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Courts of the Shadow Fey
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2015 08:19:42

Rather box product. Nice presentation as usual. Huge potential for adventure. On the down side, the authors vivid imagination makes the plot very complicated and a bit intimidating for the DM (or maybe I am just a bit thick!)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
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Midgard Bestiary for AGE System Vol. 1
by Arthur R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/24/2015 08:08:23

The Midgard Bestiary has a nice layout that reminds me of Black Industries WFRP Bestiary, which was one of the better bestiaries to come out around the time I stopped buying monster manuals for my games. Each creature entry gets a full page two-column layout, containing a descriptive title-blurb followed by a full description with illustration and its stat block. Illustrations are in color or B&W and consume approximately 25% of each page. I picked this up because I already own the Midgard setting and Fantasy-AGE. The stat-block is written for Dragon-AGE and I do hope the author takes the time to offer conversion notes for those of us using the newer AGE Stat Block. This is still a great purchase and now all of my rivers will be populated with packs of Eel Hounds. Players beware!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for AGE System Vol. 1
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Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/22/2015 08:31:25

Beautifully illustrated and presented, this is a massive adventure that takes the party into the realm of shadows and embroils them in the chaos and intrigue that accompany the transistion between the Summer Court of the Queen of Night and Magic and the altogether darker machinations of the Winter Court of the Moonlit King. You cannot trust the Fey, never more so than here...


It all begins as the Moonlit King discovers that House Stross no longer holds sway in Zobeck (he's a bit behind the times, poor dear) and so all the arrangements and treaties that he had with House Stross are now null and void. Unsurprisingly, he's rather cross about it all!


The adventure itself is constructed as five segments that would take a party from 7th to 11th level in the course of some 30 encounters (although they need not have them all to complete the adventure successfully). The key to it all is a neat mechanic for determining Status - because the Fey are nothing if not snobbish and elitist, and if you are of insufficient Status they do not care how reasoned your argument is, how strong your sword arm is or even how big your bribe might be! A party that successfully rises in Status will get their audience and be able to put their case to the Moonlit King.


All starts abruptly as the party is called away from whatever they might be doing in Zobeck to aid a senior cleric who is being attacked - in his very temple, no less. A tough fight is followed by a quest to find out why the poor priest was being attacked and this will lead the characters into the adventure proper. A series of strange events beleaguer the people of Kobeck, and so it all begins.


To succeed, the party needs to be smart and diplomatic as well as adept with spell and sword... and that's before they venture onto the Shadow Road and attempt to navigate their way through the Courts of the shadow fey! Then they will really need their wits about them! Strange things happen in the shadow realms. The encounters reflect this well, with some truly memorable and outright wierd events to throw at the party. This is where the Status mechanic comes into play: everything they do (or omit to do) affects the party's standing: to the level that some encounters only become available as they rise in Status to a sufficient level.


The Court is massive and the party will be able to roam around, and perhaps interact with those denizens who deign to actually notice them. Eventually (we hope!) they will gain sufficient Status to be treated as guests rather than intruders, and the place comes alive about them. There is a great feast, the menu of which is part of the adventure in itself... and then it's time for the Duelling Season. The fey, it seems, love their duels. Mechanically, a Quick Duelling system is provided - and of course it also links back to Status.


The climax of the adventure comes when the party gains an audience with the Moonlit King. And the outcome? There are several possibilities, including supplanting him and taking over the shadow realm! The most likely conclusion sees the party returning to Zobeck, with many tales that mere mortals may find hard to believe!


Much is twisted, distorted, wierd... and as GM there is a lot to keep track of, so prepare well. Everything's well-presented (apart from a tendency for the text and the fancy borders to encroach on one another at times, so the odd word is hard to read), and most of the information is just where you need it. The PDF version is well-bookmarked, if running from a book you may want to put in some markers of your own.


Bringing out the sheer otherness of the fey, this adventure is like none other and should provide a memorable element of your campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Legends
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/21/2015 08:16:44

At first glance, this is an odd book. It's a collection of various snippets about Midgard... yet it makes more sense as you leaf through, for here are some of the legends, the stories Midgardians tell around the fire... the stories that one day your characters might feature in as they in turn create their own legends. For legends inspire heroes - whilst if you are the GM, maybe they'll spawn ideas for adventures of your own which you can use to help the party write its own tales that are worth the telling.


First of all we are introduced to Abderus, the first mage-lord of House Stross. If you have already got deep into the fabric of Midgard, you'll know what House Stross is (they're the former ruling family of what is now the Free City of Zobeck if you are wondering), but there's some more history here than hitherto published and a few spells that Abderus is said to have developed. This sets the pattern, a weaving-together of stories about people, places and events and relevant game mechanics which you can make use of in your own games. Items, spells, monsters, feats... all sorts of stuff, even some full character write-ups of those who still might be around. It's quite hard to keep track of it all!


Many entries have a 'using this legend' section with ideas for making use of that particular legend in your own plotlines. These may only be a sentence or two, but there are a lot of them and most could spawn an entire adventure (or more) depending on how you choose to use them. To use these to best effect, you'll need to seed the legends - how else will the characters know to act upon them else?


There are all manner of hidden delights. Perhaps a paranoid wizard might cast Incantation of the Uttered Cognomen Overheard, a delightful little spell that not only notifies you if someone's mentioned your name, you also get to see his location and surroundings. Or perhaps you fancy chasing Glatisant, the Questing Beast? This bizarre chimera seems to exist solely for the purpose of being pursued by young adventurers! Or maybe you would like your journey shortened by Hune the Doorlord? He can open a mystical door between anywhere and someplace else - if you can pay his price.


There are legends here indeed. Use them wisely and more shall be written... but an index of all the goodies tucked away in these pages would have helped! That aside, it brings Midgard to life, for only a place that is rich and deep has such legends to be told.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Legends
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/15/2015 08:01:28

This is a collection of information and adventures that really brings home the 'otherness' of the Midgard campaign setting... and the brief introduction highlights this, speaking of the epic adventures to be had when exploring remote and exotic islands at the far ends of the ocean. In Midgard, oceans do have ends, or at least edges, because the world is actually flat!


In this supplement, the geography of the Western Ocean is laid out ready for exploration, with sections on the Greater and Lesser Islands. Adventure seeds and notes to aid you in making it exciting to explore and scattered throughout and there are several complete adventures at the end, as well as new monsters and items to be used as you see fit.


The first section looks at the Greater Islands, beginning with Barsella, a free city billed as 'the city at the end of the world'. It's a major trading port and a haven for explorers - and it's governed by a council of seafaring families who understand that burning need to take ship and see what's over the horizon. Of course, there are wildly-differing reports of what is to be found over the horizon and many of the ships which venture out into the blue fail to return. Those that do, however, are filled with massive wealth and their crews have many a fantastic tale to tell, so there is never any shortage of vessels seeking to brave the trip or crews to sail them. There is a map of the city and details of notable locations and the people to be found there. One interesting feature is Saints' Lot, where many people who have survived shipwreck are to be found: they are termed 'Saints' by the townsfolk. Or perhaps you'd rather explore the caves underneath the city? A few regional traits and some adventure seeds finish off the city description.


Next comes the Isle of Morphoi. Despite tall cliffs and no ports, it is home to some very interesting inhabitants... a rich and strange lot they are, and is that a goddess I see lurking amongst them? Be wary, there are strange magics about as well... again, there are notes on locations and notable residents, as well as ideas for adventures here.


The next section covers myriad Lesser Islands, each with maps and notes and other useful information about them. They all have a tropical feel - think Pacific islands or perhaps somewhere like the Maldives - with beaches and coral atolls abounding. Some islands are volcanic and others display temporal instability! There is even one 'island' that is a great sea-beast which swims the ocean, making mapping its location rather difficult... and upon occasion it dives. Whenever there are strange occurrences or effects, the relevant game mechanics are supplied. And then there is the edge of the world itself, complete with Terminus Island and what lies beyond and below...


The Monsters section presents a selection of strange beasties that are to be found on the islands or in the waters around them. Perhaps you'd like to catch a prismwing, a beautiful yet dangerous bird, lightweight but with a wide wingspan and a long needle-like beak. Tall tales have been told about ferocious totem poles that lumber across clearings chasing the unwary... or are they true? Or have you heard the one about the giant made of bronze filled with a fiery ichor that serves as its lifeblood? The items that follow are equally strange and linked in to the setting.


Finally, there are five full-blown adventures which focus on the themes of exploration and discovery. They could be used as the framework around which to build a campaign set in the Western Ocean, beginning with a 1st-level adventure set in Barsella then taking the party to visit many of the islands described here in successive adventures, ending with a 9th-level one that could end with the characters as major players in the region or founders of a colony of their own. Hints are provided for what could go on between the set adventures with options for exploration, trade or even a spot of piracy. The adventures are exciting, with plenty going on and opportunities to exercise the brain as well as the sword-arm (one is a muder mystery and anoter a search for a ghost ship, yet another involves a daring rescue). Many a song could be written or tale told about those who navigate them successfully.


Overall, if you like nautical adventures and exploration, this is an ideal resource mixing setting and adventure. My one complaint is that there is no overall map of the Western Ocean, although individual islands and locations are well-provided with maps and plans. Beautifully-presented and jam-packed with ideas for adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Further North: A PDF Companion to Northlands (PFRPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/14/2015 07:35:32

Designed as a supplement to the Northlands sourcebook, this short PDF has a lot packed into its pages.


The section headings can be a bit confusing until you realise that they refer to the chapters in Northlands. First up, to go with material in Chapter 1 of that tome are some delightful short thumbnail sketches of 'guests at the feast' - ten characters who will add colour to any gathering. Designed for role-playing, if you decide that you want stat blocks for any of them you will have to attend to that for yourself, although in most cases you are at least told what class they are. Next, should you run a Thing there are several adventure ideas: people who have come to place a particular issue before the Thing or who otherwise might attract attention.


Next comes a section on magic, which references Chapter 4 of Northlands. There's the concept of 'reskinning' magic, tweaking existing spells to fit in with the style and atmosphere of the North, with several examples to show you what is meant. There's a new artefact and several wondrous items which all fit the legends of the North too... or just the environment. How about a pair of snowshoes that leaves no tracks?


Finally, there is further material aimed at Chapter 6: Bestiary of the Northlands book. Again it looks at reskinning monsters, with a lengthy list of ideas, and presents some new beasties as well. Strange deadly creatures called frostveils and the sea wolf, a vicious and aquatic creature with the body of a shark, the neck of a snake, the face like a wolf and mouth of dragon's fangs... or so it is said. Barbarians may take their rage powers from the Way of the Sea Wolf if they wish.


Some nice material to add to your game if you are using Northlands and some may be of use if you have your own 'lands of the frozen north' setting, but it is closely bound up with the Northlands of Midgard.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Further North: A PDF Companion to Northlands (PFRPG)
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Midgard Campaign Setting
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2015 11:36:12

The foreword explains the origins of Midgard as Wolfgang Baur's own home game setting that he's been building since he was 14, and how it is amazing even to him to see the piles of scribbled notes and sketched maps that he ran games from turned into a full-colour proper book! Like many gamers I've long enjoyed creating my own worlds to adventure in, but few of us have the talent, perseverence and opportunity to share them with anyone other than their gaming group. This one is replete with a depth that comes of some 25 years of dreaming, writing and playing, jam-packed with lots going on never mind what adventurers might be doing yet plenty of opportunities for them to get involved or carve their own path. Just what you want in a campaign setting!


Chapter 1: Welcome to Midgard gives a high-level overview of the world. It's a place with a rich history of heroes that has fallen on dark times, a place waiting for new heroes to arise. For anyone who might think that this sounds like many other campaign worlds, seven differences between Midgard and 'standard' fantasy settings are laid out. For a start it is flat. In a quasi-mediaeval world, you might expect plenty of people to think that their world is flat, but this one really is flat. With edges. There are ley lines, utilised by the elves. Dragons are linked to the elements, and enjoy ruling whatever they can get their claws on, as well as the traditional dragon pursuit of amassing a good hoard. There are novel races, each with their own history and place in the world, as well as the standard fantasy human, elf, dwarf and so on. Personal prestige is important. The deities meddle with what goes on in mortal life. And it's not a static place. Boundaries between kingdoms change. Dynasties rise and fall. The party may have a chance to influence - even instigate - such change, but happen it will whatever they do.


The epic sweep of Midgard's creation (or at least, what is known and surmised about it) is then explained. Naturally all deities claim to have made it, but it's likely that they are lying. The creation myth told by the Northlanders is probably closer to the truth, but who knows? Races came and went, kingdoms rose and fell, a succession through giants and then elves until now when, although the other races are still around, humans take a more prominent role. Naturally the succession has rarely be peaceful with rebellions and wars... and if battlefield strife was not bad enough, the wizards cut loose too and waged war with arcane powers, leading to great swathes of devastation. And then the dragons and the vampires emerged to stake their claims... Ending with events of the last hundred years, the chapter finishes with a discussion of time, planets and dates. Flat or not, Midgard has a sun that rises in the east and sets in the west, not that anyone knows just what happens to it when it is not in view. There are moons and planets around as well. Naturally there are quite a few festivals and holidays to celebrate.


Next is Chapter 2: Heroes of Midgard. This provides details about the major races and assorted minor ones to be found in Midgard. It includes fascinating snippets and a wide range of variation within races, depending on where they hail from - things that create a diverse society and plenty of options for those seeking to create characters truly embedded in the lands from which they come. Humans, dragonkin, dwarves, elves, the gearforged, kobolds, and minotaurs make up the major races, and whilst some are well known, those that are not are described in sufficient detail to empower players who wish to experiment with a novel race for their character. There are seven minor races as well, ones who - as well as being less familiar as player-character races - are only found in specific parts of the world. There's a note on languages, and then it's on to a collection of Midgard-specific feats and traits. No matter where your character comes from, there is a range of traits that he can choose between, all providing distinctive regional and racial flavour.


The book goes on to describe the seven major regions of Midgard, geographically and culturally distinctive, with each getting its own chapter. In the middle of the world is Crossroads, then there are the Rothenian Plain, the Dragon Empire, the Seven Cities, the Wasted West, the Domains of the Princes, and the Northlands. Each has a wealth of description and some detailed maps to help you get a feel for the lay of the land. Crossroads can be a bit of a melting-pot of cultures, and at its heart is the Free City of Zobeck, which already has a sourcebook and an adventure collection of its own. Here there are brief notes and its coat of arms (the blazon is not quite right, the shield is not quartered but divided per pale - the full blazon is per pale gules and or, a gearwheel counterchanged if you really want to know!), plenty for a brief visit although if your game is going to spend much time there, get a copy of the Zobeck Gazetteer. Of particular note are references to magic unique to Zobeck, the Clockwork School and the School of Illumination Magic. The discussion moves on to trade, with loads of detail about trading companies, trade routes and so on, then to mercenary companies and many other locations that are to be found in the Crossroads area. The sheer wealth of detailed information packed in here is quite amazing... it spawns adventure ideas, never mind being useful if you already have reason to tread these lands. Numerous kingdoms, organisations, individuals and locations are all here...


And so it continues through chapter after chapter until all seven regions are described. As you read, the roots of Midgard begin to show: Middle European folk tales and legends, often the darker nightmare-inspiring end of things. But there is much more. A cluster of halflings around the great World Tree of Domovogrod, nomads roaming vast plains with a 'city on wheels' that travels around, as nomadic as the people it serves. There are spreading forests and towering mountains, strange customs and stranger titles... never mind the beings bearing them. Every region has distinctive spells, equipment and more. Throughout, there are suggestions for adventure, rooted in the people and places you are reading about at the time. The richness of this setting is matched by how integrated it is: sometimes you read of a campaign world where it seems a human world with other races tacked on because a fantasy world ought to have them: here they belong, as integral a part of the setting as any other creature.


After the regional chapters, there is a chapter detailing the pantheon of Midgard. It takes things much further than the usual list of deities and the domains over which they have influence, though. These gods are properly mysterious, they and their ways cannot be understood and categorised by mere mortals. Sometimes aloof, they can be jealous - it's said that the best way to attract one god's attention is to worship another one! - and are said to interfere in mortal affairs. Through a system of 'masks' deities are able to walk the land and meddle in whatever takes their interest. Mechanically, there are new domains and spells and the concept of the pantheistic priest. This novel cleric worships the five gods designated as the major powers wherever he lives, each week chosing one of them to venerate and receiving access to the appropriate domains. The underlying reasons for why the gods of Midgard are as they appear are explained, but this is a matter properly for the GM: even their clerics and most fervent devotees do not know! There's a lot of material here, enough to keep the keenest student of theology busy. Finally, an Appendix provides resources for those who'd like to use the Midgard setting with the AGE system rather than Pathfinder.


It's the sort of world that you feel that you could take a lifetime exploring it and still feel that you have only scratched at the surface. This is a book to dip into, to browse through, to read again and again. Whether you like to prowl in the woods, roam vast plains, travese deserts or trudge through deep snow, there is adventure and excitement and things to see and do at every turn. Primarily a book for GMs, there's a series of Player's Guides to the different regions available, if you want your players to learn more about where their characters are without giving away too many secrets. In sheer depth and richness, this setting is hard to beat - and one wonders just how so much is packed into 'only' just under 300 pages!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
by Javier G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2015 09:25:25

I bought the pdf yesterday. Now, I'm fairly new to DnD in general, and I'm no rules expert, but I've enjoyed reading this book. The crunch matches the fluff nicely, which is more important to me than any concern for balance, and the little changes made to former monsters when converting them to PC material are really clever and well thought. The Darakhul and the Gearforged are not exactly treated like undead and construct types, respectively, but more like a hybrid subtype of Humanoid. The trollkin has some regenerative capabilities that are flavorful without looking too powerful.


The only thing I didn't like was the inclusion of the Alseid instead of a more iconic creature, like the Dust Goblin. The race has weak hooks for going out adventuring, and the traits really didn't strike me as particularly attractive to play.


Also, I've found particularly annoying that many races don't have a known life expectancy. I mean, if you are supposed to play one of these races, you would think they would know how much they can expect to live, right? It's not an account from a foreigner, this is supposedly information commonly known by individuals of said race. It just doesn't make any sense to me.


All in all, this is a solid product for the line. I'm hoping here WotC will finally release an OGL or some other clear guideline that would allow KP to publish more books for 5th edition. The line deserves more books like this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2015 07:41:56

Designed as a supplement to Dark Worlds and Golden Hells, the planar sourcebook for the Midgard campaign setting, the Introduction notes that most of the material herein just didn't fit into it or, in one case, was thought maybe a bit too dark for the main book. So if you fancy sending your party to explore the wonders and wierdnesses of the planes and want even more to put before them, jump right in.


It opens with that problematic item (apparently one individual disliked it so much that they dropped out of the project altogether!), which is a new 'other location', a plane of sheer horror which it is likely the party will end up in by accident as you cannot really imagine anyone wanting to go there. Called Mora, it is evil-aligned and takes the form of a rocky island in a dark sea. It is filled with female spirits, porportedly neglectful mothers, and riven with fear. Brooding lonliness and sheer panic await those who venture here, a madness that traps wanderers and is hard to escape. Here too, stolen children are auctioned off by bogeymen. It's a vivid reminder that there's a lot of nasty stuff out there... whether you want it in your game is up to you, but it should only be used with care and full knowledge of your players. Someone with childhood trauma in their past might find this too challenging for something that is, after all, supposed to be fun.


There's a brief piece of fiction associated with the Rusty Gears locale described in Dark Worlds and Golden Hells, then it's on to a collection of planar traps, hazards and afflictions that you can place as appropriate when your party is wandering the planes. Perhaps you want to confuse with some non-Euclidean angles, strange shapes your eye slithers off as your brain fails to understand what's going on; or maybe pass around some dead stone, rock from which the very essence of being a stone has leached away. Its very touch is said to make a dwarf cry. There are strange diseases and poisons here, and if you don't find the planes wierd enough, mind-bending drugs.


Then there are magical and wondrous items - some cursed, of course. One catches my eye (because I'm going to be marking some exam papers after my lunch break): a bottled memory. I wonder if any of the students have remembered what they needed to know? They can be useful, entertaining or informative... and then there's faerie food. Many will know it's not a good idea to eat it, but here are the relevant game mechanics to deal with those who do.


Finally there's a Bestiary (which includes a template for creating an Imaginary Friend) and some NPCs.


If you already have Dark Worlds and Golden Hells this could prove a useful adjunct but if you don't it makes far less sense. I don't think I want to actually visit Mora, but it could spawn a few good legends and tales to scare any would-be planar travellers: something that lurks in the shadows rather than occupies centre-stage. The items and traps and other perils are particularly good, they are the real reason to add this book to your library.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
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The Lost City
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/03/2015 16:27:29

This excellent. I did not run the full adventure. It I stole huge swathes for interesting encounters for 15 to 16th level characters. Well done. Quality document too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost City
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Dark Roads & Golden Hells (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2015 09:01:44

So you have grown weary of trampling around your campaign world (be it a published one or one of your own invention) and would like to take the party somewhere really different? Then perhaps a jaunt into another plane of existence might be in order...


Chapter 1: Lore of the Planes gets straight down to business, starting with philosophical musings about what the planes actually are (as much as you can imagine then a whole lot more, apparently!). To make it a bit more comprehensible, think of them as tangible representations of concepts and ideas. The main ones are based on the alignments - things like Good and Evil, Law and Chaos - but you might find ones for Art or Music, Beauty or Trade... only they come and go as people find different ideas of importance. You also find the souls of those who have finished their mortal existence here, perhaps making their way to the Underworld or onwards to some final destination with a few devout ones being gathered in by the deity they venerated. And then there are the denizens of the planes themselves. Independent living beings who find their homes in these strange places. Perhaps this is where the Gods are to be found, complete with the minions and companions that their faith holds that they should have. Living vessels for the power of an idea. I don't profess to understand, there again if I did maybe I'd be a deity too!


Next, Chapter 2: Cosmology tries to explain what is contained in a sample cosmology, the Midgard one. Use it as is (even if you don't run your games in Midgard), adapt it or use it as a template and guide as you devise your own. The whole book is designed as a 'plug and play' manual, take the bits you want, add in your own ideas and come up with a set of planes like no other - it's probably as close to being a god as any of us will get! Like any religion, it starts "In the beginning..." How did the universe in which your campaign is run come into existence in the first place? And who found out and started to create legends about it (which may or may not be accurate, of course)? Maybe different groups have different explanations for how everything came to be - these lead to contention, be it academic debate or all-out war. Examples from Migard are given. Was order given to chaos, or the other way around? It's never static, that's for sure, and there is always contention between various aspects of the planes themselves, never mind mortal squabbling below. The Material Plane, the place where your campaign world exists, is at the middle. Denizens of myriad planes squabble over it because they all draw their power from the very souls of those who live there... and often meddle through dreams and visions or outright intervention in what is going on there, too.


And then you - or at least the party - think of going there. Most use magical means (a spell or portal) but some slip through the cracks into some kind of 'sea of possibilities' - maybe it presents itself as a corridor with lots of doors, or it might be something far more exotic. Through those doors (or via whatever metaphor you pick) are all these planes... and each plane has its own characteristics and nature. A selection of the Midgard planes are described here, for inspiration or use as you please. There are loads of ideas here, and many useful sidebars which show you how to use these traits and characteristics to affect game mechanics. In a Good-aligned plane, perhaps 'evil' magic doesn't work, at least, nothing more than a nasty smell or a bit of smoke results from your casting, for example. Or perhaps any spell-casting results in a bright flash of light in addition to the intended effects.


If that wasn't enough, Chapter 3: Other Locations looks at what else is out there besides the planes. The cracks between them, if you will. The places you might end up if you botch that planar travel spell or open the wrong door. Called Between, this unspace has a whole geography and inhabitants of its own and, trust me, you don't want to go there. Neither will your characters, if they know about it. They might be more comfortable in another unspace called The Casino, but beware: it's generally more than mere money that rides on the games played here. You can play - or bet on - just about anything conceivable here, and there's even a 'game development' complex where games from all over the known universes and beyond are tested and honed to a high level. There are other locations as well, if these two do not take your fancy: the Evermaw, the Marketplace, the Plane of Spears, and more. The Marketplace is an intersection of all the markets that ever there were, a place when literally anything is available - for a price. A multitude of adventures await in all these places, and if reading about them doesn't give you enough ideas, plenty of suggestions for how to use them in your game are sprinkled throughout.


Next is Chapter 4: Heroes of the Planes. So far, we have heard about assorted denizens of every plane discussed, but here you get the low-down on new races native to the planes along with new feats, traits, incantations and spells that may be learned here, may be useful here... or may be used against unwary visitors. Then on to the real heart of the matter with Chapter 5: Gamemastering Infinity. After reading thus far, you may be thinking that you have bitten off more than you can chew. Don't worry, there's plenty of helpful advice here. Start small. Add the odd twist to an otherwise-normal adventure. Remember that the planes never stay the same. Then there's an introduction to planar roads, the routes seasoned planes-wanderers use to get from one place to another. Even seasoned travellers find them tricky to navigate and often end up someplace other than they intended. Here also are the strange economics of the planes, the commodities valued here are different from the gold pieces that are useful back home on the mortal plane. This chapter ends with some magical items unique to the planes, and it is followed by the last chapter, Chapter 6: Bestiary. As you can imagine, some mighty strange beasties are to be found here.


This is a book of ideas, of inspiration and of concepts. Even if you stick to the exemplars pulled from the multiverse around Midgard, there is still much to be done before you can actually run much in the way of planar adventures... but this is a starting point to help you think about what you want and how to make it happen. It digs at the fundamental underpinnings of what makes a fantasy campaign world work, and what may lie beyond... but may be a bit philosophical for some tastes. An interesting read, nevertheless.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Roads & Golden Hells (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2015 06:57:41

The Midgard Bestiary is a monster compilation with a difference. Born of Open Design's organic development process, it draws upon monsters featured in Kobold Quarterly, the website and already-published materials as well as the traditional folklore that powers much of their output. Keynotes are that monsters ought to be scary and have the potential to be used in unorthodox ways to keep players guessing and on the edge of their seats. There's an overtone of deep-rooted horror that permiates much of the Open Design (now Kobold Press) output, the sort of horror that stems from tales told and retold.


Each of the 89 monsters gets the same treatment: brief 'this is what you see' description, a full stat-block, illustration and full descriptive and ecological notes that supply the GM with all the information he needs to locate and run that monster as an integral part of the campaign world, not just something to fight (although most of them will put up a good fight when it's a brawl you are after!). Who could not delight in the bagiennik, an often peaceful creature with a talent for healing which goes absolutely mad with fury if you interrupt it when it's taking one of its frequent and languorous baths... well, I don't like being disturbed when bathing either!


Even reading some of the entries can send shudders down your spine... like the broodkin, really nasty constructs that are a sort of malignant baby or the beautiful but deadly cavelight moss that delights in devouring passing adventurers. Twisted birds, a host of clockwork creatures, and the carrion-eating death butterfly swarm lie in wait, and the twisted evil of a derro fetal savant is just sick. I think I prefer the ink devil, these prefer chatting, whining, and pleading to any form of combat, being known cowards - and fun to role-play as well.


Twisted, strange, unpredictable, the stuff of the sort of legends you tell around a camp fire late at night... just don't get bitten by a doppelrat! Whether your game is set in Midgard or in your own campaign world, when you want to scare the party as well as provide them with opposition, this is an excellent collection to browse through. To aid in selection, appendices list them by type, CR, terrain and role, while there are also notes on re-skinned monsters (ways to create quick variant critters) and a set of location-based encounter tables if you need a quick random monster. Definitely worth adding to your monster collection - you can never have too many!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
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Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2015 05:18:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This compilation of the Larger than Life-series (plus new pieces) clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Ah, the blessings of me being swamped in reviews. A couple of small installments are released and once I could get around to them, the big book's already out there...yeah, I know. I'd love to be faster.


That aside, what we get within the pages of this book is not a simple monster book themed around giants - instead, this book should be considered a kind of combination of ecology + toolkit -and personally, I very much enjoy this approach. Why? Well, at this point, you've probably heard me lament the decline of fluff text and the inspiration it brings in various monster-supplements, so yes, this type of book is right up my alley. Furthermore, as someone who likes to tinker with monsters to make them more lethal, any kind of toolkit is definitely appreciated, so let's break down the giants as presented herein - after all, they probably should differ from what was depicted in Paizo's Giants Revisited.


This being a kind of ecology toolbox-combination, the respective chapters doe follow a certain structure - we begin each of the entries with a general run-down of motivations, society structure, attitude towards the most common of races. These entries actually go into the details of the respective societies, also providing some instances of usual customs and similar pieces of information that render the entries infinitely more compelling for the GM, and best of all, more inspiring. So yes, kudos for going this route - as far as I'm concerned, I vastly prefer such a detailed look at a given culture. That being said, the entries do not limit themselves to such information - GMs can also look forward to an array of racial feats specifically designed for the respective giants. Beyond those, equipment, variants and spells as well as sample statblocks provide ample crunch fodder for the discerning GM.


Now it should be noted that the respective feats usually actually are racial feats - i.e. they require the creature to be of the respective race, so there is not much chance of actually abusing the feats presented herein. I do welcome this decision due to two facts: One, if a GM truly wants to, he can still flaunt the prerequisite and two, this means that the respective giant types actually utilize different tactics. Finally, beyond the sample builds, adventure seeds can also be found herein. So that's the structure presented in the respective entries. That out of the way, let us dive into the matter at hand and begin:


The first type of giant depicted would be the Thursir, who also are the most numerous and least pleasant giants as far as humanoids are concerned - they are characterized by not only their predilection for crafting, a certain misogyny and a huge appetite. While not depicted as compulsory cannibals, once tasting the texture of humanoid flesh may render them degenerate and even more frightening. With females often reduced to the traditional roles or that of spellcasters, it should come as no surprise that there are actually feats that allow a cunning thursir lady to be the power behind the throne via suggestion et al. or cut down foes to size with reduce/enlarge person. Thursir may apply magic weapon to weapons they crafted themselves and have some forge-themed tricks, which range from interesting to a bit bland: Fire resistance 10, for example, may be nice, but I have seen that one quite often before. At the same time, synergy with Northland's rune magic can be considered rather interesting. On the other hand, would you as a GM waste a precious feat-slot for +1 to atk and damage versus dwarves? I don't care how thematically appropriate anti-X-feats are, their benefit should imho be on par with a feat-investment. So no, not all of the custom-options here are worth taking, though e.g. +10 rounds of rage when starved is NASTY - and yes, it caveats that you usually can't rage when fatigued. Nice catch! The equipment section is inspired - from field forges and barbed armors to hammers that allow the thursir to bull rush foes, the options are nice. A new special quality and nice magic complements the section.


Hill Giants are depicted in this book in a manner that somewhat deviates slightly from the base concept -while the general stupidity and short-sightedness can still be found within this interpretation of the giant type, they can more be likened to bullies that treat the divine as petulant children would treat their parents. Strangely, they also show a taste for runic magic and while the overall concept may not sound too groundbreaking, the combination of the themes evoked actually makes them frightening in their implications: If big, nasty bullies can destroy you by sheer thoughtlessness, they may be harbingers of things even worse than their own predations. The feats provided here allow the hill giants to blind/deafen foes with attacks, substitute Intimidate for Handle Animal or gain your Int-SCORE to resist attempts to reason with you alongside some general rock catching/squashing-enhancing feats. With liquid bravado, dung boulders and wax to prevent them from succumbing to language-dependent magic, the supplemental material does support the surprisingly frightening concept of this kind of giant. Magical bags of rocks and spells to assess settlements and whether they're ripe for plunder further make these primitive, lazy bullies a threat to be reckoned with.


Stone Giants have had perhaps one of the most significant re-designs in pathfinder and for a good reason: The old iterations have not been particularly interesting and, in fact, I will always fondly remember RotRL #4 for being the first module wherein I considered stone giants interesting foils. Now the ecology of this book provides not a truly new stance on the concept itself, but rather in the detail - in a perfect example why I consider more extensive monster ecologies so vital, stone giant society is depicted as having some almost zen-like quest for truth being part of their decision making: It would not be uncommon for one of these long-lived giants to walk around and ask a multitude of beings the same question, only to return weeks later and draw conclusions after careful deliberation - while this sounds like a small component, it inspired me actually to a large extent, so kudos for that! Supplemental material-wise, we obviously get the stone-related options you'd expect - from better durability and stealth to even getting hardness (!!!), the options are thematically concise and thankfully limited to adversaries. With demoralizing drums and clarity-enhancing moss, the alchemical items also work well regarding the conjunction of strange themes unified in this giant race. Have I mentioned the new ioun stones of the magical stone sphere?


Now as for the Frost Giants, there probably is no giant type less in need of an awesome additional fluff, right? At least as far as I'm concerned, the harbingers of the Fimbulwinter, the scions of ice and snow, perfectly encapsulate all that is awesome about giants and all that renders them cool. Yes, I'm going to put a dime in the bad pun jar for that. That being said, you probably won't be surprised by me not particularly being keen on more details for them, though rune-enhancing etc. and the accompanying fluff are nice. However, at the same time, I should not fail to mention one particularly awesome "Why didn't I think of that before"-concept presented among the crunch: The Avalanche Rider-feat. use Ride to literally ride on avalanches. Think about the imagery - the mountains shake and the northmen look up, as a huge white cloud rushes towards the settlement. In panic, magic is woven, children are brought into safe places - and then, not only does white death come above, they hear the thundering of giant feat, sliding into their midst - the giants have come. Yes, I am so going to use this. With auras that deal ice damage and feats to break bones with crits, the frost giant-options herein help set them aside and distinguish them from their brethren.


Conversely, the Fire giants have been a second set of favorites for me, with the Weltenbrand and the inherent discipline and structure conventionally expected from the in-game depiction of fire giants, they pretty much are the opposite side of the coin - and no less awesome. It should hence come as no surprise that the feats sport a burning aura, anti-cold options etc. At the same time, their organization is not just a mirrored law/chaos dichotomy - e.g. deals with devils are not as common as you'd expect and the supreme organization also translates into a better structuring regarding the cooperation with e.g. fire beasts and red dragons. Emitting a heat wave and thus, concealment or leashes of fire made to control trolls provide nice, coherent options that render their society more believable and ultimately, more inspiring for the GM. It should also come as no surprise that this supreme organization also translates to more unique weapon special abilities than for the other giants.


The final section of the book consists of a double ecology depicting Cloud and Storm Giants - which makes sense to me since they do sport some conceptual overlap. The alignment-split and inherent hedonism of cloud giants is depicted in a rather interesting manner, with transitions being described in a rather interesting manner. At the same time, though, it should be noted that storm giants are relegated to an afterthought within the write-ups here, usually receiving one paragraph of a couple of lines - personally, I consider this a somewhat lost chance of further tying the races together ina new and innovative manner, but that may just be me. That being said, the crunch provided for the races tends towards the more awesome side of things: Whether it's temporary switching of alignments for cloud giants or becoming electromagnetic for storm giants to lightning auras, griffon companions, cloud/fog control, better weather control - there are quite a few options, including temporarily disguising oneself as a medium humanoid. With spells that allow for the strengthening of nature, forcing creatures to assume gaseous form to generating strangling fog with magic, it should come as no surprise that these most magic of giants also receive the most unique spells. And yes, thunderbolt javelins are included in the mix.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting can still be considered good - but it is a far cry from perfect. While I can live with some minor deviations from default rules-language, whole feats sans proper formatting and a plethora of italicization glitches can be considered slightly annoying. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard and the pdf does sport a few nice, original full-color artworks. The book comes bookmarked with minimal bookmarks: One per chapter - In a book of this size, that's not enough. To make navigation quicker, nested bookmarks to the respective sub-chapters would have very much been appreciated by yours truly.


Mike Welham is one of my favorite designers for a reason - Mike only rarely disappoints and there is a reason he has found his way more than once on my top ten-lists. Unlike many authors out there, he is both at home in crunch design and fluff, though especially his prose can be considered to be, more often than not, simply glorious. And this creativity can be found in this book, in many of the gloriously-written little details that greatly enhance the respective cultures.


The question you probably have, though, is the following: "Is this any good?" - Yes, yes, it is. Especially the giant-specific content actually really helps making the giants distinct from one another and provide unique tricks that set them apart -some of which are absolutely iconic and inspired. So overall, yes, I consider this book to be a tad bit more inspired than Giants Revisited. And yes, this book makes giants more distinct. That being said, I do believe I have some gripes I can field here: For one, the spells imho could have used more racial material components to make them harder to acquire or more thematically unique - this is a nitpick, though, and not something I will penalize the pdf for. Much like Giants Revisited, though to a lesser extent, this pdf does not solve the issue of giants in PFRPG itself: Giants suck mechanically. The elimination of many immunities giants had in previous editions has made them very susceptible to a plethora of save-or-suck-effects and tricks that simply have taken a big part of the iconic threat they should be out of them.


While the new feats presented herein do help make them more distinct, I couldn't help but feel that this pdf would have greatly benefited from a first chapter, wherein options to make ALL GIANTS more hardy, a general toolkit collection if you will. Of course, there actually are some specific options that help set them apart and e.g. hardness indeed does help stone giants to have more staying power - but certain classes still have a pretty easy time eliminating giants due to their sucky touch AC. If you have ever featured giants in your game, you'll probably know what I'm talking about. So yeah, that would be the big, lost chance of this book. While Larger than Life has succeeded in making the giant types more distinct among themselves, the series does not enhance the giant-subtype as opposed to other humanoids, making them, in this one regard, not larger than life.


I am very much aware that this complaint may be deemed unfair and for that I apologize: I usually try to not complain about roads not taken, but in this instance, the experiences I've had with giants make it very much impossible to not mention this.


Now if that sounded negative, do not take it as such - this is still very much a very good toolkit, though one that falls short of its own potential to become the state-of-the art giant-book. There is much awesomeness to be found within these pages and Giantslayer-GMs will most certainly cackle with glee when handling this book. It's just that the glitches and aforementioned oversight constitute two detractors that made this book slightly less awesome to me than what it could have been. Ultimately, I consider this a good addition to the system and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - GMs seeking to make giants more distinct definitely should get this book.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Southlands Campaign Setting
by Tim W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2015 17:14:46

Warning this review is totally biased. As an ongoing patron of Kobold Press products, I was not surprised by the HIGH QUALITY ART, roster of DISTINGUISHED GAME DESIGNERS, and excellent detailed CAMPAIGN SETTING materials. This resource over-brims with Egyptian-themed, African-themed and Arabic-themed fantasy. Speaking of high quality art, the CARTOGRAPHY in this tome is superb. If it were completely perfect, I would be overdoing the praise to the point of fibbing. That being said, I found that the few typos throughout the book were minimal and on par, make that well above par, with any good RPG book that actually delivers when they say they will. Huzzah! Kudos! and Thanks for this wonderful sacrificed preserved dead tree that I will treasure for many years!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/27/2015 11:49:34

This work is a collection of additional enhancements for those using Streets of Zobeck (or indeed the Zobeck Gazetteer) in their campaign. It opens with a short scenario 'Nothing to Declare' which should be run the first time that the party arrives in the Free City of Zobek, an adventure that sets the scene and flavour of the place ready for whatever you have planned for later. It's a neat introduction to a place which runs on favours and reeks of corruption, and provides a lead-in to whichever of the adventures from Streets of Zobeck you intend to run.


This escapade is followed by a selection of rules material, each keyed to one of the Streets of Zobeck adventures but of potential use in their own right whether or not you are going to run the adventure in question. Clerics may appreciate the Lust domain - whichever deity they worship does NOT require celibacy of devotees! There are creatures, templates, the odd encounter... plenty to spice up whatever adventure you are running in Zobeck or, for that matter, any equivalent city. Or perhaps you'd like to introduce Goldscale the kobold and his dire weasel mount...


There are other NPCs too, new feats (including some dirty fighting moves!) and traits, magic and mundane items that might come in handy, and more. There's a rather odd incantation called the Incantation of Memories Lost which quite frankly baffles me. It's not clear what the purpose is, the benefit of casting it. Better are some tables for generation the sort of odds and ends the party may find in the pockets of the next body they find in the gutter. If it's fine dining you are after, the Rampant Roach (a kobold-run resturant) is best avoided, but there's a description and floor-plan for those unwise enough to go in. Ulmar's Rare Books may be worth a visit, and there are adventure ideas both for these places and for some of those mentioned in other Zobeck books. Finally if the party finds the city confusing, they might want to engage the services of another kobold called Blackeye who has a carriage for hire, taxi-style. He makes a good ally - provided you are happy with the army of cousins he recommends and the never-ending chatter about Zobeck and its inhabitants.


Overall, a nice addition to the other two Zobeck books, but of less use if you are not using them.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
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