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SORCERY! The Seven Serpents
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2009 13:41:44

Steven Jackson’s Sorcery: The Seven Serpents left a tart feeling of regret after reading. It is a well written, solid adventure marred by a few critical problems when running.

The Seven Serpents is a classic adventure converted from an older system and rereleased by Greywood Publishing for the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 system. This release is the third in the Sorcery series, a set adventure following a party as they chase down a lost crown. Seven Serpents is the best of the releases so far, and the adventure is simple, though engrossing, as the party moves through a dangerous swamp while being accosted by seven well designed and statted minions of the crown holder. As with all of the Greywood releases, the art is spectacular and layout very detailed.

The major problems of the book lies not in the content, but in the attention to detail that is lacking in this series. Outside of not having any bookmarks, there are still spots in the book that do not have proper conversion. Also, the book lacks any summary of the adventure, throwing the dungeon master into the plot right along with the players. Many places in the book leave explanation up to the box text read to the players. I felt in the dark moving through some of the areas. Also, the book is written only as if you have run the previous adventures. There is a brief page on how to put the campaign into your campaign, that mentions nothing about how to import it into a campaign, instead it simply explains how to adjust it for certain levels. The advice they give is awful, asking the DM to throw in additional encounters to balance out the adventure. This is a bad idea, considering the consensus among adventure writers is to instead beef up the existing encounters.

For the Dungeon Master DMs that can work through the plot and do a bit of conversion will like the gauntlet setup by the writer. The seven different bosses create an element of danger at every turn for the PCs.

The Iron Word Steven Jackson’s Sorcery: The Seven Serpents is a fast-paced adventure that will run a party through a ringer. You will have to do some work to shoebox it and its handouts into your campaign. Lucky though, the content balances out the additional work.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
SORCERY! The Seven Serpents
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Creator Reply:
In our defence; when I wrote these for Myriador Publishing almost 5 years ago now, I had some serious page constraints. Trying to convert an adventure like this one into 40 pages when I had to include the luck rules, monster appendix etc. didn't leave a whole lot of room for the flowery bits. That said, the bookmark omission is entirely my fault and I will rectify that ASAP. 3 stars is a little harsh Nathan but I appreciate all of your comments. Jamie Wallis
Fighting Fantasy - Deathtrap Dungeon
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/28/2009 11:42:51

Greywood Publishing struck gold when they decided to mine the treasure troves of adventures left behind by the previously defunct fighting fantasy game. Published in the 80s, the fighting fantasy games were one shot RPGs in a box. The complete adventures were like the Decent of their time. Greywood Publishing has acquired the rights to remake the games, and, if Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon is any indication, 3.5 fans have a wonderful new source of adventures to replace the other publishers that have abandoned the system.

Deathtrap Dungeon is an almost perfectly designed adventure, combining puzzles, combat and role playing in a tight dungeon setting. There are 50 encounters in the entire adventure as well as a half-dozen new monsters. Unlike most adaptations from that era, the dungeon was not compacted full of encounters. There was a variety of little brainteaser to test a party. There are little riddles that guide the PCs along, traps that require more than just a simple disable device roll and combat that relied on paying attention more so than hoping to roll high.

Deathtrap Dungeon almost achieves perfection, but stumbles in a few minor places. The transformation form box dungeon to D&D 3.5 is done well in most places, but there are some stat blocks and encounters that were mistranslated into 3.0. The most irritating thing was the books waste of pages on trying to include a luck ability for players. Luck in games is like religion at the game table. You do not talk about it because every DM has a different opinion on how to do it. Plus its completely unnecessary for running the adventure.

There was also an issue in a bit too much hand holding as to how to solve the final puzzle. There is a great little riddle at the beginning that tells the party how to do it. But the writer felt the need to hammer it into the PCs heads a lot by having two NPCs drill the same information into the PCs.

The last little flaw about the book is its supposed design for only one player. I say supposed because the adventure can easily be adapted for a 6th or 5th level party.

For the DM Deathtrap does a great job with traps. My favorite was the Pole trap, which required a couple of skills to complete, but did not diminish the rogues trap prowess.

The Iron Word When one of the big publishers high-tailed it out of the 3.5 adventure writing business, I wondered who would step up to fill the void. Greywood’s reviving of the classic series is a sign they are stepping up to the challenge. These adventures not only include the adventure, but give access to the myriad of wonderfully rendered artwork, easy to print and play maps and outstanding handouts for the game. If you wanted to play this on the go, there are also pre-gens developed as well. Despite a handful of minor problems, this is one of the most balanced adventures I have read in some time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fantasy - Deathtrap Dungeon
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FIGHTING FANTASY - Caverns of the Snow Witch
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/21/2008 12:07:48

The second in the Fighting Fantasy as D20 scenario series, Caverns of the Snow Witch brings another feast of deadly dungeon-crawling, with the addition of a wilderness search and some very bad weather to contend with as well as the usual host of unfriendly monsters.

Aimed at 8th-level characters (of which 4 are provided should you wish to leap straight in), the adventure begins when the next trading post on a caravan's route is found devastated by an unknown monster's attack. The characters are asked to deal with the problem, and follow the tracks up into a nearby icy peak. The weather's bad, blizzards of snow, and they have to contend with the effects of exposure and avalanches as well as various hostile creatures who resent anyone daring to climb their mountain! Along the way, they find the hut of a trapper, who's left a convenient note about the Snow Witch and her devilish plot to bring an ice age upon the world...

The adventure rather relies on the characters reading (and believing) the note, because by the time they catch up with the trapper he's been sent to the Hereafter by the very same monster they've been sent to deal with. Some people, particularly given the bad weather, might decide that once they've slain the monster it's time to go home.

Those who press onwards will find a maze of cold and deadly caverns full of traps and hostile servitors of the Snow Witch herself. She has means of ensuring their obedience - a Collar of Obedience that is but one of an intriguing series of well-developed new magical items that are there for the finding - and the characters had best be wary not to be thus snared themselves. Eventually, if they follow through what is a fairly linear dungeon, they'll find the Snow Witch herself and be able to kill her off (or will they?). Withhold your disbelief, in faithful rendition of the original Fighting Fantasy book the cavern and its inhabitants apparently exist only to kill wandering adventurers, you cannot imagine anyone just living there... even if there is a cook busy making a reasonably tasty stew for dinner!

All right, like all the best villains, even once the Snow Witch is dead, the characters are not home free. Her spirit's still around and if they escape that, then (apart from the caverns falling apart around their ears) there's a note with an ancient death curse spell pinned on the door they leave by! The second part of the adventure involves finding the only healer in the neighbourhood who knows how to lift the curse... and that, too, is fraught with danger.

Presentation-wise, this is very similar to the first book (The Warlock of Firetop Mountain). The rules for the 'Luck' attribute are repeated... and for this adventure, a bit of luck could come in useful. There are several instances of 'fail a single roll and you're dead, sorry mate' which can be particularly galling (especially if you are using a genuine 8th-level character rather than a pregenerated one).

There isn't much background to enable you to use this in a campaign, but it is just down the road from Firetop Mountain so if you have The Warlock of Firetop Mountain scenario you can use the details therein. It doesn't matter much, as the action is self-contained in the first part and the new territory covered in the wilderness section is detailed within the adventure text.

It's another good dungeon bash with plenty to keep the characters on their toes. Not a dull moment, but plenty of deadly ones!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
FIGHTING FANTASY - Caverns of the Snow Witch
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QUERP - 2nd Edition
by Mike H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2008 08:05:25

Here's an interesting find - a small press role-playing game with big-dollar production aspirations but a tiny-dollar price tag. $5.00 nice.

This is an old school fantasy role-playing game with elements that will be very familiar to old-school players and possibly a pleasant and easy ride into the hobby for new recruits both young and old.

Each class has a series of fixed characteristics; under the basic rules all warriors have a strength score of 5, for example. The upside of this design decision is that characters are created in just a few short minutes... If one dies, we'll mourn the loss but we'll cook up a replacement quick smart (as we say down-under).

Aside from warriors there are magicians, barbarians, priests, sages, thieves and more. In short the perfect cast of characters for fast-play adventure.

The game system is very straight forward: the GM assigns a difficulty and the player attempts to equal or exceed the difficulty rating with a roll of 2 six-sided dice, to which the relevant attribute is added. In combat situations, the difficulty number is the target's defence rating. A hit results in damage, which is determined by a random die-roll based on weapon type.

For a game of just 74 pages, there is a huge about of information here, magic items, lots of monsters, spot rules for common situations, character advancement and not one but 2 adventures; one mid-length solo and a damn fine group game.

This is genuinely a high quality game that covers its subject matter perfectly.

I would recommend QUERP to buyers looking for a quick and easy game to supplement their existing RPG or an excellent way of introducing new players to the table.

I'm keen to see what Greywood do with the Hammerax setting. If managed well the background material could provide a compelling argument to become involved.

One final note: QUERP2 is a visual overhaul of the first edition. However, it now looks so beautiful, I can easily see owners of Q1 shelling out $5.00 for a shiny new copy. Additionally, the publisher advises me that purchasers will also have access to a printer-friendly version of the game, something surprisingly few PDF publishers offer.

Enjoy!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
QUERP - 2nd Edition
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Fighting Fantasy - Warlock Of Firetop Mountain
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/09/2008 04:15:51

Back in 1982, two UK pioneers of role-playing, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, launched a new line of books called 'Fighting Fantasy.' These were solo game books, in which you would read a paragraph that presented a situation and several options, and depending on your choice of response, were directed to read another paragraph... and so on, reading sections according to the decisions made until you finished the adventure or got killed off. Now, some of these original storylines are being revamped and released as 'traditional' scenarios, intended to be run by a DM with one or a small group of players. So it is now possible to explore these classic dungeons within the context of your Dungeons & Dragons game.

The book is well-presented, with a nice 'real book' appearing cover with a colour illustration of the Wizard himself; the inside being black and white. The dungeon map is on the inside front cover, and is rather dark and low in contrast, making it quite difficult to read. However, Myriador are offering extensive web support including a downloadable colour map (which unfortunately is only available in a propriatory format linked to the mapping tool they are developing, a JPEG or PDF map that one could just print out would be useful!). There's plenty of line art to show what you'll find as you wander the dungeon, again this is available as a download so you can show your players what they see... although when doing this I prefer unlabelled pictures, I may want them to figure out that they are looking at zombies or that this is the Wizard himself and not one of his henchmen!). Minor details, but rendering the download a bit less useful than it might be. The final downloads are the 4 pre-generated characters that are provided. The ones in the book are very dark and wouldn't photocopy legibly, so if you want to use them, get the downloadable versions which are slightly better although the text is on a 'fussy' background. Overall, the concept of the downloadable support is good, and the things provided are useful, but there are flaws in the rendition.

The book begins with some background material and an overview of the scenario. There is also a rules addition, the concept of 'Luck.' Treated as an additional attribute for your character, you may make a Luck roll (at DC10) whenever you like before you attempt a skill, make a save or enter combat. If you succeed, you gain a circumstance bonus for the roll in question... but if you fail too badly, you may get a penalty! Each time you make a Luck roll, whatever the results, you lose a temporary point of Luck, and once you are out, you cannot make more Luck rolls until you have regained some points. This is done by the normal 1 point a day recovery, or by spell/potion. At points during the adventure, the DM is given the option of awarding Luck points to players who have accomplished certain milestones. It's an interesting system to add a little edge to character chances of success, and could be used in general campaigns if so wished. It is possibly a little too easy to gain the Luck bonus, but as it is quite small (+2) it should not be too unbalancing.

The actual adventure itself is a straightforward 'dungeon crawl' and a good one. It's faithful to the original game book, and has been converted well into the D20 system. The challenges are well-balanced and should provide plenty of opportunity for most classes to shine, provided that they are competent in combat. There is very little scope for interaction, virtually all of the denizens of this dungeon are going to attack on sight and have no 'background' or detail about who they are or why they are here... but that's not really the point. The original was a dungeon crawl too.

There's a good variety of people and creatures to meet and fight, however, including of course the Warlock himself. I was a little surprised to find that he's a Sorcerer rather than a Wizard (and if so, why does he have a box-full of spellbooks?), and given his prowess and attitude he might well have had some Fighter levels... he's not as well-detailed as one might like for a main villain/mastermind, but he's there and the characters ought - if they've been paying attention as they went through the dungeon - be able to defeat him and retrieve his treasures.

Several new monsters - recreations of the ones from the original book - are presented, in standard D20 format at the back, as well as with good tactical information in the location descriptions where they are encountered. Indeed, all the location descriptions are good, with plenty of detail for the DM to aid in running encounters. Sometimes the information is a bit repetitive, although that can be a good thing, you don't need to remember it or hunt for it elsewhere in the book, it's there where and when you need it.

At the end, there are notes on the nearby village of Gilford and its inhabitants, and some detail on fitting this adventure into a campaign be it set on Titan (the Fighting Fantasy world setting) or any other setting of your choice or devising. More details of the Titan setting are promised for the website, but aren't there yet.

Overall, this is an excellent dungeon bash, and a faithful rendition of the original Fighting Fantasy book. It should be a winner for any combat-oriented group, or a refreshing change for others who may think that they can talk their way out of anything!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fantasy - Warlock Of Firetop Mountain
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Crime Scene: SUPERNATURAL
by Gary L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/23/2008 04:44:53

"Crime Scene Supernatural" provides a knockout punch full of useful information! This not only includes law enforcement procedures but also occult and fringe religious groups and psychic phenomena. And an adventure to get you started!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crime Scene: SUPERNATURAL
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Fright Night: HAUNTED SCHOOL
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/29/2008 10:47:01

It’s an odd staple that schools can be scary places. I don’t just mean from the constant threats of detention or being stuffed into your locker, either. Rather, schools are scary because, at night, they become the exact opposite of how you envision them. Instead or bright, crowded, noisy places, they become shadow-filled corridors of vast, silent emptiness…the kind that are perfect for some sort of monster to lurk in. Could there be a better, or more accessible, place to adventure in? The Haunted School supplement of Greywood Publishing’s Fright Night line takes a look.

The book comes as a single PDF file, almost four megabytes in size. The book is sixty-four pages long, and has Optical Character Recognition, but no bookmarks, which is unfortunate. Somewhat annoyingly, the font for the book is all set to look like an old-style typewriter. While this is cool at first, the entire book is written this way, and it quickly becomes annoying since it slightly inhibits readability.

The book is entirely in black and white. Despite the cover shown on the product page, the PDF has neither a front nor back cover. Periodic illustrations break up the text, and while the (slightly anime-style) drawings are nicely done, they don’t seem to have taken to being scanned too well; they’re all slightly pixelized. Pages have bloodstains forming borders along the sides and top. Since this product was pretty clearly a printed book before being put out as a PDF, you may be better served to just find the actual book if you’re considering printing the entire product.

So how well does Haunted School cover its namesake’s genre? Interestingly, and rather oddly since this book debuted in 2004, it mainly styles itself on the D&D PHB rather than d20 modern, but despite that it adopts a large number of d20 Modern tropes. For example, all of the classes it introduces (which are meant for students attending school) are ten-level base classes that have a built-in AC bonus. But there’s no Reputation bonus, despite how much sense that makes in a clique-ish high school, and skills are based off those listed in the PHB, with d20 Modern skills (such as Computer Use) listed and explained here in the book.

Of course, the book has more than just character rules. Its introduction does a decent job of explaining how to run a horror game. Backing this up later in the book are a few short chapters with new rules. Ranging from the expected things like mechanics for fear and insanity are the unexpected, but fun, additions of things like rules for trying to verbally humiliate other students, or gaining a free feat based on your clique.

The book also walks you through a sample location and adventure. A sample haunted school is given, not just with a map and description, but also a few antagonists. The last part of the book then walks you through a short mini-campaign set in the haunted school, giving you guidelines rather than a full set of short adventures.

All in all, Haunted School isn’t a bad supplement, but it’s not superb either. Things such as the typeset font, the lack of bookmarks, and the hybrid of D&D and d20 Modern rules make it stumble on the technical side of things. However, when it does introduce new rules, it does so well, and I’d go so far as to use as least some of these rules (such as the social interaction ones) for most Modern games – or at the very least, ones with teenagers. In short, this is a mixed bag of a product; not great, but it may be just what you’re looking for, since it covers a rather specific niche (the eponymous haunted school) within a niche (horror RPGs). If I were the teacher, I’d give this book a C+.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fright Night: HAUNTED SCHOOL
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Creator Reply:
Hi there Shane, Many thanks for the, very well written, review. Not adding the cover was a terrible oversight on my behalf. This was the first PDF to be uploaded and it was missed off. I have now updated the PDF to include the cover. I will be working on the bookmarks in the very near future. Jamie Wallis
Bookmarks have now been added. Jamie Wallis
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