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Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG) Pay What You Want
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Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
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Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rocks Fall Games L.L.C.
by DeAndrea M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 13:23:06

The world of Awesfur comes alive with all the rich descriptions! For the low price, you get a good classic adventure, a nicely detailed map and the want for more.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rocks Fall Games L.L.C.
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2014 19:53:44

If it’s one thing that can get me going as a gamer, it’s a good story. Couple that with a good setting and the opportunity to change the course of events (or even the perception of being able to change the course of events) and you have my attention as a GM and as a player. Add in some good writing, creativity, and a decent design aesthetic and I’ll probably talk your ear off.

When I started taking a look at The Dark Totem, Part 1: The Chantry Keep from Rocks Fall Games for their Adventures in Awesfur line, I wasn’t sure what to think. The cover sets an interesting tone with an almost “comic book” feel and the next few pages introduce you to the world of Awesfur to set the stage for the adventure itself. And that might be my first issue with the book itself. Out of a 37 page PDF, it wasn’t until page 9 where we get into the details of the adventure. There are 5 pages of setup where I was scratching my head a bit.

We’re introduced to more of Awesfur than we really need to know about in the first five pages. Perhaps it could be boiled down a bit more or a separate gazetteer could be created to detail the world in a “You Are Here” kind of way with a world map or graphically through an illustration rather than detailing it in 6 pages that are basically walls of text. There are a few stat-block-style chunks here and there, but it’s largely just a ton of text in two-column format.

That said, as soon as I got into the adventure itself I was hooked. In a few paragraphs on page 6, I knew The Blind Basilisk in the city of Varatolo is my kind of place. It has flavor, well-designed NPCs, and even a menu with prices for common services and items. And the PCs are immediately presented with an intriguing opportunity. When trouble comes a-knockin’, do they step up to the challenge or let someone else do it? If they do the latter, there are some consequences that may make further adventuring a challenge I think.

It’s that kind of diverging path that makes this sort of plot fun and let me wondering where things will be going in future supplements. That sort of anticipation built that early is a very good thing in my book.

Though parts of the adventure hold to a traditional old school feel with a variety of combat and trap encounters, there were also interactions with NPCs and the opportunity to explore to set the tone early. If you might end up playing in this adventure, I’d encourage you to skip the next few paragraphs…

SPOILERS AHEAD

One of the things that I really liked was that though the traditional “good vs. evil” approach was hinted at, the influence of chaos and the corruption of evil has a lot of sway. The idea of having big old baddies behind the world trying to influence their way back to rampaging through the mortal realm really made me smile. A group of knights trying to do the right thing stored items in the hopes that they could be safely contained or destroyed and we all know how that works out. True evil is patient. And Soulshackle, a demon or devil trapped long ago, was definitely patient.

And as we saw in Star Wars, “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded” as Obi-wan says. Soulshackle exerts influence telepathically over others to do his dirty work from beyond the veil in his prison he so desperately wants to escape from. That’s the key to everything. If you hear the voices, there’s a chance you too might be convinced to fall under his evil sway… And if you don’t hear the voices, you may be caught unawares by those who do.

I did wonder if the PCs should be making saves vs. some sort of mental domination as soon as they could potentially hear the demon’s telepathic messages… Maybe just those of chaotic or evil tendencies. But that’s just a thought.

Ultimately the area descriptions won me over time and time again. Little things like the description of the Abbot’s office hinting at his simple tastes and pure intentions towards helping the poor really made those areas come to life. And the description of the haunted forge was amazing. The use of such a simple mechanic for a location should inspire many other GMs to come up some cool one-off encounters that can keep the PCs (and players) guessing for a time.

END SPOIILERS

The 37 page PDF is arranged in a simple two-column layout with clear headings and read-aloud text. I’m not a big fan of the color red for the read-aloud text because my eyes kept trying to skip it as I was reading through, but it works visually to set it apart from the rest of the description. I also found the font a bit difficult to read with all the serifs, but again that’s largely a matter of personal preference.

The writing was excellent and the cover was great, but the rest of the book lacked any art beyond the crude maps done for the adventure. Though I wished there was a bit more art, I found the combat encounters to be well constructed, with stats, strategy, and potential reactions to whatever the PCs choose to do. Having that extra level of difficulty as far as NPC or monster behavior really helps a GM get what the designers were after.

Unfortunately I found the full color map on page 10 to be difficult to read. Everything kind of blends together with all that stone tile. And without a legend, I was a bit confused as to the size of each square and what some of the items were beyond the occasional table or bed. But a bit more work on the map would have helped clarify those issues.

Even if those few nitpicks, I think this is a great adventure for Pathfinder that should keep a group of 3rd-level characters busy for a while. Perhaps the PCs will be able to do what needs to be done and keep the town happy at the same time! I look forward to reading more from Rocks Fall Games in the near future.

This review first appeared at Game Knight Reviews: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2013/09/supplement-review-adventures-in-awesfur-the-dark-totem-part-1-the-chantry-keep-pfrpg-by-charles-t-marleau-and-kristofer-konkel-of-rocks-fall-games-l-l-c/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rocks Fall Games L.L.C.
by nick e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/25/2014 11:26:17

I am reviewing part one and two together, so this review will be pasted to both. Yes, I consider both to be 5 star products.

What makes a good adventure. Immersion and nuance, that's what. Anyone can cobble together

Tavern. Boy in trouble. Dungeon!

That said, the writer here filled the book with tidbits that will make you believe the setting. The tavern is realistic, the personalities quirky but not unbelievable, and the adversaries 3 dimensional. With minimal work every creature inside these modules is a fleshed out NPC.

Did I mention 3 dimensional? Everything you need, all the rules, spells, stats, everything is here. You could run both modules without any other product at hand, as long as you have a basic understanding of D20 rules.

My group is too high level to plug this path in, but I may just one shot the first book for kicks. If not, I'll keep it in my back pocket for next campaign. Hopefully, part 3 or even part 0 will be out by then.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rocks Fall Games L.L.C.
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/26/2013 02:59:49

The revised edition of „The Dark Totem“ clocks in at 37 pages (more than double the content we got before), with 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

From the Get-go, if the page-count was not clue enough, we realize that this has not that much to do with its first iteration – designed for the Awesfur setting, the module should nevertheless make for an easy plug and play module into just about any campaign. To help the DM with the respective fluff, we are first introduced to the basics of the setting – essentially, the backdrop of this module, the city of Varatolo, is located in the Wyldelands, a kind of river kingdomesque collection of fiefdoms and small kingdoms, with dangers lurking everywhere. Varatolo as a town stands out due to housing a rather famous Wizard Academy and is also governed by the academy’s prime wizard – a meritocratic magocracy, if you will. (If you’re scavenging as much in the world of 3pps, why not make the town a colony of Headless Hydra Games’ Mor Aldenn?) In contrast to its first iteration, we thus are introduced in broad strokes to the city’s districts (have I mentioned the full city statblock?) and fluff and to the Blind Basilisk – the tavern that will be a home away from home for your player characters. Named for Bessie, the tame, blind pet basilisk that is the tavern’s mascot, the tavern itself now comes to life, with the triangle of the half-orc proprietor/bar-tender, the dwarven morning maid and the beautiful waitress offering three interesting short write-ups. Not content with just providing a fluffy backdrop, we also get a FULL MENU for the tavern (!!!!) as well as a new piece of local color: As a drunken game, there is Gnome Toss and it’s exactly what you’d think it is – local gnomes let themselves be thrown by others as a kind of competitive sport and yes, betting is going on! Very cool, indeed, especially since we get crunchy rules for this nice tavern game.

Speaking of gnome toss – the adventure kicks off in gnome toss-night, when a distraught farmer interrupts the hijinxs – his son, inexplicably fascinated with a ruined chantry, has gone missing and he needs someone to enter the notorious place and rescue his boy. Once a bastion of the good faith of Galayne, this keep houses a totem, in which a dread demonic entity lingers, watching and waiting – it once almost succeeded in going free, when it tempted a twisted man called Caleb Sutter to murder the clergy after posing as a man in need. Ever since then, its vile siren-call sought to enthrall those nearby, but the overnight haunting has left it isolated – until a boy with a spark of evil in his soul answered the call…

10 miles from town, the keep awaits the PC’s exploration and OH BOY. The outside of the keep is now studded with collapsed ankheg-tunnels, lending a sense of desolation to the keep and when in a small shack outside the PCs may find the remains of a bum tortured to death (again, with skill-check DCs to determine more information), it should become apparent that they are in for a dangerous endeavor. The keep now also features a full-color map and exploring the decayed keep with its evidence of violence and all the details and pieces of information (even the privy yields hints!) is interesting and can actually be quite tense. Caleb, now turned undead ghouls rogue with his small pack stalks the halls and while he may show up in his room, he and his mates react dynamically to e.g. PCs trying to operate the keep’s now ruined pumping system, making the encounters stand out as much more dynamic and believable, but they are not the only threats to be found in this place – a hobgoblin priest of the god of tyrants (also, like Galayne, featured as a brief write-up) acts an agent for a force far worse and while neither he, nor the bugbear brothers that also lair in the place have managed to breach the vault that contains the totem until the PCs enter, they do guard a pit in which little Kristof can be found. Inside the safe, the dread totem prison waits and will feature in the modules to come. Have I by the way mentioned the extremely cool haunt that can be found in the keep’s smithy?

Beyond that, we get the cleric’s spell-selection relevant for battle in the appendix, making the skipping of books unnecessary as well as a cool handout, excerpts from Caleb Sutter’s increasingly maddening diary – VERY cool! Even better, we get 5 pages of blown-up maps for use with miniatures, in full color, that cover each of the combats in the module. Again, two thumbs up!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout deserves special mentioning – whereas the first iteration of this module suffered from the worst layout I’ve ever seen, it actually now is rather pretty and functional – a brownish background, red headers etc. make this easy to read, with relevant skill-checks in bold print, an easy-to-read font and both village statblocks, haunts and stats coming in the required format. The pdf is also bookmarked for your convenience and comes in two versions – the second one being background-less and easier to print out. The maps, while not stellar, cover the locale in full color and the blown-up versions are a great bonus indeed – in any way vastly superior to the first iteration of maps. If I had to complain about one thing, it would be that there’s no number-less version of the overview map and as a second, lesser gripe that the pdfs are rather big – clocking in at approximately 50 mb each. But these both are minor concerns.

WOW. You rarely see me non-plussed anymore these days. In a way similar to the first offerings of Adventureaweek.com and TPK Games, Rocks Fall Games has improved, but honestly, I wouldn’t have deemed it possible to see them improve THIS MUCH, for, to be honest, in contrast to AaW and TPK Games, they at first had NOTHING going for them. There literally was NOTHING I would have considered good about their first offerings.

Whereas the original version of this adventure was inept and amateurish, abysmally bad even, this revision of the module can be accused as neither of these. Learning from their mistakes at a staggering pace, the crew from Rocks Fall Games has: 1. Revised layout so it doesn’t suck anymore. 2. Added bookmarks, serviceable maps and a printer-friendly version. 3. Expanded the content. And it is here the pdf shines. Whereas in the first version, the module was generic and static, it now feels organic, alive, sports a level of detail almost on par with Raging Swan Press-offerings, a hand-out even. Where in the original, the adversaries were generic, name-less blocks of numbers, they now come alive, the chantry keep breathing its own brand of decaying splendor and tragedies long past. While here and there, especially in the setting-introduction, the writing still falters a bit, overall it has improved to a point where I almost felt it hard to believe that the same persons are responsible for the module. Comparing both versions back to back, I almost got whiplash, so pronounced is the jump in quality.

Now don’t get me wrong, the structure of the module, its narrative may not be reinventing the wheel – but it doesn’t have to. With the Blind Basilisk as a cool backdrop, cool pieces of local color and a pronounced attention to detail, all for a VERY fair price of $2.50, this module is a great buy, if perhaps a tad bit on the easy side for level 3 PCs – my group could manage to clear this place at 1st level – but then again my players are insane veterans.

One sentence perhaps describes it best – “From Zero to Hero” – if this is the quality we can from now on expect from Rocks Fall Games, then I’m looking forward to reading their future offerings and I encourage you to give them a chance, for their revised quality standard indeed deserves it. My final verdict for the revised edition of Dark Totem part I will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to the low price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Awesfur - The Dark Totem pt.1: The Chantry Keep (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rocks Fall Games L.L.C.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2012 04:47:44

In a promising start to what is intended to be an entire campaign-full of adventures, this is a simple low-level crawl to get the characters established.

The plot concerns the investigation of a ruined and abandoned temple in search of a missing child. The temple is feared by the locals, who are all too terrified to go there and so hire the characters (in a tavern, naturally) to search there on their behalf. Whilst atmospheric and well-described, it is a fairly straightforward 'crawl' with a nice selection of monsters to brawl with but little scope for much in the way of interaction other than with the sword!

Presentation is clear and crisp, with a good simple overview map and larger ones for set-piece combats. 'Read aloud' text is in red, but the whole text is rather oddly presented completely in upper case. It is clear enough, but some people will find it difficult to read especially when scanning quickly mid-game.

Two outcomes are catered for: either the party recovers the lost child alive or they don't. The rewards, both monetary and more intangible, are far better if the lad is still alive... and they'll get free beer for the rest of the night! A few hints are scattered around pointing to future adventures... but the whole thing is self-contained enough that if you want to use it in your own campaign world, perhaps as a short combat-heavy interlude, it will work fine.

Promising beginning, one to watch!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
It should be noted that this review is for the unrevised Dark Totem pt. 1 and may not apply to our most recent revision, which features a new layout, map and over twice as much content. Thanks, though Megan!
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