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Dungeonlands: Palace of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2015 03:04:41
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 220 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us a massive 212 pages of content, so let's take a look at this!



This review was chosen as a prioritized review and moved up my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. Furthermore, I received a hardcover copy of this book for the expressive purpose of running it and providing a fair, unbiased review.



Wait, there's one more thing - after I ripped Tomb of the Lich Queen, the first part of the trilogy, a new one, why don't I review Part II, Machine of the Lich Queen next and instead jump to the final book? Simple - because Machine and Tomb still receive some polish/revisions and I'd rather review and playtest the best iteration of a given book. All right, so that out of the way, we begin this massive book with a truly extensive and well-written chapter of prose detailing the legends of the 9 fragments the lich queen has stored in her mental palace, providing further and somewhat tragic exposition for the genesis of this being- and after that, the crunch begins.



This being an adventure-review, unsurprisingly, the following will contain massive SPOILERS. Potential players should thus jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here? All right! The lich queen's hall of world-spanning mirrors lies shattered by her hand, the machine grinding and stuttering - and to reach the palace of her, the PCs will have to traverse what amounts to a gigantic array of planes-hopping. If you're familiar with Savage Mojo's Suzerain Continuum, that may not come as a surprise; if not, let me give you a run-down - there are *A LOT* of what amounts to campaign settings galore, each with their own, unique takes. Beyond just taking a look at either of them, the respective chapters essentially provide a means for the PCs (and players) to glimpse at the wondrous realms provided - think of them like a selection of Gossamer Worlds for Lords of Gossamer and Shadows or akin to the strange alternate realities provided in Shadowrun's classic Harlequin's Return-saga. So while the cynic in me considers this a kind of advertisement, the fanboy grins and considers this a very smart move - why? Because, let's face it, at the end of a campaign, there is always the discussion on what to play next - here, more than its fair share of interesting options are provided.



Now, by design, this does mean that each world is represented in what amounts to a short vignette (I'm using this term through the review to denote the literary function implied by its meaning, not one of the others) that sums up some peculiarities and pits your PCs against a target adversary, aligns them with a positive figure and provides a bonus for success, a story-hook/future conflict in the case of failure. The first array of these vignettes, happening in day-time, send the PCs off to a true myriad of established settings and new ones: A Greece-inspired scifi-setting with mechanic pegasi would just be the first of these excursions - beyond this strange world, the PCs get a glimpse at a dystopian cyberpunk citystate controlled by a monolithic church, struggling to find a chosen child that can shatter the boundaries of reality, all while being besieged by strange anarchists and probably playing into the very plans of a silver-tongued angel in service of true darkness. In a celtic world, an assault on a ritual site against armies of demons awaits and fans of Greek mythology may actually fight side by side with Jason and pit wits and magic against none other than Circe.



In a steampunk world of highly-spohisticated goblins, a time-travelling tub and an aerial chase through the dangerous skies provides for a change of pace, before, sooner or later, the PCs get a chance to test their mettle against a demonic incursion to free the Dark One from his celestial prison, finally fighting against a tainted solar...and said being may not even want to escape his eternal prison. When none other than the sung-god Ra draws up on his chariot (a hyper-modern sports-car) to take the PCs on a trip through his hyper-technological pyramids and finally, stop agents of Set in a night-club, including zombie-ravers, that's awesome. Stopping agents of chaos from exposing the rigidity in a hyper-lawful realm may sound conventional, but at that point, the PCs enter a realm of pure science, elevated to the realm where it becomes indistinguishable from magic - when you're defending a mad scientist from his elemental Frankenstein's monster and what amounts to a revenant-igor, all while powerful spirits that embody chemistry, physics and biology try to kill them, your players WILL continue to talk about the wealth of ideas here.



What about a planet where hyper-powerful cybertechnology has been blended with wild west stand-offs or one where hyper-technological dinosaurs duke it out in an alternate stone age? There is also a vignette wherein the 3 ages of Relic blend in a kind of temporal disjunctions, a swashbuckling-themed, fast-paced one wherein the PCs get to defend a ship from a massive sea-dragon and yes, a terrible post-apocalypse of nanite and radiation-caused mutations and doom, where an impending nuclear strike might well be within the range of options. Have I mentioned the sojourn to what amounts to the Plane of Fire or the City of Brass, where agents of an unknown entity seek to extinguish the eternal flames of the grand braziers? Now each of these places does have something to offer for the further journey -and after all those short vignettes, finally, night is upon the PCs as they traverse the myriad worlds - and from here on out, the lethality of the vignettes, in which the PCs so far have shaken hands with legends and gods, increases further.



Here would as well a place as any to note several peculiarities I noticed so far - for one, by necessity for a module that spans this many realities, the respective vignettes are somewhat sketchy - do not expect handholding or excessive read-aloud texts - it is very much assumed that, provided the massive array of high-level statblocks, you as a DM can properly portray the respective worlds. While reading this, I was extremely skeptical whether this worked out in practice, but the frenetic pace assumed by world transitions did, in actual playtesting smash so many unique vistas over my PC's heads they didn't mind - whether this whole chapter works depends very much on an experienced DM who can maintain a fast pace that does not allow for too many in-depth analysis on parts of the player - as well as assuming a pretty cinematic transition from key-scene to key-scene. At the same time, though, this actually can work in favor of the module: This high-fantasy realm-stuff, these clockwork-gadgets or high-scifi-stuff you always wanted to use? Well, here you can. I ultimately failed to resist the lure of adding my material and some unique worlds to the fray - after all, how often do you get a chance like that? And at this level, very much all gloves are off - your PCs are called demigods by the module for a reason... Now, this slight opaqueness, which was an exacerbated issue in the first part of the saga, ultimately is here, yes, but at the same time, this book is very much concrete - the key-scenes, like the clockwork aerial chase, provide full vehicle-rules, terrain-hazards and features where applicable, are fully integrated and the book makes smart use of the troop-subtype alongside many items and yes, even the Technology-rules in a minor way. Among the nighttime-worlds, fighting in an alternate Shanghai versus huge mobs of vampires and braving deadly haunts in a realm of gothic horror only constitute two examples of proper rules-usage that supplements the narrative - a significant step forwards, especially considering the fact that the complex builds for the high-level adversaries and allies, while not always being flawless, generally come out on the good side of things.



Not on the good side of things, at least for the players, would be a venture into imperial Rome, where Ceasar has just been slain by demo cultists and only defeating a massive shadow kraken may provide an escape...though this world has a particularly nasty story-game-over for a bad, bad decision on the player's side... From an imperial Rome in the throes of demonic possession, the journey continues onwards into a tale of American noir, where possessed train yard cranes await. The realms of winter, complete with their nasty fey, do something I would have expected from a certain Dresden File book - including a fey lord that encases himself in a gigantic frost-mecha. In an alternate version of Tokyo, the PCs can duke it out against magical girls corrupted by a powerful hero-hunting demon, before they ultimately are deposited in a realm of darkest fantasy, including a blotted-out sun and a showdown in a ruined abbey before entering the Red Realm, a prison plane, and, more importantly, a nasty place where insanity abounds and a silent hill-esque array of perception-tricks, as well as a harrowing escape await. The final two vignettes pit the PCs against the horrors of a full-blown China Miéville-style fantasy...and has them battle Fafnir. Who makes proper use of the kaiju-subtype. NICE!



Then, finally, the chaos of worlds ends and the palace and its 7 halls loom: Here, this book becomes a much more conservative killer-dungeon once again - with each of the massive halls providing ever-escalating danger as well as full-color maps with solid detail, though you should be aware that no blow-up 1-page versions are provided. In the first hall, massive, lavishly-illustrated briar worms, demonic apes and finally, the Great Beast await the PC's prowess - only to have to face down the mashine gun-like efficiency of the deadly archer Tianet - though personally, I used the Deadly Aim-feat when modifying Tianet's build - at her firing rate, the damage piles quicker up that way -oddly, this will not be the last they've seen of the huntress and smart fighting is rewarded here. In the Garden Hall, flytrap hydras and the Lich Queen's foster mother Grandmother Maugh await and the Hall of Grandeur pits the PCs ambitions as well as djinns to finally defeat another mentor of the queen - the erstwhile djinn-binder par excellence, turned into her mayor-domo, Ranalek the terrible. The 4th hall does offer a new challenge - the hall of pleasure, where the lich queen's consort awaits alongside untold pleasures that can destroy one's spirit, memory and thus, identities - in this gilded hell, the lich queen's consort is the gatekeeper and, upon defeating him, the PCs will note he in fact is an automaton - the true fate of the poor sort is cataloged in the adventure "Consort of the Lich Queen", which I do not own. Even if you don't have it, though, you'll notice something - obviously, Ayrawn has purged any thoughts of doubt from her mind to retain her sanity- perhaps the one shot the PCs truly have to defeat her - and defeat her they'll want after the next hall, wherein the PCs are subject to a nasty, never-ending array of tortures - which may permanently cripple them, if they are not smart enough to escape their mistress.



Speaking of smarts - a vast library may see the PCs fight - but only if they behave in a manner unfitting of the place - otherwise, they'll find an agrippa, a man turned into a tome and librarian, master who once told Ayrawn to purge memories from herself, seeking freedom - and offering a further piece with which the PCS may shake the immortal confidence of the legendary lich queen. In case your PC's swords have since then dried of viscera, the hall of bones will end that - while the lich queen's tutor and lich here also provides a further piece of information about a skull with which the PCs can shake the confidence of the legendary adversary, she also follows her commands and unleashes not only her own might, but also that of a vast horde of powerful undead - and yes, the combines stats span multiple pages.



Finally, after much tears, exposition and pain, the PCS can final track down Ayrawn in her Hall of Broken Mirrors - her and all her mayor allies not yet slain, rendering this confrontation potentially very, very nasty - worse, the lich queen's phylactery is the very dungeon itself and only by shaking her confidence, only by understanding, can the PCs cause a realmsquake and breach the phylactery...and only then will the lich queen truly be slain by their efforts. Should they achieve this miraculous feat, they'll bear witness to the collapse of dungeonlands and possibly even ascend beyond the providence of mere mortals - in any case, infinite possibilities await.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a few italicization glitches, minor errors in statblocks and the like, but seeing the size of this tome and the complexity of the statblocks, that is not surprising and well within the level of tolerance. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that conspires with a mix of gorgeous full-color and b/w artworks to render this book a truly beautiful book to behold -aesthetically, there is nothing to complain about here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and my hardcover sports nice, thick, matte high-quality paper and a shiny cover - all great in that regard.



Kevin Andrew Murphy, Darren Pearce, George "Loki" Williams, Allan Hoffman, Andrew Hoskins, Brendan LaSalle, Matthew Medeiros, Richard Moore, Monte Reed - this is one epic book and it was a fun ride to embark on. But also one that is terribly hard to rate.



Why? For one, there would be the issue of high-level gameplay requiring a lot of foresight - pre-written modules have a hard time properly predicting PC-capabilities and one massive issue with the first book was the arbitrary stripping of powers from PCs and the issues with rules-interactions. I am more than happy to report that this book sports NONE of these. Neither will you find "Pcs have to solve this EXACTLY like this"-solutions and similar issues - instead, this massive mega-adventure essentially provides vignettes, vistas and general storylines - you can skip through them at your leisure, ignore some, substitute your own or expand them to full-blown module length.



When handled properly, these vignettes can act as epic, never-ending climaxes - if you took the final scenes of a vast array of stories and stitched them together, a kind of cool-moment-collage, if you will. Better yet, where applicable, the places do sport nice rules-tidbits from mutation-tables to steampunk gadgets. While not all such tidbits are perfect, this is a module and the like is simply not the focus of this review. The world/planes-hopping vignettes ultimately can be a vast amount of fun if handled properly, but they could also go horribly wrong - if you are accustomed to handholding, extensive read-aloud texts and not good at making transitions and filling in the blanks of the respective vignettes, that may result in massive issues - essentially, do not expect any guidance beyond a basic plot-summary and the statblocks for the respective adversaries. Yes, this DOES include a lack of maps for the respective vignettes, but not one I'm going to fault the pdf for - why? Because the focus on cinematic transitions ultimately, at least here, does not require them necessarily. In my game, this went off pretty well after my players sopped trying for the analysis-route.



The second part is a more old-school killer-dungeon and it is very much worth the status as a finale - the palace itself is exceedingly deadly, full of iconic adversaries and challenges and provides a great way for the DM to provide some exposition regarding the dread lich queen. The background story, as written, is surprisingly intelligent and beyond what you'd expect from a killer-dungeon, so yeah - kudos here. On the downside, the lack of one-page maps to print out can be considered a comfort detriment.



So, what does that mean? It means that this module, more so than many others, will prove to be a very polarizing book. If you can see the vignette-style planes-hopping working for you, then chances are, you'll love this beast and enjoy it immensely. On the other hand, if you as a DM have problems generating transitions or fleshing out details on the fly, or if your players are all about the small details, then this one may result in some issues - the discrepancy between whether this will be awesome, or, well, not so great - it all very much depends on your group's tastes, capabilities etc..



At the same time, this book, unlike the first one, does not cheat in obtrusive ways - one instance where a sleeping gas may send players to their sleep sans DC or stats comes to mind, but, quite frankly, if DC 40 is too hard for the PCs at this point, they're doing it wrong anyways... So overall, this book can be considered indeed one of the few examples of high-level modules that truly managed to captivate me - the glimpses at realms beyond the regular, whether released or yet unpublished, is interesting indeed and provides some pretty imaginative ideas and a much needed change of pace, while also providing a sense of the epic to the whole experience.



It struggled quite a bit with how to describe this massive module - and the closest analogue was delivered by one of my players - this is pretty much a module-equivalent of an all-star-movie akin to Avengers - it provides components for each world and concept to shine and show what's cool about it - but there is, by virtue of its format, no room to linger on the individuals, to go into depth regarding the individual vignettes and their characters. So do not expect the module equivalent of primer or a TV drama, but rather that of a big-screen all-star action movie. Personally, I tend to prefer more detailed modules, which is also why I'm pretty happy to have been able to test this module in detail -and while I did not have an easy time as a DM and preparation did take a lot of time, the results proved to be very entertaining and my players, surprisingly, enjoyed the continuous barrage the weird of the continuum threw at them. While some minor oversights can be brought to field against this book, the amount of material that works and shows an understanding of the intricacies of Pathfinder does offset this in my book.



Yes, I'm rambling. My final verdict, ultimately, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform, while less experienced DMs should probably round down due to the significant skill this requires to pull off.

Personally, I loved the massive array of cool ideas spotlighted and hence, I'll add my seal of approval for the vast imaginative potential.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Palace of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
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Noir Knights Player’s Guide (Savage Worlds)
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/23/2015 23:22:03
This top-notch product is one of the better player's guides for one of the better Savage Suzerain lines. Let's break it down.

For just about as long as there have been RPGs with GMs and players there has been a division between player and GM material. This division supposedly existed to keep players from thinking about the game outside the mindset of their characters; for me, this helped about as much as learning to play chess by really trying to get into the mindset of the rook. It makes a lot of sense when you're smoking weed.

Or maybe there were business reasons. There's a lot more players in the world than GMs and so it makes sense to try to sell things to them. So let's put "Player's Guide" on the front of the book we're trying to sell to everyone.

Eventually I got tired of this. How am I supposed to know how to play the game when what the creative director, the GM, is supposed to do in the game is hidden from me? And the same was true for me as the GM. Games began to be more open with their methodologies and my games benefited for it.

However, after the development of open and relaxed game licensing in the early days of the 21st century, player's guides made a resurgence, since they no longer had to get across a whole new methodology of play. Instead, they instructed players on how to use their familiar tools and mechanics in order to achieve a new or more specialized goal. You didn't need to know how to play D&D3 all over again, but learning how to play this cool new class in this cool new fantasy world was worth talking about.

Into this new tradition comes the Noir Knights Player's Guide. I should note straightaway that the Noir Knights is my favorite of the universes of the Suzerain Continuum, a cross-worlds setting in which science fiction heroes can contend with mysterious fantasy wizzards, I mean wizards. As with many such cross-worlds settings, it doesn't quite bring together the reasons people might want to play a fantasy game or a sf game, but that's a review for another time.

Suffice to say that the reason I like Noir Knights the best is because it quickly and effectively establishes a style and communicates it well to the players. The world of the Noir Knights is like the American Depression, though dark forces are at work and the player characters are the only ones that can stand in its way.

I was very excited to see the Bonus Army march of spring 1932 as the catalyst for the beginning of the game and an emphasis on WWI veterans as a core membership of the player characters' Mysterious Group. And with the other significant faction of the game being based on a strange-science immigrant's work in a small town in Florida, the stage is set for a unique type of game. The player characters in most X-Files-esque supernatural-investigation games are backed by (say) a faceless government organization, they are often Company Men or active military with the best at their disposal, necessary against the weirdness right outside their doorstep. Night's Black Agents is a typical example of this.

Noir Knights is different. In Noir Knights player characters are run down to nothing, gassed by their own government for asking for fair pay, or for a widow's share. They are outcasts from normal society and may ride the rails or be the creepy old guy in a shack outside town who runs a huge metal pole out of the top of his homestead every time there's a lightning storm. The government has taken them on not because they're so thrilled with them but because if they don't the communists might get them; and besides, the authorities really are helpless as to what's going on, and the "ruizologists" and the "railwalkers", the thrown-away scum on the bottom of America's boot are the only ones that seem to be able to figure out what's going on.

In this setup I can easily get not just a cool character concept, but I can situate that concept in the world firmly. I know what it's going to be if I was a fresh faced draftee in 1917 - I know what it's going to be if I'm a Negro barnstorming boxer in a railyard - I know what it's going to be if I'm a forward-looking woman aviator. It's going to be contempt from our superiors, who are helpless against the real threat. I absolutely can't wait.

In fact, if there was anything that can be improved in the Noir Knights Player's Guide is that I feel like this core story needs to be brought to the fore more explicitly. There should be something - perhaps in the introduction, or in the gazetteer section - explicitly laying out why it matters to me, the player, that it was Bonus Army veterans and not Army regulars that are in this organization, why it matters that it's rail-riding castoffs that recognize the magical patterns of America and not President Roosevelt's technocratic educated elite. I think this is the key to why Noir Knights appeals to me so much, and the more it was explained and put both-feet-forward in the text I think the better it would be.

In general, this is a really solid Player's Guide, one of the best of this new era of player's guides based more around individual expression than mechanical explanation. It's highly recommended.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Noir Knights Player’s Guide (Savage Worlds)
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Set Rising Primer
by Ben S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/11/2014 06:30:56
A good overview of Set Rising which is itself an intriguing world setting. Pick up the Primer for free and take a look for yourself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Set Rising Primer
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Dungeonlands: Isle of the Frog God (Savage Worlds)
by Joseph H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2014 12:58:46
I picked this up as inspiration for the game I am currently running. I don't play this system, but from what I read through, this is a very good small setting with a lot of room for growth. The NPCs were clearly defined and the conflict at hand gives the players a great chance to pick one of many options to determine what they are going to do.

The included bestiary is great, even though I don't use this system. It will allow me to customize monsters/npcs in my own campaign to emulate them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Isle of the Frog God (Savage Worlds)
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Shanghai Vampocalypse (Savage Worlds)
by Dustin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/19/2014 16:21:44
Let me start off by saying Savage mojo had a very good idea, unfortunately if came up short in my opinion for a few simple reasons.

Lets start off with what I like about the product.

1. The history and setting are intense and dire; you feel and know the world is in a desperate place and there is no way to escape from it.
2. The Horror aspect of the campaign was done right, with slow build up and gradually increasing danger you and the PC's are sucked into the story.
3. The martial arts sections is a good resource (but requires some tweaking) for those players who have attempted to play a martial artist and found it impossible.

Now what I don't like
1. The Suzerien setting; my biggest qualm with Shanghai Vampocalypse is that you are required to use the Suzerien Continuum. If you're not familiar with this it's a system that adjust the rules of Savage worlds in order to allow your characters to play as “Demi-God's”
2. Lack of adaptability; this is really tied back to point one, but its a key factor for me. The Suzerien setting changes aspects of game play such as power points, due to this it's more difficult to import stock characters from supplements.
3. The Lack of maps; while it is true most people can make their own several of these locations are very specific, and because of that I feel that Savage Mojo should have included at least one or two key areas.

Currently I'm working to adjust the campaign to allow regular game play. I'm doing this by tweaking some of the characters in the campaign to fit into Interface Zero 2.0.
So while I feel that it has a great deal of merit I'm not sure that it was worth the full price I paid.
My advice would be to keep it in your wish list and wait for a price reduction (like the Savage September Sale) strip out the Suzerien rules and apply the campaign to another cyber-punk setting like Interface Zero 2.0 by Gun Metal Games or Daring tales of the Sprawl by Triple Ace Games.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shanghai Vampocalypse (Savage Worlds)
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Dungeonlands: Isle of the Frog God (Savage Worlds)
by Trev W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/18/2014 18:37:51
This is a good small adventure setting. The players will be under pressure and attacked by varied foes. They will have to survive by their wits and what they have with them or can scrounge.

Groth the demon god behemoth makes for a memorable opponent and should be a challenge. Groth’s immunities and resistances are very interesting. With preparation, a dm could make this very challenging, but give the players the tools to defeat it IF they use the right tools.

It would be far better if a map was included with this adventure. The style and design are pleasing to the eye, and there are some nice pictures, but no picture of Groth—there really should have been. A missed opportunity.

4/5

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Isle of the Frog God (Savage Worlds)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Trev. It\'s tough for a free product to do maps too because they take a lot of effort to do well and the cartographer has a right to eat. However, here\'s a thing we might do - what if Isle of the Frog God were available in two versions, with or without maps? With maps it\'s a paid product and without it\'s free? We could do that, if you think it\'d be of interest. Feedback like that helps us know what fans want, so it\'s always useful. Happy Suzeraining!
Suzerain Continuum
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/15/2014 09:39:42
Do you enjoy Suzerain? Good. Do you want to take your game further by exploring the different realms that use Suzerain as a base? Even better. Do you want to be able to move the party seamlessly between them? Excellent. Read on...

One of the most accomplished uses of PDF technology that I've seen, this work seeks to show you what is available within the overarching Suzerain concept and how to use it to create a sweeping epic that will take your characters into different realms. If you have several of the main settings already, you will find out how to link them and transition from one to another. If you are new to Suzerain, this will show you the potentials and enable you to make informed decisions about where you might take your game and which products you'll need to make it happen.

OK, it's an impressive bit of sales fluff! But if you want to know about the scope of Suzerain, understand how it all hangs together, you will have fun delving through this...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Suzerain Continuum
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Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2013 10:57:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mega-module is 142 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of backers-by-level, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 134 pages of content - quite a lot, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? We kick off this module in an unconventional way - via a full-blown short story by Kevin Andrew Murphy that depicts the legend of the Lich-Queen in a rather compelling narrative spanning a full 21 pages - the cliffnotes version would be that on a world, once there were tragic heroes/villains, gifted with the tears of the legendary angel Anat. By trickery and fate's tangled web, the protagonists escaped a cataclysm on their world, the wizardess essentially took possession of all the tears, becoming an immortal being leaching souls and the life-blood of said legendary angel. There, on an island called Paxectel, beyond space and probably, time, the Lich-Queen still waits, the Angel Anat still subject to a heinous torture, while mad Tismaya, adversary of the lich queen, still walks the lands.



After a short section of advice on the Suzerain-setting and placing the module, we are introduced to the cliché introduction of the module - it kicks off in a tavern. Yeah. But at least a bard plays a gorgeous song (fully depicted), allowing for a rather neat, fluffy means of providing background exposition to the PCs - especially since advice on tune etc. are provided as well If the PCs decide to follow the mysterious bard, they are swallowed by a vortex of energy. and unceremoniously dumped on Paxectel island (fully mapped, btw.!) - and here, in this pocket dimension, the PCs capabilities get crippled: Looking into another plane entails a will save (called willpower save here) to prevent taking damage. I assume this extends to the ethereal, but that's a minor detriment - worse would be the inability to summon creatures (apart from eidolons, which work as usual); Summoning-specialists are limited to creature-simulacra created by the island and may not choose to call specific creatures -no planar allies and the like. Per se an interesting fluff-restriction, but one that could have provided a more...tangible impact on the summoned beings for a unique experience - as provided, the results may even slip by your PCs completely. Another restriction would be: No inter-planar travel, no teleportation, no flight, unless via natural wings. while I get the intention, essentially, that's cheating. One of the things that makes designing high-level modules HARD is the fact that the PCs are that mobile - stripping them of the ability instead of making it unreliable or risky feels like an arbitrary crippling of grown abilities. I also take offense at the categorization of "only natural flight". What is natural? A wildshaped druid? A race/class with levitate or similar powers as racial abilities? What about characters that have gained access to flight as spell-like or supernatural abilities? Can eidolons still fly? We need hard guidelines to properly implement restrictions like this, cop out though they are.



All right, so a bunch of level 15+ PCs are stranded on this island in a pocket dimension -they probably start exploring immediately, gathering artifacts of the original heroes/former companions of the Lich Queen. Here, I honestly almost ragequit this review. No. Seriously. Why? because this module HAS NO MAPS. Yes. No maps. There is a free web-enhancement that includes some bonus encounters as well as cards with parts of maps on them - but these cards have no grid and the map-component makes up about 1/2 of the card - useless for map-purposes. And know what? There is a map-supplement! It's a separate pdf costing.... 30 bucks. Yes, immensely detailed etc. But know what? Why not provide minor maps for the module they're selling it? Oh, and Dungeon Tiles... + 15 bucks, yet another separate pdf. let's do the math, shall we? 20 bucks+30 bucks+15=? 65 bucks. Pdf-only. You still have to print these. OUCH. And no, I don't have these supplemental pdfs.



Now to be fair, we get a way to use d10s+d20s to choose rooms, but still - this lack of regular maps makes the whole experience of trying to picture this dungeon jarring at best.... Which is a damn pity. For the unique constructs of the puzzle/living dungeon/deathtrap lying under the island brims with imagination - diminutive engineers, alternate flesh and iron golems - wow. Now let's take a look at the rooms, shall we? Well, there's for example a room with colored tiles, in which a strange melody is playing - a melody that contains the key to solving the trapped floor-puzzle. Why no fly over it? Oh, wait. You can't. Flying's forbidden. *sigh* And yes, disabling the traps brute force is possible - but it's weird since we don't have a map to show us how many of these tiles are there. Or what about a poison gas chamber that can be bypassed either by a rogue or by committing a selfless act? Crushing corridors, deadly sound-emitting statues or blood moss? Rather cool, though the latter fails to properly use the grapple-mechanics for what is clearly a grapple in lieu of opposing strength-checks. There also is a cool illusion, but no strength of the aura/spell mentioned to properly handle high-level magic ways to bypass it. And yes, dealing with Trismaya the Mad, the adversary of the Lich Queen (no less dangerous than the Lich Queen) and unearthing information from her ramblings is also required. Have I mentioned a deafening discourse with the voices from beyond?

Among the deadly, and lavishly illustrated adversaries herein, we also find a vampiric ranger, a unique outsider (the champion of woe) and an inexplicably CN movanic deva (which makes no sense, seeing the good-subtype and lack of any in-game rationale why he's not fallen), a planetar and then, finally, the final boss encounters, one of which is a red-gold hybrid dragon (!!!) and the second, guarded by a CR 20-trap (!!!) would be a false CR 17 lich queen - after which the way into her deadly puzzle machinery that whirs behind the dungeon's walls is finally opened - here the second module will begin upon release.



The final 20 pages contain further adversaries to populate the dungeon - and the builds are AWESOME: These are deadly, lavishly-illustrated, awesome foes, well-worthy, deadly high-level builds - from cool and creepy to Rhino-slug weird, a cool mini bestiary/NPC-collection!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column standard that is easy to read and stunning to look at - well fitting for a premium product! The same can be said about the excessive, vast amount of super full-color and b/w-artworks (the latter of which are rather scarce) - though veterans of 3.X-days may know some, though by far not all of the character-artworks from Bastion Press' "Allies and Adversaries"-supplement. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but sans a printer-friendly version - which is bad, since this pdf will extol a BRUTAL drain on your printer.



Örks. An excessive background story, a dungeon of tomb of horrors-deadliness-level, supreme production values...what's not to like? Indeed, this module is a meat-grinder, a challenge, a module to brag about when surviving. A high-level challenge. Full of superb prose, cool characters, imaginative monsters. A module that mentions a lot of PFRPG-builds, utilizes spells etc. well and overall, can be considered not only well-crafted on a basic level, but actually well-written - copious, awesome read-aloud-text helps prospective DMs run this. And yes, it breathes the spirit of old-school adventuring while hitting high level high fantasy notes. On the one hand - on the other, this module fails - the artifacts of the former heroes/erstwhile companions of the Lich Queen get no proper item-stats, here and there are inappropriate mechanics used to resolve challenges. And then, there's the final issue on a content-level:



The module cheats in the worst tradition from the old-school days: The fiat. Abilities don't fit your idea? Flat-out ban them. There, I said it. The CHALLENGE of high-level design is not cranking up the numbers, it's about dealing with the possibilities at the PC's disposal. Flight and Teleportation being chief among them. Just flat-out banning them is a cop-out. And that's not the only instance. If you scrape the beautiful surface, you'll notice a lot of these problems in the details - from missing school-auras to not using the proper, existing tools to e.g. craft illusions etc. (thus including ways to bypass them), this pdf, with all its at times neat knowledge of details and usage of supplements feels like it at times just didn't care and instead only DM-fiats solutions. Much like a railroady videogame, the challenges herein usually have ONE proper solution that you're supposed to go for. Cleverly using the abundant resources gets you nowhere as a player - and worse, often the intended solutions don't follow the logic of the available resources, whereas at times, the supplement makes SUPERB use of them and the respective rules. Nevertheless, as much as I'm loathe to say it - cheating players out of resources is bad design with a capital "B" in my book.



That being said, when tackled on its own, this module still should be considered a joyous read and the meta-complaints I just fielded can be offset with a good DM. What's really problematic would be the lack of maps.

Call me a jerk, call me old.school, but I don't care for any amount of gorgeous artworks or 20 pages of short story when I don't get FRIGGIN' MAPS for 20 bucks. Yes, this book is beautiful and yes, I get that the dungeon is supposed to be modular - but know what would help? Maps of the rooms. Maps that don't require me to spend an additional 30 bucks (+ potentially 15) to get the maximum out of this module. And yes, the additional map-packs may be the cream of the crop, the nirvana of maps - but what does that help me when the supplement that uses them does not even feature low-res or downscaled rudimentary versions?

As written, the encounters and characters are superb, the text great - but sans a map, the whole complex remains opaque in its dimensions, possible connections etc. I'm honestly, even after weeks, still pissed at the omission of what is not just decor (like the gorgeous artworks), but rather a central component of any module. Think about similar premium products: Rappan Athuk, Razor Coast etc. (and yes + maps, this comparison is justified) - you get 3-5 times the content AND MAPS. You can get map-packs in addition, but they are not omitted from the mega-module. Think how an AP would stand up if Paizo told you: "Want maps? You HAVE to buy our (kinda optional) map-packs, no more maps in the APs. But we'll make them really big and shiny." Would you be ok with that? Thought so. Now think about said products and how to run them sans maps. Get my drift? I don't care how good the 30-buck map-pack is, selling a 20-buck module sans cartography is just an insult in my book, especially sans pointing out the lack of proper maps.



It's been a while since I've been so conflicted about a product - on the one hand, I love the NPCs, creatures, storyline and several of the challenges herein - as a toolbox to scavenge, this is awesome. On the other, I have rarely been so frustrated by a module, so pissed off by a product. From the lack of a printer-friendly version to the lack of maps to the writing cheating PCs out of some of their best tricks to make the module work, I feel like this pdf, when it had the chance to revolutionize what one can expect from dungeon crawls, opted to go for a beautiful polish and then made essential components add-ons. Where's the printer-friendly version?



It took me some time to get what made me so annoyed by an otherwise great supplement - it's that this pdf is inconsiderate. From the lack of maps to the lack of a printer-friendly version to a lack of consideration regarding high-level character options, this module is superbly written, yes. But it also says "Here's the way to do this - and that's the way. Have problems with it? Want comfort? Tough luck." And honestly, for me as a person...In spite of loving the characters and set-up and the adversaries and often creative traps, this module is ruined by not being able to use them since they're cheating by taking player-resources out of the game in the first place, when they instead could have worked WITH the options. Created teleportation-puzzles, ones that require planar callings etc. - working with the system instead of against it. For me as a private person, this module fails to deliver what it sets out to do - utterly. As a reviewer, though, I have to take into account that you might not mind the non-standard rules here and there or perhaps you just have money I frankly don't have and just shrug the maps away, saying "Pff, Endzeitgeist has no idea, with these maps the module is the best thing ever and I don't care about players being cheated out of some of their abilities!" - I can't verify this, but I have to take it into account. This pdf is production quality-wise 5 stars +seal of approval, content-wise a 3.5 and for me personally, a 1-star disappointment. As a reviewer, taking into account the feelings of others and different takes on what's important etc., I'll instead settle on a final verdict of 3 stars. Caveat Emptor, though. I can't verify it, but you should probably get the 30-buck-map-pack as well.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen (Pathfinder)
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Gamescapes: Story Maps: Distant Planet 1
by Justin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2013 00:21:32
The dark features are too dark and don't print well. Also, the images on each page take up only part of the page, but are centred so close to the top that in some cases the top line doesn't fully print. If you're going to have an image fill only part of the page, why have it almost touching the very top of the page?

I like the concept of it, but frankly can't recommend it as it currently is set up.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Gamescapes: Story Maps: Distant Planet 1
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Clockwork Dreams Character Options
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/18/2013 12:20:13
Beautifully-presented introduction to Savage Mojo's 'faerie meets steampunk' setting covering races and skills. There's an opening timeline with some flavour text which is unreadable due to an over-fancy background, but then things settle down to an ancient parchment style that doesn't obscure what is being said.

The first topic under discussion is the skills that your character can have, and how he can use them to best effect... and the underlying game mechanics that you will have to understand to do so. They are alchemy and invention, both based around the character's Smarts, and will be suitable for those - faerie or not - who want to be the tinkerers and experimenters in this setting. There are also specialised Knowledge skills, of the sky and the land of the campaign world.

Next comes a selection of racial edges, which will come into play based on which race you choose for your character. Not just edges, there are hindrances and special abilities as well. They are nicely balanced and fit well with conventional lore about sidhe, brownies, goblins, elves and the like, yet flow well into a steampunk setting.

Interesting material especially if you anticipate a lot of faerie characters in your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clockwork Dreams Character Options
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Dungeonlands: Fear of Life (PDF)
by Keith (. T. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/15/2013 19:13:24
This is an illustrated Story by Matt Forbeck for Dungeonlands:Tomb of the Lich-Queen from their Kickstarter of the same name. You may remember Matt from Brave New Worlds and the formation of Pinnacle Entertainment Group with Shane Hensley to publish Deadlands. Yup, that Matt Forbeck.

The story shares how two adventurers, Lexa & Skargar, team up and descend into an ancient tomb... and discover the horror that is the Tomb of the Lich-Queen. It's a short story and doesn't spill all the beans but gives a nice introduction. The illustrations are well done. It seems to be quite a bit of art for such a short story. It's a very quick read so $1.99 might be a little high but it's only $1.99. For a full review of all the Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich-Queen see: https://rptroll.blogspot.com

Enjoy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Fear of Life (PDF)
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Dungeonlands: Into The Black (Savage Worlds)
by Keith (. T. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/15/2013 19:07:57
The Dungeonlands: Into the Black for Savage Worlds is more of a monster listing than an adventure. The work is essentially a 7 page full color teaser: the Cover, 2 pages of the encounter, and 4 pages of Suzerain adverts. Fair enough! The encounter is a great nasty Toparkil; a darkly enchanted undeadish aquatic lurker. It reminds me of the Watcher in the Water by the magic back door to Moria in Lord of the Rings with some very nasty differences. Put this critter in a deep dark pool in your dungeon and let the fearful fun ensue. And did I mention, it's free? Smartly done. I was now curious. What is Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen? read the full review of Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich-Queen: http://rptroll.blogspot.com

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands: Into The Black (Savage Worlds)
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Caladon Falls: The Noble Houses of Caladon
by Matthew M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2013 15:40:27
This is a good-sized document offered free of charge. I'll begin by saying that I have difficulty in coming up with names. I found this offering to be very helpful in that it detailed, as the name says, noble houses in the Caladon setting. I don't recall all this author's or design teams' work, but they offer a small handful of other free PDF documents. I am happily satified with this product and will use it to spur my own creativity in future adventures and stories. It is provided free of charge, therefore a true bonus. High marks.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Caladon Falls: The Noble Houses of Caladon
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Dungeonlands Original Soundtrack
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/04/2013 17:41:34
Let’s start with the most obvious plus: this is beautiful, inspiring music. I can’t really place it in the context of Dungeonlands, because I don’t know anything about Dungeonlands and the only Savage Mojo products I use are system-neutral (maps and such). Therefore, I can’t comment on whether or how the music fits the implicit storyline. But I can tell you that “Anat’s Lament” is haunting, “Heroes Arrive” is epic, and “Battle for the Catacombs” takes a while to build up to its exciting peak. Each of the six tracks comes in two versions, its standard version and then a “trailer version” that is more or less half the length of the standard version.

Now for the bad part: if you’re thinking about using these tracks as soundscapes to score an RPG session, I think you’ll be disappointed. Each individual track has a lot of ups and downs within itself, making for great listening but poor backgrounding. There are also a lot of vague choral vocals that could distract from your speech around the table. Also, the tracks don’t loop. At all. The beginnings and especially the endings are much too distinct for that, and the tracks are short enough (ranging from 3:31 to 6:37 for the non-trailer versions) for the transition to be very noticeable. Compositions like these could be great in a movie where the length of the scene and the length of the music correspond precisely; they are not so good at the gaming table, where the length of a scene can be unpredictable. I’ve never known an RPG meeting with a dragon to take precisely 5:43, for example.

And so the value of this product depends on its purpose. I won’t be using any of these tracks at the gaming table, because of the looping problem I mentioned earlier. However, I’m very glad to have this music in my listening library. It’s great for inspiration while I plan and prepare as a GM.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeonlands Original Soundtrack
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Savage Suzerain (Savage Worlds)
by Doug P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2012 13:11:18
Expands the Savage Worlds system to a level useful for a wide range of genres. Could easily be used to
convert Rifts or Unknown Armies to the SW system. We will definitely be using it for our local campaigns.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Suzerain (Savage Worlds)
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