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Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/18/2019 14:21:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

The revised edition of the second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.

The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which now is properly italicized, with a bonus type also italicized – those usually aren’t printed in italics, but that’s cosmetic. The numerous references to 5e-skills instead of PFRPG-skill notations have been duly purged by the revised iteration of this campaign guide. Various means of learning a certain NPCS runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game., and they cite the proper item creation means.

After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.

The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. He does come with a solid statblock. The second would be airship captain Octavio Velderve. Both NPCs not only come fully statted, but also with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a CR 15 iteration as well. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect (you can sometimes find e.g. a missing comma and the like), are more ambitious than what we usually see in heavily story-centric supplements. You should run into no significant issues using these.

The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision. On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter. In the first iteration, this whole section was basically non-operational, and it is my pleasure to report that the author has gone back and revised the entire section – aside from a single Strength check-reference to jump (which should be handled by Acrobatics in PFRPG), the airships featured now provide a ton of properly codified interaction points, with windows, doors, etc. all noted regarding break DCs, HP and hardness. Huge kudos for fixing this one. The inclusion of the proper airship stats now makes this section really shine, and PFRPG lends itself very well to the dynamic action here.

Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine. A reference to a 5e-condition in the previous iteration has been properly replaced, adjusted to PFRPG. As a small aside – conditions are usually not italicized in PFRPG, but that’s a purely aesthetic snafu and doesn’t impede the game. The artifact in question, the horn, now also adheres properly to PFRPG’s conventions. That being said, while not perfect, the conversion here is significantly better, though e.g. the CMD-value of the officer statblock is off by 1, but chances are you won’t necessarily encounter this as an issue.

The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea. The voyage is pretty detailed, and mechanical suggestions for tasks are provided – Reefing the sails or making fast the lines are tied to Strength and Dexterity checks here, when they probably should refer to skills, but as a whole, this is now operational. Nice: The rules for diving gear have been properly adjusted to PFRPG in the revised edition, and the glaring oversight of the boss of this sidetrek, a horrid monster crab, missing from the book, has been rectified. The crab btw. does have a unique rage-aura (Will save should be capitalized) and a displacement effect, making it more than just a big crab. Kudos for fixing this sidetrek!

This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. This trip to Hell can be deadly for PCs, but is probably highly entertaining, making copious use of the hellish bureaucracy-angle that makes the DMV look like child’s play. This sidetrek made for a surprisingly fun and light-hearted change of pace that the campaign really could use before the final arc. Nice job, also for fixing the materials

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of the revised edition can be considered to be good, bordering on very good, on both a formal and rules-language level. The new version of the campaign guide can be considered to be in line with the entire series in that regard. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt proved beyond a shadow of a doubt a commitment to do the right thing with this revised edition. Instead of shrugging and moving on after the botched first iteration of the guide, he went back with a fine-tooth comb and proceeded to fix the guide – and that, dear readers, is something I 100% want to encourage. It is evident that he cares about his customers, about his saga, and the revised edition of the second campaign guide can now be considered to be a welcome addition to the What Lies Beyond Reason AP. Bereft of all the issues that previously plagued this guide, my verdict for the new iteration of this supplement will be 4.5 stars, rounded up. Kudos and thank you for doing the honorable thing!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2019 05:14:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.

The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which, in the 5e-iteration, is rules-wise properly codified. On the plus side, various means of learning a certain NPC’s runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game. Mechanically, it’s mostly what I’d consider to be a narrative-driven benefit, so while mechanically not necessarily mind-blowing, it does have plenty of use in the context of this Adventure Path’s storyline – so yeah, I like that.

After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.

The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. The 5e-version of his stats can be considered to be superior in pretty much every way – while his key features are just bolded (when 5e usually bolds their names AND puts them in italics), and while “Hit:” in his attacks isn’t properly set in italics either, those are just cosmetic nitpicks that don’t impede the functionality of his build. The second NPC would be airship captain Octavio Velderve, whose damage with daggers is off by 1. He shares the formatting glitches of his buddy, but also, weirdly, doesn’t properly bold the names of his weapon-based attack actions. Both NPCs come with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a challenge 13 iteration as well. Formatting here is off in a different way, as e.g. “Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack:” is bolded instead of being in italics. His bomb damage is also off. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect, are decent enough that they won’t break the game – the glitches here are somewhat minor.

The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!

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

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision (which is sometimes referred to as “Emerald Dream.” On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter, and in the 5e-iteration, this can be a really fun, neat sidetrek – the airship’s plentiful interaction points note ACs, damage thresholds and means to jam components via the application of thieves’ tools correctly, even if skill-reference formatting is deviating quite a bit from the standards,

Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine, which works properly in 5e, as opposed to the ill-fated PFRPG-iteration. The artifact in question, the horn, works better in 5e as well.

The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea – this whole trip is pretty neat, and the trip below the waves with optional diving gear for added tension, work rather neatly in 5e. Add to that a challenging crab-monster boss, and we have a sidetrek that is certainly worth embarking upon.

This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. The rules here also make great use of 5e’s brutal exhaustion-engine – the trip is dangerous and, indeed, grueling. Did I mention the DMV-like stations, the hilariously nefarious hellish bureaucracy, and the means to rid the party of an item, and we have a nice change of scenery here. And yes, for their troubles, the PCs will be awarded a “call a dragon” one-use wildcard item…here’s to hoping they use it wisely.

Conclusion: Thankfully, editing and formatting on a rules-language level are rather good in the 5e-iteration. While certainly not perfect on a formal level, the second campaign guide presented here in functional and represents a solid addition to the campaign. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Micah Watt’s 5e-version of this guide is a welcome addition to the campaign – it adds some nice additional NPCs, provides trouble-shooting advice, and all of the sidetreks have something interesting and neat going on for them. In short, the 5e-version is a book I can definitely recommend. While I wouldn’t consider it a must-own offering for the AP, it provides what it sets out to do, and allows your group to diversify the tones and atmosphere of the campaign, which is a neat plus. All in all, the 5e-version is definitely worth getting – 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Guide 2 - What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
by Meghann B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2019 09:12:29

This module is short, sweet, and clever. I enjoyed the mechanics of the main villain and managed to use all 3 provided adventure hooks, and liked reading through the background material for the adventure in general. The layout was easy to run, and my players had a great time clearing the tomb. They'd been spending a lot of time in cities lately, so this was a perfect "dungeon run" that still had enough story to keep them interested.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
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Seeking Silver - Adventure 5 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2019 09:56:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

The fifth installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 102 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-backer thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 96 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

This is my review of the updated v.1.1. version.

All right, so, formally, this installment of the AP is intended for 7th level characters, but it should be noted that the adventure does provide guidance on running this for 6th and 8th level characters as well – we get some global advice on quick and painless scaling here. It should also be noted that this module works better as a stand-alone adventure than most installments in the series so far, so, if you’re looking for a module to scavenge without the epic plot the series has so far woven, this is very much possible. (Then again – particularly the last adventure really paid off big time for all the setting of the stage, so you may want to reconsider that…) Anyways, in such a case, or if a PC did not live past the events in module number #4, you’ll be happy to note that the adventure comes with 5 pregens, all of whom do receive a bit of character background, their own, full-color mugshot, etc.

Now, before I go into the details, there is something that better encapsulates how this adventure feels than many a sentences, at least for the folks who know what I’m talking about: As the author clearly states in the introduction, this is pretty much a homage to “Against the Giants” in its style, in that it tries to present an environment that makes sense; not in a realistic way, mind you, but in a plausible, fantastic manner that renders the playing experience as dynamic as can be. In other words, this module is very much a living sandbox, wherein there are plenty of ways to get to the goal. It should be noted that, unlike many a sandbox, this is still a very much story-driven module, and as such, it features copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text.

Before we dive into the plot, let us talk a bit about the 5e-rules and conventions herein.

I should be noted that a persistent formatting convention of 5e hasn’t been properly implemented – 5e tends to italicize and bold character and monster abilities; this module only bolds them. Furthermore, the “Hit:” before the damage values of attacks is consistently not properly italicized. These are consistent, though, so not a big issue, apart from aesthetics. However, e.g. the magic items herein (there are a couple of artifacts) don’t italicize a couple of spell references. Furthermore, some of these spells have variable effects depending on spellslot used, and it’d have been nice to see that acknowledged by stating as what slot they’re considered to be cast. While defaulting to the basics is simple enough, this does represent a downside. On the plus-side, item scarcity and attunement, if required, is noted properly.

A nice plus: We do get some stats for a couple of siege engines in 5e, as well as stats for an airship. A bigger plus that applies throughout: Items, doors and the like have both AC and damage threshold, HP, etc. noted. Similarly, damage types have been properly converted, and e.g. the statblocks, apart from the formal deviations that are primarily cosmetic, actually make good use of Recharge, attack values are consistent and correct, proficiency modifiers are applied correctly. Poison damage is used correctly – and the BBEG gets legendary actions and lair actions. Both of which are tightly codified. Minor complaint in an otherwise nice array of stats: The BBEG’s Strength saving throw value is off by 1. It should be +11, not +10. This is a minor hiccup in what may otherwise by the most mechanically precise and well-crafted such section in the AP, though. In short: If formatting deviations irk you, this may annoy you. If you place a greater emphasis in the content itself, this will probably make you smile instead.

All right, that out of the way:

The following text will discuss the module in detail; it will not only contain SPOILERS for this module, but it might also casually link back to proceeding events in the AP. If you wish to play this, then stop reading NOW. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading. … .. . All right, only GMS around? Great! So, in the aftermath of module #4, things have radically changed for the heroes – they have unearthed widespread corruption, made a name of themselves, and indubitably unearthed the signs of a vast warding ritual to be prepared – but by what degree they have truly shared their information and made the right deductions remains very much modular and will influence the outcome of the campaign and behavior of the NPCs within. The metropolis Anduria faces a demand for silver, and with the epidemic of madness spreading, the wards discovered in the last module may make for the best bet to return the metropolis to its proper power and confidence. In the aftermath of healing, unreliable and tainted though it may have been, gone, and the issues with certain Asmodeus-worshiping folk, the city needs heroes – which is why the PCs are asked to conduct an investigation into the very well-timed and rather convenient shortage of silver coming from Anduria’s most reliable source – the aptly-named town of Silverton. Thus, the PCs are to charter an airship en route to the town (or travel on foot, depending on how well they fare…) and look into the matter themselves…the guard has justifiably become paranoid of certain figures, and the head of the Merchant Guild, one Veranion, does come off as suspicious.

En route to Silverton, the PCs get to experience a scripted combat in the distance, an aerial combat that sees a silver dragon snared by griffon-riders and even a giant – the PCs will have the chance to ignore the silver dragon, and leave Silvirantalas, “Silvira” for her friends, to a grisly fate, or save the severely wounded dragon – who has bad news. Silverton has been taken, and her mate as well – and oddly, someone seems to be able to locate her. This is not paranoia, mind you – she is correct. Silverton has been taken by an infernal conqueror, a devil obsessed with silver known as the Silversmith, and the keep at the heart of the town, with its massive chimneys, really evoked a sense that the settlement has gone full-blown Isengard.

Massive walls and keep, forged by a mighty artifact, a massive occupying force, and a resistance – the town of Silverton is a sandbox in the truest sense of the way: Attack, infiltration and stealth are all valid means to tackle the issues in the town. The town comes with a couple of keyed locales, but ultimately, most groups will realize that checking out the mine (and potentially liberating it) may be a smart move – as such, it comes fully mapped and makes for a fun sub-dungeon of sorts. Ultimately, though, the goal is to infiltrate the massive, multi-level keep and deal with the Silversmith…and the keep is ginormous. It has a lot to find, and from global terrain effects to the peculiar, it has quite a lot to offer regarding dangerous, storied items – like the Hand of the Undying King or the Crown of Ghelgar, Last King of Anduria, but ultimately, I can only provide a very brief glimpse of what you can find here: There are plenty of named NPCs that behave in a sensible manner; from the battlements to the smothering foundry, there are a ton of variables here, which made me, indeed, recall Against the Giants.

Exploring the entirety of the keep is a daunting endeavor, and one that will be strenuous to say the least, if your PCs think they can just mow their way through the adversaries. Also rather cool: There is a means to once more confront Damien, and while he seems to be working with the enemy here, there is a good reason for him doing so: He has started to glimpse the truth of the greater plot aimed to plunge Anduria into chaos, and while his choice of methods and allies leaves something to be desired, to say the least – still, the focus of player-agenda and dynamic NPCs remains, and whether he is a boss or a potentially redeemable ally, is wholly contingent on the PC’s actions. And yep, previous actions do tally up, which adds further gravitas to the actions of the PCs. Kudos! This modularity also accounts for a potential capture of the PC’s new draconic ally, to note another possible outcome – though one with grim consequences.

Ultimately, though, the goal here is to defeat the Silversmith – and she is a deadly foe, courtesy of the transformative properties of the anvil of kings, one of several artifacts that the PCs can potentially get within – while these are very potent, they do come with a price. If the sheer number of NPCs may seem daunting at first, rest assured that the module does contain a handy name-allegiance-motivation cheat-sheet that allows you to keep track of allies and enemies of the PCs alike. In direct comparison to the PFRPG-version, I think the items within work better here – while aforementioned spell-use components can be considered to be a detriment, as a whole, this section works mechanically smoother with 5e.

Ultimately, this sandbox, though, does not constitute the most important consequence of this module: With the silver in tow, the denouement of the module may see a temporary ceasing of the influence of R’lyeh – but if the PCs did not do their homework or remained too paranoid, the wards may take one in 10 from the metropolises population, snuffing them out! How’s that for consequences? Similarly, clever and thorough PCs may know that tapping into the reservoirs below may be used to substitute for this horrid cost – but both only grant, ultimately, a brief respite from the things to come. Still, the consequences and variables continue piling up – the potential for horrible tragedy may once more underline the notion of the horror of consequences, of prices to pay, that is shaping up as an important aspect of the series as a whole. It certainly sets a rather epic beginning for the third part of the campaign…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are pretty much upside down from the Pathfinder version: The formatting conventions herein, as noted in the beginning of the module, are pretty much inverse from the Pathfinder version – the module’s 5e-iteration sports a couple of formal deviations from conventions, but gets the rules in the details tighter than the PFRPG-iteration did. Personally, this makes the module’s 5e-iteration the superior version for me. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and it should be noted that the adventure sports quite a few really impressive original full-color artworks. Particularly the vista of Silverton, and the BBEG’s pictures are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. An epic aspect of this one would be the maps: The pdf comes with no less than 8 different, player-friendly maps, fully VTT-compatible. The maps are beautiful, plentiful and the amount of support here deserves two thumbs up.

Micah Watt’s “What Lies Beyond Reason” is a series that should not, by any means, work as well as it does. What Do I mean by this? Know what’s really, really not conductive to horror? High fantasy. Being essentially a superhero deprives you of the sense of vulnerability and unease that lies at the foundation of most horror games and modules. There is a reason for e.g. LotFP-offerings focusing on low level offerings, further reducing PC capabilities, etc. And indeed, this whole AP begins with a rather “as high as can be” fantasy with airships, weird characters, wonder, a magical metropolis…and then, it proceeded to provide a “vanilla” horror module of the first caliber with module #3, providing a change of pace and a first climax of sorts. The second arc of the AP, i.e. module #4 and this very one, manage to blend two things that should be contrary – by the medium of player agenda.

There is a constant emphasis on player agenda, on reaping what you sow – and on at times merciless implementation of said consequences. This module can end in a cataclysmic way if the players botch it – and after providing the most “classic high fantasy” genre-piece of the AP so far, that contrast actually adds tremendously to the adventure. I noted that the module is a homage to “Against the Giants” – and the adventure actually succeeds in encapsulating this flavor, this level of density; it is a great sandbox that can easily stand on its own, even beyond the confines of the AP. That being said, the best thing about this module for me, ultimately, is that it represents a breather from the devastating consequences of module #4 within the context of this AP, all while setting the stage for the shape of things to come.

This is most efficient as part of the AP, and it represents a massive gain in power and capabilities for the PCs – it adds a further set of variables to an already impressive tapestry of NPCs, consequences and decisions that have shaped the AP so far. If anything, this amount of variables really makes me excited for the furious finale of this AP, for the final arc of this saga.

So yeah, this is definitely worth its asking price. This is, formally, the better version of the module, and the story here is compelling; the plausibility of Silverton and the adversaries herein is impressive, and while this may look like a sidetrek at first, the consequences and denouement in the aftermath bring the themes of the AP home once more – big time. This also extends to the role of recurring NPCs, and as a whole, this may be the “trip beyond the confines of the main locale”, the “change of pace” module, but it does its job significantly better than many comparable chapters in campaigns. The writing is atmospheric, fun and embraces its classic heritage.

This is a resounding success as both a stand-alone adventure, and as a part of the AP – one that actually makes me much more excited for the finale of this saga than I was before! I can see the vast ambition of this series, and so far, Micah Watt has proven that he has the means, the narrative and design chops, to deliver a payoff for this epic. And considering the potent tools that the PCs may take from this, I am rather intrigued to see where this is going. This may not be formally perfect, but it has what many adventures lack – ambition, direction and vision. My final verdict for the 5e-iteration will clock in at 5 stars, as the content makes up for the few formal snafus.

Did I mention that the PCs might get to go to hell in the aftermath of this module, quite literally? Completely optional, mind you! There. Ambition. Gaming needs it, and for that, I very much recommend you pick up the whole AP. We need great indie stories like this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seeking Silver - Adventure 5 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th edition
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Seeking Silver - Adventure 5 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2019 09:42:04

An Endzietgeist.com review of the revised version

The fifth installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-backer thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is based on the revised version 1.1.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All right, so, formally, this installment of the AP is intended for 7th level characters, but it should be noted that the adventure does provide guidance on running this for 6th and 8th level characters as well – we get some global advice on quick and painless scaling here. It should also be noted that this module works better as a stand-alone adventure than most installments in the series so far, so, if you’re looking for a module to scavenge without the epic plot the series has so far woven, this is very much possible. (Then again – particularly the last adventure really paid off big time for all the setting of the stage, so you may want to reconsider that…) Anyways, in such a case, or if a PC did not live past the events in module number #4, you’ll be happy to note that the adventure comes with 5 pregens, all of whom do receive a bit of character background, their own, full-color mugshot, etc.

Now, before I go into the details, there is something that better encapsulates how this adventure feels than many a sentences, at least for the folks who know what I’m talking about: As the author clearly states in the introduction, this is pretty much a homage to “Against the Giants” in its style, in that it tries to present an environment that makes sense; not in a realistic way, mind you, but in a plausible, fantastic manner that renders the playing experience as dynamic as can be. In other words, this module is very much a living sandbox, wherein there are plenty of ways to get to the goal. It should be noted that, unlike many a sandbox, this is still a very much story-driven module, and as such, it features copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text. If most or all of these comparisons meant little or nothing to you, or if you simply need further elaboration, here goes!

The following text will discuss the module in detail; it will not only contain SPOILERS for this module, but it might also casually link back to proceeding events in the AP. If you wish to play this, then stop reading NOW. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading.

… .. .

All right, only GMS around? Great! So, in the aftermath of module #4, things have radically changed for the heroes – they have unearthed widespread corruption, made a name of themselves, and indubitably unearthed the signs of a vast warding ritual to be prepared – but by what degree they have truly shared their information and made the right deductions remains very much modular and will influence the outcome of the campaign and behavior of the NPCs within. The metropolis Anduria faces a demand for silver, and with the epidemic of madness spreading, the wards discovered in the last module may make for the best bet to return the metropolis to its proper power and confidence. In the aftermath of healing, unreliable and tainted though it may have been, gone, and the issues with certain Asmodeus-worshiping folk, the city needs heroes – which is why the PCs are asked to conduct an investigation into the very well-timed and rather convenient shortage of silver coming from Anduria’s most reliable source – the aptly-named town of Silverton. Thus, the PCs are to charter an airship en route to the town (or travel on foot, depending on how well they fare…) and look into the matter themselves…the guard has justifiably become paranoid of certain figures, and the head of the Merchant Guild, one Veranion, does come off as suspicious.

En route to Silverton, the PCs get to experience a scripted combat in the distance, an aerial combat that sees a silver dragon snared by griffon-riders and even a giant – the PCs will have the chance to ignore the silver dragon, and leave Silvirantalas, “Silvira” for her friends, to a grisly fate, or save the severely wounded dragon – who has bad news. Silverton has been taken, and her mate as well – and oddly, someone seems to be able to locate her. This is not paranoia, mind you – she is correct. Silverton has been taken by an infernal conqueror, a devil obsessed with silver known as the Silversmith, and the keep at the heart of the town, with its massive chimneys, really evoked a sense that the settlement has gone full-blown Isengard.

Massive walls and keep, forged by a mighty artifact, a massive occupying force, and a resistance – the town of Silverton is a sandbox in the truest sense of the way: Attack, infiltration and stealth are all valid means to tackle the issues in the town. The town comes with a couple of keyed locales, but ultimately, most groups will realize that checking out the mine (and potentially liberating it) may be a smart move – as such, it comes fully mapped and makes for a fun sub-dungeon of sorts. Ultimately, though, the goal is to infiltrate the massive, multi-level keep and deal with the Silversmith…and the keep is ginormous. It has a lot to find, and from global terrain effects to the peculiar, it has quite a lot to offer regarding dangerous, but potent and stories treasure– like the Hand of the Undying King or the Eye of Abraxus, but ultimately, I can only provide a very brief glimpse of what you can find here: There are plenty of named NPCs that behave in a sensible manner; from the battlements to the smothering foundry, there are a ton of variables here, which made me, indeed, recall Against the Giants.

Exploring the entirety of the keep is a daunting endeavor, and one that will be strenuous to say the least, if your PCs think they can just mow their way through the adversaries. Also rather cool: There is a means to once more confront Damien, and while he seems to be working with the enemy here, there is a good reason for him doing so: He has started to glimpse the truth of the greater plot aimed to plunge Anduria into chaos, and while his choice of methods and allies leaves something to be desired, to say the least – still, the focus of player-agenda and dynamic NPCs remains, and whether he is a boss or a potentially redeemable ally, is wholly contingent on the PC’s actions. And yep, previous actions do tally up, which adds further gravitas to the actions of the PCs. Kudos! This modularity also accounts for a potential capture of the PC’s new draconic ally, to note another possible outcome – though one with grim consequences.

Ultimately, though, the goal here is to defeat the Silversmith – and she is a deadly foe, courtesy of the transformative properties of the anvil of kings, one of several artifacts that the PCs can potentially get within – while these are very potent, they do come with a price. If the sheer number of NPCs may seem daunting at first, rest assured that the module does contain a handy name-allegiance-motivation cheat-sheet that allows you to keep track of allies and enemies of the PCs alike.

Ultimately, this sandbox, though, does not constitute the most important consequence of this module: With the silver in tow, the denouement of the module may see a temporary ceasing of the influence of R’lyeh – but if the PCs did not do their homework or remained too paranoid, the wards may take one in 10 from the metropolises population, snuffing them out! How’s that for consequences? Similarly, clever and thorough PCs may know that tapping into the reservoirs below may be used to substitute for this horrid cost – but both only grant, ultimately, a brief respite from the things to come. Still, the consequences and variables continue piling up – the potential for horrible tragedy may once more underline the notion of the horror of consequences, of prices to pay, that is shaping up as an important aspect of the series as a whole. It certainly sets a rather epic beginning for the third part of the campaign…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the author has improved in many key aspects; while I still noticed a couple of minor snafus like a damage type missing from an item, a minor statblock issue there, considering that this is a module of this size, complexity and ambition, it’s still impressive. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and it should be noted that the adventure sports quite a few really impressive original full-color artworks. Particularly the vista of Silverton, and the BBEG’s pictures are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. An epic aspect of this one would be the maps: The pdf comes with no less than 8 different, player-friendly maps, fully VTT-compatible. The maps are beautiful, plentiful and the amount of support here deserves two thumbs up.

Micah Watt’s “What Lies Beyond Reason” is a series that should not, by any means, work as well as it does. What Do I mean by this? Know what’s really, really not conductive to horror? High fantasy. Being essentially a superhero deprives you of the sense of vulnerability and unease that lies at the foundation of most horror games and modules. There is a reason for e.g. LotFP-offerings focusing on low level offerings, further reducing PC capabilities, etc. And indeed, this whole AP begins with a rather “as high as can be” fantasy with airships, weird characters, wonder, a magical metropolis…and then, it proceeded to provide a “vanilla” horror module of the first caliber with module #3, providing a change of pace and a first climax of sorts. The second arc of the AP, i.e. module #4 and this very one, manage to blend two things that should be contrary – by the medium of player agenda.

There is a constant emphasis on player agenda, on reaping what you sow – and on at times merciless implementation of said consequences. This module can end in a cataclysmic way if the players botch it – and after providing the most “classic high fantasy” genre-piece of the AP so far, that contrast actually adds tremendously to the adventure. I noted that the module is a homage to “Against the Giants” – and the adventure actually succeeds in encapsulating this flavor, this level of density; it is a great sandbox that can easily stand on its own, even beyond the confines of the AP. That being said, the best thing about this module for me, ultimately, is that it represents a breather from the devastating consequences of module #4 within the context of this AP, all while setting the stage for the shape of things to come.

This is most efficient as part of the AP, and it represents a massive gain in power and capabilities for the PCs – it adds a further set of variables to an already impressive tapestry of NPCs, consequences and decisions that have shaped the AP so far. If anything, this amount of variables really makes me excited for the furious finale of this AP, for the final arc of this saga.

So yeah, this is definitely worth its asking price. Is it perfect? No. there are a few typos; while, for the most part, the rules-language, damage types etc. are solid, there are a few cosmetic deviations here and there. For example, there is a scene, where the PCs can cause a ruckus to there being a bunch of stacked crates, barrels, etc. – rummaging through them is resolved with a Dexterity check – which isn’t how Pathfinder usually handles that. From a Reflex save to a skill check (Escape Artist or Sleight of Hands), there are means to resolve this more smoothly. I found a reference to a Dexterity saving throw, and e.g. a reference to unholy damage. You may not care. As a person, I don’t necessarily care – but as a reviewer and designer, such deviations do need to be noted. These are NOT the rule – they are the exception. For the most part, the rules within are concise. Still, this represents a minor blemish here.

HOWEVER: The module is a) no crunch-supplement, b) the rules are still precise enough to run this without a hitch (and substitute another check in the above example), and c), the adventure has a lot of strengths: Namely, its writing. No GM will have an issue with minor cosmetic hiccups as long as the module works properly, as long as the rules function. And indeed, the statblocks are above average in their precision, particularly considering that I’d group the author more on the side that focuses on telling an engaging story. Still, as a whole, this module does stumble a couple of times in the finer details of the rules. But the story here is compelling; the plausibility of Silverton and the adversaries herein is impressive, and while this may look like a sidetrek at first, the consequences and denouement in the aftermath bring the themes of the AP home once more – big time. This also extends to the role of recurring NPCs, and as a whole, this may be the “trip beyond the confines of the main locale”, the “change of pace” module, but it does its job significantly better than many comparable chapters in campaigns. The writing is atmospheric, fun and embraces its classic heritage.

This is a resounding success as both a stand-alone adventure, and as a part of the AP – one that actually makes me much more excited for the finale of this saga than I was before! I can see the vast ambition of this series, and so far, Micah Watt has proven that he has the means, the narrative and design chops, to deliver a payoff for this epic. And considering the potent tools that the PCs may take from this, I am rather intrigued to see where this is going. This may not be formally perfect, but it has what many adventures lack – ambition, direction and vision. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Did I mention that the PCs might get to go to hell in the aftermath of this module, quite literally? Completely optional, mind you! There. Ambition. Gaming needs it, and for that, I very much recommend you pick up the whole AP. We need great indie stories like this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seeking Silver - Adventure 5 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:26:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level; medium advancement track is assumed. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

As far as rules-relevant content is concerned, the pdf is generally really solid, though there are a few hiccups: There is no unholy damage in Pathfinder, and it’s “Resistance 10”, not “resist 10” regarding the formatting of resistance in text. Oddly, in spite of being, according to the 5e-version, written originally for PFRPG, there is also a reference to a Dexterity saving throw that should reference to Reflex saves instead. These are the exception to the rules, though – as a whole, the module is solid and easy to run, and even the rare few glitches should not stump any GM.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few hiccups, but nothing truly glaring – it can be considered to be good, bordering on very good there. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The few hiccups do not tarnish the structure or fun you can have with the module, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:24:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!

Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!

The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.

There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While I think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.

Now, as far as conversion goes, this is an interesting example: On the one hand, I could nitpick one instance of “Sense Motive” remaining, which should refer to Insight instead, and “Intimidate” in some statblocks should refer to Intimidation instead. Similarly, the statblocks, while bolding abilities etc. properly, do not italicize attack-names, for example, as well. So yeah, in the formal department, we have some unnecessary deviations. On the other hand, it is rather interesting to note that advantage and disadvantage are used properly, and that, by virtue of 5e’s design-aesthetic, the benefits that clever roleplaying may yield are more pronounced, which is a big plus for me. In direct contrast, I’d prefer how this version handles things. It’s a bit more challenging as far as I’m concerned. The rules-relevant components are per se well-crafted, with damage thresholds noted and damage types, as a whole, well-translated, though a few of deviations can be found regarding the paradigms can be found: There is no unholy damage in 5e and Wisdom damage is something that is quite scarce in 5e. That being said, these deviations are the exception, not the rule – poison and the poisoned condition, for example, are used properly. All in all, this is a well-made conversion, if not a perfect one.

Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I strongly recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.

PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.

In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.

Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.

As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?

You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…

The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the conversion is at once solid regarding the details and aesthetics, while sporting a few references that are relics – like a reference to Will saves that should refer to Wisdom saving throws. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.

Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.

That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The conversion is at once rather interesting and made with care, and on the other hand, sports a few unnecessary relics that could have been caught. This is what costs this version half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars. That being said, in spite of these minor rough spots, this is still very much worth checking out, and flow-wise, I actually enjoyed this version a tad bit more – if you can look past them and have the means to choose versions, I’d go for this one, in spite of it being slightly less refined. Oh, and yes, I will round up for this one as well – this is well worth getting and rendered me absolutely stoked for the next adventure!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:26:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning, with the rules recapped for your convenience: After all, the water weirds that represent minions here (full stats included) can be pretty nasty. On a minor downside: The attack damage seems to be off by 1 in an otherwise solid statblock.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the CR 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities: She can fire thorn volleys, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher: With the terrain and at-will entangle, the PCs need to be up to their A-game if they don’t want to join the slain hanging around as decorative warnings. Then again: They have plenty warning that the dryad is not to be trifled with. Her statblock is btw. absolutely worthy of such a potent foe and the absolute highlight of this supplement!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good: Apart from the minor hiccup mentioned before, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, warrants the extremely fair asking price. At this price-point, I can’t recall any sidetrek of comparable quality regarding the challenge posed and overall presentation– which is why, in spite of the minor hiccup, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars. If your players crave a meaningful challenge, check this out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - Pathfinder
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The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2017 06:25:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Pyromaniac Press‘ brief sidetrek modules clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Now first of all, you should be aware that, like all Pyromaniac Press-releases, this adventure sports copious amounts of well-written read-aloud text, with a quality of prose that is significantly above average – the atmosphere evoked in the module is pretty impressive, so if you’re struggling with that aspect of your GM duties, this has your back. Secondly, the excellent full-color map of the encounter actually comes with 3 different iterations: A GM-version with numbers, grid, etc.; a tactical player’s version with a grid and no numbers/SPOILERS on it and a third version for everyone who doesn’t even want a grid on their map. All maps as provided as high-res jpgs, providing full support for guys like yours truly who suck at drawing maps and VTTs alike. Big kudos!! Comfort-level-wise, this is absolutely top tier.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! A recent earthquake has provided all the opportunity a dryad needed to finally escape the enslavement by a nasty, evil druid – alas, her ordeal has rendered her pretty much crazy…and the earthquake has also brought her domain perilously close to the traveling routes of mortals…which is bad news, considering how she thinks of herself as “The Dryad”, meant to exterminate mankind. Three nice hooks are presented for the enterprising GM, in case a mere roadside excursion does not suffice, providing a rescue angle, for example.

Now, as one glance at the map shows you, there is plenty of water in the swamp, which means that difficult terrain will be a factor – and so is the possibility of drowning. The peculiarity of 5e has been properly acknowledged here, using rules analogue to suffocation – kudos!

The water weirds that represent minions here can be pretty nasty, so yeah, the PCs have been warned in more ways than one.

Within the dryad’s domain, the crucified remains of the dark druid that once enslaved her can be found, attached to the Tree of Woe; a ring of stone pillars, studded with the corpses of fallen bandits, encircles the dryad’s place and generates a surprisingly dense atmosphere of foreboding, and so do the remains of the woodcutters she got her hands on. Even before the aforementioned captured trapper is found, the PCs ought to have realized that this will not be a cuddly walk in the par…ehh, swamp.

A whirling pool contains an elemental…and the dryad herself is no pushover: Accompanied by a dire bear, the challenge 6 lady comes with full boss stats – which include a variety of potent and lethal signature abilities, including legendary actions: She can fire lash out with vines, is poisonous and her entangling vines crush those that she entangles. In short: She is a DEADLY skirmisher. The dryad is deadly, but, to put my nitpicker’s hat on, the lady does suffer from a minor hiccup: She refers to the entangled condition, which RAW does not exist – while it’s simple to default to the spell’s effects, it’s still an imperfection that can cause a bit of confusion. I am also a bit puzzled how her skills came to be: At proficiency bonus +3 and Wisdom 16, her Perception should either be +6 or +3, not +4, for example.

Oh yes, dire bear. You see, we actually get dire bear stats herein as well – at challenge 5, this fellow is DEADLY. However, it should be noted that a few glitches have crept into the statblock: At challenge 5, he should have a proficiency bonus of +3, which means that the attack values should be one higher; similarly, the Perception skill should be one lower. I may be missing something, but yeah. Considering how lethal the lady is, this is a bit puzzling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. The statblocks themselves sport a few minor hiccups, which unfortunately accumulate. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press’ two-column full-color standard and is nice; the artworks deserve special mention: We get a cool b/w-piece and the badass artwork in full color on the cover, which is duplicated sans cover etc., hand-out style. Really cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography, as mentioned before, is amazing, particularly for the extremely low price point.

Micah Watt’s latest encounter is not a brief mini-dungeon, but rather a complex, multi-layered wilderness locale that can easily play like a multiphase combat or slower exploration. The story takes a slight backseat to the atmosphere here. It is pretty impressive to see how the author managed to squeeze some genuine flavor out of a per se classic set-up. The amazing boss battle in particular represents a challenging, unique experience that, on its own, may warrant the more than fair asking price. The 5e-conversion per se is nice (big kudos for the dire bear stats), but at the same time, the hiccups in them, while not impeding your ability to run the module, may upset some of the more mechanically nitpicky GMs out there. As such, I cannot go higher than 4 stars for the 5e-iteration.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Swamp of Sorrows - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2017 05:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

This module was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Now, the 5e-conversion deserves special mention here - it goes beyond the basics like converting skill DCs, poisons, damage thresholds etc.: A cursed item has, for example, been replaced with an animated rug and the formal aspects, items and loot all have been adjusted to properly work within the different power-level aesthetics of 5e. That being said, the module is significantly harder in the 5e-version. Since gelatinous cubes are stronger in 5e than in PFRPG, these can be a bit more of a challenge here.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. It should be noted that the ghost uses default stats for ghosts in 5e, which accounts for the one page less in page-count of this version when compared to the PFRPG-iteration. That may be me, but I really would have liked the ghost to have some unique tricks up his sleeve. On the balance-plus-side, the ghost makes for a slightly easier boss in 5e than in PFRPG, which emphasizes smart play more - you can conceivably play this and really rock it...or have a tough time. It very much depends on the players.

What do I mean by this? Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. The conversion excels at its attention. No complaints in that regard.

The 5e-iteration of this module is definitely harder than the PFRPG-version and whether you like that or don't depends ultimately on personal preferences. With the potent and rather tough cubes (84 hit points...), the module certainly feels less suited for a lighthearted interpretation than the PFRPG-version. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. The well-done conversion makes the module run in a slightly different manner, which is actually something I personally enjoyed, gaming aesthetics-wise. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. The 5e version has a slightly different focus, resulting from the respective changes in focus, creature potency etc., but ultimately evens out - it is a bit more focused on smart player decisions, at least in my book.

Ultimately, I like both versions and as such, my final verdict will clock in at the same verdict, 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - 5th Edition
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The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2017 04:59:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The module does come with a high-res jpg of the map of the complex featured herein - while keys have been purged from it, the secret doors are still on the map. HOWEVER, I do applaud how they're implemented - when cutting up a printed version of the map or partially concealing one in VTT, you don't have the tell-tale "S" in the wall, but rather after it, making the map featured actually pretty player-friendly! Kudos!

It should be noted that a handy summary at the beginning of the complex highlights the room height, doors, illumination, etc. - all at a glance, which is nice from a comfort point of view.

This module was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the name of the "tidus tomb" actually is a butchered name: You see, the monarch who was laid to rest here was a horrible germaphobe (picture how that must have sucked in the Early Modern period that serves as a backdrop for the fantasy world of most games...) and hence, the people joked that he would inhabit "the tidiest tomb" ever! Unfortunately, this monarch, Khazdoran, was kept from his rightful rest by his own compulsion, which rendered the tomb haunted.

Via one of three sample adventuring hooks (or one of the GM's own devising), the players are hence set out to explore this locale...and the atmosphere is interesting: In the tradition of Pyromaniac Press modules, we get extensive read-aloud texts that help GMs less confident in their improvisational skills in depicting the place. The nature of the tomb and its inhabitants is btw. hinted at in the very structure and dressing: Neatly polished and carefully arranged piles of bones in the front start establishing the leitmotif of the complex from the get-go.

Exploring the tomb with pit the PCs sooner or later in conflict with the "cleaners" of the place, gelatinous cubes and skeletons, and allow them to rescue a poor artist, whose handiwork can be seen in the restored murals of the place. Being rather obsessive, the ghost of the ancient monarch has conscripted the poor sod to restore them to former glory...or end up on the menu of the cubes. Among the strange things you can encounter would be a mascot skeleton non-combatant who follows the PCs around, unless destroyed. Yeah, this has a weird angle and I mean that as a complement.

Regarding further threats, we can encounter animated, pristine armors here...and it should be noted that the faded and restored murals act as a nice way of filling in the story and the undead monarch. The PCs ultimately can find the funerary barge of Khazdoran, where the remnants of a scholar's account can provide a hint - there is a soul prism here and, while Khazdoran actually should not be tied to it, his deeply-held conviction is that the prism, ultimately is his anchor - thus, destroying this vessel ends his haunting of the tomb forever. The pdf does note that it is "extremely fragile", implying that any attack will destroy it, but I still wish we got some sort of mechanical representation or stats for the vessel here - still, that is not a serious gripe. Interesting: Clean and none-too-intrusive PCs may make their way to the ghost before he even realizes that they are here...but woe betide those that trigger his cleanliness compulsions... The ghost itself is a pretty potent being and has interesting tactics - like possessing PCs and running into gelatinous cubes, but as a whole, the tomb should be a challenging, but manageable sidetrek that sports quite an array of loot to find - nothing too jarring, mind you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, i noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Pyromaniac Press' nice two-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks featured herein are original and pretty amazing pieces, particularly for such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf actually comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the full-color cartography is really nice as well.

Micah Watt's "Tidus Tomb" is a nice, creative little sidetrek that is worth checking out: The flavor-text is engrossing and the theme of the dungeon similarly is pretty...neat. (Sorry, I couldn't resist this groaner pun...I'll hit myself later for it...) Anyways, I did enjoy this indeed. If there is anything to complain about, then it would be that, as far as non-combat challenges are concerned, the module feels a bit drumroll sterile! (Sorry, I must have hit my head this morning...) Kidding aside, the flavor and dressing are amazing and lavishly-detailed, but if you expect creative hazards or traps or the like, you won't find that here, which makes the dungeon easy to run, but at the same time, it makes the combats feel a slightly less diverse than they could be. On the plus-side, poisons and cursed items do make this dungeon anything but a cakewalk!

However, the module does have a pretty cool advantage over comparable offerings: Beyond the great production values, it can be run in a variety of ways: You could easily depict this module and its proceedings as tragic, creepy or even as comical! In fact, I'd actually advise you to depict the ghost as a tragicomic figure - it may provide the most fun for the players involved. So, how to rate this? Well, as a whole, I enjoyed this and while I consider the dungeon's mechanics per se to be slightly less than what they could have been, this is well worth checking out. For the extremely fair price of just 2 bucks, this makes for a fun and creative, well-presented sidetrek. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tidus Tomb - Pathfinder
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From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:26:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 63 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

First things first: As before, we receive scaling information, namely the required modifications to run this for 4th level or 6th level characters instead of the 5th-level default. The pdf includes pregens.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so Damian's cryptic words at the end of module #2 should bring the PCs to the scorched ruins of his once noble family - unbeknown to anyone, the taint of the Machine has sent his family into the tragic downward spiral that gave rise to his obsession, but the PCs will find out how horrid this haunted place has become. Is Damian a bad guy? This adventure provides the answer, as the PCs explore the massive manor grounds, situated in the noble's district before the city's gates in a freeform horror sandbox.

Basically, you have the massive manor-grounds and while the PCs explore this place, direct and indirect storytelling will allow them to piece together Damian's background story - a tale of woe, of a father gone missing abroad, a mother spiraling into drug-dependency and an abusive stepfather, a monster who covertly hunted humans, one that was ultimately stopped by Damian.

As the PCs explore the manor grounds, they'll bear witness, through cinematic haunts (that do NOT screw over the PCs!) the tragic past of Damian, how his family's downfall came to be, how his illegitimate daughter, whom he loved with all his heart, was slain in a horrid accident that unleashed his sorcerous powers...and how he came to understand the evil festering in Anduria...in short, it shows how a good man can come to employ the horrific methods he was employing in module #2.

Oh, and it is structurally the best module by Pyromaniac Press - in fact, it may very well be one of the best haunted house modules I have read in a long while. You see, this behaves, in a way, like the games of the Clocktower series or Haunting Ground - the grounds are haunted by a basically unbeatable monster, a horrid amalgamation of the souls slain here. This monster can only be hurt by using items that meant something to the constituent souls...and figuring that out is part of the challenge. The M is encouraged to use this monster to put pressure on the PCs, alleviate lulls, etc. - and the suggestions included make this very cinematic. oh, and fret not: The thing is SLOW and DUMB...but about as inexorable as the frickin' Terminator. PCs are encourages by the presence of this threat to alternate between exploration and running, lulls and frantic activity...and from the OTHER threats here to the haunts, all those small clues they can gather can be pieced together to ultimately stop this thing. This makes the module behave in a different way than most and achieves, in combination with Micah Watt's great rose and differentiated character-portrayal, to generate an atmosphere not unlike that of a great survival horror adventure.

...oh, and have I mentioned that the PCs will sooner or later find the breach in the cellar, which will lead to strange subterranean caverns, where dark folk are worshiping an even stranger manta ray-like humanoid...and ultimately, find a strange keystone, whose mere presence seems to generate fugue states...though, at least for now, its wards seem to hold...placed by Damian...mind you...so ultimately, the module, when run successfully, should leave the PCs conflicted about Damian...and seriously contemplate redemption for the man...

There is one item that needs to die a fiery death - an infinite fast healing-granting parasite, which, while sporting a creepy imagery, is not something that makes any sense to me within the context of this AP. Still, that's one item and a limit can be added relatively easily. On the plus-side: If you're a fan of Rusted Iron Games' Deadly Gardens-series, you'll appreciate the crossover options included herein. (And yes, rules-relevant information included.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice glaring issues. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the module sports a lot of amazing, gorgeous full-color artworks. The module does come with a printer-friendly version, just fyi. The pdf also comes with amazing full-color maps, and excellent full-color player-friendly high-res maps are included in the deal. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover is nice and a bit darker than the pdf, which acts to the module's benefit as far as I'm concerned.

So, I admittedly love the genre. Pathfinder #2 made me stick with the Pathfinder modules back in the day. That being said, this also means that I have read a metric TON of haunted house modules and this is, frankly, one of the best I have read in a long, long while. You see, a haunted house requires a) detail, b) threats and c) above all, tragedy that you can empathize with. This module delivers all of these in spades. In fact, it could be called the pay-off module for what has gone before; up to this module, we have been setting the stage in various ways - for the AP, the city, the NPCs...and this is where the pay-off begins. And, OH BOY does it hit hard!

The story and portrayal of characters is amazing, the atmosphere genuinely creepy. The plot-device monster and various ways for the PCs to defeat it is genius and manages to ramp up the tension really well. The use of cut-scene-haunts, direct and indirect storytelling all conspire to make this module a really impressive, amazing experience that even jaded ole' me enjoyed. In short: Micah Watt brilliantly showcases his strengths as an author here and the passion obvious on every page means that my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If this level of quality is an indication of the shape of things to come, I can't wait to see more from this AP!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:24:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 66 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

First things first: As before, we receive scaling information, namely the required modifications to run this for 5th level characters instead of the 6th-level default. The pdf includes pregens.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so Damian's cryptic words at the end of module #2 should bring the PCs to the scorched ruins of his once noble family - unbeknown to anyone, the taint of the Machine has sent his family into the tragic downward spiral that gave rise to his obsession, but the PCs will find out how horrid this haunted place has become. Is Damian a bad guy? This adventure provides the answer, as the PCs explore the massive manor grounds, situated in the noble's district before the city's gates in a freeform horror sandbox.

Basically, you have the massive manor grounds and while the PCs explore this place, direct and indirect storytelling will allow them to piece together Damian's background story - a tale of woe, of a father gone missing abroad, a mother spiraling into drug-dependency and an abusive stepfather, a monster who covertly hunted humans, one that was ultimately stopped by Damian.

As the PCs explore the manor grounds, they'll bear witness, through cinematic haunts (think of these as supernatural hauntings/echoes) the tragic past of Damian, how his family's downfall came to be, how his illegitimate daughter, whom he loved with all his heart, was slain in a horrid accident that unleashed his sorcerous powers...and how he came to understand the evil festering in Anduria...in short, it shows how a good man can come to employ the horrific methods he was employing in module #2.

Oh, and it is structurally the best module by Pyromaniac Press - in fact, it may very well be one of the best haunted house modules I have read in a long while. You see, this behaves, in a way, like the games of the Clocktower series or Haunting Ground - the grounds are haunted by a basically unbeatable monster, a horrid amalgamation of the souls slain here. This monster can only be hurt by using items that meant something to the constituent souls...and figuring that out is part of the challenge. The M is encouraged to use this monster to put pressure on the PCs, alleviate lulls, etc. - and the suggestions included make this very cinematic. oh, and fret not: The thing is SLOW and DUMB...but about as inexorable as the frickin' Terminator. PCs are encourages by the presence of this threat to alternate between exploration and running, lulls and frantic activity...and from the OTHER threats here to the haunts, all those small clues they can gather can be pieced together to ultimately stop this thing. This makes the module behave in a different way than most and achieves, in combination with Micah Watt's great rose and differentiated character-portrayal, to generate an atmosphere not unlike that of a great survival horror adventure.

...oh, and have I mentioned that the PCs will sooner or later find the breach in the cellar, which will lead to strange subterranean caverns, where dark folk (and yes, dear 5E-GMs - these have been converted for your perusal!) are worshipping an even stranger manta ray-like humanoid...and ultimately, find a strange keystone, whose mere presence seems to generate fugue states...though, at least for now, its wards seem to hold...placed by Damian...mind you...so ultimately, the module, when run successfully, should leave the PCs conflicted about Damian...and seriously contemplate redemption for the man...

There is one item that needs to die a fiery death - an infinite healing-granting parasite, which, while sporting a creepy imagery, is not something that makes any sense to me within the context of this AP. Doubly so in 5E, which values healing higher. Srsly, broken, needs to die. Still, that's one item and a limit can be added relatively easily. On the plus-side: If you're a fan of Rusted Iron Games' Deadly Gardens-series, you'll appreciate the crossover options included herein.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good, I noticed no serious accumulation of issues. Formatting of statblocks etc. does sport some deviations from the standard, though these are mostly aesthetic. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the module sports a lot of amazing, gorgeous full-color artworks. The module does come with a printer-friendly version, just fyi. The pdf also comes with amazing full-color maps, and excellent full-color player-friendly high-res maps are included in the deal for VTT-users and GMs like yours truly who can't draw. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover is nice and a bit darker than the pdf, which acts to the module's benefit as far as I'm concerned.

So, I admittedly love the genre. Pathfinder #2 made me stick with the Pathfinder modules back in the day. That being said, this also means that I have read a metric TON of haunted house modules and this is, frankly, one of the best I have read in a long, long while. You see, a haunted house requires a) detail, b) threats and c) above all, tragedy that you can empathize with. This module delivers all of these in spades. In fact, it could be called the pay-off module for what has gone before; up to this module, we have been setting the stage in various ways - for the AP, the city, the NPCs...and this is where the pay-off begins. And, OH BOY does it hit hard! The story and portrayal of characters is amazing, the atmosphere genuinely creepy. The plot-device monster and various ways for the PCs to defeat it is genius and manages to ramp up the tension really well.- The use of cut-scene-haunts, direct and indirect storytelling all conspire to make this module a really impressive, amazing experience that even jaded ole' me enjoyed.

In short: Micah Watt brilliantly showcases his strengths as an author here and the passion is obvious on every page. Ismael Alvarez has done a nice job in the conversion as well - though I wished he had nerfed the broken parasite accordingly - it is even worse in 5E. As before, the formatting of the statblocks has some minor, aesthetic hiccups...but this should not deter you from getting this. This module is amazing, cool and while the 5E-version is slightly inferior to the PFRPG-version, it's not by much - this still is a glorious haunted house module, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor hiccups. If this is what we can expect from the AP, consider me stoked for more!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:28:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 53 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" (stats are provided...and they note an "alchemical penalty - which is a bit odd to my sensibilities and getting through withdrawal is pretty easy...) - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: The brooch that is somewhat problematic in its wording in PFRPG works better in the 5e-version.

Speaking of the conversion: The conversion by Ismael Alvarez actually fixes the damage type oversights in the PFRPG-version...and it deserves special applause for the fact that it codifies PFRPG's alchemist abilities in a meaningful and concise manner in 5e for the NPCs featured herein. While not 100% perfect, it's pretty close...so yeah, kudos indeed there - and since those are NPCoptions, it works! Even better: Guess what: The chase, represented in the amazing side-view of this one block of houses, with different height-levels etc. - it has been converted. Yes, this actually has chase-rules for 5e and an extensive explanation of how the process works!! Seriously, big kudos!

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing is better in 5e than in the PFRPG-version - the damage types are concise, teh rules-language well-made. Formatting in statblocks once again does diverge a bit from standards - things that should be italicized aren't, but apart from that, the pdf goes the extra mile here. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me.

You know what's rather impressive? The conversion herein goes the extra mile in several cases and while it is not 100% perfect, the attention to detail and care is rather nice to see, impressive even! So yeah, for what it is, I do consider the 5e-version to be slightly better this time around, also thanks to Ismael Alvarez going the extra mile. That being said, unfortunately, I still can't rate this the full five stars, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2017 07:26:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second part of the What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Now, as always, we do receive pregens included in this adventure; furthermore, while intended for characters of 4th level, though scaling information for 5th level heroes are included - for more ideas regarding scaling/structure and sidetrek insertion, the great Campaign Guide has you covered there.

The module also takes off the shackles of the AP - it represents the first free-form module in the AP, in fact, we have an investigation on our hands (on that also may have the PCs meet more movers and shakers of the AP)...but more on that below!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! So, the PCs are walking down a street...and witness a catatonic man, potentially soon to fall victim to congregating psychic motes. After having dealt with the supernatural pests, the PCs will have a mystery on their hands...one that will lead them, sooner or later, to the Explorer's Guild - and, unbeknown to them, in contact with one of the most powerful entities in the city, but that just as an aside. (And yes, I'm not being more specific here for a reason...) - it seems like someone is targeting explorers, namely a subsect of the guild devoted to hedonism. The investigation will also put the PCs in contact with the hospices, hinting at the healing capabilities of the city being...well...less than ideal.

It seems like "blanks" have been popping up and so, it is up to the PCs to investigate the strange occurrences. This would be as good a place as any to note a peculiarity of the module I at once love and wish it was even more pronounced: The antagonists take heed of the local talk and the more the PCs ask around during their legwork, the more attention they'll attract...and the more deadly the final encounters will be: Very sneaky PCs may find almost no resistance, whereas PCs botching this section may well witness a seriously twisted array of traps.

Ultimately, the trail puts the PCs on the trail of the strange drug "Bliss" - and from here on out, the PCs may find addicts being drained by strange creatures - a chase ensues and the PCs get a chance to kill the creature...but who sent it? The being, none too smart, may spill the beans and it may partially lead to a curiously absent Luther Mendel of the Botanical Society (more on that in the optional module "The Gourd", contained in the Campaign Guide) - but in the end, the trail leads to Damian, the kind alchemist the PCs met at the end of the prologue...which is a bit odd. After all, he didn't feel evil, right? Well, his dangerous apprentices and a whole tower rigged to explode may beg to differ...and the finale pits the PCs against Damian, while Triast, commander of the Seekers crashes the party...and worse, a gigantic tentacle monster attacks from below, making the finale a free-for-all with two very powerful NPCs...and while none wants to really kill the PCs, that can be a bit problematic, particularly considering that Damian needs to escape and will do so in a kind of cutscene. That...can be somewhat problematic. Speaking of which: There is a broken brooch magic item here - I'd STRONGLY suggest GMs not handing it out - while its visuals are nice, its benefits are very potent

That being said, the mystery of the memory thieves is seemingly solved and Damian's cryptic parting words, implying that the tentacle monster would be a reason why he can't stop, hint at worse things afoot...and prompt the initial motivation for module #3...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the rules-language of e.g. the magic item isn't perfect and minor hiccups like improperly-formatted traps can be found. Cases of e.g. what obviously should be fire damage lacking the "fire" type can also be found. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and is really, really nice. The copious amounts of full-color artwork make the module aesthetically-pleasing and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. PURE AMAZING: The chase comes with a high-res side-view representation that you can slowly unveil AND the maps of the relevant places come with player-friendly versions as high-res jpgs - sans traps etc. BIG kudos there! The pdfs come fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is really nice, as always with Pyromaniac Press.

Micah Watt's "Ignorance is Bliss" puts down the kiddie gloves. This investigation hints at the darker themes, makes the sidetreks in the Campaign Guide viable further routes of inquiry and finally provides some freedom, offering a wide variety of angles to pursue and options to consider. I really like how "asking around" and the actions of the PCs influence the module's outcome; I love the chase...but at the same time, from a plot perspective, I think that it would have made sense to feature the two antagonists in the final encounter in module #1 as well - if the PCs have not played the prologue, they will have NO relationship with the BB-Not-so-evil-G. That is a pretty significant potential stumbling stone. Similarly, after establishing the importance of travel options in adventure #1, I would have loved to see that matter a bit more, but that may be me. Ultimately, this is a cool module and represents a transition in themes and does so rather well. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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