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Magic Emporium
Publisher: Mystic Mountain Productions
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/23/2013 20:35:06

This is a fun model that uses the same textures as Dave Graffam's models. It looks like Mr. Graffam said "Here, use my textures with your own geometry." I like that, and it allows for lots of fun collaboration between modellers. Kudos for working together.

There are 2 NPCs described in the instruction booklet. The master and apprentice each get a few sentences, although it's nothing ground-breaking.

The instructions are well-detailed and easy to follow. No surprises with building it. The geometry of the building is not the usual rectangular box, so it makes an interesting focal point on the wargames table.

The only issue I have with the model is the lack of options. I'm spoiled by Dave Graffam's usual options of dormers, building extensions, chimney options. There aren't any here. The geometry of the building doesn't change. Now, there are still layers to allow for window placement, or exterior surface options (plaster, half-stone,quarter-stone, stone, tudor wood), so you could build a couple different colored versions. There are multiple roof colors as well, so there's definitely color variety.

There are also options for magical runes placed over the doorways or inscribed into the base. That could be a lot of fun for a wargame scenario. If your figure crosses the rune, take a hit of X strength. Or "approaching within 3 inches of a doorway with an active rune will result in a fire ray . . .".

Given time, I could also see using some of the pieces and kit-bashing some other of Graffam's models (I don't own any other Mystic Mountain models yet, so don't know how well they could be bashed together).

So, given the unique nature of the building, but limited build options, I'm settling on 4 stars. It's a neat model, and will fit in nicely with my other buildings.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Magic Emporium
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The Sanctuary Ruin
Publisher: Ludibrium Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/06/2012 22:04:43

I picked up The Sanctuary Ruin because I wanted a small encounter area (a side trek, if you will) as the PCs traveled to the main area. A place for them to pick up some experience and some treasure, because the next adventure will be a bit tough for them if they go into it at their current level. I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Some spoilers may follow.

The module reminds me of a very small Keep on the Borderlands. A goblin warren is described, along with the "home base" for this adventure, although many details the home base are left to the GM.

The goblins are presented with alternate actions, depending on what the PCs do. For example, if a large number of goblins are killed, the remaining goblins will harvest poisonous mushrooms and drop them in the inn's water supply. Goblin reinforcements are mentioned as well, moving from one area to the decimated area. These details help GMs make the game world seem more alive, that critters don't just wait around for the PCs to slaughter them. Furthermore, there is an outside group exerting pressure on the goblins, and the goblins are plotting revenge. Enterprising PCs (and perceptive players) could find a way to use this to thier advantage.

There are two issues I have with the adventure. First, the random encounters are very difficult for a low-level group to survive. A 1-in-6 chance of an encounter every hour wandering the woods means over the course of a day, a party will have 4 encounters. The first entry on the random encounter table is "d4 giant toads." I will be modifying this for my own game. Second, there is a very real possibility the PCs will be overwhelmed by the goblins. This resembles adventures like B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, but that wasn't my favorite part of the module. It will require some thinking on the players' part to accomplish the destruction of this goblin tribe.

A final quibble: the initial encounter describes a wagon peppered with arrows, and a band of goblins victorious in their raid. But the goblin equipment described doesn't mention bows or arrows.

I like the interactive nature of this module. I like that it is generic enough for me to place where I need it, with minimal backstory. I believe reckless PCs meet their dooms. I would have liked a little more development of the PCs home base. But this is a very good module, and I'm very pleased with my purchase. Overall, then, I'll give this module 4 stars.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Sanctuary Ruin
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A4 Rise of the Bloodwolf
Publisher: Sacrosanct Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2012 21:03:24

This module is designed to be a continuation of A3 Hunt for the Ogre Lord. As such, using it as a stand-alone adventure poses significant problems.

The adventure starts out with the PCs hunted. Now, at the end of the previous adventure they had helped save the kingdom, so why they should now hide their identities is difficult to explain. But that's how the adventure starts. From there it's sneaking into BBEG's lair and gathering evidence of his treachery in order to present it to the king. Of course, the BBEG isn't there, so the king can beg the PCs to hunt him down. Supplies, lodging, food, and support are now provided (because apparently saving the kingdom from an orc/ogre invasion wasn't enough).

Happily, the references to the other system seem less, although there are still problems ("alter" instead of "altar" for instance).

Given the reliance on the previous module, as well as the illogical start, this module clocks in at two stars. The railroading is less, but the motivation for the PCs to bring the BBEG to justice is weak.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A4 Rise of the Bloodwolf
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A3 Hunt for the Ogre Lord
Publisher: Sacrosanct Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2012 20:22:56

This module starts with a railroad ("Answer the summons or face execution"), continues with a railroad ("Accept this mission or face treason"), then railroads the PCs into being captured ("There is no way the part can win this combat, nor are they intended to fight. Is this railroading? Sure, but it's part of the adventure plot and this would be a short adventure without it."). The PCs are then thrown into a prison without their weapons or equipment, and expected to go through a dungeon that is so linear it does not require a map (there are no other paths to choose, it's either the next area or go backwards), only to end up requiring the ability to scale walls like a spider in order to find a secret door that allows them to escape. In the words of the adventure, "Failure to detect this means that there is essentially no way for the party to escape the tunnels."

Throw in the editing I've come to expect from Sacrosanct Games (see my reviews of the previous two modules for those details), and this module clocks in at one star.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
A3 Hunt for the Ogre Lord
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A2 Lost Treasure of Actzimotal
Publisher: Sacrosanct Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2012 18:04:15

The OSRIC version of this module is 16 pages, plus maps and handouts.

The editing, much like A1Lair of the Goblin King, leaves much to be desired. "Intellect" and "willpower" checks are not used in the OSRIC system. At one point, the PCs may run through near-boiling water, at which time they might suffer a minor wound. Furthermore, the adventure locale is rather generic, and the plot forces minor railroads of the PCs.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A2 Lost Treasure of Actzimotal
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A1 Lair of the Goblin King
Publisher: Sacrosanct Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/24/2012 22:02:51

The OSRIC version of this module is 8 pages. There is an additional page of GM material in the front (describing the lands surrounding the adventure area; one page for a new creature, two new spells, and two new "arcane items"; one page for 5 sample characters; and five pages of maps. Spoilers follow; skip to the last paragraph to avoid them.

The adventure itself is fairly straightforward: Goblins are attacking innocents and need to be stopped. The reward for this deed seems rather high, especially if the goblin king's head is returned. For a first level party, I would hesitate at handing so much gold out. That said, the goblins themselves are rather weak. While the OSRIC site lists goblins as having 1d8-1 hit points, the basic goblins in this adventure are 1/2 hit dice creatures. Their armor class and weapon damage is also weaker. Overall, they use the stats for kobolds, rather than goblins. The stats for dire wolves are also different from the OSRIC rule books.

Further problems with this adventure involve references to Sacrosanct Games' own system. A more rigorous proofreading of the material would have excised these references, and eliminated some confusion. For example, the "arcane items" mentioned above. At the end of the module, there is reference to the local church that can heal wounds, but instead of listing the cost for a particular spell, the author says a "deep wound" can be cured for 10 gp, while "any severe wound [can be healed] for 50 gp."

Finally, there is an issue with "Outlook Tower/Overlook Tower." Both names are used, once again showcasing the lack of proofreading. There is a what the author calls a plot hook located in the basement of this guard tower, but it will likely derail the PCs. A vivisectionist's table in the basement of a royal tower isn't something that one encounters on a regular basis, and the author's note says "plot hook for expanded adventure, perhaps?" The only problem is that this isn't a plot hook. It's far stronger than that, and not something most PCs would ignore. As there are no further information provided, it's up to the GM to determine answers to players' questions. Not a good thing in a published adventure.

My final rating is 2. There are a lot of problems with this adventure, even for the low price. A skilled GM can fix the problems, but there are other options out there that don't require the additional work.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A1 Lair of the Goblin King
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Barroom Brawls
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:43:28

This is a fun product. Three charts to determine what starts a brawl, what happens during the brawl, and what happens at the end. Stat blocks for the Watch and a couple bystanders. Improvised weapon rules, drunken conditions, terrain/environment modifiers . . . what's not to love? Now the GM has a quick reference for how difficult it is for the PC to not only leap on top of a barrel of ale, but also the difficulty in balancing on it while fighting.

This supplement will alleviate a lot of the headaches a GM might face when running a brawl. There are a couple assumptions made that should be noted: 1) It doesn't go into detail about how to track all the combatants. After all, the story should be about the PCs, so the GM is instructed to describe the overall flow of the brawl. 2) Lethal damage is the exception, not the rule.

Although the rules are for Pathfinder, the three charts can easily be adapted for other genres. The Watch is changed to Space Station Security, while a drunkard grabs a personal data device (instead of a few gold coins) and bolts for the door.

Since I like playing with miniatures, this supplement will go great with some cardstock tavern decor. A tavern fight is more than just another dungeon encounter. It's a fun way to let off steam, be a little silly, and let the characters' personalities come through.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barroom Brawls
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Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/01/2012 17:31:29

This is a fantastic module. I will address some specific items here, as the previous reviews by Endzeitgeist and others do a good job covering everything else I might say.

Spoilers might follow, so if you plan to play it just skip to the end.

The generic placement for this module is very well done. Unlike the original Moathouse (from the Village of Homlett/Temple of Elemental Evil series), which was located near a swamp, this one can be located anywhere. And the minor earthquake that affected the underground areas decades ago could still have caused a nearby swamp to be created. This is one of the few "place it anywhere" locations that can really be place anywhere in my campaign world. Speaking of the background notes, I can see PCs falling upon hard times and ending up like the original owners.

The artwork is excellent. I'm a big fan of providing visual references for my players, and this module gives me ample opportunities to do so. The cartography is also very nice. I'm a fan of Billiam Babble's Inked Adventures, and appreciate the hand-drawn maps. As a side note, if you travel over to Billiam Babble's deviantART gallery, he has some pictures of the maps with a parchment background.

There is an adventure timeline that helps GMs create an atmosphere to reinforce the idea that the PCs don't live in a bubble. There are two story hooks the GM can use as great teaching-moments to show that not every encounter has to end in bloodshed (although they will, it's still a good addition). These add story options, and get away from the usual linear-dungeon trope that most dungeons fall victim to. Giving the NPCs personality traits does the same thing, and alleviates the GM from trying to add mannerisms on the fly. I’ve seen this in other Raging Swan products, and it’s a wonderful addition. The GM gets to focus on other things.

Once again, the feeling of an organic adventure is reflected in the random encounters table. Eliminating specific encounters because the PCs already fought them makes perfect sense. Again, I can give the players the feeling that the PCs aren't the only ones running around in the world.

Information for scaling the encounters was also much appreciated. Although each entry seems fairly repetitive, something a lot of published adventures forget is "Repeat the important information where the GM is going to read it.” This is very important, since the GM already has so many things he has to worry about when running the game. I'm a lot more likely to remember what the scaling effects were (or that I can scale the encounter!) when I have that information right in front of me.

I sat in a seminar by Tracy Hickman, where he said "don't ever put 'indecipherable runes' in your description, because the players WILL sit and try to figure out what they say." I encountered this in Paizo's Rise of the Runelords adventure, and my players drove me crazy trying to copy the writing and translating it, since the runes the PCs encountered did actually mean something thousands of years ago. Without spoiling too much, there is an area where PCs can waste a bunch of time (and get attacked by wandering monsters), and it makes perfect sense in the context of the area.

The PCs can get a map as part of their loot, leading them to a further adventure in a lost dwarven hold. I would have like a larger image of the handout, but I'm pretty sure I can enlarge it myself. There is a map of the dwarven hold as well should the GM want one. Hadramkath is one of Raging Swan’s other products, and makes a nice addition here. If the GM wants to direct their players elsewhere, I sense an easy link to "Forge of Fury" or a half-dozen other dungeon crawls. Similarly, the GM can drop it if it doesn’t fit with his game. I wish more adventures did this. Once again, it creates a living world for the PCs to explore. And as GM I am totally NOT railroading the players into choosing their next adventure. Great stuff.

I think this is a worthy successor to the original Moathouse. It improves the original with a non-linear storyline and NPC motivations, capturing the competing interests of those who reside in the Keep (especially the competing interests within the factions!). Overall, each of the additions makes the whole much more "real" than traditional dungeon-crawls.

Well done, Creighton! Thanks for creating such a great product.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands
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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2012 11:40:35

Short review: Not worth the money.

Detailed review: The page count breaks down as follows: 2 pages for front and back cover, 2 title pages, table of contents page, 2 1/2 pages of art (some half page pieces), a 2 page introduction to the Castle Builder series, 10 pages covering the two sample manors (one is a noble's residence, the other an inn). Four pages are used to describe manor houses.

Manor houses, by this supplement, don't just describe a noble's estate. Any stone building can fall into the category of "manor house." I suppose I can understand this, as a building like an inn located in the wilds would be built with some defenses against local predators (intelligent and unintelligent alike). The GM is instructed to develop the personality, purpose, and perception of the building. This means that an inn is going to have different furnishings than a noble's house, along with different rooms. It did not take an entire page to say this. There are some small bits of useful information here, like describing how an unscrupulous mayor may furnish guests with shoddy bedding while is own is sumptuous; this should give an insight to the type of person the mayor is. Or how windows indicate a relative peaceful building.

From here, we move into some crunchy areas. Infrastructure and Upkeep starts listing costs associated with manor houses. However, this section begins with the amount of time it takes to clean up the construction debris of a newly build manor. But there's no associated mechanic for this. Apparently, it might take 500 weeks to clean up the debris associated with one of the supplied sample buildings (or about 10 years), although the sample building indicates there's a typo, and clean-up takes 1 week per 10,000gp of construction cost, not 1 week per 1000gp. And this provides . . . what? Do PCs get to figure out how much the building cost by looking at how much debris is left to clean up? Or how recently the manor was built? No information is provided.

Upkeep expenses are explained by instructing the reader to see Chapter 1. Except there is no Chapter 1; this publication isn't divided into numbered chapters. And the upkeep expenses don't exist anywhere in this file. I assume what is meant is "Volume 1", which means this part of the book is useless on its own. Some generic information regarding staffing costs and security are provided, as well as some advice regarding manors and military operations. Namely, manors are not strongholds, and shouldn't be treated as such. They offer limited defensive options, and won't stand up well to siege engines. Of course the noble's manor described later houses approximately 70 soldiers. I'm pretty sure there are castles that were held during the Middle Ages with fewer than 70 soldiers.

Finally, we come to the sample manors. The first is an "upscale inn" that is sized 120' by 250'. That's 30,000 square feet on each of its two floors. The "narrow 10' x20' chambers" are the size of a one-car garage. That's not narrow, except when compared to the rest of the building. Ten-foot wide hallways. The largest suite is 40' by 50'. That's 2000 square feet. My three bedroom house isn't that big. I imagine that several forests have to be cut down yearly just to supply the firewood to heat this structure. The construction prices are listed, down to the cost of a wooden door. A summary of costs and construction time is at the end. Apparently, the entire complex needs only 6 people to run it (three to serve patrons, and three for maintenance). During peak times, more workers will be hired. For 60,000 square feet (not including stables or grounds), I'm pretty certain a few more than half a dozen people are required. (Imagine a subdivision of 30 houses, each about 2000 square feet. Do you think that six people can manage it?)

The second building is just as grotesquely overblown. Lavatories are 10' by 20' rooms. I understand that it's supposed to be a noble's house, but that's just over the top.

This document has guaranteed I won't be purchasing the remainder of Skirmsher's City Builder or Castle Builder series.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
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Darkfast Classic Fantasy Set One: Orc Tribe
Publisher: Okumarts Games
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/29/2012 21:40:39

In addition to what others have already said, I'll add that the miniatures themselves are easy to cut out. The color and detail really make me look forward to future releases.

And besides: Pig-faced orcs! How can anyone who grew up in the "Old School" days not love them?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Darkfast Classic Fantasy Set One: Orc Tribe
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Rectory House
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/29/2012 21:33:41

This is a fantastic looking model. The artwork is vibrant, the instructions clear. This was my first Lord Zsezse Works purchase, and I'm not disappointed. The fireplace prop is really a stove. There's a small square where the resident could cook up a pot of soup (or something). That's a great little detail. Plus, the well prop can be used as a separate piece. I plan on using it as an objective for a wargame scenario.

This kit is sharp. Although it is a little more expensive than others, the detail included makes it well worth the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rectory House
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Hornet Class Fast Courier Deckplans/RPG Battle Maps
Publisher: Wydraz
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2012 18:24:58

Brief review: A perfectly adequate battle map for the price.

Detailed review: The cover image is the only other art in this pack. Details like landing gear or escape pods are not present. In fact, while the escape pods are mentioned, they are not mapped out, and there appears to be no way to get to them.

There are brief stats that look like stats from the Cortex system; I'm not very familiar with that system, so I'm just making a guess. There are some minor disconnects between the text. At one point, the ship lists a crew of 2, with single berths, and a passenger cabin with double occupancy. But that double occupancy berth is listed as "Captain's Quarters." Plus, the map places this berth very close to the cockpit/bridge of the ship.

The cargo capacity is listed as 50 tons, but the cargo area of the base model is only about 400 square feet (or about the size of a 2-car garage!). Obviously, this ship is designed for small cargo! Especially since cargo has to traverse an "L" shaped path in order to be loaded. There's also a map for a VIP passenger variant, where a luxurious suite replaces much of the cargo area. Finally, there is a passenger/medical transport floorplan with 4 additional passenger berths and a small medical bay.

The ship would be quite cramped, as is appropriate for such a vessel. Living on the Hornet would be like living in an RV or a sailboat: you can call it home if you have to, but it'll always be a treat to get out and stretch your legs. Especially with all the berths filled.

In conclusion, while there are certainly more elaborate ship plans out there, this does what it's supposed to do. There are a few quirks, but it will work just fine as a starter home for your space-faring PCs.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hornet Class Fast Courier Deckplans/RPG Battle Maps
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Widow's House Paper Model
Publisher: Dave Graffam Models
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2011 23:39:22

A great addition to a papercraft village. The "not quite square" design sets it apart from the usual buildings. I built it in a few hours, with the small addition of an extra layer of cardstock to the floors for a little bit of extra support. The interior has several options, including several paintings, a couple rugs . . . nice extras that make people take a second look at the model. Note that the two levels are completely open; there are no separate rooms within the model. A small fireplace can be placed on the lower level, and has a chimney through the second level and onto the roof. There are several positions where the fireplace can be placed, and each are labeled so there shouldn't be confusion when the time comes to print the model.

Due to the interior and not-square design, I would rate this as a mid-level model. It is very much worth the money.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Widow's House Paper Model
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Maritime Buildings Bundle Paper Models
Publisher: Dave Graffam Models
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/20/2011 11:42:52

The multiple layers of these buildings are great. They allow for a nautical theme, but there are enough options that you can create quite a mixture of structures without obviously repeating the builds.

The buildings are simple to put together, and do not have interiors. The colors are very good.

I gave this pack 4 stars because of all the buildings, the harbormaster's tower is the hardest building for me to use. There just aren't that many instances when a 10-inch high building are needed. But, the building itself still has lots of options.

I've become very impressed with Dave Graffam's models. Sturdy, lots of options, and a great price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Maritime Buildings Bundle Paper Models
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