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GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops V
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/16/2018 04:53:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth compilation of Village Backdrops clocks in at 89 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 82 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This massive compilation includes the following villages: Black Wyvern, Bleakflat, Byrnfort, Dawnmarsh, Farrav’n, Lanthorn, Needlebriar, Quey’s Glade, Ronak, Skaalhaft, Suurin and Woodridge.

I have written reviews for all of these villages, discussing them in detail, so if you require detailed guidance regarding the individual villages, you may want to check out these reviews. Since I loathe repeating myself, and the actual use of a number of Village Backdrop-reviews stringed together would be of dubious use, I will leave it at that. Now, in direct comparison to the individual pdfs, we get quite a few neat new pieces of b/w-artworks, and that alone is a big plus.

Now, the villages, as a whole, are of the exceedingly high quality we expect to see from Raging Swan Press – no surprises there. However, it should be noted that this still is “just” a compilation – while this could have been used to fix the few more problematic components of some villages, the like has not happened. There is still mentioning of poisoning a plant creature, which RAW still doesn’t work in PFRPG. Similarly, the great magical lanterns of Lanthorn still remain opaque backdrops sans concrete rules. This is a compilation of files – nothing less, nothing more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the book features great b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography by Tommi Salama and Maciej Zagorski is amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions – one optimized for screen use and one intended for printing out. I can’t comment on the print version, as I do not own it.

John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez, Richard Green, David N. Ross, Amber Underwood and Mike Welham are all top-tier authors, and it shows in these settlements. The villages within are evocative, fun and cool – and yet. In direct comparison, the compilation has missed the opportunity of refining the less amazing villages within, updating and improving them, which would not have been hard. This compilation could have been one of the strongest in the long and storied history of high-quality backdrops in the series, a jewel. The lack of further refinement, however, does hurt the compilation somewhat. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a great book of backdrops, but it could have been a great one. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops V
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Against the Cult of the Bat God
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/09/2018 10:46:12

A while back my players ran into the Demon Bat-God Camazotz. He managed to get away with the what he thought was the heart of the Sun God (it was his liver). Since then my players have been itching for a rematch against him. This adventure might just be the thing.

While the creature here is listed as "Servant of the Bat God" a little tweaking and I could make this into a coastline being terrorized by the Bat God himself.
The characters have three days to complete their task, so it's a nice tight adventure, exactly what I want, and it weighs in at just under 60 pages.

In any case there is a lot of good stuff here to use.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Cult of the Bat God
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, Timothy! I much appreciate the review and the kind words!
GM's Screen #6: Borderland Keep
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:42:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.

One column notes 10 entries for dressing, including sparring dummies and smoke rising from a chimney of the fort. Minor complaint here: Dressing outside and inside should probably be separate. The second 10 entries are devoted to sights and sounds, which does have a bit of an overlap with the previous table: A single boot jutting from the mud due to rain (table 1), compared to a raven squatting on the battlements (table 2) – I fail to see a distinct differentiation here. Making one table focus on inside, one on outside, would have probably been smarter. The final column features 10 whispers and rumors, telling us about the strange behavior of the priest, rumored bandit activity and the bedbug infestation of the tavern, these are okay, but nothing too exciting.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include human female and male sample names, alternate names for battlements, castles and wilderness, as well as for soldiers. A few castle descriptors are also noted.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

I wanted to like this GM-screen insert more than I did – Creighton Broadhurst usually does better and the information has more thematic overlap than the previous screen-inserts. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars – easily the weakest of the first 6 screen-inserts.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #6: Borderland Keep
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GM's Screen #5: Noisome Sewer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:41:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.

One column notes 10 entries for dressing, which include bricks that have fallen to create a slippery surface, a roughly-hewn niche, and also evidence of something large slithering through the much…nice table. The second 10 entries for sample events, which include rumbling from above (yay for paranoia!), muted splashes of something heavy falling in, sudden wings driving the abominable stench home… The final column features 10 things to find in the sewers, including a small tree floating in the effluent, a silver necklace on one branch, ropes dangling from hammered in spikes dangling over a channel, a dagger tip wedged between rocks – some nice pieces of detail here.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we learn alternatives for “damp”, darkness, for decay, disgusting things, for excrement and similarly delightful concepts.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst provides a nice GM screen insert here – it certainly is helpful for sewers and has been well-curated and chosen. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #5: Noisome Sewer
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GM's Screen #4: Seedy Tavern
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:39:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use.

One column notes 10 entries for events – like men sitting alone, yelling for more wine before being slapped by the serving wench. Dice-based gambling, Conan-like warriors entering to immediate quiet and the like are featured here. The second 10 and third column sport 10 entries each, and feature 10 atypical patrons or staff members, with alignment and race noted: Fat gnomes in finery, clearly out of place, halflings indulging in drugs to quell fears – some surprisingly descriptive and evocative entries here! And yes, these brief NPC-hooks do come with suitable names.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include synonyms for “dim”, but e.g. “s mashed” is probably a typo. Alternate names for taverns, for being seeds, and sample food/drinks are noted.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed only one minor typo. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

Jeff Gomez and Creighton Broadhurst provide a helpful, nice screen-insert here. Well worth checking, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #4: Seedy Tavern
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GM's Screen #3: Goblin Caves
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:36:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.

One column notes 10 entries for dressing – these includes blankets separarting an area to work as a toilet, junk and rubbish piled up and a murdered goblin; the second 10 entries for sample events sport a terrified goblin child hiding in a heap of sheets, arrows flying from the darkness and the sudden rise of goblin battle chants. The final column features 10 things to loot, which include a black furred scarlet cloak, a wolfskin hat and the like.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get synonyms for dancing and singing as well as insulting or wounding targets. Male and female names, as well as last names complement this section.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst’s inserts for goblin caves are solid and fun – if you need a page of handy screen-inserts, this is worth checking out for the low price. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #3: Goblin Caves
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GM's Screen #2: Borderland Forest
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:35:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, in the classic tradition of Raging Swan dressing files.

One column notes 10 entries for dressing, noting, for example, sodden floors that render boots muddy and wet, gnarled oak trees looming or small bones, tied together with thin cord – creepy!

The second 10 entries for sample events, with sounds of laughter followed by pain, darting foxes and the faint smell of smoke in the air. The final column features 10 entries that depict a read-aloud text for an uneventful days’ journey, allowing for excellent foreshadowing and mood creation. Kudos!

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get descritors for trees, some flowers and trees, descriptors for vegetation both dead and alive, and parts of plants. Nice one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

This screen insert proved to be more useful for me – the dressing is broader, has quite a bit new entries, and Mike Welham and Creighton Broadhurst are both very good at their craft. For a buck, I consider this worthy of 4.5 stars, though I feel I need to round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #2: Borderland Forest
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GM's Screen #1: Kobold Warren
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2018 05:31:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.

Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.

One column notes 10 entries for dressing – here, we can find mottled scales, crude dragon drawings or suitable graffiti; the second 10 entries for sample events: Clatter, rattling chains, taunting from an unseen kobold… and the final column features 10 things to loot, which include half-burned candles plus flint and steel, a ragged belt pouch holding an ornate dagger hilt, and the like.

Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, kobold epithets are included alongside names for males and females, and some basic trap ideas complement this one.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

Aaron Bailey, Creighton Broadhurst and Paul Quarles have made a humble screen-insert is solid and handy to have. While the screen insert probably won’t blow you away, it's handy and per se well-structured. My final verdict, considering the low price, will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Screen #1: Kobold Warren
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Be Awesome At Dungeon Design (Augmented Edition)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/30/2018 04:13:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 216 pages, 1 page front cover, 6 pages dedications, editorial, etc., 5 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of author bio, and almost 40 pages blank – these are at the end of a chapter, or on the flip-side of maps. Maps? Yep There are 5 sample b/w-maps included herein. This leaves us with about 150 pages of content. Why am I rounding down? Because some pages at the end of a chapter are 2/3 empty. This does not matter, though. Why? Because we get versions without the blanks, for both printer- and screen-version. These, btw., still clock in at a 188 page total.

Anyways, this looks like much, but this book is laid out to work as a book – it also comes with a .mobi version in addition to the by now, standard print and screen-versions we expect from Raging Swan Press.

What is this, then? It is the single most comprehensive and helpful dungeon design guide I have ever read.

We begin with simple tips for beginners, contemplations regarding the name and the often overlooked (cough Prison of Meneptah /cough) purpose of a dungeon. From there, we move to the ecology, note dressing (You should definitely have Raging Swan Press’ GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing by now – it’s not only a Top ten-winner, it is, regardless of system, my most used game book to this day…)…and then things become interesting.

We start taking in the details: The importance of the dungeon entrance and its physicality, tricks to create the illusion of detail, contemplations regarding dungeon types and the surrounding wilderness, a “Don’t do this..:”-list…oh, and what about a list of things modern dungeons don’t have enough of anymore? This list is NOT a grognardian tirade against new school design – it’s a well-reasoned and concise series of observations.

Beyond all of these, we also talk about wandering monsters (yes, including a couple of motivations…) and it should be noted at this point that this book also contains quite a bunch of dressing tables to jumpstart your dungeon-design brainstorm and fill in spaces. Not as many as in RSP’s dressing books, obviously…but yeah. It’s still a TON and more than you’d ever otherwise find.

Oh. And there is a special series of considerations applied to mega-dungeon design, from unusual ways to get in/out to logic and particular considerations, with a few examples, we move on to a dungeon design case study and a two-page, concise manifest of sorts that lists the handy principles that underlie good dungeon design in the most concise way I have seen them ever spelled out in any supplement.

We also btw. discuss two awesome dungeons. Funnily enough, I really, REALLY hated both of them. Moathouse and Forge of Fury, fyi. I know. Sacrilege, right? ;)

Okay, I insulted the moathouse. I better grab my boots before the torch-wielding pitchfork-mob arrives, so let’s end this quickly, shall we?

The book is laid out in a 1-column b/w-standard with a few b/w-artworks here and there.

As a reviewer, I really hate the lack of bookmarks. But honestly, this once, I can live with it.

Why? Because you should have this in print.

You see, Creighton Broadhurst’s tome is basically the textbook for the course to make captivating dungeons. If I taught dungeon design in university (Hej, even scientists may dream, right?) instead of my usual subjects, this book would be at the top of the required-reading bibliography.

This book doesn’t waste your time with useless blathering, is remarkably bereft of annoying opinionated author-egos trying to jam down their ideology down your throat:

Instead, we get a no-frills guideline to improve your dungeon-design skills. This should be required reading for game-designers. Wait…do tons of dressing count as “frills”?

Either way, this represents one of the best design-guidelines I have ever read. Yes. That good. It doesn’t dive into system-specific nit and grit, sure, but as a universal manual? Phenomenal.

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If your dungeons tend to fall flat, this can help you make them legendary.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Be Awesome At Dungeon Design (Augmented Edition)
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Creator Reply:
Epic review. Thank you. I'm humbled.
Epic review. Thank you. I'm humbled.
Places of Power: Fort Vigil
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/26/2018 08:14:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Fort vigil, situated in a forest, would be an unremarkable fortification, manned by a skeletal crew. It is mainly known for being under the command of the veteran knight Sir Arnhelm Langeson. The fort, as a whole, is picturesque, and not a bad place to visit – it adds much sought-after security to the surrounding lands, and seems to be a safe haven. However, locals will tell that the fort is steeped in history, having seen diverse masters, and unbeknown to most, at night, silver shades roam the castle, spirits and echoes of things long gone…but it’s not really ghosts or the just echoes.

You see, Fort Vigil is situated next to the Wealdmere, a lake that serves as a transition point between the material and spirit world, particularly regarding the realms of dream. As such, the presentation actually takes this unique aspect into account in the formal structure: Beyond the by now classic whispers and rumors and the notes on nomenclature employed and dressing habits, we have a split between the daily life and the dreaming in the dressing table, a choice that nets 10 evocative dressing entries per table.

This is relevant, particularly since the pdf actually provides a small selection of concise notes and rules to remember the uncommonly-vivid dreams experienced here. Kudos for this unobtrusive inclusion of rules. As before, we do get flavorful read-aloud sentences that describe the keyed locations here, and one place in particular comes with its extra, custom dressing table to account for the haunting you can encounter here.

Now, dreams, beyond those that the PCs may experience, are personal and often archetypical, as we all know; this focus is mirrored in the presentation of the NPCs: We get an uncommon amount of different NPCs – 5, to be precise. These come as fluff-only entries that are surprisingly detailed regarding mannerism, background and distinguishing features, even for Raging Swan Press’ supplements, making them feel rather well-rounded.

These, btw., not only include the aging knight, who wishes to help the shades and phantoms move on, but also the Medium – a ghost, warden, caretaker and guardian of this sacred locale, a ghost who may be noble, but the unending task has started to take its toll on the otherwise noble soul, adding a sense of melancholia and gravitas, of duty and sacrifice to the supplement, a sense of a bookend that is cleverly contrasted via e.g. Signy, a character hoping to become a hero. The book thus feels like an encompassing scope of the condition of adventuring – the reminiscence and longing, the wide-eyed hopefulness, adding a second level to the duality inherent in the supplement, increasing the appeal and viability of the book in the most crucial of ways: In the themes, in the way it’s structured and the stories you can tell with it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The cartography, as always, is really nice, and the pdf comes in two iterations – one intended for screen-use and one made for the printer. This deserves as much applause as the full bookmarks presented, which render navigation comfortable and easy.

Amber Underwood’s “Fort Vigil” is a culmination of an author truly coming to terms with writing top-tier, evocative supplements. Fort Vigil is not a one-note place -. It feels tangible and real, courtesy of aesthetics that can be bent towards full-blown high fantasy if you want…or, if you prefer a more low-key approach, if you want to touch upon the human element, upon aging, mortality, different perspectives, the negotiation of dreams and reality – well, then this can deliver just as well. This is one of the most versatile and evocative installments in the whole series, standing shoulder to shoulder with greats like John Bennett and Mike Welham in delivering a place that puts GM-agenda and uses first, without compromising the integrity of a vision that is intelligent and compassionate.

Adding a bit of crunch for the PFRPG-version just adds the cherry of GM-comfort on top. This is an amazing place that will be used in a huge amount of different ways – they all, however, have one thing in common: They work and make this a phenomenal addition to a GM’s toolkit. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fort Vigil
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Fort Vigil as I think Amber did a cracking job!
Places of Power: Fort Vigil (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/26/2018 08:12:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Fort vigil, situated in a forest, would be an unremarkable fortification, manned by a skeletal crew. It is mainly known for being under the command of the veteran knight Sir Arnhelm Langeson. The fort, as a whole, is picturesque, and not a bad place to visit – it adds much sought-after security to the surrounding lands, and seems to be a safe haven. However, locals will tell that the fort is steeped in history, having seen diverse masters, and unbeknown to most, at night, silver shades roam the castle, spirits and echoes of things long gone…but it’s not really ghosts or the just echoes.

You see, Fort Vigil is situated next to the Wealdmere, a lake that serves as a transition point between the material and spirit world, particularly regarding the realms of dream. As such, the presentation actually takes this unique aspect into account in the formal structure: Beyond the by now classic whispers and rumors and the notes on nomenclature employed and dressing habits, we have a split between the daily life and the dreaming in the dressing table, a choice that nets 10 evocative dressing entries per table.

This is relevant, particularly since the pdf actually provides a small selection of concise notes and rules to remember the uncommonly-vivid dreams experienced here. Kudos for this unobtrusive inclusion of rules, particularly since they have been properly associated with 5e-rules and feasible DCs. As before, we do get flavorful read-aloud sentences that describe the keyed locations here, and one place in particular comes with its extra, custom dressing table to account for the haunting you can encounter here.

Now, dreams, beyond those that the PCs may experience, are personal and often archetypical, as we all know; this focus is mirrored in the presentation of the NPCs: We get an uncommon amount of different NPCs – 5, to be precise. These come as fluff-only entries that are surprisingly detailed regarding mannerism, background and distinguishing features, even for Raging Swan Press’ supplements, making them feel rather well-rounded. The 5e version makes good use of the default stats where even remotely feasible.

These NPCs, btw., not only include the aging knight, who wishes to help the shades and phantoms move on, but also the Medium – a ghost, warden, caretaker and guardian of this sacred locale, a ghost who may be noble, but the unending task has started to take its toll on the otherwise noble soul, adding a sense of melancholia and gravitas, of duty and sacrifice to the supplement, a sense of a bookend that is cleverly contrasted via e.g. Signy, a character hoping to become a hero. The book thus feels like an encompassing scope of the condition of adventuring – the reminiscence and longing, the wide-eyed hopefulness, adding a second level to the duality inherent in the supplement, increasing the appeal and viability of the book in the most crucial of ways: In the themes, in the way it’s structured and the stories you can tell with it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The cartography, as always, is really nice, and the pdf comes in two iterations – one intended for screen-use and one made for the printer. This deserves as much applause as the full bookmarks presented, which render navigation comfortable and easy.

Amber Underwood’s “Fort Vigil” is a culmination of an author truly coming to terms with writing top-tier, evocative supplements. Fort Vigil is not a one-note place -. It feels tangible and real, courtesy of aesthetics that can be bent towards full-blown high fantasy if you want…or, if you prefer a more low-key approach, if you want to touch upon the human element, upon aging, mortality, different perspectives, the negotiation of dreams and reality – well, then this can deliver just as well. This is one of the most versatile and evocative installments in the whole series, standing shoulder to shoulder with greats like John Bennett and Mike Welham in delivering a place that puts GM-agenda and uses first, without compromising the integrity of a vision that is intelligent and compassionate.

Adding a bit of crunch for the 5e-version just adds the cherry of GM-comfort on top and makes this iteration on par with the fantastic PFRPG-iteration. This is an amazing place that will be used in a huge amount of different ways – they all, however, have one thing in common: They work and make this a phenomenal addition to a GM’s toolkit. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fort Vigil (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Fort Vigil as I think Amber did a cracking job!
Places of Power: Fort Vigil (SNE)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/26/2018 08:10:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Fort vigil, situated in a forest, would be an unremarkable fortification, manned by a skeletal crew. It is mainly known for being under the command of the veteran knight Sir Arnhelm Langeson. The fort, as a whole, is picturesque, and not a bad place to visit – it adds much sought-after security to the surrounding lands, and seems to be a safe haven. However, locals will tell that the fort is steeped in history, having seen diverse masters, and unbeknown to most, at night, silver shades roam the castle, spirits and echoes of things long gone…but it’s not really ghosts or the just echoes.

You see, Fort Vigil is situated next to the Wealdmere, a lake that serves as a transition point between the material and spirit world, particularly regarding the realms of dream. As such, the presentation actually takes this unique aspect into account in the formal structure: Beyond the by now classic whispers and rumors and the notes on nomenclature employed and dressing habits, we have a split between the daily life and the dreaming in the dressing table, a choice that nets 10 evocative dressing entries per table.

This is relevant, particularly since the pdf actually provides a small selection of concise notes and rules to remember the uncommonly-vivid dreams experienced here. As a plus, these rules had their DCs modified to reflect the different realities of old-school gaming. You will have already noticed the potential issue here: Remembering dreams is handled via a check that employs ability score modifiers as something to be added to the check, when many OSR systems instead opt for a roll-under mechanic instead. Getting a variant here, with penalties to the check, would have taken a grand total of one sentence and added to the immediate usefulness of the supplement for many games. Granted, this does not put the referee at much of a disadvantage, as conversion of the system ought to be super-simple, but as a reviewer, it’s a potentially rough patch I felt obliged to note. As before, we do get flavorful read-aloud sentences that describe the keyed locations here, and one place in particular comes with its extra, custom dressing table to account for the haunting you can encounter here.

Now, dreams, beyond those that the PCs may experience, are personal and often archetypical, as we all know; this focus is mirrored in the presentation of the NPCs: We get an uncommon amount of different NPCs – 5, to be precise. These come as fluff-only entries that are surprisingly detailed regarding mannerism, background and distinguishing features, even for Raging Swan Press’ supplements, making them feel rather well-rounded.

These, btw., not only include the aging knight, who wishes to help the shades and phantoms move on, but also the Medium – a ghost, warden, caretaker and guardian of this sacred locale, a ghost who may be noble, but the unending task has started to take its toll on the otherwise noble soul, adding a sense of melancholia and gravitas, of duty and sacrifice to the supplement, a sense of a bookend that is cleverly contrasted via e.g. Signy, a character hoping to become a hero. The book thus feels like an encompassing scope of the condition of adventuring – the reminiscence and longing, the wide-eyed hopefulness, adding a second level to the duality inherent in the supplement, increasing the appeal and viability of the book in the most crucial of ways: In the themes, in the way it’s structured and the stories you can tell with it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups, though on a rules-language component, the solution to the dream-recalling component could have been slightly more encompassing in the approach taken. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The cartography, as always, is really nice, and the pdf comes in two iterations – one intended for screen-use and one made for the printer. This deserves as much applause as the full bookmarks presented, which render navigation comfortable and easy.

Amber Underwood’s “Fort Vigil” is a culmination of an author truly coming to terms with writing top-tier, evocative supplements. Fort Vigil is not a one-note place -. It feels tangible and real, courtesy of aesthetics that can be bent towards full-blown high fantasy if you want…or, if you prefer a more low-key approach, if you want to touch upon the human element, upon aging, mortality, different perspectives, the negotiation of dreams and reality – well, then this can deliver just as well. This is one of the most versatile and evocative installments in the whole series, standing shoulder to shoulder with greats like John Bennett and Mike Welham in delivering a place that puts referee-agenda and uses first, without compromising the integrity of a vision that is intelligent and compassionate.

This is an amazing place that will be used in a huge amount of different ways – they all, however, have one thing in common: They work and make this a phenomenal addition to a referee’s toolkit. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. While the system neutral version still retains a truly evocative piece of writing, the needless limitation of the crunchy bits make this slightly weaker than the other iterations of the file.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Fort Vigil (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed Fort Vigil as I think Amber did a cracking job!
Places of Power: The Last Resort
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2018 05:38:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. Kudos for making this, also mechanically, a place of power!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the GM to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement.

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Last Resort
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Creator Reply:
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review, End. Glad you liked the Last Resort!
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review, End. Glad you liked the Last Resort!
Places of Power: The Last Resort (SNE)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2018 05:37:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. In the system neutral version, it is obvious that these, much like everything else, is left closer to the preferences of the GM. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that this renders the pdf slightly less meaty.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience. References have been properly adjusted to reflect old-school terminology, i.e. “magic-user” instead of wizard, etc.

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the GM to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement.

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. Now, relevant for old-school groups that play a bit closer to the gritty edge of the spectrum, would be the note that this is very much high fantasy, if the summary did not drive that home. That’s not a bad thing in itself, and personally, I do enjoy this – but if your gaming world is rather low-key, then you should be cognizant of this very much being planar in power-level and scope implied for the respective innkeepers. All in all, I do consider this to be a very good system neutral version, one that only leaves me with cosmetic complaints in direct comparison to the other versions, which is why my review will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Last Resort (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Hooray! Thanks very much for the review, End. Glad you liked the Last Resort!
Places of Power: The Last Resort (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2018 05:35:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. In a minor complaint, I did notice one reference to a skill check that should be Insight only codified as Wisdom, so that aspect could be slightly tighter, though, as a whole, rules language has been properly converted.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience. NPCs noted refer to the proper default statblocks in a couple of cases; a few others require you to do the statting, though.

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the Gm to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement, even though, more so than the PFRPG-version, it somewhat suffers from 5e simply not having as big a cadre of sample statblocks to refer to. In an ideal world, this would come with its own NPC-codex, but this is a system-immanent issue and not the fault of the pdf.

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. The 5e-version is a solid take on the concept, with my final verdict clocking in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Last Resort (5e)
Click to show product description

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