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Crypt on Keeper Hill (5E Interlude)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/03/2019 13:17:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for 5e clocks in at 2 pages and is intended as a brief interlude. It is intended for 3rd level characters, and the two pages are pretty much chock-full with text. The adventure sports two sections of read-aloud text – one for the introductory angle, and one for the boss-section, and we do get a small colored map, but no player-friendly version for VTT-use/printing out.

As always for mini-adventures, I do not expect an epic story from this and will rate it for what it is. Monster stats are obviously not included on the two pages.

All right, in order to discuss the content within, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All righty, only GMs around? Great! Keeper Hill has been shrouded in a wretched gloom for 20 years, and the local populace lock away their livestock and themselves at night, as undead emerge to plague the vicinity of the cursed place. When the PCs arrive, they are approached to hopefully solve the problem…when arriving in daylight. By night, they’ll be thrown in combat with zombies, with a villager providing solace from the horrors of the night. A tenth of the zombies are infectious, and a “save vs. CON” per wound will prevent infection with zombiism. Okay, so that’s not how you phrase saves in 5e. Furthermore, the disease transforms the PC in 2d4+2 hours, unless targeted by Cure Disease. This spell does not exist in 5e. It’s lesser restoration. Beyond that, this should have been resolved with the wealth of 5e’s conditions or at least a fairer exhaustion level accumulation mechanic, not a save or suck. The pdf compounds on this obvious lack of knowledge by having the villagers hand off a scroll with that nonexistent spell. sigh

At night, the approach to the hill is guarded by zombies, and, on a plus-side, the lock may be opened both via holy water and…a “DEX – Sleight of Hand” check – which is once more, not how 5e handles the like. This obvious ignorance of even basic rules and formatting of 5e extends to the 4 sample traps, where e.g. poison darts don’t inflict poison damage or the poisoned condition. A gas that makes PCs start “wretching uncontrollably”[sic!], (should be “retching”) also does not use the rather obvious, proper rules language here. There also is a fungus that drives PCs insane – you guessed it, sans specifying how that should be interpreted in the context of 5e’s robust madness system.

Beyond a hazard of unstable walls that may collapse (and have rot grub-infested corpses fall down) once more doesn’t exactly get the rules right, and the finale is a battle versus the erstwhile protector of the hamlet, now a banshee, and infected zombies. And that’s it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level. On a rules-language level, this gets almost everything wrong. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard; the artwork is nifty and the full-color cartography is neat as well. No player-friendly or VTT-compatible map is included, which is a bit of a downer. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lloyd Metcalf’s 5e Interlude would be a decent module, were it not for the fact that it gets pretty much every 5e rules-convention or aesthetic wrong, failing to capitalize on the cool things the engine can do, which is a pity, as the prose here and there does have potential. Still, my final verdict can’t exceed 1.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Crypt on Keeper Hill (5E Interlude)
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Roadside Respite
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2019 05:14:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page mostly blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this. Since the font-size is pretty large, this indeed is a solid option here.

This module is designated as compatible with OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord AEC, though it should be noted that there are several inconsistencies regarding rules-language; we have, for example, a mention of summon zombie, which, for example, would in OSRIC rather be handled via animate dead. There is a Fear 15’ Radius noted, when fear uses a cone – these do not make the module impossible to run, mind you, but if you’re like me and like running stuff by the book, this will come up, and it will bother you.

Speaking of which: One of the things that irked me about this adventure, is that it bills itself as a “Mini Mod” – a sidequest that can be picked up and GM’d with minimal prep work. Thing is, when the rules language isn’t perfect, that won’t happen or, at the worst, grind the game to a halt. Worse, of all the pages, the adventure synopsis is actually the one with most typos and weird verbiages – to the point where it becomes a bit hard to understand what’s going on. That becomes clear upon reading the module, but yeah. When compared to e.g. Raging Swan Press’ Go-Play adventures (which CAN be run with 0 prep-work!) for a vastly more complex system, this is particularly galling. That being said, the module does do a better job at organizing its content than many comparable ones – stats for enemies, for example, are provided where they’re encountered, and read-aloud text is properly bolded.

A boon for my sore eyes: The formatting of this module is much better than that of many comparable OSRIC-adventures, and actually makes an effort to adhere to the conventions set by the rules. Read-aloud text is provided and presented in italics and bolded, and the module does provide a couple of GM notes.

This module is intended for 4 – 6 characters level 4 – 5, and if I were to categorize it, I’d consider it to be medium to old-school challenging regarding its difficulty; it’s not a meat-grinder, but you very much have a decent chance of perishing, particularly in one instance. A well-rounded party is suggested, and particularly characters capable of handling undead should be part of the party, though wilderness specialists also will have some scenes to shine. PCs definitely should have access to cure disease.

Genre-wise, it’s call this a somewhat gothic fairytale that has somber notes without diving into being grimdark or fueled by misery; it’s a module that will probably leave you with a bittersweet memory, emphasis on the “sweet”, rather than the bitter, which I genuinely appreciated, as it’s a) a rare tone to go for, and b) pretty hard to achieve. The background story includes the death of an unborn child, so that may be a trigger for some.

But in order to talk more about this, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the PCs happen upon a cellar of a dilapidated farmhouse, and soon are haunted by strange visions – these, ultimately, lead them to a shrine, where a riddle awaits (including a visual representation of the shrine in full color and a means to help players that get stuck), and after that, the module centers around a two-part dungeon exploration that starts off as pretty linear and then branches a bit in part II. The dungeon itself begins as a hidden sepulcher of sorts, haunted by the dead – which is, in a nice touch, represented, among other things, with a d12 table of random creepy dressing to enhance atmosphere. I liked that!

The way down a well-like structure and past the first alcoves may well be a rude awakening, as there is potentially lethal, nigh undetectable mold there – as a big plus, though, the PCs do get a grace period of 4 rounds, which doesn’t exactly make this save or die. It is an AoE effect, though – remember how I told you that cure disease would be helpful? Anyhow, exploring the dungeon will have the PCs face ghostly apparaitions mourning in sadness for their families, caught here – and a journal provides the exposition. While not necessarily elegant, it gets the job done. Puzzling to me, though: The journal’s text covers approximately a page, and is provided in a different font. It looks like a handout, it can be used as a handout – and it’s spread over two pages that otherwise contain referee-only information. I can’t for the life of me, fathom why this wasn’t relegated to an appendix as a proper handout.

Anyhow, the journal tells a take of woe: The Torrine family, once guardians of sorts, had a talisman bestowed upon them by the guardian of the woods, this pleasant ginormous, somewhat angelic owlbear on the cover. However, dark cultists of Grenndig infiltrated the family as guest-workers and incited a kind of madness that led the author to kill his wife – his corpse remains, clutching a box. This box is constantly referred to simply as “box” – until it suddenly is referred to as “soul box” when it becomes a prime way to deal with an issue – jarring and annoying.

Once the box has been claimed “activated”, the apparitions, in hopelessness, start to cling to the PCs – once more, this is where a cleric is very much recommended, as the can be turned as type 2 undead. The souls implore the PCs to find the Talisman stolen by the vile cultists, and return it to the homestead. Squeezing through partial collapses, the PCs will ultimately reach a gate guarded by a crypt thing of the more annoying variety, as it sends PCs back to the forest above – not a fan of this inclusion here. Here, the pdf also presents two magic items, which, alas, flaunt verbiage and formatting conventions in several regards.

Defeating or tricking the crypt thing allows the players to pass through the gate to the frozen temple, where Grenndig’s followers have been entombed by the Talisman – these now roam the second part of the dungeon as undead. Situated in the frigid northern tundra, we have giant tundra ants here as well – and a really brutal (but optional) room, where the whole floor is a thin sheet of ice over supercooled water that begins freezing very quickly if ice etc. is dumped in. To make matters worse, breaking through also releases a ton of methane, which, you guessed it, can cause a big BOOM…and potentially a TPK. This room is brutal, and I like it, though less experienced dngeon-crawlers should probably get a warning. In fact, the environmental effects are rather nice. Ultimately, the PCs will find the illustrated armature that holds the Talisman, which keeps blasting the PCs with spell-like effects (this is where such oddities as the aforementioned summon zombie come into place. Withstanding the assault once it’s removed is the brute-force way – you can also put it in the aforementioned soul box, which is here, for the first time, referenced as such. The Talisman will prevail over the dark, and the PCs can take it back from the tomb of these evil cultists – and either keep it, or present it to the guardian, bestowing peace upon the lost souls.

Conclusion: Formatting is decent, if not impressive. The same can’t be said for editing. There is a ton of typos in this book, and some weird sentence structures can be found – particularly the synopsis was a pain to read. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, with no graphic elements, making this pretty printer-friendly. The tables provide some unobtrusive touches of color, and the pdf does contain quite a few nice full-color artworks that would showcase Lloyd Metcalf’s talent – were it not for a grating effect that extends to maps and front and back cover as well: While the text is crisp, the artworks and maps are not: They all are pixilated in a really grating manner, which is a genuine pity, as I know the artist’s work and quality, and even in that state, they have something going for them. The cartography of the complex is in full color, but annoyingly, we do not get a player-friendly, keyless version. Finally, you guessed it – this has no bookmarks.

Lloyd Metcalf’s “Roadside Respite” made me grit my teeth. SO HARD. Why? Because this is actually a really nice old-school module. It’s unpretentious, challenging without being frustrating, yet has its deadly moments. It genuinely manages to evoke a somber-creepy atmosphere and blend it with the fantastic for a unique, relatively nuanced tone that resonates with me. As a person, after I finally got what this was about, I really enjoyed this sidetrek.

Which brings me to the crux: The formal components. Most of them. There are plenty of issues in both, and particularly the synopsis, the glitches made it really hard for me to get what was going on. The pixilated artworks hamper the book in the aesthetic department, where it’d otherwise offer some cool pieces, and worse, this extends to the map. Which is not provided in a player-friendly version. And to add one final insult, the pdf has no bookmarks. WTF. As far as the formal components are concerned, this must be called a failure.

Which is utterly galling, as frankly, with a strict rules editor, with someone making sure that this works as it was intended, with the proper pdf- and comfort-functions, this could be an easy 4 stars, perhaps even a 5 star-offering. This does feel like a passion project; it’s not cynical, it doesn’t feel like a rushed cashgrab. It is suffused with these little touches that show that the author CARES. And that’s a big thing for me. As a person, I’d take this VERY flawed module over many more professional, but soulless ones out there. It does have this spark that makes it clear that this is intended to be fun.

But as a reviewer, I can’t let the grievous issues this module has in the formal department slide. As a matter of fact, I should most definitely rate this 2 stars. But…I can’t bring myself to doing so. This may be a deeply-flawed offering, but it is also one that has heart, that has soul – and that, provided you can look past the list of issues, really can be a fun and challenging little sidetrek with a tone we don’t get to see often in published adventures. This is why, after much deliberation, I have opted to settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform – with the caveat that you have to be willing to look past all the issues I mentioned.

If you’re not, then steer clear. If you are, however, then this might be the best formally-atrocious adventure you’ve ever run. Let me close this with stating that I hope that this review doesn’t discourage the author – I very much hope that we’ll get to see a revised edition at one point. The module would certainly deserve it, and I’d love to revisit a more refined iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Roadside Respite
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Midnight Oliviah
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2019 13:38:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This module is intended for 4-6 PCs of level 3-4, using OSRIC as the rules-set of choice. As always, adapting this to other OSR rule-sets is pretty simple.

This adventure comes with 2 new undead-ish creatures, and a briefly noted magic item mainly set apart by the flavor; the module does have a couple of components that may require some modification of the GM’s world, so that is something to bear in mind. On a positive side of things, the book provides a TON of read-aloud text for the interaction with NPCs, but NOT for the respective rooms in the dungeon featured.

Structure-wise, this one is pretty much an extended cut-scene/roleplaying first half, with the second half being a pretty, but not completely, linear dungeon.

In order to explain more, though, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the retired adventurer-turned-barkeep/entrpreneu Oliviah and her right-hand mate “Bad Mike” exemplify the old adage of the carrot and the stick: The module assumes that the PCs have to clear their tab (perhaps from carousing?) in Oliviah’s establishment, and the lady does have a great suggestion: You see, she engages in hosting semi-legal auctions, and while bribes are in order, she does expect trouble and wants the PCs to act as security. The respective bidders are all noted and explained in detailed, ranging from good-looking and strong, but obnoxious adventurers to local collectors. Beyond an ostensibly bloodthirsty spear (that PCs might well bid for…), the main attraction of the auction is an artifact, namely, the Harness of Ivan Goramavich, a head-to-toe complete armor, ostensibly worn by the hero of the same name, it confers absolute immunity to all kinds of magic. Unbeknown to most, it only does so when complete, so even a single sabaton stolen would wreck its powers.

This artifact has spawned a secretive order of fanatics, the Sons of Ivan Goramavich, who definitely WANT the armor. One of their ilk will be bidding for it, and is happy to pay pretty much any price. The PC’s security efforts are bound to fail, though – a local necromancer in disguise has hired a thief, who used a dust of illusion to switch the gauntlets of the harness. This will, inevitably, be realized during the auction, which makes Oliviah/Mike pressure the PCs into investigating the whereabouts of the missing gauntlets. The auction per se is a great angle, but the lack of a map for the tavern, and the lack of any player-agenda undermines the per se well-written story here – the PCs don’t really have any bearing on the outcome, which isn’t exactly good adventure-design.

The trail pretty swiftly leads to the ossuary outside of town, which houses the necromancer Offul Keyne’s sanctum. The way there may be haunted by undead at night, but a proper note on distance and random encounter table would have been nice. The ossuary start promising, and honestly, continues: While it takes the old “bones-are-creepy”-angle, it begins with a bonehouse animated, and, as a big plus, the secret door to the dungeon requires player skill to find amid the animated ossuary-danse-macabre-statues. The subterranean catacombs are haunted by bony creeper-things, and there is a hallway, where shackled skeletons start pronouncing personalized dooms, draining Wisdom. Only vanquishing the skulls will end the effect, but there is a big issue: The pdf fails to note how many skulls there are, how many hit points they have, and where exactly they are; and no, ranges are not given. Can they be turned? No idea. (Macabre and awesome – PCs that have their Wisdom reduced low enough are shackled and chained and join the choir – so cool, I just wish it…you know, actually worked.) Room #8 is missing its room-header, and the thief-associate that stole the gauntlets, while one of the potential bosses, lacks stats. The necromancer himself is awaiting in a hidden sanctum, which can be found behind a statue’s trap door. (No falling distance noted.) Keyne will call forth “The Rotted”, a big, nasty boss monster – and then die as a consequence of summoning the thing, with a word of warning. What the PCs do with the gauntlets, and the aftermath, is covered in an extensive denouement of the proceedings.

Conclusion: Editing is okay; I noticed a couple of typos, and some oversights and rules-relevant components compromise the integrity of the module. Formatting-wise, we have a lot of deviations form OSRIC’s standards. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf employs a mixture of public domain art and amazing full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography of the dungeon is in full color and solid, but lacks a scale. No player-friendly version is provided. The tavern that houses the first half of the module, alas, lacks a map.

This is the oldest of Fail Squad Games’ modules, penned by Christopher Scott Thompson & Ian Graham, re-written by Lloyd Metcalf, who also provided the great artworks. You know, I should hate this adventure. It is railroad and fails to capitalize on the cool premise in the first half; it has grievous issues in some components…and yet, it has potential. It actually manages to be creepy, but that’s not what made me enjoy this more than I figured. Know what I love about this? In a way, it feels pure. You know, that friend you see once a year, and when you meet, he whips up a nice, unpretentious module to play? One that doesn’t feel cynical or like it’s trying too hard? You know, just a good, old adventuring experience? This module manages to hit that tone. In spite of its blemishes, it is NOT phoned in; it is not bad, and there is enjoyment to be had here. This module does have an identity, and its humble quaintness is a genuine virtue nowadays. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t have to. While flawed, it is an adventure I’d recommend when looking for an adventure that feels like a capable friend has written it. Much like such a module, it requires some finetuning, some quick judgment-calls, and it shows the inexperience of the authors at that point. Still, I can point towards a ton of modules that do a much worse job; Midnight Oliviah has heart, and as such, and taking the freshman bonus into account, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midnight Oliviah
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Crypt on Keeper Hill (5E Interlude)
by Celia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/01/2018 00:21:31

I only bought this because I wasn't the only person curious as to what this was and figured I'd do us all a favor and write up a review. So it's a two-page mini-adventure meant for level 3 players with a mini-map of the crypt but this is so bare bones I think I've seen skeletons with more substance to them. It just feels a bit half finished, I'm not sure if the intention was to let it be open-ended so it could be easily adapted to any setting but it ends up coming off more half finished than anything else. I can easily create a bit of background for the town, lore for the villain and then flesh out the sole NPC but the appeal of buying an adventure is to cut down on prep time not to add to it. All the same, I will toss it into my campaign and see if my players bite.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Crypt on Keeper Hill (5E Interlude)
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