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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2015 07:44:35

Drawing on their new Southlands Campaign Setting, Kobold Press has launched its Dungeons & Dragons 5e line with a collection of races and backgrounds appropriate for characters who come from the Southlands or similar environments in your own campaign world. In particular, it capitalises on the mechanical differences between player-characters and their antagonists within this system to distil out the essence of particular races, classes and backgrounds to provide fascinating and challenging options for characters that capitalise on the features of the main Southlands environment - burning deserts and deep jungles.

Mechanically sound yet replete with role-playing potential, you can consider playing a gnoll or aasimar or perhaps one of the lizardfolk, or maybe a tosculi (insect creature), werelion or minotaur appeals. Each comes with some descriptive text, illustrations and a selection of traits and abilities to make the character that bit different, a true member of the chosen race. There's an interesting note on the creative use of animal companions and familiars, too, taking them deep into role-playing and away from the somewhat mechanical approach of the core rules that concentrates on fighting ability to the exclusion of much that could bring them to life within the party as a whole.

The second part of the book considers backgrounds, the third element of a character along with race and class. Backgrounds enhance role-playing, giving mechanical advantages to your characters' pasts, and also serve to highlight the flavour of your campaign world. Perhaps you travelled the desert extensively, or maybe you are regarded as the offspring of a deity... or served one as a temple slave. Sweeping and dramatic, these and more are presented with a wealth of ideas to inform the way in which that character behaves and approaches life as well as providing material benefits such as skill and tool proficiences, languages and items of equipment gained during the past in question.

Well presented with evocative illustrations and a skilful mix of game mechanic and inspiring narrative, it's easy to imagine playing any of the options in this book - the difficulty is deciding which one to try out first!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Campaign Setting Map
by Jim J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 17:38:31

This is an absolutely stunning map and well-worth the suggest price. I wish they would give the Midgard Campaign Setting the same treatment.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting Map
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 10:49:36

This product was initially flawed and problematic, but has since been revised and updated, removing or correcting most of its glaring flaws, making it much higher quality product. It is much easier to recommend this product now.

The art is good and the production values are excellent. The new races seem balanced and in line with existing 5th Edition content. The gnoll and lizardfolk are easy additions to anyone's campaign. Even if you don't have use for the werelions, they provide a nice template for how to design lycanthrope PCs, and the related sorcerer bloodline is a lot of fun. The are also a lot of new backgrounds included. While designed to match the flavour of the Southlands, most are generic enough to easily fit into any campaign setting with moderate effort.

Some of the presentation of the races is more in line with Pathfinder than 5e. Several races swap out racial traits rather than relying on subclasses, which is a little odd. It's not broken but not ideal. And the new class options are tucked away in the races, which makes them a little awkward to find.

Read my lengthier review here: http://www.5mwd.com/archives/2904



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Bestiary
by Gregg B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2015 12:14:36

I'd grade this a solid B.

It's chock full of quality creatures -- many of which are variants of existing creatures (e.g., varieties of undead that died in various specific ways). Although there are plenty of quality creatures, there's not a lot here that is truly novel or indispensable -- which is why I wouldn't give it an A.

Based on the volume of entries, I wouldn't have any problem forking out the $ 14.99 that's currently being charged on DriveThruRPG.com.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Johnnie W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2015 07:18:28

Looks good and overall seems ok.

But. This is an 3e OGL product with 5e slapped on it. Essentially a bait-n-switch.

It is well done. But the deception is not appreciated.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/09/2015 10:32:21

Gleanings from the company website, this contains a wealth of snippets to add in to adventures set in the Old Margreve forest and round about. To start with there are 20 beautifully-described NPCs, provided to help you bring the place to life. They aren't intended for combat-fodder, if you do want to involve them in a brawl you'll have to provide your own stat-block... but as part of life's rich tapestry, people living and working in the area who might interact with the party, they're excellent. Watch out for Shadow, a black dog belonging to Tsarin the Dirgist. This hound has an uncanny nose for when someone is about to die, and leads his master to the spot so that he can perform a funeral dirge and eulogy for the just-departed. Some say that Shadow's appearance heralds (or even causes) the death... or is it just that he has impeccable timing?

Next up, 25 'reskinned' creatures, that is, the specifically Margreve versions of monsters from the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bonus Bestiary. These just come with descriptions again, but there's an indication as to which monster from the Bestiary you should reference. It's a neat way to put a twist on the creatures you encounter without much effort, and helps make the locale more distinctive.

Along the same theme, there are 15 reskinned spells, which can be used in different ways as you please. It may be that locals use these distinctive variants of spells that the party is used to, or - and this could cause some surprises - it may be that the spells act this way when cast in the Margreve, be it a native or visiting magic-user that casts them! If you decide they are local variants, others may learn them in the usual way... but may find that once they've left the Margreve they don't work as they need local components. Following on from that, there's a Margreve Bloodline that lets sorcerers tap into the ancient powers of the old forest and even become a part of it. If the Margreve is part of your campaign world, a sorcerer may have it - he doesn't even need to be local as long as he's descended from someone who was.

There's also an incantation, a few fascinating local items, and a selection of traits available to anyone who grew up in the area. It's all added flavour, and well worth picking up if you're using the Margreve. The illustrations are rather good - and evocative - too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Seth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2015 13:52:45

With the new updates, this book is a lot better. I was already fairly happy with it, and looking forward to adding it to my table. The new character options for nonstandard races are great. The new updates fixed much of the complaints I had about the book.

I'd still rather see the racial variants treated as subraces and feats rather than using a mechanic similar to Pathfinder archetypes, but that complaint aside, I think this is a flawless book. Great content, amazing art, and now I'm happier with the 5e rules adjustments. I'd probably buy this book for the $15 cover price, but at the $5 sale it's a no-brainer.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Bestiary
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2015 08:10:17

Early explorers of distant and far-off lands often define them by the creatures to be found there, so here is a collection of diverse and fascinating beasts to populate the Southlands and terrorise incautious visitors. These creatures are at home, the party are the interlopers, having to deal with the rigors of the setting as well as the actual monsters themselves. A new land with new monsters provides a challenge to players as well as to their characters as both are venturing someplace new. It's also a way to get over the obstacle of a character knowing more about his surroundings (including the monsters) than his player does!

There's a wealth of opportunity for the GM as well. Treat the monsters not as mere cannon-fodder but as a living, breathing part of the world that they inhabit. The ultimate challenge for the characters may well be to engage in combat with the monsters, but what of learning about them first? Observations can be made, legends learned, and so on, enabling the characters to know something about these new creatures before having to fight them... or such observations can be made after the first stunning shock of a combat encounter as the characters regroup, figure out what attacked them and how they can detect and deal with it in the future.

Even if you don't want to use the Southlands in your game, or the plot does not call for the party to go there right now, the odd creature might have strayed elsewhere. You may have a suitable ecological niche for it where your game is currently set, or it may have strayed - perhaps as an exhibit in a menagerie - far from its natural habitat. There's always scope for new monsters....

The Introduction touches on these concepts and then we're off with an array of monsters presented in alphabetic order. Each comes with all the details we have come to expect: a description, complete stat block, notes on lifestyle, habitat and behaviour and a glorious full-colour illustration. Most entries fill a single page, else they fill two, so users of the PDF will be able to print out the pages that they need without extraneous material. There's almost an hundred of them to feast your eyes upon and build adventures around; and there's a table listing them by CR at the back to help you in setting up encounters appropriate to your characters.

Many of the monsters are uniquely suited to the Southlands, both ecologically and in terms of the overall style of the campaign setting. Perhaps a gentle stroll across the desert will be interrupted as two speckled, wickedly pointed legs erupt from the sand, plunging forward with murderous speed, followed by a spider the size of a rhino... the evocative description provided for the sand spider. Another beast, the subek, is a humanoid crocodile which retains many of the fighting techniques of the animal that is its inspiration such as the 'death roll' of a crocodile dragging its prey underwater to drown, adapting the technique to a land-based grappling manoeuvere.

The giant white apes reflect legends about super-intelligent gorillas found in the depths of Congo rain forests, twisted to suit the Southlands setting yet evoking the same awe and curiousity. The monsters range from pure animal to sentient, from desert dwellers to jungle inhabitants - whatever your needs there is likely something that will suit. Beautifully presented and well-considered, if you are using the Southlands Campaign Setting or have another area occupying the ecological niche of Africa in your world, these creatures will help to bring it to life.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/06/2015 03:20:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This module was moved up on my review-queue at the request of my players. The following being an adventure-review, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Even the shadow fey can love, in their own, alien way - and so, a scáthesidhe, exiled from the winter court and hence known as the dusk queen, retreated to the dark woods and ruled as one would expect from a lady with her moniker. Against all possibility, a man from a far off land of eternal sun and scorching heat found his path into the dusk queen's dominion, where the two promptly fell in love - and here, the story might have ended, were it not for the construction of a dark mirror, which fueled the latent paranoia of the queen. The traveler, then known as sun king, tried to overlook his lover's continuing descent into amorality and evil, but when he noticed her plans to invade his home, he acted - weaving mighty magics, he imprisoned the queen and sundered her mirror; tales of tragic love being what they are, his solution did not prove to be permanent - and thus, the PCs happen upon a foreboding, dark forest, where the wind itself carries the words "She has returned" to their ears.

Entering the forest, a lavishly-illustrated treant weeping acid tears tasks the PCs in cryptic hints to track down the shards of the dusk queen's mirror - and escape is no option. From hampered teleportation to swarms of shadow stirges, the forest does its best to foil the PCs and yes, there is a table of wandering monsters, of which I encourage you to make ample use. The shadow forest's overview map (which is no less beautiful than the artwork) does provide several obvious paths that can be tackled in different sequences.

The locations themselves can be considered a veritable who's who of dark forest locations - from a pool of shadow nymphs to a bog most foul hiding an ancient monument and a spirit naga to a strike-force of bugbears under the command of a half umbral-dragon leader to a massive hangman's tree, the task of collecting the shards is a quick and interesting succession of iconic locales - and yes, of course, the PCs also get a chance to duke it out with a shadow drake.

Once they have finally assembled all the shards, it's time to face the dusk queen's tower, wherein she tries to cajole them into using the shards to repair her mirror and restore her to full power - hopefully barring that, she will attempt to use force - by means of her own theurge-magics as well as a graveknight antipaladin and his companion. Besting the two deadly adversaries (significantly easier if a strong-willed PC uses the powerful shards to blast them!) will see the end of the adventure and the tower's collapse - for now, for a sequel is in the making. Oh, and yes, there is a powerful, intelligent spellbook to be found here.

Now this pdf has GLORIOUS artworks and cartography all around - and you can actually use both: The module provides an art & map section that reproduces the Paizo-level gorgeous artwork (one provided for most major antagonists!) as one-page hand-outs to show to your players. Furthermore, the glorious full-color cartography of the dark wood is provided in a player-friendly version and to trump that, we also get the dusk queen's ruined throne room as a player-friendly, overview with a grid AND in battle-map-style size to print out - now THIS is going one step beyond! Two thumbs up!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, 2-column full-color standard and the artworks by Bryan Syme are staggering -see the cover? The copious amount of interior artwork is JUST AS GOOD. Yes. This is one of the most beautiful modules I've read in ages, with cartography also ranking in the top-tier echelon, especially due to the copious support regarding battle-map, player-friendly versions etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

My players still talk fondly of Marc Radle's first module published by Raging Swan Press, The Sunken Pyramid, so when I brought this module to the table, they were keen on playing it. The dark wood has a superb atmosphere that thankfully stands on its own and does not provide overlap with AAW Games' superb Snow White duology (Part I and Part II), instead creating its very own atmosphere and mood - which is a good thing. This module is all about atmosphere that is captured in great detail and enhanced by what could be considered to be some of the most stunning pieces of artwork I have ever seen in a 3pp module. Especially at the low price point, this is stunning.

Now I playtested this one twice, for a reason - my players were insanely lucky and had 14 natural 20s in the run of this module - and since it is pretty much a brief one that focuses on atmosphere, this meant they pretty much curb-stomped the opposition. When I ran it for a second time for a significantly less experienced and optimized group, there was one unlucky PC death, though that is to be attributed to abysmal luck. This module is not a meat-grinder and neither is it particularly challenging - the final fight in particular was very easy on my PCs in the first run.

Difficulty-wise, this is not a particularly challenging module, but it is a very much worthwhile adventure that feels completely like a Kobold Press adventure, breathing a sense of ancient fairy tales gone wrong. In direct comparison, the fights themselves do feel like they could have benefited from more environmental peculiarities and hazards - but that may just be me being spoiled. Shadows of the Dusk Queen is a premium quality module with a unique mood that very much manages to depict a compelling, short trip into a dark forest that actually deserves the moniker. My aforementioned nitpicks can mostly be attributed to me being a spoiled bastard and are offset by the quality of both production-values and mood. I do advise GMs running this for an experienced group to increase the difficulty-levels, though. In the end, I am happy with this module - its story resonates, its production values are superb, its builds are non-standard and interesting - and while it may be brief and none too hard, it was a great experience to run. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now can we have more modules of that caliber? After all, that's what made me a fan of Kobold Pres back in the day when it still was Open Design...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
by Ben B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 17:36:44

Disclaimer 1: I believe RPG supplements can only be properly evaluated in hindsight. Hence, I normally only review supplements which are at least one year old. As of this writing, this adventure is more recent, so my rating is tentative. Disclaimer 2: I received a free copy of this adventure in exchange for a review. I was not involved in its development, nor did I receive any other compensation. This PDF comes in at 36 pages, including 31 pages of content. Being an adventure review, this review [b]will contain spoilers[/b]. The adventure background is fairly generic: long ago, the eponymous queen got a magic mirror which turned her evil. Her husband defeated her, sealed her away, and broke the mirror. She just recently broke her seal, but is weakened. The fragments of the mirror are powerful magic items in their own right, and if all are brought to the proper location the Dusk Queen will return to full power.

Next we are introduced to the Shadow Forest, the area in which the entire adventure takes place. There are eight locations identified and detailed in the Forest, and the PCs can essentially move between them as desired. Some of the locations, such the Shadow Nymph’s Pool, contain NPCs sympathetic to the PCs who provide useful information and a piece of the Mirror.
A random encounter table for the space between the detailed locations of the Forest is also provided. Eventually, the PCs collect all the pieces of the Mirror, and head to the Dusk Queen’s Tower. The Dusk Queen informs the PCs that they have been misled about her true nature, that she is actually good, and that she is eternally grateful to the PCs for collecting her shards. She instructs the PCs to place the shards on her throne in exchange for a reward. At this point, we get the most inexplicable part of this book: “The Dusk Queen focuses all of her charisma and powers of persuasion to cajole the shards from the PCs. If unsuccessful….” If the PCs (correctly) believe the Dusk Queen to be the villain of this adventure, she will likely be unable to convince them to give her the shards. In that case, the Dusk Queen summons her dread knight guardian and attacks.
But what if the PCs are persuaded of her honesty? Some of the Dusk Queen’s enemies in the adventure so far have been less than friendly to the PCs, so that is a distinct possibility. What happens if they give her the mirror shards? There is no indication of what happens in the book. Once the Dusk Queen is killed, the tower collapses, and the PCs have to enact a daring escape.

The supplement closes with 13 pages of full-color maps and illustrations of characters and locations in the adventure.

Short Term Use: While the plot of this adventure is simple, it is presented clearly enough to run with minimal preparation. The setting is also sufficiently generic to work into the flow of your existing campaign. The NPCs are given full, detailed stat-blocks with top-notch editing, making them easy to use right away. The maps also make setting up encounters quick. Aside from the one glaring omission noted earlier, Marc Radle has written a fun, solid adventure at a level range with a dearth of published adventures, making for a Short Term Rating of 4.5/5. Long Term Rating: Almost everything in the Forest revolves around the Dusk Queen and the Mirror fragments. Unfortunately, that fact means you are unlikely to get much use out of the locations after the adventure is completed. Some of the NPCs are interesting in their own right, but as they are almost all tied to the forest, you likely won’t use any of them again. The unoriginality of the plot means it is unlikely to inspire stories of your own. The only part I can imagine using after the adventure is done are the encounter maps. Hence, this supplement clocks in at a Long Term Rating of 2.5/5, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Jeremy E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2015 14:39:26

I realize after some other reviews here and on other sites that I'm in the minority with my opinion but I liked what was done. Now part of the value is based on the current price but to get four new races (plus the modified aasimar and minotaur), new backgrounds, and I think some interesting racial substitutions for less than 5 bucks is worth it. Now 14.99 is a completely different story...and would not be able to recommend it for that price simply due to the lack of enough content.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by calvin h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2015 13:11:41

Its nice to see some 5e player options, but this PDF just isn't a good example of what they should look like. The art is really nice and the truly new elements are cool but there are even more problems overall. A lot of the formatting follows pathfinder conventions rather than 5e conventions, the subraces are more in line with pathfinder ability replacement than 5e sub-race packages, and the Aasimar (and to some degree Minotaur) is taken word for word from the WotC books but with added variant abilities at the end, again ignoring the sub-race standard set out by 5e. Not all of the sub-classes they present are particularly new either, the Rogue-Ambush Predator is more like a compination of other already published archtypes not something new.

At the end of the day this entire document really reads like it was made by someone with only a working familiarity with 5e who just wanted to make another Pathfinder book.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2015 01:51:12

Southlands is massive. It's "face" is made out of two well-known tropes, both in a unique "Midgard" version - Arabian Nights and Pharaonic Egypt. These are the places an explorer from the north are likely to encounter first, and they are reasonably familiar to most gamers - except that these takes are special, not just the standard rehashed. Further south are even more exotic places, likely less well known to most gamers - jungle and desert lands. Each country is detailed as a homeland, there are rules for Traits and sometimes whole races typical to the origin. The feel of these places is more sword-and-sorcery than medieval romance. Few places are good or bad, it is very much a patchwork of greys.

On one hand, this is the GM's secret world book detailing new and exotic places. On the other hand, it is the player's handbook for a new continent, with loads and loads of new character opportunities. And perhaps this is the problem with the book; it doesn't quite know who it is for.

This review is based on the PDF from the kickstarter; I've not seen the physical book yer, but it looks like it will be gorgeous. Layout is open with the right amount of space, art is gorgeous, and the maps look wonderful. It feels like the PDF format doesn't quite do them justice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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Southlands Campaign Setting Map
by Dustin H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/21/2015 21:37:19

This map is absolutely beautiful! Anna Meyer continues to amaze me with her cartographic creations.

The map is huge and wonderfully detailed. It bears a passing resemblance to Africa, and is comforting in its familiarity, but isn't a blatant carbon copy of the continent.

I'm extremely happy I backed this project. Great job Kobolds!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting Map
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Dwarves of the Ironcrags
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2015 09:57:48

A somewhat different take on dwarven culture, here describing a society based on a combination of democracy and slave-ownership (with more of a nod to Ancient Greece than to, say, the Antebellum South). I doubt it would be useful as a description of a 'default' dwarven society in many games, but it could work as an isolated nation in some corner of a campaign world.

The society itself is mostly well-described, although there are a few holes here and there. The sections on history and culture are followed by a sort of dwarven version of freemasonry, complete with a prestige class based around mystical abilities, and a second prestige class for the NPC leadership of the group. This is generally well thought out and atmospheric, and one could see it being useful in other campaigns with the right sort of background.

Finally, there are some monsters suitable for an area dominated by dwarves, and, somewhat incongruously, a chapter on what are essentially human gypsies. In general, it's a good book, albeit with a few gaps and oddities, and not suitable for every campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dwarves of the Ironcrags
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