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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:26:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level; medium advancement track is assumed. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

As far as rules-relevant content is concerned, the pdf is generally really solid, though there are a few hiccups: There is no unholy damage in Pathfinder, and it’s “Resistance 10”, not “resist 10” regarding the formatting of resistance in text. Oddly, in spite of being, according to the 5e-version, written originally for PFRPG, there is also a reference to a Dexterity saving throw that should reference to Reflex saves instead. These are the exception to the rules, though – as a whole, the module is solid and easy to run, and even the rare few glitches should not stump any GM.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few hiccups, but nothing truly glaring – it can be considered to be good, bordering on very good there. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The few hiccups do not tarnish the structure or fun you can have with the module, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:24:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, as far as conversion goes, this is an interesting example: On the one hand, I could nitpick one instance of “Sense Motive” remaining, which should refer to Insight instead, and “Intimidate” in some statblocks should refer to Intimidation instead. Similarly, the statblocks, while bolding abilities etc. properly, do not italicize attack-names, for example, as well. So yeah, in the formal department, we have some unnecessary deviations. On the other hand, it is rather interesting to note that advantage and disadvantage are used properly, and that, by virtue of 5e’s design-aesthetic, the benefits that clever roleplaying may yield are more pronounced, which is a big plus for me. In direct contrast, I’d prefer how this version handles things. It’s a bit more challenging as far as I’m concerned. The rules-relevant components are per se well-crafted, with damage thresholds noted and damage types, as a whole, well-translated, though a few of deviations can be found regarding the paradigms can be found: There is no unholy damage in 5e and Wisdom damage is something that is quite scarce in 5e. That being said, these deviations are the exception, not the rule – poison and the poisoned condition, for example, are used properly. All in all, this is a well-made conversion, if not a perfect one.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the conversion is at once solid regarding the details and aesthetics, while sporting a few references that are relics – like a reference to Will saves that should refer to Wisdom saving throws. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The conversion is at once rather interesting and made with care, and on the other hand, sports a few unnecessary relics that could have been caught. This is what costs this version half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars. That being said, in spite of these minor rough spots, this is still very much worth checking out, and flow-wise, I actually enjoyed this version a tad bit more – if you can look past them and have the means to choose versions, I’d go for this one, in spite of it being slightly less refined. Oh, and yes, I will round up for this one as well – this is well worth getting and rendered me absolutely stoked for the next adventure!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:26:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning, with the rules recapped for your convenience: After all, the water weirds that represent minions here (full stats included) can be pretty nasty. On a minor downside: The attack damage seems to be off by 1 in an otherwise solid statblock.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the CR 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities: She can fire thorn volleys, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher: With the terrain and at-will entangle, the PCs need to be up to their A-game if they don’t want to join the slain hanging around as decorative warnings. Then again: They have plenty warning that the dryad is not to be trifled with. Her statblock is btw. absolutely worthy of such a potent foe and the absolute highlight of this supplement!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from the minor hiccup mentioned before, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, warrants the extremely fair asking price. At this price-point, I can’t recall any sidetrek of comparable quality regarding the challenge posed and overall presentation– which is why, in spite of the minor hiccup, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars. If your players crave a meaningful challenge, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
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The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:25:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning. The peculiarity of 5e has been properly acknowledged here, using rules analogue to suffocation – kudos!

The water weirds that represent minions here can be pretty nasty, so yeah, the PCs have been warned in more ways than one.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the challenge 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities, including legendary actions: She can fire lash out with vines, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher. The dryad is deadly, but, to put my nitpicker’s hat on, the lady does suffer from a minor hiccup: She refers to the entangled condition, which RAW does not exist – while it’s simple to default to the spell’s effects, it’s still an imperfection that can cause a bit of confusion. I am also a bit puzzled how her skills came to be: At proficiency bonus +3 and Wisdom 16, her Perception should either be +6 or +3, not +4, for example.

Oh yes, dire bear. You see, we actually get dire bear stats herein as well – at challenge 5, this fellow is DEADLY. However, it should be noted that a few glitches have crept into the statblock: At challenge 5, he should have a proficiency bonus of +3, which means that the attack values should be one higher; similarly, the Perception skill should be one lower. I may be missing something, but yeah. Considering how lethal the lady is, this is a bit puzzling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. The statblocks themselves sport a few minor hiccups, which unfortunately accumulate. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, may warrant the more than fair asking price. The 5e-conversion per se is nice (big kudos for the dire bear stats), but at the same time, the hiccups in them, while not impeding your ability to run the module, may upset some of the more mechanically nitpicky GMs out there. As such, I cannot go higher than 4 stars for the 5e-iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2017 05:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

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

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

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Now, the 5e-conversion deserves special mention here - it goes beyond the basics like converting skill DCs, poisons, damage thresholds etc.: A cursed item has, for example, been replaced with an animated rug and the formal aspects, items and loot all have been adjusted to properly work within the different power-level aesthetics of 5e. That being said, the module is significantly harder in the 5e-version. Since gelatinous cubes are stronger in 5e than in PFRPG, these can be a bit more of a challenge here.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. It should be noted that the ghost uses default stats for ghosts in 5e, which accounts for the one page less in page-count of this version when compared to the PFRPG-iteration. That may be me, but I really would have liked the ghost to have some unique tricks up his sleeve. On the balance-plus-side, the ghost makes for a slightly easier boss in 5e than in PFRPG, which emphasizes smart play more - you can conceivably play this and really rock it...or have a tough time. It very much depends on the players.

What do I mean by this? Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. The conversion excels at its attention. No complaints in that regard.

The 5e-iteration of this module is definitely harder than the PFRPG-version and whether you like that or don't depends ultimately on personal preferences. With the potent and rather tough cubes (84 hit points...), the module certainly feels less suited for a lighthearted interpretation than the PFRPG-version. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. The well-done conversion makes the module run in a slightly different manner, which is actually something I personally enjoyed, gaming aesthetics-wise. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. The 5e version has a slightly different focus, resulting from the respective changes in focus, creature potency etc., but ultimately evens out - it is a bit more focused on smart player decisions, at least in my book.

Ultimately, I like both versions and as such, my final verdict will clock in at the same verdict, 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2017 04:59:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

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

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

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. Interesting: Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. On the plus-side, poisons and cursed items do make this dungeon anything but a cakewalk!

However, the module does have a pretty cool advantage over comparable offerings: Beyond the great production values, it can be run in a variety of ways: You could easily depict this module and its proceedings as tragic, creepy or even as comical! In fact, I'd actually advise you to depict the ghost as a tragicomic figure - it may provide the most fun for the players involved. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
Click to show product description

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From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:26:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 63 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

First things first: As before, we receive scaling information, namely the required modifications to run this for 4th level or 6th level characters instead of the 5th-level default. The pdf includes pregens.

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

...

..

.

All right, so Damian's cryptic words at the end of module #2 should bring the PCs to the scorched ruins of his once noble family - unbeknown to anyone, the taint of the Machine has sent his family into the tragic downward spiral that gave rise to his obsession, but the PCs will find out how horrid this haunted place has become. Is Damian a bad guy? This adventure provides the answer, as the PCs explore the massive manor grounds, situated in the noble's district before the city's gates in a freeform horror sandbox.

Basically, you have the massive manor-grounds and while the PCs explore this place, direct and indirect storytelling will allow them to piece together Damian's background story - a tale of woe, of a father gone missing abroad, a mother spiraling into drug-dependency and an abusive stepfather, a monster who covertly hunted humans, one that was ultimately stopped by Damian.

As the PCs explore the manor grounds, they'll bear witness, through cinematic haunts (that do NOT screw over the PCs!) the tragic past of Damian, how his family's downfall came to be, how his illegitimate daughter, whom he loved with all his heart, was slain in a horrid accident that unleashed his sorcerous powers...and how he came to understand the evil festering in Anduria...in short, it shows how a good man can come to employ the horrific methods he was employing in module #2.

Oh, and it is structurally the best module by Pyromaniac Press - in fact, it may very well be one of the best haunted house modules I have read in a long while. You see, this behaves, in a way, like the games of the Clocktower series or Haunting Ground - the grounds are haunted by a basically unbeatable monster, a horrid amalgamation of the souls slain here. This monster can only be hurt by using items that meant something to the constituent souls...and figuring that out is part of the challenge. The M is encouraged to use this monster to put pressure on the PCs, alleviate lulls, etc. - and the suggestions included make this very cinematic. oh, and fret not: The thing is SLOW and DUMB...but about as inexorable as the frickin' Terminator. PCs are encourages by the presence of this threat to alternate between exploration and running, lulls and frantic activity...and from the OTHER threats here to the haunts, all those small clues they can gather can be pieced together to ultimately stop this thing. This makes the module behave in a different way than most and achieves, in combination with Micah Watt's great rose and differentiated character-portrayal, to generate an atmosphere not unlike that of a great survival horror adventure.

...oh, and have I mentioned that the PCs will sooner or later find the breach in the cellar, which will lead to strange subterranean caverns, where dark folk are worshiping an even stranger manta ray-like humanoid...and ultimately, find a strange keystone, whose mere presence seems to generate fugue states...though, at least for now, its wards seem to hold...placed by Damian...mind you...so ultimately, the module, when run successfully, should leave the PCs conflicted about Damian...and seriously contemplate redemption for the man...

There is one item that needs to die a fiery death - an infinite fast healing-granting parasite, which, while sporting a creepy imagery, is not something that makes any sense to me within the context of this AP. Still, that's one item and a limit can be added relatively easily. On the plus-side: If you're a fan of Rusted Iron Games' Deadly Gardens-series, you'll appreciate the crossover options included herein. (And yes, rules-relevant information included.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice glaring issues. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the module sports a lot of amazing, gorgeous full-color artworks. The module does come with a printer-friendly version, just fyi. The pdf also comes with amazing full-color maps, and excellent full-color player-friendly high-res maps are included in the deal. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover is nice and a bit darker than the pdf, which acts to the module's benefit as far as I'm concerned.

So, I admittedly love the genre. Pathfinder #2 made me stick with the Pathfinder modules back in the day. That being said, this also means that I have read a metric TON of haunted house modules and this is, frankly, one of the best I have read in a long, long while. You see, a haunted house requires a) detail, b) threats and c) above all, tragedy that you can empathize with. This module delivers all of these in spades. In fact, it could be called the pay-off module for what has gone before; up to this module, we have been setting the stage in various ways - for the AP, the city, the NPCs...and this is where the pay-off begins. And, OH BOY does it hit hard!

The story and portrayal of characters is amazing, the atmosphere genuinely creepy. The plot-device monster and various ways for the PCs to defeat it is genius and manages to ramp up the tension really well. The use of cut-scene-haunts, direct and indirect storytelling all conspire to make this module a really impressive, amazing experience that even jaded ole' me enjoyed. In short: Micah Watt brilliantly showcases his strengths as an author here and the passion obvious on every page means that my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If this level of quality is an indication of the shape of things to come, I can't wait to see more from this AP!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:24:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 66 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

First things first: As before, we receive scaling information, namely the required modifications to run this for 5th level characters instead of the 6th-level default. The pdf includes pregens.

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

...

..

.

All right, so Damian's cryptic words at the end of module #2 should bring the PCs to the scorched ruins of his once noble family - unbeknown to anyone, the taint of the Machine has sent his family into the tragic downward spiral that gave rise to his obsession, but the PCs will find out how horrid this haunted place has become. Is Damian a bad guy? This adventure provides the answer, as the PCs explore the massive manor grounds, situated in the noble's district before the city's gates in a freeform horror sandbox.

Basically, you have the massive manor grounds and while the PCs explore this place, direct and indirect storytelling will allow them to piece together Damian's background story - a tale of woe, of a father gone missing abroad, a mother spiraling into drug-dependency and an abusive stepfather, a monster who covertly hunted humans, one that was ultimately stopped by Damian.

As the PCs explore the manor grounds, they'll bear witness, through cinematic haunts (think of these as supernatural hauntings/echoes) the tragic past of Damian, how his family's downfall came to be, how his illegitimate daughter, whom he loved with all his heart, was slain in a horrid accident that unleashed his sorcerous powers...and how he came to understand the evil festering in Anduria...in short, it shows how a good man can come to employ the horrific methods he was employing in module #2.

Oh, and it is structurally the best module by Pyromaniac Press - in fact, it may very well be one of the best haunted house modules I have read in a long while. You see, this behaves, in a way, like the games of the Clocktower series or Haunting Ground - the grounds are haunted by a basically unbeatable monster, a horrid amalgamation of the souls slain here. This monster can only be hurt by using items that meant something to the constituent souls...and figuring that out is part of the challenge. The M is encouraged to use this monster to put pressure on the PCs, alleviate lulls, etc. - and the suggestions included make this very cinematic. oh, and fret not: The thing is SLOW and DUMB...but about as inexorable as the frickin' Terminator. PCs are encourages by the presence of this threat to alternate between exploration and running, lulls and frantic activity...and from the OTHER threats here to the haunts, all those small clues they can gather can be pieced together to ultimately stop this thing. This makes the module behave in a different way than most and achieves, in combination with Micah Watt's great rose and differentiated character-portrayal, to generate an atmosphere not unlike that of a great survival horror adventure.

...oh, and have I mentioned that the PCs will sooner or later find the breach in the cellar, which will lead to strange subterranean caverns, where dark folk (and yes, dear 5E-GMs - these have been converted for your perusal!) are worshipping an even stranger manta ray-like humanoid...and ultimately, find a strange keystone, whose mere presence seems to generate fugue states...though, at least for now, its wards seem to hold...placed by Damian...mind you...so ultimately, the module, when run successfully, should leave the PCs conflicted about Damian...and seriously contemplate redemption for the man...

There is one item that needs to die a fiery death - an infinite healing-granting parasite, which, while sporting a creepy imagery, is not something that makes any sense to me within the context of this AP. Doubly so in 5E, which values healing higher. Srsly, broken, needs to die. Still, that's one item and a limit can be added relatively easily. On the plus-side: If you're a fan of Rusted Iron Games' Deadly Gardens-series, you'll appreciate the crossover options included herein.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good, I noticed no serious accumulation of issues. Formatting of statblocks etc. does sport some deviations from the standard, though these are mostly aesthetic. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the module sports a lot of amazing, gorgeous full-color artworks. The module does come with a printer-friendly version, just fyi. The pdf also comes with amazing full-color maps, and excellent full-color player-friendly high-res maps are included in the deal for VTT-users and GMs like yours truly who can't draw. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover is nice and a bit darker than the pdf, which acts to the module's benefit as far as I'm concerned.

So, I admittedly love the genre. Pathfinder #2 made me stick with the Pathfinder modules back in the day. That being said, this also means that I have read a metric TON of haunted house modules and this is, frankly, one of the best I have read in a long, long while. You see, a haunted house requires a) detail, b) threats and c) above all, tragedy that you can empathize with. This module delivers all of these in spades. In fact, it could be called the pay-off module for what has gone before; up to this module, we have been setting the stage in various ways - for the AP, the city, the NPCs...and this is where the pay-off begins. And, OH BOY does it hit hard! The story and portrayal of characters is amazing, the atmosphere genuinely creepy. The plot-device monster and various ways for the PCs to defeat it is genius and manages to ramp up the tension really well.- The use of cut-scene-haunts, direct and indirect storytelling all conspire to make this module a really impressive, amazing experience that even jaded ole' me enjoyed.

In short: Micah Watt brilliantly showcases his strengths as an author here and the passion is obvious on every page. Ismael Alvarez has done a nice job in the conversion as well - though I wished he had nerfed the broken parasite accordingly - it is even worse in 5E. As before, the formatting of the statblocks has some minor, aesthetic hiccups...but this should not deter you from getting this. This module is amazing, cool and while the 5E-version is slightly inferior to the PFRPG-version, it's not by much - this still is a glorious haunted house module, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor hiccups. If this is what we can expect from the AP, consider me stoked for more!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:28:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" (stats are provided...and they note an "alchemical penalty - which is a bit odd to my sensibilities and getting through withdrawal is pretty easy...) - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: The brooch that is somewhat problematic in its wording in PFRPG works better in the 5e-version.

Speaking of the conversion: The conversion by Ismael Alvarez actually fixes the damage type oversights in the PFRPG-version...and it deserves special applause for the fact that it codifies PFRPG's alchemist abilities in a meaningful and concise manner in 5e for the NPCs featured herein. While not 100% perfect, it's pretty close...so yeah, kudos indeed there - and since those are NPCoptions, it works! Even better: Guess what: The chase, represented in the amazing side-view of this one block of houses, with different height-levels etc. - it has been converted. Yes, this actually has chase-rules for 5e and an extensive explanation of how the process works!! Seriously, big kudos!

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing is better in 5e than in the PFRPG-version - the damage types are concise, teh rules-language well-made. Formatting in statblocks once again does diverge a bit from standards - things that should be italicized aren't, but apart from that, the pdf goes the extra mile here. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me.

You know what's rather impressive? The conversion herein goes the extra mile in several cases and while it is not 100% perfect, the attention to detail and care is rather nice to see, impressive even! So yeah, for what it is, I do consider the 5e-version to be slightly better this time around, also thanks to Ismael Alvarez going the extra mile. That being said, unfortunately, I still can't rate this the full five stars, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:26:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

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

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: There is a broken brooch magic item here - I'd STRONGLY suggest GMs not handing it out - while its visuals are nice, its benefits are very potent

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the rules-language of e.g. the magic item isn't perfect and minor hiccups like improperly-formatted traps can be found. Cases of e.g. what obviously should be fire damage lacking the "fire" type can also be found. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me. Ultimately, this is a cool module and represents a transition in themes and does so rather well. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:52:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the "What Lies Beyond Reason AP" (if you don't count the optional prologue) clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This has been moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

All right, while intended for 2nd level, it should be noted that scaling information for level 3 are included; similarly, if you dislike magical airships/basic steamtech, the module does mention how to deal with that. (It should be noted that more detailed theme-tweaking advice can be found in the impressive Campaign Guide). The pdf comes with pregens.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so this module is...structurally another railroad and cognizant of this fact. That being said, it is radically different from the prologue and it arguably functions in a completely different manner. Since the PCs have arrived in the vast metropolis of Anduria, this module could be considered to be a massive "setting the stage"-experience - it is a "show/play, don't tell"-style approach to familiarizing the players as well as the PCs with the city and, before you put this down, rest assured that later modules are more freeform.

Okay, so we rejoin the PCs after they have rejuvenated from their ordeal in the prologue and meet up (in a tavern - a cliché acknowledged by the module), they are contacted by a weird man named Thaddeus Billargo, an almost Elon Musk-ish merchant/visionary who hires them to get a shipment from the PTC (Peregrine Trade Consortium - think of them as a kind of nasty trade conglomerate) - he had a falling-out with the company and hence needs capable PCs to handle the job. He also grants a weird, blue flower to the PCs. The job seems simple and the deadline is generous, even though the PCs have to travel quite a bit through the metropolis to reach the PTC. Emphasis, obviously, should be placed on "seems".

You see, when I stated that this is a "setting the stage type of module", I was referring to two aspects: This, for one, introduces interesting locations and a general knowledge of the city and also establishes a base-line of contacts/dramatis personae. The timeline mentioned will become rather important, as the PCs choose their respective travel method: From going on foot/carriage) to taking ships through the channel to using air ships or hippogriffon chariots (!!!), en route travel encounters galore are included - and those you don't end up using can be employed/scaled later...and yes, these are pretty cool. Unlike in the PFRPG-version, I can't complain about an absence of vehicle-stats here. On the way, the PCs will also be introduced to the methods of the seekers of Asmodeus (and have a chance to foil them at their own game) and may be drawn into the machinations of a bored (and rather nasty) aristocrat... That being said, the travel time summaries etc. are pretty cool!

But back to the plot: The PTC, characterized by some serious bureaucracy and not too compliant, is stone-walling the PCs...but, you see, the nasty and rather devious bureaucrat in charge of their paperwork is missing his assistant, who hasn't shown up/quit for a while, all in favor of a dame called Lysenese, one of the ladies working as scholars/high-class escorts/prostitutes at the Celestial Scriptorium. The PCs will grace this unique institution with their presence next, and here, they'll encounter the sentient adamantine golem Adam, blissfully ignorant of the ways of mortals and a kind of tabula rasa regarding knowledge and social interaction, at least apart from basic personality...a potentially potent ally, though also one that can cause serious trouble. The lady tells the PCs that she has tried to dissuade the love-struck PTC-clerk Trevel Antivar, but in one of the discourse-only sessions, she had mentioned a fabled flower that supposedly blooms within a local landmark, the tower of the rose: This tower looks like it has been overgrown, kudzu-style, by razor-sharp thorns and traversing the narrow planks to the top of the tower will be interesting...as will be getting down inside...where, ultimately, the PCs will descend through the tower into the sewers and meet "The Entity" -a swarm-intelligence that seems to be able to assume control over a wide variety of beings...including the missing (and severely wounded) Trevel.

Now, the manner of how which Radiant Soul, mistress of the scriptorium's researching capabilities are noted is somewhat odd and while generally, the 5e-material has been converted rather well, e.g. the bladeleaf hazard is still missing its damage type, which is a pretty big deal in 5e's rules-terminology. Another weakness of the 5e-version would be that all stats-blocks have instances where they deviate in formatting from the established conventions, with italicizations missing and the like. Not to an extent where it's bad, mind you - e.g. damaging objects and similar things all have been properly covered, but personally, it does irk me a bit. The same can be said about a magic item included, which slightly deviates from the formatting conventions.

To free Trevel from the entity's grasp, the PCs will have to eliminate a powerful otyugh - who makes for a brutal boss in 5e! This frees Trevel, but he is still love-struck and convinced that bringing Lysenese the flower will grant him her favor - a fool's errand, but deductive PCs may realize that the blue flower gained in the beginning is just that sought-after flower. Getting Trevel to pull back will yield the PC's the favor of the scriptorium. Ultimately, one way or another, Trevel will return and help against the insidious bureaucrat, thus freeing the goods...and concluding this interesting, not so simple job!

Conclusion:

Editing is very good, though formatting can be considered to be in need of a bit of improvement - the pdf does deviate from established 5e-formatting in a few places. Layout adheres to a professional and well-made two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The softcover is nice and has neat colors and sports A LOT of really nice full-color artworks. The adventure comes with an archive that contains the maps in a player-friendly, key-less version - big kudos!! The electronic version is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt's "A Simple Job" is a surprisingly kind-natured and upbeat module: While a bit of the weird can be found, it is very subdued and generally paints a positive, nice and fantastic picture of the eternal city: The characters even can encounter some seriously funny scenes - Adam e.g. inquiring whether PCs are not properly "equipped" to deal with the ladies and similarly non-explicit quips, a generally upbeat mood and some high-fantasy wonder all conspire to make this module feel like a nice and flavorful introduction to the city and its traveling, with the free-form travel encounters (mapped, btw.!) adding some GM-control there.

As of the 5e-version, Ismael Alvarez has done an excellent job for the most part - while I could find a couple of hiccups, the important bits have been carefully and thoroughly converted in a rather nice manner. This can be considered to be a good conversion.

That being said, this is still a railroad in the vein of Ultima 7-questlines, where quest upon quest is heaped upon another in a linear manner. The respective vignettes are nice, yes, but if your players are like mine, they may not be too happy with this aspect. It does speak for the module's quality that the vignettes, locations and NPCs can somewhat counteract this structural deficiency, but in the end, a good railroad still remains a railroad. This is a good one, but setting up two relatively linear modules, back to back, isn't the best idea - it works here, but I was pretty happy to see #2 deviate from this formula. It should be noted that the 5E-version of this module is BRUTAL and NOT for the faint of heart. The boss has over 100 hp! Whether you like that or not depends on the group; personally, I love the challenge and it is an encounter that can be somewhat controlled by the PCs, but in comparison to PFRPG, it is a noticeable difficulty spike...one that means that the module doesn't "peter out", but also one that will have some players shocked.

The rating? Well, this ultimately is a good module - it sports a lot of prose and read-aloud text, evocative locales and introduces some seriously cool NPCs...but ultimately, I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. PERSONALLY, I actually like the 5E-version better. The brutal final boss adds a serious touch of pain to the module that I was kinda missing in PFRPG...but that can go both ways and some groups may consider this to be a bit much, so GMs, take care there.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/19/2017 07:50:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the "What Lies Beyond Reason AP" (if you don't count the optional prologue) clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This has been moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

All right, while intended for 2nd level, it should be noted that scaling information for level 3 are included; similarly, if you dislike magical airships/basic steamtech, the module does mention how to deal with that. (It should be noted that more detailed theme-tweaking advice can be found in the impressive Campaign Guide). The pdf comes with pregens.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so this module is...structurally another railroad and cognizant of this fact. That being said, it is radically different from the prologue and it arguably functions in a completely different manner. Since the PCs have arrived in the vast metropolis of Anduria, this module could be considered to be a massive "setting the stage"-experience - it is a "show/play, don't tell"-style approach to familiarizing the players as well as the PCs with the city and, before you put this down, rest assured that later modules are more freeform.

Okay, so we rejoin the PCs after they have rejuvenated from their ordeal in the prologue and meet up (in a tavern - a cliché acknowledged by the module), they are contacted by a weird man named Thaddeus Billargo, an almost Elon Musk-ish merchant/visionary who hires them to get a shipment from the PTC (Peregrine Trade Consortium - think of them as a kind of nasty trade conglomerate) - he had a falling-out with the company and hence needs capable PCs to handle the job. He also grants a weird, blue flower to the PCs. The job seems simple and the deadline is generous, even though the PCs have to travel quite a bit through the metropolis to reach the PTC. Emphasis, obviously, should be placed on "seems".

You see, when I stated that this is a "setting the stage type of module", I was referring to two aspects: This, for one, introduces interesting locations and a general knowledge of the city and also establishes a base-line of contacts/dramatis personae. The timeline mentioned will become rather important, as the PCs choose their respective travel method: From going on foot/carriage) to taking ships through the channel to using air ships or hippogriffon chariots (!!!), en route travel encounters galore are included - and those you don't end up using can be employed/scaled later...and yes, these are pretty cool. On a nitpicky side, the uncommon vehicles could have used some proper vehicle stats. On the way, the PCs will also be introduced to the methods of the seekers of Asmodeus (and have a chance to foil them at their own game) and may be drawn into the machinations of a bored (and rather nasty) aristocrat... That being said, the travel time summaries etc. are pretty cool!

But back to the plot: The PTC, characterized by some serious bureaucracy and not too compliant, is stone-walling the PCs...but, you see, the nasty and rather devious bureaucrat in charge of their paperwork is missing his assistant, who hasn't shown up/quit for a while, all in favor of a dame called Lysenese, one of the ladies working as scholars/high-class escorts/prostitutes at the Celestial Scriptorium. The PCs will grace this unique institution with their presence next, and here, they'll encounter the sentient adamantine golem Adam, blissfully ignorant of the ways of mortals and a kind of tabula rasa regarding knowledge and social interaction, at least apart from basic personality...a potentially potent ally, though also one that can cause serious trouble. The lady tells the PCs that she has tried to dissuade the love-struck PTC-clerk Trevel Antivar, but in one of the discourse-only sessions, she had mentioned a fabled flower that supposedly blooms within a local landmark, the tower of the rose: This tower looks like it has been overgrown, kudzu-style, by razor-sharp thorns and traversing the narrow planks to the top of the tower will be interesting...as will be getting down inside...where, ultimately, the PCs will descend through the tower into the sewers and meet "The Entity" -a swarm-intelligence that seems to be able to assume control over a wide variety of beings...including the missing (and severely wounded) Trevel.

This would be another place to insert an observation - the bladeleaf hazard does not have its damage type properly codified and it honestly could be a bit more precise in its presentation; it may just be a minor thing, but such small hiccups do show up.

To free him from the entity's grasp, the PCs will have to eliminate a powerful otyugh. This frees Trevel, but he is still love-struck and convinced that bringing Lysenese the flower will grant him her favor - a fool's errand, but deductive PCs may realize that the blue flower gained in the beginning is just that sought-after flower. Getting Trevel to pull back will yield the PC's the favor of the scriptorium. Ultimately, one way or another, Trevel will return and help against the insidious bureaucrat, thus freeing the goods...and concluding this interesting, not so simple job!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no particularly grievous glitches, though the absence of vehicle stats etc. is a bit jarring. Layout adheres to a professional and well-made two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The softcover is nice and has neat colors and sports A LOT of really nice full-color artworks. The adventure comes with an archive that contains the maps in a player-friendly, key-less version - big kudos!! The electronic version is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt's "A Simple Job" is a surprisingly kind-natured and upbeat module: While a bit of the weird can be found, it is very subdued and generally paints a positive, nice and fantastic picture of the eternal city: The characters even can encounter some seriously funny scenes - Adam e.g. inquiring whether PCs are not properly "equipped" to deal with the ladies and similarly non-explicit quips, a generally upbeat mood and some high-fantasy wonder all conspire to make this module feel like a nice and flavorful introduction to the city and its traveling, with the free-form travel encounters (mapped, btw.!) adding some GM-control there.

That being said, this is still a railroad in the vein of Ultima 7-questlines, where quest upon quest is heaped upon another in a linear manner. The respective vignettes are nice, yes, but if your players are like mine, they may not be too happy with this aspect. It does speak for the module's quality that the vignettes, locations and NPCs can somewhat counteract this structural deficiency, but in the end, a good railroad still remains a railroad. This is a good one, but setting up two relatively linear modules, back to back, isn't the best idea - it works here, but I was pretty happy to see #2 deviate from this formula. The rating? Well, this ultimately is a good module - it sports a lot of prose and read-aloud text, evocative locales and introduces some seriously cool NPCs...but ultimately, I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:35:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 137 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 130 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. It should be noted that NPCs and creatures make good use of some fantastic 3pp-resources, properly credited not only in the SRD, but also in the text - big kudos there!

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the procedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules and guidance regarding the use of different XP-progressions - including an option to include the superb "Key to Marina" into the sequence.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level; while I noticed glitches in both, these generally were not pronounced enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the campaign guide. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. I am pretty convinced that we'll get to see a lot of really, really awesome modules from this saga! While this may not be 100% perfect, it is an amazing, flavorful book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/09/2017 17:32:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Campaign Guide/companion tome for the "What Lies Beyond Reason"-AP clocks in at an impressive 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 131 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy for the purpose of a far and unbiased review.

Well, first of all, let us define what this book represents: This is basically a GM Guide, a deluxe-expansion edition for the AP that, while not strictly necessary, does greatly enhance the experience, as it elucidates the overall plot, its peculiarities and the themes of the AP. In short: It makes the experience of running and playing the AP more rewarding. It also, formula-wise, goes a significant step beyond what I would have expected from it.

In an aptly-written, massive section of introductory prose, we witness here, directly, the original catastrophe that put the events of the AP in motion...which poses a conundrum for me as a reviewer, for this section alone can SPOIL a significant part of the campaign....but it also ties in with many of the customization options provided herein....hence, let's remain silent on this topic, at least for now, and look at the spoiler-free sections of this guide.

First of all, this is a helping hand for the GM - it includes the stats of the BBEG and also features basically a mini-bestiary for the creatures in the AP, ranging from the previously-mentioned Psychic Motes to more dangerous and strange adversaries. It should be noted that, while not perfect, the stats generally are solidly build and make NPCs and monsters generally come to life. Fans of Rusted Iron Games and the Deadly Gardens series will certainly appreciate Russ Brown's handiwork in some of the creatures featured within. The conversion to 5e of these rules-relevant aspects, however, is a bit of a double-edged sword - if one takes, for example, a quick glance at the Ghoran-race featured in one of the optional sidetreks, one will note formatting discrepancies from the standard that, alas, carry over to the monster statblocks. Natural armor for a PC race and its interaction with armors etc. would have warranted more discussion as well - while not bad per se, this can lead to a bit of confusion before precedence cases are consulted.

Beyond this, the pdf also takes a look at the massive cast of characters that may or may not live through the end of the prologue-adventure "Difficult Circumstances" and yields suggestions regarding the way these contacts and their relationship towards the PCs may develop, for good or ill. The attention to detail provided here is pretty interesting and impressive to witness, but speaking of detail: The massive metropolis of Anduria, aka The Eternal City, is depicted in a massive, lavishly-detailed gazetteer that includes maps of the respective districts and a lot of information beyond that allotted to the players. It should be noted that the book also contains a metric ton of rumors, signs and foreshadowing that the GM can employ, adding even more immersion to the proceedings.

Of course, a city is defined not only by its architecture or physical relics, but also by their people and hence, an optional reputation system is provided: This allows for the separate tracking of fame and infamy of the PCs - actions and consequences. Scrupulous grave-robbing can yield a reputation for being greedy, for example. While not required, this generally adds a nice touch to the proceedings and taps into the district structure of the metropolis - or at least, it did so for Pathfinder. It is pretty evident that this section has not been properly translated - typed penalties, a lot of small number-accounting...for 5e, this system seems woefully inadequate. That's a rather significant downside there...but on the plus-side, we also have some conversion aspects that really work well: When NPCs use cool material from Tribality Publishing (properly acknowledged in the text itself, beyond the SRD!) and when we get an urban spell-.list for circle of the land druids, we can see that there is some serious care to be found here. Similarly, damage types saves etc. generally make sense, so yeah - while not perfect, the conversion can be called good in many regards even very good.

While we're at the subject of themes - the guide explains the function of the respective antagonists encountered during the AP and how they reflect/interact with the PCs - in short, it notes on how they are not necessarily meant for slaying, and that redemption is an actual possibility for almost everyone. The AP generates, in spite of taking place in a distinctly high-fantasy city, a general aesthetic of shades of gray morality with only few antagonists truly being "evil". This brings me to another theme that is important: While Anduria is exceedingly high-fantasy in many of its aspects, it is a city very much defined by a curious hesitation when it comes to religions - something that is actually concisely explained for the GM and an aspect that makes the plot work actually better than one would think at first. While a god, Rhion Barakar, patron saint of long shots and lost causes, takes an interest in the proceedings (yeah, does not bode well for those PCs, right?), death in this AP is quite possibly permanent and PCs raising the dead will soon see themselves hounded and beset on all fronts...a process logically defined and explained.

Speaking of themes: In a general absence of clearly defined lines of good and evil and within a city that comes with guards, potential punishments for crimes, etc., the mature themes used within the AP get EXTENSIVE consideration - and the AP is so much better off for it: There is e.g. a place that is a combination of a sage's library and an intellectual bordello/high-class escort service...but how explicit you make this is all up to you. Writing-wise, this is PG 13, and the same can be said about the themes of addiction, violence and insanity that all are leitmotifs to a certain degree, but never devolve into a truly explicit manner. The guidance regarding player-sensibilities help immensely here and do a great job helping the GM to customize the campaign.

Speaking of which: One of the crucial leitmotifs of the campaign is one that is a bit of a matter of taste...and it can be completely excluded from the campaign...or emphasized with specific signs and portents. The book also contains several set-piece encounters/sidetrek modules. Since 5e does not have the variant XP-progressions, that section is a bit condensed here.

...and it is here, ultimately, that I have not recourse but to go into SPOILERS, if I want to continue discussing this book. PLAYERS BEWARE. The following contains SPOILERS for the WHOLE CAMPAIGN. Do not read ahead unless you want to GM this AP!!

...

..

.

All right, still here? Don't say I did not warn you! So, the skepticism towards the divine in the city? It has a very good reason. You see, a couple of incarnations of the eternal city before, the demi-god Aether almost brought doom upon the world. He was taking the city by storm, courtesy of him being a god you could touch, but unbeknown to his faithful, he was insane, as the megalomaniacal introductory chapter so perfectly illustrates: In his travels, he has been touched by the Outer Dark, namely R'lyeh, and while it broke his mind, he recovered, obsessed with bringing the city back...and in conjunction with the regular world. Under Anduria, there lies a chthonic Machine of titanic proportions, leaking vileness and power...and Aether succeeded in activating the titanic device, courtesy of a deal with none other than Asmodeus...as he was ripping the souls from his betrayed faithful, the lord of Hell struck with guile. Having sown seeds of doubt, Aether's high priestess, stunned by his madness and betrayal, assassinated her divine lord...and thus, the tragedy began, for her spirit, doomed and confined to the city's bloodlines, has been guiding the fortunes of the city ever since, as she, in her divine punishment and insanity, seeks to make amends. Meanwhile, Aether's soul slipped away, escaping Asmodeus' grasp - which is why the Seekers, Asmodean loan-sharks and hunters have been created...and it explains how they could become basically a kind of second city watch...and it explains the resentment towards the gods that still exists in the enlightened metropolis, even though this horrid event lies buried in the past.

As you may have noted, this all implies, to a degree, an existence of the mythos and cthulhiana - and if you're like me and a bit oversaturated in that regard or just unsure whether you want to use this angle, rest assure that the guide provides all the information required to get rid of it...or enforce it further, all depending on your tastes.

While the book does contain a summary of the campaign's plot and advice on handling the NPCs, I am not going to dive deeper into spoilers there...instead, let us talk about the sidetreks, all right? The first would be a pretty generic sidetrek, in case the PCs incur a debt to an NPC at one point. The second and third one are basically mini-dungeons - expansions, to be more precise: During adventure #1 and #2 of the AP (reviews forthcoming!), enterprising GMs may very well face the option of PCs astute PCs exploring the tunnels below the city, leading towards the machine...if they realize their presence. Where another AP would just leave that to the GM with a shrug, we get two really challenging and potentially lethal sidetreks into this strange environment, foreshadowing the shape of things to come and engaging in some seriously impressive indirect storytelling there. Chances are that most groups won't find these, sure...but their inclusion bespeaks the passion and vision that went into this.

This is not where the pdf stops, however - after adventure #2, Luther Mendel (nice nomenclature there!), associate of Damian and master of the Academy of Natural Magic seems curiously absent...but not if you're using this book, for none other than Richard Develyn of 4 Dollar Dungeons, one of the best adventure-writers I know, provides a fully-mapped module here, one that focuses on the humanoid plant-species of Ghorans and the fact that Mendel has found a Gourd that seems to be an aberrations to the Ghorans...and these beings are a bit paranoid, as they are considered to be somewhat of a delicacy for some humanoids...Thus, the PCs in this module will have to prevent a series on attacks on the academy...only to see Luther present a rapidly-growing humanoid who is learning at a vastly accelerated race...and who is basically becoming one of the PCs...only better in every way. This duplicate, "Pat", is actually the second such seed, as the first has replaced Luther...you see, this being, which also is manipulating the Ghorans, to an extent, ultimately poses a difficult conundrum for the PCs...and even the players: It can replace the PC with a superior double...one that the player gets to play...but the ethics in game should be disturbing, to say the least: It is pretty clear that the germination process will kill the original...so what will it be?

It should be noted that this is the cliff-notes version of the module and does not do it justice...but the weirdness and profound creepiness of the whole set-up gets a resounding thumbs up from me - as far as I'm concerned, this and the customization options alone make this worth the asking price.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though some parts of the formatting and some of the 5E-conversion bits feel like they do not live up to the PFRPG-version. They are good, mind you, and my complaints are, in many cases, rather esoteric and aesthetic, but as a whole, the formal criteria of the PFRPG-version felt a bit tighter to me. Layout adheres to a really nice and professional 2-column full-color standard and the book features quite a lot of REALLY nice full-color artworks (same quality as the one you see on the cover...). The pdf btw. comes with a second, more printer-friendly version - big kudos there! Cartography is in full-color as well and comes with all relevant maps, in lavish full-color and, better yet, key-less, player-friendly versions, perfect for use with VTTs. Big, big kudos. E.g. a park, with a plethora of different plants and leaf-colors and -structures makes clear that these have been made with surprising attention to detail. The titanic, high-res overview map of the metropolis is similarly appreciated. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though, frankly, I'd suggest getting the softcover - the campaign guide makes for a nice, unobtrusive book to flip open while running one of the modules and the book is nice enough to warrant getting.

Micah Watt's "What Lies Beyond Reason" is an extremely ambitious AP; while the prologue did hint at that, it is this book that makes this fact abundantly clear. The impressive aspect here, though, would be that, at least for now, I can say that it looks like it'll work out! You see, the city and its history, themes, all of that...it makes sense. The customization options are helpful and the culture grown here has its roots deeply secluded away from prying eyes...but the PCs will find them, sooner or later. The prose is excellent as far as I'm concerned - when you can write a book, include monsters by Russ brown and a module by Richard Develyn, and manage to not look like an totally green amateur while doing so, then you obviously have talent.

The customization options for the city also really put a smile on my face: Don't like airships? No problem, can be cut. Don't like leitmotif mentioned in SPOILER-section? You can reskin that and/or get rid of it. These considerations, the advice given and the way in which this handles the whole NPC-presentation and explanation make this a really compelling book - more than one adventure-writer would certainly benefit from taking a couple of the design-tenets into account: You see, while challenging, the AP is all about consequences...and if the PCs behave stupidly, they may well reap a horrid, horrid comeuppance. This, in short, shares A LOT of my own aesthetics and expectations in design; the roleplaying focus is pronounced and the seemingly clashing themes actually blend together. In short: This is a rather impressive book and certainly one I'd wholeheartedly recommend - also as a possible means of gauging whether the AP will interest you. (And yes, I am pretty sure it will!) - After reading this, I found myself infinitely more excited about the AP than I was after the linear prologue...though even that module gains a lot by contextualizing it...but you'll see.

What I'm trying to say is this: Get this and support this AP. The complaints I do have regarding 5E are, in many cases cosmetic and the "Gourd"-adventure alone may make this worth getting. The extensive and amazing player-map support also really helps and the AP, at least from what I can discern after having played its first 4 modules and the material herein, is worth supporting. While I can't rate the per se lovingly-made 5E-version as highly as the PFRPG-iteration, this is still an impressive book - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Lair of the Lava Queen - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2017 06:35:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief sidetrek module by Pyromaniac Press, first of the Encounter-series-pdfs, clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin this with a cliff-notes version of the dungeon-specifics - where to best place it regarding terrain, climate, etc., room height, doors and illumination and the pdf also includes hard stats for the doors featured herein. A variety of 3 different hooks provide nice lead-ins for the module. The cartography deserves special mention - rendered in full color, it is really nice to look at and comes, better yet, with a high-res, key-less player-map version. A secret door "S" has been concealed on the map, which generally works well, but keen-eyed players may still see it - still, the effort alone is to be applauded and a very minor black brush-job (literally 20 seconds) takes care of that.

As the PCs approach the complex, they will hear strange, howling sounds, which will hamper communication and perception within several areas, already pointing towards the importance of terrain in the module - as far as I'm concerned, a big plus. Speaking of plusses: The pdf sports well-written prose and read-aloud texts for each of the regions - a relevant boon for GMs who are less versed in maintaining a coherent atmosphere.

...And honestly, that's as far as I can go without getting deep into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this dungeon is very much a protracted boss fight, if you will: The eponymous lava queen is a variant medusa, infused with the forces of both earth and fire, and as such, she has elementals and mephits under her command - and the PCs probably stumble right into her gallery.

This would be a perfect point in time to quote the pdf, for the prose here is exquisite: "Sure enough a closer examination of the statues reveals them to be roughly shaped humanoids. They appear to be carved from cracked volcanic rock, but rather than being smooth like cooled magma, they have rough surfaces that crumble to sharp chunks and slivers if touched. The rock also leaves behind a fine ash that seems to cling tenaciously to surfaces (and creatures).[...] All of them have expressions of anguish on their faces, and the howling emanates from their open mouths. The largest sources of light are emitted from empty eye sockets, mouths and

ears, while the odd crack in their ‘bodies’ lets out a little illumination." Come on, that is frickin' amazing!

And yes, witnessing this horrific scene can render PCs shaken - nice to see some proper use of conditions there! The tactics of the lava queen are potent indeed and her abode has been constructed with the obvious intent of defending the place! Searing hot air currents and a new creature (think "magma-squid" with fiery rends and a fatiguing aura...and lava jets) await here - and worse yet, the lava queen has an artifact, the Eye of Imix, which can bathe the wielder in flames and heal him - but also renders subjects to its powers helpless. It first fatigues, targets, then exhausts them and if you use its maximum uses, may even kill the wielder. I do have two complaints here: 1) The artifact lacks a suggested means of destruction and 2) and in the revised iteration of this pdf, the previously slightly opaque wording for its offensive use has been cleaned up. Speaking of which: The artifact now comes with a proper destruction method -kudos there! On the plus-side, the healing effect is not cheesable, which is a definite plus...and not sure whether you'd want to carry around an artifact that lets an evil elemental deity know your whereabouts...

The lava queen herself is btw. a unique medusa with a blistering aura, lava-like blood and no, she cannot be petrified via her own gaze...oh, and she can fling balls of lava. Big plus: The previous iteration had some obvious hiccups in the statblock that have been cleaned up. Kudos!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no complaints there. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf features really impressive full-color artworks for the queen and the critter, with in particular the glorious cover-artwork making this potentially worthwhile for art-aficionados. Cartography leaves nothing to be desired, as far as I'm concerned. The pdf has basic bookmarks to front and back cover and editorial, but at this length, that's still okay.

Micah Watt's Lair of the Lava Queen is an extremely flavorful sidetrek dungeon with impressive production values for the price. I adore the flavor, I love the prose and the revised version takes care of pretty much all my complaints that remained. Russ Brown's critter, the magma-squid, is btw really cool..

And then there's the fact of the bang-for-buck-ratio: This pdf is really, really cheap. As in: Ridiculously cheap for what it offers. 2 bucks. The art and map alone and the critter are pretty much worth investing the time to briefly tinker with the map- if you're like me, that will take 20 seconds, tops, tops....and leaves you with an AMAZING villain in an evocative complex that practically demands being inserted into the game.

My only remaining complaint with this iteration of the sidetrek remains the small, barely perceptible "S" on the map...and that is most certainly no reason to skip this. In short: Now the sidetrek is just as amazing in PFRPG as it is in the 5e-version and thus gets a final verdict of 5 stars, + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lair of the Lava Queen - Pathfinder
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