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Mini-Dungeon #065: The Blight
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:27:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

For almost a millennium, a vast oak, buildings in the branches, stood as the proud regent of the forest, guarded by a proud dryad and druidic allies. The druids have gone, though, and now, rot is spreading through the vast forest, courtesy of the dryad being infected by the eponymous blight, represented rules-wise by the blighted fey template here. Now, a flayed druid, plant monsters and worse remain, and the dryad enjoys hit and run tactics – tree stride is really effective when everything around you is a tree…so the PCs will need to be smart, withstand the dryad and her cold iron hedgeclippers…and hopefully find a way to stop the fungal blight.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Colin Stricklin provides a great sidetrek for travels through extensive stretches of forest – the mini-dungeon is easy to insert and very flavorful. The nasty spore-clouds and smart primary antagonist add further value to this mini-dungeon, continuing the streak of exceedingly strong mini-modules. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #065: The Blight
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5E Mini-Dungeon #064: I'll Plague Both Your Houses
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:24:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

It is well-known that the underdark houses some of the most malignant, vile beings and cults – and in a particular cavern, two rival cults engaged in a constant one-upmanship of “more evil than thou” – one cult was lawful, the other chaotic – and both were thoroughly vile. Alas, in a surprising twist, they did not attempt to eradicate each other, at least not until a particularly nasty elf killer happened upon the cults. While he managed to eradicate both cults, step by step, he did not, stupidly, I might add, account for evil cultist leaders rising as the living dead. Well, guess what they did? While he got away with his life and is sustained for now by the spoon he owns, the complex still represents a three-way standoff. As the module notes, this extended encounter/sidetrek area is a brutal challenge – and indeed, the pdf makes excellent use of PFRPG’s vast bestiary and the tactics of the creatures herein are surprisingly detailed for the pdf’s brevity. In order to triumph here, PCs are most likely required to make use of the still very much palpable hostility between all those evildoers…

(As an aside, this may just be me, but this mini-dungeon really struck me as a perfect fit for e.g. conflict between Tsathoggua and Orcus/as a side-area for Rappan Athuk or similar complexes.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!! The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley knows how to write mini-dungeons; I am a huge fan of his big adventures as well as the small ones and this one is amazing due to its focus on pure functionality – we get a volatile, extended encounter-situation and ignite the powder-keg once more by adding PCs. The module can be slotted easily into just about any context. Chris Harris’ 5e-conversion is solid and manages to convey the general set-up well. However, the 5e-version suffers from some system-immanent shortcomings: The main-appeal of the PFRPG-version lies in the creative and amazing adversaries chosen, highlighting some really cool monsters. 5e has, as of now, a more limited creature array available, and this, alas, shows in the pdf – the enemies encountered, in contrast, are pretty vanilla, depriving the module of what made it outstanding in PFRPG. It’s still a good adventure, but it is less remarkable in this version. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #064: I'll Plague Both Your Houses
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Mini-Dungeon #064: I'll Plague Both Your Houses
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:23:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

It is well-known that the underdark houses some of the most malignant, vile beings and cults – and in a particular cavern, two rival cults engaged in a constant one-upmanship of “more evil than thou” – one cult was lawful, the other chaotic – and both were thoroughly vile. Alas, in a surprising twist, they did not attempt to eradicate each other, at least not until a particularly nasty elf killer happened upon the cults. While he managed to eradicate both cults, step by step, he did not, stupidly, I might add, account for evil cultist leaders rising as the living dead. Well, guess what they did? While he got away with his life and is sustained for now by the magical spoon he owns, the complex still represents a three-way standoff. As the module notes, this extended encounter/sidetrek area is a brutal challenge – and indeed, the pdf makes excellent use of PFRPG’s vast bestiary and the tactics of the creatures herein are surprisingly detailed for the pdf’s brevity. In order to triumph here, PCs are most likely required to make use of the still very much palpable hostility between all those evildoers…

(As an aside, this may just be me, but this mini-dungeon really struck me as a perfect fit for e.g. conflict between Tsathoggua and Orcus/as a side-area for Rappan Athuk or similar complexes.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Stephen Yeardley knows how to write mini-dungeons; I am a huge fan of his big adventures as well as the small ones and this one is amazing due to its focus on pure functionality – we get a volatile, extended encounter-situation and ignite the powder-keg once more by adding PCs. The module can be slotted easily into just about any context and the author chooses the adversaries in a creative manner – from totenmasken to polong and guecubu, this excels in its smart creature choice and precise, challenging set-up. I really like it. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #064: I'll Plague Both Your Houses
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5E Mini-Dungeon #063: The World Forge
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:19:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a 5E-mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map, in both GM and player-friendly versions!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is, a helpful tool in the GM’s arsenal. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Okay, this is something UTTERLY different from anything I’ve seen so far – this mini-dungeon could be used as a complex room of sorts, as a kind of exposition by doing, or as simply its stand-alone version – in effect, the dungeon represents an experiment, wherein the PCs create a miniature world according to the experiments of an extraplanar entity: The dungeon sports 5 elemental globes – Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Void, all associated with the respective, correct energy types. These are placed on an axis of good and evil, law and chaos. Ultimately, they thus create a miniature world – but also the instrument of the cataclysm of the world, which they then need to vanquish the fated destroyer of this world – and yes, the PCs are rewarded for smart observation of previously-created, failed worlds.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and nice. Huge plus: We get a GM AND a Player-version of the area in which this takes place, providing full VTT-friendly compatibility.

Colin Stricklin’s world forge is a really evocative, cool little supplement – it can easily be plugged into pretty much any complex and provides a rewarding change of pace. What more can you ask of such a humble supplement? Chris Harris’ 5e-conversion is nice and translates the mini-dungeon in a concise manner to 5e. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #063: The World Forge
Click to show product description

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Mini-Dungeon #063: The World Forge
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:17:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Oh, and the series now comes in an archive that also contains...drumroll a .jpg-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Better yet: GM-friendly version of the jpg's included as well!

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

Okay, this is something UTTERLY different from anything I’ve seen so far – this mini-dungeon could be used as a complex room of sorts, as a kind of exposition by doing, or as simply its stand-alone version – in effect, the dungeon represents an experiment, wherein the PCs create a miniature world according to the experiments of an extraplanar entity: The dungeon sports 5 elemental globes – Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Void, all associated with the respective, correct energy types. These are placed on an axis of good and evil, law and chaos. Ultimately, they thus create a miniature world – but also the instrument of the cataclysm of the world, which they then need to vanquish the fated destroyer of this world – and yes, the PCs are rewarded for smart observation of previously-created, failed worlds.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf. The .jpg version included here, which you can easily cut up and hand out to the players as they progress is a huge bonus -and even better: A KEY-LESS VERSION sans the annoying letters/numbers is included as well for full VTT-compatibility!!!. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Colin Stricklin’s world forge is a really evocative, cool little supplement – it can easily be plugged into pretty much any complex and provides a rewarding change of pace. What more can you ask of such a humble supplement? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon #063: The World Forge
Click to show product description

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Transcendent 10 - Spells of Synergy - Theurgic Interactions
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 09:24:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!

One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. The pdf predates the ACG and OA, and as such, I will not complain about a lack of representation of the classes from these books in the spell-lists.

Anyways, this pdf is 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content. A minor complaint will be evident from a formatting perspective from the get-go: The lines like “Range” etc. have not been bolded.

Design-wise, the spells herein focus on a reallocation of functions, with the stated and explicit design-goal of making multiclass options and theurgic interactions more viable. Also helpful for newer players, the pdf explains the term “ally” to also refer to the caster and what a bonded companion constitutes.

Now, let’s take a look at these spells, shall we?

-Anoint Mystic Bond (Cle/oracle 3, druid 3, inqui 2): This one is interesting, in that it targets an arcane caster and the bonded companion. Both master and companion get luck bonuses to atk, weapon damage and Str-based checks. Interesting: Smaller sized companions increase the bonus and both caster and companion get access to a combat or teamwork feat while the spell lasts, but the caster needs to have such a feat. Additionally, the companion must have an open headband or head magic item slot and item restrictions of eidolon/summoner are retained. The slot prevents the spell from being utterly OP for summoners and the size-caveat makes the option to send fragile familiars into the fray seem more rewarding. All in all, an interesting buff.

-Blood of the Gods (Cle/oracle 2, inqui 2, druid 3): This one can only target a spontaneous arcane spellcaster – here, we can see an effect of aging – the target-line should probably specify that the caster needs to have the bloodline class feature. You choose a domain and for the duration, the arcane caster can cast domain spells of the selected domain as though they were spells known, but loses access to the bloodline spells…but here’s the catch: Only while you maintain contact with the target! The story-implications of enslaved sorcerers are great and I found myself enjoying this one.

-Bridge of Life (bard/magus/sorc/wiz/witch 5): Can be cast as a swift action and targets a divine spellcaster and a wounded ally in close range, allowing the divine caster to cast healing spells at range to the target, though each cast decreases the duration of the spell. I LOVE this – the duration decrease is elegant; the action required is important and the spell-level appropriate.

-Deconstructive Infusion (bard/magus/Sorc/wiz 5): This is another really interesting spell, as it targets a spell effect and an allied positive energy channeler. The spell duplicates dispel magic (not italicized properly in the text) and grants bonus dice to channel energy uses of the channeler. If the granted bonus dice exceed the channel dice, the channeler may instead gain an additional channel energy use, which are retained, up to the maximum. Otherwise, these bonus dice must be used within 1 round/level. This is SO ELEGANT. The spell-level-based mechanic prevents cheesing via cantrips etc.

-Energy Channeling Lens (bard/magus/sorc/wiz 2): This one conjures a lens that can only be damaged by physical attacks. The lens may be moved by 30 feet per round, but does not specify an action for doing so. The lens may either be positive or negative energy and must be placed on one side of the cleric channeling energy. Positive energy lenses may be attuned to acid or fire, negative energy lenses to “lightning or cold” – that should be electricity. Every 1d6 channeled into the lens is converted into 2d6 of the chosen energy type, but before you complain here, the area of effect is modified: The lens generates a 5-foot wide line that is 10 ft. per channel die long. In spite of the minor hiccups, an inspired little spell.

-Resplendent Mercy (bard/wiz/sorc/witch 2): This targets a character with access to mercies and makes the next use not count to the daily maximum, with a further upgrade once the character reaches 10th CL.

-Sacred Censure (cle/oracle/inqui 2, druid 3): Mutual lockdown – target an arcane spellcaster; if he fails the save, neither he nor the divine caster may cast spells. And yes, the cleric may not use SPs or trigger spell-completion items either. I love this one. It’s really strong, but it is a godsend (haha) for grittier campaigns where “the church” is hunting those practitioners of black magic.

-Spell Sheathe (inqui/pala/ranger 2): Swift action cast targeting your weapon, you may ready the weapon to contain the power of the next spell an allied arcane caster casts while touching the weapon. This makes the weapon behave as spell storing sans level cap. Personally, I think that implementing a scaling mechanism regarding maximum spell levels here would have made sense.

-Unleashed Power (cler/oracle/inqui 2, druid 3): This one targets an allied prepared spellcaster, who gains the ability to 1/round, as a standard action, convert spells into rays that deal untyped damage – 2d6 per spell level. I am never a fan of untyped damage, but I do like that the converted spell level determines the range, which prevents mundane ranged weaponry from being outclassed.

-Vision of Glory (bard 3, sorc/wiz/witch 4): Targets caster and a divine spellcaster with at least one domain. Grasping the head of your ally, you open their eyes to the truths of deities/nature – the character gains access to a domain of his belief and prepared domain spells may be used to spontaneously cast spells from the revealed domain. Minor complaint here: This should specify that the spells need to have the same level. Domain powers exchange, including limited use tricks, is properly depicted, though. Passive abilities are not provided.

The final page contains two bonus feats:

-Eldritch Smite: When activating smite evil, you can, as a free action, sacrifice an arcane spell, which increases the damage of the first attack vs. the smite target by 2d6 per level of the spell sacrificed. This only affects evil targets. The arcane caster/pala-combo isn’t too strong, so I can live with the damage increase here.

-Focal Mage: While you have a channel energy use left and hold the divine focus/holy symbol, you gain +1 sacred bonus to CL for arcane spells. As a swift action, you may expend a channel energy use to gain a sacred bonus to CL equal to the channel dice, but only for the next arcane spell cast. This is pretty cool, but should NOT be used in conjunction with a regular theurgic class option – if you have full progression for both divine and arcane spells, this becomes very broken very fast.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level – a few components are capitalized that shouldn’t be and I noticed similar minor hiccups like a doubled “range” word, but that’s about it. Rules-language deserves being applauded – the rules are, for the most part, extremely tight and precise, in spite of the high level of difficulty of the operations executed. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need them.

Christen N. Sowards continues to impress here – I expected something much simpler and blander when opening this pdf. This humble pdf provides a quality of design you seldom get to see – the spells intricately weave teamwork options for the group to use, often tapping into truly innovative and intriguing ways in which they are balanced. While not all spells are perfect, those that are really excited me like few spells these days manage to do, making me want to integrate them into my campaign right away. Heck, some even actually managed to inspire some ideas for cults, traditions, etc. While the formal rough patches prevent me from rating this the full 5 stars, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down – and this is one of the rare cases where a pdf still gets my seal of approval, in spite of some formal hiccups. After having read literally thousands of spells, this still stands out. So yeah, very much recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Spells of Synergy - Theurgic Interactions
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Everyman Minis: School Day Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 09:21:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction that also explains the concept of (Child)-feats (so you don’t have to get the impressive Childhood Adventures-book if you absolutely don’t want to), we begin with 3 new feats:

-Favorite Subject: Choose a Knowledge skill in which you have 1 rank or more; that skill becomes a class skill and you gain a scaling competence bonus to it. Additionally, tasks that take longer than one round can be completed in half the time.

-Innocent Insight (Child): When an ally within 30 ft. attempts a Knowledge check in a skill wherein you have no ranks, you may use an immediate action to grant the ally a +2 insight bonus. Comes, obviously, with maturation options.

-Disruptive Clowning: Requires 5 ranks of Perform (comedy) and allows you to hamper enemies attempting Int-based or concentration checks. As an immediate action, you attempt a skill check versus a DC that scales based on the target’s HD and Int; on a success, you cause the target to take a penalty to the check.

The pdf then moves on to 3 new items: I really enjoyed the everflowing inkpot, which not only provides ink for 80 pages, it can grant a bonus to dirty trick attempts to blind foes and may be used to coat them in ink instead, duplicating the effects of faerie fire. The student’s backpack notes where items it contains are and replenishes lost/used ones on a 3-day basis. These are btw. not expensive enough to wreck a fantasy economy, just fyi. It also has patches that can be detached, transforming into items – nice variant of the classic robe. The viridian quill is pretty cool: It can write, permanently, on any surface. Yes, that includes the living, though scribbles etc. only last a month when applied to living targets. Additionally, you can 1/day use it to draw a door, duplicating passwall.

The final section of the pdf contains 4 new spells: Copy page is available to the bard, cleric, mesmerist, psychic, occultist, sorc/wiz and witch and does what it says on the tin, but only for nonmagical writing – still interesting, courtesy of its range. The bard, mesmerist (level 1), psychic and sorc/wiz classes (level 2) can cast humiliating phantasm, which is a mind-affecting sickening effect. Intellectual osmosis lets you put a book beneath you and sleep on it – upon waking, provided you make an Int-check against the different difficulty classes of the book, you’ll have it perfectly memorized. You can’t absorb knowledge from books penned in languages you can’t read or subjects beyond your grasp. Any magical traps present in the book trigger upon awakening, so no cheesing there. This also does not allow for spell preparation. Finally, prankster’s jinx clocks in at level 2 for bard, medium and mesmerist, level 3 for cleric, occultist, sorc/wiz, spiritualist and witch. It generates a 20 ft.-radius emanation that forces targets in the area to become, caster’s choice blinded, deafened, dazzled, entangled, shaken or sickened for 1 round – this flexibility is offset by the spell allowing the creature to spend a move action to remove the condition. Really cool spell!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. The pdf sports 1 piece of nice full-color artwork and layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s traditional 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf doesn’t have bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Matt Morris delivers some nice, thematically-concise options related in some way to school and concepts we associate with it. The pdf, as a whole, sports precise and neat craftsmanship and I found myself liking the content as a whole. At the same time, none of the concepts truly blew me away – this is a precisely-crafted, good little supplement, and as such, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: School Day Options
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Knowledge Illuminates
Publisher: GM Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 09:19:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The freshman offering by Tim Shorts clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you can fit up to 24 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this out – provided your eyes are good enough, that is.

Now, the rule-set employed here is Sword & Wizardry, the pdf assumes silver standard and the pdf assumes a skill challenge-like system more in line with new school gaming – d20 + character level + attribute bonus – simple and concise.

The pdf includes a few pieces of supplemental content: The plant blood drop can add a d8 to healing potions, but sports, oddly, no market value. Also sans market value: The new item arrow of fireball, which inflicts 1d6 damage in a 10 ft.-radius upon impact. The new spell, ward of living death, is a 5th level cleric spell that allows you to set a permanent trap (or until it’s triggered): If a creature violates the ward, it is transformed into a ghoul over a day. NO SAVE. Any living creature can be affected, which makes for a ton of questions – what about slimes, for example? Do the ghouls gain sentience? What if e.g. a dragon passes through? The spell also fails to specify which kind of “assistance” can be sued to reverse the transformation. Basically, a plot device, not a spell. Rules are not precise here. The module also introduces a new undead servitor creature, the Tvorn, who can teleport up to 40 ft. and still attack – and they get an ominous “back attack bonus” when porting behind an opponent. Pretty sure that should refer to the thief’s backstab ability and as such, should specify the level of power of the backstab.

The pdf sports, in a nice help for the referee, a 3-page table that lists XP-rewards.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All night, only referees around? Great! So, the module requires a series of assumptions to work as written, all of which are ultimately cumbersome and detract from the appeal of the module. The first of these is that the module assumes the existence of a Harper-like global organization of good folks that stood vigilant against extraplanar intrusions. The so-called Porters of Gideon, now deemed outlaws and exiled, every known member executed. Introducing a recently vanquished global organization for the sake of background story – not the best move here. Secondly, the adventure assumes the existence of Viz, a form of condensed that allows for the casting of spells sans components or a spell slot, completely delimiting spellcasting. Yeah, not getting near my game.

The module has basically two sections: Section one is a fully mapped mini-hexcrawl with 7 locales of interest and focuses on finding a reclusive wizard’s workshop – the man is called Tergul. (Or Tergal – the names herein are pretty inconsistent.) The locations of interest in the hexcrawl include a giant skeleton, a pond that nets 3d6 (!!) pebbles of Viz and a few bandits. The dungeon that is the workshop is interesting in that Tergul was a recluse, but not evil – hence, we have an 11-room mini-dungeon that sports an annoying, warning magic mouth, and the remnants of the tragedy: You see, Tergul found a box, which serves as a gateway to a pocket-dimension of a potent demon; he opened the box and the usual bad stuff ensued. While Porters attempted to close it, they failed and were killed by the demon, who retreated back home. He locked the box once more, grieved for his slain acolytes, cursed his goddess and hid away from the demon’s minions. It is in the aftermath of these happenings that the PCs stumble into a complex, which, while not bad, falls seriously short of being remarkable in any way. The complex, compared to Tim Shorts’ later works, is bland, sports standard monsters and obstacles…and frankly, I can’t really come up with a good reason to run this. It’s not exactly bad per se, but it is painfully unremarkable.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good – neither in the formal, nor in the rules-language category. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of decent b/w-artworks. Cartography is b/w and solid, but does not come with key-less, player-friendly versions – particularly jarring for the hexcrawl map. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Tim Shorts has improved significantly over the years. Knowledge Illuminates, unfortunately, is a very weak adventure, hampered by bad formatting, by requiring more lore adjustments from the referee than required and by, on a rules level, subverting a pretty basic tenet of how magic works. All in all, that would be a sensible thing to ask for, if this book actually warranted the work. For that, alas, it is too unremarkable. On the plus-side, the author offers this for a PWYW-download, but frankly, I’d strongly suggest getting any of his other works, including the free mini-manors – you’ll get infinitely more fun out of them. In spite of this being a freshman offering and PWYW, I can’t go higher than 2 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Illuminates
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(5E) Heir & Back Again
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 08:59:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 60 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.

Okay, so first things first: This module is intended for four characters – in fact, 4 specific characters. While they may be replaced, this will take a bit of time and the most sensible way of running this is as a 1st level module or as a stand-alone adventure.

The pregenerated characters, all of whom come with their own full-color artworks, sport detailed backgrounds and full-color artworks alongside their stats. The character would by Joylene Crumb, an adolescent human ranger girl, who grew up as the adopted daughter of peasants. There would be Talulla, a pooka druid trickster exiled from her fairy village for a prank gone wrong. There is Bjorn Bearson, a werebear barbarian, and finally, there is Fergus MacDougal, the talking cat. Who is actually a dwarven sorcerer. All of the pregens come with a read-aloud description as well as a background notes with flaws and the like.

Now, it should be noted that this adventure can be run as a 1-on-1 game, with one GM and one player; in such a case, Joylene is the PC, for the story revolves mainly around her. If the nature of the NPCs did not drive this home – the pdf has a very strong fairy-tale-esque aesthetic and as such, is suitable for kids as well as adults. In fact, I think that this works rather well as an adventure for kids, courtesy of a feature that sets this apart.

You see, Joylene begins play with a potent artifact, the amulet of unwound time. She’ll need it.

In case the cover was not ample indicator of what to expect herein, this adventure is a homage to the classic King’s Quest-series of Sierra-point-and-click-adventures. If you have played these, you’ll know that there are a TON of ways to die in a weird and comedic manner, and this pdf emphasizes and embraces that aspect. It also tells the GM and players to embrace this – the amulet acts as basically the save/reload function here.

Another aspect that sets this apart from any other roleplaying adventure would be the fact that it emphasizes puzzles over rules – in fact, it is very much possible to run this adventure purely on a narrative basis: All major aspects of the module are based on finding items, combining them, etc. and thus, while often tied to rules, can theoretically be run without rolling a single die. This module emphasizes puzzles over rolling the bones, much like the beloved point-and-click adventures.

But won’t the items become confusing? No, for the organization of the adventure is REALLY interesting: Quest items are always bolded – additionally, the GM gets them color-coded: Items that are freely available, are printed in green; those that need to be found, contingent on an ability or the like, are blue and those that need to be traded/given are printed in purple. Here’s a cool thing about that: The module sports a MASSIVE appendix, in which each item’s location is noted, alongside the respective color, how it can be got and the descriptive text. Oh, and an artwork. If you print these out, you can hand out the artworks to the players! The quest item table makes managing this aspect really simple.

Alternatively, you can always get the item card deck, which provides a player-friendly card for each of the items used in the adventure – not required, but a handy prop that cuts down on your prep-time. (As an aside – particularly when playing with kids, this can help immensely!) EDIT: As of now, the deck has increased in usefulness, as it now also contains the lavishly-illustrated locations, meaning that every place herein gets a mini-handout! That's HUGE!

There is another aspect to this adventure that is extremely helpful for the GM: The location-spread. The Map of the Duchy of Sapphire is depicted in lavish artworks – one is provided for each of the “screens” that the PCs can explore, and the GM gets handy, color-coded arrows pointing from location to location, allowing you to have an easy overview of how to get from place to place. In fact, this is the time where I’d like to comment on how ridiculously easy navigation is – you click on an image of a locale and the internal hyperlinking brings you right to the place; same goes for the items, btw. These link to the item list. Each of the individual locations also has a list of items attained and items used, with the respective locations noted.

Even better, the respective locations themselves link back to the overview-spread, allowing for a really easy to use and comfortable GMing experience. The organization is really smart here, as the top of each page also lists the respective connections to other screens – one click and you’ll be there. This level of comfort really helps you maintain the upper hand while running this adventure.

Now, I am going to deviate from my usual format a bit here – since the main draw of this adventure are the puzzles, talking you through the module would make no sense – I’d SPOIL even more than usual. Instead, I’d like to comment a bit on the design aesthetics – much like in King’s Quest, the primary antagonist would be an evil wizard, here, Vaclav. He and pretty much all combats herein, though, are changed by the quest item use – they are actually required to best Vaclav, considering his power. That being said, it is possible to make the fight against him utterly and completely contingent on narrative means – i.e., based solely on these items. That would be one use of the adventure, and, if played as such, a capable GM can use either the PFRPG or the 5e-version and play this as what amounts to, a system neutral pen & paper point and click adventure. This is possible, if not the intended use of the adventure.

However, even though the obvious inspiration of this adventure would be King’s Quest, it actually plays, when tackled as written, for like a point and click adventure/RPG-hybrid, like e.g. the amazing Quest for Glory-series. The roleplaying elements in such a case add a degree of tension and uncertainty to the proceedings that make this module much more interesting, so yeah, running it WITH the RPG-components actually enhances the game. Much like early point and click adventures required often a degree of player skill (and luck), the use of this adventure as intended simulates this uncertainty via the rolling of the dice. It should also be mentioned that the presence of a roleplaying system as a backdrop can further help stumped players – and while there are no dead ends per default, this further helps mitigate potential player frustration for “being stuck,” providing a synergy of the best of both worlds in that regard.

There is another aspect to this module that warrants mentioning: When I, back in the day, started GMing, I noticed a sort of choice-paralysis by the players; conditioned by videogames and other forms of media, the sudden delimitation of options that pen & paper games provide felt almost overwhelming, and it took some serious getting used to for them. In a way, this module can ease new players into that: Yes, they can opt for combat and combat-related options in a couple of instances, but using items, ultimately, is the smarter move. This is a big, big plus in my book – we ultimately emphasize brains over brawn here and the module is better off for it.

This design philosophy and the aforementioned, child-friendliness, is btw. also a component that is reflected in the XP-aesthetics – solving puzzles and dealing with adversaries in a non-violent manner is worth more than trying to brute-force combat with them. This teaches the players that using their brains tops trying to kill everything, which is a big plus, ethics-wise.

The module also consequently rewards exploration: There are quite a few “optional” areas or somewhat branching paths that the PCs may find, with e.g. a fairy village, a magic waterfall, a poisoned pond, troll-guarded suspension bridges and nomadic camps all providing means to progress, to attain the tools that can help best Vaclav. Indeed, a particular item, the royal signet ring, is one of the determining factors for the 6 endings that can be found herein. And yes, whether or not the PCs subdue or kill the evil wizard makes a difference. As for scope – a total of 21 main locations can be found and most groups should get between 2 – 4 full playing sessions out of this adventure. You can brute force faster progression, obviously, but yeah.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch in the 5e-version – I noticed no serious glitches. Layout deserves special mention – the pdf adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the module has a TON of original, full-color artworks for items, characters and locations. More importantly, the internal hyperlinking and color-coding of links and items makes the module really user-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

A little tangent here: Time and again, I have been praised in my professional life for being able to think in uncommon ways, for thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions. I am 100% certain that my love for point-and-click adventures as a child has something to do with that; if you don’t just try to combine everything with each other, you have to think – cleverly and outside of your own comfort zone. They also help develop logic, language and abstract-thinking skills. There is a lot of overlap there with RPGs, who also teach math skills and creative thinking, etc. Notice something? Yeah, this is, in my opinion, a natural fit that can help ease kids into the hobby.

That is not to say that adults can’t enjoy this, mind you – this may be cute, but it’s not cutesy. It is child-friendly, but not childish. It treats the players respectfully. In particularly adults who have had some experience with the classic games will probably experience one nostalgic event after another.

So is this good? Well, in my opinion, it is excellent. I do bemoan the lack of full-page versions of the gorgeous adventure-screens, but the new and expanded card deck somewhat remedies that. That is about the only thing I did not like about this adventure. Yes, it requires that you and the players wholeheartedly buy into the premise, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with a playing experience unlike anyone I’ve had with roleplaying games.

This module by Jonathan G. Nelson, with additional content by Serena Nelson (EDIT: It has MASSIVE contributions from Jensen Toperzer - mea maxima culpa for not stating that earlier!!), in short, is genuinely innovative and a really fun experience. As a huge fan of adventure/RPG-hybrids, a genre that lies horribly vacant in PC-gaming, this scratched a really powerful itch of mine, and did so in a heartwarming and fun way. I really, really hope that this is the first of many such adventures – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. In contrast to the PFRPG-version, the 5e-version feels a bit more refined and is, system-immanently, a bit more conductive to the playing experience, so get this one if you have the luxury of choosing which one to play. The expanded card deck makes for a really great prop as well and can be used to further enhance the experience.

Oh, and conversely, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018. If you even remotely like the idea, check this out asap!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
(5E) Heir & Back Again
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Heir & Back Again
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 08:58:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 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.

Okay, so first things first: This module is intended for four characters – in fact, 4 specific characters. While they may be replaced, this will take a bit of time and the most sensible way of running this is as a 1st level module or as a stand-alone adventure.

The pregenerated characters, all of whom come with their own full-color artworks, sport detailed backgrounds and full-color artworks alongside their stats. The character would by Joylene Crumb, a an adolescent human aristocrat girl, who grew up as the adopted daughter of peasants. There would be Talulla, a pooka druid trickster exiled from her fairy village for a prank gone wrong. There is Bjorn Bearson, a werebear (stats for both forms provided) and finally, there is Fergus MacDougal, the talking cat. Who is actually a dwarven sorcerer. All of the pregens come with a read-aloud description as well.

Now, it should be noted that this adventure can be run as a 1-on-1 game, with one GM and one player; in such a case, Joylene is the PC, for the story revolves mainly around her. If the nature of the NPCs did not drive this home – the pdf has a very strong fairy-tale-esque aesthetic and as such, is suitable for kids as well as adults. In fact, I think that this works rather well as an adventure for kids, courtesy of a feature that sets this apart.

You see, Joylene begins play with a potent artifact, the amulet of unwound time. She’ll need it.

In case the cover was not ample indicator of what to expect herein, this adventure is a homage to the classic King’s Quest-series of Sierra-point-and-click-adventures. If you have played these, you’ll know that there are a TON of ways to die in a weird and comedic manner, and this pdf emphasizes and embraces that aspect. It also tells the GM and players to embrace this – the amulet acts as basically the save/reload function here.

Another aspect that sets this apart from any other roleplaying adventure would be the fact that it emphasizes puzzles over rules – in fact, it is very much possible to run this adventure purely on a narrative basis: All major aspects of the module are based on finding items, combining them, etc. and thus, while often tied to rules, can theoretically be run without rolling a single die. This module emphasizes puzzles over rolling the bones, much like the beloved point-and-click adventures.

But won’t the items become confusing? No, for the organization of the adventure is REALLY interesting: Quest items are always bolded – additionally, the GM gets them color-coded: Items that are freely available, are printed in green; those that need to be found, contingent on an ability or the like, are blue and those that need to be traded/given are printed in purple. Here’s a cool thing about that: The module sports a MASSIVE appendix, in which each item’s location is noted, alongside the respective color, how it can be got and the descriptive text. Oh, and an artwork. If you print these out, you can hand out the artworks to the players! The quest item table makes managing this aspect really simple.

Alternatively, you can always get the item card deck, which provides a player-friendly card for each of the items used in the adventure – not required, but a handy prop that cuts down on your prep-time. (As an aside – particularly when playing with kids, this can help immensely!) EDIT: As of now, the deck has increased in usefulness, as it now also contains the lavishly-illustrated locations, meaning that every place herein gets a mini-handout! That's HUGE!

There is another aspect to this adventure that is extremely helpful for the GM: The location-spread. The Map of the Duchy of Sapphire is depicted in lavish artworks – one is provided for each of the “screens” that the PCs can explore, and the Gm gets handy, color-coded arrows pointing from location to location, allowing you to have an easy overview of how to get from place to place. In fact, this is the time where I’d like to comment on how ridiculously easy navigation is – you click on an image of a locale and the internal hyperlinking brings you right to the place; same goes for the items, btw. These link to the item list. Each of the individual locations also has a list of items attained and items used, with the respective locations noted.

Even better, the respective locations themselves link back to the overview-spread, allowing for a really easy to use and comfortable GMing experience. The organization is really smart here, as the top of each page also lists the respective connections to other screens – one click and you’ll be there. This level of comfort really helps you maintain the upper hand while running this adventure.

Now, I am going to deviate from my usual format a bit here – since the main draw of this adventure are the puzzles, talking you through the module would make no sense – I’d SPOIL even more than usual. Instead, I’d like to comment a bit on the design aesthetics – much like in King’s Quest, the primary antagonist would be an evil wizard, here, Vaclav. He and pretty much all combats herein, though, are changed by the quest item use – they are actually required to best Vaclav, considering his power. That being said, it is possible to make the fight against him utterly and completely contingent on narrative means – i.e., based solely on these items. That would be one use of the adventure, and, if played as such, a capable GM can use either the PFRPG or the 5e-version and play this as what amounts to, a system neutral pen & paper point and click adventure. This is possible, if not the intended use of the adventure.

However, even though the obvious inspiration of this adventure would be King’s Quest, it actually plays, when tackled as written, for like a point and click adventure/RPG-hybrid, like e.g. the amazing Quest for Glory-series. The roleplaying elements in such a case add a degree of tension and uncertainty to the proceedings that make this module much more interesting, so yeah, running it WITH the RPG-components actually enhances the game. Much like early point and click adventures required often a degree of player skill (and luck), the use of this adventure as intended simulates this uncertainty via the rolling of the dice. It should also be mentioned that the presence of a roleplaying system as a backdrop can further help stumped players – and while there are no dead ends per default, this further helps mitigate potential player frustration for “being stuck,” providing a synergy of the best of both worlds in that regard.

There is another aspect to this module that warrants mentioning: When I, back in the day, started GMing, I noticed a sort of choice-paralysis by the players; conditioned by videogames and other forms of media, the sudden delimitation of options that pen & paper games provide felt almost overwhelming, and it took some serious getting used to for them. In a way, this module can ease new players into that: Yes, they can opt for combat and combat-related options in a couple of instances, but using items, ultimately, is the smarter move. This is a big, big plus in my book – we ultimately emphasize brains over brawn here and the module is better off for it.

This design philosophy and the aforementioned child-friendliness, is btw. also a component that is reflected in the XP-aesthetics – solving puzzles and dealing with adversaries in a non-violent manner is worth more than trying to brute-force combat with them. This teaches the players that using their brains tops trying to kill everything, which is a big plus, ethics-wise.

The module also consequently rewards exploration: There are quite a few “optional” areas or somewhat branching paths that the PCs may find, with e.g. a fairy village, a magic waterfall, a poisoned pond, troll-guarded suspension bridges and nomadic camps all providing means to progress, to attain the tools that can help best Vaclav. Indeed, a particular item, the royal signet ring, is one of the determining factors for the 6 endings that can be found herein. And yes, whether or not the PCs subdue or kill the evil wizard makes a difference. As for scope – a total of 21 main locations can be found and most groups should get between 2 – 4 full playing sessions out of this adventure. You can brute force faster progression, obviously, but yeah.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed a few minor hiccups, nothing grievous hampered my enjoyment of the pdf. A reference to “Wisdom (Perception)” here and a wrongly colored link there, but, again, these are scarce. Layout deserves special mention – the pdf adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the module has a TON of original, full-color artworks for items, characters and locations. I strongly suggest getting the expanded deck of props for maximum impact. More importantly, the internal hyperlinking and color-coding of links and items makes the module really user-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

A little tangent here: Time and again, I have been praised in my professional life for being able to think in uncommon ways, for thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions. I am 100% certain that my love for point-and-click adventures as a child has something to do with that; if you don’t just try to combine everything with each other, you have to think – cleverly and outside of your own comfort zone. They also help develop logic, language and abstract-thinking skills. There is a lot of overlap there with RPGs, who also teach math skills and creative thinking, etc. Notice something? Yeah, this is, in my opinion, a natural fit that can help ease kids into the hobby.

That is not to say that adults can’t enjoy this, mind you – this may be cute, but it’s not cutesy. It is child-friendly, but not childish. It treats the players respectfully. In particularly adults who have had some experience with the classic games will probably experience one nostalgic event after another.

So is this good? Well, in my opinion, it is excellent. I do bemoan the lack of full-page versions of the gorgeous adventure-screens, but the expanded deck really helps here and makes for a great way to highlight the neat artwork. The adventure requires that you and the players embrace the premise, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with a playing experience unlike anyone I’ve had with roleplaying games.

This module by Jonathan G. Nelson, with additional content by Serena Nelson (EDIT: It has MASSIVE contributions from Jensen Toperzer - mea maxima culpa for not stating that earlier!!), in short, is genuinely innovative and a really fun experience. As a huge fan of adventure/RPG-hybrids, a genre that lies horribly vacant in PC-gaming, this scratched a really powerful itch of mine, and did so in a heartwarming and fun way. I really, really hope that this is the first of many such adventures – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up, with my seal of approval added. If you even remotely like the idea, check this out asap! If you have the luxury of choice, I’d consider the 5e-version to be slightly more refined and system-immanently, better suited for the playing experience this offers. As an aside: If you get this with the new and expanded card deck added, consider the verdict to clock in at +0.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heir & Back Again
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2018 07:37:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page of back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

Okay, so, if you’ve been following my tackling of the VsM-Engine-based supplements released by Fat Goblin Games, you’ll notice that I really love the Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2-book; I think it is a really elegant, detailed game that is fun to play and fits its niche perfectly. Now, this supplement is, in a way, a stroll down memory lane – it represents, in essence, a kind of V.1.5 of the base system, with more supplemental material etc. That means, this actually has everything you need to run the game.

As I’ve explained the peculiarities of VsM-based games 4 times by now, I assume you’re familiar with them, in particular Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. Now, this review, and let me state that from the get—go, will be based on the utility of this book in conjunction with Season 2’s cool rulebook. This may not be 100% fair to the book, but it is the question that customers want answered, and so I’m going to provide that. As a Season 1 supplement, this is retroactively designated as EASY mode for the context of Season 2 gameplay, and this is my testing baseline.

All right, got that? Great!

So, we begin with an intro, one that lists appropriate inspirations for horror-themed clowns; the next three pages are devoted to a basic character-generation-section for the Kids (i.e. the PCs) – this obviously does not reach, by a long shot, the details we get in the Season 2-book, but it suffices to make characters and includes even a few good/bad gimmicks, which are here still called “Stuff.” (As an aside: Whoever deiced to rename them did a good job!) Two more pages explain the basics of fighting and there we go – at this point, only a total of 6 pages has been devoted to information that has become obsolete due to Season 2’s release.

Now, how does the GM-section fare? Well, we begin with an overview of locations that may matter to the PCs and we get notes on dying and hazards as well as a suggested Hard Mode and a bit of guidance regarding advancement and rewards – now, if you think that the GM-section is made redundant by the release of Season 2 as well, then you’d actually be wrong – there is value that holds up rather well to be found here: For one, we get 11 suggested plot lines that you can develop – all of which, obviously, are clown-themed to some extent.

Now, in a really cool section that I absolutely adored, we get a brief list of clown lingo: Do you know what a Charivari is? What “Galop” means in context? Well, you will after reading this supplement. I love it when RPG-supplements convey knowledge like this. After this, we dive into some detailed discussions of clown types and also a couple of clown antics that you can use to flesh out your clowns. Now, the book goes beyond that – we also get a nice, hand-drawn map of a standard neighborhood house and a full-color map of the town of Crestview Hills. Beyond that, we get a color-book-style map of a sample town, which you can color or have your players color – particularly when playing with kids, this can be pretty amazing. There is a full-color puppet-pal on one page that the GM can print out, cut up and assemble…and we get a page of 4 human faces with disturbing smiles – just paint clown faces on them… So yeah, the supplemental material is extensive and goes above and beyond of what one usually expects to see – kudos.

The lion’s share of the book, though, would be devoted to three adventures, the first of which would be Ben Dowell’s “Creepy Clowns.” Now, in order to discuss these, I need to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, fall is approaching and, in a time-honored tradition., older kids, bullies and pricks have decided that it’s fun to do the horror clown and frighten the young ones – so that’s the backdrop. The module then proceeds to do something structurally interesting: Taking a cue from RPG-classics like the original Ravenloft module, the adventure has a randomization effect: The module has the players draw cards in the beginning – the suits then determine the structure of certain aspects of the game, hooks, etc.. We begin with an encounter with a clown-painted bully, and after that, the Kids will, after school, notice absurdly large footprints – following them, they may well witness a clown goon, recruiting one of these bullies, transforming them! Beyond the combat, there may well be an epidemic if the kids don’t stop it! And indeed, the local carnival may well be the source, with no less than 4 radically different scenarios, including 3 different boss stats, waiting for them! Really cool little adventure. Huge plus for the replay value! This makes for an excellent convention game that doesn’t become boring for the GM after running it twice. The module also comes with a nice good gimmick as a reward.

The second adventure would be “The Case of Cap’n Freezie” – which comes with a really spooky photograph of an ice-cream truck that managed to send a shiver down my spine. Since the summer’s start, several kids have gone missing, and the legend of the spooky truck have begun circulating. As is often the case in such genre-fiction, the police is, oddly, twiddling its thumbs…so the kids need to investigate the case! This one is directly tied into the Crestview Hill backdrop, but can be easily adapted to pretty much any other town. The tale is actually rather tragic – Joey Prescott’s family owns the junkyard and is known for its “get rich”-schemes, one of which was the eponymous Cap’n Freezie-ice-cream truck. Joey, as a teen, was forced to dress up as a clown and drive around, hawking ice from the truck. Alas, children are cruel, and so he was jumped, beaten p, and locked into the truck. The adolescent culprits figured he’d be found in time. He wasn’t. Half-dead and disfigured by severe hypothermia, Joey was committed first to a hospital, then to an asylum. It took 20 long years, but he has snapped out of catatonia- and he’s out for revenge. After all, his erstwhile tormentors now have kids of their own… And indeed, the kids will notice the van prowling the streets…and, if they’re brave, they may well piece together the evidence and put a stop to the Capt’n before too many kids perish in the refrigerated hell the madman is creating… Nice: Depending on the actions of the kids, different types of good gimmicks may be earned.

The third adventure herein would be “Silhouette of a Clown” by Ismael Alvarez, takes place in Slim River, and pertains a legend of a scary clown that manifests at 3 AM. Slim River is very close to Crestview Hills, but does require some time getting there – and if you can use the scary railroad bridge, you’ll be there quicker…It’s a little thing, really, but it’s something I found I could relate to, and I suspect I’m not alone there. Slim River is also a tiny village – and as such, the finger-pointing has already begun. Having experienced the “fun” of rural hypocrisy for much of my childhood, that would be once more something I considered to be interesting. The clown is creepy, with black, empty eye-sockets – it’s known as Kuzo, manifests, speaks and then lunges, but the Kids always manage to evade it sans waking their parents. The sightings also seem to cluster once a decade. In case you haven’t noticed – this one is, theme-wise, closest to IT. There is a difference, though: You see, Kuzo was actually an immigrant, ostracized from the close-knit community – and he drowned in the river. Now, a curse of death looms over twins, promising death for one if the river is not appeased…and as one of them is rushed to the hospital, the other is possessed by Kuzo! How do the PCs deal with the possessed clown? Well, that is the question – he may well drown if lured to the river; if gotten into the church, he similarly will fall…but the module can end, either way, on a rather somber note, one that can see the PCs get both good and bad gimmicks, and which may make the surviving twin rather creepy. Or, you know, you could put a spin on the theme, as the pdf suggests: Perhaps Kuzo was actually trying to protect the town from dark river spirits, which is an interesting twist that could be used to make the module’s replay value higher for the GM.

The pdf also contains some sample NPC stats, clown special attacks and a list of all collated creepy clown statblocks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to an 8.5’’ by 8.5’’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is full-color and nice.

I was positively surprised by this book by Ben Dowell, Ismael Alvarez, Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari. For one, the modules don’t become redundant – while the modules all sport the clown-theme, the y are vastly different in theme and topic covered. From the mundane slasher-flick to the 80s-grotesque/weird to the ghost story, the modules cover a nice variety of tropes and all of them feature a neat angle. Now, the rules-aspect, obviously, is not as relevant as it once was, but once you take the massive bonus content into account, you’ll realize that this holds up surprisingly well. The adventures may not reinvent the wheel, but they all are interesting in some form, and the book shows that the authors really cared here. I am particularly partial to the replay value of the first adventure, the visuals of module #2 and the alternate, tragic identity of the BBEG in module #3 – so yeah, each of the adventures has something strong going for them. Hence, 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!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
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Village Backdrop: Lady Cross
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2018 07:36:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ cult-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Lady Cross is a village that falls squarely into the terrain of “basically an adventure” – just throw PCs into the mix, watch them interact with the locale, and slowly unearth the metaplot, for a classic, Shakespearian tragedy has marked the locale, providing a very easy metaplot for the GM to develop as a downtime adventuring site.

Situated in rough moorlands, with harsh northern winds, the village has a distinct Islay/Highlands-theme, which is generally something I enjoy and, as a fan of a good whiskey, can appreciate; indeed, with the soil is poor, Lady Cross sports no less than 6 different wells, which help emphasize the distilling and brewing as the primary resource of the settlement. It should be noted that, courtesy of the soil, the brew of choice here would be gins, not whiskey, though. Tea shops and fortified walls, visible in Tommi Salama’s excellent map, make the village seem rather safe, idyllic even.

Indeed, in the PFRPG version’s settlement statblock, the village has a danger value of +0, making it a per se relatively safe place…most of the time. At the same time, the shadow of the tragedy looms and represents a ticking timebomb of sorts.

Now, as always for the series, we do get notes for the marketplace section as well as 6 rumours. The pdf contains notes on the villager appearance and dressing habits as well as nomenclature, and PCs that do their legwork can unearth some lore. The pdf also provides information on the booming gin production and local law enforcement and the local customs, which sport a somewhat pagan tint, centering on the “Sorrow Tree” and the equinoxes.

Now, this supplement, structurally, follows the evolved form of Village Backdrops, providing a massive 20-entry table of local color events and dressing to make the village come to life. This also is mirrored in the fluff-only write-ups of the 2 NPCs, who come with a brief read-aloud description and mannerisms and personality. The read-aloud sections also extend to the write-ups for the nine notable locations. The village has an expanded sidebar, courtesy of its focus on beverages, which was something I enjoyed. Objects available for purchase are noted in their respective locations and the village has some additional adventuring potential:

The wells bespeak a system of tunnels, now mainly boarded up hastily and left forgotten, and a killer is stalking the village. Combined with the strong “main plot” of the village, this allows the village to act as a pretty efficient set-up for adventuring.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good. I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-relevant level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with really nice, original b/w-artworks and the cartography by maestro Salama is amazing, as always. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen use and one optimized for the printer.

This is the first file by Robert Manson I’ve read and I confess to being positively surprised. The village has a strong identity and angle that I enjoy; the fact that it basically is an adventure waiting to happen, that it can be run as a backdrop, has a dungeon-angle and one for investigation, as well as a nice complicating factor, makes this structurally well-executed. That being said, this time around, the nature of the main antagonist and focus of the storyline inherent in the setting, feels like it falls short of what it could do, courtesy of its relatively rules-lite nature. This settlement practically screams for haunts, hazards and a more fitting representation for the main antagonist herein – the creature chosen is as vanilla as can be and thus presents a detriment for the PFRPG-version, considering the alternatives the system offers. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Lady Cross
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Thilo! I'm glad you liked Lady Cross!
Village Backdrop: Lady Cross (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2018 07:34:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ cult-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Lady Cross is a village that falls squarely into the terrain of “basically an adventure” – just throw PCs into the mix, watch them interact with the locale, and slowly unearth the metaplot, for a classic, Shakespearian tragedy has marked the locale, providing a very easy metaplot for the GM to develop as a downtime adventuring site.

Situated in rough moorlands, with harsh northern winds, the village has a distinct Islay/Highlands-theme, which is generally something I enjoy and, as a fan of a good whiskey, can appreciate; indeed, with the soil is poor, Lady Cross sports no less than 6 different wells, which help emphasize the distilling and brewing as the primary resource of the settlement. It should be noted that, courtesy of the soil, the brew of choice here would be gins, not whiskey, though. Tea shops and fortified walls, visible in Tommi Salama’s excellent map, make the village seem rather safe, idyllic even.

Indeed, the village turns out to be a rather safe place…most of the time. At the same time, the shadow of the tragedy hinted at looms prominently over the village and represents a ticking timebomb of sorts.

Now, as always for the series, we do get notes for the marketplace section as well as 6 rumours. The pdf contains notes on the villager appearance and dressing habits as well as nomenclature, and PCs that do their legwork can unearth some lore. The pdf also provides information on the booming gin production and local law enforcement and the local customs, which sport a somewhat pagan tint, centering on the “Sorrow Tree” and the equinoxes.

Now, this supplement, structurally, follows the evolved form of Village Backdrops, providing a massive 20-entry table of local color events and dressing to make the village come to life. This also is mirrored in the fluff-only write-ups of the 2 NPCs, who come with a brief read-aloud description and mannerisms and personality. They have btw. been assigned proper 5e default statblocks. The read-aloud sections also extend to the write-ups for the nine notable locations. The village has an expanded sidebar, courtesy of its focus on beverages, which was something I enjoyed. Objects available for purchase are noted in their respective locations and the village has some additional adventuring potential:

The wells bespeak a system of tunnels, now mainly boarded up hastily and left forgotten, and a killer is stalking the village. Combined with the strong “main plot” of the village, this allows the village to act as a pretty efficient set-up for adventuring.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good. I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-relevant level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with really nice, original b/w-artworks and the cartography by maestro Salama is amazing, as always. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen use and one optimized for the printer.

This is the first file by Robert Manson I’ve read and I confess to being positively surprised. The village has a strong identity and angle that I enjoy; the fact that it basically is an adventure waiting to happen, that it can be run as a backdrop, has a dungeon-angle and one for investigation, as well as a nice complicating factor, makes this structurally well-executed. That being said, this time around, the nature of the main antagonist and focus of the storyline inherent in the setting, feels like it falls short of what it could do, courtesy of its relatively rules-lite nature. This settlement practically screams for legendary or lair actions associated with the respective locales - the creature chosen is pretty vanilla and while 5e does not have the same amount of creatures (yet) as PFRPG, I still feel like the tragedy would have made for a great way to customize the challenge here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for the 5e version as well.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Lady Cross (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Thilo! I'm glad you liked Lady Cross!
Village Backdrop: Lady Cross (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2018 07:31:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ cult-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Lady Cross is a village that falls squarely into the terrain of “basically an adventure” – just throw PCs into the mix, watch them interact with the locale, and slowly unearth the metaplot, for a classic, Shakespearian tragedy has marked the locale, providing a very easy metaplot for the GM to develop as a downtime adventuring site.

Situated in rough moorlands, with harsh northern winds, the village has a distinct Islay/Highlands-theme, which is generally something I enjoy and, as a fan of a good whiskey, can appreciate; indeed, with the soil is poor, Lady Cross sports no less than 6 different wells, which help emphasize the distilling and brewing as the primary resource of the settlement. It should be noted that, courtesy of the soil, the brew of choice here would be gins, not whiskey, though. Tea shops and fortified walls, visible in Tommi Salama’s excellent map, make the village seem rather safe, idyllic even.

Indeed, the village turns out to be a rather safe place…most of the time. At the same time, the shadow of the tragedy hinted at looms prominently over the village and represents a ticking timebomb of sorts.

Now, as always for the series, we do get notes for the marketplace section as well as 6 rumours. The pdf contains notes on the villager appearance and dressing habits as well as nomenclature, and PCs that do their legwork can unearth some lore. The pdf also provides information on the booming gin production and local law enforcement and the local customs, which sport a somewhat pagan tint, centering on the “Sorrow Tree” and the equinoxes.

Now, this supplement, structurally, follows the evolved form of Village Backdrops, providing a massive 20-entry table of local color events and dressing to make the village come to life. This also is mirrored in the fluff-only write-ups of the 2 NPCs, who come with a brief read-aloud description and mannerisms and personality. They have btw. been assigned proper old-school class designations. The read-aloud sections also extend to the write-ups for the nine notable locations. The village has an expanded sidebar, courtesy of its focus on beverages, which was something I enjoyed. Objects available for purchase are noted in their respective locations and the village has some additional adventuring potential:

The wells bespeak a system of tunnels, now mainly boarded up hastily and left forgotten, and a killer is stalking the village. Combined with the strong “main plot” of the village, this allows the village to act as a pretty efficient set-up for adventuring.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good. I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-relevant level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with really nice, original b/w-artworks and the cartography by maestro Salama is amazing, as always. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen use and one optimized for the printer.

This is the first file by Robert Manson I’ve read and I confess to being positively surprised. The village has a strong identity and angle that I enjoy; the fact that it basically is an adventure waiting to happen, that it can be run as a backdrop, has a dungeon-angle and one for investigation, as well as a nice complicating factor, makes this structurally well-executed. Now, while I did complain about the rather vanilla nature of the adversaries in the PFRPG and 5e version, I could field, in theory, the same complaint against the system neutral version – the OSR-games out there sport a ton of more interesting creatures. However, this is designated as the system neutral version and as such, complaining about wanting a deeper or more interesting rules-component would not be fair in the least. As such, the pdf works imho best in its system neutral version, as there is no system-immanent shortcoming in representation to complain about. Hence, my final verdict for this version will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Lady Cross (SNE)
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Thilo! I'm glad you liked Lady Cross!
Wrath of the River King for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2018 05:05:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page backer-thanks/introduction, 1 page ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 64 1/3 pages, so let's take a look!

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

...

..

.

Okay, so before we begin: This is one of the modules that perfectly encapsulates what sets Midgard apart from your run-of-the-mill fantasy setting, for its begin in the small village of Riverbend is steeped in the feudal structures that should be inherent in all fantasy worlds.

Let me elaborate: The miller in ancient times doubled as a taxman of sorts and was directly put in charge by the respective lords: There was no free choice of where to go, etc. and you had to pay miler and lord when having your grain processed. It is thus that the stereotype of the greedy miller came into being. An edge of the sinister had always stuck to the profession in a fairy tale-context, one perfectly exemplified by Ottfried Preußler's "Krabat", building on the classic Wendish legend. Not only does the book perfectly highlight the horrors of love and war and poverty, its use of mystical numbers and general plotline have influenced magical traditions in my own games for ages. It is, in short, glorious and if your German is serviceable, I'd strongly recommend the folk-rock cd "Zaubererbruder" by ASP, a poetic and really catchy version of the tale that has some really smashing tunes like "Denn ich bin Dein Meister" ("For I am your master") or a brilliant portrayal of a duel of polymorphing cat and mouse - literally! For more electronically-minded folks out there – Stillste Stund’ – Mühle mahlt.

I digress, back to Riverbend: The miller here, as often, was the target of not an undue amount of jealousy...and worse, he actually had an elven wife! (Note: In Midgard, elves are VERY rare and considered to be closer to fey than regular mortals, making them feel more mythological.) The elven wife of miller Froderick has vanished, alongside with his millstone and people are pretty sure he has murdered her...after all, someone who consorts with fey is prone to be suspicious, particularly if he's also the miller! The presence of the fantastic is making itself felt in town, with the omnipresent fey (exemplified as bugbears and forest imps) making the area dangerous...oh, and guess what: poor Froderick is facing the gallows if the PCs don't help him. Indeed, investigation of Riverbend may yield the PCs some interesting information: For one, a band of satyrs with a talking bear have taken refuge at the local inn, much to the panic of the local population. Getting them out will require a complex skill-check-interaction...which brings me to one of my favorite parts in the module, at least from a design perspective.

You see, this was originally released for D&D 4th edition and while I loathe that system, its skill challenge mechanic is interesting: Basically, you set a complex task in front of the party and allow the respective PCs to accumulate success and failures based on skill-use. Let me make up an example to illustrate the concept: A tree blocks a trade road. The mage may use Strength (Athletics) to use brutal force to attempt to move it; the ranger uses Wisdom (Survival) to discern the best ways to hack it apart, the druid use Animal Handling to make the horses draw the tree away. Sure, you could depict that in sequence, but the beauty of complex skill challenges lies in the variety of options and the teamwork aspect inherent in besting them. Regarding the satyrs, there are a ton of DCs for different venues of roleplaying to attempt to make them leave, often differentiating between different strategies – a smartly PLAYED character will face a lower DC than one whose players goes “whatever, I roll skill xyz” – this, organically, fosters teamwork as well as roleplaying. Success and failure are contingent on amassing successes as a group before accruing a certain amount of failures. The system is ridiculously easy to understand and I sometimes wish that particularly deadly traps used such a system more often, instead of relying on one roll. So yeah, the inclusion and proper conversion of these skill challenges is a big plus for me and I can't figure out any drawback to their inclusion – I am very happy that the conversion to 5e managed to translate them as well.

Beyond the satyrs, there is a flaxen-eyed kid in the mill - who is very nervous and claims that it belongs to him. The PCs don't yet know that...but this boy is Froderick's son. Ellesandra, his missing wife, was pregnant and raised the boy in the Summerlands, where time follows different laws....a magical place which can, just fyi, be accessed by the mill pond...which also explains the presence of a rather potent sidhe knight and his squire there, and they're not pleasant beings.

Speaking of not pleasant: The module makes an excellent display of highlighting the strange and capricious nature of fey, while staying true to the myths: If the PCs take a look at the accounts of Froderick, they may well find out that there is something missing. Confronted with this discrepancy, the strange coincidences may make suddenly sense, as Froderick confesses to having had an enchanted millstone that he had to grind each day in order to keep his wife's love. Oh, and his wife was gifted to him by a fairy lord, to whom he was sending the missing tribute. But he vehemently denies being the shape that was seen attempting to drown his wife. (On an aside: Morally compromised, but well-meaning man, young and gorgeous wife that is only kept entranced with him, courtesy of his toil...you can see some nice social commentary here...yep, the like has even existed back in the times quoted by fairy tales...)

It seems that the PCs will have to dive deeper into the matter at hand and brave the mill pond if they want to get to the bottom of this mystery...literally here, for the tithe collector of the fairy, one nasty hag (who also, coincidentally, knew about the miller skimping on the due amount and who is the culprit of the attempted drowning) has sunk the mill stone in the mill pond...so the PCs will have to dive down...and there, finally, brave a kind of mini-game, if you will, as you're diving into the river - getting to shore in the lands of the fey will be not an easy task and may cost them some items, at least temporarily – once more, something I applaud. I am actually one of the GMs who likes destroying PC items and the like...but I digress. Once the PCs have managed to reach shore, things turn very much wondrous, as the Summerlands feel, without a doubt, like a realm both wondrous and magickal, as PCs get a chance to encounter eel hounds, witness the dance of moths, deal with frog-riding goblins...and save Elessandra from a fey bandit. The elven lady is willing to fill the PCs in on her marriage being arranged, and consequently, that the woman has no intention of ever returning to the realms of mortals. Her wedding ring makes for a somber way of hopefully getting the miller off the gallows, but while the GM may elect for this encounter to just happen, it is very much at this point that the linearity you'd expect from a module like this...completely vanishes.

Sure, there are aspects that can be presented in a certain sequence, but, at this point, any remotely capable GM and group can either go in sequence through the specific dressings and NPC/monster-encounters, sure - but the goal itself and how they achieve it will depend in a very nice emphasis of player-choice highly upon the interaction with the mythologically-resonant cast of character: You see, with the miller not delivering the proper tribute, Riverbent is actually bound to become part of the Summerlands unless the deal with the fey lord can be renegotiated and the River King's wrath quelled. Oh, and even if the PCs just want to run...well, they may have access to a means to escape, unreliable though it may be.

Thing is: Fey are elitist. And cold. And alien. And they seem to have taken a liking to some of the feudal structures seen among the mortals - thus, the PCs will definitely need to make some allies with powerful entities...and the entities being fey, well, let's just say that strings will be attached, new roleplaying potential generated as the PCs make their impact known among the noble fey. In fact, the PCs may even claim a title, encounter the dragon Tatzel and there would be the Birch Queen's magnificent and unearthly fair to visit. An evil lord of verminous butterflies, scorched treants and similarly wild beings allow for plenty of deadly encounters...or corresponding opportunities for roleplaying opportunities with some of the most interesting creatures to interact with in a while.

In order to save Riverbent, the PCs not only have to reach the source of the river and gain access to the court of the river king, they will also need to make a case for the claim of Lord Flax on the lands being spurious...and negotiating with a personified force of nature is not an undertaking to be taken lightly or disrespectfully. Fey are capricious, though, and the hag may well demand for a duel...oh, and in order to return to the mortal world, the PCs will have to defend the fairy-realm version of the mill from the forces of Flax in a furious siege...and, much like real-world fairy tales, this ends with a melancholy and bittersweet note, for Flax is truly Froderick's son, the humble kid the PCs saw before, grown quickly and prematurely, providing a somber tone to contrast with the wondrous and impressive nature of the summerlands. When mortals tangle with the fey, sorrow will be the toll for the wonders witnessed.

We conclude the adventure with stats for the courtiers of the river king.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I have noticed a couple of minor hiccups, but nothing grievous. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard. The pdf sports several unique and beautiful full-color artworks and the pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is glorious full color, and the maps for the encounters are really nice, but very small. It is a pity that, much like the PFRPG-version, we get no full-page versions of the maps. Furthermore, we get no player-friendly versions of the maps sans keys, which sucks. So no, if you’re planning on doing this with VTT or with printed-out maps, you’ll have some serious work on your hand. At this point, several publishers provide layered and even multiple player-friendly versions of the maps. I don’t get this needlessly annoying inconvenience.

Wolfgang Baur's Wrath of the River King, back in the day, was a blind spot in my Midgard collection – since it originally was only made for 4th edition, it took several years until the PFRPG-conversion allowed me to complete my collection. When I finally got my hands on this book, I was surprised to see its relative brevity... but don't be fooled: There is a metric TON of gaming to be had from this module. I'd be seriously surprised if any group can finish this book in anything below 6 full-day sessions unless they skip everything: This book not only manages to create an ambiance wondrous and miraculous, it also, much like the excellent "Courts of the Shadow Fey", truly GETS fey. (As an aside – here’s to hoping for a 5e-version of that fantastic masterpiece as well!)

This module is very much is all about the wondrous fey that are in tune with nature; this pdf pits the PCs against an alien and intriguing incarnation of the capricious forces of nature, in all their wonder and destructive, alien, uncaring splendor. From the small dressing bits to the NPCs and environments, the module oozes flavor from every single word and manages to be extremely concise while doing so. There is much more gaming in this module than in several modules of twice that size.

Better yet: The 5e-conversion by Robert Fairbanks and Thomas M. Reid manages to retain all the aspects I loved about the PFRPG-version, managing to expertly translate them to 5e. This adventure belongs in the hall of fame of the precious few modules that truly manage the feat to tap into the wonder and feeling of fairy tales and translate it to the medium of roleplaying games, only being paralleled by the amazing Courts of the Shadow Fey and AAW Games' superb Snow White for PFRPG. (Both of which have decent chances of showing up for 5e at some point, so keep your fingers crossed!)

This is a true gem that basically demands a place of honor on your shelf next to these classics. The adventure manages to cram an insane amount of crunchy bits in its page-count, it also manages to perfectly evoke the sense of the fantastic. This should be considered to be one of the modules that need to be experienced by anyone who even halfway enjoys the world of Midgard, a module that I'd consider core-canon and brilliant.

Particularly the beauty of the ending and its resonance of classic tropes is genius and an emotional note only few modules manage to hit. Now, the PFRPG-version of this module managed to score a honorable mention on my Top Ten of 2016, missing a spot only due to the lack of player-friendly maps. I have a policy of different iterations of a supplement only qualifying once for a Top Ten entry, so instead of being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018, this should be considered to share the Honorable Mention spot of its PFRPG-version. This is an outstanding adventure and well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wrath of the River King for 5th Edition
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