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The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0 $3.57
Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0
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The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/14/2013 12:11:21

Fantasy worlds often overlook the little people. Elves, humans, and the bigger races always seem to get the spotlight. Dwarves occasionally get attention, but often gnomes and halflings are left on the outskirts panhandling for loose change.

Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill - Mike MylerIn The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill, designer Mike Myler takes care of that by giving you a quaint little world complete with a Steampunk/It’s-A-Small-World feel that has a political twist. Oh, and there’s a bit of interplay between intelligent species. Gnomes made a deal with a local tribe for a key ingredient to their mechanized magic and when supplies dwindle and the suppliers get a bit stabby, they need some help to solve their problem. That’s where the PCs come in. But any group of 4 or 5 4th level Pathfinder characters has their work cut out for them.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. From the quaint painting of town on the cover to the narrative-heavy layout, I was intrigued but a bit lost at first. As I got my footing a bit, I figured out Myler’s writing lends itself nicely to telling an intriguing story that involves combat, roleplaying, and diplomatic challenges to the players across a few landscapes.

The opening caught my attention right away, turning the traditional “you meet in a bar” adventure intro into more of a sales pitch for a traveling bard. The bard plies the PCs with beer, wine, and a story of why the town of Brandlehill really needs their help. It’s a matter of supply and demand really… The demand is high for the gnomish clockwork creations, but the supply of a strange substance from the bogs nearby needed by their creators has stopped coming. And the grippli, a tribe living in the Zeranoth swamps, aren’t being very kind to the gnomes seeking more of the stuff. They seem to be afflicted by some strange condition rendering them unable to rationally discuss anything and wishing bodily harm on their gnomish neighbors.

As the adventure progresses, the PCs get to tour Brandlehill, talk to the mayor, and try to figure out why all this is happening to the small folk. They’ll be reimbursed handsomely of course…

Really it’s a fun adventure that I think would be cool to play either as the GM or the players. But I have a few issues with the way it’s executed.

First, the narrative approach muddled things quite a bit for me. Though the adventure is broken into several sections of 2-4 pages (in the 37 page PDF), those sections just run on and on with only italicized text and the occasional column line or illustration to break it up. I think the addition of a few more headings would clear it up for me, but I had a hard time delineating between the encounters in each section.

Second, though there are maps and NPC descriptions with stats at the back of the book, I became very lost trying to find them. The TOC labels each of the maps, but they’re not labeled on any of the map pages themselves, so it was unclear flipping through the book what encounters they belonged to. I would have liked to have seen a small version of the map at the beginning of each section it was used for in the text itself, along with a link to the full page map later on. The same holds true for the NPCs described. I didn’t even know they were at the back of the book until I flipped back there.

Beyond that, the mix of single and double-column layouts worked well throughout, offering a pleasant border pattern and enough white space to make it fairly simple to read. I have to admit I found the print-friendly version a bit easier on the eyes than the colored version, but that’s probably just my own failing eyesight. It’s nice to have the options however.

And I love many of the breakout boxes throughout the text. Each offers great advice for a GM running the adventure, from using exaggerated facial expressions for the many froggish characters in the story to finding a looping background track of chirping crickets as the party explores the swamp. Little flavored ideas like those go a long way to making a more memorable session at the game table for everyone.

Overall a fun adventure and I look forward to seeing where things go in the next installment – The Mysterious Peaks of Baranthar!

(This review was originally posted at Game Knight Reviews here: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2013/10/adventure-review-the-clockwork-won ders-of-brandlehill-by-mike-myler/)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/12/2013 07:30:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This module is 37 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/module summary and 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS, so potential players may want to skip to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! The PCs are recruited by a weird gnomish bard called Terrence Threncewell on behalf of a weird little gnomish settlement called Brandlehill, which is well-known for its weird clockwork contraptions. It should be noted that DM's who have an issue with fluff get a LOT of very detailed exposition - almost 3 pages are devoted to the recruitment of the PCs before they meet the Dwarven trademaster of the town, one Orin Hardtack who wants a grippli-town removed. Grippli-town? Yes, for Brandlehill's clockwork wonders are reliant on rare swamp herbs from the Zeranoth swamp and aforementioned grippli-tribe has mostly become hostile due to as of yet undetermined reasons.

The grippli waste not much time an attack soon - in numbers and the PCs will have to slug through quite a massive bunch of these froggy fighters -including the fact that the humanoids will try to flank the PCs en masse. The fluff also mentions a healing-impeding paste, though that one does not feature in the stats - an unfortunate disjoint between fluff and crunch here. Still, the revised edition has greatly enhanced this encounter in particular - providing a gorgeous full-color map with several terrain peculiarities to use while battling - Neat! Also, in the fluff, the PCs get hints now about somehing not being quite right with the grippli...

Ralka escorts the PCs to the village - where they will have the chance to realize that the water-supply of the grippli has been tainted - probably by the ambitious former apprentice. The grippli are rather unhelpful and seek to drive the PCs out of town. Sneaking the tainted leaves out of town via stealth is now also covered, as is the (rather brutal) option of killing all the grippli. But who is truly behind the taint? How can the PCs make themselves be heard and prevent further escalation? Well, if they've done their research and talked with Ralka, they can find the remains of a fallen half-orc ranger, who not only returns as a ghost, but also suffered from a demonic disease. They may also find the reason why the ranger was slain in the guise of the mirrored spear, an uncommon magical weapon I covered in my review of the FREE supplement by Mike Myler. It should also be noted that the complex where the deceased orc now rests comes with an extra-DM-map that makes running this mini-dungeon much easier - as you now know where things actually are supposed to be!

With the proof, they can expose the apprentice upon a return to the grippli-village - where their welcome will be rather hostile and more deaths may be the result - but so is now the option to use diplomacy - again, definitely an improvement over the original module.

The corrupt apprentice behind the taint, though, has fled to the Harhoa Cave, where he makes a final stand with a demonic frog, guarded by grisly trophies and traps. Upon dealing with the evil-doers, the PCs may return to Brandlehill to choose one of 3 clockwork wonders. The first, a grapple launcher, is a ranged weapon that hits foes with grab and damage as well as having the potential to halt falls - unfortunately rather overpowered. The second, a triple-shot crossbow now works better, though still not perfectly streamlined, whereas the third, which provides bardic performances in a box, actually is interesting - though ALL items don't get proper item statblocks - and while they now do come with a price, the fail to specify with which craft-skill they can be created, which imho is a minor bummer. Also: Weirdly, neither the grapple-launcher nor the triple crossbow have a weight-score, whereas the box has.

The magic item, Cyrkssi's Mirror Spear unfathomably follows the proper formatting, as does the magical Troll Wig-net. The pdf also features all the stats for the characters featured herein - now much easier to read. The final five pages are devoted to neat maps of beautiful full-color maps with grids.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting in the revised version of this module, while not perfect, are very good and lack any truly detrimental guffaws. The battle-maps provided are beautiful and the added maps greatly help running the combats. Furthermore, the pdf now comes properly bookmarked in both versions (the second being more printer-friendly) and while the artwork is not particularly glorious, it's original and the GORGEOUS maps (and amount of maps) help offset this minor gripe. Most importantly: The Layout has been changed to a mostly 2-column standard that is much easier to read and overall is a vast improvement over its original iteration.

Here, I complained in my original review about several beginner's mistakes - and I'm happy to tell you that most of them actually have been purged, greatly enhancing the overall appeal of the module and adding more than a bit excitement and options to the battles - and there is the railroad factor, which has been greatly diminished, offering a multitude of solutions and allowing for actual choice on behalf of the PCs. More crucially, the obscure original solution is much better foreshadowed and can be solved in ways that feel less arbitrary, less dependent on one obscure option.

While the module's alternate resolution, including a full-blown annihilation of a settlement is introduced, it is still not properly followed up on and essentially remains an alibi alternative when it could have been a thoroughly compelling second finale with a bitter-sweet aftertaste. The clockwork wonders imho are still not perfectly balanced, but at least slightly improved. One substance is never given stats though the players should by all means also be afflicted by it - and since it impedes magical healing, the players WILL WANT it. This module has potential - its locales and characters are colorful, its ideas are not bad and in the revised version, it actually managed to live up to its at times funny, even grotesque humor and its uncommon premise, solving many of the issues that once plagued it and rendering it an actually enjoyable experience. While not perfect, it is vastly improved and if this is the pace by which author Mike Myler intends to improve his offerings, then I'm looking forward to the things to come. My final verdict for the revised edition will clock in at 4 stars and a recommendation for aficionados of weirdness...and of course tinkering gnomes and grippli!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2013 15:16:05

The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill is a quaint little adventure for 4th level PCs of the Pathfinder RPG. In this adventure the characters get summoned to a little gnomish town full of clockwork machinations, and get embroidered in an adventure that involves the gnomes and the local tribes of the nearby swamps. The adventure is a humorous affair full of elements of comic fantasy, and is a good little romp with good roleplaying, plenty of combat, and a nice little story.

At first glance, The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill is a neatly presented product. The maps are good, the artwork is good and the general appearance of the product is good. Where the product is on the weaker side, is the organisation. There's very little delineation of different elements of the adventure, it's hard to distinguish between read-aloud text and GMs only text, the combat encounters can pass you by entirely as they're not clearly presented and the whole adventure just requires more organisation. A solid organisation goes a long way in making the adventure easier to run and understand, and the masses of fluff text here often hide mechanical details between them that make this adventure hard to digest. Section headings, clear indications of combat and the monsters involved (including stat blocks), an adventure summary and other such smaller touches would go a long way to making this easier for the GM.

That gripe aside, this is quite a fun little adventure. The characters get the opportunity to visit an ingenious gnomish town and explore the nearby swamps while they uncover the mystery of the what plagues the village. I wish the village descriptions had been more vivid, painting a better picture of all the machinations in the village, but one gets a fair overview of the village from the existing text. Roleplaying is rife, and the characters get a chance to engage in some meaningful encounters. The adventure starts off with a bang, which is always a good way to get the PCs dragged into the plot. How they approach the adventure and the diplomacy with the local swamp tribes is up to them, but here I wish the adventure had provided some helpful guides and perhaps some alternatives to existing choices which can be fairly linear. I think the adventures caters for most areas of gameplay, and players of all types will have some good fun. With gnomes and gripply abounding, it's bound to be a fun adventure, and GMs can have a lot of fun with some of the comical elements. Roleplaying gnomes can always be adventurous.

Overall, the adventure side of things is exciting and keeps the pace going, despite a few flaws in adventure linearity and lack of guidance in certain areas. The organisation is not strong, and GMs will have to sift through the fluff and mechanical text to put together a better organised whole and separate the adventure into meaningful sections. The clockwork wonders and new magical items are all quite interesting, though as mentioned, it would've been good to see some ingenuity on the grander scale of the village itself. A good little romp, despite its flaws, and should be fun for players and GMs alike.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Peter, Thank you for your review! The reception in terms of subject content has been consistently positive and makes me confident you'll find more to enjoy in our updated version (which is now perilously close to release!), especially in terms of organization, formatting and story structure (which includes details on alternative quest solutions as well). There was no lack of trepidation when we released our first publication but I'm sure that our second time at bat with The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill will definitely earn us a few more runs, as it were. Keep any eye out for TCWoB 1.5, and thank you again for your feedback!
The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill 2.0
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2013 09:58:36

Opening with one of the best reworkings of 'Your group of adventurers is sitting in an inn one evening when someone approaches you with a job" that I have read in a long time, this is a charming little adventure that manages to play up the comedic side of fantasy without falling into the trap of outright silliness or merely playing things for laughs.

It's all based around a gnome village that has developed a specialism in mundane clockwork devices... only they have recently encountered some difficulties in their production, difficulties of the sort a party of adventurers are best suited to resolving. Needless to say, the stated problem is not the only one, and the party will find plenty to keep them busy. There are several factions and individuals jockeying for control and economic dominence of the area; the characters will have to pick their way through carefully, deciding who to support and how to accomplish their goals - guile will be required as well as competence in combat. With battles a-plenty (at least two, maybe more) and places to investigate and a wide range of unusual and interesting people to talk to, nobody should find this adventure boring.

The clockwork inventions - several of which are described in detail at the end as well as being incorporated within the adventure - have a certain charm, creative and redolent of craftsmanship and a sheer delight in making intriguing things... if you like elaborate mechanical clocks with little parades of figures, you'll enjoy these inventions too.

A gentle charming beguiling adventure, I shall be looking out for Mr Myler's work in the future!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Megan, Thank you for the glowing review! I didn't notice the 'Reply to Review' button until just now as I trawl the website eager to see my second publication (Magical Armaments Compendium Volume I) reach 100 downloads (although admittedly, it is free), so please forgive my lack of punctuality. I really appreciate your enthusiastic critique and hope you do keep an eye out for my other work. The struggle to find another illustrator for the next book (The Mysterious Peaks of Baranthar) is holding things up, but we're shooting for a release by the end of the month. Thank you again for the kind words! Sincerely, Mike Myler
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