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Places of Power: Tumblestone Inn (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2017 04:36:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In the middle of the borderlands, in the middle of the wilderness, situated atop the ruins of an erstwhile keep, there lies a place, equal parts armed camp of sellswords and mercenaries and bastion of civilization, bazaar of the exotic and recruiting ground - this place is tumblestone inn, and it may be precariously close to the territory of orcs...but so far it stands, also thanks to the continuous influx of adventurers...and they keep coming, because it has pretty much become THE place to get hired...and so, shadowy patrons always frequent the corners of the place and gold is always changing hands.

Led by Aelliah Wilmaytn, an erstwhile mercenary captain and guarded by many of her fellow soldiers, the place is also surprisingly safe for its location and concentration of capable individuals -some of which come with nice, fluff-only write-ups. As often in the series, we get information on local dressing-habits and nomenclature - but this time around, we also get a marketplace (with custom-priced, lesser magic items for sale - these should not break anyone's sense of immersion, considering how this is basically an adventurer's homebase...), ale and room-prices and the obligatory events and rumors to add further spice to this locale.

Going one step beyond, we also get 10 fluff-only write ups of different mercenaries as well as 8 patrons, making this basically a fully staffed environment to drop into pretty much every hexcrawl or wilderness environment you could conceive. The noted class-lines for the respective NPCs make use of the proper terms like magic-user and thief, so no complaints there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Maciej Zagorski is excellent. I think by joining Raging Swan Press' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

From the Black Tower, still standing from the original keep, to the mercenaries herein, Creighton Broadhurst proves why he's this highly regarded - the man KNOWS what he is doing. Frankly, I should not be liking this pdf to the extent that I do; it's concept is so old and done, it doesn't have this novelty I tend to crave...which just goes to show what good prose and concise writing can achieve, for I indeed found myself loving this extremely useful home away from home, this ready to drop in adventuring hub. There is something about the totality of this place of power that transcends the building stones from which it was crafted, making it stand out and feel distinct, in spite of its conservative theme.

In fact, Tumbledown Inn may actually work best in this iteration - it resonates with the old Greyhawk and Judge's Guild flavor and feels like a perfect drop-in for old-school campaigns. It is unpretentious, yes, but it perfectly captures the feeling and flavor of these regions...and OSR-fans will most certainly experience this warm smile slowly manifesting on their faces. In short: Unlike in PFRPG or 5E, I am not missing the extra crunchy bits here and thus, my verdict for this version, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Tumblestone Inn (SNE)
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Places of Power: Tumblestone Inn (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2017 04:34:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In the middle of the borderlands, in the middle of the wilderness, situated atop the ruins of an erstwhile keep, there lies a place, equal parts armed camp of sellswords and mercenaries and bastion of civilization, bazaar of the exotic and recruiting ground - this place is tumblestone inn, and it may be precariously close to the territory of orcs...but so far it stands, also thanks to the continuous influx of adventurers...and they keep coming, because it has pretty much become THE place to get hired...and so, shadowy patrons always frequent the corners of the place and gold is always changing hands.

Led by Aelliah Wilmaytn, an erstwhile mercenary captain and guarded by many of her fellow soldiers, the place is also surprisingly safe for its location and concentration of capable individuals -some of which come with nice, fluff-only write-ups. As often in the series, we get information on local dressing-habits and nomenclature - but this time around, we also get a marketplace (yes, dear 5E fans - you don't miss out this time around - there actually are a few lesser magic items for sale!), ale and room-prices and the obligatory events and rumors to add further spice to this locale.

Going one step beyond, we also get 10 fluff-only write ups of different mercenaries as well as 8 patrons, making this basically a fully staffed environment to drop into pretty much every hexcrawl or wilderness environment you could conceive. That being said, here in this section, the 5E-version partially uses generic NPC stats (guards, knights, etc. - you know the drill) and partially notes character classes with levels - I don't object to that, but it's something to bear in mind. There is one hiccup here, with what should be a "rogue 6" referred to as a "thief 6", though

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features some nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes in two iterations, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer - kudos there! The cartography by Simon Butler and Maciej Zagorski is excellent. I think by joining Raging Swan Press' patreon, you can actually get the high-res map for the evocative place, but I am not 100% sure. The map provided is cool, but sports keyed rooms.

From the Black Tower, still standing from the original keep, to the mercenaries herein, Creighton Broadhurst proves why he's this highly regarded - the man KNOWS what he is doing. Frankly, I should not be liking this pdf to the extent that I do; it's concept is so old and done, it doesn't have this novelty I tend to crave...which just goes to show what good prose and concise writing can achieve, for I indeed found myself loving this extremely useful home away from home, this ready to drop in adventuring hub. There is something about the totality of this place of power that transcends the building stones from which it was crafted, making it stand out and feel distinct, in spite of its conservative theme. While not 100% perfect, this conversion makes for an interesting and well-wrought supplement for a more than fair price-point. Hence, this very much deserves the full 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Tumblestone Inn (5e)
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5E Mini-Dungeon #007: The Pententieyrie
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2017 04:32:19

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 and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! Something went wrong with the jpg and tif-maps, though: One sports the trap icons, but not the secret doors...and the other sports secret doors noted by the deceptive "S"...but not the trap icons. This makes neither the GM, nor the player maps work ideally.

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, beyond the pun-tastic title, this one is interesting - draw a rough image of the map - it should look like an Aztec glyph. The trail leads the PCs to a strange complex, shielded from dimensional intrusion and sporting a hard-to-reach locale -an hermitage, if you will. Within the complex, not only do strange wonders await - there is also a vrock. Yeah, a demon. Only, said demon actually is on the path of redemption! Yes, this may not necessarily be a combat encounter, but rather a module that could help bring unprecedented salvation to a being of pure evil, perhaps serving as a great launching point for PCs endeavoring to redeem a villain or similar foes/morally bankrupt characters. Have I mentioned the option for flight-training and some rather...let's say, unique, properties and dangerous glyph-traps?

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 pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos! The cartography, with player and GM-VTT-maps, is nice.

Okay, this transcends being a mini-dungeon; this one is an AWESOME, unique set-piece - with special ways for avian/flight training and perhaps one of the most far-out potential mentors I've seen in a while, Stephen Yeardley's mini-dungeon delivers more oomph and unique tricks than what one would deem possible within such a restrictive format.

At the same time, this mini-dungeon does lose a bit of its charm in Kyle Crider's translation: It references subdual damage, which does not exist in 5e, and while the hyperlinks are well-made this time around, the lack of a direct flight-based skill in 5e takes a bit away from the complex's unique original property. Add to that the hiccup in the VTTs and we have a conceptually strong pdf hampered by a couple of minor factors - still a good offering, though. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #007: The Pententieyrie
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5E Mini-Dungeon #001: Buried Council Chambers
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 09:22:22

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 and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! The dungeon's number-less version of the map does come with iterations sans the deceptive "S" denoting secret doors, but the secret rooms have not been retouched/covered, so players will still know where to look...but then again, 2 bucks for print, 1 buck for pdf.

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!

This mini-dungeon depicts, surprise, the ruined council chambers, sunk by an odd cataclysm, and as such, does sport a massive dome, wherein magical riddles can be found (quite a few, actually!) as well as the suffocated, now undead remains of the tragedy. Rooms that provided for the heating and cooling add a nice sense of the magical society that inhabited these halls, while surprisingly interesting items (a ring that melts in warm climates, for example and duplicates boots of the winterlands!) complement a nice mini-crawl. That being said, the 5e-iteration does sport one aspect I am not that happy with - the pdf's hyperlinks are not always that consistent and e.g. the pink rhomboid ioun stone found, would probably be better off called Fortitude ioun stone - having to read the entry for the item-class is a bit tedious. Not a big complaint, mind you, just something I noticed. Also, as a very rare magic item, it may be a bit soon to dump such a potent treasure in the PC's lap.

The one structural downside of this module would be the lack of an explanation for ingress beyond finding the opening in the dome's ceiling - while it makes sense, the people herein died from lack of oxygen. Breaking through would have been the icing on the cake - and making the long isolation and thus gathered gasses additional hazards that could have further improved a pretty impressive mini-module.

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 nice to have, but I wished it came with covered up secret rooms. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Jonathan G. Nelson knows how to craft truly unique, alive cultures and this knack for indirect storytelling even translates to this exceedingly limited format - pretty impressive! With the exception of the nitpicks mentioned above, this module should be considered a great example for a short, sweet sidetrek. Kyle Crider did a nice job translating the dungeon and while this may not be perfect, it is a worthwhile file. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #001: Buried Council Chambers
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The Red King
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:53:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The red king is the dictator of the North in the amazing patchwork planet of Porphyra, an ogre-mage half-dragon with a single, purple eye that seems to be too large for his head - and yes, there is an amazing hand-out-style 1-page version of the glorious artwork depicting him within this pdf.

Ahem. Sorry. I can't do that neutral routine. LOOK AT THOSE STATS! I am drooling here!!

CR 22. AC 48 almost 450 hit points. Yes, please! His class-line reads "Male unique half-dragon ogre mage cavalier (longshanks/warlord) 6/inquisitor 5. And his average damage output is a beauty to behold! While his cohort and followers (an army in its own right) don't get stats, he is a beauty!! He actually killed his father and implanted his eye in his own face, wearing his sire's scales!

His armor employs the grace ability, which increases the maximum Dex-bonus and aforementioned eye can pierce illusions...oh, but that's not all!! You see, unlike many comparable supplements, we do receive a gloriously detailed background for this villain - beyond the detailed and lavish story, which has ventured into the realm of legend, the red king also sports a rather intriguing array of tactics - and yes, he has actually strategies to escape death.

Beyond these lavishly detailed aspects of the pdf, we also get specific adventure hooks and a new legendary weapon, namely the Red King's Judgment. In case you're new to the concept of legendary weapons: These were introduced by Purple Duck Games as an alternative to the concept of Legacy Weapons - but unlike those, they don't impose unnecessary penalties. The respective items have prerequisites and increase in power over the course of the wielder's levels, with the weapon featured herein increasing in potency in 10 steps. I love these items, as they help combat the Christmas-Tree-syndrome and makes magic matter more.

Anyways, beyond gaining multiple straight upgrades, we gain increasing, scaling invulnerability to fire, minions via Vile Leadership, nets Proficiencies/Focus and provides e.g. flame strike with 1/2 unholy damage...which does not exist. I get what it tries to do, but still -an obvious and unnecessary glitch. It also can bypass fire resistances and allow the wielder to discorporate and weather the storm, emerging once again from the flames...

It should also be noted that material uses and special weapon properties featured in the build - kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no serious hiccups and rules-language is similarly concise, with the minor exclusion of the aforementioned unholy damage glitch. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard, which is printer-friendly with purple highlights. The artwork of the king is GLORIOUS. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn't necessarily require them at this length.

Derek Blakely has made a little dream of mine come true. I don't know about you, my readers, but I know that my players crave challenges and many a published module doesn't really live up to that aspect: If I threw a vanilla AP final boss at my group, then chances are in many (not all!) cases that they'd utterly annihilate the foe. I am a huge fan of really challenging, deadly villain-builds and when both the amazing Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series and Enemies of NeoExodus ran their course, I sighed and got back to making builds.

I expected not that much from this humble pdf and I got so much more: The red king is a glorious foe - lavishly illustrated, detailed and deadly, he makes for an amazing BBEG in the tradition of these two superb series. I adore this NPC and his tricks and the addition of the legendary weapon is a nice plus as well. For the low and fair price-point, this provides a great, deadly villain that should really challenge even powerful groups. What more can you ask for? Exactly! The one aesthetic glitch I found wasn't enough to rate this down - this is a great, amazing little pdf, well worth the asking price and deserving of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Red King
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Deep Magic: Illumination
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:52:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Deep Magic 5e-books clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This school of magic, associated with light and school, if fittingly represented by just that, the school of illumination. At 2nd level, costs and time to copy illumination spells to the spell-book is halved and additionally, you can forecast danger in the next 24 hours by studying the stars for 1 hour. This nest advantage on up to 2 initiative checks, lasting for 24 hours or until the end of the next long rest. Alternatively, you may grant an ally said advantage, but then you may not benefit from it in that combat. The decision must be made before rolling dice. At 6th level, you gain a bonus of +1 to spell attack modifier and spell save DC in dim light or darkness - not the biggest fan of that one. At 10th level, illusions for which you lose concentration exist for another round, provided the spell's duration has not elapsed. here' I'd have referenced duration instead of maximum duration in the rules-lingo, mainly since maximum duration could be taken to mean a spell's theoretical maximum duration, including increased spell-levels...but that is a nitpick and will not be considered for my final verdict. At 14th level, during a long rest, you can watch the stars, gathering ambient energy in a small item like a star chart or astrolabe. While holding said item, you can use a bonus action to expend the stored energy to duplicate one of the following: Alter self until the next long rest, net a creature in sight disadvantage on the next save versus an illusion or enchantment, reroll up to Intelligence modifier damage dice of a necrotic damage causing spell of 5th level or lower or, finally, treat a divination spell as though you had cast it using a spell slot one level higher.

The pdf also contains a new feat, namely Star and Shadow Reader: Upon taking the feat, choose necrotic or radiant damage: Your spells casting that damage ignore resistance, but not immunity, to the chosen type. Additionally, you can cast augury sans expending a spell slot once between long rests (which is very feeble, considering the spell's ritual tag) and gain darkvision 15 ft. - or increase an existing darkvision's range by +15 ft. The prerequisite is btw. the ability to cast at least one spell. I'm not a big fan here - ignoring resistance takes away from D&D 5e's rock-paper-scissors type of gameplay.

Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 21 spells: Black hand lets you fire a ranged spell attack, imposing disadvantage an attacks, ability checks and saving throws made with physical attributes. The effect can be ended via a Con-save at disadvantage. Not the biggest fan -the spell would be less open to weird uses if it was tied to the target. Black well has a massive range of 300 ft. and drags those within 90 ft. of it towards it on a failed Strength save. A target within the well is stunned on a failed Con-save and suffers necrotic damage, with a successful save reducing that to incapacitation. Creatures take no damage from remaining in the well, just from exiting it - and creatures within the well at its end land prone. This spell is a bit too strong - it's AoO instant suck for all foes: The multiple saves don't really help, considering how far the well drags targets. Even successful saves of those on which the well is cast lock them down. Cloak of shadow nets you advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks relying on sight.

Compelling fate is pretty cool: If the target fails a Cha-save, you get advantage on attack rolls, may mirror its movements on the creature's turn (deducting that from your next movement) or use a reaction to grant yourself and all allies within earshot of the subject's intentions, providing a +2 bonus to AC or saves versus the prompting attack. At 7th level spell level, starry wisdom lets you cast a reaction-based variant of the spell. Flickering fate, at 4th level, is interesting: You or a target touched can see fate: All creatures within range make Wisdom saves - on a failure, they need to declare their intended actions and then follow through on their turns -additionally, the recipient has advantage on attacks ability checks and saves and creatures affected suffer from disadvantage. Once again, I think this would have made more sense of the spell conveyed advantage only with regards to actions prompted by or against creatures actually affected by the spell.

Guiding star prevents you from being lost due to stars and sun - as a nitpick, I think the spell should specifically state that it can only work on open ground: While the spell's flavor states that it works by tracking sun/stars, RAW, it can be cast underground and works - one could argue the tracking to be "magic" and thus feasible in such environments as well. Icy grasp of the ether, at 7th level, inflicts nasty cold damage and restrains the target and accumulates exhaustion of the target is not immune to cold and breathes. Orb of light blinds the target 1 round and deals 3d8 radiant damage, with a Dex-save to halve damage and negate blindness - compared to similar 2nd level spells, a well-balanced option. Shadow bite is a necrotic variant of acid splash that instead of targeting two creatures, halves the speed of a being affected by it until your next turn, with Con to resist. personally, I'd have reduced the damage dice since necrotic damage is slightly more valuable than acid, but oh well. Shadow blindness is one cool cantrip: It temporarily negates natural darkvision! Elegant and cool!

Shadow hands is another tweak: 1st-level spell, 15-ft.-cone, 2d4 necrotic damage + frightened on a failed Wis-save, which also potentially halves damage. Shadow trove lets you temporarily store items inside. Downside: "Items that are still inside the shadow trove when the duration ends are lost forever." WTF? That's 3rd level. Unwelcome artifact? Put it in the magic garbage disposal! Need to make documents disappear? there you go. Since only the caster and certain designated individuals can access it, that further exacerbates the issues. This spell needs a serious overhaul. Shield of star and shadow nets resistance to either necrotic or radiant damage and makes you shed dim light. Silhouette lets you do a magic shadow puppet show - decent cantrip. Slither temporarily makes you a shadow is cool in theory. However: "You are immune to all damage, except force, psychic and radiant damage." WHAT THE EFFFF??? This is ridiculously potent for a 2nd level spell. Dragon breath? No biggie, I'll go shadow. This needs to die in a fiery blaze. Or at least be seriously nerfed.

Starburst is a radiant-based cantrip for 1d6 radiant damage, range 60 feet. Starfall has a range of 60 feet and lets you cause 8d6 radiant damage to 5 targets within range, with hit targets blinded on a failed Dex-save, which also can halve damage. In spite of a slightly decreased damage output, this has: a) a better damage type than cone of cold; b) better control (no cone, choose targets) and c) no duration for blindness effect - as a whole, this makes the spell too strong for the level. The blindness effect should go, at the very least. Last rays of the dying sun first blasts for 6d6 fire damage, then for the same amount of cold damage in a 40-feet burst - at 7th level, a solid option. Summon star calls forth a deva that charms those that look upon it. Star's heart, the 9th level spell, increases gravity within 50 feet - all creatures within drop objects held, become incapacitated and can't move. Solid objects encountered triple fall/collision damage. Creatures within the area or entering it must save or suffer the same fate. Anyone starting the round prone takes bludgeoning damage and those than make their saves while prone take only half damage and may move at 1/2 speed. Big plus: Manages to get spell interaction, ranged weapons, etc. right.

We end the pdf with Talithe Val'Shiar, a sample challenge 6 NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level. On a rules-level, the language is precise as well, though balance-wise, I disagree with several choices. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks herein are absolutely gorgeous.

Greg Marks delivers a per se solid pdf here. There are quite a few aspects to like and enjoy within this supplement. At the same time, when compared to previous installments in Kobold Press' Deep magic-series, this feels like it falls a bit flat. It does not sport the evocative visuals of Clockworks, the cool rune engine of rune magic or the impeccable balance of the void magic book. Ignoring resistances is a slippery slope and there are a few spells herein, where comparable PHB-spells are obviously worse. I also think that the celestial alignment-theme could have been more pronounced/better integrated in the material presented. As a whole, this is not bad - but it does have a couple of rough edges and a bit more "variant of spell x"-material than I expected. This is not bad, but compared to previous installments, it feels less compelling - my final verdict, as written, can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Illumination
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5E Mini-Dungeon #005: The Soularium
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:49:48

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. Unlike the first three 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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!

The Soularium is pretty uncommon in that it does not represent a classic dungeon, but rather a cult's dread operation disguised as a charity - what at first looks like a benevolent organization, quickly turns out to be the soul harvesting operation of a nasty quasit and his faithful cult - including and alignment seeing statue and pretty concise defenses - conceivably well--crafted for such a small module and sporting actual traps and the like herein. Big plus - the hyperlinking this time is pretty consistent and the traps/skill-checks have been translated well into the context of 5e.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice 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, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Rory Toma's Soularium is an interesting, fun sidetrek with cool defenses, nice ideas and a solid cartography to boot. The lack of player-friendly maps once again drags this a bit down, but balance- and treasure-wise, I have no complaints this time around - Kyle Crider did a nice conversion job.There is not much to complain about here - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #005: The Soularium
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5E Mini-Dungeon #004: Summoner's Remorse
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:48:45

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. Unlike the first three 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

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, so recently, villagers have been kidnapped by a nefarious cult, HEL-bent (haha) on rescuing a dark naga from the limbo of HEL via terrible human sacrifice. The mini-dungeon kicks off by a maddened villager slitting his throat in front of the PCs, thus conjuring forth scarab swarms - 3 scarab stones need to be destroyed in the complex to thwart the scarab swarm-controlling cult in a surprisingly atmospheric, dark module that has an atmosphere I did not expect to see in this series.

Now, conversion-wise, hyperlinks this time around are mostly consistent - apart from a potion of speed, a potion of heroism and the scarab of protection the links are all consistent and lead where they should. That brings me to one aspect, however - the scarab was a legendary item last time I checked and as such may be a bit too much for the level of the module for some groups

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from an acolyte being referred to as an adept in a conversion relic. Layout adheres to a nice 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, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. Stats, as mentioned above, obviously are hyperlinked to the SRD.

Justin Andrew Mason's module was converted rather neatly to 5E by Kyle Crider - the conversion was done rather well and provides a challenging, but fair and atmospheric module that ranks among the better of the early mini-dungeons. While the lack of player maps is lamentable, this still is very much worth the price of admission and should be considered a worthwhile addition for 5e-groups. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #004: Summoner's Remorse
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5E Mini-Dungeon #003: Shrine of the Earth Barons
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:47:37

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 and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! The dungeon's number-less version of the map doesn't sport any deceptive trap icons or traps - kudos!

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!

The PCs find a capstone that opens to a dome that once housed a cabal of gnomish earth elementalists, now obliterated by a staff of power's breaking by a fanatical adversary. Now what's rather awesome, the dungeon does sport moving teleportation vortexes as well as deadly golems and earth-themed adversaries, often with interesting reskins to add a further sense of unique identity. Less awesome: It should be noted that the treasure for this mini-dungeon contains two ioun stones, one of which is legendary...which may be a bit much for the level...and it should be noted that they are not named for the benefits conveys, but for their shape, which may require reading the description. If you're as picky as I am, that may annoy you slightly.

If PCs are capable, they'll also score two manuals of golems. Speaking of which: Iron Golem adversary. That's challenge 16. Don't get me wrong - that's beatable by a well-coordinated group...but it's also very, very lethal and chances are that the PCs may not even be able to harm this monster!

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 pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

Stephen Yeardley delivers a concise, golem/earth-themed mini-dungeon I loved in its original iteration. Unfortunately, Kyle Crider did not translate it that well to 5e this time around. The balance of monsters is off and makes this a brutal meat-grinder that will curbstomp all but the hardiest of groups. Moreover, the pdf wastes precious space by noting "CLs" -which do not exist per se: 5e cares about the caster's level in some cases (cantrips, for example), but is more occupied with actual spellslots used...which renders these relics puzzling at best.

The hyperlinks don't work all - while the material can be found on the Open 5e SRD, only a few of the hyperlinks actually point where they should, detracting from the go-play aspect.

As a whole, this module has suffered quite a bit in translation - and while I still like components of it, I consider it to be problematic. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #003: Shrine of the Earth Barons
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5E Mini-Dungeon #002: Hobgoblin Lair
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 07:46:25

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 and a .tif-version of the map! Yeah, that's pretty amazing! The dungeon's number-less version of the map doesn't come with iterations sans the deceptive "S" denoting secret doors, but at least the trap icons have been purged in these VTT-versions. Still, I wouldn't be able to use them as is, with the deceptive "S" around...but then again, this is really inexpensive.

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!

Herein, we receive the seasonal home of a bunch of goblinoid raiders led by a bugbear - as such, the place is rigged with an array of basic, conservative traps - and yes, their home does hide an old, Dwarven shrine. The details provided for the rooms per se are captivating, and the boss, a bugbear, is a solid choice for a boss.

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 pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!

There is a big issue I have with this pdf, and it pertains the argument that I'd try to field for its time-saving aspect - apart from one trap and one monster, none of the hyperlinks actually points to its target. Even though the open 5e SRD contains all those stats for the traps etc. featured, the lack of hyperlink functionality is somewhat annoying and mitigates the "Hey, you have no time, just get this and go play!"-aspect. Formally, the conversion by Kyle Crider isn't bad, though.

On a content-level, I loathed this mini-dungeon in PFRPG and I still dislike it in 5e - it's the boring, vanilla anti-gobbo-crawl. I have literally seen this done a gazillion times as a reviewer and while it's not bad per se, I can improvise more compelling material. Still, for the time-starved GM, this may provide some help, though the hyperlinking hiccups can be a bit jarring there. In short, the author Jonathan Ely has since then improved significantly and I'd urge you to check out one of his more recent offerings in the series. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down - unless you really need a vanilla anti-gobbo-crawl.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5E Mini-Dungeon #002: Hobgoblin Lair
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10 Kingdom Seeds: Plains (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2017 06:04:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This inexpensive pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 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.

After a brief piece of introductory fluff, we dive right into the nit and grit of this file, namely villages that you can use to craft, bingo, kingdoms from them - each of these settlements comes with a village statblock, but does not end there: Beyond a small summary of the village, we also get one or more sites of interest and 3 different rumors per village to potentially jumpstart adventures from.

So that's the format employed here - but what kind of villages are we talking about? Well, for starters, LG Belpond, is a surprisingly lawful and cozy village of guild-organized structures, where a visit of the local tavern may see your pockets emptied...only to have the goods be returned to you before leaving! Lightley, in contrast, would be a LE thorp of only 13 folks and is known for its bears.

Taking the example of settlements tied to creatures, the hamlet Morlea, situated between these spectra of the alignment axis at LN, actually does not rest - instead, it follows the migration patterns of the mammoths, making for an interesting and rather evocative backdrop. Ornesse would be an interesting, touristy destination with serious population fluxes, for the chariot race tracks always draw plentiful folks to the hamlet during the racing season.

In contrast to this place, the folks of Prydwin are living by their herbs, which are grown in excessive herb gardens that are meticulously maintained by the populace. Have I mentioned the druidess and her pest-devouring chameleon companion? Revale is either white or red - steeped in snow or showcasing its red sandstone beauty - and the theme of color extends to the primary industry, which hinges upon the extraction of color from rare lichen. Unlike its name, the hamlet shadowhurst is actually known to be a rather lively place, famed for its straw-related craftsmanship and corn.

Soulhill sounds foreboding - and indeed, the village, after an uprising and burning of the previous rulers, has taken to a rather selfish and dangerous demeanor. Westerfox is build around a horseshoe-shaped abbey, with sprawling buildings around, and represents a community that is rather disciplined and tight-knit - formally a meritocracy, but in fact, controlled by a nasty elite. Finally, Woodedge would be a place you don't want to visit: Buried in banks of tall flowers and flanked by beehives, it may seem idyllic enough, but gigantic bees and rather nasty halflings make this place a dangerous prospect for visitors.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience: While the bookmarks haven't been labeled properly, they are functional. The pdf sports nice full-color artworks.

Liz Smith delivers a nice variety of small settlements to visit and develop. The respective places have sufficiently diverse themes to make this worthwhile and while I wished this had more room for the individual villages, it does provide enough to jumpstart one's imagination. Considering the very fair price point and the writing, which provides a nice array of different concepts this time around, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars - and due to the low price, I'll round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Plains (PFRPG)
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Everyman Minis: Interval Spellcasting
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2017 06:02:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of Everyman Gaming's mini-pdfs clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is interval spellcasting? In short, it represents a variant spellcasting tradition available for arcane, divine and psychic casters and the decision to do so must be taken at first level, since it represents a significant component of the base fundamentals of the spellcasting tradition. Only one such variant spellcasting tradition may be known by a single character per class; multiclass characters may choose to use a given variant spellcasting tradition in one class and be general spellcasters or adherents to another tradition in another class - but each class can only hold one variant spellcasting tradition. Variant spellcasters have one fewer spell per day at each spell level - ouch, particularly for the prepared folks! (And yes, I do like that, since the spontaneous guys can use some love...)

So, the basics out of the way, what does an interval spellcaster get, benefits-wise? Upon becoming such a spellcaster, you choose one school of magic and that school is hindered or enhanced, based on the interval of the day, which is concisely defined as a 6-hour sequence: Dawn is 6 A.M., midday starts 12 P.M., dusk starts at 6 P.M. and midnight at 12 A.M. - obviously, the GM may freely adjust these to his or her needs. Each such period is split into three phases: Waxing, essence and waning - all of which consist of 2 hours each.

During the chosen school's interval period, your spells of the school gain +1 to CL and +1 save DC, if any. During waxing, you increase the CL bonus to +2 to CL-checks for the purpose of overcoming SR. During the waning phase, you get +1 to all saves versus effects from your chosen school. During the essence-phase, you get both benefits and, additionally, once per day, you may cast a spell from your school and apply Enlarge, Extend, Silent or Still Spell sans caster level or casting time increase, adding some crucial, but limited flexibility there. Additionally, you gain an interval ability while your school's interval lasts, which, unless otherwise noted, is a free action and may target yourself or an ally within 30 ft. This ability may be used once per day, +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

These benefits do come at a cost: Each school has an opposed school, and, during your school's interval period, you take a -2 to saves and a -1 penalty to CLs and save DCs of the school. Sooo, what happens if that would reduce CL to 0? I assume that would prohibit casting the spell altogether, but specification would have been nice here. It's a very minor flaw, but one I noticed due to the otherwise immaculate presentation of the material.

The intervals and how they have been assigned to the respective spellcasting schools makes sense - abjuration is assigned to dawn, enchantment to dusk, necromancy o midnight - this resonates with the respective tropes and can generally be considered to be a rather well-made array of choices. Abjuration nets a save-reroll with casting attribute modifier as an insight bonus, which conjuration provides an immediate action very short-range teleport...which brings me to another minor complaint here: The effect should be codified as a conjuration (teleportation) effect for the purposes of spell etc. interactions. Additionally, the school-abilities, while pretty obviously Su, are not declared as such in the pdf. Divination nets the target a bonus to initiative, enchantment nets a morale bonus to atk or skill-checks, illusion a scaling miss chance. Necromancy yields temporary hit points for 1 minute and transmutation an enhancement bonus to an ability score for spellcaster key attribute rounds.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks by Jacob Blackmon are nice. The pdf does no have bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza delivers a damn cool concept: I found myself often wishing that there'd be more such basic tweaks to the spellcasting engine and while this requires a bit of time tracking, it makes for a rewarding engine. The concept is amazing and I sincerely hope we'll get to see more such traditions, perhaps even suffused with a bit of flavor, special rites etc. - this represents the very basics of the concept and, while it does so rather well, I found myself wishing it had at least provided some basic guidelines and suggestions for further modifications. That being said, I'm complaining at a high level here - my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Interval Spellcasting
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20 Things #12: Slavers' Compound (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2017 06:01:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, much like in the installment on creepy graveyards, we begin with minor events to spice up the game - a total of 8 such entries are provided and range from guttural laughter of bored (and drunk) guards to horribly disgusting smell leading to the slave pens...

Next up, in the tradition of the series, we get some fluff-only entries of slaves with a pronounced personality: These folks include a wizened sage, an mad guy who thinks he is the emperor of the world or a heavily-tattooed, blind seeress - white a few folks here that can use the PC's help...and who may well prove to become rewarding assets! Of course, a righteous, yet completely bloodthirsty and savage slave may be a potent ally...but can he be allowed to roam free? Can he be redeemed? Pretty cool!

Of course, there also are beings on the other side of the equation - and thus, 10 sample slavers with a personality would be next: From the clichéd, disgusting and thoroughly vile to the guilt-ridden man faced with an impossible choice, these guys are surprisingly nuanced: We have different justifications (or lack thereof) showcased here in a surprisingly versatile selection. Big kudos!

Next up would 20 entries of dungeon dressing tailor-suited for the compounds of slavers: These include, but are not limited to, whips and torture devices, bloody handprints on the wall, complex tally systems, various brands or treasures hidden from view - once again, an evocative and well-written page.

Finally, we'll take a look at what one can loot from the bodies of slavers: From crude and coiled rope used as a makeshift whip to meager coins, bone dice and other, grisly items associated with the trade, we end this pdf with a potentially inspiring and intriguing table here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there!

Creighton Broadhurst knows his craft - it's simple as that. The chief of Raging Swan Press is a master of concise writing and manages to evoke a surprising sense of diversity and fun in his brief elaborations; the entries herein all have been lavishly hand-crafted to add dimension and hooks to a given environment. They also fit the theme perfectly and manage to achieve a sense of cohesion. In short: This is a great, fun dressing-pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #12: Slavers' Compound (System Neutral Edition)
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Adventure Avenue: Fallen Dawn
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 15:36:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This module clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 42 1/4th pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf is formatted for A5 (6'' by 9'') size, which means, that if your sight's good enough, you can fit up to 4 pages of text on one sheet of paper.

Fallen Dawn is a location-based exploration adventure for 5th level characters, taking place in the Lotus Blossom Steppes of Porphyra, to be more precise, on the Lung Plateau. These steppes (fully mapped in full color, just fyi!) are the home of many struggling clan of powerful nomads, awaiting a Khan to unite them into a coherent force, but that won't happen, at least for now, for the dread half-rakshasa Khan Tiikeri is keeping things pretty deliberately as they are. However, sealed away after the NewGod wars, there are tools to be found within the steppes - tools that may change all of that...

...and this is about as far as I can go without diving deep into SPOILER-territory. Potentialy players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! So, the adventure features several different hooks that can be used to point the PCs towards the adventure locale, as the default origin would be the sleepy village called "The Nest", which has recently seen some business...impeded...by a traveling scholar of Paletius, deity of knowledge, looking for a lost and sacred site on the plateau. Well, turns out that this scholar is actually an agent of the eventual Katek, seeking to dissuade potentially dangerous individuals by tales of boring details...though, PCs being PCs, that will obviously backfire quite spectacularly.

Further observation via clockwork spies and said being may tip off the PCs regarding strange machinations afoot - and on the halfway point between the nest and the tower of the setting sun, a bhorloth, a gigantic, green-furred bison-like thing and its mounted archer master may try to dissuade the PCs further. Personally, I would have liked the journey to be slightly more detailed, but oh well.

What the pdf lacks in details regarding the journey, it makes up for in the approaches to the tower, for no less than three angles (East, West and North) are covered in the pdf, all with their own read-aloud text - kudos! The forlorn tower's broken top, leaning against the plateau's stone for a support lost ages ago, certainly makes for an evocative visual impression.

The exploration of this tower, once a sanctuary and repository of forbidden knowledge, can make for a compelling narrative and provides the brunt of the module's content - you see, the tower has by no means been thoroughly explored and Paletius being a benevolent deity, it can actually yield some interesting pieces of loot for the PCs. It also features two distinct, well-blended themes: On one hand, we have the sense of antiquity of the place, evoked rather well with prose etc. - on the other hand, we have the current, organized inhabitants of the tower, the expedition of the eventual Katek, who seeks to unearth the knowledge herein to challenge Khan Tiikeri. His intentions were once pure and arguably still are - but in his quest for truth, the eventual has begun a slide down the alignment scale - should he prevail with his less than scrupulous allies, he could become a truly fearsome iron-handed tyrant. This knowledge is not necessarily dumped on the PCs per se, but e.g. reactivated constructs and the choice of creatures (which include shiko-me, unique variant clockwork creatures, advanced shadow drakes and komori-ninjas in a cool selection of less common critters) and their notes can actually have the PCs unearth this knowledge - in short, a nice example of how indirect, less obtrusive storytelling can be used.

Now beyond those aspects, the exploration also manages to depict the leitmotifs of Paletius' iconography well - and PCs may well find out that the knowledge locked in the so far undisturbed sanctum was deemed forbidden. In fact, they may actually succeed where Katek failed and open the sanctum - but only if the GM desires, for the puzzle/riddle-based mechanism to open the gates to this vault hinge, even if you know how to use them, on an aspect that is completely under the GM's control - which is pretty nice. The artifact Katek is looking for is btw. depicted (and "just" a 35K ring), but it's still nice to a) have such a well-wrought puzzle in the pdf and b) retain full GM-control over the treasure and how this aspect pans out.

Speaking of panning out: The pdf provides full stats for all foes faced (though e.g. the Students of Order lack their cleric level noted in an aesthetic glitch) and also includes notes on further adventuring possibilities - from redeeming Katek to uncovering the secrets of Paletius. It should also be mentioned that the book contains a nice break-down of XP and treasure by locale, which is really helpful, allows for easy XP and WBL-tweaking and should be industry standard, as far as I'm concerned.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and the pdf features some nice pieces of full-color artwork of foes faced within. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is in color for the region, b/w for the adventure locale, and pretty nice indeed. The tower itself has sideviews for Western/Eastern approach, respectively, which is a nice touch. BIG PLUS: Purple Duck Games added a player-friendly map to the deal!!

Matt Roth's "Fallen Dawn" is a well-crafted location-based module; it breathes a sense of the exotic and antiquity, making ample use of its unique backdrop - surprisingly while still maintaining the means to be dropped in most environments with relative ease - you just need a chaotic tyrant somewhere and that's it. The most impressive aspects of the module, to me, did lie in the smart choices regarding adversaries faced and the sense of authenticity this managed to evoke. It's a tenuous, hard task to evoke such a sense of cohesion, especially in a dungeon that features two different leitmotifs (abandoned/inhabited). Furthermore, the challenges and foes faced throughout the module allow a capable GM to tell the story of the antagonist in an unobtrusive manner, which is another plus. Finally, I'm a BIG fan of the puzzle to open the sealed chambers - it makes sense, perfectly mirrors the iconography of the deity, retains GM-control AND it feels MAGICAL in a sense of the word that's usually only found in old-school modules. It also doesn't make the antagonist look like an idiot for not having breached it, which is just the final nice thing to comment upon here.

Now, the module is not perfect - the lead-in feels a bit rudimentary and so does the journey - it is pretty evident that both only act as an extended preamble for the main meat of the module, when they could have used a bit more meat on their bones. The espionage angle in the beginning also could have yielded a bit more consequences regarding payoff, but I'm nitpicking here. That being said, once you reach tower, the adventure locale, the module becomes an excellent example of a nice, unpretentious, but thematically very concise dungeon: With fitting traps and foes, nice NPCs and well-executed indirect storytelling. Now, Purple Duck Games actually added a player-friendly map - which catapults this to the echelon of a true steal: You get a great module for a fair price! Well worth 5 stars!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Avenue: Fallen Dawn
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101 Plains Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 12:07:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a massive 65 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 59 pages of content, so let's take a look!

There are few environments with such a bad rep as plains - compared to trackless deserts, swamps or mountains, there are next to no good modules or supplements for them out there. In fact, it took Frog God Games' phenomenal "Fields of Blood" to make them really stand out and finally get their due.

The pdf provides spell-lists for all pre-Occult Adventures spellcasting classes, organized by class first, then by level and then alphabetically.

Oh, one more thing: This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at teh request of my patreons.

All right, so far these terrain-specific spell-books by David J. Paul have been characterized by pure excellence, but can this pdf retain this impressive streak? Let's see!

Taking a look at the spell-selection provided herein, we begin with a feasible and interesting variant of disease-curing magic: Alleviate Animal Affliction mitigates the disease suffered by animals, which makes sense in an environment of vast plains, where a broken leg of one's horse may well spell doom for the weary traveler. This is particularly relevant, considering the effects of spells like sore horse or the ability to summon giant drone ants as mounts - come on, that is damn cool!

Once again, the pdf provides a selection of spells that is directly entwined with the terrain: For example, while ankheg's awareness is a pretty straight attribute-buff when considered neutrally, those that cast the spell in a plains terrain also gain senses even further extended. In a great and fun interaction with the material component, an ankheg's leg, we also gain additional abilities within the hunting grounds (qualified, area-wise, btw.!) of the ankheg used in the casting of the spell. This is a simple operation and frankly, one that more magic should sort: It rewards players for engaging with the world, nets a GM an easy way to motivate PCs and also explains potentially nasty advantages of spellcasters in their home-turf.

This design-paradigm is btw. one that thankfully graces the spells contained herein rather often. These interactions that modify the spellcasting engine per se are not limited to the interaction with the terrain or creatures, though - if one takes a look at the Assured Diviner spell, for example, one can see that characters with the knowledge domain, lore mystery or the lore spirit double the duration of the spell. While the base spell is not one I'd consider mind-blowing, it is this thematic connection that rewards character choices that makes this remarkable, at least to me. I am a big proponent of diversification among characters and the more player choices matter, the better - spells often are rather static and linear pieces of crunch and this pdf taking some of that linearity and tweaking it makes sense in all the right ways.

This also extends to the summoning spells contained herein, with e.g. the atomie gang that you can call forth being an interesting example - while GMs may need to exert a bit of caution regarding these group summon spells, it is interesting to note that chaotic clerics with the arcane subdomain may select the aforementioned spell as a substitute domain spell. Also intriguing: Fey bloodline sorcerors and witches with specific hexes generate the maximum number of creatures summoned, tying the base spell mechanics to player choice here as well.

What made me go "AWWW!" when reading it would be Bevy of Bumblebees - I love bumblebees. They're fat, clumsy and the cutest insects you could fathom. (As an aside - research bumblebees and aerodynamics -the folklore that they can't fly is inaccurate...) While uncontrolled, the giant insects can be held at bay with smoke, allowing for interesting combinations of spells and effects for the savvy players. If there was one prevalent leitmotif to the magic herein, it would most certainly be "choice" - in particular, choice that hinges upon magic feeling less static - it makes sense that those, whose character choices represent the spell thematics can enjoy additional benefits.

Similarly, the terrain-centric and localized benefits make use of the old adage of magic working by appropriating a part for the whole, a maxim most popularly represented in e.g. voodoo dolls. But these do actually, to a degree, entwine. If you takes a look at black art of the bouda, you'll notice the requirement of a bouda's fetish as a focus, which represents an obvious adventuring angle. The spell does allow for a variety of choices themed around the creature - and the abilities directly interact with the choices of abilities tapped in: The more you utilize the powers, the more the total duration of the spell is reduced. This is rewarding from a game-design perspective, as it emphasizes resource-management once again.

What about growing metallic wings, Archangel-style, including the option to fire them? Oh, and you can actually ruffle them in bright conditions, creating a blinding effect. While we're at the topic of spells that should put a smile on the faces of superhero fans - burn on through hearkens to speedster-like acceleration - including overruns with trails of fire. There would also be an interesting cleave herd spell, which can make for a rather intriguing narrative device, allowing you to cause fear among great numbers of animals and magical beasts - either to hunt stragglers or bypass areas that would otherwise be beyond the PC's abilities to traverse.

Beyond the narrative and design-aesthetic components, we should also mention that tactics are an important component for a lot of spells: Divine doe's grace allows the cast to immediate action move, potentially negating attacks (and yes, the spell-level assigned is appropriate for the power this offers). Better yet, the spell's wording manages to make the complex concept work - and emphasizes a concept I very much enjoy. As you may have noticed in a couple of my statements, my own game tends to feature a lot of terrain hazards, shifting frontlines and dynamic arenas. I absolutely loathe it when an epic duel boils down to two characters just trading full attacks for rounds on end. It's boring and non-cinematic to me. However, PFRPG, as a system, rewards exactly this type of melee and every help we can get to render combat more fluctuating, more versatile. The downside of this ambition is, obviously, that it requires some serious consideration on part of the GM and players to make combat this interesting. This pdf does offer quite a few interesting spells that help in this way.

Speaking of tactical options: Remember the tunnels popularized in StarCraft etc. - what about a pathway that modifies spells and allows you to channel spells through the established conduit...and you may reassign its endpoint! So yes, there are some specific spells within this pdf that can radically change the dynamics of combat or make a specific combat unique. Speaking of such scenes that will be kept in mind: Well, there are spells, much like in previous examples of these pdfs, that represent serious ritual-like benefits and generate epic environments - eclipse the sun. The effects of this very powerful spell should be rather evident, right?

Feed from friends, a life-leeching spell, is an excellent example for a spell that manages to depict the vampiric leeching concept in a way that precludes use of kittens or similar cute critters - by virtue of the rules-language focusing on actual hp transference and allies as viable targets - thus, kittens could only yield pitiful amounts of hit points. Big kudos! I tried poking holes in this one and did not succeed. Generating slashing fields of grass is cool - but it is not as cool as Fire Bleeder - this spell launches missiles that cause piercing and bleeding damage - and temporarily adds the fire bleeder Su to the creature hit, which aerosolizes and ignites the blood seeping from bleeding wounds. Alas, as thoroughly amazing as this spell is, I am pretty confident that this ability should not be permanent - the duration reads "instantaneous, see text", which makes me believe that this ability should probably be lost after a certain duration has elapsed.

It should be noted that, in particular these volatile fire spells herein, have additional effect for the pyromaniac goblin race, emphasizing racial spellcasting traditions. Another interesting one would be giant flea leap - which requires the consumption of a potentially sickening drop of blood, but which also allows for VAST jumps when successfully used...oh, and in a feat of internal consistency, the spell actually is easier for alchemists to use. There would also be a variant of mage's magnificent mansion that generates a run-down, gremlin-haunted abode, a Thinner-curse that renders a target incapable of sustaining nutrients, spells that help hunting down the users of the arcane arts...and a spell, which allows you to join the swarm, allowing you to potentially evade a horrid fate AND making for an evocative getaway-strategy. Speaking of swarms - conjuring forth a butterfly swarm (fully statted) at 1st level, a harmless swarm, should provide some interesting options for the adherents of Desna etc.

Relatively accurate long-range forecasts (the coldest winter is coming...), mesmerizing foes via waves of grain or similar plants make for an interesting array of visuals and narrative possibilities - one exemplified as well by the plains clan spell, which generates a kind of mystic union between the participants - and it actually generates a true reason for PCs to strive to become part of a clan; it is a viable benefit provided for belonging. I love this type of design. It also ties in with a low-level spell/cantrip that allows for the easy identification of clan companions.

If you've been waiting for the flashy, devastating high-level spell in this discussion so far, fret not: Prairie Lightning Storm will indeed result in a highly flexible and devastating environment that will even push high-level PCs to their limits. Transmute Gnome to Goblin is an evil polymorph effect that may have significant repercussions on lore. As a minor complaint - variant volume fireball obviously is a more controlled, powerful iteration of the classic spell and as such, it is pretty obvious that it inflicts fire damage, RAW, the spell does not "damage" - sans the type. This is me nitpicking for nitpicking's sake, but I figured it'd be worth mentioning, since the pdf's flaws are so few I honestly need to strain this much to find anything worthwhile to complain about.

What about a spell that adds poisonous tentacles to a given shield, which may be severed by attackers failing to hit you, spraying them with poison? In an environment where horrid blazes can eliminate whole communities, withstand the fire comes at a horrible cost...but also allows you to weather even death by fire, tying into the purification and rebirth effects...and explaining why NPC xyz survived the encounter with the red dragon, why the mystic could live through the cataclysmic inferno. I adore this spell and its serious drawbacks do mean that constant maintenance is not something PCs will want to do.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on both a formal and a rules-level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Artwork-wise, we'd get quite a bunch of cool full color pieces.

David J. Paul's series of spells blows me away. If I were to choose a single series of spellbooks to the exclusion of all others for my PFRPG-games, it would be this one. Why? Because the magic is precisely-structured; it taps into evocative concepts, features thoroughly glorious concepts, feels magical and sports rules-innovations. The emphasis on player-choice is glorious, the support for GMs and the roleplaying component of the whole game is extremely rewarding. A lot of the spells featured within this book practically demand being used - their visuals are amazing and more than one can generate a glorious adventure, or at least, scene/encounter. Spellcasting, magic, as featured herein, does feel magical: As a tradition, its shamanistic components, its arcane components - all FIT. All feel real to an extent; all transcend just providing numbers - they are magic in a sense that is often lost on more rules-intense games. Just take a look at the page-count - these are not spells that just palette-swap components and the vast majority of them do something unique and creative in some manner.

In short: This is a phenomenal, inspiring pdf and should be part of the library of any group that looks for well-crafted magic. Very highly recommended as a superb spell-book. My final verdict, in spite of my nitpicks, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. And this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Check out this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Plains Spells (PFRPG)
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