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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2017 05:11:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth part of the adventure series for the youngest of players (I’d recommend the series for ages 4 – 6, 8 at most) clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, ½ page advertisement, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is designed for 2nd level characters and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons as a prioritized review.

..

.

The White Rabbit is up to his usual shenanigans – while being late, he panics and inadvertently locks the Duchess out of her own castle! It’ll be up to the players to provide the proper means for the distressed Duchess – who promptly and hilariously collapses into a chair while mumbling about rewards. The PCs have to open the door on the front and may encounter their first trap here – as a minor aside, damage type is not specified for triggering the trap. This, however, remains a minor glitch and the exploration is pretty cool:

From a bouncy step stairs to the gigantic ball pit that hides baby mimics (lavishly rendered in a neat piece of artwork!) and acts as an easy way to teach difficult terrain to players, to a tunnel maze, where you can hone the listening skills of the kids, the challenges are proper and pretty cool for kids. What about a room with teleporting tiles and mirror rays, flying hammerhead-shark like things with reflective skin. The absolute highlight of this evocative dungeon-crawl, though, would be a fun puzzle about tapping bunnies, providing a simple, color-coded puzzle. …too simple? Well, here is what sets this apart from lesser offerings. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate parents whose kids are really far advanced, gifted, interested in math, etc. – an alternate, pretty tough (for a kid’s module) math-based version is included for you! This really, really made me smile! And yes, hints and means to help solving the puzzles are provided.

Oh, and the pdf closes with a cool magic item: An enchanted stuffed teddy-bear that you can put down to attack nearby foes! And yes, its rules have been covered in a concise manner.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a GORGEOUS two-column full-color standard with the rabbit and Cheshire cat included as part of the layout. The pdf comes with neat, original full-color artworks and fully bookmarked for your convenience. The dungeon-complex map comes as a cool one-page print-out version that is player-friendly –not even the secret door is spoiled when you use it.

It’s been a while since I reviewed one of these and the waiting has really helped here. This is, by FAR, the best of the modules in this series: Each encounter is diverse, creative and perfect for younger audiences; each encounter has something interesting to offer. J Gray’s puzzle difficulties, hints and challenges herein really work well and each room sports another creative challenge, testing brains and brawns. The optional challenge-increase for truly gifted kids just adds icing to the awesome-cake. This is well worth getting and even if you’re mostly sitting out the series in favor of Playground Adventures’ other modules, contemplate getting this –with a bit of tweaking, this may well work for older kids as well. (Oh, and yes, you can make it a creepy module for adults, though it’ll require being upgraded regarding its difficulty.) This is really, really good – my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #4 PF
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A Friend in Need 5E
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/18/2017 06:02:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience - basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module. To be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 - 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I'd suggest this approximately for ages 4 - 8.

The adventure does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic - namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your "What do you do?"-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge...the like.

For parents not sure whether their kids can handle "killing" adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated "returning home." The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome additions, they tend to be very sound.

Distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification. Puzzles, where included, do mention less complex alternatives for younger audiences and means for the GM to make how items work immediately evident-

All right! Children/players, in case you're reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I'm going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you'll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what's right and jump to the conclusion.

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The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks - and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with only the companion soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted - he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell, which has been properly converted to 5e) and sent it forth - said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.

In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the exhaustion mechanics) and on site, the exploration can commence - the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. It should also be noted that the research and prior knowledge, when player and PC-knowledge diverge, can allow for an easy and painless teaching of 5e’s relatively simple skill rules-

A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi's location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He'll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. This would be as good a place as any to note that the statblocks of the wondrous creatures encountered have been converted rather well to 5e’s mechanics.

Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack. In PF, these statuettes were pretty strong, but in 5e, they, at least to me, represent a missed chance. You see, 5e very much focuses on a sensible rock-paper-scissors-type of gameplay with the variant damage-types, resistances and vulnerabilities: Making the dogs resistant to e.g. slashing and piercing weapons would have been a nice way to teach the kids about these mechanics. It’d also make sense and is something most groups would get right from the get-go: Back in the day, my PCs simply assumed that skeletons would not be susceptible to piercing, for example – it makes sense. Alternatively, a vulnerability would have made sense…but that is me nitpicking.

The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the spirit of a non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly test of the PCs, focused on whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell...in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. This is btw. also where disadvantage and the like come into play more.

Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon's overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects – here, we do have the resistances, but they apply to all physical damage types – and PCs of level 1 are really limited regarding their magical arsenal, so this section can take a bit longer. A centipede whose poison can cause paralysis upon reducing a PC to 0 hp is another minor snag…or rather, something that could have been solved a bit more smoothly: You see, the pdf does contain a logo-less version of the cover artwork in b/w- yep, like in a coloring book. So, one way to help a player pass the time while the PC is paralyzed would be: “Color this page, when you’re done, you’re fully healed!” – unless, of course, the other PCs heal their comrade first.

When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they'll think they have a deadly fight on their hands...but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon...and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi's origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru's friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi's house - who now has a friend most unique. As a minor complaint, the rules-language of the crane mentions maneuverability, which does not exist in 5e.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for including those!!

Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. "A Friend in Need" is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki's movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect in the 5e-version, but Dan Dillon, being the expert that he is at 5e content, has translated the module very well to the system, ironing out some of the hiccups in the original. At the same time, I do feel that it is, system-immanently evident that the original design was for PFRPG – there are a couple of 5e-rules that could, didactically, be highlighted better. This does not mean that the conversion’s bad, mind you – it’s really good! But it comes close to transcending the original iteration sans making the leap.

Let me state that clearly: The module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.

Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in "My Neighbor Totoro", for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran the original version with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit.

Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you'll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits. In my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more - if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with - a tiny scare is okay, but not more.

How to rate this, then? Now that's the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this and Dan Dillon delivers in the conversion.

I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades – I think somewhat more pronounced tweaks to account for and teach system-peculiarities (backgrounds, for example!) could have heaved this to the levels of excellence.

In the end, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children that does not lose any aspect of its appeal in 5e. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this. While the original version was rounded up due to being Playground Adventures freshman offering, I, alas, cannot extend this courtesy to this version.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Friend in Need 5E
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Creature Components Vol 1
by sean m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2017 03:29:52

Cool little book,thought it might be fun to give players another reason to kill monsters and I was right.Recommend.Lots of interesting little tidbits of usefulness for monster parts.Maybe make a part 2 with more mundane monsters like the Kobold,must admit I was looking forward to seeing him here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Components Vol 1
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 5E
by Paul E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2016 15:59:31

SPOILERS - NOT FOR PLAYERS TO READ

The Dodo's Race is a fun five-part challenge for the AIW adventure path. I suppose you can use this as a drop-in challenge for when the characters need to get from point A to point B. For example, replace a troll bridge with this Dodo Race challenge. But it really is designed specifically to get the players from their initial entrance into Wonderland to the next stage (#4 A Message for the Duchess). The problem is that #4 is not yet available to purchase from the publishers (Playground Adventures) web site for from Drive Thru RPG.

While I highly recommend #1 in this series to introduce children to the mechanics of DnD, you might want to wait until the entire series is complete before bying #2 and #3. Also, keep in mind that for the price you are given one challenge and no printable game aids.

As a stand-along challenge, however the DoDo's Race is very fun to play through and so I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

One thing to watch out for when playing with kids—the DoDo may just be a "monster" to them. Even though I played it as a friendly talking bird, my older son insisted on a attacking it, winning a strength challenge against my younger son's character, who tried to prevent it. So he show an arrow into the DoDo, which I had run away.

So, they had to complete the challenge without the benefit of knowing the rules, which actually made it more challenging and fun.

Similar to #1 in the series, the DoDo's race also does a good job giving each character a moment to shine. There are different skill challenges, requiring strength, dexterity, fighting (if you want, but you can play this with no violence), arcana, etc. Also, each challenge in the race can only be completed by one character at a time, with the rest of the party teleported to the next section of race once the one character defeats the present challenge.

Over all, very fun but I really wish that Playground Adventures completed the entire series and sold them as a single PDF/book before selling these modules.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 5E
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 5E
by Paul E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2016 15:42:46

SPOILERS - NOT TO BE READ BY PLAYERS

I like the publisher and the series overall, so I hesitate to give only three stars, but this really should have been combined with #3 for the price. I understand that they are trying to break these up by time to play, but the amount of content is light. Most of this adventure is comping up with words based on the first letter of the word and number of sylables to feed a magic dictionary that will allow you to slowly levitate to the bottom of the rabit hole. This can take about 30 minutes with young children and much much quicker with older or more language-gifted kids.

The door challenge at the bottom was fun.

My biggest disappointment is that I bought all three of the ASA:AIW adventures, not realizing that that they have not completed the adventure path. So if you want to run this as an adventure path you can't and they are designed to flow one into the other, they are not really "drop-in" adventures. Unlike the #1, this module (#2) really doesn't fit as a drop-in. It's sole purpose is to roleplay falling down the rabbit hole and finding a way to open and get through the door into Wonderladn.

This "adventure" module is really two challenges. They are fun for kids and, unlike #1, do give opportunities for role play. But I feel that I'm paying too much for just two challenges. Unlike #1 there are no playing aids like maps and tiles. It feels overpriced. When the entire adventure path is done and, hopefully, available as one book/pdf, these will be fun challenges are part of it, but I'm not sure they deserve to sold as an adventure module.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 5E
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for your review! The fault on that belongs with me. We had initially planned to release them every week/two weeks until completed, but I became deathly ill and the entire production schedule fell apart. In future mini paths we will be releasing vol. one for free and then the rest in a PDF together to prevent just such a thing from happening! BJ
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #1 5E
by Paul E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2016 15:31:03

As an introduction on how to play D&D, I give this 5 stars.

I played through it last night with my 7 and 10 year old sons.

Both have played a lot of Hero Kids, but they—especially the older one—are ready and have expressed a lot of interest in graduating to D&D. My older son just got the Starter Set of D&D for his birthday, and is eager to dive in and wants to DM, but he still needs to learn the mechanics of the game.

I ran one ad hoc D&D aventure with them that a created on the fly and they enjoyed it but much of the game remained a mystery and trying to explain even the basics can try a young person's patience.

THAT is the genious of this module. It comes with tiles you can print and set up like a board game. As you progress you will be given different types of challenges. Some require perception checks, some are skill challenges, others are combat challenges. By the time you reach the end, you will have gone through most of the major mechanics for low-level characters.

The combat is optional and avoidable and need not be to the death. Very easy to adjust the level of violence in this module from none to light.

Now, note, this is very railroady and light on opportunities for role playing. Think of this like the tutorial section of a video game. If you want a great way to introduce young children to role playing and teach them the basic mechanics of D&D, I highly recommend this.

My one disappointment is that I bought all three of the ASA:AIW adventures, not realizing that that they have not completed the adventure path. So if you want to run this as an adventure path you can't and they are designed to flow one into the other, they are not really "drop-in" adventures. This first one, however, unlike #2 and #3 is more easy to use as a drop in. It ends with jump down the hole. It need not lead to Wonderland. So as a stand-alone intro-do-DnD for kids, I rate this 5/5.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #1 5E
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Nightmares on Parade
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/20/2016 11:16:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons....ah, who am I kidding? After the absolutely super Pixies on Parade, I would have covered this as fast as possible even without that.

Speaking of which - I strongly suggest playing Pixies on Parade before this one. While it can stand alone easily, I do believe that it has an added sense of gravitas when played as a kind of sequel - the pdf makes use of the concept of imagination magic and the inclusion of the dream-subtype should make pretty clear that yes, this will have an excellent reason for championing a thus more mutable reality.

...and this is as far as I can go without SPOILING anything. Potential players SHOULD jump to the conclusion. This also includes some SPOILERS for Pixies, so please don't read on if you want to play them. They're worth it.

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In pixies on parade, the PCs have managed to save Edwin from the clutches and malign influence exerted over him by the Nightmare King. He may not be escaping anytime soon...but he does not sit idly by, instead using his considerable power to draw the picturesque village of Glavost right into his nightmare realm! Uniquely empowered by their experiences in Pixies on Parade, the PCs thus receive the ability to manipulate reality - wishing for a unicorn, for example, may actually manifest one - though the created dreams generated do not feature the abilities of the things they're modeled after, instead employing the lesser dream creature's statblock. Indeed, the somewhat parasitic/dependent nature of these dreams allows people tied to them to shape them.

Anyways, the module begins with an ominous darkening sky, a quake and mists drawing in - if your PCs have gone through the gauntlet of Ravenloft at one point, that alone will make them paranoid as all hell. Aforementioned dreams seek out the PCs and bond with them. As the PCs walk outside, they will notice Belle Leaflower walking the streets, unable o communicate or, well, perceive anybody - creative problem solution is the name of the game, as her anxieties manifest themselves and thus influence the next encounter, namely saving the ancient Elas Leaflower, who is obsessively trying to read as many books as possible at once, fearing that he is running out of time - and if the long beard and constantly multiplying books are any indicator, he'd be right. The PCs will have to contend with falling bookshelves, book swarms and find a way to convince Elas that his quest his futile, his books, as they are wont in dreams, gibberish.

This would be a kind of leitmotif to be found here - the Nightmare King has provided some delightfully twisted (and goofy) nightmares for the folks of Glavost: Dwarven chef Rus Ulden is hunted by jello-oozing killer cupcakes. And yes, you can actually eat these...which makes for a cool prop when fighting them...just as a note... Beyond these detailed encounters, however, there are also more simple, optional ones provided for your convenience: The more invested the PCs are in Glavost, the better. The fight for the minds and imagination of Glavost takes the PCs, ultimately, to the major's house, where a semi-solid sheathe of darkness covers everything and Edwin needs to be saved from what seems to be the nightmare king...though it is, in fact, "only" the most powerful dream plaguing Glavost. Having defeated this threat, the PCs now will have the proper power of a town's imagination backing them up, namely in the ability to duplicate mirage arcana as an SP...

But the Nightmare King is not just going to throw in the towel because he's been foiled here - instead, he figures he might as well go big or go home...and sends a friggin' army in the direction of the PCs. And this is where the plot thickens and parents and adults alike should take a good, long look: The kids of Glavost, while considered to be "heroes", were basically treated with condescension by the adults; as kids all across the globe are wont to be; one crucial and important lesson anyone can draw from this book and project to the real world is that kids deserve respect. In real life, kids may not create phantom armies...but that doesn't mean that they can't save the lives of others, that they may not be the triumphant factor in the battle for the hearts and minds of the adults around them. Just something to figure - kids are not property, they are people we accompany for some time along the way, that we try to help prosper and hopefully leave the world a better place for them...but I digress.

The PCs have saved the adults and so, they may shore up the defenses and use their imagination to save the town with offenses and defenses created. There may a saboteur in their midst - the teenage night hag Isabeth, who proceeds to trap the PCs and request them doing horrible, annoying chores - but they will have to do them, if they are to escape...and there's a way to befriend Isabeth in the process...which may well be used as a means to teach kids to deal with folks in puberty...but that just as an aside.

The module continues to "teach", if you will, life lessons while being played - there is a detention scenario next, where the PCs are targeted by suggestions and the gremlins running the show try to get them to acknowledge that they should not be brave etc. - the idea here is simple, yet brilliant: It is mathematically unlikely that all PCs fail the save (though such a scenario is accounted for as well), and thus, the PCs will have the chance to rebuttal the theses thrown at them, with grudging acknowledgement from the gremlins....but, of course, the more PCs fail, the more will they be forced to reply as per the wishes of the "teacher". This is something that the current generations definitely should take to heart: My experience with the younger kids is that, more often than not, they are taught to cave to peer pressure, to maintain a "pleasant" environment with their comrades, even if goes against their beliefs and convictions - when I compare my cousin's school experience to mine, for example, we have been horribly rowdies and rebels who stood up for what we believed in. I think that kids should be taught, as soon as possible, that their convictions have value and that the majority is not always right. This encounter does just that, without jamming its message down one's throat. It's also creative, so yeah - amazing!

Next up would be yet another interesting one - a satyr skald offers the PCs a fair deal: He was tasked to delay them, but finds this strategy distasteful and thus offers to fill the PCs in one the background story of the Nightmare King, which is provided in lavish detail - it is here that the old truism of knowledge equaling power may be taught...and the respectful demeanor and no-strings, straightforward and respectful attitude of the satyr progresses the thematic sequence of being show proper respect for one's achievements...and once the PCs have heard the story (or left or their own free will), it will be time for the army of Glavost's dreams to duke it out with the servants of the Nightmare King! Here, things become once again amazing, as, while the module recommends a descriptive and flavor-centric take on the battle of the armies, groups that enjoy rules-intense scenarios can employ the mass combat rules! Yup, army stats provided. I intentionally did not write "kids will use descriptive, adults the rules", mind you - I certainly know enough young ones that are REALLY into the nit and grit of rules! The amazing thing here is that the PCs may use their imagination to greatly influence the way the battle works: Mass imagination magic, flexible benefits - if properly employed, this is frickin' amazing indeed!

Speaking of the theme of respect - as the nightmare armies crumble, Behast, the Nightmare King waltzes to the PCs and actually offers an imagination duel; a scenario wherein he creates obstacles with his power for the PCs to overcome...and usually a respectful way of solving conflict sans violence amidst otherwise immortal beings. Having even the BBEG actually treat the PCs with respect is a truly amazing progression of the themes employed in this book. Speaking of amazing: The PC's actions throughout the module have direct consequences here - Behast may not enter the fray directly, but his champion has several abilities, each of which is tied to one specific type of action the PCs may have done...the better they treated their fellows, the more they helped them, the bigger are their chances against Behast's champion! Know, how in those cool 80s/90s kid's movies at one point, the kids would combine their powers, reap the benefits of the good deeds they have sown previously? It may be a bit cheesy, but it always put a good kind of shiver down my spine.

Oh, and don't tell anyone, since the PCs have to find out the hard way...but don't worry about player frustration in this book - a sidebar's got you covered.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - with the exception of one purely cosmetic formatting hiccup (an ability indented one step too much), the book is pretty flawless. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard with a turquoise background. This may not make t too printer-friendly, but I'd suggest getting this in print anyway. The artwork adheres to Jacob Blackmon's style and is nice and internally consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Apart from a darker map of Glavost, the pdf lacks precise maps, but considering the morphic theme and the set-up of every encounter, it does not need them; I was a bit skeptical regarding this component, but actual playtest did affirm that the module works smoothly.

Stephen Rowe has been a kind of anomaly among RPG-designers in that he's equally at home in the writing of crunch and fluff. Additionally, his modules so far have not failed to impress me, with both Pixies on Parade and Directive Infinity X being examples of excellence.

Nightmares on Parade is a whole different level. Let me elaborate a bit: Playground Adventures generally provides modules that can help educate kids, teach concepts and knowledge in a manner that is not obtrusive. Pixies on Parade was a pretty much perfect homage to 80s' kid's movies - you know, when we still treated kids as proper beings, not as second-class citizens to be sheltered to the point of generating narcissists, to the point where they're not ready facing a reality that does not cuddle them all the way. Pixies was brilliant in that it provided a scenario that dipped into creepy themes, but at the same time maintained a child-friendly levity in theme and execution. Oh, and in the hands of an even remotely capable GM, you could run it as a balls-to-the-wall horror/dark fantasy module. Think of a certain Goblin King's labyrinth, think of the last member of an equine, horned species and you'll see what I mean: Watching these movies as a child delighted me; watching them as an adult provided a wholly different context for both. Pixies did that and did it perfectly. Age-wise, all but the most sensitive of kids should be good with it and I ran it for a then-4-year-old sans issues. The target demographic, though, should be about ages 6+, for really, really sensitive kids probably 8+. It always depends on the kid in question.

"Nightmares on Parade" is the successor in that theme in more ways than one, maintaining the leitmotifs...but also presenting a dimension that far exceeds what regular modules offer, what you can witness in any of its predecessors. What do I mean by this? I have to wax poetically a bit here: The German concept of "Bildung" denotes the collective process of education and personality-formation, including a development of one's own personal ideology, convictions, etc. - the very word generates an association with building one's self as an eternal process, of describing the totality of construction work of your own personality and accumulated knowledge in all fields of life. There is exactly one other module, Richard Develyn's brilliant "Seven Sinful Tales" (That one's review is here!), which has ever made me employ this word in the context of adventures you can run. You see, the structure of this adventure teaches not precise information in a traditional sense; it goes beyond that. By virtue of its meticulously structured encounters and their diverse themes, it imparts genuine Wisdom upon the players, life lessons if you will. The module shows, rather than tells, what happens if you let fears (like not having enough time) define you; what happens if you're consumed by work (with a kid-friendly, literal analogue); to stand up for your convictions and what's right in the face of authorities and peer-pressure...and to never underestimate the power of imagination that so many adults have lost. (Though roleplayers tend to be safer there...)

There is not a single encounter in this module that does not provide, in unobtrusive subtext, a truly valuable, morally and ethically valuable lesson. And this does not only extend to kids: Parents running this module for their kids should carefully read this module and analyze it, for the aforementioned leitmotif of respecting your child, the importance of that aspect for the development of adults and the way in which this module treats kids can, in my most deeply-held convictions, potentially improve the horizon of parents alike. The theme of respect that ultimately is awarded to the PCs and their players by the BBEG culminates in a glorious experience that may well, in some cases, end night troubles...after all, the nightmare king has conceded defeat. But that as just an aside.

Beyond these psychologically relevant aspects and the wonderful, respectful way this book treats its audience, regardless of age, one should not be remiss to emphasize the downright amazing use of imagination magic throughout the book and the fact that, beyond the glorious lessons imparted herein, it ALSO is a truly amazing module. Whether or not you go mass combat, whether or not you play this as horror (Concerned parents, rest assured that this module, as written, is as wholesome as it gets...but any only semi-decent GM can make this very dark very easily and basically transform it on the fly into a horror-module just by adding non-kid-friendly dressing!) for adults, as a kid-friendly adventure as written, as emphasizing the crunchy aspects or de-emphasizing them via Imagination Magic, you retain maximum flexibility in the module. I've run this twice and both times in radically different manners - and in both cases, the structure held up: The kid-friendly run worked as amazing as expected, replacing Pixies as their favorite module. The experience of running this as an adult module with my own trademark tweaks went over just as well.

Ultimately, "Nightmares of Parade" may be a glorious module on its own...but its value lies beyond that. It is a module that not only dares to teach in a didactically unobtrusive manner, it is one tailor made, carefully and in a truly intelligent way, to leave particularly kids and parents as better persons for having played it. If you think I'm overanalyzing this, btw., then I'd point you straight towards the fact that this obviously is intended to achieve said stated goal; each and every facet of the module is devoted towards cultivating a respectful and benevolent development, a component of "Bildung" not only between the players, but also in their interaction with others and among themselves. It teaches spine and courage in the face of adversity and the value of behaving in an upstanding, honorable manner while still being kids. In short: Nightmares on parade is a masterpiece not only on a formal level, but also is one of the scant few modules that dares to try to leave its audience better off for having played it; it is one of the very few incarnations of our favorite medium that tries to do more than entertain without losing sight of entertainment being the primary purpose. Stephen Rowe has surpassed himself with this module and catapulted himself into a level of adventure-writing excellence that is rarefied indeed, that is a very small class of its own.

With all my heart, I encourage you to get Pixies and this, the sequel. We need authors that dare to do more than just entertain (though it certainly does excel here as well!); it is my firm conviction that roleplaying games already are a great way of helping people, regardless of age, connect, develop and improve in numerous aspects of life. This, however, takes everything one step further - it can actually be seen as a module that could be canon as something that truly benefits everyone involved, that helps form personalities and strengthen positive character traits. This is Bildung given the form of an exceedingly fun and modular adventure. This humble masterpiece is worth 5 stars + seal of approval and, unsurprisingly, a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. If you share my firm belief that roleplaying games can make us all better people...then take a look. This module, frankly, is art in the most unpretentious manner you can define it; it leaves you better for having witnessed it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nightmares on Parade
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 5E
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/17/2016 06:10:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of the third installment of the kid-friendly adventure-sequence intended to be played in a single session after school clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After #2, the players should have reached 2nd level.

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

...

..

.

All right! Having passed the door, the PCs meet the dodo, whose speech patterns in the read-aloud text contain numerous malapropisms, i.e. wrong uses of "big" words - which can make for a fun mini-game, if the kids are so inclined...but anyways, the dodo enlists the PCs in partaking in his "Combat and Obstacle Race of Amusement and Doom." There are a couple of rules: once the race is begun, you can't leave the track; if you do, you're disqualified. Only one member of each team has to overcome an obstacle for the team to proceed and the team has three tries to complete the race - on each failure, they are teleported back to the start and lose one mark. As a minor inconsistency, the pdf mentions 5 such tries once, 3 at another time - I think 5 is correct, but ultimately, it doesn't matter since the challenges are pretty easy to overcome.

The first potential combat obstacle would be a red gelatin cube - if defeated and eaten, the PCs can thereafter swim through the lava pit via Strength (Athletics) that represents the first challenge. Otherwise, it's Dexterity (Acrobatics) to get past it. This is pretty much the leitmotif here - the next obstacles, a loop de loop, requires climbing (in 5e, unfortunately, once again Strength (Athletics), where PFRPG had two different skills here), and defeating an optional black cube may net the PCs a similar angle here. The final obstacle also features an optional blue cube, which may be eaten to gain electricity resistance, for the final obstacle is a jelly fish tank, where some are electrifying, while others aren't. The truth can be analyzed via detect magic and Intelligence (Arcana) or Wisdom (Perception).

Whether or not the PCs succeed, the dodo'll be happy and reward them, though victors obviously gain more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to Playground Adventure's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are kid-friendly and nice. the pdf comes with basic bookmarks, in spite of its brevity.

J Gray's Dodo Race is a bit of a misnomer - it is less a race, more of an obstacle course, considering that there are no contestants but the PCs. If you actually make jello-cubes and hand them out when the PCs defeat them, it'll certainly generate some fond memories. From a design perspective, this one feels a bit trivial, even considering the target demographic - during my test-run, the PCs pretty much aced the module without needing to partake in the combats at all. Sure, this is intended as an alternate solution...but still. I don't know, it's perhaps due to the title that I expected some competitive aspect. And indeed, the set-up would carry a full-sized adventure: More obstacles, competing teams, the like - the idea's great! While I hence entered this module with the wrong mindset and ended up being slightly disappointed, the players enjoyed it, though less so than #2.

If you have the luxury of choosing whether to play the PFRPG or D&D 5e-version, I consider the PFRPG version to be slightly better this time around, mainly due to the skills employed being a bit more diverse.

Since it would not be fair to penalize the little book for my expectations, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 5E
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 PF
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/17/2016 06:06:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the kid-friendly adventure-sequence intended to be played in a single session after school clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After #2, the players should have reached 2nd level. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right! Having passed the door, the PCs meet the dodo, whose speech patterns in the read-aloud text contain numerous malapropisms, i.e. wrong uses of "big" words - which can make for a fun mini-game, if the kids are so inclined...but anyways, the dodo enlists the PCs in partaking in his "Combat and Obstacle Race of Amusement and Doom." There are a couple of rules: once the race is begun, you can't leave the track; if you do, you're disqualified. Only one member of each team has to overcome an obstacle for the team to proceed and the team has three tries to complete the race - on each failure, they are teleported back to the start and lose one mark. As a minor inconsistency, the pdf mentions 5 such tries once, 3 at another time - I think 5 is correct, but ultimately, it doesn't matter since the challenges are pretty easy to overcome.

The first potential combat obstacle would be a red gelatin cube - if defeated and eaten, the PCs can thereafter swim through the lava pit that represents the first challenge. This is pretty much the leitmotif here - the next obstacles, a loop de loop, requires climbing and defeating an optional black cube may net the PCs a similar angle here. The final obstacle also features an optional blue cube, which may be eaten to gain electricity resistance, for the final obstacle is a jelly fish tank, where some are electrifying, while others aren't. The truth can be analyzed via detect magic or Perception.

Whether or not the PCs succeed, the dodo'll be happy and reward them, though victors obviously gain more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to Playground Adventure's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are kid-friendly and nice. the pdf comes with basic bookmarks, in spite of its brevity.

J Gray's Dodo Race is a bit of a misnomer - it is less a race, more of an obstacle course, considering that there are no contestants but the PCs. If you actually make jello-cubes and hand them out when the PCs defeat them, it'll certainly generate some fond memories. From a design perspective, this one feels a bit trivial, even considering the target demographic - during my test-run, the PCs pretty much aced the module without needing to partake in the combats at all. Sure, this is intended as an alternate solution...but still. I don't know, it's perhaps due to the title that I expected some competitive aspect. And indeed, the set-up would carry a full-sized adventure: More obstacles, competing teams, the like - the idea's great! While I hence entered this module with the wrong mindset and ended up being slightly disappointed, the players enjoyed it, though less so than #2. Since it would not be fair to penalize the little book for my expectations, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #3 PF
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 5E
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/21/2016 12:23:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second module in the Wonderland-inspired series of mini-modules for the youngest gamers clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Young 'uns - sneaking a peek here can spoil your fun - don't do it, okay?

...

..

.

All right, so the PCs have chased the white rabbit through the forest in #1 and this module begins as the players fall down the rabbit hole...wait, no, they are not...they basically are floating, with no means of propulsion and the sides of the tunnel too far away to reach. As the PCs ponder their predicament, a blue dictionary will float over...you know, it's hungry and wants to be fed with words from A - Z. This little vocab test, including an Intelligence or Wisdom check to help them for the more difficult words, is a fun start. Then, things get more difficult with the letter "I": The next array of words needs to have the letter AND two syllables. Once the PCs reach "R", they will have to work backwards from Z to S. Oh, and the read-aloud text of the dictionary is intended to be sung to "Pop goes the Weasel" and rhymes appropriately. And yes, I had to look the tune up. XD

As the party finally floats down, they will reach a table with a drink and a cake...and we all know what these do, right? But there's a twist: A) If the PCs are itching for a fight, the table will happily oblige. And B), the doors open to show the peek-a-boo - a unique monster that has the proper key to pass...and it teleports to other doors when the PCs try to take it from its mouth. Here, multiple strategies help: Making the creature laugh, guarding doors, using logic, making it cry - oh, and the module does use this chance to teach the players about using attribute checks to determine information about creatures - which, however, sports a minor hiccup - it refers to Intelligence (Lore), which should probably be (History) or (Nature) instead.

Bypassing the friendly creature in this game concludes the adventure for now and should see the PCs reach level 2.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues apart from aforementioned little hiccup. Layout adheres to Playground Adventures' beautiful two-column full-color standard with Cheshire Cat on top and all. The pdf's art is sparse, but similarly child-friendly. Spells etc. are hyperlinked to the PRD for your convenience. In spite of the module's brevity, it features bookmarks - nice. This time around, the module has no cartography, but it doesn't really need maps for the encounters herein.

J Gray's second Adventures in Wonderland-module is more rewarding than the first: Where the first module focused its efforts via a boardgame-like playing field on teaching the very basics of roleplaying, this one focuses a bit more on the actual roleplaying aspect and problem-solving skills of the kids that play it. This renders the module more palatable for older kids as well. The content herein is btw. appropriate for kids ages 4 and up (with my suggestion being that players ages 8+ will probably start having less fun with this due to its cute tone) and even the most scaredycat, sensitive child will not be frightened by this one; this is pretty much the definition of wholesome and harmless, with literally each encounter focusing on unobtrusive engagement of the mental faculties of kids rather than just rolling the dice and defeating foes. Even the optional combat is not something anyone would consider problematic.

So yes, this very much achieves its goal; it has versatile challenges, nice visuals and is a fun romp. My one complaint would be that a hard-mode version for the challenges would have been nice for particularly smart kids, but then again, one can easily improvise the like on the fly, based on the material that is provided here. (The syllable angle can be easily expanded; I had them actually spell the words...but only do that if the kids are already reading a lot and capable of spelling...you know your audience best, GM!)

So, how to rate this? As mentioned, I consider this to be better than the first module and while older kids won't have as much fun with this as the young ones, for the target demographic, this is awesome indeed. The unobtrusive educational angle's here and the locations are unique. The small hiccup and the fact that the conversion of the creatures is a bit more conservative than I like is all that costs this version the seal of approval, leaving me with still a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 5E
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Creature Components Vol 1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2016 21:11:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages of detailed ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 50 pages of raw content, so let’s take a look!

This book has been moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. I actually have had quite some time to digest the pre-release version (with only layout missing) and tried to get the review done before my trip. Alas, there were some delays and thus, the final version only hit sites after my departure. I do have a policy to cover only finalized books with proper reviews, though, and thus, I did the only thing I could – sit down and type away at this review whenever I had the chance – in the evenings, after a long drive; in the breaks; when my lady was at the wheel. I don’t have my laptop with me, so please bear with me regarding any glitches/typos. This is pretty much the raw on-the-road edition of reviewing. ;)

All right, that out oft he way, this begins with a flavortext in character that renders the book a nice read – and the flavortext, at least form e, has a touching component, but let me elaborate. Once in a while, Rite Publishing’s late mastermind Steven D. Russell would go one step above and beyond in his 101-series. Sometimes, he would deliver a book of raw creative potency that blew even the generally very high standard oft he series away – this book is, in dedication and also in flavortext, a nod to his creativity and person, as it employs the proper appellations and nomenclature; in a way, this book is a take on his concept of power components and special materials, a book he never had the time to write, but always wanted to.

So what are these components? Well, there is a disjunction in d20-based roleplaying I never was too comfortable with – said disjunction would exist between the huge diversity of critters that exist fort he game we all love and cherish and the non-information; nay, the sheer mundane nature of how their vanquishing is handled. Think of Sigfried/Sigurðr – bathing in dragon’s blood rendered him nigh-unstoppable. Think of Hercules and his golden fleece; of the medusa’s head; oft he basilisk’s blood and the manticore‘s stinger; think of a wyvern’s poison…think of all the hundreds of glorious remnanty of fantastical creatures our own mythology has bequeathed upon us…so why in all hell is defeating such foes so mundane in Pathfinder and similar systems? Where is the gravitas, the „realism“, the magic? The components used herein elevate defeated foes from being simply collections of XP with a mechanical coating. The pdf does this in a variety of ways, so let’s examine them.

Number one would be the use as optional power components – using a component to enhance a spell. Number two would be to aid the creation of magical items…but before the components can be used in any way, they have to be harvested. A simple table and guidelines, with CR as guideline and associated prices provided, does offer a massive help for any prospective GM who wants to add a slew of Geralt of Riva’s fantasy aesthetics to the game. Beyond even that, essence vials for capturing parts of ephemeral creatures and the willing gift of components is covered herein as well. Concise guidelines are provided to help the GM handling creature components in a given game.

For purposes of spellcasting enhancement, the pdf provides several broad categories that help classifying the components and their effects on spellcasting – and yes, they do take into account the variety of prepared vs. Spontaneous spellcasting, as just one example; optional, GM-controlled downsides for grittier games are mentioned as well and using items to modify magic items or reduce the cost of creation provide a truly concise and comprehensive framework to make the process as smooth as possible: A GM who wants to steer his group towards a certain module that features foes the PCs are reluctant to engage can thus easily employ these components a spart oft he treasure of even main objective: In order to break through defensive dweomer XYZ, you will need that ettercap’s silk-spinnerts…

So, this would be the basic framework the pdf offers – sufficient to generate a ton of material and ideas for adventures, for whole campaigns, even. However, the main meat oft he book does not lie within the general, but nevertheless interesting guidelines presented thus far – no, it lies in the massive catalog of components featured thereafter: we basically take the first Pathfinder bestiary and its creatures and provide components for them. Andy es, aasimars are included; and no, you can’t „milk“ these fellows- the non-abuse/GM-control clauses in the general section make sure of that and even provide a reasonable justification in the spiritual component required for these items to work. Trust me, it makes sense as featured in this book.

Anyways, we begin with aasimar blood, which can add Flaring Spell’s effects to any spell with a light-descriptor. If you’d expect now a one creature, one component breakdown oft he material herein, you’d be surprised to realize that there is often more than one component provided – aboleth mucus and cerebral fluid are included as two components, for example; similarly, while angel blood does have general properties, the individual creatures and their vital fluids actually offer different tricks fort he discerning user. The modifications often feature metamagic effects or a cost reduction; however, it would be a gross and unjust miss-characterization of this book to only expect cookie-cutting effects; quite the contrary, actually.

Let’s stay with „A“ for a second and talk about the ankhegs, some of my favorite critters; Their saliva, when used to cast a spell with an acid-descriptor, increases the damage-die type by one step (max 1d12); however, when used to enhance a spell of 3rd level or lower, the user also becomes immune to acid damage for 1 round upon casting the spell, adding a brand new tactical dimension to the casting. How is such a component presented? Well, we have an alphabetical listing, with the general potency (as introduced before), component class (think oft hat as the type oft he component) and spell that can be augmented noted; similarly, prices have been provided. Whether you employ balor essence or horn makes a significant difference in use, for example, though both are components with a potency of greater. Want to enhance a spell or effect that causes the nauseated or sickened condition? Hezrou sweat is the way to go! Replacing caused diseases with devil’s chills? Possible. If you add mimic spittle to spells that grant DR or an increase to touch AC, you may also increase the CMB for grapple purposes…well, I could go on like this forever. Basically, this book takes the essences of creatures and codifies them in a quasi-alchemical component system that makes the creatures feel more…well, alive. Believable.

Speaking of which, notice how I mentioned that the x-blooded races would be kept in check to avoid the abuse of harvesting components? Beyond feats that build on the system presented herein, there also are feats that allow a character with a certain bloodline to properly harvest his own blood, but thankfully with a proper cap.

This is, however, not even close to the totality of what this book offers – in the spirit of „waste not what you’ve killed“, the book also features a significant plethora of magic items based on components as well as variants of existing ones reimagined within the framework of this book; suddenly, the cloak of resistance is no longer the most boring magic item ever, but „the item we made from that owlbear that almost killed Yorvan“ – but beyond that, e.g. a remorhaz forge deserves special mention…sans fuel, fantastic…and absolutely stunning to look at. Look at? Well, guess what? This is the first Playground Adventures book not specifically targeted at a younger audience and oh boy, it is BEAUTIFUL. As in „Usually, we only see that in Kickstarters“ level of beautiful. The component section features several quasi-anatomical renditions that evoke the spirit oft he classic Vetruvian man and real life bestiaries. (In case you didn’t know – in less enlightened times and long before even daguerreotypes were a thing, cataloging of creatures both mundane and fantastical was done in such tomes.) In the item-section, the artistic style is deliberately changed to provide renditions of many oft he items included in stunning full-color; and we’re talking about the same quality as the cover. Yeah. This book is BEAUTIFUL.

But I digress – note how I mentioned the famous Sigfried myth? Well, in the end, even some special properties may be modified…so yes, actually using dragon’s blood to enhance your armor will yield results…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups and, considering the length of this book, that is quite a feat. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard that blends well with the aforementioned glorious art-direction of this book: Jocelyn Sarvida’s art complements BJ Hensley’s layout really well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with individual bookmarks for all critters, making navigation really comfortable.

Daniel Marshall’s books so far have always had the right creative spark, but stumbled somewhere along the line; I’m not sure if the development by Stephen Rowe or just a natural growth as a designer or both are responsible…but guess what?

THIS IS AMAZING. Congratulations are in order!

Know how I always complain about fantasy feeling mundane? About the fact that we have these tropes of requiring some unique components, but no mechanical representation? Well, this is it. This is the book fort he GMs who are tired of monsters that just feel like mechanics; the book fort he groups that want to craft their own equipment; the groups that want it to matter what kind of foes they defeated; this is the book fort he Geralt of Riva fans; this is the book for all the groups who want to play rare/low magic and make the defeat of those mighty foes matter. The book fort he collectors, the scavengers, the groups that want an unicorn’s gift horn and self-sacrifice matter; that want devil’s blood to have repercussions; that want a touch of our myths, our fantastic tropes in the game. This is a book fort he fans oft he occult that want their fantasy to feel real. While feasible for any system, particularly fans of darker fantasy will consider this book a must own purchase.

In case you were wondering - the above all, in some extent or another, holds true for me. This book is a touching monument, a great tribute and beyond that, it frankly is one inspiring tome. Honestly, even before all the „OMG, it is so beautiful“-artwork and layout, I read the plain ole‘ doc and was grinning from ear to ear; to be honest, it’s one reason I managed to sit down after hundreds of miles at the wheel, dead tired and write this.

I wanted to draw attention to this gem. Immediately. This book is a fantastic resource for groups of all ages, for various games; it is an exceptional resource that very much will become a default staple in pretty much all of my games once I return home. There is a chance you just want to kill things and their names and flavor don’t matter to you; perhaps you’re fine with just nameless, mass-produced cloaks of resistance – that’s fine, I don’t judge. But you’re missing out on something wonderful.

I will always prefer the item with the story, the personal attachment. I will always adore the smart caster from our novels, the one who has the component tool to modify his spell in unique ways. This book provides all of that. It may be a crunch book, but it, like the late scribe Russell’s offerings, is a great read and manages to inspire.

So please, please, please – if what I mentioned above even slightly resonates with you, take a look at this, buy this and support Playground Adventures so weg et more. I know that I can’t wait for Vol. II and hopefully a lot, lot more – this is very much the innovative,game-enhancing crunch book we need. To paraphrase Saint-Exupéry, this book is very much the spirit breathing upon the clay oft he mechanics to create more soul for both items, magic and creatures. There is narrative potential for years in the system presented here and I absolutely love it to bits. This book is stellar and deserves a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, is a candidate for my top ten of 2016 and receives the EZG Essentials-tag.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Components Vol 1
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ASA: Picnic at Forest Cove
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2016 07:34:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This revised edition of the module intended for younger audiences clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In case you're new to the product line - this module is intended for play with kids, to be completed in one session after school...and impart some knowledge unobtrusively while playing. All right, got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Only GMs around? The PCs are accompanying Master Michele, in charge with wizard education towards a famous picnic spot, and en route, the wizard utilizes potions of speak with animals to allow the kids the chance to converse with a badger family, who are currently heading for greener pastures - obviously, something has forced them to relocate from their home. (And yes, the pdf does note what's inside their picnic baskets.)

On the way to the picnic location, more unpleasant things are afoot - a rather emancicated wolverine is fighting for his life against disgusting giant ticks! The PCs can help the hungry, poor critter and help it - though it'll take some delicate care to make the weary and wounded animal trust the PCs, though healing and aid against the ticks does help significantly.

The half-starved critter also tells of blackened water and indeed, at the wonderful, once untouched beach, one can now see a log fort and black waters - and indeed, passing a relatively harmless "trap", the PCs encounter two appropriately goofy azer brothers, who are very proud of their Rock-B-Coal device and the quick processing of coal! It is said device and particularly the swift syrup that hastens the process that is responsible for the pollution and while combat is a way to drive them off, Diplomacy and, more importantly, science, can really help here, making the process less strenuous on the environment. This would also be a great time, just fyi, to explain the coalification process, with notes provided and a handy link for further information available.

This is not how the pdf stops, though: We also receive a recipe for "coal lumps" based on chocolate sandwich cookies and mini marshmallows...and there also is the coal cookie mining activity that teaches the cost and process of mining! The activity takes 1 - 2 hours and requires play money, 3 different types of packaged chocolate chips, grid paper, pencils, flat toothpicks, round toothpicks, paper clips and that's it!

The pdf begins with the procedure explained: Coal mining companies need to revert the land to the status before mining, which is a significant cost. The mining should be profitable even with these costs. Each participant gets $19 play money, a sheet of grid paper and the handy cookie mining worksheet included. Each player may purchase mining property (a cookie) with different prices, depending on type. The cookie is placed on the grid and traced - the number of squares that are included in the outline (including partial square) are noted down. Next, you purchase mining equipment: Flat toothpicks cost $2, round ones $4 and a paper clip is 6$. Each minute of labor (mining) costs $1 and each chocolate chip mined from the cookies nets a $2 profit. Broken chips can be combined into whole chips, but consumed chips will eat into profit! The participants may mine for a maximum of 5 minutes. In the end, the participants must do "reclamation"- I.e. return the cookie to its former state - with only the tools they have! Each square outside the original outline costs $1.

This whole experience is discussed, with questions, potential for extensions and the like - and I really love this game. It's easy to grasp, somewhat difficult and yet not too hard and incredibly fun. It also helps getting a more differentiated picture of the challenges of mining as opposed to the glorification/demonization we can often find in various media. Oh, and the activity would make for a great drunk party game for adults!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a colorful 2-column full-color standard with nice color artworks. The pdf is bookmarked, in spite of its brevity, which is nice.

The revised version of Kelly Pawlik's module is vastly superior to the original iteration and manages to provide an educational and rewarding experience, best suited for kids ages 4 - 10.

My one, minor gripe here is that the activity, flexible as it is, is basically separate from the module. The plus side is that it can easily be run before or after the module and that it works perfectly as a stand-alone sans the module part.

But still, in my mind, helping the azer brothers mine in game would have probably made for a cool synergy and provided a second side to the whole experience: The pollutant syrup could have made some operations cheaper, for example, tying both environmental concern and the need to make profit, together and illustrate via one experience both sides and the difficulties faced. Anyways, a capable GM can easily do this and this is an inexpensive, fun and educational module. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Picnic at Forest Cove
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Fun & Facts: For the Hive!
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/08/2016 17:46:17

This is a well written adventure for young players, new players, and low-level characters. The adventure is broken into three acts, and punctuated with facts about bees in the real world, which is fantastic for young players, and something I'd like to see in more products. The art is cute and child friendly, while still offering enough details for the more mature players to enjoy. The final couple of pages are dedicated to additional resources, such as articles about bees and origami projects.

I strongly recommend this product to gamers with kids that want to play too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fun & Facts: For the Hive!
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Creator Reply:
So glad you\'ve enjoyed it! We will have more full length Fun & Facts soon!
Ponyfinder - Ghost of the Pirate Queen
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:26:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Ponyfinder-module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1/2 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

Wait, before we do: This is an adventure-review and as such, it contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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..

.

All right, still here? Great! When ponykind tells stories of dread beings around the campfire, sooner or later, the notorious pirate queen Brokenhorn is mentioned -an unicorn whose eventual trial was judged by none other than the queen herself. After breaking from jail, she pulled off the caper of a century...and then vanished. Until now. The module begins in the port city of Kailani (no settlement statblock reproduced, alas), famed for its metal production and assumes that the PCs have been hired to deal with a mine taken over by gem gnolls. It is here, that it becomes apparent that this not only is a Ponyfinder module, but also one made by Playground Adventures - throughout the module, you'll find handy boxes providing GM tricks aimed for younger audiences: From using the opportunity of roleplaying to improve math skills to championing non-violent solutions- turns out that the ponies have been inadvertently poisoning the gem gnoll's tunnels with their mining operation - and savvy ponies will be able to provide an amicable solution for all parties involved. Of course, combat or trickery similarly are options and yes, some educational notes on copper are provided.

In the aftermath of all of this, the PCs will find a (simple) puzzle box that can easily be simulated with cards, coins and the like - it's a classic "all adjacent crystals light up" puzzle and inside, the PCs will find a treasure map with a riddle - hints for said riddle are optionally written into the very dialog options used for the zebra captain whose ship the PCs are likely to use to get to sea...but not before an unicorn called Demi Charter tries to buy their map. The crew of the vessel is depicted in fluff-only brief paragraphs, but should provide enough dynamics for roleplaying during the journey...and the module does provide a nautical term/pirate slang glossary, which can help build specialized vocabulary for the players. The vessel is statted properly and while ship to ship combat with an enemy vessel is a distinct possibility, the module does not assume the use of nautical combat as a given, instead noting that younger players may enjoy a more narrative take on the subject matter.

Speaking of which - it turns out that Demi Charter is trying to board them - possessed by Brokenhorn! While capable PCs will be able to bring him to reason, ultimately they will be warned that the treasure hunt is not a simple task. The map of the treasure island sports three Xs, but knowing how pine cones interact with heat can help deduce which one is the correct one. The complex of Brokenhorn, hidden below, is fully mapped and features pitting the PCs against an illusory double of the famed pirate and past bone organs...which may be a bit creepy, but considering the wholesome tone of the whole module, I'd be surprised to hear about even sensitive kids being scared here. While exploring the complex, the PCs will also be cast in other roles, as haunts take them into Brokenhorn's memory: Here, the PCs will be faced by a nice and relatively easy alchemical deductive logic puzzle and in the aftermath, the PCs will be filled in by the spirits of the memories regarding Brokenhorn's ambitions and past. The use of the player's faculties will continue, as another haunt features a nice substitution cypher of the simplest kind (Even when run in other languages, the cypher makes translating the puzzle easy.) - it turns out that phantoms here takes the PCs to put Brokenhorn's ghost to rest - the pirate queen never actually killed anyone; that was just embellishments that grew over time (nice way to teach kids a bit of skepticism!) and the ghost, while dangerous, deserves being put to rest - if the PCs prevail, they'll end the module with a heart-warming scene and Brokenhorn's unique horn as an item as reward. The pdf concludes with a list of recommended/further reading regarding pirate narratives.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from very minor hiccups like a "/" missing in the multiclass statblock and similar, rare trifles, the book is precise and to the point in both formal and rules-language and well done. The layout crafted for the book is gorgeous and provides a great 2-column full-color experience. The pdf's artwork in full color is similarly nice. I really like the colorful cartography provided for the "dungeons" featured within, though I wished we'd get player-friendly key-less versions for them.

J Gray, with assistance by Stephen Rowe, has crafted a great module - there's no two ways around it; how great, however, depends a bit on the facet under which you examine the module. As a ponyfinder module, this excels - it uses everglow canon and places well and knows the themes of Ponyfinder. As an educational module with a kid-focus, this similarly excels - the emphasis on wholesome conflicts, diplomatic solutions and the use of kid-appropriate puzzles that engage them without being too hard is great. Theme-wise, I'd suggest this for kids ages 4 - 10 - older kids may consider the puzzles too easy, depending on how smart they are and young gamers in puberty will probably want more violence than this offers.

Adults who want a change of pace will enjoy this, though they won't consider it too challenging and rather easy. As a pirate module, it hits all the notes from ship-to-ship combat to treasure hunting - but here, it is slightly less excellent. What do I mean by this? The treasure map the PCs find...does not exist as a representation herein. I know I am nitpicking here, but it's so obvious to me, particularly regarding kids. How do you engage them? Bingo, the open the box and you present the treasure map. There is no handout like that in here that depicts the island. You know, just a sketch will do...I made one. When the sketch approach is used, less experienced GMs could have certainly used the tricks to make old, creased, wrinkled parchment-style paper with coffee or tea. So yeah, when looked at under these circumstances, the module does have a flaw that can be nitpicked.

That being said, in spite of my nitpicking of one arguably optional component, this still is by far the most refined and well-thought out Ponyfinder supplement I've read so far and remains a pretty cool, engaging module with unobtrusive educational angles. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Ghost of the Pirate Queen
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ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 PF
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2016 10:48:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second module in the Wonderland-inspired series of mini-modules for the youngest gamers clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Young 'uns - sneaking a peek here can spoil your fun - don't do it, okay?

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..

.

All right, so the PCs have chased the white rabbit through the forest in #1 and this module begins as the players fall down the rabbit hole...wait, no, they are not...they basically are floating, with no means of propulsion and the sides of the tunnel too far away to reach. As the PCs ponder their predicament, a blue dictionary will float over...you know, it's hungry and wants to be fed with words from A - Z. This little vocab test, including a skill-check to help them for the more difficult words, is a fun start. Then, things get more difficult with the letter "I": The next array of words needs to have the letter AND two syllables. Once the PCs reach "R", they will have to work backwards from Z to S. Oh, and the read-aloud text of the dictionary is intended to be sung to "Pop goes the Weasel" and rhymes appropriately. And yes, I had to look the tune up. XD

As the party finally floats down, they will reach a table with a drink and a cake...and we all know what these do, right? But there's a twist: A) If the PCs are itching for a fight, the table will happily oblige. And B), the doors open to show the peek-a-boo - a unique monster that has the proper key to pass...and it teleports to other doors when the PCs try to take it from its mouth. Here, multiple strategies help: Making the creature laugh, guarding doors, using logic, making it cry - oh, and the module does use this chance to teach the players about using skill-checks pertaining monsters.

Bypassing the friendly creature in this game concludes the adventure for now and should see the PCs reach level 2.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to Playground Adventures' beautiful two-column full-color standard with Cheshire Cat on top and all. The pdf's art is sparse, but similarly child-friendly. Spells etc. are hyperlinked to the PRD for your convenience. In spite of the module's brevity, it features bookmarks - nice. This time around, the module has no cartography, but it doesn't really need maps for the encounters herein.

J Gray's second Adventures in Wonderland-module is more rewarding than the first: Where the first module focused its efforts via a boardgame-like playing field on teaching the very basics of roleplaying, this one focuses a bit more on the actual roleplaying aspect and problem-solving skills of the kids that play it. This renders the module more palatable for older kids as well. The content herein is btw. appropriate for kids ages 4 and up (with my suggestion being that players ages 8+ will probably start having less fun with this due to its cute tone) and even the most scaredycat sensitive child will not be frightened by this one; this is pretty much the definition of wholesome and harmless, with literally each encounter focusing on unobtrusive engagement of the mental faculties of kids rather than just rolling the dice and defeating foes. Even the optional combat is not something anyone would consider problematic.

So yes, this very much achieves its goal; it has versatile challenges, nice visuals and is a fun romp. My one complaint would be that a hard-mode version for the challenges would have been nice for particularly smart kids, but then again, one can easily improvise the like on the fly, based on the material that is provided here. (The syllable angle can be easily expanded; I had them actually spell the words...but only do that if the kids are already reading a lot and capable of spelling...you know your audience best, GM!)

So, how to rate this? As mentioned, I consider this to be better than the first module and while older kids won't have as much fun with this as the young ones, for the target demographic, this is awesome indeed. The unobtrusive educational angle's here and the locations are unique. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ASA: Alice in Wonderland #2 PF
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