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Dark Oak
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/29/2016 11:42:51

The backstory to this adventure sets the scene for the GM: a dastardly druid, a distraught treant and a bunch of inbred lizardfolk creating a fetid mix that attempted to bring woe on a village near the swamp in which they dwelt many years ago... and it looks as if they have resumed hostilities, given recent evidence of attacks. Once you've got that straight, there's a synopsis as to how the adventure might play out, and then we're off!

The actual locations used in the adventure are richly detailed, but their surroundings are not: thus it is easy to set it anywhere suitable in your own campaign world - just find some swampy woodlands and you are good to go. It's also self-contained enough to make a good one-off game, you ought to be able to run it in an evening's play.

Several hooks are provided, you can choose whatever seems best to get the party interested. What's even nicer is a selection of 'pre-hooks' - rumours that you can sprinkle into your campaign in advance of running this adventure that set the scene for when you do decide to unleash it. Getting the party to the lair is, however, otherwise left up to you - although some unpleasant splashing through a smelly swamp is recommended.

Once the party has arrived at the location the detail kicks in. It's not a nice place to live, dank and smelling of mud (and probably worse) and with a river actually flowing through it. There's a wealth of information about the lair and its residents, making it all come to rather unpleasant life and giving you everything you need to run the party's exploration and every encounter. At least twice, encounters are written two ways: one way should the party decide to fight and one way should they choose to try negotiations first. (Of course, if talks break down you can always go into fight mode.) Detailed stat blocks and tactical notes are provided, along with scaling notes if your party is more or less capable than the four 5th-level characters for which the adventure is intended.

Handouts/play aids provided include an unlabelled map of the lair (with or without a grid), details of magic items that may be found and copies of some of the artwork to use as 'this is what you see' when certain individuals are encountered. There are also six pre-generated characters, should you be running this as a one-off and are in a hurry to get going. Two new magic items and a couple of drugs/diseases are also included.

Fancy seeing your party splash through a fetid swamp? This is for you!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Oak
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Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:10:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Urban Dressing series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, so what one may easily forget these days would be that once, not all too long in the industrious past of us homo sapiens, rivers presented significant obstacles - I think it may take a hiking trip and stumbling over even a small river to drive home the importance of bridges for commerce and traveling - much more so when water may hide fantastic threats! Thus, it should come as no surprise, that at least partially the first 100-entry strong table of sights and sounds herein is devoted to the aspects of commerce and traveling...and, surprisingly, with an entry that should resonate with everyone: A sign " You must be this tall to cross." What's obvious racism versus the small folks resonates because it quotes the "Must be this tall to ride"-signs we loathed in our childhoods. VERY smart! Similarly alive bridges that ask you to get off their back (or is it a camouflaged creature?) add a sense of the weird to the plentiful entries sporting more grounded, mundane things to behold.

The second table deals with businesses that can be found in bridge towns and from city engineers to rickshaws, tax offices and similar places, we have a nice array of diverse places that emphasize the theme and add dimensions to it - as soon as a bridge can only be covered by rickshaws, for example, you may wonder why...and perhaps your mind goes down the same paths as mine and thinks about aerial security like wyverns or manticores eating horses...

Now if that doesn't do the job, then you'll be very glad to see the deviation from the formula exhibited herein - for instead of fluffy NPC-write-ups, this installment features no less than 50 unique sample bridges: Whether one constructed from a huge skeleton, gargoyle-nests or bridges with central gongs - the entries are thoroughly inspired, remarkable indeed, and deserve being called great - personally, I hope for future installments to feature similarly evocative lists.

Finally, the book closes with 20 complications - which include the customary troll demanding payment to an odd phenomenon, where the PCs cross a bridge...and end off getting off a completely different one! This phenomenon alone is an adventure or even campaign in itself. And what if the mayor asks the PCs to round up homeless people? Do they accept for safe passage? Only you and your players will know once you visit these bridge towns.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp two-column b/w-standard with nice, thematically-fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one intended for screen-use and one intended for the printer.

Josh Vogt has turned the mixed bag of a series that urban Dressing once was and turned it into a reliable source of pure dressing-excellence, never really hesitating to try to one up himself. The deviation from the established formula of tables exhibited in this one further refines the series in my book, rendering this installment quite frankly pure, inspiring excellence - with his curious trademark blending of quasi-historical realism and the fantastic and yes, in instances, the weird, Josh Vogt delivers a furiously excellent Urban Dressing that stands out even among the numerous great installments he has crafted - my final verdict will hence clock in at five stars + seal of approval, granted without even the smallest semblance of a doubt.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
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Village Backdrop: Vaagwol
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/17/2016 04:10:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

Vaagwol is neither a black metal, nor a pagan metal band, though the name could grace such a formation. Nestled at the marshy edge of the Twyll river delta, dreary, solid walls rise amid ever present fog and a danger modifier of +20 does not bode well. Indeed, were one to visit this dreary place, with quarters separated from one another by even more walls, one can see a much larger settlement that has dwindled to become less than it once was, exhibiting a dread sense of the foreboding - dare I say, even post-apocalyptic. You see, a disease ravages this place and the nearby bog - one called "The Hunger", which, unsurprisingly, makes the sufferers crave fresh meat and finally succumb to become one of the walking dead via anew CR+1 template that, alas, is not particularly exciting. I've seen this component done better.

At the same time, though, the settlement does offer a level of internal consistency I cannot help but applaud: Beyond bandits in the marsh, forays of clay and peat cutters, armed to the teeth, are interesting and the constant siege of the living dead has resulted in a surprising knowledge of herbalism and medicine, while the lack in manpower means the city's various clockworks utilized to fill tasks that would otherwise go unfulfilled means that you can add a clockwork-y, Zobeck-like element to the village...or ignore this component for the most part, all depending on your tastes.

The presence of the Bereavement Watch under the command of Scythemaster Ecta Jenigan, the driven physician, the threat posed by nearby, bandit-riddled Feyhall -all of these conspire in accordance with the traditional plenitude of local color (nomenclature, appearance, etc.), events and whispers as well as the marketplace-sections to make the settlement, in spite of a theme that has been covered before, feel alive and concise.

Conclusion:

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

My first impulse upon reading Greg Marks' Vaagwol was not one of excitement - you see, I've seen the topic of the zombie-besieged town and the zombie-plague one too many times and indeed, the mechanical representation of the disease is not too interesting. At the same time, however, this pdf does sport one component that is pretty hard to convey in a given review: Beyond feeling concise, the prose is simply excellent: From the titles of local offices to the descriptive writing, the sense of dread permeating this little pdf resonates quite strongly with my dark fantasy and horror-loving heart - more than I quite frankly would have anticipated. By all means, all this pdf should do is elicit a yawn from me; instead, I found myself enjoying the prose and even being somewhat sad when I was done with it - this is indeed a good read and it sports quite an array of fun options and hooks for the GM to develop. In the end, in spite of me not being too compelled by the crunchy bits herein, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book and contemplating using this in my campaign rather sooner than later. The angle may be old, but the execution is superb - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vaagwol
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Village Backdrop: Ossoko Draconsha
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2016 07:01:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

Ossoko Draconsha, literally "Dragon's Defeat" in the tongue of lizardfolk, may well be the conceptually most unique settlement in the whole series of village backdrops - if the name and dominant lizardfolk population you can glean from the settlement statblock are not clear enough: This is a lizardfolk village, but one unlike those you'd know from various modules: Ossoko Draconsha's existence is ultimately thanks to the noble sacrifice of one woman, the paladin Kellesta, who united the lizardfolk to overthrow a particularly nasty black dragon. Mortally wounded, she fell in the battle, but the slain dragon's skull remained as the creature's body dissolved in acid. Sensing the work of powerful spirits at work, the lizardfolk took it upon themselves to consecrate the place and declare it neutral territory, soon figuring out that the sanctified skull can be used to conjure forth Kellesta's spirit in times of need, turning the acidic pool temporarily into a clear water of healing properties. Sporting thus an amount of non-lizardfolk settler, the place has prospered, though the uncommon demographics of the village necessarily put a refreshingly unique spin on the local color provided - from industry to rumors and nomenclature, the novel suffuses this book.

Beyond the obligatory whispers and rumors as well as the potentially adventure-inciting events, Ossoko Draconsha also sports no less than 3 fully detailed statblocks - a CR 6 lizardfolk barbarian, a CR 4 halfling rogue and a CR 6 elven conjuror. I applaud the number of these sample NPCs, though I frankly wished the builds themselves were slightly more complex. As a bonus, though, the paladin's spirit, codified as a sacred coterie loci spirit (yes, that mean Occult Adventures-support, though you do not need the book!) does offset this otherwise extremely nitpicky complaint.

Conclusion:

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

John Bennett is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated freelancers currently out there: There are not that many authors out there that have his talent for weaving atmospheric, compelling yarns that sport their hooks on their own, that manage to make a place or module run by mere virtue of PC-insertion. Ossoko Draconsha may have an odd name, but it is all awesome and, from the get-go, does feature truly intriguing and captivating adventuring options; due to its unique nature and location, it makes for a great haven or neutral ground in extended swamp-sojourns and e.g. would allow for PCs to easily learn more about the background of a given locale sans risking their immediate lives - this one begs to be asked in conjunction with unique offerings like TPK Games "The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw" and similar modules, while the loci makes for a feasible reason to make this the end-point of a quest with a plethora of potential complications.

This village is unique, cool and exceedingly well-written while also sporting cool visuals - and what more can you ask of such a book? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ossoko Draconsha
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Urban Dressing: Logging Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/09/2016 03:44:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Urban Dressing series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin, as always, our brief tour through the logging town with a massive table of 100 entries depicting sights and sounds - from clattering wood to horses dragging de-limbed trees behind them to children carrying syrup by the buckets down the streets, we are greeted with a diverse array of things to behold - but conflict does loom here as well, as the astute traveler may perceive druids pronouncing doom for the forest's desecration or guild officials arguing with workers. Shimmering Fae lights, odd aftertastes in the local ale - beyond sights that speak of a pastoral idyll making way for civilization, danger lurks. And what about that massive tree in the middle of the settlement? Its face is so life-like...

Now such a place, obviously, is defined by the business to be found with the settlements confines and a table, 50 entries strong, provides indeed more than the obligatory lumber mill with kilns, stables, mercenaries, artists, arborists, seamstresses and cobblers awaiting the visits of prospective customers, all with their own names and small bit and pieces of information that allows you to breathe life into them. And yes, herbalists and wood mages can be found here as well.

Of course, such places are also defined by the people living there - so 50 sample personalities can be found in the respective table - from weary warriors to elderly halflings sketching trees that will soon be gone to sadists that enjoy getting lumberjacks drunk and insane people thinking they speak for the spiders of the woods, there's a lot of local color to be found here...and what about that dryad that constantly petitions the mayor to steer clear of the sacred grove? Indeed, the respective write-ups sport quite a lot of potential.

Should this not suffice, well, then 20 complications and hooks will keep you and your group busy: A monstrous stag has been sighted and now the game is on to bring it down. Several groves have been reduced to cinders, leaving strange spiral patterns...and what if a flash flood has raised the water level of a nearby lake so much, it may see the logs churning down from the mountain smash into the village? There are a lot of diverse problems, both esoteric and mundane here, creating a great finale for this pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp two-column b/w-standard with nice, thematically-fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one intended for screen-use and one intended for the printer.

Josh Vogt's logging town is awesome - detailed and intriguing, the town runs a perfect balancing act between pastoral idyll and eff'd up hovel, between civilization vs. nature tropes and those that go beyond that, between the mundane and the magical - it is, in short an absolutely excellent installment in the series that captures the spirit of the logging town exceedingly well. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Logging Town
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100% Crunch: Kobolds
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/03/2016 05:30:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
100% Crunch: Kobolds
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Village Backdrop: Denhearth
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2016 07:18:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

Situated high atop the mountains on an isolated plateau, Denhearth has suffered long from the vile predations of the powerful red dragon nick-named Cinderblaze - until the vile creature was slain by the benevolent gold dragon Galiantana - under her auspices, the village prospered and even saw the creation of a fabled academy, established to guide those that have the sorceror's gifts towards a wholesome and controlled application of their draconic gifts.

But, alas, all golden ages (Get it? ... -.-...sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar later) must end eventually and noble Galiantana has not been seen in quite a while. Some rumor her to be dead, while others only fear her to be missing; in any case, Denhearth, with its academy, seems rife for the picking by the forces of darkness once again. Now, as always, the village comes with copious information on both local color (like nomenclature, clothing habits and the like), lore to be unearthed via the respective skills, rumors and events as well as magic for sale; and yes, the rumors, questioning e.g. the parentage of dragon-blooded locals and similar interesting hooks provide a neat and uncommon, yet sensible angle to the village's plot-options - which include btw. options to develop Galiantana's absence in various ways.

Unlike most recent installments of the series, this time around we get two damn cool sample statblocks, the first of which would be a CR 8 sorceror/dragon disciple, while the second would be a half-dragon chupacabra - yes, you read right. Oh, and the fellow is one of the anti-theft security measure of the local shop, which deserves its name "The Hoard."

Conclusion:

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

Jacob W. Michaels' Denhearth is a thoroughly compelling settlement - with a unique angle, capable NPCs and a surprising emphasis on kind characters as a beacon of light, the place not only will be useful for the PCs, it'll be a place they WANT to keep safe - which ties in perfectly with the numerous options and narrative directions a GM can take the village. Considering all of that, the uncommon locale and cool premise, we have a prime candidate for a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Denhearth
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Campaign Events: Urban Riot
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/23/2016 04:31:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the campaign events-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

We begin this guide-book of dressing for the events of riots in the streets with a massive 100-entry strong table of miscellaneous dressings that reach from toppled statues to bloody teeth littering the streets in a rather grisly, appropriate background. Speaking of which - high priestesses torn apart and now-inedible stews mushes do one thing very well: They highlight different aspects of what it means when civilization as we know it and inhibitions are suspended, even if only for a short period of time.

Of course, it is not only the remnants of such events that constitute a riot (as opposed to a post apocalyptic dressing-book), but rather the individual things that can happen - which, then, would consist of no less than 100 minor events: From mobs forming to women crying to hooded hoodlums looking at intricately-carved doors to terrified nobles and dwarves buckling under the weight of their most cherished belongings, there are a lot of ways for PCs to get involved in whatever riot is currently going on in your campaign.

25 entries of fluff-only sample rioters, from uncanny doppelgangers to tattooed ex-convicts and graffiti-artists further complement this rich tapestry - and if your previous impression was akin to mine that the former tables didn't 100% live up to the diversity and chaos one would expect, then rest assured that here, the book delivers an awesome diversity indeed. Where things get truly intriguing, beyond even the former table, would be in the hooks, complications and opportunities, of which no less than 20 are provided: When for example a local lord pardons a known serial killer in exchange for information on political rivals and asks the PCs to investigate the criminal's claims while people are demanding the psycho's execution, you indeed have an awesome story in scant 6 lines, one that just about writes itself. Or what if the populist bastard son of the city's ruling class suddenly becomes the very symbol of freedom - what will happen then and there when he can or cannot live up to the symbolic charge endowed upon him by the body politic?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan press. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It should also be noted that this pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer - nice!

I won't lie - the first two tables herein Nicholas Wasko provided did not elicit maximum excitement from me; perhaps this is due to me hoping for more weirdness featured; perhaps it is due to me simply having read too much in that vein. It doesn't matter, ultimately, for what before looked like a good, if not stellar little pdf managed to turn everything around with the second half: Both the sample rioters and the complications in particular are downright inspired and leave you craving more, to the point where particularly the latter rank among the best hooks I've seen in such a section in quite a while, writing the adventures they spawn almost by themselves. Now, much like the former installment on masquerade balls, this is a good dressing-pdf, one bordering on great, but also one that left me with a tentative feeling that a bigger format with crunch blended in would have made the book even more useful.

Do not let this nagging fool you, though - this still is a very useful, neat dressing-pdf, one well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars....though I do have to round down, since the first two tables could have used a tad bit more variety and deviations from the victim/perpetrator-dichotomy prevalent in the set-up itself.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Events: Urban Riot
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Village Backdrop: Tigley
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/27/2016 09:58:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

All right, just in case you're not familiar with Raging Swan Press excellent series of villages - here's the deal: Each village backdrop showcases one particular village, complete with settlement statblock and so much more: We get information on magic items for sale in the place, key NPC-information, notes on local nomenclature and lore that can be unearthed via Knowledge skill-checks as well as 6 local rumors and sample events - the latter of which should be considered to be adventure hooks the GM can develop into full-blown adventures or just use to add local color to the supplement.

The village of Tigley, situated cliffside atop a massive canyon through which a stream flows, jutting from a spire, towering over a massive swamp, the little settlement has only recently managed to recuperate from a massive earthquake. Tigley itself is a peculiar settlement - sporting, for example, a dry well from which swarms of bats emerge in regular intervals or an old codger who asks for a "Lazy Toll" to cross the nearby rope-bridge, the village also features an interesting custom: With the local cemetery falling down during the earthquake, it has become custom to bury the dead in the nearby lake, the sink.

In a smart take on a concise supplement, the significant amount of bats and demands of certain spells mean that bat guano farming is a pretty industry here alongside paper press and hemp. The local orphanage is a constant reminder of the recent cataclysm the village has endured, in spite of the relatively few kids living there and, surprisingly, there is a werebat herein - one that has sworn off the bloodthirsty ways of his kin. There would also be local troublemakers like a gifted stone-mason who also happens to be a rather nasty bully.

Conclusion:

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

Steve Hood's Tigley is a great little village - its industry and population feel organic and concise; the local color is superb and the quirks and traditions mentioned conspire to make the village feel organic and alive. There is also an array of rather interesting material the enterprising GM can utilize to craft adventures from - though, ultimately, in that regard, Tigley falls a bit short of the best installments in the series.

While there are several unique and compelling ideas herein, just throwing your PCs into the village will not write adventures in itself; unlike the best of the Village Backdrops, you'll need to prod a bit more, help craft a bit more investment and trouble, for Tigley could have used more pronounced conflicts that tie-in with its great local color - as provided, some minor disputes and a bully are the most prominent issues. In any other series, Tigley would be considered to be absolutely glorious, but considering the superb quality of the series as a whole, it does fall slightly short of the best in the series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Tigley
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GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops III
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/22/2016 05:34:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' groundbreaking, critically acclaimed GM's Miscellany-series clocks in at 101 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC (including statblocks by CR-table), 1 page author-bios (which, frankly, more books should feature!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 93 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This review was moved up on my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.

If you don't know at this point what the Village Backdrops-series is, let me enlighten you: Village backdrops are small pdfs, each detailing a fully mapped village (in this book's case, crafted by Simon Butler, Matt Morrow and none other than Tommi Salama)....but they are so much more. Know that one adventure that sports non-descript fantasy village XYZ? Know how e.g. your PCs got attached to Sandpoint, but not to such bland default-fare villages? Well, basically, this series is all about providing the ultimate antidote for bland villages - with a healthy selection of these up your sleeve, you'll not only have truly awesome villages at your disposal, your players will care.

Beyond simply depicting a village, it is the sheer amount of detail crammed into each and every one of these settlements that ultimately make the village backdrops so exciting: Beyond the concise settlement statblocks featured, it is via the local customs, nomenclature and information on clothing habits that the places come to life. The supplements also feature whispers and rumors, magical items for sale and sample events - in the best of cases, they actually work as adventures of their own. One village contained herein, John Bennett's Kennutcat, particularly made the heart of this Ravenloft-fanboy skip a beat. You know, I got this when I simply had no time to prepare anything and I simply dropped my PCs there - by virtue of the interaction with the place, an adventure developed organically, all on its own - my players couldn't believe this was no module, but simply a settlement set-up.

There is another peculiarity you have to be aware of: Most of the respective settlements feature NPCs, monsters, haunts and similar hazards...and the series is actually a record-holder. No other series has managed to accumulate so many seal s of approval. No matter how ridiculously high I set my standards, this series does not disappoint, surpassing itself time and again.

This compilation does sport btw. some of the most awesome books in the whole run of the series. In case you're curious, this book covers Aubade, Arrowhill, Aldwater, Coldwater, Denhearth, Edgewood, Fulhurst Moon, Hopespyre, Idyll, Kennutcat, Red Talon, Sea Bitch, Starspun Hollow, St. Fiacre and Wellswood. All of these installments have in common that I have covered them in my respective reviews for them - and since I hate repeating myself unduly (and wasting your time), I'd simply advise clicking on the Village Backdrop-tab on my homepage endzeitgeist.com for a handy list of all of the reviews.

And, well, yeah - that's about what I can say about this compilation - it collects thoroughly awesome material, presents it in an easy-to read and use manner and overall makes for a great purchase, particularly if you're like me and simply prefer print.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard and the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, one for the printer and one optimized for screen use. If you want key-less, high-res versions of the map, you can get them by signing up for Raging Swan Press' patreon. Artworks featured herein are high-quality b/w and a particular shout-out should be extended to the brilliant cartographers that make each village feel distinct and unique.

Oh, but don't take my word for it - take a look at the authors: John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Richard Green, Mike Kimmel, Jacob W. Michaels, Jacob Trier, Mike Welham. Notice something? Yes, this is a veritable who is who of some of the most talented mood-crafters among the authors currently active in the 3pp-circuit - it should come as no surprise, then, that one village herein actually has managed to achieve nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 - an honor I need to extend to this book alongside 5 stars + seal of approval, mainly because its array of thematic excellence and diversity makes it an even better deal than the individual pdfs were. If you already have them, though, then there's admittedly not that much of a reason to get this, unless, as mentioned before, you want a nice, easy to sue print version of this.

If you haven't yet seen how good this series is, well, then this is the perfect way to check it out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops III
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Village Backdrop: Wellswood
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2016 05:20:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

In this installment of Raging Swan Press' by now legendary series, we travel to the village of Wellswood - which is aptly-named: Situated in the midst of a gorgeous forest, the settlement sports numerous wells - both natural ones and those crafted by dwarven hands, for the settlement sports a significant dwarven population, who faithfully serves the local dour and somewhat greedy, but none too unpleasant lord Ilmari Issakainen.

The uncommon occurrence of a forest-bound dwarven clan also results in a surprising amount of fortified stone buildings jutting forth from the massive forest. While secure, the rather significant taxes imposed are not to be trifled with, though merchants and travelers won't have too much of a problem paying them. No less than three inns (all coming with information on accommodation-prices and food) are detailed within these pages, as befitting of a village under the auspice of a church of travelers - which btw. includes a brief deity-write-up. Industry-wise, the local lake with its fishing (requiring permission of the lord...which is, again, taxed) is based mostly on the massive influx of travelers passing through.

Oh, but I've failed to mention the interesting component here: You see, aforementioned lake, much like the hold of the dwarven clan, is subterranean and heavily regulated - though that does not mean that there are no means of getting down there sans the lord knowing...if you know whom to ask. Yes, the subterranean lake actually writes adventures of itself, considering the plethora of potential dangers there and the mere presence of it makes a potentially cataclysmic earthquake all the more dangerous - so yes, plenty of development options are provided here, from the local color (the village sports notes on nomenclature, clothing, magic items for sale etc.) to more massive storylines - after all, there is a reason the dwarves are here - but to know that, you'll have to travel to Wellswood yourself!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out and sports a great artwork of a fishing trip on the subterranean lake.

Creighton Broadhurst's Wellswood is a compelling settlement that manages to strike a precarious balance: On the one hand, it is a pretty pleasant place that, in itself, is not yet an adventure and the lack of a central conflict means that you don't have a streamlined narrative cut out for you. However, unlike many a supplement with such a broad focus, Wellswood still manages to retain a sense of holistic integrity, a feeling of concise options, ready to be explored at any time. From politics to potential threats, whether as just a waystation or as a new home for the PCs, the village manages to support and accommodate threats both significant and trivial. While the supplement does not achieve the highest echelons of the series, it remains an excellent book that does offer a significant, tight array of interesting options for GMs and players to explore and, more important, a tight and unique place to visit - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Wellswood
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Village Backdrop: Idyll
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/19/2016 03:11:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

As always with Raging Swan Press' critically-acclaimed Village Backdrop-series, we are introduced to a sample town herein, complete with settlements statblock, local nomenclature, market place-information on magic items for sale, some sample lore to be unearthed via Knowledge-checks and, obviously, some rumors and adventure hooks.

A brief glimpse at the village map shows that the settlement is close to a little stream - and, frankly, if "idyll" as a name evokes pastoral scenes and romantic notions of a farmer' life...you'd kind of be right. Export-wise, Idyll is pretty much defined by the tasty meats the village produces. At the same time, there are numerous interesting components that set the village apart, first of which would be the propensity for ancient artifacts littering the nearby landscape and the fact that 4 odd monoliths, one in each cardinal direction, seem to guard the place. The constantly optimal weather conditions may also spark the paranoia of the characters... and indeed, rather oddly, the village is governed by an odd council that seems to encompass the worst discrepancies of the alignment spectrum, thus rendering it rather impotent.

Magical characters may also notice a curious phenomenon, namely, that neither alignment-detection, nor proper scrying seem to work within the confines of this village and the fact that people of such vastly diverging ideologies seem to peacefully coexist also hints at the true nature of this unique settlement - a nature I am not going to divulge in this review, instead leaving you with the information that I haven't seen the idea executed thus anywhere before - and love it! While I briefly considered spoiling the truth here, I believe that this is indeed for the best - you'll see once you read about this unique village yourself.

Conclusion:

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

Mike Welham's Idyll once again is a perfect reminder why he ranks among the authors who continue to score seals of approval - Idyll is an inspired, intriguing settlement that begins with a mystery and offers a great answer to it, one that makes sense on multiple levels. The potential for uncanny valley-esque creepy-factors is here, as is the option for players to later utilize the village's unique properties for their own agendas - if they dare and manage to come to an agreement with the village's masters, that is. So, how to rate this, then? Well, while the village is less versatile on its own than the best in the series, it does sport a truly awesome concept that I have never seen before - a concept that is so cool and chock-full of narrative potential, I am practically forced to rate this 5 stars + seal of approval - yes, that good.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Idyll
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Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
by Garth H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/18/2016 07:13:26

Creighton Broadhurst and Josh Vogt have kicked another one right past the goalie and burnt a hole in the back of the netting with the Bridge Town supplement. While the entire collection of "Urban Dressing: Towns" gets very high marks from me, this one is immediately a particular favorite. 50 fantastical bridges and their descriptions -- from glass, to a huge still-warm serpent's back, to invisible bridges and dozens more. And of course the bridges themselves are only one table of amazing ideas that you'll find here. There are no less than 100 sights and sounds found in a bridge town, 50 businesses and 20 plot hooks. An absolute feast for the imagination.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Bridge Town
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I Loot the Body
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/07/2016 04:21:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content!

So, we've all been there: The PCs kill a foe...and then, they try to loot the foe. It happens all the time. What do you do first? You run down the magic items and armor, describe them, then the magic jewelry...and this is where things become problematic: You describe a ring? Suddenly it may be of importance. That weird figurine? hmmm...may be more worth, right? This is pretty annoying, at least to me - it makes smuggling unique and relevant items into PC possession rather difficult...and more diversity is ultimately GM-creativity better spent on making unique dungeons and encounters...and stories.

Enter this exceedingly useful little pdf: Basically, this book provides ample of dressing for loot to be found among foes - the first 100-entry-strong table spanning the gamut from fur-lined gloves to strange theatrical masks that are pale white, crying blood. What about strange rocks that supposedly purify water they're dipping into or weird tomes containing all blank pages? In case you're not familiar with items like this: Yes, they can enhance player speculation and provide room for you to gather your wits, providing blank slates you can later fill out.

My rambling above regarding magical jewelry similarly was a set-up - the second table provides 100 entries of odd jewelry - from miniature butterfly wings to polished jawbones and chunks of pink crystal, there is a staggering amount of diversity going on here - more so than in most regular magic items section, reaching a point where the dressings here practically demand to be used instead of the bland descriptions that so often plague magic items. And yes, there is humor to be found here: When a big hunk of wood attached to a rope reads "I am a witless dullard", that is a hook for the wearer on its own...after all, why did the unfortunate receive such a strange adornment?

The pdf features even more, namely a massive third table of 100 trinkets that range from dolls studded with needles, pieces of string snapped multiple times and then re-combined, disembodied moustaches (!!!), obsidian shaped into the form of a cow's head...or what about a silver bell sans clapper sporting the initials H.P.L.? (+2 Nerd-creds if you got that allusion!) A map of a city labeled "Middle of Nowhere" also breathes ample hook-potential and what about this odd book that's smaller than a thumbnail?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and features nice b/w-art. The pdf comes in two versions, with one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

Josh Vogt's humble little pdf may not reinvent the wheel - but it is all you'd expect from such a small, humble dressing pdf you can ask for: The entries are inspired and run the gamut from the common to the weird, sporting a significant array of utterly unique options for the beleaguered GM. This pdf is absolutely awesome and well worth its fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
I Loot the Body
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Alternate Dungeons: Abandoned Village
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/17/2015 04:13:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Alternate Dungeons-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As has become the tradition with these supplements, we begin the pdf with the limiting factors and peculiarities that face a GM designing such a dungeon - a GM-cheat-sheet of terrain hazards and the like, if you will. The interesting suggestion here is for experienced GMs - namely, letting the players draw their own conclusion and thus guide their reception of the village: You describe the ruins, not what truly was here, thus allowing for interpretation, which you can then further utilize to weave your narrative. Beyond structures with multiple levels and undergrowth, rotting barriers and doors, structural damage and size constraints, 4 events to spice things up provide ample uniqueness factors here (though the omission of the possibility of flight is a bit annoying). As always, we get suggestions for unique treasures that may be found herein, a component that can, when played correctly, greatly increase the sense of immersion and which may actually spawn new adventures.

There are also different factors to consider like wild animals, haunts and squatters...or perhaps even turf wars led to the area being vacated? A table of 38 dressings (unless I've miscounted; two are reroll and add) deserve special mention, for they often contain mechanically-relevant components -if you've played Resident Evil 4 or The Evil Within, you'll have an idea of how to weave these together for maximum effect...and even if you don't, well, that's what the sample denizens are for: from the lowliest squatter to vermin and the undead, going all up to dread night hags and even golems, the sample denizens suggested not only provide a fitting diversity of challenges, they also sport sufficient diversity in tone - from the far-out to the mundane. The traps and hazards presented, including partial collapses and chicken wires also follow this theme, as does the poison oak plant (including two variants of its toxin). Going above and beyond, the pdf also sports two creepy sample haunts.

The pdf also sports a sample abandoned village: Ashford. And you'd be correct in assuming that the fully mapped village is the same as in the Village Backdrop of the same name. While VB: Ashford is one of my favorites in the whole line, I still would have preferred a new village instead of a partial reprint of the original village backdrop.

Where the pdf once again shines is with the 3 abandoned village-hooks that close the pdf - here, the inspiration is clearly and readily apparent and all of them are very intriguing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard with nice artworks and the cartography of Ashford is still awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions: One intended for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos!

Daron Woodson, mastermind of Abandoned Arts (get the meta-joke here?), is a capable author and designer and it does show here - we have perhaps my favorite Alternate Dungeon in the whole line here...concept-wise. The abandoned village is a trope rarely used in commercial modules (yes, authors - this was a call to action!) and thus, this is a fresh and well-rounded offering in most regards. At the same time, I do feel that this falls short of what it easily could have been. The omission of flight and burrowing as potential components in such circumstances is a pity. furthermore, I do believe that this could have benefited from more space allocated to potential things you can find in an abandoned village. Don't get me wrong - what's here is actually pretty awesome, but I do feel the book would have been better served with slightly more pages to shine than with Ashford's partial reprint - I could nitpick on what one could sport in such a fruitful environment, but that would just be wasting time. What's here is great, but it does leave me wanting (and really, expecting) a bit more to make the environment truly shine. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Abandoned Village
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