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The Riot Act - (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2020 12:24:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-module to the massive (and excellent) Bard’s Gate city supplement clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters; I never even noticed it came out back in the day, until one of my patreon supporters told me to get it and review it recently. Being pretty OCD and surprised that this flew under my radar, I went ahead…

The Riot Act is a module set in Bard’s Gate (and yes, you should have that book to run it, unless you’re willing to make some serious modification), situated in The Lost Lands, for 4 characters of 2nd level. The module mentions that a rogue or bard is helpful, and I’d concur – skills will be useful. More than that, you’ll need means to dish out SERIOUS amounts of damage and high Will saves – scratch that, the boss is simply unfair if played even halfway decent by the GM, but I’ll get to that below.

The module features no player-friendly maps, and two of the maps are missing a scale, one of them even a grid. One of the potential combat encounters could have used a map, but has none. For overview, having a map of Bard’s Gate is extremely useful, but that doesn’t provide these location maps either. The maps present in the module do not come with player-friendly iterations.

The module does have a handout, which is per se a cool thing – unfortunately, it is the most stupid kind of handout in which the antagonists have WRITTEN DOWN their evil masterplan on PAPER, including gloating. This was a real immersion-breaker for me, and one of the few instances, where I genuinely think that the module would have been better off without a handout – and a better plot instead.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The module also contains 3 magic items – one nets unlimited daily magic missiles, but if used more than once per day, one strikes the user. It also fails to mention an activation action – I assume spell completion. There is an item for nary more than 1K gold that lacks an activation action, but ends ANY musical effect automatically – yes, even that of a level 20 bard. And worse, those affected can’t use the like for an hour afterwards. In a world where this item exists, any music-based characters and abilities are useless. This is badly-designed and broken. The final item ties in with the boss.

The module does offer random encounters and read-aloud text. Okay, so structurally, this is a railroad, but unfortunately not one of the good ones – and yes, there are plenty of awesome railroad adventures.

The following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

So, a lady called Asmarisa has purchased a large building of the Bridge district, opening her theater, the Motley; her first play, “The Maiden’s Kiss”, has become a super smash-hit – to a strange degree, and thus, the lyreguard investigated, but turned up with no evidence, and in fact, very happy with the play. The adventure kicks off as the PCs are walking through the Bridge district and become embroiled in a riot – after the much-sought-after tickets for the next show. The rioters use the stats from bard’s Gate, and can attain tickets either via force or Diplomacy and subterfuge.

Unfortunately, this is where the module starts to fall apart in a variety of ways. The PCs attend the performance, and halfway down the read-aloud text, said text tells the PCs what to do, namely joining in thunderous applause. Read-aloud text should NEVER hijack control from a PC – particularly since, well, it’s not guaranteed. No surprise: The play is enchanted, PCs must make Will-saves while attending, but the read-aloud text forces them to applaud either way. Oh, and the play affects the PCs with a “powerful, but undetectable mass charm.” It’s also “latent.”

SERIOUSLY??? You mean…like, it’s a whisper in the ear? Like, I don’t know…a frickin’ suggestion?

Also, regarding this whole set-up?

NOT HOW PFRPG WORKS.

PFRPG has a) a VARIETY of valid ritual engines; b) a VARIETY of spells that actually do what the module wants to do – and mass charm? DOESN’T EXIST. It’s mass charm person. Or charm person, mass. Also c) Bards have this engine that does exactly what the module needs. It’s called masterpieces.

Anyhow, the PCs navigate past the stage crew and into a passage beneath the Motley. In the passage, there are two adjacent rooms: One contains 12 rage zombies, one contains guards whose music pacifies the zombies. Why? How? Things become even better. At one point, there’s a magically-sealed lock that requires a tune – said tune is played by the guards, and it’s on a sheet of music…that is never mentioned before, in the section of the guards. Also weird: The door’s XP-reward for bypassing it with the proper “puzzle” if you can call it that, is less than the CR of the trap.

The PCs emerge after this section on a shoreline just a few feet from the Stoneheart River, where the evil entourage has their camp. (Why didn’t the lyreguard notice them?) The troupe is pretty numerous (22 rank-and-file goons, +1 CR 2 dude and a quasit), so you better hope that you have a character with maxed out Stealth who is also lucky. There are also some minor problems – like, what’s the save you use to avoid flames spreading? Well, the module seems to think that “Fortitude” is correct – which it isn’t, and also fails to type the damage as fire, but that, at least, is a nitpick. This is also the part when the PCs ostensibly either hear a NPC extolling their moustache-twirling plan and evil intentions, or find a written account that is no less dumb.

It gets better. When/if the PCs retreat, the final section will be a rooftop chase of the lady, while the city breaks out in riots. This mini-chase may per se be decent, but the boss Asmirasa? Well, she has wasted a feat on Weapon Finesse, but wields a weapon that can’t be finesse’d (smart) – and clocks in at CR 7. Yep, 7. You see, she was turned into a succubus by an evil item, the ring of demonic deception. Why is this bad news? Well, for one, she has charm person, at will. The DC? 22. At 2nd level. Remember, she also has a fly speed that lets her reliably stay out of reach of any PCs, AC 20 and 84 HP. She also has energy drain, which, when used even halfway smart, will guarantee an unfair, unrewarding type of TPK.

But that’s not where it ends, oh no. Her item, the ring of demonic deception, eliminates an outsider’s ability to cast spells or use SPs of third level or higher, eliminates DR and halves SR. But guess what? ANY magic to detect them and discern them fails and nets only a ping as a frickin’ commoner. This is NOT an artifact, and it can RAW be REMOVED AT WILL. Mortals also can turn into succubi/incubi, but who cares – the ring could be mass-produced by the forces of the abyss, and generate a perfect infiltration force of outsiders. Never mind that there are plenty of precisely codified spells and effects that do all of that (at higher levels), and that have appropriate safeguards. Oh, it gets better. The ring’s worth 90 K. At 2nd level – WBL adieu. “But they can’t sell an evil item?” Perhaps not, but there are plenty of options for PCs to convert magic item values into other benefits, devour it, etc. pp. Provided the PCs mind that selling evil stuff is a bad idea in the first place, that is…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are formally good, if not particularly good regarding rules. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard with neat to okay artworks, some of which fans of Frog God Games will recognize. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is not as good as usual for Frog God Games, and is missing player-friendly maps as well.

This is the worst module by James M. Spahn I’ve read; both he and the authors that contributed additional material, Jeff Harkness and Skeeter Green, are usually indicators for something I’ll at the very least like.

This was not the case here. I don’t object to difficulty, never have – I’m a killer GM, and I like old-school modules. I think adventures should be hard, because, you know, if there’s no chance of failure, why bother playing? I also don’t object to railroads – heck, I’ve 5-star#d plenty of them over the years.

I do, however, object to the extremely sloppy rules that this module presents – because they destroy the central premise of the mystery to uncover, and because they, due to being so sloppy, undermine very valid strategies for the PCs. I object to read-aloud text forcing actions upon players – not feelings, atmosphere, a glance or the like – full-blown “this is what you do.”

I object to the module undermining the plausibility of the Lost lands setting, which generally is pretty darn good at catching such issues.

And I object to the fact that the villains are moustache-twirling stupid-evil.

This reads like a failed, phoned-in Pathfinder Society pitch, with Bard’s Gate slapped on.

…you know, when I have to bash a module by Frog God Games (doesn’t happen too often), it’s usually due to mechanics, or something going wrong in conversion. But even then, there’s usually something I can get out an adventure. Awakenings, for example, may not be mechanically-good in PFRPG, but oh boy, story? Totally worth going through the hassle of fixing it.

I got nothing here. This is both bad on a mechanics/logic-level AND on a story-level AND on a design-level.

I actually went through my massive Necromancer Games/Frog God Games-collection, and know what? I think this is the worst module by them I own. It’s their first module in years that I genuinely wouldn’t put on my shelf.

I can’t recommend this module to anyone. Get any other Frog God games modules; for example the excellent Rogues in Remballo. But steer clear of this bland, unfair, uninspired mess. 1.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Riot Act - (PF)
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Hazardous Habitats: Desertlands
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2020 04:31:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Hazardous Habitats-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 2 pages yellow (back cover), leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so what is this? Well, some of Frog God Games’ most criminally-underrated books for PFRPG was the series of “Perilous Vistas”-books, massive hardcovers, which included a ton of rules and information focusing on various biomes, with supplemental rules, monsters, and usually 3 to 4 adventures. Some of the adventures from these hardcovers have since then been taken out of the books, to various degrees of success, but the original Perilous Vistas books have an honored spot n my bookshelf – yes, I have them all.

Anyhow, the thing I enjoyed most about them, hands down? That’d be the assumption, very crucial to the books, that gamers are not simply consumers, that we want to know about a variety of topics. If there is anything I bemoan about the advent of d20-based systems, it’s that many books started to assume that only combat-relevant material needs to be featured. Compare e.g. 3.X’s Sandstorm book with Wilderness Survival Guide, and you know what I mean. In many ways, the environment, a crucial component for adventuring, all too often is relegated to window-dressing. And the GM who actually WANTS to know about an environment? They are often left to their own devices, and/or with small and nigh-inconsequential tidbits.

Well, and here’s what this series does: It takes the lavishly-researched content originally featured in the Perilous Vistas series of books, and provides a system neutral (system agnostic, based loosely on 5e, really), expanded iteration of the material provided in these books – in this case, the material provided in Dunes of Desolation.

The book kicks off with a general discussion of deserts – including the discussion on dry heat vs. humid heat, and the misconception that bright sands are the source of the desert being this hot. The book explains how deserts come to be…and before you yawn – no, this is no dry textbook, but it is genuinely helpful and well-presented information that assumes that the reader is both intelligent and wants to increase their knowledge. This gets two thumbs up from me.

Anyhow, the book then proceeds to depict a range of desert types, including percentile terrain element tables – hot and dry deserts, for example, can have a 10% chance for a salt pan, and the effects of dunes etc. on overland speed are noted in an appropriate, system agnostic manner. Better yet, we get a d20-based table of suggested encounters for each of the desert types featured. Furthermore, tables for population effects on demographics and humanoid demographics for settlements in the respective environment are provided..and these themselves influence the attitudes of the local humanoids! Political systems, notes on lifestyle and sample adventure ideas are also supplied alongside adventure locations.

This system is also provided for semiarid deserts, and briefly mentions coastal deserts (without going into this level of detail), before taking a look at the importance of water and its sources, from oases to rivers to alternate sources, with tables for water availability by desert type provided, with the tables differentiating properly between seasons. Desert travel, chance for the presence of settlements and notes on the construction and maintenance of roads (and the inevitable tolls!) can be found and are all explained, before we take a gander at the various means of travel, starting (obviously) with camels, before discussing mules and more exotic mounts.

Very interesting: Since the book is system neutral, the inevitable hazards that need to be in such a book to make it complete, are grouped in 4 difficulty levels, ranging from “easy” to “arduous”, with notes on detection, identification, avoidance, and escape provided alongside dimensions (with their own categories) and effects, which allow you to judge the intended level of challenge the hazard should provide. Since this may be a bit hard to picture, let me give you an example – the first one the book provides: Contaminated Water (Terrestrial, Disease). The hazard lists the following:

“Detection: Moderate Wisdom ability check or skill check pertaining to diseases, medicine, or nature Identification: Moderate Intelligence ability check or skill check pertaining to diseases, medicine, or nature Avoidance: Moderate Constitution-based saving throw completely avoids hazard Escape: Boiling or otherwise purifying contaminated water before drinking it Dimensions: Individual Effects: Harmful Damage Type: Constitution, hit points, or Wisdom Condition: fatigued, nauseated, or sickened Complication: Disease deals additional damage every 2d6 hours until cured Cure/Remedy: Successful Moderate Constitution saving throw made immediately after taking damage.”

This can be further modified – the book provides variants. Cholera lists: “Increase Effects to Dangerous.” Now, as you can glean from the above, the baseline from which we are supposed to extrapolate the mechanical effects would probably be 5e – while this is not a hard thing by any means, I can’t help but feel that this is where the system-agnostic approach is simply not as convenient as a proper version provided for a system, but that may be me.

On the plus-side, we actually differentiate between wet and dry quicksand, and various different poisons are also codified in pretty much such a way. A bit of a lost chance here – having at least a few poisons with a listed mundane way to cure them other than an ability check would have been nice to see. A random encounter table, and weather codified in this way can also be found – the latter comes with daily high and low temperature tables, chances for precipitation, and wind speeds. A missed chance here: temperatures are only provided in degrees Fahrenheit, and wind speeds assume mph (though the tables don’t explicitly state the latter). Ideally, it’d have been nice to have °C values as well, as °F doesn’t make sense to those not raised with it as a means to gage temperatures. It’s one of the things that keeps bothering me in RPG-books; the second value (kmh/°C) imho would really increase the value of books for those not as accustomed to imperial systems. This is particularly obvious when seeing that the text per se does feature °C values; same goes for the hazards themselves – these, alas, are absent from the temperature tables, though.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, where present. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with the artworks provided differing in style and relevance to the matter at hand. The book comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

I love Tom Knauss’ environmental books, and the Hazardous Habitats pdfs unlocking them for a wider audience is a good thing in my book. It is impossible to put down this book without having learned some cool tidbit about deserts, and the material never loses its focus on being a gaming supplement – it is educational without being boring or preachy, and I love it for that. After reading this book, you’ll think about deserts within the context of the game as more than just dry places with lots of sand. So yeah, that gets two thumbs up, and ensures that this book is one you can return to time after time.

On the downside, there are a few components that should be noted: Flash floods, while mentioned numerous times, are not codified as a hazard. I was also rather puzzled to see the book provide °C values (YAY!), only to forget them in the tables to determine high/low temperatures. So yeah, there are a few nitpicks, but if you’re accustomed to the imperial systems, you won’t mind those. The hazards work as well as they can with a system agnostic approach; personally, I’d have preferred adherence to a specific system, but I’m a bit of a stickler there.

As a whole, this is a rewarding, well-crafted environmental sourcebook only very slightly tarnished by a few niggles. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hazardous Habitats: Desertlands
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Quests of Doom 4: Fishers of Men (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/15/2020 06:15:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of module, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as part of a series of requests by my patreon supporters.

Well, this module was originally penned as part of the criminally underrated series of environmental sourcebooks penned by Tom Knauss. To be more precise, this module originally was released as one of 3 modules in the “Marshes of Malice” swamp sourcebook, which I also own. Unlike the modules in “Mountains of Madness”, the adventures featured in “Marshes of Malice” do not constitute a mini-AP of sorts, which is good news for standalone presentations like this one.

Now, while the original version in Marshes of Malice made use of the expanded environmental hazards featured in the hardcover, this stand-alone version somewhat deemphasizes this aspect, and does not feature dead references to said rules – the module can be run as is and has been properly turned into a stand-alone version.

“Fishers of Men” is an adventure for 6th-level characters, and is set in the Dragonmarsh Lowlands of the Lost Lands campaign setting – for lorehounds of the Lost Lands, this means that this is pretty easy to connect to Rappan Athuk, if desired. It should also be noted that, while the module doesn’t mention that, an important NPC to the plot comes from Endhome, the setting of “The Lost City of Barakus.” I suggest 6 characters for this adventure, and I should note that this is an old-school adventure – it is difficult by design, and probably one of the harder ones penned by the author. It is per se a location-based adventure with a relatively heavy combat focus, so a well-rounded party is very much recommended. The module sports readaloud text for your convenience.

Theme-wise, this module showcases the author’s flexibility, as it leans heavily into fantasy-horror themes, and if I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that Richard Pett or Nick Logue had written this, so yeah – this is a pretty dark one.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, Oliver Quaywright is a visionary gourmand from Endhome, and one who kicked off a culinary trend when he realized the savory taste and succulent flesh of the mollusks from the Dragonmarsh Lowlands, An entrepreneur at heart, Quaywright realized he had struck gold, and proceeded to erect an impressive fishery to provide the supply for his delicious culinary creations – renowned among the elite. Quaywright, dubbed madmen and visionary, prospered, and while an evil slumbers in the Dragonmarsh Lowlands, it’s ultimately coincidence that provided the impetus for the grisly proceedings featured herein.

Tsathogga’s vile mind and hatred had consumed a chuul named Quattu, and said chuul stumbled over a bauble – an ioun stone, as it turns out – one that made the thing smarter. It could read the shipping label of the unfortunate it had happened upon – and a twisted plan gestated. Rallying sea hags and crabmen to its cause, the creature took the well-defended fishery in one fell swoop. The mollusk fishery, with its surprisingly-plausible pre-industrial layout, has since then been turned into a human slaughterhouse, while its servitors scour the Canyon River for prey. It’s debauchery and consumption flipped on its head, with impromptu, man-powered conveyor belts, the infestation called “purple rot”, and the horrid new masters of the fishery making for formidable foes. The living quarters of the place come with a pretty massive table of things to find, which let you add further detail to the savagery, and with azure lily pollen and the like, the complex is not for the faint of heart to tackle.

Indeed, this adventure is best tackled as a kind of assault on a fortified base by the party, with a combination of Stealth, etc. – structurally, an alert-response array of strategies would have been nice to have for the adversaries. Primarily mentioning that, since a GM responding to a full frontal assault with the adversaries herein will make the PCs rue the day… On the plus-side, the environment is pretty darn sandboxy, and allows for a wide variety of different approaches.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with neat b/w-artworks – particularly the one depicting the fishery and its entrance deserves being called out as awesome. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is b/w – and, you guessed it. The 5 player-friendly versions of the maps that were included in Marshes of Malice? They are absent from this book. This is particularly jarring for the overview map of the massive compound of the fishery, as there is a TON going on there, and the PCs can easily scout out the map. So yeah: No player-friendly maps, in spite of them demonstrably existing. Boo!

Tom Knauss’ “Fishers of Men” has survived the transition to stand-alone module better than many of its brethren. The adventure retains the vast majority of its charm and horrifying, gory premise, and that’s a good thing. On the downside, the loss of the player-friendly maps makes the adventure significantly less convenient to execute than in its previous iteration – I certainly know that I am not particularly keen on drawing player-friendly versions of the 5 pretty detailed maps! It is this convenience detriment that makes me reduce my final verdict for this one to 4.5 stars, rounded down; if you can get your hands on it, go for the Marshes of Malice book instead. If not, then this most assuredly makes for a delightfully icky and twisted challenge.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Fishers of Men (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: Awakenings (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/15/2020 06:13:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module in the Quest of Doom-series clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This module is designated for characters of levels 1 – 3, and is an old-school adventure. This means that not all encounters are challenge-scaled, and that there’s a serious chance of PC death. I generally like old-school modules and making PCs sweat, so that per se is a plus for me.

I’d certainly recommend for adult parties, for it can become rather dark. Structurally, the module provides one of the most efficient bait and switches regarding themes that I have ever seen, and one that plenty of GMs will have an easy time pulling off due to the set-up and progression. On the downside, there is one scene that will potentially TPK the party if they think that fighting everything to the death is a smart choice. So yeah, some groups might require a bit of help/nudging from the GM there. As a whole, I’d recommend this module primarily to veteran groups. The module is much more efficient if the party has horses and/or animal companions.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, with a variety of hooks, the premise seems old – a meteor streaks overhead, and the PCs are hired to examine/salvage the meteorite’s iron etc. If you expect some weird tentacle creature array coming up, the overland journey will strike you as super-weird, for the themes evoked are actually the Town Musicians of Bremen: The module begins with a very interesting, fairy-tale-esque angle, as all animals in the vicinity seem to slowly be increasing in Intelligence, learning to speak, etc.

This is the effect of the so-called Drift, and it is categorized in 5 stages that start as basic curiosity, and increase to full upright walking, use forelimbs properly, and communicate eloquently – this progression is based on time elapsed, and culminates at 11+ days; the drift powers are essentially spell-like abilities in anything but name (they should be classified as SPs, but I’m nitpicking there), and range in spell-level and uses from 1st to 3rd. Personally, I’d have preferred the drift powers to be codified in a way akin to corruptions, but that’s just a preference.

Anyhow, this fairy tale like scenario is played up in a fantastic manner: If the PCs have horses/animal companions, this awakening is even more impactful and rocks hard; it extends to the random encounters, and the different reactions of people to this change run a wide gamut: What about e.g. a bar with literally a sow as a mascot – who knows more than she lets on. Or what about that scene, where a family has been taken hostage by their cat and its allies? Said hostage situation is great, difficult and evocative. On the downside, the statblocks for the awakened sheep list “Feat, Feat, Feat” in their statblocks, which is a pretty obvious problem that should have been caught.

The turning point in themes from the mildly threatening to a further level happens when the PCs are faced with the heralds and servants of the Bear King: An owl with a broken wing, a chatty badger and a rabbit (called Stomper) with a taste for practical jokes make for remarkable companions to the dire elk Jostrocoles. PCs might become less, well, happy when the fanatic wolves arrive, and when the friendly badger is hurt by them – which is another chance to make friends here – friends they’ll need, for the bear king is a CR 7 stage 5 grizzly, and probably not something the PCs can beat. It’ll probably be up to the allies thus made to allow the PCs to escape captivity. The bear won’t let them just walk away. This is aforementioned thing that might be hard to see on a party of characters – they have to be okay with being captured and disarmed. Now, their badger ally will get them out, but captivity has its advantages: Here, the PCs will meet a belabra called Khotl, a strange jellyfish-like thing that can fill the PCs in regarding the mysterious phenomenon.

Khotl (who comes with roleplaying advice) tells the PCs about the grisly fate in store for their allies: The Drift is a horrible, infectious collective intelligence. The Drift will, at one point, force all infected beings to form a ginormous mass of flesh, using the bodies of its infected constituents as biomass as it levitates into space, where most beings will simply die, The driftmass will then proceed to another world, growing once more. All the weird hints granted from NPCs and companions suddenly make sense – and full-blown cosmic horror, uncaring, unfeeling, invades the module. I LOVE this. This bait and switch is FANTASTIC. Awakening to becoming a person, only to be subsumed and reduced to less than being an animal, being just biomass? That’s some seriously dark and horrifying concept.

In order to stop the Drift, the PCs have to infiltrate the driftmass, said strange meteor, and slay the core – so, provided the PCs managed to slip from the Bear King’s grasp, they have their work cut out for them.

The final part of the module, thus, is all about the PCs beating the insane things in the driftmass and slaying its core. The cartography for the driftmass lists numbers, though, while the module uses letters to denote the placement of adversaries. The map also lacks a scale and uses hexes, which implies a ginormous driftmass that makes no sense. This would be an issue, but not a crucial one.

HOWEVER. The Pathfinder conversion seriously goes off the deep end in the driftmass. The map lists 5 spots where creatures lurk; the module provides 2 creature-arrays: The first is a stage 4 gibbering mouther. The second would be a grick and a belabra (though the latter may have been intended to be a 3rd creature type – in such an instance, it’s missing the header designating it as such. These monsters surviving the last exodus are automatically hostile and super-dangerous. Thing is: Provided the scale of the driftmass is not huge, all creatures are pretty close to each other, and each of them is already BRUTAL and has TPK potential on its own. If the scale is indeed intended to be ginormous, this can be potentially done by lucky groups engaging in excellent tactics, provided they are rest-scumming AND optimized to the teeth.

This ends with the final boss, the driftcore. It’s a CR 10 (!!) stage 5 black pudding with at-will charm person, magic missile and sleep, 2/day darkness and web, and 2/day haste. It has more than 100 HP. With its reliable attack options, there is no way to not have even a clever group be TPK’d by this fellow. Even a level 3 party must be a) lucky and b) up to their A++++ game to beat this thing. Level 1 and 2? FORGET about it! If the driftmass, as I expect, is supposed to be dungeon-sized, this becomes even more ridiculous.

Now, I am a very vocal proponent for super-hard modules – and this module, up until the driftmass, was a well-wrought, deadly module. Tough, but fair. The driftmass? It becomes a horribly prickish save-or-suck fest; it’s unfair and just a mess. This can’t be done as written, at least not by even a decently optimized group at the suggested levels. Heck, even if you just kill off the PCs with magic missiles, you can kill them all reliably and easily. This is not a deadly module – it is beyond. I’d seriously consider the finale, depending on how you interpret the map situation, at best to be a solid challenge with a chance to triumph for level 4 – 5 parties. At the suggested levels, this is a guaranteed TPK.

Treasure for the insane finale? 8 pieces of gold, totaling 380 gp. No, I am not kidding.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, I noticed a couple of hiccups, including ones that impact gameplay. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard, with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice, but lacks scale, and the second map, as noted above, sports discrepancies regarding it and the text. There are no player-friendly maps included, which is a bummer.

Steve Winter’s “Awakenings” is a module I genuinely LOVE. The atmosphere, the bait and switch, the genre-flipping, is executed in a way that is downright fantastic, 5 stars + seal level great.

… Unfortunately, the conversion to PFRPG by Dave Landry wrecks the module’s finale. Up to that point, the module is brutal, as it should be as a Quest of Doom; it requires a good GM, but it works. The finale? It comes apart, regardless of how you interpret the flawed map – which is another huge strike against the module.

I frankly wished I had gotten another version, for these two problems? They tarnish what otherwise would be an outstanding offering. The map-situation is a brutal issue; the finale being so incredibly over the top regarding its lethality is devastating. I tried making mythic characters GEARED to surviving the module – you can still kill those off pretty reliably if you play the adversaries even halfway smart. That’s not just a DOOM-level super-hard module – it’s unfair and simply provided for the wrong level-range.

Now, to be frank, I should rate this 2 stars, at the very highest. But the adventure? It’s just so awesome that it may warrant investing the time to fix the botched finale. Hence, my final verdict will be 3 stars, representing here an inspired and evocative, but also deeply flawed, broken book – if you’re willing to invest the time to rebalance significant parts of the module, then this’ll be one awesome scenario that your players will keep talking about. If you’re not willing to do that, then steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Awakenings (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: Cave of Iron (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2020 07:28:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

“Cave of Iron” is an old-school module intended for characters level 1st to 3rd – a well-rounded party of 6 is recommended, and at 1st level, this is a VERY deadly module. It should be noted that the module requires that the GM pulls off something that every experienced player will be weary of; otherwise, it might well end before the intended finale, so yeah – this is certainly a module for experienced GMs. And parties. Oh boy, this is capital letters DOOM. Are you tired of your cocky, optimized PCs? Well, the final region has 10 minute intervals for random encounters, and these encounters can include 6 CR 4 creatures, and even one encounter with 14 CR 1, 8 CR 2, and one CR 6 (!!) critters – while one of the planned encounters lists this as not necessarily an IMMEDIATELY hostile one (they do turn hostile if the party dawdles), parties that think they can murder-hobo through this with their 3133T-murderhoboing builds will die horribly. It should also be noted that, while the numbers of critters encountered make this intent clear, the like is not spelled out in the random encounters section, so yeah – experienced GMs definitely required. The party has no chance of survival if they can’t level mid-adventure, and imho, even level 3 parties may well be hard-pressed to survive this one. You have been warned.

The module features read-aloud text, as well as b/w-maps for a section of wilderness and an adventure-location; the latter is aesthetically really pleasing and nice, but both maps come without player-friendly versions.

The primary antagonist comes with very rudimentary and pretty flawed depictions of making characters of that type; I strongly suggest ignoring the paragraph. Apart from the primary antagonist, we have two new monsters here – as a minor nitpick, an ability called “thought onslaught” should most definitely be codified as mind-affecting, as it does cause untyped damage. Another creature’s CMD is off by one, missing its special size modifier.

The module is set in the Keston province in the Lost Lands campaign setting, but is pretty easy to adapt to other settings. The adventure starts off in Hillfort, and nomen est omen here. 12 years ago, valuable metals were found in the hills in the vicinity, and the Hardshale Mine thrived – every month, a wagon train carries supplies to the mine, and returns laden with iron and miners, with the trip usually taking less than a week. It’s been 3 weeks and the last supply train hasn’t returned, and the riders that were dispatched when the wagons were 4 days overdue haven’t returned either, and more goblins than usual have been sighted – enter the adventurers!

To provide more details, I’ll need to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first section of the module deals with the road to Hardhsale Mine after the short briefing. If the PCs are smart, they’ll take a friendly NPC along for the rid: A kind rogue can certainly help; the commoner minor, who is also an alcoholic, though? Less useful. En route, the PCs get to face several goblins (potentially gaining some intel regarding the plant monsters, like Jupiter bloodsuckers, which the PCs can also find.

And then comes the hard sell I mentioned, which really requires serious GM mojo to pull off – The PCs meet Pezzi Zakii, a friendly shroom-humanoid, who professes to be a kind being. Ideally, the shroom accompanies the PCs as a funny sidekick, “saving” them with his “shroom powers” over his own plant creatures. Conversation primers are also provided, and this’d be a more effective angle if, well, if shrooms were not one of the most classic OSR-villains ever. If your players played through either Expeditious Retreat press’ shroom modules or Matthew J. Finch’s fantastic Demonspore, forget about selling this one to your party. The module does not hinge on the party falling for Pezzi, but becomes more fun if they do. Here’s an issue: “It is vital, however, that characters don’t kill Zakii on the road.” While the shroom has 35 HP, making that unlikely, it’s certainly within the range of things that the party can pull off. On the plus-side, invisibility and sleep as prepared spells do make for a pretty likely chance to escape. So yeah, not penalizing the module for this one, even though I really suggest GMs taking some serious time to think on how to sell this.

Why? Because the module does actually a really nice job at making Pezzi seem likable, and the shroom, until recently isolated from the surface world, has a good reason to have free-willed adventurers around, wanting them to demonstrate how e.g. smelting iron works, etc. Still, some designated troubleshooting sections most assuredly would have been helpful here. The Hardhsale Mine, once the party arrives there, is the highlight of the module: Lavishly-mapped, the place features a ton of feeblemind-ed miners, deadly plant creatures (including a cool reskin of the assassin vine – the flowershroud), and with the magic-dampening witch grass hazard, the small mining settlement is atmospheric, dangerous and thoroughly creepy.

Of course, the PCs will need to go down into the Hardshale Mine – the mine has three levels, with the majority of the action dealing with the third level, where the mine managed to break through into the shroom’s habitat, thus initiating the catastrophe…provided the party isn’t TPK’d. A planned encounter deals with 5 CR 4 and one CR 5 enemy….which can’t RAW be bypassed. Hope your group is super-paranoid and good at hit and run…The final encounter with Pezzi Zakki and its minions btw. add +2 advanced violet fungi on round 1, 5 mandragoras (CR 4) and a green brain (CR 5) on round 2, a CR 3 fungoid on round three, and all surviving vegepygmies from a camp on round 5. These vegepygmies, btw.? That’s the 14 CR 1, 8 CR 2, and one CR 6 creature. Plus, you know, the CR 5 BBEG. If the PCs have not leveled by then, they will be wiped out at the very latest here.

Now, there is a room for super-deadly modules like this one; heck, I prefer hard modules. But this one is insanely brutal, and its level-range is hard to sell. I can’t see a level 1 party beating this; not even really overpowered groups. Level 2 will also be borderline – so yeah, wrong level-range.

But there is one aspect that really tanks the module for me. That final subterranean area, which constitutes more than half of the keyed encounters? Well, guess what’s missing its frickin’ map? YEP. The entire subterranean finale is missing it’s §$%&$§-map! And no, this is not intentional – the text references hexes, and the module certainly doesn’t waste time talking about the relation of encounter areas sans map, making it very obvious that a map should be here…but isn’t. How in all the 9 hells could that happen???

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports some nice artworks in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography for the surface of Hardshale Mine is awesome and b/w – but that doesn’t make up for a) the lack of player-friendly maps (which Frog God Games usually provided) and b) THE FIRCKIN MISSING MAP for the region containing half of the keyed encounters!!

Man, Steve Winter’s scenario deserved better.

The module has not one, but two bad strikes against it: 1) The lack of player-friendly maps is disappointing; the missing map is inexcusable. 2) Dave Landry’s PFRPG conversion is insanely-brutal. I get the whole DOOM part of Quests of Doom; heck, I’ve been a fan of the super-brutal modules. But this one? You can throw mythic characters at this and watch them die. The level-range is not appropriate, and I’d seriously not throw this at a party below 3rd level; heck, most parties at 4th level would still consider this to be HARD if the GM plays it halfway smart. Unless you’re dealing with a super-optimized group, this might still TPK level 4 parties!

Both of these would be serious strikes on their own; the latter perhaps more excusable than the former; but in combination? In combination, they tank this module, and while the adventure, if run as intended as opposed to as provided, is a solid yarn, it isn’t outstanding, or novel enough to make up for these issues. My final verdict can’t exceed 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Cave of Iron (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: The Hunter's Game (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/13/2020 05:20:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as part of a series of requests by my patreon supporters.

So, “The Hunter’s Game” sounds familiar? Well, the module was originally penned as part of the criminally underrated series of environmental sourcebooks penned by Tom Knauss. To be more precise, this module originally was released as one of 3 modules in the “Marshes of Malice” swamp sourcebook, which I also own. Unlike the modules in “Mountains of Madness”, the adventures featured in “Marshes of Malice” do not constitute a mini-AP of sorts, which is good news for standalone presentations like this one.

Anyhow, “The Hunter’s Game” is an old-school module, and as such, it is not necessarily easy – careless player characters will die – horribly. There is one particular encounter that can be rather brutal. The adventure is penned for a 4th-level party, and I’d suggest 6 PCs, which should form a coherent unit with the expected combat capabilities. You don’t need to be super-optimized to beat this, but you need to be competent at what you’re doing.

The module is steeped pretty deeply in the lore of the Lost Lands-campaign setting, but all the background is easy enough to ignore, should you choose to go that route. The background lore sports some minor, Easter egg-like connections to the classic Glades of Death hardcover for 3.X (the proto-environment hardcover book, if you will), as well as to the Death in Dyrgalas-adventure featured in the first Quests of Doom hardcover. For lorehounds of the Lost Lands and parties that have been playing these modules for a while, that’s certainly a nice touch. If that’s not your cup of tea, then you can ignore much of the very detailed background story when you adapt this to your setting, and do so without running into issues. The module sports some readaloud text, but not to an excessive degree – this is definitely a module suited for experienced GMs, and one that should be properly prepared. On the plus-side, and that’s a BIG plus as far as I’m concerned, the module does offer troubleshooting advice for PCs looking to hire NPCs for their magic capabilities, etc.

The module comes with regional and local maps in b/w, as well as a local map – which is one of the big downers of this stand-alone version of the module. You see, in the original iteration, there were player-friendly versions of all maps provided. These are nowhere to be found. Worse, the final part of the module has the PCs happen upon a crude map handout. With a player-friendly map, they then could explore the locality, and find the relevant places. This handout version of the map has been cut – though references to it are still very much in the module’s text. That’s a huge downer, as far as I’m concerned, because it was what made the final section of the module interesting. On the plus side, the random encounter section has been cut down – the original featured cross-references to Marshes of Malice’s copious environmental hazards, which includes poison sumacs, microorganisms, etc. – these references have been cut, so no dead “links” here. On the downside, these aspects, well, have been cut, which takes away some of the really cool and immersive environmental features.

That being said, the adventure is pretty uncommon, in that it essentially is a mystery/investigation scenario that’s not set in a city, but rather in a pretty unique and novel environment. It is also well-researched regarding animals and biome. It should be noted that I strongly suggest this module for veteran players – solving the adventure becomes significantly more likely if the PCs know what they’re doing and engage in proper legwork. Unlike many published modules, this one does assume a degree of competence and intelligence on parts of the players, which is a big plus in my book.

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

… .. . The Answin Lodge is a success story: Erected by a naturalist, it allows wealthy visitors to the Dyrgalas Fens to learn about the unique fauna, and the naturalist Brock Answin is certainly making a case for crocodiles; heck, he is allied with lizardfolk, making him a pretty positive figure as a whole…and still, people vanish. And the disappearances are accumulating – so hopefully, the PCs are doing their legwork before embarking on the journey to the Lodge….for, at the start, the PCs can question former guests of the Lodge and engage in some serious detective work by cross-referencing statements. Indeed, since the modus operandi of the adversaries includes the use of magic, that aspect is covered as well and hinted at. I really loved how this entire section sets up the rest of the module.

And the investigation, provided the PCs make it to the Lodge, is similarly interesting: Brock (who has btw. a crocodile animal companion) and his crew are probably prime suspects at this point, but the matter of the truth is that he’s innocent; indeed, his operation has been compromised in a rather interesting fashion: Clever players will notice a discrepancy between the numbers of crocodiles featured, and indeed – that’s the core of the issue. One of the lizardfolk retainers (who are not working here as long as Brock claims they do) is pretty devious and has been spreading the were-crocodile strain of lycanthropy, which Brock has resisted so far. In essence, a group of villains has co-opted Brock’s operation as a front for subtle abductions of individuals, which are then sold off to several really unpleasant parties in the Dyrgalas!

The combination of the perpetrators (who have pretty neat builds) is the aforementioned steep spike in challenge – if the party is ambushed by the entire cadre of foes, they’ll have a VERY brutal combat on their hands. But then again, if that happens, they’ll have botched the investigation – reap what you sow…so yeah, the investigation, with the colorful people at the Lodge (which is fully mapped), tours etc. – it all comes together in a genuinely cool and fun investigation.

In the aftermath of the attack, provided the PCs survived the exceedingly dangerous villains, they’ll have an impromptu, crude map, which they then use to track down the green hag Grizelda, the Cyclops Bruseus, and two harpy sisters, hopefully rescuing as many innocents as possible. The fun aspect of this extended denouement, at one point, was using the handout and the player-friendly map while exploring the swamp to find these targets – and this aspect is pretty much completely lost in this stand-alone iteration, as both handout and player-friendly map are missing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, though the references to the cut handout sting. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice original artworks in b/w as well as bookmarks. The map-situation is a big downer: The original hardcover featured player-friendly versions of all maps of the adventure, and their loss is a pretty big downside in this iteration. Moreover, the cut handout, in conjunction with the loss of said maps deprives the final section of what made it unique and fun.

Tom Knauss’ “the Hunter’s Game” deserved better than what it got here; its original iteration was an impressive adventure that played really well and made great use of the swamp-rules. Losing the hazards and the like is a minor blemish, but wouldn’t have had a serious impact on my verdict. However, the fact that the handout, and as such, the thing that made the finale rewarding and unique, has been cut? That’s a HUGE bummer and makes the finale feel less like a turning of the tables, and more like busy-work. In short: The finale loses most of its impact and consequently becomes a low-key series of planned encounters sans the novel framing.

And this is a pity, for this is per se an excellent adventure – if you can get your hands on Marshes of Malice, go for that version; it’s pretty much a 5 star + seal adventure; this stand-alone iteration, though, not only loses the minor components you’d expect it to, the finale is severely compromised in how well it works. As such, it should be taken as testament to how much I like the module per se that my final verdict for this stand-alone version still clocks in at 3.5 stars, but I can’t bring myself to rounding up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: The Hunter's Game (PF)
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The Black Spot (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/08/2020 09:42:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so I believe I need to provide at least a brief history lesson: This module was originally penned as part of the epic project of the Frog God Games crew, Lou Agresta, and several other talented people saving a notorious piece of vaporware, namely Nick Logue’s magnum opus Razor Coast, from oblivion; this module was originally part of the “Heart of the Razor” hardcover, which I do own – that supplemental book featured some amazing stand-alone adventures that can be added to Razor Coast. Anyhow, back then, the original author of this module Gary McBride was riding high, providing several downright fantastic adventures, most notably the Way of the Wicked AP. While the author at one point went incommunicado over the KS for his second AP, and wasted a lot of goodwill, I am not going to penalize this book for that. It is my policy to rate the work, not the author. It should also be noted that the author was not per se responsible for the 5e-version:  Patrick Pilgrim and Edwin Nagy handled this, so if you wanted to see me slam this unjustly, I’ll have to disappoint you. I care about the module, and it wouldn’t be fair to the crew that worked hard on this conversion to penalize them from wrongdoings they had no hand in. (And yes, I am one of the people Gary McBride scammed out of more than $140…) So yeah, this review? It’s about this module, not some drama beyond it, and the people working on this conversion deserve a fair shake.

Okay, got that? Great! While nominally set in the Razor Coast region of the Lost Lands campaign setting, this module for 4 to 6 5th-level characters is very easy to adapt to pretty much any marine environment – you just need the PCs to board “The Sealord’s Blessing” under Captain Colthyn Riggs. Thematically, the module is probably best described as dark fantasy, and it certainly can be considered to be somewhat old-school – the adventure is not particularly easy, so a well-rounded group is certainly recommended. The module does reward clever and thorough players. The module does feature a few rumors for PCs doing their legwork, and does come with read-aloud text. Vehicles and NPCs are properly statted, and deserve applause for the conversion crew: The statblock integrity is very high as a whole – not perfect (mustard jelly should, for example, have d10 HD as a Large creature, not d8s), but as a whole, formatting etc. is well executed. Often forgotten aspects such as damage thresholds, vehicle stats, etc. are provided, and the creatures not only get proper features, we also make use of lair actions. While e.g. the murder crow once erroneously refers to itself as Lord of Crows, the stats, as a whole, work as written. In short: Among the flood of bad or sloppy 5e-conversions, this stands out as a job well, if not perfectly done, and was obviously done with love for the rules and care.

The module includes a whole page of troubleshooting advice for the GM. Kudos for that!

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs are on board of “The Sealord’s Blessing”, and they’ll happen upon “The Flying Fortune” – a ship that ran aground the rock-formation known as Trident – three lances of rock protruding from the waves. The ship’s impaled wreck hangs precariously on the massive rock formation, so exploring the vessel with the captain would be the first section of the module. The aforementioned, diverse monsters add a lot of flavor to this section – and clever PCs can find out that their very captain, well coincidentally also was the man in charge of this vessel.

Before you groan or whip out your “Curse you and your obvious and inevitable betrayal”-memes, wait for a second. Using a NPC ally to betray the characters is a risky gambit, for most groups will be paranoid and clever. Many a module gets this wrong, and fails to account for the party’s capabilities – this one is more clever, and the reason for that lies in the eponymous black spot, which has another meaning than the one you’d expect from the literary context.

You see, there is this huge vertical chimney in the middle of the trident, and navigating down its vast length, there is something strange, deadly and horrifying: The vessel of a mi-go is waiting below the trident, accessible this way; the master of the ship, “The Engineer” is actually the mastermind behind the captain’s insistence of getting the party below, and betraying them, for he has been infected with a biomechanic horror, the black leech – the true source of the Black Spot he hides under his gloves. The engineer’s command: “Bring more!”; it’s not the captain who is lying or making evasions – it is the entity pulling his strings.

After the literal and figurative descent below, the second part of the module deals with the party exploring the sunken space-vessel of the engineer, exploring deadly gardens, finding strange portals, and it makes sense: The Engineer comes with added notes to allow the GM to play it properly, and from nonlethal traps (need the party alive to properly experiment on them, after all!) to the overall layout and the Engineer’s cool lair actions, everything makes sense. Oh, and defeating the engineer initiates a self-destruct sequence, so the escape from the trident will be rather tense as well! Regarding engineer: There is one thing you need to know, that struck me as odd: You see, in the PFRPG-version, the Engineer is a neh-thalggu, a species known as brain collectors. While mi-go fit the deal, there are a few references to “brain collector” remaining – but these could theoretically just be descriptions of, well, what the mi-go does, so no problem there. What I did consider to be an issue in a way, though: The map of the ship has this huge “The Neh-Thalggu Craft"-header, which might cause some confusion with GMs not familiar with the genesis of the module.

Whether or not the captain survives his ordeal and can be healed of his parasite remains up to the party, and there is a suitable denouement provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – the book almost achieves the highest honors in both categories. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with really nice full-color artworks provided. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, making navigation simple and convenient. Cartography remains my most pronounced issue with this book: The maps are full-color and neat, but no player-friendly versions are provided – the aforementioned header-glitch is purely aesthetic, but the absence of player-friendly maps is somewhat unpleasant.

Patrick Pilgrim and Edwin Nagy did a very good job at converting Gary McBride’s adventure – they retained the difficulty and themes, while taking 5e’s options and system-relevant components into account. This is a well-wrought, atmospheric adventure; it’s tough, but fair. It’s clever. Were it not for the lack of player-friendly maps, this’d be a 5 star-adventure. As presented, it is still worth 4.5 stars, rounded down. If you want a dark, marine yarn, this one most assuredly delivers!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Black Spot (5e)
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Monstrosities (S&W)
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2020 20:12:44

Simply put, if you buy only one monster book for your OSR game, it should probably be this one. It has most of the monsters from 1e, as well as lots of new creatures and variations. And unlike so-called "modern" monster books, the stat blocks are not the length of the tax code with a raft of abilities, exceptions and conditions to keep track of. Plus, there's a picture for every monster as well as a mini encounter or adventure hook. These are great for inspiration, side quests, or even to use as interesting random encounters. And there are many clever pop culture references worked into the encounters.

The only real downsides are that the images varey somewhat in quality and because they try to keep it one monster per page, there's often a lot of white space. So they could have added a bit more fluff to the text. But in a book that already runs over 500 pages, perhaps less is more in that respect. And to be honest, this black and white artwork suits the book better than the color artwork they've used in supplements to Tome of Horrors Complete, which should be the second OSR monster book you buy. With those two massive tomes, it's hard to see you ever needing another monster book. My only regret is that I waited too long to buy this so I was only able to get the pdf. Still hoping to snag a hard copy somewhere.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrosities (S&W)
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Jean-Francois B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2020 14:04:25

One of the must have book for any solo RPG player.

The good thing is that, with imagination and creativity, you can use the tables for any settings than medieval fantasy (modern, sci-fi); just adapt the results with the context you play your game with.

I printed it via Staples in Canada, an additional $CAD50 to the price, but it's a big creative baby of 300+ pages than can open so many possibilities that it's worth each $ you spent on it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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Book of Lost Spells (5e)
by Isaiah M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2020 04:22:27

The PHB for fifth edition has great options as a whole, until you compare it to the Book of Lost Spells! I, as a charlatan thief, was able to befriend a woman don her cloth with magic, and befuddle her. She didn't even known she was talking to her twin sister polymorphed into a male telling that needed her help escaping the guards. This book is astounding with what you can do. It's a must have to fully flesh out any game imo and well worth the price.

Any book of spells that can make Arcane Trickster good is a must have in my opinion. but I have more stories too, all of which were inspired by this wondrous book breathing life into my imagination.

Thank you for an amazing time fooling both my players and the worlds I play in.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Lost Spells (5e)
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Quests of Doom 4: War of Shadows (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/03/2020 05:35:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience – and I wouldn’t have reviewed this one usually. Why? Because the module is the final part of a series of adventures, which were first published in the criminally-underrated Mountains-sourcebook “Mountains of Madness.” Full disclosure: I was a backer of the KS to fund Mountains of Madness, since I genuinely consider the Perilous Vista books by Frog God Games to be some of their finest work for PFRPG. I briefly talked about the module back then, but my patreon supporters wanted a more detailed analysis of the module in question, so here we go!

Okay, so first things first: “War of Shadows” is the direct sequel to “Between a Rock and a Charred Place” – running it on its own is not the best idea, as the module loses much of its impact. That being said, it’s much easier to set up than the previous one – a call to arms issued by the dwarves is all it takes to kick it off. The module is intended for 8th-level characters, and as always, a well-rounded group is recommended. The module features read-aloud text for key-encounters and dungeons, but not to an excessive degree. Finally, it should be noted that, like its predecessors, it is pretty deeply ingrained in the lore of the Lost lands-setting; while it is very much possible to adapt the module to other campaign settings, it does take a bit of work, as the political situation of the region depicted here does matter.

Okay, as always, the following contains SPOILERS – this time, that’s includes the previous module. You have been warned. Players should jump to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! The masterplan of Grugdour, hobgoblin warlord and secretive devotee of the shadow deity Mirkeer, is in full motion. The clever hobgoblin warlord’s allies may have failed with their coup d’état/assassination attempt in “Between a Rock and a Charred Place”, but that does not put a stop to his plans. His sights on Tyr Whin, he had someone spread a contagion affecting only dwarves in the place, and if things had gone according to plan, no call of aid from Erod Flan would come, which means that his army will have to take Tyr Whin at the place’s full strength. Thankfully for the devious hobgoblin, the disease seems to be working better than expected, and thus he marches his army, cleverly concealed nearby, towards Tyr Whin.

Enter the PCs – who will face a 120 miles trek through mountainous terrain featuring a couple of scripted encounters. Problematic here: The mountainous features of the region? They are referred to as “see A Little Knowledge” and “Between a Rock and a Charred Place” – so no, you don’t get the information to conveniently run the trek! That’s a no-go for a stand-alone module. I indubitably by now sound like a broken record, but I’d very much recommending getting “Mountains of Madness” over this stand-alone version. It also has more detailed mountain hazard rules etc., which seriously add tremendously to the whole sequence of 4 adventures. But I digress.

When the PCs arrive, they’re faced with a siege – the hobgoblin army has encircled the fortress, and it has siege weapons! The PCs can attempt to take these down, if they feel stealthy/clever, and there is a secret entrance to the fortress – provided the PCs beat the aberrant giants lairing there. Once the PCs have made it into the fortress, they’ll have their tasks cut out for them: The mysterious spinning sickness (which causes a sense of vertigo) may not be fatal, but it sure as heck makes fighting very hard. The citadel’s quartermaster, Truvven Blackgranite, wastes no time: The dwarves can’t best or outlast the hobgoblins in their current state, so he asks the PCs to travel to MounT Huumvar atop the Feirgotha plateau to cut off the hobgoblin army’s head. Mount Huumvar is a superb defensive position, but when the Kingdom of Arcady yet flourished, there was a temple created to the foreigner’s strange deities – in this temple of Aten, there is supposed to be a secret entrance to Mount Huumvar, granting a small team a chance to eliminate the hobgoblin high command. Of course, clever PCs may want to first investigate this mysterious disease, and indeed, the investigation that leads to the false dwarf assassin/witch multiclass perpetrator is nice, though it is presented in a pretty swift/efficient manner.

Once that snake has been taken care of, the PCs are off through the mountains, hopefully not running afoul of the hobgoblin warriors. They make their way to the dilapidated temple, and through it, navigating a wikkawak lair (!!) to finally infiltrate Mount Huumvar. These dungeons all have in common that they adhere to an internal logic I very much enjoy: The placement of traps makes them potentially predictable by defensively-minded PCs who think about where they tread, and the new haunt featured also follows this. Funny: There is a white dragon that allows you to get in all those Mr. Freeze puns and dad jokes from the classic Batman & Robin trainwreck of a movie. It’s a nice change of pace for a species of dragon usually relegated to little more than beasts. Another plus here is that monsters and the like don’t behave as mindless beasts; they try to bluff, offer truces and survive. That kind of thing’s too rare in modern RPGs.

Mount Huumvar deserves special mention, as the dungeon level is a pretty tough nut to crack – as the culmination of the “Mountains of Madness”-modules, it very much should be. Careless PCs might quickly face a number of foes, including several unique hobgoblin builds, that can overwhelm them, so careful precision strikes, Stealth, etc. are advised – with them, the complex becomes possible to handle; without them, you should hope that your PCs have learned the values of a tactical retreat. This is per se a great finale.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se very good, though the references pertaining rules featured in other adventures should not be here. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a few b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is b/w – and guess what? Yep, of course, the player-friendly versions of the maps, which had been included in Mountains of Madness…are absent from this one.

Tom Knauss’ “War of Shadows” was one of my favorite modules from the Mountains of Madness adventures, as it manages to take leitmotifs from each of its predecessors and weaves them into a satisfying conclusion for the adventure arc. However, much like the other 3 modules in the arc, it deserved better than what it got here. I genuinely LIKE the saga, and it wouldn’t have been that hard to include some of the material that made Mountains of Madness so rewarding throughout these stand-alone renditions of the modules. Here a hazard, there a new creature cough missing boss in God of Ore /cough, and we’d have an impressive array of modules here. Indeed, in an ideal version, there’d have been revisions of the adventures to make them more self-contained; at the very latest with “Between a Rock and a Charred Place”, and here as well, we have modules that really, really are intended to be run in sequence. Either that, or properly designate them as a series that requires the previous modules – “War of Shadows” requiring two adventures for the notes on certain features and environmental rules? That’s not cool.

Beyond being an unfortunate decision, it also further underlines the whole sense of “rushed stand-alone version” that I got from all of the 4 adventures. From the references to other adventures to the horribly-botched God of Ore-version, they have in common that they deserved better. The absence of player-friendly maps that EXIST (they are all in the Mountains of Madness hardcover! I checked!) and these errant cross-references just emphasize this. And that, to me, is a tragedy. I really liked the modules in Mountains of Madness, where they operate as they should. Here? Here, I’m genuinely crestfallen about how this turned out. My final verdict for “War of Shadows”’s stand-alone iteration has to reduce a module I’d have given my highest accolades in its original iteration to 3.5 stars, rounded up. Tom Knauss’ cool 4 modules deserved better than this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: War of Shadows (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: Between a Rock and a Charred Place (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2020 08:32:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience – and I wouldn’t have reviewed this one usually. Why? Because the module is the third part of a series of adventures, which were first published in the criminally-underrated Mountains-sourcebook “Mountains of Madness.” Full disclosure: I was a backer of the KS to fund Mountains of Madness, since I genuinely consider the Perilous Vista books by Frog God Games to be some of their finest work for PFRPG. I briefly talked about the module back then, but my patreon supporters wanted a more detailed analysis of the module in question, so here we go!

This adventure is intended for 7th level characters, and, as always for Frog God Games modules, a well-rounded group is recommended. As always, we have read-aloud text for key-scenes and dungeon rooms, but the amount provided is on the low side of things.

The module is steeped, particularly in its background, in the lore of the Lost lands campaign setting, particularly the Stoneheart Valley. Unlike the previous two modules taken from “Mountains of Madness”, this one is harder to implement in another campaign setting – you’d need a mountainous region with a pretty specific political framework here. It’s not impossible to do, but it requires a bit of work. It should also be noted that this adventure has strong ties to the final of the modules taken from “Mountains of Madness”, which would be “War of Shadows.” I strongly encourage running these two back to back. If you’ve run “A Little Knowledge”, you’ll have a good starting point, for the actions of the PCs there should have made for a convenient reason for why the otherwise pretty xenophobic Clan Craenog’s High Thane has invited the PCs to the dwarven city of Erod Flan, we set our play – for this is a somewhat Shakespearean yarn!

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 GMs around? Great! So, you need a reason why the High Thane would invite the PCs to his city to be honored; as per default, that would be because they saved the beleaguered garrison of Burvaadun from the undead assaults conducted by the an ancient arch-mage. The PCs arrive in Erod Flan, get a tour, chances to pick up rumors, etc., before the PCs get their audience with the High thane. During all of this time, the PCs should well pay attention, for otherwise, the complex background story may become puzzling – the feast, ultimately, is rocked by a massive explosion that had the chance to kill the entire congregation!

While the ancient thane and his associates quickly deduce the dark folk survivors of the battles the dwarves once led as likely culprits, filling the PCs in on this ancient foe, but the matter at hand is more complicated. At this point, the PCs will be asked to dive down into the formerly-sealed quartz-mine. The PCs are accompanied by stout dwarves, at least potentially – and that is where the module becomes interesting.

You see, the dwarves are no chumps – they have secured the entrances to the dark folk regions with really deadly traps, many of which glyph-based – how the GM handles these will greatly influence the difficulty of the module. Warned PCs have obviously an easier time dealing with those; here’s the thing, though: There is a traitor among the dwarves, one carrying a grudge and ambition from long past; I’m consciously omitting the details here to avoid giving away the deal, but said individual has VERY detailed tactics provided to conceal his intentions, and this individual, obviously, also wants to “thin the herd” of people between him and his goal. How this dynamic villain is handled, is very cool.

Indeed, handling of the NPCs is crucial, for the module tends to throw a lot of cross-invisible-line-for-damage traps at the PCs, and the ones on the dwarven side are brutal; the ones in the dark folk complex obviously aren’t telegraphed this manner, but they DO follow an internal logic, so clever and experienced groups may avoid them.

Said traitorous individual, btw., has a conspiracy going on with none other than the leader of the dark folk – and the exceedingly intelligent hobgoblin warlord Grugdour, ultimately with the goal of elevating the traitor to the seat of the High Thane, and a breaking of the stalemate between hobgoblins and dwarves….hence the assassination attempt below. The fate of the traitor can go a lot of ways, by the way – but in the end, the module will have one loose end, namely Grugdour’s and his gambit for supremacy!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports two solid b/w-artworks. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked. The b/w-cartography is nice and detailed, as usual – alas, like the previous two adventures, the stand-alone version is missing the player-friendly maps – particularly grating, since these omitted the tell-tale trap-indicators in the original version of the adventure.

Tom Knauss’ “Between a Rock and a Charred Place” loses some of its impact when considered as a stand-alone venture; “A Little Knowledge” provided a great segue into the module’s scenario, and without that lead-in, it’s somewhat harder to set up. Furthermore, the module essentially requires the sequel for a satisfying resolution. It remains a good module, but it’s one that I strongly suggest playing these modules in sequence. All in all, my final verdict for this stand-alone version clocks in at 4 stars – I recommend getting the Mountains of Madness book over this stand-alone iteration, if you have the option.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Between a Rock and a Charred Place (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: A Little Knowledge (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/27/2020 04:11:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience – and I wouldn’t have reviewed this one usually. Why? Because the module is the second part of a series of adventures, which were first published in the criminally-underrated Mountains-sourcebook “Mountains of Madness.” Full disclosure: I was a backer of the KS to fund Mountains of Madness, since I genuinely consider the Perilous Vista books by Frog God Games to be some of their finest work for PFRPG. I briefly talked about the module back then, but my patreon supporters wanted a more detailed analysis of the module in question, so here we go!

“A Little Knowledge” is the second of the Mountains of Madness-adventures, and is intended for 5th-level characters; as always for Frog God Games scenarios, it is highly suggested to face these with a well-rounded group. The module comes with read-aloud text for most keyed locales, but not for every encounter featured. The module is set in the Lost lands campaign-setting, and while it can be divorced relatively easily from this backdrop, it does lose some of its cross-referential background appeal – Slumbering Tsar and Sword of Air both tangentially are relevant. The module takes place on the mountainous, fabled Feirgotha Plateau. Theme-wise, this module feels very much like old-school pulp in the best of ways, making me remember some of the rare good tales from Weird Tales.

The module does not really require other adventures from the Mountains of Madness set to work properly, making it a good stand-alone adventure in that regard. Anyhow, the module offers two different primary angles – one that has the PCs travel to the Plateau to search for the fabled Library of Arcady, lost dwarven poetry, and the other about the dwarven keep of Burvaadun, which might well be en route for the PCs.

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? The module begins with the PCs needing to trek through the somewhat dilapidated dwarven mountain highways. A series of planned/random encounters happen here, and if anything, this is probably the part of the module that suffers most from being taken out of the big book: Mountains of Madness provides quite a lot of cool hazard/environmental rules for mountaineering, and the foreboding plateau and its highways lend themselves to applying those. Without this rules-chassis, the difficulty of the module decreases somewhat, as does its unique draw. That being said, the module does come with proper high altitude options and notes how to make the region environmentally challenging – it’s just that the module originally was pretty much a perfect place to apply all the fun stuff.

Anyhow, once the PCs manage to arrive at Burvaadun, they find the remote garrison under siege by undead, with the trail leading to the fabled remnants of Arcady. Which brings me to the pulp theme and its strength: Arcady was once part of the Khemitian culture; if you’re unfamiliar with it, to my knowledge, it was first featured in Gary Gygax’ Necropolis, and is essentially a quasi-Egyptian culture. Some of their arch-mages basically teleported an entire city atop the plateau, lending the proceedings a rather Shamballah-esque appeal. Suffice to say, the place fell, and dread Thanopsis still rules here – the mad mage has cheated death for millennia by consciousness-transference into younger bodies…but the process is starting to fail and wear on his mind. Worse, he failed to notice how a warm spell a few centuries ago had thawed his frozen body-array. (Yes, he is EVIL.) Worse, the xenophobic dwarves of Clan Craenog kept humans away – and his body is failing.

Hence, the ailing arch-wizard, his powers degrading in the body of a wizened crone, started throwing his undead against the dwarves, hoping to secure at least one human for consciousness-transference. The PCs will have to travel to the frozen ruins of lost Arcady and rid the world of the ailing evil of Thanopsis for once and for all. While I wished we got a bit more than the pyramid-topped fabled library to explore in the frozen city, the dungeon per se is nice: It makes sense regarding its denizens, manages to include a bit of social interaction (with pipefoxes), and generally sports a concise and well-crafted atmosphere that lets its ancient sense of dilapidation properly breathe; it manages to feel like exploring an ancient ruin, unnaturally kept in existence by a presence that should have died ages ago. The atmosphere here is, in short, well-executed., and traps make in-game sense, which is another plus.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the module sports a nice b/w-artwork. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked, and I can’t comment on the print version, since I only own the Mountains of Madness book in print. Cartography is a bit of a bummer: The key-less, VTT-friendly player-maps from the big book have not been included, not even as an extra pdf or jpgs. BOO!

Tom Knauss’ “A Little Knowledge” is a very atmospheric little adventure. It is a little bit of an odd man out in the Mountains of Madness modules, in that it does not focus on something dwarf-related and uses the garrison as a backdrop; its strong pulp theme is executed well and subdued enough to not hit you over the head with it. If anything, the stand-alone version suffers only from two shortcomings in comparison: The Mountains of Madness rules made it more interesting on an environmental level, and the absence of player-friendly maps is puzzling. If in doubt, get the hardcover instead. That being said, unlike “God of Ore” it at least does reference the proper core rules, so it doesn’t have dead links in the rules. What remains here, is a good adventure that loses a bit of its flavor and appeal, but not much. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: A Little Knowledge (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: God of Ore (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/27/2020 04:09:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience – and I wouldn’t have reviewed this one usually. Why? Because the module is the first part of a series of adventures, which were first published in the criminally-underrated Mountains-sourcebook “Mountains of Madness.” Full disclosure: I was a backer of the KS to fund Mountains of Madness, since I genuinely consider the Perilous Vista books by Frog God Games to be some of their finest work for PFRPG. I briefly talked about the module back then, but my patreon supporters wanted a more detailed analysis of the module in question, so here we go!

“God of Ore” is a 3rd-level adventure, and as always, it assumes a well-balanced party; the module can be deadly, but it’s very much a module that can be won without losing PCs. Difficulty-wise, it is situated in the mid tier. The module is deeply steeped in the lore of the Lost lands-setting, and is situated in Stoneheart Valley; however, I found that using it in another setting is pretty simple – you just need a mountainous region that has this borderlands-frontier spirit. And yes, I use the “frontier”-term very consciously, for the adventure does manage to blend some Americana with the traditional fantasy themes.

The module begins in the frontier-town of Miners’ Refuge, and it is unfortunately here that I’ll have to field my first gripe against the adventure – you see, in Mountains of Madness, the village was fully depicted as a sample environment in its separate chapter, providing a sort of prologue environment; this section has been excised from this iteration here. As a consequence, there is less immediate motivation for the PCs. Oh, and as a rather embarrassing snafu, the epilogue does refer to this section – including the chapter header of the original Mountains of Madness-book. The module sports read-aloud text for most scenes. The scripted random encounters, which come with more details than usual, and even with read-aloud text, deserve special mention here.

All right, that being said, in order to go into more details, I’ll have to delve into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the module manages to evoke a kind of Gold Rush-vibe in the beginning, for when the PCs arrive in Miners’ Refuge, they’ll have missed an exodus of sorts. You see, Mithral Mountain is near – and it is notorious, for at one point, there was a dwarven clanshold here. This changed when one Clovis Stonesplitter struck the big one – or so it seemed. From the stone shards emerged what seemed like a vast vein of Mithral, and from the ore, a creature emerged, the Dwer-Bokham, “dwarf of mithral” in the Dwarven Tongue. Clovis irrevocably changed, and began worshiping the strange entity, luring his fellow dwarves to his new deity. A revolution would follow, one only survived by the dwarves that fled, as the fanatics for the new deity took the hold. Multiple attempts to retake the hold failed, and as the corpses piled, the reputation of the place grew, and discouraged those foolish enough to venture there.

All of this changed with a lazy good-for-nothing dwarf named Bargus Farmud. Spoiled and arrogant, he had heard about the legend, but also didn’t want to risk his hide. A devious scheme grew. Bargus claimed that he had met the god of the Mithral Mountain, and that the deity had inscribed the secret to eternal happiness and immortality on a mithral tablet in the mountain, but also that he’d require someone pure and free of corruption to decipher the tablet.

Yeah, that got a huge chuckle out of me. the silver-tongued dwarf then proceeded to recruit the good folk of Miners’ refuge, leading them towards their doom. The PCs will follow the trail of the faithful up the mountain’s slopes, seeking to save them from themselves, and hopefully put the darkness to rest. The lower slopes of the mountain don’t speak of success – the PCs pretty much immediately come upon the survivors of a pretty bad ambush that caught the “pilgrims” unaware – and as such, the first section is all about dealing with the hobgoblins that ambushed the pilgrims. Interesting here: The survivors aren’t necessarily good people, nor are they evil clichés; they are more interesting than the usual “people to be saved” trope. Here, the PCs can also find hints that the pilgrimage’s leader managed to escape from the massacre – and that his ostensibly mithral-blessed mien was a hoax, a con.

A plus here would btw. be that the access to the dungeon is not linear – there are multiple ways to get inside, and considering the mithral-skinned infused dwarves waiting here, the PCs may wish to conserve their resources. The exploration of the fallen dwarfhold, now inhabited by the fanatic, mithral-skinned infused dwarves of Dwer-Bokham, si a pretty cool dungeon, particularly considering Bargus, for if the PCs are sloppy, they may actually buy into his at least plausible explanation for what transpired….provided they find him.

Dwer-Bokham is btw. a creature originally introduced in Mountains of Madness, a cobaltog. Guess what is missing, referring to Chapter 6 of Mountains of Madness? Bingo. The stats for the cobaltog. The frickin’ end-boss of the dungeon has no stats in the standalone module. This is just sad.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are PER SE very good – as a part of Mountains of Madness. Unfortunately, the pdf, time and again, references that book, and is missing some information you actually NEED TO RUN THE MODULE. That is a no-go. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column b/w-standard with nice, original artworks, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The module features quite a lot of nice b/w-cartography, but, in a seriously puzzling decision, the player-friendly maps included in Mountains of Madness are missing from the pdf! I get that a print module might need to be economical, but there is no reason for why this shouldn’t at least have the player-friendly maps for the pdf-version.

Tom Knauss’ God of Ore deserved so much better.

You see, I really enjoyed the adventure in its first iteration, but this here? This is a sloppy, minimum-effort stand-alone version of the module, a cut-copy-paste mess gone horribly wrong. Beyond having less features than it should, it actually lacks material that exists and has no reason to be absent here… and its BOSS IS MISSING.

The module would have lost some appeal sans the context and prologue sections, but not enough to sink it; God of Ore is, per se, a great little yarn I really enjoyed.

But it deserved better than this rushed stand-alone version, and is unbecoming of the standards we expect from Frog God Games. 2 stars. Get the excellent Mountains of Madness. But steer clear of this mess.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: God of Ore (PF)
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Mystery at Ravenrock (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2020 12:14:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for PF1 clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, so, first things first – this is the second of James Thomas’ modules dealing with the frontier’s region of Ravenreach. The module focuses on a very Borderlands-ish feel and should slot seamlessly into such regions – or e.g. the River Kingdoms in Golarion. Of course, you can also use it in the Lost Lands-setting without any hassle. The module is intended for 4-6 characters of 4th to 7th level – a well-rounded group is strongly recommended. The module does feature read-aloud boxed text, and e.g. does come with extra boxes for looking through keyholes, creatures bursting through furniture and the like – kudos!

While this module does benefit greatly from being ran as the follow-up to “Menace in Ravenreach”, the adventure does feature several adventure hooks that allow it to be used as a stand-alone adventure. While the players will be slightly less invested in the proceedings, the module does not require exposition dumps or the like to catch them up – in a way, it behaves very much like a second episode, as it assumes that the PCs return to Ravenreach after being absent for a while.

Genre-wise, this module offers a dungeon, but its central premise is that of an infiltration – in the way that most such modules will devolve into fighting; the module very much assumes that your group won’t be Stealth-ing through the materials. The adventure also certainly has a touch of irreverence and very dry humor – I know the author doesn’t live in Britain, but I’m not sure regarding nationality; the humor? Pitch-perfect. And n, this is not a funny-haha-module, nor is it gonzo, but it does have plenty of scenes that can be funny at the table. Very subdued and subtle – I like it.

The module includes three nice, mundane/alchemical items – one type of toxin that helps deal with a specific monster defensive ability, and two means of delivering this substance. This does add a nice tactical angle here. Speaking of which: As a nice bonus, the full-color maps (with grids and scale noted) are included as player-friendly, key-less versions as well – and yes, they’re full color. As a minor nitpick, two of the maps use a 10 ft.-grid, when a 5-ft.-grid would have been more useful for PFRPG, but that is me nitpicking.

Now, as far as the system is concerned, this deserves some serious praise: More so than most Frog God Games modules, and modules that exist for multiple systems in general, it is readily apparent that the author really KNOWS PFRPG. Not just gets it, but knows how it behaves, how it plays. This can be seen in a variety of choices: We have e.g. reskins of monsters with custom attacks and special abilities presented herein, with said text being delivered in the most concise form possible: acid arrow 1/hour +5 ranged touch, 2d4 acid damage for 3 rounds – simple, easy to grasp, no book flipping, complete. Like it. In spite of the relative brevity of the adventure, there is thus more content herein than you’d expect. The module also shows off this degree of system familiarity with the challenges posed – this is an old-school module, and as such, it is challenging and can easily result in a TPK if your players act stupidly – but more importantly, it does provide very in-depth tactical information for the GM, which is particularly helpful in the final encounter, which is truly and aptly-named “boss battle.” These tactics are btw. obviously bred from contact with actual players – the module has been playtested, and it SHOWS. The capabilities of the characters actually influence the plot and are reflected by a narrative – the adversaries have enacted a plan that represents the abilities they have. This, in short, makes the module feel very much “realistic” as well. Authors, take note – this is smart. This is a module worth winning, and won’t require that you redesign every single NPC to be an actual challenge. So yeah, mechanically, the PFRPG-version is certainly one of my favorites from Frog God Games’ oeuvre.

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

… .. .

So, while the party was busy adventuring, Master Minder has enacted his master plan (pardon the bad pun) and seized control of Ravenrock – with the Baron geass’d into essentially an imprisoned vegetable, he put a simulacrum of the Baron, one subservient to his whims, in charge. See what I mean regarding capabilities? Anyhow, he has managed to do so without arousing overt suspicion, though his lockdown of the keep Ravenrock does raise some eyebrows. Worse, his experiments with troll bi-livers have yielded fruit, and thus, the keep’s charmed guard captain and his men now have a serious case of immortalities – i.e. they regenerate. If nobody stops Minder, things’ll look grim indeed. Enter the party of stalwart heroes.

Via one of the hooks provided, the party will need to get inside the keep and stop the nasty wizard’s plans – and thankfully, there is a convenient means of ingress, which will be shared with the party as the primary hook: There is an all but forgotten cheese cave that was abandoned when the sewage system of the keep started making it…well, disgusting. You can’t see it from the keep, and only the family of the erstwhile cheese-maker knows about it, knowing it colloquially as the “Raven’s Arse” – and it’s up that metaphorical rump that the party will attempt to secure access to the keep. Told you this had some dry humor.

Which does bring me to the perhaps most pronounced weakness of the module: While access via this brief dungeon is the intended route, the issue of PCs charming/sneaking/flying etc. into the keep is mentioned, and the GM is encouraged to point the players towards the dungeon. I get why. And yet, it represents a serious lost chance – the keep begs to be an infiltration scenario, it really does. However, there is no summary of the total inhabitants and most likely rooms anywhere, nor is there information on watch shifts and the like. The module teases a freeform, sandbox infiltration and then goes the safe route, telling you to urge your players to use the dungeon. With a single page, at the very most, this module could have had all the necessary information to allow for a truly free-form experience with a variety of vectors. You can still easily run the module as such with a bit of work – but you’ll need to map the vicinity of the keep (since no map of the surrounding area is included), and you’ll have to piece together the number of available characters, etc. This is work that is a) unnecessary, and b), ultimately detracts somewhat from what this module feels like it is set up to be.

In a way, the whole infiltration angle is ultimately just an excuse to delve into the dungeon, and treat the keep like one. This is, once more, not something that makes the module bad, but it most assuredly is an exceedingly puzzling decision, considering that the adventure has all the pieces in place to go that route. This structural decision also extends to a degree to the keep itself, making it behave a bit more like a dungeon than I would have liked.

That being said, the dungeon that is here? It is not a place that will have your players grumble for playing it – it is genuinely interesting. Aforementioned Raven’s Arse, as it turns out, has become the home of filth fairies, and the first part of the dungeon, where we explore the sewage system, is genuinely icky and hilarious – the fairies in PFRPG are an example, btw. one example of those heavily modified stats mentioned above – they are based of ooze mephits, but the players will never notice, believe me; the modifications are this helpful. This part of the dungeon also ties in with the region’s history and the legend of the dragon slain – one combat encounter features the immortal ire of the dragon, and the fairies have used bones and the like to generate some funny vistas.

Obviously, the main meat of the module will thus be covered by the party exploring the dungeon of the keep and the keep itself; the well-designed component of the module is reflected here in traps, in lists of Perception DCs that yield varying amounts of information and the like. It should also be noted that, from holding ells springing open to the labs themselves, the module does a good job blending themes and providing variety within a given adventure. Obviously, the PCs will have to defeat Master Minder (who’ll most likely have prepared a devastating ambush with his troll bi-liver enhanced super-soldiers), rescue the Baron and depose of the imposter-simulacrum to bring peace back to the region – but easier said than done…the wizard does have a pretty devastating tactical array, and the fact that the players might not want to kill everybody doesn’t make things easier either. That’s a good thing.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules language level, with only a terrain feature, namely a room that adds a bonus to a certain skill check not noting a bonus type being my only admittedly petty nitpick. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard, including the usual amount of lots of text per page; locked door DCs are noted in the room headers, if applicable, which is a great way to handle that. The pdf does feature a couple of really nice full-color artworks, and I certainly appreciate the full-color maps, particularly the inclusion of a full set of player-friendly maps. Kudos! The IndieGoGo-version offered token in b/w and color – cool! I am not sure if those components are included in the retail iteration.

James Thomas’ second foray to Ravenreach is a module I actually enjoyed more than the first one in many ways; he seems to have found his own distinct voice, and the execution of the challenges herein is great. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed by it. Because it is SO CLOSE to being a phenomenal adventure that embraces nonlinearity, and then elects to go the safe route in a pretty predetermined and linear dungeon-crawl. With but a single page, this could have been elevated to the ranks of modules that deserve to be called an example of excellence; as provided, the adventure is certainly good; whether you consider it to be very good, though, is mostly contingent on what you want from a module. If you want a great little dungeon-crawl that is challenging, at times funny and at times scary, then this delivers in spades. If you want a free-form adventure that presents multiple ways to tackle its challenges and focuses on providing a dynamic environment, then this might leave you wanting more. 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!]
Mystery at Ravenrock (PF)
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