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The Genius Guide to Another 110 Spell Variants
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2011 16:22:23

This review was written by Thilo Graf and published in GMS Magazine


This pdf is 10 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 8 1/3 pages content, so let's check them out!


Instead of providing new spells that are only marginally different from existing ones, this pdf offers so-called variants, i.e. spells that work "just like spell xyz" with some modifications. To give you an example, a melee-version of magic missile that does more damage, but needs a touch attack. Some modifications are combinations of spells or offer more complex deviations from their source-spells.
On the plus-side, this enables the pdf to provide more content than we otherwise would get. On the down-side, this also means that you need to have to original spell ready and cobble together the source-spell's and the variant's information.
In this second offering, once again the classes from the APG get their fair due, receiving a lot of cool modifications. The Magus-class thankfully also gets some love, but the Ultimate Magic support is also something that may have unfortunately had a bit detrimental influence to this pdf's quality - while the universally lauded Magus-class and its support is greatly appreciated, some of the spells of UM are of the ridiculously overpowered category and this power-creep is reflected in their variants in this pdf.
There are some spell-variants herein, too, that I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot-pole: Saber of Light lets you ignore all hardness and DR (!!!) and grants you the Deflect Arrow feat. Brewer, Scrivener and Retune Wand let you change how an item works. Need a spraying color wand but only have a magic missile one ready? There we go. You have a potion of stoneskin, but need healing? Just cast the spell and your potion changes While offering a lot of flexibility, this essentially changes very basic assumptions on how a magical economy and these items work and could hence lead to severe logic repercussions. Beware!


Don't be fooled, though: The vast majority of the variants actually serve some interesting, cool purpose and offer fluff and options via their names and the classes to which they're offered. From the howling agony-based Inquisition-spell to the superbly cool Eye of Doom, the ultimate scrying tool to remote-cast your foes to oblivion, this pdf offers a lot of neat ideas.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column SGG-standard, but unfortunately we get no bookmarks, which would have been very useful in navigating the spell variants. The artwork deserves a special mention, as the pieces are gorgeous. On the content-side, I can say that I absolutely LOVE how the pdf offers support for the APG-classes and the Magus. On the other hand, though, I'm lazy and just don't like the concept of searching together two sources of spells and combining them - looking up the particulars of a certain spell is annoying enough as it is -adding to it does not necessarily improve the flow of the game. I won't hold that against the pdf, though, as it is part of the design-goal of the pdf. I nevertheless maintain, though, that d20pfsrd hyperlinks or at least bookmarks would go a long way to make this series more user-friendly. Combine this with the couple of spells that are wise open to abuse and change the fundamental dynamics of how your campaign-world might work and we get my verdict: While this pdf is still a good buy with a lot of content, it is at least partially problematic and leaves something to be desired with regards to user-friendliness. Thus, my final verdict will be 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Another 110 Spell Variants
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[PFRPG] Achievement Feats: Volume 2
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2011 16:19:08

This review was written by Thilo Graf and published in GMS Magazine


This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 8 pages of content, so let's check out the second installment of Tricky Owlbear's line of achievement feats!


I really like the premise of using special feats as a kind of reward for player characters, however, the fine line between tracking individual deeds and pedantic book-keeping is all too easily crossed and benefits might feel unbalanced. The first achievement-feat book did a fine, though not perfect job of walking said line, so let's check out how this second one fares. The basic idea of these feats herein is that each player starts with an achievement slot: Once they've completed the required task, they can fit one of the achievement feats into the slot. Each PC can only have one of these achievement feats active at any one time, unless they take the new extra achievement feat or a new alternate human racial trait.


The feats herein, quite simply, blew me away: Where the first achievement book still had some feats that could have been considered a bookkeeping nightmare for the GM, most of the feats herein center on TRUE achievements: Samples include gaining rulership of a kingdom, commanding a fleet, becoming the prime cleric of a god, destroying (or saving) a world, slaying the infernal ruler of a plane etc. The feats mostly center on true achievements, i.e. acts that only rarely are accomplished and can be considered...well...achievements. While most of them are rather grand ones (and grant corresponding benefits), e.g. Unkillable (which saves you once from death) and Jack of all Trades (which slightly enhances all your capabilities) are neat. Fans of psionics may enjoy the fact that some feats also have effects on the arts of the mind while remaining usable when no psionics are used in a given campaign.
The pdf also includes advice on how to create ad.hoc achievements and pre-made achievements yourself.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the artwork is stock, but fitting and ok for the low price. The pdf unfortunately has no bookmarks, but at this length, that's still ok. I was quite frankly surprised at the quality of this pdf. While I liked the predecessor, this one blows it out of the water - the feats rock and feel sufficiently epic and grand in scope and the restrictions help keeping the benefits in line. Design-wise, I have nothing to complain and evil achievement feats are included as well. If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of bookmarks, but that's not enough to scale this pdf down. My final verdict will be 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Achievement Feats: Volume 2
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[PFRPG] Abbey of the Golden Sparrow
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2011 16:16:49

This review was written by Thilo Graf and published in GMS Magazine


This pdf is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page editorial, leaving 14 1/2 pages of content for Tricky Owlbear's monastery, the Abbey of the Golden Sparrow, so let's pay them a visit, shall we?


The first of Tricky Owlbear's location sourcebooks kicks off with an aptly-written IC-introduction that serves to introduce us to the daily life in the monastery via two sympathetic characters.
The main text of the location write-up begins with a no-frills map of the monastery, which essentially consists of some caves hewn into a mountain, comes with a detailed write-up of the respective rooms and the particulars. Local myths containing adventure seeds as well as a genesis are included as well, amounting to a commendable array of background information to use and detail the monastery. Even cooler, we get a detailed doctrine with zen-like doctrines that are explained as well - very cool and flavorful.


After this nice, awesome fluff, we are introduced to 8 new regional traits for characters raised in the abbey, most of which are best-suited for monks or the new ninja/samurai-classes. 10 new feats for martial styles focusing on air and cold are presented and offer a nice, unique fighting style for the monks to adopt.


Of course, we also get new items, from the Obsidian-material to enchanted shuriken, the order's medallions and a unique, intelligent, rather debauchery-inducing headband.


The pdf closes by providing 2 sample characters, a lvl 1 initiate and a lvl 12 monk, one of the leaders of the abbey.


Conclusion:
Editing could have been better, I encountered some punctuation errors as well as missing blank spaces between three words. Formatting is top-notch, though. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are ok. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. The abbey of the golden sparrow is an interesting location and the martial arts presented herein, while powerful, make for an interesting, concise, local style. The traits also are neat and the doctrine, extensive fluff etc. are neat, as is the rather dangerous intelligent magic item the monks guard. However, not all is well with this pdf, there are some unnecessary glitches and while the doctrine, feats etc. are cool, I maintain that something is missing - perhaps stats for the order's holy book, more doctrines, something along those lines. The distinct feeling that the pdf could have included this final piece that would have made it awesome never really left me. Thus, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Abbey of the Golden Sparrow
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#30 Ioun Stones (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2011 16:13:40

This review was written by Thilo Graf and first published in GMS Magazine


This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements and 1 page SRD, leaving 6 pages of content for the new ioun stones, so let's check them out!


Ioun stones are interesting items - they don't use slots, circle adventurers and thus are quite obvious presences. Mechanically, these stones are challenging to design due to not taking up slots and reviewing them is subsequently not too easy. Oh yeah, then there are my prejudices against the item class: I consider them boring tools for min-maxers who have already used up all of their slots. I don't like the concept. I think ioun stones are rather bland. So, that out of the way, let's take a look what we get, shall we?
The ioun stones range from a modest 5000 GP to 220500 GP and offer bonuses from modest +1s to CMB/CMD to dealing 6d6 force damages, incorporeal forms and similar bonuses. There are also abilities that grant new feats to their owners and some of the ioun stones improve abilities from the APG-classes, which is nice. I also like that one of the stones looks like an eyeball - creepy!
Some of the abilities are downright cool and iconic, offering us e.g. the option to teleport and releasing electrical bursts from their point of origin to even separating the shadow from the body. Each stone comes with full information on aura, price and construction requirements.


Finally, legacy item lovers like yours truly get an intelligent ion stone called the master's finch, complete with lore section and means of destruction.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, while I noticed 2 minor glitches, none impeded my understanding of the content. The pdf comes with bookmarks and layout adheres to the new 2-column-RiP-standard. I'm not the biggest fan of ioun stones apart from their usage by archmages like Karzoug and subsequently was a bit skeptical whether I'd enjoy this installment of RiP's #30 series, but author Robert N. Emerson did a great job of providing ioun stones that go beyond boring bonus-stacking. While not all offer truly unique and imaginative abilities, most of them actually do and the APG-support is greatly appreciated. The legacy item is a nice cherry on top for me and should provide for entertaining roleplaying -an illusion-casting ioun stones with the personality of a trained finch makes for a neat companion/item to have. Please keep in mind that I'm not the biggest fan of ioun stones and that I consider the standard ones to be boring as hell when I'm saying that some of them felt a bit like filler. I would have loved to e.g. see Witch-ioun stones look like fetishes and have more that don't look like sparkling gems - after all, the item-class could easily encompass other cosmetic looks. However, this pdf somewhat remedied my prejudices against this class of item and I can actually see myself using several of these stones, resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Ioun Stones  (PFRPG)
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Designers & Dragons
Publisher: Mongoose
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2011 17:32:23

This review was written by Paco Garcia Jaen for GMS Magazine.


For some reason, Role Playing Games fascinate me. Ever since I got started, I just can’t get enough.


Ever since I started with so many many years ago with AD&D, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire: The Mascarade, Rolemaster, Paranoia and anything else I could get my hands on. I couldn’t get enough!


Having said that, the RPG industry in Spain was a lot different than it was internationally. We had a limited number of games that were translated, distribution was dire and everything arrived years later than in the rest of the planet. However, we were exposed to some games that barely ever made it out of Spain, even though they were (are!) fantastic games, like Aquelarre and Mutantes en la Sombra (Mutants in the Shadows). That limited my exposure to the international scene and industry politics that everyone else who’s been for a while into the industry is so aware of.


Thus, when I heard about Designers & Dragons from Mongoose, I downloaded it right away. I started to read it and after a while I had to stop. I just couldn’t continue.


I had to go and buy the paper version of the book. My fascination with role playing games has increased by understanding the politics and history behind them.


Designers & Dragons is, in a nutshell, a not-at-all brief history of the industry. In detail. The author, Shannon Appelcline, has spent five years collecting an incredible wealth of information and then presents it in well structured chapters. Lots of chapters.


The layout is not very imaginative. Two columns and sometimes a spread that takes the two columns, breaking the page somewhat. The artwork is taken from the covers of some of the games published by the companies described. The rest is not inspiring, but it does the job and, to be honest, this book is not about looking pretty, is about providing information and unbiased content.


The content is truly amazing. The amount of companies Appelcline goes into is huge. 62 if I remember correctly. Starting with the start, TSR and D&D, and coming all the way to the present with the likes of Cubicle 7, Evil Hat Productions and Catalyst Games. All of them described in some detail, which is the least you could expect.


However the great thing about the book is not how many companies it mentions. It is the reasons and the relevance of the companies it mentions.


The geneses of the companies is taken care of, but also the relationship between companies, the personalities that started and sometimes ended them, and how they all intermingled, affected each other and changed as time went by.


Divided in relevant episodes, the book also takes us through in a chronological order, but without loosing track of the changes that would happen in the future. Thus, understanding and getting to grips with events that would unleash changes later on, is also very easy.


I never got lost reading this book. Although there are some typos here and there, he book has been well written enough that a dyslexic like myself didn’t have too much trouble reading it either on paper or in my iPad. Every chapter makes perfect sense and the information is always relevant and, most importantly interesting.


I can’t recommend this book enough. I kid you now when I tell you I have it on my desk at work and it’ll remain there so I can flick through the pages when I have some downtime.


My only request from the guys at Mongoose: please don’t wait another 30 years to write another!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Designers & Dragons
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The Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of War and Ruin
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2011 15:10:31

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.


This pdf is 12 pages long 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's give these exalted domains a try, shall we?


What are exalted domains? Well, essentially, you give up one of your cleric domains for a focus on one domain and thus, new abilities. The issue of subdomains is also touched upon and while guidelines for the respective subdomains are provided in the section of their parent-domains, I consider the advice for creating/modifying them yourself to be the more valuable piece of information - good to see that the supplement was created with the GM's option to expand the rules in mind.


We get 11 exalted domains and and 24 exalted subdomains, offering extensive support for all the neat subdomains aligned with the regular domains from the APG. While some of the subdomains only apply combinations of the parent's and the exalted domains, most of them actually offer unique abilities like the bleeding damage-dealing Killing Strike from the murder domain. Especially the glorious Madness domain is worth a mention: As a touch attack, you can choose attack rolls, saving throws or skill checks - the target of your touch attack gets a bonus equal to your character level to this category and the same amount as a penalty to the other two. Offensive and defensive, risky, cool. And that's just one ability of 3...
The other exalted domains are of the same quality and there is literally none that felt truly boring to me. Thematically, as per the title, we get death, war, destruction, madness and similar, rather gritty themes as well as domains of the law-chaos-axis and glory/trickery and the like. Strangely, though, the Evil domain is absent from this pdf, in spite of "Exalted Domains of Light & Lore" featuring a treatment of the Good domain.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column SGG-standard and artwork is ok. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a pity. Content-wise, there simply is nothing to complain about - the domains feel interesting, compelling, are easy to integrate and author Marc Radle has done a terrific job that enhances our enjoyment of the cleric class. Even where just going for obvious abilities would have been easy, simple, concise and yet iconic abilities are granted, making the users of exalted domains feel much more in touch with their focus. My only real gripe is the lack of the Evil domain, which quite frankly belongs here. My final verdict will thus be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of War and Ruin
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The Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of Light and Lore
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2011 15:00:34

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and was written by Thilo Graf


This pdf is 12 pages long 2/3 of a page front cover, 1page editorial & SRD, leaving 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's give these exalted domains a try, shall we?


What are exalted domains? Well, essentially, you give up one of your cleric domains for a focus on one domain and thus, new abilities. The issue of subdomains is also touched upon and while guidelines for the respective subdomains are provided in the section of their parent-domains, I consider the advice for creating/modifying them yourself to be the more valuable piece of information - good to see that the supplement was created with the GM's option to expand the rules in mind.


The basic concept out of the way, we get roughly a third of the domains covered within the pages of this pdf, most of them centering rather around creation than destruction, featuring e.g. charm, artifice, healing, magic, sun etc. , totaling 12 domains and 25 subdomains. While some of the subdomains just apply their parent's changes, the vast majority actually does feature some very interesting, unique abilities, making the concept not only worthwhile, but offering a nice array of options for your clerics.


Owners of the Genius Guide to Crystal and Dream magic, respectively (yeah me!) get two additional exalted domains for attunement and crystal - nice and a cool way to reward faithful fans without depriving the other consumers of a significant portion of their product!


The pdf closes with 5 new exalted domain feats, one to channel your divine energy into your weapon, a feat to improve channeling for users of exalted domains, a feat that lets you use 1 spell-slot per level gained from a domain to prepare spells from the cleric list and one to improve the effective caster level for your exalted domain spells. The final feat, though, is over-powered: Exalted Soul reduces the amount of negative levels (if any) you take by 2. OUCH. Depending on the campaign, that might be either useless or powerful. It should definitely be handled with care.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed a missing blank line and a punctuation error - not enough to rate this down, though. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard and there are no bookmarks, which is a pity. Designer Marc Radle has done a splendid job with this part of his exalted domain-trilogy, as crunch-wise I have no gripes whatsoever, the abilities all felt balanced, appropriate for the domains and make the selection of an exalted domain hard for all the right reasons - after all, you can only take one of them and there are a lot cool ones herein! The minor glitch and the potentially unbalancing feat remain the only blemishes of this otherwise excellent pdf, resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of Light and Lore
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The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2011 14:57:55

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.


This pdf is 18 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial and SRD, leaving 16 1/3 pages of content for the divine archetypes, so let’s check them out!


The first 6 pages are devoted to the concept of archetypes and how the SGG-archetypes interact with the ones from the advanced player’s guide, namely the difference in focus: While SGG archetypes are broad in focus and usually can be taken by many classes, the advanced player’s guide archetypes are narrower and more specialized. The list of archetype packages is also expanded upon to include the new base-classes from the advanced player’s guide. The circumstances under which it might be possible to combine the two in one character are also explained, which is immensely useful in keeping the system uniform. Indeed, I’ve come to look at both takes as 2 branches of the same system that can complement each other quite well. As with the arcane archetypes, there are some which can only be used by casters and some which can only be used by non-casters.


That being said, we are introduced to the archetypes, beginning with the chantry, an rather complex and detailed archetype that represents a kind of divine bard who gets special chantric performances and the ability to counterpray divine magic and convert heathens by virtue of their angelic (or demonic) performances. I LOVE this archetype: Complex, balanced and a representation of a character trope that up until now had been neglected – excellent job! The next take on an archetype is one that has enjoyed better coverage over the years: The exorcist. Unfortunately, I do have some gripe with this one: While the basic mechanic of adding knowledge to increase the exorcism-DC is ok and general enough to allow for wide customizability, the effects are problematic: One ability that can force incorporeal creatures to their corporeal state, shapechangers into their natural form and heap penalties on other creatures makes for a versatile ability that may prove unbalancing in some campaigns that depend on the subterfuge of such creatures. While the DM could fudge the roll, I usually discourage such a behavior and subsequently am not too enamored by this archetype. Perhaps that’s just me, but to me an exorcist is a quintessential example for a PrC, not an archetype.
Heretics on the other hand make for quite interesting and cool characters, as the archetype offers the heretic a certain degree of obscurity as well as limited access to witch’s hexes. Simple, elegant, cool – I approve! The same holds true for the spontaneous-casting Gnostic, who can select a domain and add its domain spells to his list, even if they are not usually accessible to his deity. He may also gain an epiphany once per day, casting a spell he usually does not know. The best of archetypes make you immediately come up with both character concepts and or adventure hooks and this is one of them – excellent job, once again.
Next up on the list is the martyr, who can draw strength and supernatural effect for her allies from her own suffering by granting them one or more of her 9 benedictions. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize both the roleplaying potential and the possibility for abuse of such powers, but the wording is concise and tightly-written to prevent the latter and enhance the former. Even better, a sidebox elaborates on the concept of evil martyrs and delivers some nice ideas for them.
The Wise is another cup of coffee that, while not that cool, fills a definite niche in a given community by providing the rules-background for the wise man/woman who has picked up a selection of quasi-magical cures sans being able to conjure up the wrath of deities like other divine caster can. This is a boon for GMs who no longer have to explain why the (quite capable) healer of the town can help patch together injured PCs, but fails to put an end to hostile threat xyz that necessitates the PCs intervention.
The final archetype is the evangelical witness who seeks to spread her faith while trying to find problematic areas/people and even gains limited access to the inquisitor spell-list.


The pdf closes with a summary of archetype packages of SGG-base-classes.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the clear horizontal 3 column-standard and the mostly b/w-artworks range from good to slightly above average. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks but at this length that’s no reason to detract a star. I did not expect to like the archetype-book, to be honest, and only bought it out of a completionist’s neurosis and oh boy, am I glad that I did! Surprisingly, this pdf blew its arcane equivalent right out of the water, providing not only more content, but much more detailed archetypes. More importantly, though, is the fact that in arcane archetypes one (the pact scion) archetype made me rejoice – in this installment, I loved 4! Even the subpar and rather bland exorcist can’t really tarnish the quality of the other material presented and the additional coverage of the APG is a boon to everyone who seeks to combine the two approaches to archetypes. My final verdict will thus be 5 stars – well done!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes
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Advanced Options: Inquisitors' Judgements
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2011 14:44:13

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf


This pdf is 8 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page SRD &editorial, leaving 6 1/3 pages of content for the new tools for the Inquisitor, so let’s check them out.


After a short discussion on the nature of the rather interesting Inquisitor base-class, we are introduced to a central question that needs to be answered prior to integrating the new material: Seeing there are not that many judgments in the core rules of the APG, a new mechanic needs to be introduced to clarify how access to more judgments is handled. In a concise discussion, several options along their pros and cons are presented, with the easiest alternative being restricting any Inquisitor to 9 judgments and the most complex being a suggestion to have judgments earned in game by association with different orders in a given campaign setting.


15 new judgments await the perusal of inquisitors, from minor bonuses to reach and movement rates to improved capabilities with regards to certain combat maneuvers and the ability to make weapons feature a quality to bypass certain kinds of DR, a nice and balanced roster of abilities is presented. The true stars of this pdf, though, are the 7 greater judgments: Those of you following my reviews know that I’m always excited about iconic abilities and the greater judgments deliver: The ability to see invisible foes via blazing eyes, the power to banish summoned creatures to sickening and weakening strikes, the offensive judgments rock. The defensive ones are also quite cool, enabling you to play the deadly, unstoppable driven inquisitor via regeneration and SR – all the while balancing these at times powerful abilities within the rules. Great work!


The pdf does not stop there, though, as it delivers the alternate Inquisitor-class of the Justicar, a judgment-focused variant sans spellcasting. The Justicar gets d10, 6+Int skills, full BAB, good fort and will saves. The class feels balanced and interesting, though personally I’d prefer the spellcasting variant. I still think the class offers a cool alternative for many campaigns.


Finally, we get 7 new feats: Executioner lets you sacrifice a judgments use for a single strike with additional damage, the ability to use judgments more often per day, a feat to learn an additional judgment (depending on how you manage the acquisition of new judgments, this is necessary), a focus on a single judgment (+5 levels with regards to that judgment), the ability to make a judgment that last up to 15 minutes. My favorite one, though, would be Jury, which lets an ally benefit from your judgment. One of the feats, though, felt potentially problematic to me: Judgments Surge is rather strong, as it lets you use an additional judgment simultaneously. I’m not entirely sure whether I’d allow this feat, as my instinct yells that this might make for a certain power-boost.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard and the artwork is stock-art and ok. The pdf has no bookmarks. The new judgments presented herein feel balanced and add a nice plethora of abilities to the Inquisitor’s repertoire, the Justicar is nice. The Greater Judgments and the new feats, though, are what really shone for me and offer the abilities I love to see for the class, as it enhances the unique feel of the class. The Judgments per se and the one feat I didn’t like left a bit of a stale taste in my mouth and would necessitate some playtesting/extensive math for me prior to allowing it in my campaign. Thus, due to a lack of true gripes and only minor problems, my final verdict for this installment of advanced options will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Options: Inquisitors' Judgements
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Advanced Options: Witches' Hexes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2011 14:37:36

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and was written by Thilo Graf.


This pdf is 7 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 5 1/3 pages fort he new hexes.


The pdf begins with a discussion on versatility and an elaboration on the Hex-concept before plunging us into 29 new hexes. Among the regular hexes, we have a balm that grants fast healing, incite rage or boost morale via her beautiful smile. While these are cool, there are some that stood out, at least to me: Familiar Growth lets a familiar grow temporarily to animal companion size, another Hex enables her to get Cat’s Eyes and a third one lets her grapple via unseen forces, e.g. entangling foes in rope etc. or even attack with her hair or drive enemies back with a terrible wail.
Among the major hexes, I enjoyed a kiss that modifies the memory of its victims or even bind her hexes into runes that are activated via reading them much like explosive runes.
The Grand Hexes, among of which we’ll find Kiss of Death, supernatural Allure etc.


The pdf closes with 4 new feats to enlarge and quicken hexes, add +2 to the DC of hexes or affect the same target twice in 24 hours.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column-standard, art is ok and the pdf has no bookmarks. Witches are an interesting class, as they are primary arcane casters and have to contend with wizards and sorcerers. Hexes as signature abilities serve to enforce a witch’s unique flair and subsequently, I consider any expansion to this aspect nice. However, the utmost care has to be exercised to emphasize the unique quality of hexes without watering them down. This is where this pdf comes in: Several very iconic qualities that made me grin with diabolical glee are introduced and smart actions on part of the players are encouraged via the hexes that depend e.g. on Kisses. Abilities that can be considered are “witchy” abound and none of the hexes felt like it was boring or useless. Subsequently, due to a lack of glitches and problems and due to the low price, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Options: Witches' Hexes
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Imperial Gazetteer
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2011 16:56:41

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.


I only own the dead-tree version for this book, thus I can’t comment on bookmarks and the like. The dead-tree copy is soft-bound, has 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page blank inside the back cover, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages ToC and kicks off with a short introduction to the topic at hand by Wolfgang Baur himself before going on to provide 68 pages of information on the undead lands.


As you should know if you’ve read my review of Liber Vampyr, I have very distinct opinions about how/what vampires should be like and subsequently, I was rather sceptical about the principalities of Morgau and Doresh, to which the first half of this gazetteer is devoted. Loosely inspired by classic Transylvanian cliché of Dracula and his lands, the principalities are ruled by the undead – but not as some all life eradicating tyrants, but as “realistic” rulers, i.e. creatures, who, though they might demand a price in blood and dead flesh, still are the leaders of their countries and not some cutboard evil psychopaths. The mixture of religion, tradition and everyday life serves to provide an interesting glimpse at a society that might be a dark place to live, but still remains a place to live rather than be undead or meat.


Meat is a good prompt, as it’s the true currency of the next chapter – the subterranean ghoulish empire led by the high ghouls (called Darakhul, template provided) and comes, as does the Principality, with a nice 1-page map of its expanse. In contrast to e.g. the principality, we get more information on the goods, strange structure etc. of the empire and its feeding laws, allies and enemies, military organization and even some new items, spells, etc. Darakhan, white city and capital of the empire gets its own section, albeit no map of its own.


The gazetteer closes with a massive bestiary-section containing e.g. bone-collectives (undead swarms that can form humanoids, the ghoul’s war beetle-steeds, a smattering of ghouls and vampires with class-levels, lich hounds, bone-powder ghouls (which are both deadly and cool – Ghouls that have existed so long/starved/been ground to pieces so that they become strange, deadly piles of dust – until they rise), deadly Mycolids and the Gynosphinx. Many of the creatures get their own, stunning b/w-artworks.


Conclusion:


Layout adheres to the two-column standard, is clear and straightforward, the b/w-artwork is nice. Editing is top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch or mistake and the same holds true for formatting. I was quite sceptical whether the vampiric principalities would appeal to me, but let me say so much: Wolfgang Baur and Scott Gable did an awesome job of making this gazetteer appealing to fans of Ravenloft, classic vampires and just about anyone who likes the idea of INTELLIGENT, sophisticated yet decadent and evil creatures. The chapter on the Ghoul Empire is absolute gold, too – the subterranean dread lurking below the surface is simply disturbing in its commoditization of human flesh, military relentlessness and prowess as well as its capability to assimilate their enemies into their ever devouring ranks make for a more than disturbing nation to test the wits of PCs -for brute force will get them killed. I gather that one of the early, limited ODs I missed alongside Castle Shadowcrag was about this empire and thus don’t know how much material has been recycled/updated to PFRPG and whether this section is interesting to people who own the OD, but I gather the update itself should be worth it. Apart from that, we get several stat-blocks and cool critters, imaginative magic and alchemical items and all of that for a relatively low price – as you can see, I have nothing to field as a complaint apart from wishing the book was about 150 pages longer – thus, the Imperial Gazetteer gets full 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval for being an outstanding product. If you haven’t checked it out and even remotely like undead, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.


Endzeitgeist out


Source: GMS Magazine (http://s.tt/13bLh)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Gazetteer
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The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2011 16:54:20

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf


This pdf from Super Genius Games is 13 pages long, 1/3 page front cover, 1 page credits and SRD, leaving 11 2/3 pages of content for the new archetypes, so check them out!


Over the course of the first 6 pages, we are introduced to the concept of archetypes and sound advice on how to modify base-classes and design archetypes yourself. This section is comprehensively-written, smart and offers a slew of nice tools and warnings to heed when you work on them yourself. For the old-school gamers among you, archetypes are similar to 2nd edition kits, swapping class abilities with other ones, the SGG-take being general, i.e. each class can potentially take each archetype.


The new archetypes presented herein, of course, focus on ranged combat, the first of which already found his way into my campaign: The alchemical archer uses his trick arrows to impede and hamper the enemy and 5 kinds of extraordinary ammunition-types are also presented. If you want a general direction, think either Hawkeye or Green Arrow and you’ll know what to expect. Spellbows may imbue their ammunition with magic and magical qualities. The Tempest can get arrows in the air – a lot of them, resulting in a true hail of arrows raining down upon his foes and even ay a covering volley of arrows upon a field, threatening every area. The mechanics for this ability are so well-thought I’d use them on more occasions, e.g. when dealing with PCs marching through the cover-fire of an enemy regiment of elite-archers. The final archetype is the Zen-archer, an archetype who can use his highest attribute instead of his dex-mod to atk, up to his class-level. More importantly, though, is the ability of hitting targets based on intuition rather than sight and even shoot blindly or counterattacking via ranged attacks.


Next up are 5 feats (2 of which from the Genius Guide to feats of battle) that enhance your sniper’s capabilities by letting them fight with ammunition in melee, rerolling 1s on damage dice (rogues will love it), using INT instead of DEX and a defensive and offensive shots, the former negating AoOs and the latter sacrificing damage for improved accuracy.


The pdf closes with archetype packages for SGG-class guides.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to the horizontal three-column standard by SGG and the artworks are ok. The pdf unfortunately has no bookmarks, but at this length, that’s ok and no reason to detract a star. Onwards to the content, then. This is, in fact, where the pdf truly shines: Each and every one of the 4 archetypes is elegant in its design, extremely easy to drop in just about any campaign setting and features a lot of potential for fun and cool ways to give the oomph back to archers without tipping the scales of game-balance. While the spellbow was slightly less imaginative than the other three, we still get some superbly-crafted pieces of crunch in this pdf. My only gripe with this guide is that I would have loved to see more special ammunition for the alchemical archer. Perhaps in a future installment that takes the APG-alchemist into account? MY final verdict will thus be 5 stars – a well done addition to any campaign!


Endzeitgeist out.


Source: GMS Magazine (http://s.tt/13gjy)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes
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The Sinking: Epicenter Rising
Publisher: 0one Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2011 16:51:16

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf


This pdf from 0one Games is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages advertisements and 1 page back cover, leaving 9 pages for the adventure.


The Sinking is the new project by 0onegames and consists of a series of short adventures that can be played in one session. The series will change the face of the Great City and this adventure is the Pilot for the events to come. Thus, being an adventure, this review will contain spoilers, potential players beware.


Epicenter Rising send the PCs on a quest to destroy a minor smuggling organization – 4 hooks are provided and the lead the PCs to a cheese shop. The shop features a nice map (although I would have loved a version of the map sans map-key numbers – I love handing maps to my players and the numbers detract from their suspension of disbelief) and has the PCs enter the smuggler tunnels/sewers in which they experience minor tremors and some sewerish encounters. The coolest encounter ensues after the PCs have left the smuggler tunnels for the sewers and has experienced the first minor cave-in: We get a nice, key-less map of complex sewers, complete with planks etc. to serve as a backdrop for a great chase scene that can end in a nice scene, or if you as a DM feel particularly sadistic (like I usually do), a three-way battle between a smuggler, a young Otyugh and the PCs. The final encounter has the PCs fight the head of the smugglers who tries to make a getaway by torching his shack. An additional small map of the shack would have been nice. In the aftermath of this encounter, the panic in the streets is evident and a huge sinkhole has opened right in the city, providing a nice omen of the things to come and an appropriately cool end to the module.


Conclusion:


Editing is top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout is beautiful, easy to print-out and adheres to the two-column standard. the b/w-artwork is nice, the maps are great. There is one minor formatting glitch in the "Into the Sewers"-box: There is a blank line too much and the final sentence feels awkward, spelling out "That was the designer’s intent." Oh well, more importantly, I would have loved to see a small map for the final encounter and/or some alternative means of problem-solving (roleplaying, stealth, whatever, expanded chase-rules) in this very straight-forward, action-oriented romp. Thus, I’ll settle for 4 stars – a very good and promising start of the new series.


Source: GMS Magazine (http://s.tt/13bLU)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sinking: Epicenter Rising
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[PFRPG] Inkantations: A Sourcebook of Tattoo Magic & Body Art
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2011 10:55:39

This review was published first in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.


This pdf is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 blank page inside back cover and 1 page back cover, leaving 45 pages of content, so let's check it out!


First of all, I want to make my position clear: While I always felt a kind of fascination for tattoos and body modifications, I have none myself and never had the inclination to get one. Thus, while I do love the culturally important and imaginative implementations in different media and games, I am not what you'd consider a wholehearted enthusiast for the subject matter, in spite of being aligned with two sub-cultures that heavily rely on tattoos and body-mods. Thus, I'll try to rate this from a skeptic's point of view and mostly in accordance with the contributions to one's game. The book begins with a comprehensive and very well-informed and informative introduction to several roles tattoos can serve in diverse subsets of culture. After this rather intelligent and nice intro, we are subjected to the relevant skills for tattoos/body-mods in one's game world, i.e. 4 Craft-skills, 1 profession and 3 knowledge skills. We also get 27 new feats that span the range from crafting magical and miniature tattoos to "achievement tattoos", i.e. for example bonding tattoos for lovers and friends, tattoos celebrating that you've slain x creatures of a certain type and even one that kind of touched me and makes for a great RPG-opportunity, a tattoo for a fallen friend. From sexy to intimidating a lot of ground is covered and none of the feats felt superfluous. For those so inclined, we also get feats dealing with e.g. scarification.


What about the process of getting/or removing one's tattoos, though? It's depicted in stunning and imaginative detail and provides a plethora of kits and items for said purposes, among them even a gnomish tattoo machine. I actually learned something about the material of the needles from this section, which is always nice.
After the basics have been established, we move on to the truly fantastic and iconic component of the book, magical tattoos. Mechanically, they take up an item-slot and even have an option for spell-tattoos that work as scrolls or a tattoo that can store spells. This section, in contrast to many item-books I've read so far, is actually a good read, thanks to the descriptions provided. Some might even serve as hooks for further adventures, which is always a nice thing for a DM to have. Mechanically, I have nothing to complain about - all of the 57 tattoos are well-balanced and most of them are iconic enough to actually consider using them.
Chapter 3 details so-called Inkantationists, i.e. magically adept tattoo-artists, and provides rules for a new wizard variant, a new sorceror bloodline and a new PrC, the painted one (d8, 4+Int skills, bad BAB (+5 over 10 levels), medium Ref and Will saves, 8 levels of spell-casting and the ability to advance abilities from their old class). We also get 8 new spells, dealing with tattoos and surprisingly, contraception. I enjoyed them immensely, as I belong to the part of the audience that considers the topic of sexuality and childbirth an integral and fertile ground for adventuring. Pardon the pun. For the people who consider themselves rather adherents to the piercing enthusiasts, 13 new magic items, some of which actually made me smile and one even laugh: The Nipple-shield of Stunning pleasantly reminded me of a certain superbowl scandal whose repercussions swept over even to Europe and were considered somewhat bewildering. But don't fret - the other magical items are quite tame and the book remains mature and non-explicit about the topic. A magical device is also presented.
Finally, we get 3 (more or less) secret organizations centered on the topics of tattoos that are concisely detailed in the limited amount of space granted and might serve both as pro-or antagonists along the PCs. Each also features some short, stat-block-less write-ups of characters to help you flesh out the organization in question and provide potential for conflict, be it internally or externally.


Conclusion:
Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any errors. Formatting and layout are b/w, printer-friendly, clear and I didn't notice a single glitch. The b/w-artwork ranges from cool to rather average and I personally am not a fan of the old-school style of the cover-artwork. I was rather skeptic with regards to balancing issues on whether all the iconic usages of tattoos in fantasy and mythology could be extrapolated to a general, non-setting specific book. Moreover, I wasn't sure whether this book would impress me enough to consider implementing it in my campaign. To cut a long ramble short, the company that brought you THE resource for gear & treasure shops has made magical tattoos not only a cool, but also a rewarding addition to just about any campaign. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to just about anyone. My final verdict will be 5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Inkantations: A Sourcebook of Tattoo Magic & Body Art
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Thank you very much for the wonderful review!
Citadel of Pain
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2011 10:48:20

This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.


This pdf is 119 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page of ToC, 1 blank page prior to the content, 1 page of Kickstarter thanks to patrons, leaving 113 pages of content, quite a bunch! It should be noted that the new version of the pdf is separated into 2 files - adventure and map-sheets and thus uses up less space than before. (The high-res map-sheets should be printed out anyway!)


The adventure kicks in with a neat splotch of blood and a famous line by Oscar Wilde prior to getting into the action. It should be noted that this adventure uses the mega-dungeon map from Gaming Paper and includes 25 sheets for the map of the dungeon. The sheets are b/w and large enough to use with miniatures and come with a grid. Early in the adventure we also get an extremely useful one-page overview map and this is just as far as I can go without delving into massive


SPOILERS.
...Potential players, please jump to the conclusion. Seriously, you don't want to spoil this one.
...
Still here?


....
All right! The adventure takes the PCs into a citadel sealed by liquid, magic-resistant stone that once belonged to mad and sadistic Vilseph Dumond, who sought to transcend mortality by building the ultimate torture device. Prior to the Citadel being sealed, an almost vanquished army of monster sought refuge and the citadel has lain dormant for long. The PCs are hired via 3 sample hooks or one of your own making to enter Rogthondar, the dread citadel, alongside Twith Ballancastor, alchemist extraordinaire, whose drilling tank provides for the PCs entrance to the otherwise sealed dungeon. Yep. They enter a citadel covered by liquid rock via a drilling-tank. How cool is that? Of course, this act of drilling is not too simple and panicking guards as well as the dread dumondite (the liquid stone) do their very best to make the entrance to the citadel feel well-deserved. Additionally, the atmosphere of claustrophobia is almost tangible right from now on to the very end of the adventure.
Even cooler, though, is the micro-society that has sprung up within the bounds of the citadel, sentient altar-prototypes of the legendary Eureka Rib lead different fractions in an ongoing struggle and seek to further transform and propagate their very brand of superior creatures. The PCs enter the playing field of the dungeon's politics via the fraction of the deviceless (they don't have an intelligent torture device), who are lead by humans and work as a kind of police-force in their quarter, which also contains the bazaar, a rather surreal hodgepodge of ogres, minotaurs, bugbears and troglodytes. Food, of course is scarce, valuable and especially any food not being fungal or a derivative of an alchemically-modified edible vermin called slitch is guaranteed to bring A LOT of attention with it.
Another peculiarity of the area controlled by the deviceless is a huge cistern from which alchemical slough is extracted to create so-called demi-potions - unstable alchemical potions that come as three sets of quality and with 20 (sometimes utterly hilarious! Examples include blown-up lips that blind you, but help you swim due to increased buoyancy, becoming a meaty ball with a face and growing hair... a lot of it...) side-effects per level of quality for the imbiber that are thankfully temporary enough to make the game-relevant, but also amusing to the afflicted player. A simple mini-tracksheet containing the factions also helps the DM manage the reactions of the different factions, but more on that later, after all, the PCs have just crashed into the citadels neutral ground, the kitchen, and may be stunned to see a kind-hearted troglodyte futile attempts at saving one of the guards that accompanied them and got hit by the dripping, deadly liquid rock. That's where the fun starts: Lou Agresta & Rone Barton's former collaborations have been more than rife with several interesting and ingenious tidbits of fluff and this one is no difference: The premise of a wholly isolated society with its own balances and the arrival of newcomers is played up to the fullest: From cults springing up to celebrate the advent of the liberators to the simple fact that in such a limited population everyone knows certain rules. Everyone but the PCs, that is. Add to that a nice smattering of a kind of urbane "slang" employed by the denizens (with easily mistakable measurement units like "a human hand" - no, the ogre does not want a severed human hand, you sicko!) and you're in for a background that may in and of itself offer hours of roleplaying fun and potential for both hilarious and dangerous situations.


Indeed, after maneuvering the strange and curious bazaar and at least partially getting to know the place, the PCs will have the opportunity to defeat some foes and thus gain the option to talk to an ambassador of the alchemically-mutated deviceless (who don't have an altar, i.e. a sentient torture device), who seeks to use the novelty of the PCs for a "diplomatic" mission to the respective monster clans. As a benefit for the PCs, the deviceless mention the fabled eureka rib, perhaps the very only possibility for the PCs to once again escape the citadel - of course, coincidentally one of the sentient altars worshiped as gods by the humanoids might very well be said rib... Unbeknownst to both ambassador and PCs, the grandmaster of the linen-wrapped mutated alchemists has more on his agenda, though and the ambassador seems to be an instigator of the worst kind... This concludes act 1.


Act 2 serves as a rather free-form flow of the different monster territories, first of which is the Fantôme-bugbears: Mutated bugbears half-caught in the realms of dream, whose altar is possessed by a ghost who in turn acts as a seal that holds back the tide of nightmarish creatures from the depths of dreaming shallows. Interfaction events, already explained prior to this, also are presented: They are events that can be introduced to change the balance between the factions like assassination attempts to keep the political landscape of the citadel mutable. Mutability is a good cue: The fantôme bugbears all come with individual, imaginative, cool mutations and whether the PCs battle or negotiate with the dread Oneiromant, the ghost trapped on the dread bed-altar has some rather interesting/disturbing dreams and if one PC accepts the boon and curse of the bed, they'll have to contend with a dread invader from dream.


The second faction presented are the minotaurs, who worship the dread white witch, a rotating marble pole with an attached harness that end its merry-go-round by suddenly stopping and slamming the victims against its base - the resulted witch-kissed minotaurs regenerate and henceforth are infected with strange...things that make them almost unkillable. To make matters worse, interfaction events and an internal power struggle between king and high-priest over the amount of minotaurs to be exalted by the witch has the faction torn and not necessarily makes the PC's quest to see the devious and aggressive torture device any easier. Even more interesting: The device actually has an inkling how to escape and in an act of self-preservation might even try to creatively talk to PC out to destroy it.


The Troglodyte camp is similarly unique: Transform by their altar, the foul-smelling brutes have found a monastic (and a pronounced contempt for their untransmogrified brethren) calling via their iron-skinned new forms. The paranoid leader wants one of the regular troglodytes forcefully recruited and once again, faction politics might make it harder than at first glance. The metal-syringe-studded iron ball they use for transformation might yet offer another clue, though...if the PCs brave the merciless troglodyte's requests or infiltrate the compound.


The final faction are Riddle's End's Ogres, three-eyed intelligent ogres (wizard class levels, baby!) obsessed with magic and subsequently out for the PC's tools. The deceptive ogres actually can prove to be a significant challenge, as they prepare one of the smartest and deadliest ambushes I've seen in quite a while in their partially submerged complex- the PCs will definitely remember the clever ogre's assault. The hidden altar of the ogres, a grisly spine-snapping chair, sunken and yet possibly repairable. Have I mentioned a water elemental and its pet octopus or the possibility of the PCs flooding a region of the citadel?


And then there's the slog, a kind of common ground to which the PCs will frequently have to return on their subquests. Sooner or later, the saviors from Without (the term for "from outside the citadel") will come to the attention of Gabrele, a GOOD ogre to assassination attempt, minotaur recruitment drives etc., the PCs will have their hands full and you as a DM enough fodder to make the citadel feel even more alive. More importantly, the slog offers the PCs something to fight for - the unique culture of the citadel, as mentioned earlier, its endearing slang and the fact that here of all places, while besieged by mad factions, humanoids and men have begun an probably unprecedented, more or less peaceful coexistence, at least among the general populace. This rather strange yet endearing utopia, based on a claustrophobic equilibrium of power, is about to come crashing down with the PCs finding the lower condensing room where a nasty surprise sits ready to initiate the furious climax of the adventure.


Act 3 features the condensed sentient alchemical waste hinted at in the bazaar during the very first encounters, a dread and deadly ooze. made out of gallons of discarded alchemical waste. To make matters worse, the deviceless finally move into open action trying to bury the PCs alive buried and sealed in dumondite - but to no avail. At this point, the undead (and surprisingly nice and cooperative) gnomish engineer might offer the final clues for the activation of the Eureka Rib, which initiates the epic final confrontation of the module: Here the faction-tracker will come in handy - the PCs and their allies as well as the opposition are up for an epic showdown, having the PCs try to get past several attack squads and offering a very cool cinematic run, finally facing off against Grandmaster Sinas Crabbe of the deviceless. After this showdown, a PC (or ally!) will have to brave the unimaginable agony of being subjected to the Eureka Rib (or destroy it and escape thus) and thus choose the fate of all Rogthandor: Freedom for all, escape for but the PCs and continued confinement for the inhabitants or an escape for the PCs alongside a devastating self-destruction that kills everything inside - quite a weighty decision to thrust upon the subject's shoulders, after all, while the inhabitants are peaceful now, who can tell how they'd react to life outside? Do they remain relatively docile, becoming the PC's faithful army? How do the humans react, with prejudice or even a pogrom? Or do the humanoids revert to their usual clichés, ravaging the lands? If the PCs killed all, how can they live with such a genocide at their hands? And what to make of the ribs significant permanent (yet not overtly game-influencing) powers like stopping to age? And what of Vilspeth? The possibilities are endless.


The pdf also features stats for optional assassins, a list of magic items by value, 8 pages of lovingly-crafted hand- outs (which should be standard - handouts are GREAT and help immerse the players in the story), a one-page version of the faction tracker and two pages of the handouts of the torture-device visions.


The pdf closes with the additional sheets to expand the mega-dungeon.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches - the few that existed in the first version have all been taken care of. Layout adheres to the clear two-column standard, is b/w and features aesthetically pleasing borders. The inside artwork is b/w and ok, though nothing to get too excited about. The pdf is EXTENSIVELY bookmarked, with each subchapter, encounter etc. there, including the CRs - commendable and a boon for the DM.
I'm not the biggest fan of large dungeons, at least most of them tend to degrade into "Kill all"-sprees or fail to present sufficient social/infiltration changes of pace to keep my attention. Some dungeons are well-enough designed in their craft to have me ignore this time and again, Necromancer Games and its heirs being among the prime examples. But then there are some dungeons that don't feel common. That feel different. Like e.g. the classic Banewarrens. The Citadel of Pain stands tall and proud in this tradition, feeling completely unique in being not a dungeon to wade through and slaughter anything that crosses your path (though that's an option, too!), but instead combining political intrigue and mystery of urban adventures with the claustrophobic and hostile environment of a dungeon.
It took forever to write this review, if only due to the fact that I was hard-pressed to give you even an essential overview of the possibilities and imaginative potential of this environment - the society Lou Agresta and Rone Barton crafted rivals e.g. the strange societies of China Mièville in imaginative potential and iconic quality. Even better, the duo of authors have managed to create an adventure, that thanks to the tracker makes it easy for the DM to handle complex faction politics and ensure modularity. The crowning achievement of adventure-writing any sandboxy adventure, at least to me, is utter modularity and freedom of choice. While printed adventures always have to somewhat rely upon minor guidelines to ensure the story works, I've rarely seen an adventure that can be modified this easily and I guarantee that no two ventures to Rogthandor will be the same - there are that many possibilities.
The climax, the sentient altars - there are a lot of great ideas herein and, sometimes, adventures make players ask themselves questions: Is it right to slaughter all these humanoids that don't hurt anybody and are oppressed by cruel ruling castes? Is it right to eradicate the sentience of an intelligent item begging for quarter, even if it's evil? Where does being a hero end and being a murderer begin? Even if the general populace is not evil, is it right to release them into the world? The repercussions of the successful adventure are wide and might upset the social order of a certain stretch of land (and I haven't touched upon the boons for the PCs...), offering adventure ideas galore and the sympathetic cultural hodgepodge in Rogthandor potentially points towards questions of culture, identity and racial understanding. While not the easiest adventure to run and definitely not one to run spontaneously, Citadel of Pain ranks among the most rewarding, iconic, complex and thought-provoking dungeon-adventures I've read in quite a while, supported by a commendable amount of handouts, map-sheets and awash with creative ideas. Have I mentioned the subtle and gratifying humor that is interspread within some of the encounters and e.g. the demipotion-lists? I'm running out of superlatives to heap upon this awesome piece of writing and thus will just say that, if I could, I'd rate this 6 stars - my final verdict will be 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. If you're even remotely intrigued by dungeons or any of the things I mentioned, do yourself a favor and check this out. You won't regret it.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Citadel of Pain
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