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Creatures of the Wastelands: Mutational Evolution
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2018 10:34:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This bestiary clocks in at 54 pages, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content. The front- and back-cover are provided in their own pdf and thus are not part of this tally.

This pdf was sponsored by one of my patreons and moved up in my queue as a prioritized review.

All right, this pdf, while intended for use with Mutant Future, is easily usable in pretty much any OSR-game…IF you have Mutant Futures. (Preferably also Creatures of the Wastelands.) I strongly suggest getting at least the Mutant Future parent book before checking this out – without it, only the methodology and basics of the critters herein will be usable and the respective monsters lose a bit of their depths and plausibility. (And its art-free version is FREE!) Form-wise, we get no. encountered, alignment, 30’ base movement rates, descending AC, and saves are denoted by L + a number – e.g. “L4” – which translates to a character of 4th level; apart from requiring the parent book, adaption is, as a whole, quick and painless.

The bestiary knows a couple of special attack tricks: Acid needs contact with skin and may be taken off by using special substances; once contact is made, no subsequent attack roll is required to inflict damage. Swarming animals and similar creatures may cause confusion, which means you roll, with one of 3 results: Attack the attackers, attack your allies or flail uselessly around. A bit more differentiation would have been nice here. Monsters capable of flight may execute dive attacks, their equivalent of charges. These inflict double damage and on a roll of 18+ and sufficient size provided, the monster can grab and carry off the attacked creature. That is a bit weird, as theoretically, superbly-armored creatures that couldn’t be hit by an 18 would be carried off RAW. On another note, dive attacks are usually not necessarily executed to carry off prey – at least not by all animals. A crush to the ground option would have been neat.

Paralysis duration is standardized at 2d4 turns and the pdf knows 20 classes of poison, which you get, collated, in the back of the book – this list also is d%-friendly for randomly determining the class. Radiation is categorized in 10 classes, with escalating damage and half damage on a successful save. This would be once more an area where I wished that the book sported a bit more differentiation and unique effects. Radiation, as provided here, mainly boils down to damage, though 7 sample mutations are provided -still, this imho would have been a nice way to expand the Mutant Futures-material beyond reference.

Where applicable, less intelligent creatures will have 1d6 +2 WIL, while intelligent adversaries will have 3d6 WIL; super-smart critters may have 2d6 + 9 WIL. Regarding terms, “aggregate” is used to denote a creature fused from multiple beings (or via parasites/symbiosis); base stock denotes the unmutated base critters; elder people are the pre-cataclysm humans; “instar” is the immature stage in the life cycle of insects and plant creatures and the shattered lands are the places where so many weapons struck, only a desolate wasteland remained.

Now, one of the strengths of mutant future would lie within the concept of mutation and how to visualize it: Here, this is provided in a handy, applied manner, via family trees: Subsequent mutations and drawbacks are accumulated and further developed – basically, this is the big unique selling point of this book: While most make-am-monster-books focus on generating a single, odd critter, this one instead focuses on establishing families and genera, adding a sense of biological plausibility to the material within. Indeed, this premise is not just a pretense, but rather a crucial component of the book and its appeal; this sense of authenticity represents one of the best aspects of the supplement.

This btw. extends to the concept of how to portray mutant herds and how accelerated evolution influences the dispersal etc. of the mutants. The creatures themselves, as mentioned before, are organized by family trees – and it should be noted that a few of the creatures sport unique mutations. Furthermore, the design-process of the creatures takes survivability-enhancing factors into account – i.e. better senses, natural armor, etc. are included. Among house sparrow, we can find little creatures that tag targets for others; there are birds that have developed sharp spines. There are birds that can camouflage as giant bees and that can regenerate bodyparts. Where one generation has often bled out, subsequent critters developed tougher skin and aberrant form as well as a lashing tongue; an alternate evolution instead focused on generating colonies with warning shrieks – the further along the generational line we go, the stranger and weirder the critters become. This, ultimately, is perhaps one of the best aspects of this book – by applying logic and some tweaking, it teaches by example on how to potentially develop your own array of truly strange and creative critters.

Beyond the aforementioned bird family, I particularly enjoyed the stinging nettle family – think of them as animated nettles that wail when struck…and that’s generation 1 for you. There is also a lab accident here – a nettle with human eyes and flesh spliced in. Weak. Vulnerable. And prone to throwing FIRE. A lot. Yes, you should not approach that nightmarish plant. Surprise. Yes, it gets weirder. Moving plants. Some that generate misty force fields. And some that sport mouths. Many, toothy mouths. What could be worse? Well, what about flying ones? Or nettles that make their stinging hairs airborne and highly toxic? Yeah, a fun time was had by everyone at that picnic…

Feather scrubs are plants that burrow into…things. Soil. Trees…etc. – When you approach, they like to supplement their diet with protein, by means of lance-like roots…or by becoming plant-mines. Oh, and sentience, hijacking and animating plants – the evolution sketched here sent a shiver down my spine and a smile to my face. The family is interesting, cool, and intensely creepy.

The final and largest family herein deals with wasps – beyond the usual, firebombs, web-using variants…what abot tunnel-dwelling, tentacle-headed wasps? Yeah, creeps you out, right? It goes further and further here, resulting into aquatic variants, vampiric wasps and weirder critters still.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard sans frills or grand graphical elements, making the pdf pretty printer-friendly, if not too aesthetically-pleasing. The b/w-artworks provided for some, but not all creatures, are generally okay, if nothing that will get most folks too excited. The pdf comes bookmarked with detailed bookmarks for the respective headers, but not for individual creatures. The book and cover-pdf come in two versions – one high-res (better for printing) and one low-res (better for electronic devices).

Derek Holland and the Skirmisher Game Development Group deliver a book that I ended up liking a LOT more than I figured I would. While I would have loved to see a bit more in the vein of expanding the mutations and attacks beyond the already impressive array of the parent book, I really enjoy the book not necessarily for its creatures (though I did end up smiling a lot while reading the entries!), but for the applied mutation paradigm, for the design-school employed here; with some tweaking, the referee can gainfully apply this strange biology beyond the confines of this book. We have a supplement that teaches by example and does so in a rather impressive manner.

The content here is really neat and made me wish that the book offered a bit more on the aesthetics side as well; however, I have always prioritized content over presentation and the content that is here is really, really neat – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform…with one caveat: Sans the parent book/and/or a willingness to work with it, you should detract a start and round down instead. You should definitely be familiar with Mutant Futures – while advertised as Labyrinth Lord stand-alone compatible, the critters would lose a TON of their appeal sans Mutant Futures’ rules.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of the Wastelands: Mutational Evolution
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Hybrid Class: Gestrati
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2018 10:30:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted that the content is laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means that you can potentially fit 4 pages on one sheet of paper when printing this.

The gestrati is a hybrid of unchained monk and sorcerer and gains d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Fort-saves, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency in simple weapons. Important: A gestrati wearing armor loses his AC bonus (Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD, at 4th level +1, increase by a further +1 at every fourth level thereafter.), mudras, energy strike and somatic defense and mastery abilities. In short: You really don’t want to wear armor. The gestrati begins play with Improved Unarmed Strike and, I assume, the damage progression of the unchained monk – while the damage values by level for Small and Large monks are provided (kudos!), the ability and class table are curiously missing the damage progression for Medium-sized monks. While it is easy enough to look that up, this constitutes a slight comfort detriment.

Starting at 4th level, the gestrati gains Eschew Materials and gains spellcasting based on Wisdom at 4th level; curiously, that spellcasting is spontaneous, as with the sorcerer, but it is something to bear in mind, if you’re particular about attributes correlating to spellcasting types. Anyhow, the class sports its own spellcasting list that focuses on blasting and self-improvement: burning hands, jump, silent image, etc.; The class gains spellcasting of to 4th level and the higher level options include some potent tricks – force punch, fireball, haste, wind wall at 3rd level, for example, phantasmal killer, greater invisibility, elemental body I at 4th, to give you an impression. The spell list is pretty strong, so let’s see how it ties in with the class as a whole.

At 1st level, the gestrati gains the first of the mudras – mystical hand signs. While these provide benefits tied to spells, they do something I actually like: They affect the gestrati when he takes the total defense action. A gestrati can use mudras class level + Wisdom modifier times per day and they base saves, if any on spell level and Wisdom modifier. We begin with sanctuary and expand that at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter: 5th level provides magic circle against…, 10th nets repulsion, 15th mind blank and 20th level prismatic sphere. I really like mudras as a concept and tying them to total defense is really smart; however, I wish that the effects specified their duration; I assume that duration is 1 round, but as written, the ability is opaque – one could assume spell duration, one could assume “for as long as total defense is maintained”…this needs to specifically state that it only applies for the duration of the total defense action. Furthermore, while level governs the mudra in question, the ability RAW looks like it assumes that new mudras supersede the old ones; personally, I think there should be a choice here.

3rd level yields a ki pool with ½ class level + Wisdom modifier points. Starting at 7th level, the gestrati may expend spell level in ki points as a swift action to replenish a spell slot of that level; 10th level allows for the gestrati to expend 1 ki point to grant himself an enhancement bonus to attacks delivering spells via unarmed strikes, with the bonus equal to the spell level of the spell delivered. At 16th level, the gestrati can expend 1 ki point as part of casting a spell to increase the DC by +2. Alternative, the gestrati can expend 1 ki point as a swift action to increase the energy damage of the energy strike class feature by +1d6. Minor complaint: That ability, since it looks like it’s not tied to levels, should probably be listed before the unlocked uses at higher levels.

So, what does this energy strike feature do? Well, as a full-round action, the gestrati may channel energy into his fists. The type of energy is chosen at first level and is either acid, cold, electricity or fire. Energy strike attacks deal +1d6 of the chosen energy type with unarmed strikes or monk weapons; this damage increases to +2d6 at 11th, +2d8 at 17th and +2d10 at 20th level. Alternatively, the energy may be projected as a ranged touch attack, with a range of 10 ft + 5 ft/2 levels. I like this class feature, though touch attack is a bit overkill for a full BAB-class, even though the projection only deals the energy damage and thus isn’t too much. A couple of bad issues have crept into this ability, alas: 1) The ability lacks a duration. I have no idea how long the energy charge lasts. 2) Since the action is a full-round action and nowhere mentions attacks being executed, I have frankly no idea how it precisely works. The ability references strikes, but yeah…not exactly ideal. 3) Does the projection ability grant iterative attacks? I like this, but rules-wise, it’s a mess.

Starting at 4th level, the gestrati can use his somatic components defensively; as a swift action, the class can spend a ki point to cast spells sans provoking AoOs. This only pertains spellcasting, not any ranged attacks made with the spell. Interesting. At 14th level, this becomes always on while the gestrati has at least one point of ki.

The main defining feature of the gestrati class would be the lineage, the analogue of the bloodline. Lineage powers are gained at 1st level, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter. These abilities are gained in a linear manner. 2nd level, 6th and every 3 levels thereafter yield a bonus feat defined by the lineage in question, and gestrati use their class level as monk levels for the purpose of determining prerequisites. 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter up until 16th level yield a new spell granted by the lineage. These spells are bonus spells and may not be exchanged/traded. One note regarding bonus feat selection – these include Style feats, but oddly, not feats based on Style feats (a common misconception – since Styles require action expenditure and have a hard cap on active Styles, the follow-up feats that are based on them, are not classified as Style feats – hence the verbiage referring to Style feats may or may not be working as intended. I assume in dubio pro reo here.)

A total of 10 lineages are provided: Aberrant, Abyssal, Arcane, Celestial, Destined, Dragon, Elemental, Fey, Infernal and Undead. Here, I once again have some positives to remark, namely that the abilities granted by the lineages themselves are nice and tie in well with the existing ability arrays. To mention a couple of examples: The aberrant lineage, for example, allows you to stagger foes on a failed save when criting them with energy strike (the power of this one is hard to judge, as energy strike is opaque); higher level options allow you to expend ki to increase your reach, nets immunity versus sickened/nauseated, etc.; among the arcane lineage’s abilities, ki-powered SPs, gaining temporary ki for saving versus potent high-level spells (cheese-proof), properly codified anti-outsider attacks…there are some seriously cool options here. Slightly problematic: The dragon lineage lets you choose a dragon type and the associated energy – which must not necessarily correspond to your energy strike’s chosen energy…which makes the “chosen energy/your energy type”-verbiage employed by the lineage ambiguous. An analogue complaint may be fielded against the elemental lineage, just fyi.

The class comes with two archetypes: The anomalous prodigy does not gain a lineage, but adds +Wisom bonus damage with unarmed attacks (not a fan). Instead of the bonus feats granted by lineage, the archetype gains style feats – see my complaint above. The archetype does gain full class level + Wisdom modifier ki, and replaces the fixed lineage spells with cherry picking spells from bloodrager, magus or wizard – which is imho overkill. 20th level allows the character to mimic harmful spells via ki, which is pretty potent, but a cool capstone.

The second archetype, the yogic pacifist, must be LN or TN and loses Intimidate as a class skill. Their mudras increase their save DCs and gain a modified spell list based on abjuration and divination. Instead of energy strike, the yogic pacifist gains bonus nonletheal damage that may not be projected. While he may create items as though a cleric, that ability unfortunately does show a bit of ignorance regarding how crafting works.

We get 5 supplemental feats: Arcane Spell Dabbler nets a bloodrager, magus or wizard spell. Ki Escape is weird – it nets you temporary ki when a spell is at least half your gestrati level or higher. Yep, this means that, starting 19th level, the feat ceases to work. Magical Posturing lets you take spell level Dex damage to apply Silent Spell on the fly (Interesting!). Mudra master lets you make AoOs while using a mudra. Spell Ki lets you expend an unused spell slot to gain that spell’s spell level as temporary ki. Allows, with the level 7 ki pool ability, pretty much free control over spell slots and makes the class behave more akin to a point-based caster – interesting!)

The favored class options are as detailed as we’ve come to expect from Purple Duck Games, covering exotic and Porphyran races…though a couple of them are a bit weird. Anpur get, for example, additional mudra uses for one mudra…but the ability, RAW, does not track daily mudras uses for the mudras individually. I am also not particularly fond of the crit-roll confirmation-enhancers.

The pdf comes with a bonus critter penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, the Draumrgeiss, a CR 9 goat that sparkles, with hooves seemingly glistening like platinum. The etymology of the name could be read as dream-goat, and as such, the array of oracle spells it can cast, the ability to view the dreams of the sleeping and the ability to bestow the gift of sleep on willing creatures makes for a nice, good creature. Cool bonus!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the class and its presentation are, for the most part, crisp and precise…but the flaws at the core of the class abilities are big issues. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The full-color cover artworks of the pdf and bonus pdf are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Hollingsworth’s gestrati isn’t a hybrid I was looking forward to, but that changed pretty quickly; the class does offer some cool connections between its abilities, has its own signature abilities, has a neat game of resource-management built-in…in short, there is a LOT I really, really like about this class. However, at the same time, it unfortunately suffers from some pretty nasty ambiguities in the core class features, of all places. This represents a big issue and while it doesn’t take much to make the necessary calls, RAW these still constitute grievous issues in the integrity of the class and how it works. This is a pity, as the gestrati ranks among the author’s cooler offerings and has all the makings of a really evocative class. As provided, it is nigh impossible for me to judge overall balance of the class, courtesy of the core class feature ambiguities. At the same time, what I can discern from the class, what does work, does so in a rather impressive and cool manner that I really enjoyed.

This is, to an extent, a bit heart-rending; the class has all the potential to be a really cool offering, but its flaws do drag it down, to the point where I can’t rate it higher than 2.5 stars, though I will round up for the purpose of this platform. With the caveat that GMs need to make the proper calls for this to work; if you do, you’ll get an interesting, fun and distinct hybrid. If you want a ready-to-play class, then round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Gestrati
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Super Spy Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2018 10:27:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

The super spy is a hybrid class of investigator and vigilante and receives, chassis-wise, d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, firearms, hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow, and short sword as well as light armors. They get ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Reflex- and Will-saves. The class begins play with +1d6 sneak attack and improves that every odd level thereafter by +1d6. Sneak attack’s rules have not been reprinted in the class. Third level yields uncanny dodge and 8th level provides improved uncanny dodge. The class begins play with Cosmopolitan as a bonus feat (not properly capitalized) – weird: The ability reprints the feat’s text, which can be a bit confusing, as one could assume that the effects of the feat are doubled.

Starting at 3rd level, the super spy adds his class level to the DC to intimidate him – though text and class table can’t decide on whether the ability’s called “unshakeable” or “unflappable”. At 1st level, he gains audacity, which is basically a Charisma-based version of Inspiration (1/2 class level + Charisma modifier) that can be applied to Acrobatics, Bluff and Escape Artist sans spending a point. Additionally, the super spy is a gadget expert – he gets his class level as a bonus to UMD checks. Additionally, he may 3 + his “Cha” modifier (should be Charisma) times per day use a bomb, extract or scroll acquired from another class – scroll activation requires 2 uses and a UMD-check against twice the scroll’s caster level. Which is a weird, weird formula. Why bother rolling? 5th level lets the super spy discern command words for wondrous items – for one use of his “item activation ability”, he can use the item once, immediately forgetting the command word thereafter…which is REALLY weird. I mean…someone can just pen it down, right? At 12th level, the super spy can activate wands as a move action instead of as a standard action.

4th level provides aura infusion: When the super spy gets an extract, he may use it. The second sentence of the ability is utterly confused: “Beginning at 4th level, the extract now persists even after the super spy sets it down. As long as the extract exists, it continues to occupy one of the super spy’s daily gadget expert uses. An infused extract can be imbibed by a non-super-spy to gain its effects.” OH BOY. Where do I even start? Does regular extract use still cost gadget expert uses? Yes or no? Is “infusing” the extract an action? If an alchemist hands an extract to the super spy and he gives it to the wizard, does it work? If the extract is consumed, does he regain the expended gadget expert use? The ability suddenly introduces terminology and expects it to be concise when it really isn’t. It’s clearly based on the infusion discovery, sans accounting for the added complexity of the super spy as a middle-man. 8th level yields cognatogen, 12th greater cognatogen, and 16th level grand cognatogen.

2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a spy talent, which is, at 10th level, expanded to include advanced talents. The talents include die-size increases for audacity, renown, helpers, proficiency – sounds familiar? The talents are basically all taken from the investigator’s array or the vigilante’s social talents. We can also find e.g. glimmering infusion among the advanced talents – missing the italicization. Problem: “…and the effect’s save DC is calculated using the level of the sacrificed extract.” Okay, whose governing attribute? The extract provider or the super spy? When an ability is mostly a reprint and then the little bit of original content, the little bit of tweaking has issues… Well. Not good.

The capstone nets supreme spycraft: As a full-round action, the super spy can shift his aura to a helpless creature, making divination spells target the creature instead (spell references not italicized). Additionally, after succeeding a save versus a mind-affecting ability, he continues t be aware of the creature’s commands and messages for the duration of the effect. Ehm, you know that mind-affecting =/= compulsion/charm…right? The former encompasses much more and often lacks commands. The super spy also gets +5 to Disguise versus folks taking 10 on Perception. And may 3 + Charisma (here, properly noted) times per day be treated as having rolled a 20 on Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate or Sense Motive. Yeah, really weird – the capstone is totally disjointed from the class and feels like its constituent abilities should have been gained earlier and in a reduced capacity, accumulating to this point.

The class lacks favored class options and does not sport even the basic Extra X-uses feats.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than usual for Wayward Rogues Publishing – the rules-language is tighter, the wording more precise. I wish I could say it’s because the editing’s tighter. It’s not. There are still plenty of missed italicizations etc. It’s simply because the class consists of about 95% refluffed material that was cut copy pasted. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the artwork of the class, as seen on the cover, is GORGEOUS. The other artwork herein is a really nice stock-piece I’ve seen before. Still, aesthetically, this is pleasing. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. Worse, you can’t highlight text or parse it or copy it from the pdf – you have to do so BY HAND. This is another comfort detriment and ironic, considering the amount of reprinted material herein.

Robert Gresham’s super spy is functional. Mostly. There are some wonky bits in the approximately 5% of new material that was not copied from other sources, i.e. the new material. As a whole, the class can be played. Here’s the problem: Why would you? The super spy, in a puzzling move, gets rid of everything really cool about the parent classes. No vigilante talents, no extracts, no bombs, no nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I like social talents – I adore them, actually. However, they and a few investigator tricks (minus studied strike) aren’t enough to carry a class.

And here’s the worst part: The super spy, as presented, is actually a fun drain for allied alchemists/investigators.

What do I mean by that? Well, a significant amount of the abilities of the class depend on getting extracts and bombs from other characters. So, unless your foes carry them around all the time (and the super spy isn’t super at stealing them in combat etc., making that a highly ineffective strategy…), the class will attach, like a parasitic leech, to any alchemist in the party, draining all the cool resources of his alchemist buddy.

Namely, bombs and extracts. I can picture the super spy whining in the CD-I’s Zelda: Wand of Gamelon/Faces of Evil’s Link’s annoying voice to his alchemist buddy to share the goodies. “Aaaaalcheeeemist…gimme booooombs!” In short, the class drains the resources of allies. There is also the problem with sneak attack interaction, the wonky bits that result from being a secondary user of class resources, etc. Oh, and don’t have an alchemist in your group? Congrats, you’re significantly worse and less interesting than both parent classes. And no, audacity does not allow you to take inspiration-based archetypes.

So yes, you could play this class. But honestly, if you want to support Wayward Rouges Publishing, buy another class. ANY other class by Wayward Rogues. Some are more flawed than this, but they at least either have more unique tricks or at least don’t FRICKIN DRAIN AN ALLIES’ RESOURCES.

Formally, this isn’t bad, if highly redundant and mostly taken from other sources. The comfort detriments are expected for Wayward Rogues material at this point, though I will continue complaining about them.

But the class not only isn’t perfect, it actually drags down the fun of allied classes and can spoil the fun of other players.

The super spy is, essentially, a parasitic class that sucks the cool out of alchemists and investigators.

Don’t get it. Stay away.

Beyond the flaws in the details, this hampers the playing experience of other players. As far as I’m concerned, it literally can’t get worse than that. My final verdict will be 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Super Spy Hybrid Class
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for your review. We simply never ran into any of the "parasite" issues that concern you during our playtest, and the player quite enjoyed playing the class. I feel you may have misread and misunderstood the mechanic-which is our fault for not making clearer in your case. Sorry, it missed the mark for you.
Rampaging Monsters
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 05:03:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little generator clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, as we’ve come to expect by Zzarchov Kowolski’s books, this one sports a rather neat and dry sense of humor, evident from the introduction onwards – sometimes, you don’t have the time to prepare a new plot, right? You’ll need filler, because “that Golden Girls marathon doesn’t watch itself”, to paraphrase the supplement. Well, the solution this booklet proposes is to generate a rampaging monster that scours the countryside!

The generator provided here indeed allows you to generate a creature, depending on your speed and familiarity with NGR-rules, in less than 5 minutes, so the convenience angle is definitely fulfilled – you could, in theory, do this behind the screen while the PCs are shopping, for example. Now, an important note here: Unlike many offerings by the author, this is NOT a dual-statted NGR/OSR-product – we have only Neoclassical Geek Revival support here and thus this does not translate too well to e.g. S&W or LL since NGR (which you should check out!) is pretty far away from standard OSR-rules.

All righty, that out of the way, how do we proceed? Well, first, we think about the monster’s size in relation to humans and then, we take a look at attributes – 6 values are provided, allowing you to quickly and easily generate scores with descriptors – very dexterous monsters would have Dex 16, very clumsy ones instead Dex 7 – simple, quick, convenient. If in doubt, you revert to rolling 3d6. Then, you determine how a monster behaves and assign pies to the monster as though it was an NPC. Does it stalk its prey? Rogue. Bruiser? Fighter. You get the idea. While not all abilities may seem like they seamlessly apply, the pdf provides a bit of guidance there.

Here, the pdf becomes actually valuable beyond convenience for the GM – for next up, we get combat tricks…and if you recall my review of NGR, you should know how much I like the modular combat and its tactical depth…in spite of how easy to grasp and run it is. Size 8 monsters may e.g. damage foes by jumping up and down; shaking vigorously can cost grappled targets their actions, etc. – while these may not look like much, they can actually be employed in rather cool ways. If you’re like me and absolutely ADORED “Shadow of the Colossus” back in the PS2-era, you may be smiling right now – yep, the content herein does allow you to create such scenes…though, this being NGR, they will be much deadlier than in SoC…but the cheers will be louder. Believe me. Snatch attacks, knock-down assault with wings…pretty cool. This design-paradigm also extends to innate monster spells, which translate just as seamlessly to NGR. The examples cover the cool basics – breathing fire. Breathing exploding balls of fire…and LAZER-EYES[sic!]. Yes, this is a misspelling in the pdf. Yes, it made me cringe. Still, laser-eyes? Heck yes!

Anyways, so now we have a monster…but why does it rampage? Motivation is up next – 6 basic ones, ranging from hunger to greed and malice, add at least a little bit of depth to the critter created.

Need a hamlet to destroy? Roll a d12 and a d8 and compare it with a table of 24 entries – 12 for the first part and 12 for the second part of the name. The position of the dice denote which one you’ll use for the first part and which for the second. These names will also hint at the peculiarities of the place – hamlets named “Carp-something” will e.g. sport ponds etc. 4 sample rewards for slaying the critter.

Finally, if you absolutely have 0 time left, a sample giant, a big statue, a wyrm and a T-rex are provided, should you need a monster to drop immediately.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I noticed no glaring issues in the rules and only minor typos. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf use fitting public domain art, but is mostly text. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, which is rather neat for navigating it on the fly.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s little toolkit is helpful, fun and easy to use; in particular the combat tricks and monster abilities, both mundane and magical, made me smile from ear to ear. The generator does what it’s intended to do…and yet, it made me realize how much I would have liked a full-blown monster-expansion book for NGR. The tricks and abilities presented are cool and fun and made me crave more…to the point, where I almost lost sight of what this tries to be and what it doesn’t try to be. This is not a big monster-enhancer toolbox for NGR – it is a generator for the time-starved referee caught unprepared…and though I very much would have loved to see a big monster book, and though this made me CRAVE more, it would not be fair to rate this generator according to a premise which it never intended to fulfill. As a generator for monsters ravaging the country-side, this does a great job – not a perfect one (it is hampered a bit by its economical size and the corresponding loss of depth that it could have had), but a yeah – this is a neat book for NGR-referees and is well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rampaging Monsters
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Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 05:01:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Skaalhaft is an utterly unique place – situated in the aptly-named blood bay, the place is a whaler’s village unlike any you’ve seen – instead of the more mundane prey, this should be considered to be a draker’s village…or a magical beast-er’s village…for while other places may be content with hunting mere animals, Skaalhaft’s population makes a living of much tougher and deadlier prey. The kills brought in by the powerful hunters (5 sample vessels with their own specialties are provided). It should be noted that we get information on local nomenclature, dressing habits and mannerisms, which adds some nice depth to the settlement.

As always, we get a proper settlement statblock for Skaalhaft – and considering the occupation of the vast majority of the village’s folk, the low danger rating (0) is pretty surprising. Then again, strangers come to this place to purchase all kinds of strange ingredients for alchemical and arcane practices. PCs that do their leg-work can unearth some lore about the village and there even is a wayhouse, where two of the wealthiest patrons of the settlement can be found – these, alongside 3 other NPCs, come with an expanded NPC-write-up: Sans stats, but with mannerisms, distinguishing features, etc. And yes, there is a proper market place section of items to procure.

6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events can be employed by the GM to further add spice to the exploration of the village…but the pdf actually goes one step beyond what we usually get in these pdfs: We get a massive 20-entry dressing table to add further life and color to the village…and the unique customs and traditions of the village are also provided – including the collective mourning traditions. The surrounding environments also are mentioned and discussed, allowing the GM to fit the village properly. As a place defined by fantastic economies, there also is the black room – a pocket dimension where dark magic is practiced….and that made me recall Twin Peaks. The main plot brewing here behind the scenes is interesting, though it does pale in comparison with the thoroughly amazing premise of the village.

Adding a sense of the grim and pre-industrial aesthetics of e.g. Dishonored, there is the Grey Mill – a place where the carcasses of the fallen creatures are processed by grim women and children, all in the name of the strange traditions of this place, for, while Svaad Ruun nominally runs the village, it is in truth shackled by something stronger: The bonds of tradition and the way of life here – even though the run-off of the Grey Mill has transformed the local fauna into hideous and potent mutants, making the bay even more dangerous.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a really nice b/w-artwork. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great, as pretty much always in the series. The pdf comes not only fully bookmarked for your convenience, but also with a second version: One version of the file is optimized for screen-use and one is optimized for the printer.

Jeff Gomez’ Skaalhaft is a thoroughly inspiring little settlement: Its unique premise is employed in a rather evocative manner and makes sense – in a world where fantastic creatures abound, it is bound to be a matter of time before the humanoid races find a way to standardize and specialize in their hunt and consumption. Skaalhaft, as such, is a window into an all-too-often neglected component of fantasy games and adds serious depth to the game – particularly if you enjoy Playground Adventures’ amazing Creature Components-book (which makes components taken from critters really matter). In short: This is a great, inspiring little pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End. The first for 2018!
Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 05:00:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Skaalhaft is an utterly unique place – situated in the aptly-named blood bay, the place is a whaler’s village unlike any you’ve seen – instead of the more mundane prey, this should be considered to be a draker’s village…or a magical beast-er’s village…for while other places may be content with hunting mere animals, Skaalhaft’s population makes a living of much tougher and deadlier prey. The kills brought in by the powerful hunters (5 sample vessels with their own specialties are provided). It should be noted that we get information on local nomenclature, dressing and mannerisms, which adds some nice depth to the settlement.

Strangers, unsurprisingly, come to this place to purchase all kinds of strange ingredients for alchemical and arcane practices. PCs that do their leg-work can unearth some lore about the village and there even is a wayhouse, where two of the wealthiest patrons of the settlement can be found. These, alongside 3 other NPCs, come with an expanded NPC-write-up: Sans stats, but with mannerisms, distinguishing features, etc. – where applicable, they make use of the default stats, but no unique ones are provided. And yes, there is a proper market place section of items to procure, which has been properly adapted for 5e.

6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events can be employed by the GM to further add spice to the exploration of the village…but the pdf actually goes one step beyond what we usually get in these pdfs: We get a massive 20-entry dressing table to add further life and color to the village…and the unique customs and traditions of the village are also provided – including the collective mourning traditions. The surrounding environments also are mentioned and discussed, allowing the GM to fit the village properly. As a place defined by fantastic economies, there also is the black room – a pocket dimension where dark magic is practiced….and that made me recall Twin Peaks. The main plot brewing here behind the scenes is interesting, though it does pale in comparison with the thoroughly amazing premise of the village.

Adding a sense of the grim and pre-industrial aesthetics of e.g. Dishonored, there is the Grey Mill – a place where the carcasses of the fallen creatures are processed by grim women and children, all in the name of the strange traditions of this place, for, while Svaad Ruun nominally runs the village, it is in truth shackled by something stronger: The bonds of tradition and the way of life here – even though the run-off of the Grey Mill has transformed the local fauna into hideous and potent mutants, making the bay even more dangerous.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a really nice b/w-artwork. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great, as pretty much always in the series. The pdf comes not only fully bookmarked for your convenience, but also with a second version: One version of the file is optimized for screen-use and one is optimized for the printer.

Jeff Gomez’ Skaalhaft is a thoroughly inspiring little settlement: Its unique premise is employed in a rather evocative manner and makes sense – in a world where fantastic creatures abound, it is bound to be a matter of time before the humanoid races find a way to standardize and specialize in their hunt and consumption. Skaalhaft, as such, is a window into an all-too-often neglected component of fantasy games and adds serious depth to the game – particularly if you enjoy Playground Adventures’ amazing Creature Components-book (which makes components taken from critters really matter). In short: This is a great, inspiring little pdf that doesn’t lose any of its charms in 5e, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS; etc.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review, End. Very much appreciated!
Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 04:59:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Skaalhaft is an utterly unique place – situated in the aptly-named blood bay, the place is a whaler’s village unlike any you’ve seen – instead of the more mundane prey, this should be considered to be a draker’s village…or a magical beast-er’s village…for while other places may be content with hunting mere animals, Skaalhaft’s population makes a living of much tougher and deadlier prey. The kills brought in by the powerful hunters (5 sample vessels with their own specialties are provided). It should be noted that we get information on local nomenclature, dressing and mannerisms, which adds some nice depth to the settlement.

Strangers come to this place to purchase all kinds of strange ingredients for alchemical and arcane practices, some of which are less than wholesome. PCs that do their leg-work can unearth some lore about the village and there even is a wayhouse, where two of the wealthiest patrons of the settlement can be found – these, alongside 3 other NPCs, come with an expanded NPC-write-up: Sans stats, but with mannerisms, distinguishing features, etc. And yes, there is a proper market place section of items to procure, adapted for the more conservative old-school playstyle. It should be noted that the wizard-class is referenced once, not magic-user – while most folks won’t care here, some of the more diehard traditionalists may.

6 whispers and rumors and 6 sample events can be employed by the GM to further add spice to the exploration of the village…but the pdf actually goes one step beyond what we usually get in these pdfs: We get a massive 20-entry dressing table to add further life and color to the village…and the unique customs and traditions of the village are also provided – including the collective mourning traditions. The surrounding environments also are mentioned and discussed, allowing the GM to fit the village properly. As a place defined by fantastic economies, there also is the black room – a pocket dimension where dark magic is practiced….and that made me recall Twin Peaks. The main plot brewing here behind the scenes is interesting, though it does pale in comparison with the thoroughly amazing premise of the village.

Adding a sense of the grim and pre-industrial aesthetics of e.g. Dishonored, there is the Grey Mill – a place where the carcasses of the fallen creatures are processed by grim women and children, all in the name of the strange traditions of this place, for, while Svaad Ruun nominally runs the village, it is in truth shackled by something stronger: The bonds of tradition and the way of life here – even though the run-off of the Grey Mill has transformed the local fauna into hideous and potent mutants, making the bay even more dangerous.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a really nice b/w-artwork. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great, as pretty much always in the series. The pdf comes not only fully bookmarked for your convenience, but also with a second version: One version of the file is optimized for screen-use and one is optimized for the printer.

Jeff Gomez’ Skaalhaft is a thoroughly inspiring little settlement: Its unique premise is employed in a rather evocative manner and makes sense – in a world where fantastic creatures abound, it is bound to be a matter of time before the humanoid races find a way to standardize and specialize in their hunt and consumption. Skaalhaft, as such, is a window into an all-too-often neglected component of fantasy games and adds serious depth to the game. While, to my knowledge, there is no OSR-book focusing on the use of the remains of creatures for added synergy, this still remains a great installment of the series, well worth its place in the exalted array of settlements the series provided. In short: This is a great, inspiring little pdf, well worth 5 stars.

Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS; etc.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Epic. Thank you for the review, Endzeitgiest.
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/29/2017 04:41:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of modules clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction/SRD, 2 pages mystery map contest (here, you could finish a map and write an adventure to win money), 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This booklet contains 2 adventures: Michael Curtis provides “The undulating Corruption” for level 5 characters, while the second module, “The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust” is penned by Harley Stroh and intended for level 3 characters. Both of the adventures sport a handy encounter table that lists the respective encounter type. The second page provides a fantastic b/w-handout that depicts the adventure location of the second adventure. The cartography also deserves mentioning: The first module gets a top-down map, while the second sports a gorgeous, isometric b/w-map…though I do wish it came with a player-friendly version…or in pdf-format, at least as a layered image, so I can turn off the room numbers, cut it up and hand it out. It still kinda works for that purpose, but, at least to me, the lack of a player-friendly map is a downside.

This review was requested and sponsored by one of my patreons. The review is based exclusively on the pdf-version, since I do not own the print version.

All righty, as always, this is an adventure review – as such, the following text will dive into heavy SPOILER territory. Players wishing to play these modules should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? Great!

So, “The Undulating Corruption” is pretty much a straightforward sidetrek, one that should sport a wizard PC currently suffering from a corruption, for that is the primary angle: Hidden away in hilly terrain, there is the Crucible of the Worm – a shrine that ostensibly can cure corruptions! But as the PCs approach the crucible’s location, a massive explosion shakes the earth…well, turns out that, for once, other adventurers and not the PCs have screwed up, big time. Provided the PCs manage to defeat the self-reproducing black sludges there, they can find the sad and doomed survivor of the adventuring group – the poor sod is beyond saving, but he can fill in the blanks: The crucible contained an entity of chaos, the Night Worm consumes corrupted wizards and excretes them, free of the taint – but the entity is free, hungry and potentially very dangerous.

A trail of black slime slows magical pursuit (unless you want to hasten the game), and thus, the PCs are on the trail of a massive, very dangerous entity: In order to catch up with the Night Worm, the PCs will have to cross a river without falling prey to corrupted catfish; soon thereafter, the PCs may recruit a cleric, who can provide help or even accompany them…and pretty soon thereafter, the PCs catch up with the massive entity and its corruptive beasts. The final adventure locale is intriguing: Within the insides of the massive worm, the PCs find an extradimensional place; there, the worm’s digestive system, the degenaphages, may attack…but they also provide the means for being cured: Spellcasters can attach an umbilical cord; if they are lucky (and feed the entities with spell-energy, enhancing the chances) they can shed a corruption…get out…and stop the worm before it carves a trail of destruction through the lands. Very unique sidequest!

The second adventure, “The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust” is basically a heist: Boss Ogo, one of Punjar’s notorious fences, hasn’t been seen in a month. His place seems rife for the picking, right? Well, unbeknown to the PCs, Ogo has been touched by Ygiiz, the Spider-Mother, via a crystal. He has managed t lure agents of the dread thing from the vast beyond. Meanwhile, his second in command and the gang members are loyally guarding his house – which is, as noted before, represented in a phenomenal b/w-artwork/handout. Unless the PCs are VERY careful, the guarding rogues will call for backup, following the PCs…which may well result in nasty consequences.

Speaking of smart approaches: If the PCs act in a clever manner, they may well enter the house via a less conspicuous manner – and find the hanging, webbed and bandaged bodies that act as anchors to the carnivorous spiders conjured forth. Eliminating these ritualistically prepared bodies (and yes, PCs can find that out!) immediately makes the module much easier…but also announces the presence of the PCs. Then again, that would be a pity – the magical spiders have actually multi-stage attack routines, which is pretty fun! Assuming the PCs manage to pass the strange spider-things, Ogo’s traps and provided they aren’t slain by their own shadow (which may be animated by a deadly candle), they will have a chance to stop Ogo…and potentially have their mind sundered by the crystal themselves. On the plus side, the PCs can find the eponymous stardust – its use may not be evident at first, but it can provide a one-time luck increase…oh, and yeah, it can be used to create more of those mind-shattering crystals…but who’d want that? Anyways, at the very latest once the PCs escape Ogo’s home, they’ll still have to contend with the ambush of aforementioned ruffians. Yeah, the module is potentially pretty difficult, unless the players act smart…which is just how I like it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in formal criteria or rules-integrity. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks and maps by Doug Kovacs are phenomenal. The absence of player-friendly versions for the maps in particular is a pity here. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks.

Michael Curtis and Harley Stroh deliver two amazing little adventures here. The two modules ooze sword and sorcery flavor. The modules are dangerous and unique in concept, and while the first one is more of a sidetrek than anything, it gels well with the “Quest for it”-aesthetic of DCC. Both modules can imho be used in other rule-sets with relative ease; the crunchy bits don’t dive into the depths of the rules per se; they don’t have to. In short: This is a great offering and one that made me curse under my breath that I didn’t manage to get it in print. That being said, for the pdf version in particular, player-friendly map versions would have been greatly appreciated. Apart from this, I can’t really find serious flaws within the modules; they hit their intended tone pitch-perfect. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the amazing, little heist that btw. makes for a fine convention-style game in length and density.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
Click to show product description

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Everyman Minis: Microsized Templates
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/29/2017 04:39:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, I absolutely ADORE Microsized Adventures. It made my Top Ten for a reason. It opens a whole new cosmos of cool rules, of adventuring possibilities and fun.

Well, this pdf, beyond explaining how the special size modifier works in context of PCs and foes that are radically shrunk/enlarged, sports an extremely high crunch-density: We basically get 8 microsized templates: These list not only the modifications applied to the microsized being (and the special size modifier), but also the modifications for the respective ordinary-sized foe. The differences in size range from one size category to eight size categories! In the latter case, PCs will suffer: They will inflict paltry damage and the CR of even harmless critters skyrockets. Fluffy the Cat suddenly is looking like a really sadistic Kaiju…

And that’s about it – this pdf is all about application and convenience. You can hand it out to your players and have them gulp. Or you can use it as an easy cheat sheet. Either way, it makes changes in size run smoothly and fluidly and thus qualifies as one of the rare, small pdfs that really enhance the game, far beyond what the page-count would make you believe.

Minor complaint: The seven size categories template has an incorrect damage value for the microsized creature: The value should be -28, not -15. Similarly, the saves noted for the by the six sizes step and the damage increase for ordinary creatures are both off, and so are save DCs, CMB and CMD for that step. While it took me a grand total of 30 seconds to calculate the correct values here, it’s still an annoying issue.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; however, the glitches in the templates do drag down what I’d otherwise consider to be a phenomenal resource. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s printer-friendly two-column standard and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ templates here are convenient, easy to apply, well-presented and explained – in short, this pdf is a pure joy to work with, a really fun tool in the arsenal of the GM. Were it not for the glitches in two of the templates, I’d have praised this even more. While I personally consider them easy to fix, I am a pretty math-savvy fellow and as a reviewer, I can’t be lenient here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If the minor hiccups don’t upset you, consider this 5 stars + seal instead; either way, I’d definitely recommend this handy file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Microsized Templates
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Village Backdrop: Ronak (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/29/2017 04:36:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Ronak is a dwarven company’s trade-outpost – or rather, it was. The company has gone belly-up ages ago, leaving the ancestors of the Ronakee stranded in the middle of the swamplands, on lands that once belonged to lizardfolk, dutifully exterminated by the dwarves. This can be unearthed via the village lore provided in the tradition of the series…and it kinda is weird. Why? Because the very first sentence on Ronak is “Nobody knows Ronak exists. Or, more precisely, nobody remembers.” Considering that baseline, the fact that there is lore to be unearthed about it in the first place, to me, is weird. (Not as weird as in the more rules-intense systems, since the referee retains control…but yeah…)

Anyways, the dwarves of Ronak are insular, yes – and they are, to a degree, forsaken by civilization. You see, the ronakee dwarves no longer truly believe in outside civilization; they are guided by the spirits of the lizardfolk they slaughtered, slowly becoming ever more degenerate, savage…and, most disconcertingly, reptilian. This slow change is also represented in the way in which the whispers and rumors and map are depicted – we have a fortified village of huts on a hill; the villagers are isolated and their demeanor and appearance reflect that; the marketplace section provided also focuses on more shamanistic aspects. Kudos: The magic items have been reduced and properly adjusted to an old-school aesthetic!

Similarly, the classes of the movers and shakers of the village adhere to the more primitive bent and have been properly codified within the classic class ranges; the drug used to communicate with spirits, sawleaf, which is harvested in the bitter bog also makes for a nice piece of properly translated crunch. The scaled dwarves of Ronak btw. get a racial variant – and here, the old-school mostly system neutral version of the pdf deserves once again special applause: The rules presented are concise, the wording is clear and the mutations make sense. Maximum levels etc. are included. Oh, and btw., descending AC is assumed.

From the temple to the humble spirithouse, the village itself is pretty neat – though it should be noted that no event-table is provided this time around – instead, we get a bit of consideration regarding the event that changes all: The arrival of PCs. Much like insular tribes in real life, the arrival of PCs must be seen as a cataclysmic upheaval for the village and its societies…and the repercussions you can weave there are most assuredly really exciting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to RagingS wan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports solid b/w-artwork and great b/w-cartography, this time around provided by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. The pdf is properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Gomez’ set-up here is really interesting. I like the idea of colonialists succumbing to their own sins; there is a definite Heart of Darkness-vibe going on here; similarly, the angle regarding the destructive force of contacts with advanced civilizations is something I really enjoyed. And yet, Ronak didn’t 100% click with me; perhaps it’s the scaled dwarf-angle (seen that before); perhaps it’s the mutation factor…or that it doesn’t go full-blown either Chinua Achebe or Joseph Conrad with the colonialist angle…This is, don’t get me wrong, a pretty inspiring village (though the low lore DC makes no sense to me), but it is a village with a concept that could have carried a more forceful execution or a stranger transition. The concepts underlying the premise are so strong, they could have yielded simply more. That being said, the system neutral version goes above and beyond to retain and translate all the cool small tidbits and, frankly, they imho work better in this iteration than in, for example, PFRPG. This nets this version +0.5 stars, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, and I’ll round that up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ronak (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End! Glad you enjoyed visiting Ronak!
Village Backdrop: Ronak (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/29/2017 04:35:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Ronak is a dwarven company’s trade-outpost – or rather, it was. The company has gone belly-up ages ago, leaving the ancestors of the Ronakee stranded in the middle of the swamplands, on lands that once belonged to lizardfolk, dutifully exterminated by the dwarves. This can be unearthed via the village lore provided in the tradition of the series…and it kinda is weird. Why? Because the very first sentence on Ronak is “Nobody knows Ronak exists. Or, more precisely, nobody remembers.” Considering that baseline, a paltry DC 15 check seems a bit odd here…

Anyways, the dwarves of Ronak are insular, yes – and they are, to a degree, forsaken by civilization. You see, the ronakee dwarves no longer truly believe in outside civilization; they are guided by the spirits of the lizardfolk they slaughtered, slowly becoming ever more degenerate, savage…and, most disconcertingly, reptilian. This slow change is also represented in the way in which the whispers and rumors and map are depicted – we have a fortified village of huts on a hill; the villagers are isolated and their demeanor and appearance reflect that; the marketplace section provided also focuses on more shamanistic aspects and has been properly adjusted to 5e’s aesthetics.

Similarly, the classes of the movers and shakers of the village adhere to the more primitive bent; the drug used to communicate with spirits, sawleaf, which is harvested in the bitter bog has been translated to 5e, yes, but honestly, of the three versions, this one is the weakest and the one that feels least like a regular piece of crunch for the system – 1 poison damage, -4 penalty to saves versus curses and effects and abilities of incorporeal undead and haunts…doesn’t feel very 5e-ish.

The scaled dwarves of Ronak btw. get a subrace – Strength increases by 1, walking speed 20 feet, neither reduced by armor or swampy terrain, disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Charisma (Deception) that may be foregone by gaining proficiency and losing the usual bonuses in proficiency in the respective skill. The dwarf also gets one of 5 mutations – 15 minutes of holding breath, advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks in swamps, unarmored AC of 11 + Dex mod, 1d6 bite that increases to 2d6 at 11th level (you’re proficient in the bite) or advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks made to swim. The subrace is potent, but also limited – as a whole, I like it in 5e!

From the temple to the humble spirithouse, the village is pretty neat – though it should be noted that no event-table is provided this time around – instead, we get a bit of consideration regarding the event that changes all: The arrival of PCs. Much like insular tribes in real life, the arrival of PCs must be seen as a cataclysmic upheaval for the village and its societies…and the repercussions you can weave there are most assuredly really exciting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports solid b/w-artwork and great b/w-cartography, this time around provided by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. The pdf is properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Gomez’ set-up here is really interesting. I like the idea of colonialists succumbing to their own sins; there is a definite Heart of Darkness-vibe going on here; similarly, the angle regarding the destructive force of contacts with advanced civilizations is something I really enjoyed. And yet, Ronak didn’t 100% click with me; perhaps it’s the scaled dwarf-angle (seen that before); perhaps it’s the mutation factor…or that it doesn’t go full-blown either Chinua Achebe or Joseph Conrad with the colonialist angle…This is, don’t get me wrong, a pretty inspiring village (though the low lore DC makes no sense to me), but it is a village with a concept that could have carried a more forceful execution or a stranger transition. The concepts underlying the premise are so strong, they could have yielded simply more. The 5e-version oscillates between ups and downs – I like the subrace, but the drug, in comparison, felt a bit…less compelling. Still, I consider this version to be slightly stronger than the PFRPG version – hence, my verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ronak (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Ronak
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/29/2017 04:26:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrops-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Ronak is a dwarven company’s trade-outpost – or rather, it was. The company has gone belly-up ages ago, leaving the ancestors of the Ronakee stranded in the middle of the swamplands, on lands that once belonged to lizardfolk, dutifully exterminated by the dwarves. This can be unearthed via the village lore provided in the tradition of the series…and it kinda is weird. Why? Because the very first sentence on Ronak is “Nobody knows Ronak exists. Or, more precisely, nobody remembers.” Considering that baseline, a paltry DC 15 check seems a bit odd here… On the plus side, we get proper settlement stats for PFRPG.

Anyways, the dwarves of Ronak are insular, yes – and they are, to a degree, forsaken by civilization. You see, the ronakee dwarves no longer truly believe in outside civilization; they are guided by the spirits of the lizardfolk they slaughtered, slowly becoming ever more degenerate, savage…and, most disconcertingly, reptilian. This slow change is also represented in the way in which the whispers and rumors and map are depicted – we have a fortified village of huts on a hill; the villagers are isolated and their demeanor and appearance reflect that; the marketplace section provided also focuses on more shamanistic aspects.

Similarly, the classes of the movers and shakers of the village adhere to the more primitive bent; the drug used to communicate with spirits, sawleaf, which is harvested in the bitter bog, makes for a nice piece of crunch. The scaled dwarves of Ronak btw. get a racial variant - +2 Str and Con, slow and steady, low-light vision and +2 to saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities as well as two mutations from a list of 6 that include weak bite and claw attacks. Strange: The bite attack is weaker than the two claw attacks. Why would you ever choose it? +1 natural armor, swim speed 15 ft., hold breath and better Stealth and movement in swamps can also be found.

From the temple to the humble spirithouse, the village is pretty neat – though it should be noted that no event-table is provided this time around – instead, we get a bit of consideration regarding the event that changes all: The arrival of PCs. Much like insular tribes in real life, the arrival of PCs must be seen as a cataclysmic upheaval for the village and its societies…and the repercussions you can weave there are most assuredly really exciting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports solid b/w-artwork and great b/w-cartography, this time around provided by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. The pdf is properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Gomez’ set-up here is really interesting. I like the idea of colonialists succumbing to their own sins; there is a definite Heart of Darkness-vibe going on here; similarly, the angle regarding the destructive force of contacts with advanced civilizations is something I really enjoyed. And yet, Ronak didn’t 100% click with me; perhaps it’s the scaled dwarf-angle (seen that before); perhaps it’s the mutation factor…or that it doesn’t go full-blown either Chinua Achebe or Joseph Conrad with the colonialist angle…This is, don’t get me wrong, a pretty inspiring village (though the low lore DC makes no sense to me), but it is a village with a concept that could have carried a more forceful execution or a stranger transition. The concepts underlying the premise are so strong, they could have yielded simply more. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ronak
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Yuletide Terror
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2017 04:30:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive Christmas mega-adventure clocks in at 119 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 107 pages of content, making this the single largest Christmas module I have ever read and played.

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

Before we dive into the main meat, let us talk about a couple of peculiarities: One: The layout in full-color is gorgeous and sports a ribbon on the right side of the page, which denotes the act/part of the adventure you’re currently in. This makes navigation more convenient, so that would be one plus. Another plus would be that we get a total of 4 pages of player-friendly maps for the battle/exploration-relevant sections, all in full-color – big kudos for their inclusion. It should also be noted that the adventure makes use of the PHENOMENAL skill challenge rules provided in the Skill Challenge Handbook.

You don’t have perhaps the single most important crunch-book I know, the thing that should be CORE? Well…you should get it. But even if you don’t, you won’t need it to run this adventure. Skill Challenges are easy enough to grasp so you won’t be puzzled by their inclusion. The appendix also explains the system, so you can run it easily. It should btw. also be noted that two new, nice occult rituals can be found herein, though I’ll comment on these when they become relevant.

It should also be noted that the adventure is set in the picturesque town of Hollyglen, which not only comes fully mapped and with proper settlement stats, but which features its own little summary in the appendix.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without going DEEP into SPOILER Territory. Only naughty folks would peek now, right? From here on out, only folks intending to GM the module should read on.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, the adventure very much is cognizant of various tropes associated with Krampus and Kringle – within the context of this adventure, Krampus is nothing short of a demi-god, one nasty fellow who was eventually vanquished by none other than Nicholas Krindl, fabled mortal herald of Odin. The Yuletide celebration is hence the commemoration of this epic victory. The PCs have arrived in the sleepy and picturesque town of Hollyglen, where they meet Melilion Parinda, local wizard, who, in the tradition of clueless folks in any dimension, is currently doing some hasty last-minute shopping. She invites the PCs to stay at her place, as a blizzard is approaching and all rooms at inns etc. are occupied. There is just one condition: The PCs should chaperone her son and his friends, while the adults attend a fancy gala. Thing is, her son Wesley is 13. (As an aside: The mansion is provided with detailed, nice full-color maps – as noted before, including a player-friendly version.) Beyond room descriptions, the respective events also come with proper read-aloud text, making the adventure, as a whole, really friendly towards GMs that are less confident in improvising captivating prose.

Yeah, he reacts as positive to babysitters as you’d expect. The young man and his friends do as I would have done in that age: He seeks to prank the PCs and make their life miserable. As an apprentice to the sorcerous arts, and with fellow kids that are similarly not ordinary, the PCs will have their hands full in a massive multi-phase skill-challenge. Now here’s the thing: The kids rank among the most well-rounded kid characters I have seen in pretty much any roleplaying game supplement: There are multiple reasons for that: For one, the kids come with full intrigue-style write-ups for social influences – and succeeding in gaining the trust of the kids will provide tangible benefits for the PCs during the adventure. This whole section only works because, well, the kids are proper characters, not annoying cardboard cutouts; the PCs may very well want to befriend them. (As an aside: If the full, social write-ups don’t suffice: The kids come with full-blown NPC-write-ups and detailed stories in the appendix. The adventure really goes above and beyond here.)

Now, know how I mentioned an occult ritual? Wesley tries to cast whisk away on the evening winds, one ritual, to send the PCs to the gala, embarrassing them and gaining a bit of independence. Alas, he makes a crucial mistake: The ritual’s second page is missing, and so he ends up casting a bastardized version of the ritual, using summon the bonded soul as the second half. The results are unexpected. You see, a certain demi-god like entity was just in the process of rekindling his divine power. The ritual interrupted that and ended up calling KRAMPUS. Yeah, the CR 21 Krampus. He is NOT amused.

Krampus walks all over the kids and PCs. He doesn’t kill anyone, but he will defeat them. Soundly. Wesley does have a wish that Krampus owes him…and so the entity tricks Wesley – he spares the kids and PCs, but banishes them to the Krampus Night demiplane, ripped from Krindl when he stole his legendary Crook! Oh, and guess what? Not only did Krampus effortlessly best the PCs. He also has the power of regression – he transforms the PCs into kids! (Here, you can make great use of Childhood Adventures – though, once again, the module has all relevant stats and rules for kid-PCs!)

Turned into children, the PCs and their wards find themselves in the nightmare manor, a horrid reflection of the Parinda manor (separate maps provided). In case you’re wondering: Yes, we get full-blown planar traits! Oh, and the challenges within the manor? They are really, REALLY amazing: Toy slags. A woodgolem made from toys…speaking of which: If the PCs have been good to the kids, they will help the kiddyfied PCs. Cool: The “request aid from kids”-component of the manor’s explanation actually sports proper rules! There are haunts that seek to enforce a polymorph via ribbons, clothes, etc. What about pied piping presents that may lead towards the hungry gullets of mimics? There are trompe l’oeils and redcap carolers (including a delightfully twisted variant of Deck the Halls…)…and the PCs may manage to find one of Krindl’s gnomes, who can fill them in on some particulars: The PCs will need to get the crook from Krampus – without it, the entity makes all the rules here…

At one point during the exploration, the PCs will have caused enough ruckus to attract Rethspalton, the mighty rodent king – and he is preparing a siege! The PCs won’t have long, but they will have some time…and this is perhaps one of the definite highlights in the module. Preparing for the siege is amazing: Fortifying doors, making traps – it’s AMAZING and one of the coolest mini-games I’ve seen in a long while: The PCs can, room by room, convert objects into raw materials! The module even comes with icons that you can place on the map, sample traps, etc. The rules here are amazing and the siege actually requires these tricks – the PCs will have to withstand no less than 5 waves of assailants and yes, e.g. the rodent king is a lavishly-crafted and potent foe.

Once the PCs have managed to withstand the hordes (or just before they fall to them), the friendly gnome will manage to activate the yuletide express figurine – all aboard the magical railway! The demiplane is Krampus’ domain, who has completely corrupted the Krindlworks…but there is hope: While the PCs have no real chance against the entity, Saint Nick may! Thus, the train is en route towards what remains of the Krindlworks…but once more, the foes are not sleeping: The (fully mapped) train will be attacked by deadly elementals…and if these fail to derail it (yes, badass fights on a winter train!!), Krampus will intervene and crash the train…which would be a good time to note that, even if PCs die here, they respawn, as they accumulate negative levels and Wisdom damage – there is no true death here, only the looming transformation into an allip at Wisdom 0. This also means that enemies slain by the PCs are not really dead – if they are smart and use nonlethal means of conflict resolution, they will possibly have an advantage. The module notes checkpoints, which are particularly helpful to avoid frustration when running this for a younger audience – but more on my discussion of that in the conclusion below.

You see, in Act III, the PCs make their way from the crashed train through the Krampus wilds, and there are quite a few neat optional encounters to increase the challenge; personally, I’d also advocate sending all foes really slain by the PCs after them once more: If they were just tied up, they probably are far away, but the respawning dynamics for NPCs are open enough to allow for that… (Adds an unobtrusive reward for behaving heroically…)

Making their way through the snow-blasted wilds, the PCs will have to contend with horrid Yuletide treants and a winter hag guarding the remains of the proud Krindlworks. It is also here that the PCs can encounter Chillsy. Chillsy is amazing. He is an awakened ice golem kineticist. He’s singing his own theme-song while fighting! To give you an excerpt: “Chillsy, the ice golem, is an overwhelming soul, with a kinetic blade and infusions bold and my cryokinetic cold..:” Come on, that is amazing! Exploring the Krindlworks, the PCs will have to contend with all manner of potent, animated gingerbread foes (led by a gingerbread witch!), a creepy poppet witch (still one of my favorites from Paranormal Adventures; as always, all relevant rules provided)…and remember Nightmare Before Christmas BBEG? Well, there is a representation of the Oogie Bogeyman! (worm that walks bogeyman – really cool!) This thing, as well as a potent orang-pedak, constitute a couple of the dangerous unique creatures that the PCs MUST defeat – for they hold parts of Krindl’s power, who, similarly turned into a child, is imprisoned here.

Once the PCs have managed to defeat the horrible lieutenants of Krampus and reassembled the crook, it’ll be time to face off against the entity once more – with a weakened, but still potent Krindl in their corner, they may actually have a chance against the shadowy vestige of the powerful Krampus – the boss fight is amazing: It sports a total of 3 phases, changes terrain and even has a phase, where the PCs fight on their own, caught within their minds – it is glorious and cinematic! Defeating the vestige returns ownership of the demiplane to Krindl and allows the PCs to spend, concealed by the mighty magic of Krindl, one day as kids…or, you know, the change could be permanent, requiring further quests…or, well, if they were defeated and you’re going for a horror-ending, the module even sports a “bad ending” of sorts, which could yield further adventures as well. (Fyi: The fully-powered stats of Krindl are epic: CR22/MR 6; Rudolph has an effective druid level of 20…)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout deserves special mention: It is GLORIOUS, full-color and really beautiful; the ribbon for chapters on the side is a nice comfort-plus. The module comes with a ton of original full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

Yuletide Terror is absolutely amazing. It makes use of all the diverse tools that PFRPG offers: Combat, skills, mini-games, social interaction – this is one of the most versatile modules I have read in a long while. This mega-adventures provides a level of quality you usually only get to see in Kickstarters. Alexander Augunas is a great author of crunch, but if this is any indication, he is similarly gifted when it comes to penning adventures; I frankly can’t believe that this is Alex’ first adventure, at least it’s the first one I got to read. Yuletide Terror is thoroughly impressive, from front to back – even if you do not have all the books used here, the module provides what you need, requiring none of them.

Now, there is bound to be the question regarding compatibility for kids: You see, here things depend WHOLLY on the GM and what the GM chooses to emphasize. I’d compare this to one of the darker 80’s kid’s movies. There are definitely some creepy elements here, so in general, I’d recommend that kids should be at least 8, with 10 being probably a kind of sweet spot. Then again, it’s impossible to make proper blanket statements here; heck, some adults can’t stand anything remotely spooky. A good benchmark would imho be labyrinth, nightmare before Christmas and last unicorn – if these work for your kids, then this adventure should as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong: While this can be run as a kid-friendly module, it is one that will challenge and entertain adults just as well; in fact, one could consider this a horror adventure, at least to a point; if you properly emphasize the macabre aspects here and there, then this can become pretty dark pretty fast…but ultimately, how you choose to run this mega-adventure is left up to your own tastes. Both playstyles perfectly work.

Anyway, that’s not the primary achievement of the module: The sheer diversity of challenges encountered, the great pacing and high-concept environments, the lovingly-made NPCS – when the structure, the crunch underlying this module, is analyzed, you’ll realize quickly how good this actually is. We have believable, sympathetic characters, we have an epic threat that requires heroes and a satisfying conclusion-array. The module is interesting from both a narrative, and a structural perspective. Furthermore, and that is a huge plus, at least for me, it is bereft of cynicism. Even if you emphasize the darker aspects when running this, the module very much breathes a sense of wonder and whimsy that is impossible to dislike.

This is not a cynic’s hatred for the holidays made module; instead, this is a lovingly crafted love-letter to all things Christmas-related, as seen through the lens of roleplaying storytelling. Yuletide terror is not only the most massive Christmas adventure I know, it also is, by far, the best. This is a masterpiece that breathes passion, care and is, frankly, fun. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that, even if you hate all things Christmas-related, you may still want to get this. Why? Well, you could still strip off the dressing and have an amazing adventure.

Yeah, at this point you probably won’t be surprised by my final rating: 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and yes, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. Even beyond the holiday angle, this is a module that will be hard to beat.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Yuletide Terror
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Down in Yon Forest
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2017 04:28:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we do, a couple of notes: One, this adventure sports stats for both NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival) and general OSR-stats; if you have the choice, I’d suggest using the NGR-versions.

Secondly, this is a so-called buystarter. This is a term the author uses for an interesting concept: You purchase basically a completed manuscript; each day, the price of the project goes up slightly, as proceeds from the product’s sales are reinvested in artwork, layout, etc. Zzarchov Kowolski has done so twice before. (Yes, reviews of those projects are coming.) So yeah, sufficient interest provided, the adventure’s formal criteria will improve; hence, I will rate this with a WIP-status in mind.

Now, why did I move this ahead in my reviewing queue? Well, it is only seasonally available. You can get this adventure only for a very brief timeframe: At the 25th of December, it will once again vanish into the ether for a whole year. So yeah, if you are interested in this, you need to act fast.

Now, in case you were wondering: This is not a happy-go-lucky Christmas adventure; it sports the rather dark and dry humor of the author, so yeah – not recommended for kids.

This out of the way, let us dive into the details! From here on out, ladies and gentlemen, the SPOILERS will reign. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, we all know how Christianity superimposed holidays on pagan traditions, right? Well, The Holy Church did just that (accompanied by copious mockery of pagan traditions) – thing is, they did know that the pagans were on to something: In certain locations, the veil between worlds grows dimmer. While the rhythmic chanting of yuletide congregations held the Krampus at bay just as efficiently as the pagan rites, this year will be a bit problematic. You see, the drunken priest has managed to burn himself alive and, in the process of doing so, he also burned down the church. Joy. (Told you this had a dark humor…)

So, the threat is, basically, that Krampus will take all the children…so what to do? Well, breaking off crosses at the cemetery may be smart (blessed, they can hurt the entity…) and there are a couple of additional complications: A child-eating, horribly deformed witch living in an abandoned mill is one issue; convincing some hussars that the old tale is real may be nigh impossible, but hey, worth a try, right? Islands that house perchten (beast-men), random tables for the ice-covered wilderness.

There are roughly 3 different, completely different ways, in which the module can be tackled: 1) The PCs can attempt to delay Krampus; while the entity is too strong to properly defeat (unless they are really lucky), delaying tactics may well work. A breakdown of individual strategies are provided. There is also a fortress, abandoned due to plague and now infested with powerful gargoyles, which may yet act as holy ground, holding the entity at bay – but convincing the townsfolk to go there, even if the fully mapped place is cleared, may be tough. Thirdly, there is the option of awakening the Winter King, a local pagan deity, currently sealed in his abode, which constitutes another dungeon that is fully mapped and depicted – smart players will not loot everything here and try to be respectful, while not being slaughtered by the undead…and hopefully, also not by the nosferatu interloper…

Cool, btw.: From the bodies of defeated foes, new magics may be unearthed (when using NGR rules), while two grimoires may be found – one is btw. the book of moderate darkness. This dry humor also extends to the magic items – there are several items devoted to the Winter King’s rites, including everlasting cakes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good; since this is not yet the final version, I am more forgiving regarding formatting inconsistencies and the like. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column standard of black text on white paper. The version I reviewed does not yet have interior artwork. The cartography in b/w by Dyson logos is great, though I wished we got player-friendly versions. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment in my book.

I ended up enjoying Zzarchov Kowolski’s pagan holiday adventure; it is a dark yarn set in an age of ignorance, but it does have its fun components. Structure-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple ways in which the module can be tackled and the open-ended problem-solution options taken into account. There is serious fun to be had here – though it should be noted that this is not necessarily a Christmas module in spirit; instead, we have a dark fantasy/horror yarn that makes use of Christmas tropes, but that becomes its own thing. I most certainly consider it to be fun, if not a module I’d play to get into the holiday spirit.

Then again, if you’re like me and have…problems with the holidays, some sort of baggage and want a module that fits the season without hearkening too close to the things we associate with the holidays nowadays, if you want a dry, dark critique on the season, then this pretty much is perfect.

Now, I really enjoyed this module, due to completely different reasons than most Christmas modules; because it is kind of anti, but without resorting to a full-blown inversion or spitefulness; it is a tale of the holidays in a world, where the meaning behind such a celebration may well spell the difference between life and death.

Now, as mentioned, this is a buystarter; that means it currently does not sport a couple of things I’d usually consider to be crucial – bookmarks, player-friendly maps, formatting – these show definitely that this is a WIP project right now. As such, it wouldn’t be fair to judge it according to the same standards as finished projects – if this was the final version, I’d probably be less lenient. Right now, this is an incredibly inexpensive offering, and it provides some seriously different takes on the themes; as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. It has the potential of becoming a proper 5-star adventure…or to drop to 3. Only time and this project will tell. We’ll see. If the above sounded interesting, then check it out – every day means a slight price-increases…and, as mentioned before, it will vanish on the 25th…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Down in Yon Forest
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The Darkest Night (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2017 04:26:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief adventure clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page poem-introduction (by Edward McCulloch), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

..

.

All right, in far-off Iceville, when the nights are longest, there is the gift-giving tradition of Kringlefest, named after Nicholas Kris Klaas Kringle, an ancient gnome who brought light in the darkest days and who traditionally presents a Christmas gift to all kids. Now, either a young gnome called holly, or a crazed hermit named Knecht Ruprecht beseech the players to save Kringlefest, for monstrous Krampus has taken control!

Once the PCs leave the village, they will have to defeat snow persons (I am all for political correctness, but here…I don’t know…is anyone offended by snow man? If so, rest assured that the module is properly PC here.) Nice: At the workshop, PCs may avoid patrolling, animated toy soldiers via Stealth and smarts and once inside, they only have to defeat the Krampus and his toy soldier bodyguards to save Kringelfest. Nice: We get a couple of sample quotes, though e.g. spell references are not properly formatted. The brief module concludes with a couple of sample present ideas for the PCs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good. Layout adheres to Tribality’s nice two-column full-color standard with fitting photo-style artworks included in the deal. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Shawn Ellsworth’s little module is per se a decent Christmas adventure. On the plus-side, it is bereft of cynicism and could potentially be run for kids. On the downside, and I feel like the Grinch for saying so, this is very much the absolute ultimate of bare-bones structures. A couple of nice critters, 3 encounters, that’s it. Yes, it is PWYW. Yes, it has some solid ideas and a couple of nice tricks, but, as a whole, this is only the absolute minimum of Christmas-y things; a bit of snow, a bit of toys, evil Krampus, done. There simply isn’t much to this module and it feels, at least to me, like it could have really used a couple more things to do; perhaps a map of the final area, at least. Something. Anything. As written, this is more of a skeleton of a module. It may be worth checking out, but even as PWYW, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Darkest Night (5E)
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