorious, and 5e is slightly less demanding than PFRPG in what it potentially demands from such a supplement, which made this feel slightly more refined than the PFRPG iteration. My final verdict will hence round up from 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Poxmire (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Poxmire (System Neutral)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2020 09:43:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement!

5 miles of the main land, there is a small island, and few go there nowadays; if the charming name was not ample indication – this is a colony of the sick, of the quarantined, and from it, an autocracy rose, one that supports smuggling and piracy, and one that few guardsmen or tax collectors will be willing to visit – for obvious reasons. Of course, disease cults would also thrive potentially in such an environment…so who better to send here than expendable adventurers?

This set up is gold. The lore and rumors circulating about this place enforce the angle, and from appearance to dressing and nomenclature, we get the usual, detailed information for PCs doing their legwork. Guards do exist to prevent escape, but obviously those stationed here aren’t exactly nice fellows – having to manage the wards comes with a certain harshness as a requirement. The pdf presents a 20-entry dressing/event table to render the village’s squalor more dynamic. 2 detailed NPC write-ups are included, both, as usual, in the personality/mannerism/fluff-centric style of Raging Swan Press, and the governor’s mansion comes with its own 6-entry subtable of events

As has become custom, we do get information on the surrounding locality, and each of the 8 keyed locales comes with a sentence or two of read-aloud text. A total of 4 further suggested quest-angles are included as well, adding further use to the settlement.

In the system neutral iteration of this supplement, I can’t well complain about a lack of disease stats, or about missing marketplace sections – and the village has properly adjusted its content to reflect the realities of old-school gaming, including proper class names, etc. In short: I have nothing to complain about!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Mike Welham knows what he’s doing – he’s a veteran and one of the authors who always make me excited when I see their names on anything. Poxmire rocks with its atmosphere somewhere between a Caribbean plague colony, a pirate’s nest and a proximity to the mainland that reminded me of Venice. The set-up and execution are glorious, and in this iteration, I can’t well complain about wanting a more pronounced system integration now, can I? As such, I can recommend this iteration without reservations – 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Poxmire (System Neutral)
Click to show product description

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