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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/16/2020 10:35:24

I have no idea who the author is or what podcasts his group is known for, so I am approaching this without bias. I bought it on the recommendation of a random Reddit thread and I am very pleased. The author has a digestible way of relaying information, and the tools presented are simple to use and not only powerful but most importantly QUICK. Most involve rolling dice or quickly scribbling numbers, and one even suggests playing chess to simulate the cat and mouse game between rival guilds. What a cool way to give players agency! If no players are involved, I'm sure I could let 2 AI play each other and tally the relevant results.

It should be mentioned that there are some really cool side effect features in this book as well. The setting has a lean for the dark, with an emphasis on common superstitions and stuff like curse traps and glimpses into madness. I was really pleased with the optional rule for useful books. I always read with an eye for idea-mining, so there was also a lot to... ahem appropriate... here.

Long story short I have been collecting tools to make the perfect tabletop sim table and I consider this a crown jewel. This set of tools is obviously written by someone who actually runs tables and is very approachable. I imagine I will get a lot of use out of it for running my massive dark-Venice renaissance. I will be looking for his other works.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
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No Salvation for Witches
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2020 08:44:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of quote/preface, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 62 pages of content, laid out in the usual 6’’ by 9’’(A5) booklet-format, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters. The review is based on both the hardcover and the pdf.

Before you read this review, please be aware that I assume familiarity with Better Than Any Man, or at least, with my review of the module herein.

Okay, if the strategically-placed pens on my hardcover’s copy are no indicator – this module is abbreviated NSFW. If you read this review on a work computer, don’t click on the links to the uncensored version. The module itself contains drawn nudity, as well as excessive gore and twisted imagery – if you’re easily offended, then this may not be the module for you. The module is VERY deadly, and can end campaigns/irrevocably change them. It can be completed in a single convention slot.

Formally, the book uses LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) as the OSR-rules employed; NPC/monster stats are printed in red, making them easy to parse. Magic items and spell-references are properly formatted, but it should be noted that spellcasters don’t get a list of spells known per se. A lot of the book’s pages (13 of them) are devoted to the Tract of Teratology, a book with which you can conjure grotesque monstrosities if you’re willing to sacrifice people to do so. These bestow abilities on caster and monster, but in a cool twist, the monsters generally suffer from compulsions and strange restrictions – it’s almost like a small brother to the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, and it does its job pretty well, but I couldn’t help but feel like its presence here was not required – having it elaborated into a full-blown book of its own, and using the page-count in a different way would have probably been better.

The theme of this module, as the introduction notes, is “glibdark” – in short, much like some exploitation flicks, it exaggerates dark themes and taboos to the point where they can become almost funny…but the module is more, at least in my opinion. Still, this “glibdark” aspect bears mentioning: The module, intended for low to mid-level characters (no level range is given) is almost gleeful in its sometimes rather gross descriptions, so whether or not your group can enjoy the like is an important factor to determine whether you’ll like this book.

There is another factor. You see, I can summarize this book in one sentence: “Better Than Any Man, Convention Edition – or Better Than Any Man, the Satirical Meta-Commentary Module.” In a way, this module is the more successful of the LotFP-modules that can be read as meta-commentary on the reception of Better Than Any Man, the other being Fuck For Satan.

But in order to elaborate, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, please stop me if this sounds familiar: A coven of ladies with witch-like powers has established a place and try to live according to their remarkably progressive ideals. The ladies have unique abilities, and one of them has more powers than the others. Yeah, well, what was one of the factors in Better Than Any Man takes central focus here: The PCs are basically trapped in a huge dome of magical energy that includes two settlements and a priory. The priory is the center of the ritual currently happening, and it can only be accessed by finding some red spheres – all of this is illustrated in pretty neat isometric full-color cartography…which is missing a scale. Super-weird: In spite of the pdf being layered, the maps can’t be made player-friendly – the annoying labels remain. Boo!!

But I digress. The 5 women standing with the main antagonist Orelia Woolcott have taken the names of mythological figures, for they want to enact a dancing ritual to change the world! Orelia has managed to contact a per se benevolent entity called “Primogenitor” – this thing badly understands our primitive world from its multi-dimensional perspective, and thus has a hard time actually doing what the ladies intend it to. Still, the ritual in progress, unless stopped, will destroy the (VERY) unpleasant social order of the 1620s, yearning for ideals that ring as sound to most modern people.

However, in that world and age? With the primogenitor? The consequences will be vast and cataclysmic…but they still may be worth it. The ladies are not classic villains. Nor are the PCs classic heroes. Which brings me back to Better Than Any Man’s reception: That module may be one of the best PWYW-modules I’ve ever run, it may be one of the best adventures in LotFP’s entire library. It was also denounced as a wide variety of things, by people offended by an optional humiliation/BDSM-ish reference, by its dark horror-themes, by not getting the usual adventuring experience. By getting a module that is dark fantasy, and can turn full-blown horror after the PCs ignore LITERALLY their deity warning them away. BTAM was maligned for being too deadly (and yes, it is lethal), for being capricious, and Fuck For Satan took all of these issues and made a review from them. It was a tantrum and a middle finger.

This adventure does something smarter: It makes the reception of Better Than Any Man, the mischaracterizations, exaggerations, rumor-mongering and deliberate misreadings, and wrote them down. Then, the author constructed a satirical module that can be fun, in spite of all these things, well, being deliberately showcased here.

If you think I’m reading too much into this, let me give you a couple of examples.

-There is a village where everyone was slaughtered – a little girl can turn herself inside-out (dragging her e.g. leg through her moth) and turn into a killer creature, which must be dealt with.

-There are PLENTY of cataclysmic ways for your campaign to go off the deep end. One optional encounter has a slime that can cause an ice age. Looking into a peeping hole can end the world/launch a horrible invasion, or have a character die horribly, seemingly vanishing into thin air. All of these campaign-enders are telegraphed in some way, though – the holes? “GAZE NOT” is written above them. The slime? Can be dealt with/is triggered by the PCs.

-The lethality is represented in the finale as well: Rocks literally fall, and PCs have the chance to lose limbs on failed saves.

-There is a couple of a man and woman who hate each other, fused together.

-There is LITERALLY a psychotic white knight who wants to kill the PCs if they try to interfere.

-There are nuns giving birth to abominations.

-There is a perverted abbot, who has a mini-harem of ladies LITERALLY commoditized by the weird magics – one of the ladies has a frickin’ cornucopia-like torso, and their limbs have been somewhat switched around. They are grotesque, yet helpful and happy with their lot.

There is NO WAY this is not intentional.

It is the module-version of whacking somebody on the head with a newspaper while yelling “DO YOU GET IT NOW???” Heck, the module actually spells out that Woolcott’s New World Order actually would be GOOD for the PCs. You know, as good as a certain social experiment near Würzburg, destined to be swept away by Carolus Rex, could have been.

This module’s subtext removes all ambiguity; I’d not even call it “subtext” – it’s text. It’s so ridiculous and excessive with its gore and grotesque components, with its OBVIOUS quoting of pretty much everything related to exploitation themes, that it’s very, very hard to play this seriously. It’s possible, but leaning into the grotesque and outrageous is probably the better call.

And yet, the adventure is not per se preachy. You can play it without all of these considerations, and since the ritual’s under a strict timer, gathering the red spheres, entering the priory, and stopping or not stopping the ritual can be covered, easily, within a convention slot or single (long) play-session.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column standard, and the module provides plenty of grotesque and gory full-color artworks of excellent quality. The isometric full-color cartography is beautiful, but I’d rather have USEFUL cartography. No scales on the maps, no grids, and worse, the maps feature spoilers. The items required to enter the final area of the module actually are visible on the maps. This is particularly jarring in the pdf-version, where the existence of layered pdfs literally means that there’s no excuse for not being able to turn these off. The hardcover sports “NSFW” on the spine, is solid and high-quality – no complaints there. The pdf doesn’t fare as well, unfortunately: The pdf has this weird phenomenon, where the crisp and perfectly clear artworks of the hardcover book seem more low-res and pixilated, have less crisper colors, etc., and the module lacks bookmarks in its electronic version, which makes navigation a pain in the behind.

I like Rafael Chandler’s death/black-metal infused aesthetic, with its pitch-black humor, and this book puts this humor front and center. This can be played as a funhouse parade of grotesqueries, and even without knowing about all the online drama, it is a fun and functional module. It is super-deadly, but it, unlike Fuck For Satan, is not a deliberate screwjob (haha – sorry for the atrocious punnery) – underlying its lethality is a very deliberate “reap what you have sown”-mentality. The PCs will only suffer if the players aren’t smart. This is brutal, but it is no exercise in “Got Ya”-BS – it is fair in its savagery.

Where Better Than Any Man was a relentlessly dark and merciless vision, this is its funnier, goofier brother, is the equivalent of laughing in a slasher-flick. Now, personally, I preferred the other take on the concepts, but No Salvation for Witches does have its place beyond its meta-commentary aspects.

For a campaign starter, for a convention game with the right audience? This can be genuinely funny. “Right audience” being the big factor here.

If you’re easily offended, then this will trigger you to kingdom come, and same goes if you just want your standard fantasy.

But that’s not what LotFP is about. This is one of the few instances, where I’d consider grotesque horror and humor to make for a valid combination.

So, all well? No. The maps prioritizing beauty over utility bother me to no end. No bookmarks? Similarly sucky. And while the Tract of Teratology is a nice tool, it feels pretty useless here – I’d rather have had more module. That being said, unlike Fuck For Satan, this is no somewhat puerile temper-tantrum in module-form; this is, in design and themes, an elegant rebuttal that can be fun to play. It’s not Rafael Chandler’s best work, but it’s a nice module. My final verdict will be 4 stars – for the print version. For the pdf-version, you should think about how important the aforementioned issues are to you, and detract the appropriate number of stars. Personally, I’d rate the pdf on its own at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
No Salvation for Witches
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Veins of the Earth
by Ryan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/29/2020 23:30:49

This is a great supplament for an underdark campaign. It has great potential for world building and encounter building. It doesn't contain a plot point campaign or specific adventures, but if you are doing an OSR game with heavy cave exploration, it is pretty useful. The useful thing about it is being able to come up with a playable encounter in moments with the handy tables. New monsters, weird civilizations, and differant types of darkness are well worth the purchase price.

The art by Scrap Princess is a love or hate thing. It has a very distinct style and it has the impression the creatures there in are what the adventurers actully see jumping out of the darkenss at them. That give is a indistict look, that I like, but some of my players felt was underwealming. Art is a personal thing, so no accounting for taste.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veins of the Earth
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Forgive Us
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2020 11:16:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, leaving us with 45 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

First things first: I called this “module”, because it is one properly developed module, and the other two are essentially slightly prolonged adventure hooks. All have a leitmotif of, well, things you’d utter “Forgive Us” for – as you can imagine, that makes them all pretty horror-centric. As often for LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), the queasy need not apply. The modules all sport a horror-theme to some degree. They are intended for low-level characters (level 1 – 4 work; it's designated for 4th), and are pretty deadly in various degrees. A note if you’re one of the many people annoyed by some of the meta-game shenanigans in some LotFP-offerings: This book lacks those. It also thankfully lacks “wrong thing, world explodes”-BS; the PCs can very much screw up with far-reaching consequences, but they’ll have to LIVE with that, so if the “blown up campaign world”-angle bores you by now, this won’t hit that pet-peeve. As horror-modules, the content is obviously not suitable for kids, and if you’re easily triggered, particularly by suicide or infanticide, this is not for you. The main module would be a perfect fit for Warhammer, just fyi.

All of the modules are nominally set in England, AD 1625, and includes a brief NPC-name generator. The modules sport a total of two one-page letter handouts between them, and the author also handled cartography and artworks: You can see the style on the cover, and rest assured that, this comic-like look notwithstanding, the drawings do manage to convey horror. Anyhow, the cartography bears special mention, as does the information-design: For one, the pdf is heavily cross-referenced with internal hyperlinks as well as bookmarks, making running the module from the pdf surprisingly convenient. Secondly, an area comes with fully drawn b/w-cartography, with the write-ups of the respective rooms showing lots of details, from fallen over chairs to beds etc. The maps sport a scale, but no grid for VTT. Some rooms have more “interaction points” than others, which are listed separately – this makes running this with just a bit of minimal prep-work easy. There is but one thing about this module that it gets really wrong in that department, and it’s, for me as a person, the most important one: There are no key-less versions of the detailed maps, which is particularly odd since LotFP is usually good at that sort of thing, with layered pdfs and the like. So no, you can’t turn off the annoying numbers, the tell-tale Secret-door-S-indicators or the like, which severely limited the usefulness of the excessive cartography for me. This is also annoying, because the map of Norwich included suffers the same issue.

It should be noted that the two “bonus-hook”-scenarios in the back do not have cartography or the like included – the above only holds true for the primary scenario. Which brings me to one point: The setting the stage section on Norwich is interesting and grounds the module, but I genuinely wished it was longer; the page-count allotted to the bonus scenarios would have helped here, as well as with the finale of the main module, but we’ll get to that next.

In order to talk about the adventure + hooks herein, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS right now. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great!

Let’s start at the back, with the adventure-sketches: “Death and Taxes” is contingent on the PCs being friends to a fellow –ex-soldier called William Blake; this man has died, as a letter informs them (one of the handouts), and they are invited to the funeral. Blake’s been buried with a dark treasure, and his daughter, precocious and surprisingly adept at surviving in the wilds, has gone missing. The kid followed her late dad’s instructions; after finding her, the PCs will probably have to dig up their friend’s corpse t get rid of the item, for the taxman coming to town with his retinue is actually a cultist in disguise who also wants the contents of the buried box. This adventure sketch is pretty basic, and suffers from its brevity: With a properly depicted service, some more detail on how good a fellow Blake was, etc., this would have gravitas; instilling how taboo digging up the dead was and the social scene of the village would have also helped make this exciting. As provided, it is imho dead real-estate, a dud.

The second adventure-sketch “In Heaven, Everything is Fine”, deserves a trigger-warning…sort of. But not really. You see, the module takes place in the small village of Ashmanhaugh, where stories of a ghost abound. A nearby tower invites adventuring, and the strange, ghostly manifestations are disquieting indeed! But here’s the thing: Ashmanhaugh is mostly fictional, a super-complex illusion woven by a thing from the stars that masquerades as a toddler. “Anthony”, this thing, has the power to bend perceptions and reality, making tower and the vast majority of people in the village figments of its imagination…but the power comes at a cost: The entity consistently drains life from those in the illusion, which has reduced the actual population of the village down to 5, including his delusional “mom.” Not counting the ghost, that is, for the ghost is actually a man who, due to a head-injury, can’t be affected by the illusion: His “hauntings” are attempts by the simple-minded and good-natured fellow to scare away others from a phenomenon he can’t grasp, but perceives as dangerous. Obviously, all the loot and dangers encountered in the tower etc. are figments, which some groups won’t appreciate. While I am not a fan of the shock-jockey-esque “kill a helpless cosmic entity masquerading as a kid”-visuals or roleplaying situation to solve the adventure sketch, I can’t help but really like the whole concept; in many ways, I wished that this had instead been expanded into a detailed, full-blown adventure, with progressive accumulations of glitches in illusions, mysterious deaths of the remaining villagers (who’ll show up once more, perfectly fine, as Anthony’s illusions…), etc. This could have been a clever, damn cool psychological horror scenario. With its meager 5-page page-count, it can convey its basic idea, but anything beyond that is up to the referee to handle, limiting its utility.

Now, as for the eponymous “Forgive Us”, the actual full adventure, it is an honest, well-executed dark fantasy/horror-yarn: The thieves guild known as “The Tenebrous Hand” has become too confident: Their base consists of an entire block of buildings, including interior courtyard, and the entire block is lavishly-mapped, in an angle that I have so far only seen in Rogues of Remballo. Every room and building here is properly depicted, and the module manages to evoke a really neat survival-horror aspect: You see, the guild has stolen a strange stone sarcophagus from a weird cult; unfortunately, this cult, the “Brotherhood of Pus”, is a disease cult (substitute Nurgle, good to go for Warhammer…), and the contagion thus released is genuinely gruesome: It mutates the hands of the affected, if present, into claws, and the head mutates into a grossly-conical, puckered thing, with the openings sporting licking tendrils or tongues. Those hit risk catching the highly mutagenic disease and joining the ranks of the mutated monstrosities.

The Tenebrous Hand managed to seal the worst in the vault, but it was too late for them: Faced with suicide or mutation, they chose the former…enter the PCs. Mutated dogs in fly-infested butcheries, a madman, half-mutated suicides (see cover) – this is a pretty epic and atmospheric scenario that builds up tension and paranoia well, also courtesy of its details. If the PCs unleash the horrors in the vault, they’ll have plenty of reasons to ask “Forgive Us” – provided they don’t manage to stop the things, which seems unlikely, as there are a LOT of them. On the plus-side, the loot in the vaults and how it’s depicted? Awesome. Each piece of loot comes with an artwork, as well as a glyph that denotes if it’s oversized and unwieldy, or has a negligible impact n encumbrance. I really wished we’d gotten a hand-out version that doesn’t spell out values and effects of the items, though: That way, I could give this to my PCs, ask them to choose…”Grab the Loot and Run” is quite the well-chosen moniker here.

Now, if your PCs are particularly sensible individuals who don’t want to open the vault, fret not, for there is an additional chaos-factor: A group of 4 particularly…weird (??) adventurers; three of these fellows have special abilities; the fourth recently died and accompanies them now as an undead. Whether as suckers that open the vault, help in combat or competition, this group adds a helpful wildcard to the referee’s arsenal when running the module. The two-page spread of these monsters ravaging the town is nice, even though, if the PCs do their job well, is not something that necessarily happens.

All in all cool, right? Well, there is one thing that is somewhat of a missed chance: The module has a denouement as well, where the PCs go to the fully mapped house of the Brotherhood of Pus and eliminate the cultists. This was a pretty lame section, with the icky cultist’s lab left mostly t the GM#s devising. Using the 10 pages of the additional adventure sketches to elaborate the end of the main adventure locale and this denouement would have imho been a wiser choice here, and elevated the module further. Ideally, an illustrated selection of despicable cult treasures, perhaps a mini-dungeon or some antagonist responses for the cult might have helped make the finale less anticlimactic.

It should be noted that the lethality of the module and the infection in general, is somewhat contingent on how much access the PCs have to cure disease. A single scroll can be found among the treasure, but before the PCs have the spell, the module may well be a TPK, even on a triumph, if all PCs got infected. This might also make this an efficient one-shot or convention-scenario. Just saying.

Nice: The book comes with a bonus-pdf, a 9-page conversion guide to PFRPG, penned by Jukka Särkijärvi, and to my pleasant surprise, the little pdf actually presents quite a few solid statblocks; correct formatting, math that is mostly correct (some minor snafus), and we even get a proper and solidly-executed template. The magic item included fails to list its crafting feat, but as a bonus I wasn’t even aware of existing? Cool, and certainly appreciated! For PFRPG, I’d recommend the module for levels 1 – 2, in case you’re wondering. As an aside: This bonus conversion-pdf is better than many full-blown dual-format OSR-modules that profess to have stats for/work with 5e or PFRPG…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level in the main pdf; the bonus-pdf fares slightly worse, but is still better than many books I’ve covered. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column-standard for the most part, and as noted, the b/w-artwork, which took me a bit to get used to, works really well as a whole; we get a ton of it, and the cartography is qualitatively really nice and detailed. The only strikes in the aesthetic department is the absence of player-friendly maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. The softcover print-version sports matte paper and properly lists the module’s name on the spine – nice for the bookshelf.

Kelvin Green’s “Forgive Us” is a neat, unpretentious and well-executed horror/dark fantasy scenario, one that can be run with groups too grossed out by the misery-porn that is e. “Death Love Doom.” In many ways, I can see this work in many campaigns, and while it can have serious repercussions, it is easier to integrate and maintain in your campaign than most LotFP-scenarios. It also was, to my knowledge, Kelvin Green’s freshman offering, and considering that, it’s an impressive achievement indeed. It’s gritty, grimy, somewhat icky and dark, and yet it gives the PCs a fighting chance and is thankfully bereft of trollish “Gotcha”-BS. My main gripe with the module, apart from the missing player-friendly maps, would be that the adventure-sketches in the back deserved to be either cut (Death and Taxes) or developed into a full-blown adventure (In Heaven, Everything is Fine); the page-count they take up could have elevated this scenario from being a good module, to it being excellent. As provided, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forgive Us
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LotFP Referee Book (old Grindhouse Edition)
by David W J. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2020 17:29:47

To quote the goblin king from the Hobbit, "Couldnt give it away." They should pay people to download this.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
LotFP Referee Book (old Grindhouse Edition)
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A Single, Small Cut
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/10/2020 07:43:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This encounter/mini-adventure clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreon supporters.

The material herein is intended for six 3rd level characters, and uses the LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules; it can be adapted to other OSR-games with relative ease. The action is set in a remote church and its crypt, which comes with full cartography. Puzzling: The supplement is a layered pdf, but does not allow you to turn off the annoying pieces of information like “Nave”, “Narthex”, “Font” or the like – so, alas, no player-friendly version included. This is a bit puzzling, as LotFP did that in some supplements. Statblocks are made easier to see by being in boxed text, but this measure has not been consistently implemented.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the module begins with a pet-peeve of mine, namely that the lore of the encounter introduces a massive secret society/order, here, the Order of the Kite, a secret organization of Christianity to find and contain “Satanic” artifacts; notoriously underfunded, these individuals have now accumulated more dark artifacts than the enemy, i.e. everyone else. They proceeded to use those, in particularly the Red Bells, cut from a single garnet. One of their commanders was buried with the Red Bell beneath that church.

The inside of the church features a priest, who invites the PCs in – and PCs being careful can notice him sporting a single, small cut on his red head – a hint that he has hastily shaved his head and assumed the priest’s garments, for the “priest” is actually a wanted murderer. He and his cronies (lying in wait, with crossbows cocked) are here on the express orders of some sorcerer who learned about the bell. A single small cut (zing) from his recent shaving of a monk’s tonsure acts as a hint of danger, if the PCs have not yet been appropriately traumatized by friendly priests in The God That Crawls. While Clement “The Priest” secures the church, the sorcerer botches big time and rings the Red Bell –summoning a Corrector of Sins, the monster on the cover, which btw. has 6 attacks and 54 hit points, making it a frickin’ shredder, particularly considering LotFP’s further nerfed magic and offense capabilities of PCs!

Clement’s ambush can be devastating if the PCs fail to it, and after a few rounds, the crypt bursts open, and people stumble out – these are the survivors of the sorcerer’s retinue, and their stats are, oddly, not highlighted in the same boxes as other stats. The Corrector follows, and makes for a free-for-all, very tough battle. Correctors become more potent the more corpses are around when it’s called, so even if the PCs are victorious, a single careless moment with the Red Bell can be pretty deadly, since it’ll appear in the area with the greatest concentration of corpses – which may well be behind the PCs, potentially trapping them in the crypt.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no particular accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a lot of original b/w-artworks. The cartography is b/w as well, but no player-friendly version is provided. The pdf is layered, but only lets you turn off graphics or text – having an art/map folio would have been a better call. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I am usually a pretty big fan of Michael Curtis’ writing, but this pdf, even considering its intended, limited scope, left me less than impressed. The monster is a standard flesh-tendril-y thing, the adversaries aren’t that interesting, and it’s all combat, in a system not designed to make combat that exciting. Worse, the author actually did show that he can do a dark fantasy/horror church MUCH better: His temple in “The Croaking Fane” for DCC is superior to this module in every single way. The module’s base premise also is akin to the one employed in “The God That Crawls” and less impressive in its execution; the fact that the lore introduces yet another massive secret society is a downside as well, though at least one you can ignore with relative ease. Still, it takes up wordcount that could have been used to make the actual adventuring site sport more interactivity, which is woefully lacking. All in all, this is a combat cut-scene, with player-agenda limited beyond that to two decisions. And honestly, I think that’s lame – and puzzling, considering how the author did show how much better he can do. All in all, this might be worth getting for the low price, but I consider it to be a dud; I can improvise better scenarios. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A Single, Small Cut
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Qelong
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/06/2020 06:40:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Qelong clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial (which includes an amazing b/w-artwork in the pdf-version, one missing from the print version), 1 page ToC, 1 page artwork inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 48 pages of content, laid out in digest (A5/6’’ by 9’’), so let’s take a look!

It should be noted that I own both pdf and print version of this supplement – the pdf version has the full-color hex-map as a fold-out on the back of the book, with the backside of the map covered by the aforementioned b/w-artwork. Very cool: We do get a player’s map sans SPOILERS, but with helpful annotations!

Nominally, Qelong is designated as an adventure for characters of 4th to 6th level, and they should better be a well-rounded party of at least 4 veteran players – Qelong is deadly. The supplement uses Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) as its rules-set, but is different in several ways from most LotFP-offerings: There is but one enemy herein that has save-or-die attacks, and if you face that enemy, you’ve been doing it wrong. This creature is basically a local deity, so yeah – not intended to be fought.

Qelong is a difficult beast to talk about – it is southeast Asian in theme (awesome, we need more of that!), and it is clearly inspired by both Apocalypse Now Redux (and the original themes of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) as well as by the themes of colonialism and pollution. Even as a European, it’s hard to not realize that there are some themes pertaining pollution, degeneration and corruption by pollution. It should be noted that these themes are not used to preach or evoke “xyz bad” feelings, but instead are employed to elicit a kind of horror we only rarely get to see. Qelong is one apocalyptic beast that manages to pull off grimdark, truly horrendous and frightening environments better than pretty much all comparable media I’ve consumed. I bought this book back in the day on the name of Kenneth Hite as the author, and it lavished unread on my shelves for very, very long, until a patreon supporter asked me to cover it – so yeah, as far as I’m concerned, this is an overdue review.

Formally, this book is in the weird space between regional sourcebook and hex/pointcrawl – it does not really adhere to either formula, and could be best considered to be a pretty freeform sandbox and adventure outline. There are read-aloud texts for hexes that e.g. feature canals and the like, but not for individual, numbered encounter areas.

Since this book is predicated on throwing the PCs into a highly volatile environment, the referee will definitely need to do some work here when running this; but not in the mechanics department or concepts, and only in the details and development as a result to the actions of the player characters. This is not a book I’d recommend to novice referees.

The book describes the Sajavedra region, and provides a total of 50 rumors, and yes, it does have a name-table (Yes!) and random encounter tables are provided by terrain type, and villages encountered can be in various states of dilapidation. To note this explicitly: This is not a happy-go-lucky environment, and it is not for kids; while it is not overly explicit or gory, it does delve into some seriously twisted themes. You have been warned – this is dark fantasy/horror. It is also more successful in its chosen field because it doesn’t sport the stupid “Roll a d%, oops, you killed the world”-bullshit that plagues some of LotFP’s offerings.

This notion of infection, of corruption, particularly that of parasites, mutation and infestation, of a biome trying to swallow you whole, is executed admirably well by Qelong: from “good ole plague” to typhus to the monsters encountered, to the global theme, Qelong is a genuine struggle for survival. The supplement contains two spells – one is an uncharacteristically lame “transform stuff into snakes”-spell, and the other is more of a story tool: It is a level 7 spell, and one that ultimately will end the module.

If Qelong has a weakness, then that would be that its 10 keyed encounter areas would have warranted more detail, particularly since one is a weird plateau that only serves as a way to plug in Carcosa-style oddness – and not a developed one, mind you. Indeed, Qelong feels, as a whole, brief – like it could have used 10 pages or more to further develop its concepts, go into more details, provide timeline-based events or the like – for there is a timeline.

But in order to start to explain this book, I will need to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only referees around? Great! When deities war, everyone suffers – and in one such war, a cylinder of a weapon unfathomable to puny men, fell to earth. To Sajavedra. And from it, aakom oozed forth. What is aakom? Picture pure magical energy crossed with Agent Orange and a healthy dose of radioactivity. Much of Qelong’s survival-struggle stems from aakom poisoning being an omnipresent danger. It’s in the air. The food. The water. Wounds, ability scores damaged by disease, everything can cause it. The land is blasted by spells flung from above, and residual death magics hang in the air. Those suffering from poisoning may develop a dreaded aakom curse – and you can’t cure it. Unless you find the source. Unless you find the cylinder, the shell that has fallen from a cosmic weapon, unnoticed by the combatants. The mechanics here are RELENTLESS, and if you play this, you should make sure that the group has cure disease (which can grant a brief respite), and that you implement the rules consistently. This is what makes Qelong unique – a persistent, brutal struggle for survival.

One that gets harder by the day. The peasants of the valley, marred by warfare, will try to steal armor. Bandits and cannibals roam the landscape. Angry ghosts abound, and beyond the hostile fauna, horrid Gaja Simha stalks the landscape (and WILL kill players thinking they can easily take it); between the mist and the lotus fields and the lotus-eating monks with their strange powers, the PCs will have their hands full – and that is before the three big factions, apart from the monks, come into play: On one hand, we have the Varangians – essentially a quasi-European colonialist army, who has undead elephants and a garuda-lich under their control. On the other, we have the 4-headed naga Qelong, basically an evil local deity, awakened by the aakom, and not happy…and with her, her slithering children have come. Oh, and there are the myrmidions. What are these? Ants. Ants that will make you living, mindless incubators. Their soldiers, always male. once human, now shielded by clay ingested, march ever onwards, driven by their mysterious hivemind, destroying everything they can, while harvesting those that can’t flee, adding to their ever-swelling ranks.

Yep. We have essentially a super strong monster, a quasi-deity, and not one, but two armies as dynamic factions. And yes, the varangian leaders get full stats. They are rather high-level as well. Any referee worth their salt only needs one of those to make the trip to Sajavedra awesome. All of them? CHAOS. And not in the funny way, but in the “maelstrom of nightmare-inducing fantasy warfare”-kind of way.

Particularly when you consider that the outclassed PCs will also have to contend with the ever-present aakom-poisoning, with mines shielded by strange elephant heads…and the spreading of the lotus monk’s way. This is pure, frickin’ gold. But what you weave is all up to you…the race for the cylinder, and the various cataclysms threatening this place…they’re on, and there is no easy salvation, no “I win”-button. This can carry a whole campaign, if you choose.

Conclusion: Editing is top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting is somewhat uncommon, as NPC stats, such as HD, AC, etc. are not bolded or otherwise set clearly apart, but spell-references and the like are bolded and in italics – formatting could be better, but is totally okay. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard that uses a lot of high-quality, evocative b/w-artworks. The pdf version has a really amazing one missing from the softcover. The cartography of the hex-map is decent and full-color, but the lack of a player-friendly version of that one means it won’t be seen by many. Having instead the player-map in full-color would have been smarter. The pdf is fully bookmarked. The physical version is a softcover book, with name on the spine. It’s solid for the length, and personally, I think that books of this length should not be hardcovers in most instances, so yeah. Nice one.

Kenneth Hite’s Qelong is a breath of fresh air; even if you generally don’t like LotFP’s excessive gore and sometimes random “oops, everyone dies”-moments, Qelong may be worth checking out. I certainly consider it to be one of the best books in the entire catalog of the company. Its themes of warfare and pollution, of struggling for survival, are strong in theme and implementation, yet always grounded in that gritty mud, while smoke-and lotus-choked haze and imagery suffuse it.

This is one of the best set-ups I’ve ever read, but the lack of timelines, of less freeform guidelines may make this less referee-friendly for novices than it needs to be. This is not a book to spontaneously run; it needs planning, expansion and a referee capable of making this their own. That being said, if the above sounds even remotely exciting to you, then Qelong will probably blow you as much away as it did me. I seriously wished that master Hite wrote a longer book here; I’d certainly immediately go for a 100+ page hardcover of this level of quality. As provided, Qelong is not an adventure, nor a setting book per se; it is a toolkit to make your version of this nightmare. If you understand that, and are willing to invest the effort, it is simply brilliant; if not, you may want to detract a star, for the scavenging potential isn’t as high – this lives from the combination of factors working together. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qelong
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Veins of the Earth
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/13/2019 19:46:13

I purchased this product simply for the monsters, which I had heard were all very original. I would agree that many of them are, and I definitely found a number of very interesting things which I can either build off of or use in a game of my own. However, I besides the gripes some may have about the art (I don't really care for it, but it isn't extremely important. I get the idea of what the monster is) the problem I found with many of them was the heavy meta-narrative tied to them, as well as many descriptions used relying on modern equivalents. To me, these sorts of things would be very immersion breaking to a group, telling them in a Medieval fantasy game that "the monster sounds like a car engine that just won't turn over no matter how many times you turn the key" and so on.

I also personally didn't care much for the general prose of the writing, but again, that is a personal sort of thing. I would say that these sorts of things can work for the right group, but that I do have such a group.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Veins of the Earth
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Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra, The
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/09/2019 13:57:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The pdf for this book clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 61 pages, which are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5).

This review was made possible by one of my patreon supporters, who made the purchase of this book when it was released possible, asking for a review at some time in the future. I figured that it was high time to get on it.

As you can see, the artwork on the cover features exposed breasts, which, if you look at this review on my homepage Endzeitgeist.com, will be hidden by a strategically-placed pen. The interior artwork also adheres to similar aesthetics, so if exposed breasts and gore offend you, then the artwork in this book will offend you. Personally, I considered the artworks to be gorgeous, particularly since they represent an evolution of previous editions’ artwork.

Before you start to swoon at the scope of the generator, I do have bad news – or good news, if you are so inclined: This being an anniversary edition, the book contains a new introduction, as well as all previous introductions – 6 pages are devoted to these. If you are interested in them, they might be worth reading, but personally, I got nothing out of them – I prefer proselytizing and calls to arms for specific playstyles to be left out of my gaming books, but yeah. I did like the inclusion of all artwork featured in previous iterations – these artworks take up 16 pages in the back; add to that the new stunning full-color full- and half-page artworks, and we have somewhat less content in this book than you’d expect from a book of this size. That’s no problem for me, but thinking of this more as 39-page supplement might be prudent.

If you look at that version on my homepage, you’ll also see that I own the original, first printing version of this anniversary edition –a decadent hardcover in a faux-leather slipcase, with foil stamped on the cover. The foil stamp for the “R” and “E” of “Creature” of my version of the book is not perfect, lifting slightly from the surface, but apart from that, the hardcover is a stunning, decadent tome regarding its production values, with sturdy binding etc.

Now, unlike most Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) supplements, this does not exactly subscribe to the system’s conventions, primarily because it was originally released before the system was penned. The book thus attempts to present a creature generator that works in the context of pretty much any OSR-game….and in many ways, one could argue that the book’s monster-creation method could be applied to more complex systems as well – you’d just have to fill out the stats, convert conditions and damage types and the like, but the validity of the themes and general ideas remains intact. This system-agnostic approach to creatures is explained in detail – the book spells out that improvements to AC are supposed to make the creature harder to ht, preventing misinterpretations in systems that employ descending AC. The default AC one should assume, is that of an unarmored human as a standard. The generator assumes that its intent is to create unnatural killing machines, and as such, Intelligence, culture and the like are less of a concern here.

The base damage assumed would be d6; decreased in die-size would make that d4; increases in die size d8 – and so on increasing the number of dice would make that 2d4, 2d6, 2d8, etc. – and after that 3d4, 3d6, etc. – increasing die-size and die-numbers are two separate operations. If your system uses morale, roll 1d8+4; movement per default is that of an unencumbered human, with stationary monsters requiring an ability to lure prey. Each creature generated is expected to be unique (which, funnily enough, contradicts one of my favorite artworks herein, which clearly shows more than one creature of the same type…); saving throw defaults are assumed to be based on the warrior/fighter, or, at the referee’s discretion, that of a more suitable type. Psychic ability is also mentioned. What does the book say about it? Two words: “Oh please.” I really wish I’d be kidding here – so yeah, even back then, the opinionated writing does get a bit in the way and/or might annoy you. Some people like psionics and psychic abilities; they make sense for chthonic monstrosities and unique aberrations of nature. Pity that none were included – I’d genuinely have enjoyed seeing a LotFP-spin on them.

Okay, so how does this generator work? First, we roll 2d10 to determine the monster’s basic shape: These range from being flat or amoeba-shaped to being polyhedral, with 7 entries in the table, one of which is a combination of two shapes; the polyhedral entry has 7 sub-entries, ranging from icosahedron to dodecahedron, with once more 2d10 used to determine the shape.

After this, we roll 2d10 once more to determine basic characteristics, with this time 8 different entries featured. These include fish, avian, plant, reptile, crustacean…you get the idea. Cephalopods are not their own category, if you were wondering, but we once more have the combination entry here as well. These shapes provide various benefits or traits – such as being cold-or warm-blooded, AC-bonuses, minimum number of limbs or, in the instance of crustaceans, at least one claw attack.

Once you’ve determined this general type, you roll again – with the dice involved depending on the type: Crustaceans get 6 entries, as do reptiles, while avian creatures and fish get a d20; mammals roll 1d30, here simulated by rolling1d3 and then 1d10. These do not have mechanical impacts on the stats of the creature. With 2d10, you determine the creature’s size – Tiny and Small creatures appear in numbers (2d10 and 1d8, respectively); human-sized critters are not modified – and above that, we have 4 size categories, ranging from Large (+1 HD, +1 damage die increase) to “Run! It’s Godzilla!” (triple HD, two die type damage increases, and doubled) – that did get a chuckle out of me.

Next up, you determine movement with 2d10, with 10 entries provided – these can include phasing, jumping, levitating and the like, and the entries are presented in a concise manner. For attack method, we roll 1d10, with 7 entries, one of which is “multiple” – bash, spikes, etc. Some of these decrease damage die size, some enhance it, and projectiles are possible. After this, we come to the first half of what can be considered to be the “heart” of this book: The massive 1d100-tabke of distinctive features, quite a few of which do have game effects and sub-entries. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 54 entries are included in the table, though e.g. distinctive markings has its own 8-entry subcategory, while the 100th entry has 6 sub-entries, one of which could e.g. result in damage dealt to the creature exchanging souls with it. You roll on this table until the creature feels complete according to your own aesthetics.

If this is the flavor’s heart, then the next component up would be the heart of the book’s mechanics: A massive 2d100 table with indeed 199 distinct entries that include ability score drain of various degrees, immunities to damage types, abilities to animate rock, plants, camouflage, defenses, better attacks – it’s a mighty table. To randomly determine how often you roll here, multiply the creature’s HD with 10%, then roll 1d100; for every 10% under its chance, it gets one roll on this table. For every attack, you roll on the 2d10-table to determine the delivery method. This table sports 9 entries that include sight, voice, spores, rays – you get the idea. With a d10, you can then determine rudimentary combat tactics, with e.g. entries like: “”Least Armored: The creature will always attack the least armored foe in combat.” There is one final roll – motivation. This table requires a 1d10-roll and has 7 entries, and focuses on the horrific – subsistence on fear, mating, hunger – suitable.

After another one-page artwork, we have a series of design-essays that help you put the creature together. These cover means of effective presentation, the power of surprise and summoning, not naming terrors, and how racism can be used potentially as a theme in elfgames suffused with the wondrous. These might be helpful to novice GMs, but to me, all information here was old news – if you’ve been running horror and dark fantasy games for a while, don’t expect to be have an epiphany here.

If you strip away these essays, you’ll be left with 27 pages of monster generator – it is an impressive beast, but it is also only about half of the book.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard for text, and uses what seems most suitable for the tables; big tables might take up the whole page, smaller tables might be all on one page. The pdf does try to minimize page-flipping from step to step, which makes the book easy to use. Artworks are stunning, full-color, and littered throughout – from the cover to the interior artworks, they tend to be evolutions of the artwork of previous editions, which is a nice touch. The pdf comes with excessive, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable. The hardcover edition, as noted, is decadent – from the slipcase to the binding, to the thick, glossy paper, it is a pretty impressive tome.

After finally reading and using this generator, I do understand why James Edward Raggi IV’s massive generator is begrudgingly acknowledged as an impressive tool, even by people who hate him and/or his company. If you’re a designer, bristling with creativity, then this might not necessarily be a book you need – or it well might be. This generator is a surprisingly mighty tool that delivers a lot of unique and interesting creatures in a swift and painless manner – and the results are good enough to provide a sufficiently detailed framework to structure adventures and encounters around them.

No matter where you stand regarding the company, this is an impressive tool, and one that does have value for more complex systems as well – provided your designer chops are well-developed enough to provide the mechanics. If this book has a single structural Achilles’ heel in the design, it’s the insistence on being system-agnostic, requiring adaption, no matter what OSR-game (or other game) you actually play in. Not much, granted – but it could be a tad bit more comfortable. But that is a nitpick.

An important notion would be the cost-value proposition here – the hardcover cost €33 when it was still available, and for 27 pages of generator, that is more than I’d personally would have paid – it’s a collector’s item and one I am glad that I own…but it’s, when taken for the pure content alone, an expensive one. And before you ask: Yes, I usually do not comment on the like, primarily because I think that EVERYBODY in the RPG-industry is criminally underpaid. But if you have to pinch pennies, the bang-for-buck-ratio of this book is a factor to consider, particularly if you’re contemplating getting the hardcover via ebay etc. at an even higher price. That being said, the softcover version that has been released since? It makes sense, as does the pdf. In the end, I could have lived without the introductions and artwork, and would have preferred more content, but then again, I’m a weirdo who is more impressed by content than awesome artwork. If you’re looking for a decadent book you can brag about, with artworks you can shock prude/sensitive people with? This delivers.

All in all, as a person, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I can’t help but think that a table of…psychic abilities, for example, instead of the introductions? That’d have been cool. Or, what about sentient monsters? Culture-tables? More base shapes? Similarly, having the book adapted to full LotFP-rules? That’d have made it a) easier to use and b) finally filled the void of the absence of a bestiary. Just sayin’…

That being said, as a reviewer, I have a commitment to not just reflecting my own taste and what I’d want or have done, but to review a book for what it is. And this is a powerful generator that can enrich your game for years. It’s not a generator for everything you’d want to do, but if you want to make a weird killing machine? Then this delivers in spades. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra, The
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Tower of the Stargazer
by Jess A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/20/2019 12:32:57

Wonderfully evil adventure and a great pdf which is instructive for new gms



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
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Broodmother SkyFortress
by Jess A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2019 18:20:20

Really fun with a lot of good advice for new gms.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broodmother SkyFortress
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The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children
by Jess A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2019 18:18:44

It has a map that jumps to the room section in the pdf depending on which room you click.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children
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Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess
by Ryan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/15/2019 20:57:53

I have run this for my group, and we had a blast. It is an interesting juntipasition of fairy tale and psycotic nightmare that really hit a stride with us. It is easy to die in the LotFP system, but it is easy to convert to another if you so like. Really great scenario if you have player that overthink things.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess
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The Pale Lady
by Ryan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/15/2019 20:46:07

This is a fun adventure that is a blast. It has some adult themes, the art is not the best, and it is a "locked room" adventure where the players are stuck in a seperate plane of reality till they deal with some stuff; these factors might be a bit of a detraction for some, but it has a really great scenario. It is easily converted to other D20 systems too.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Pale Lady
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Fuck For Satan
by Ryan K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/10/2019 16:08:11

This is a great module but the main dungeon is purposefully unusable and this doesn't work on it's own. It's great to use as a way to spice up an existing village in a campaign. My suggestion is to have a less grissly end befall the children as that is a huge bummer and could be used to get a big laugh instead like the children are found shooting heroine or something.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fuck For Satan
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