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VaeZine: February 2023
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/27/2023 20:00:13

Fantastic resource to see everything the Vaesen community has been working on all in one place!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
VaeZine: February 2023
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Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Next)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/02/2018 16:46:13

Legacy of the Crystal Shard takes what is probably my favorite Forgotten Realms setting - Icewind Dale - and gives it a full update for the latest edition. It creates an incredibly deep and lived-in world, and can give an experienced Dungeon Master the tools they need to create a really long-running campaign. That said, this is certainly not a simple or straight forward adventure, so be prepared to really put in some homework.

The Good:

  • Multiple branching plotlines, giving the PCs a feeling of freedom as they explore Icewind Dale.
  • Lots of references to the R.A. Salvatore novels for fans of the Crystal Shard.
  • Not one but three compelling villains, all of whom are out to ruin your day!
  • There's a really good blend of combat, role-playing and some investigation to keep every member of your player group engaged.

The Bad:

  • There is a lot of complexity here, and it's going to take even practiced DMs a lot of work to sort out what happens and when. Look for resources online, and be prepared to have them at the table. This is definitely not a sit down and run it kind of adventure, despite the small size of the book.
  • The encounter descriptions are referenced in the book, but you need the encounter tables on the DM's screen to roll for them. Given that it's in .PDF format, this means a lot of paging back-and-forth or extra printing.
  • While there are a lot of optional paths for players to take, it's still very likely a group could go totally off-the-rails and the adventure doesn't have much support for this.
  • The stat blocks used don't include any options for scaling this adventure up for higher level groups, and are based on the older D&D Next rules rather than full 5th edition rules. This means a DM is going to have work ahead of them to get everything up-to-date.

The Best Moment:

  • For me it's everything related to the Ice Witch. She gets some really amazing set piece encounters, and each time the PCs think they've finally beaten her, she comes back twice as fierce.

Legacy is a really fantastic game, and is worth picking up if you like Icewind Dale as a setting. Its remote and really gives the PCs the sense that they are exploring the frontier on the edge of civilization.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Next)
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Rats of Waterdeep
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/16/2018 23:09:22

The Rats of Waterdeep is an absolutely fantastic adventure! It develops a rich and slightly silly setting, where characters explore the docks of Waterdeep as the city is beset by plague and literal monster gangsters stalk the streets. It occasionally veers a little too close to self-parody, but is just steeped in such a wonderful film noir flavor that I couldn't help but love it.

The Good:

  • Extremely well-developed NPCs help to get the characters invested in the story of the adventure.
  • The plot sets up a genuine mystery, and relies more on the players to deduce what's going on than their characters making good Investigation rolls.
  • The adventure is chocked-full of handouts for the players to read, interact with and pour over. It's an absolutely fantastic production value.
  • There's a really well-done romance subplot, which features some great writing and emotional stakes.

The Bad:

  • The scaling in the "Adjusted the Adventure" section leaves a bit to be desired, and is mostly "add more monsters to make it tougher." This can lead to grindy encounters for characters above 1st level. I wound up cutting out a lot of the combat encounters, just to keep things moving quickly.
  • During part of the investigation in Part 2: Trail of the Rat, there's a secret room with almost no reasonable way to access it. I needed to make adjustments on the fly to account for how certain NPCs could get in and out of the secret room.
  • While the descriptions of areas provided by Watchmen Locks are great as read-alouds, it's very easy to miss certain key details which reveal clues for the players. The adventure really requires a careful read-through in order to make sure you catch all of the details so that the players can then pick up on things.
  • The solutions to a few of the puzzle handouts appear not to work. While my players were able to find brute force solutions, it'd be nice to see updates to Security Hint #2 on Handout 5: Security Box Puzzles and Handout 3: Doc Ward's Papers.

The Best Moment:

  • The eponymous "Rat Pox" which is afflicting the city may slowly begin turning your PCs into rats, one rodent-like feature at a time. There's nothing quite like seeing someone's face when you explain that they've suddenly developed a tail!

All in all, the Rats of Waterdeep is an exceptional adventure, which my PCs have thoroughly enjoyed and I cannot wait to run again.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rats of Waterdeep
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The Translation Codex
Publisher: Ryan Chaddock Games
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2015 12:43:00

Right now, this is an absolutely essential book to playing the Strange. The corebook, while it features some very creative options, is very limited. Some Foci are tied to specific recursions and you wind up feeling like people are stepping on one another's toes if you are using only the core Foci.

Ryan Chaddock's Translation Codex meanwhile provides a couple of great ideas for recursions, but the real win here is the huge number of Foci for five different flavors of settings: High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Modern, Science Fiction, Psionics and a number of smaller categories including Westerns and Myths. This is almost essential for folks to put together a really in-depth group and make the characters they really want to.

My only complaint (and it's a small one) is the new Foci don't include starting equipment. The corebook Foci do, so if players are mixing between the Corebook and the Translation Codex, they can get a little muddied on who starts with what. Other than that tiny quibble, this book 100% meets everything I was hoping for.

Final thoughts: If you're either a player or a GM and playing the Strange, snag this. It's worth every penny.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Translation Codex
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Vortex
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2014 14:36:30

The Vortex is an intriguing, two-part adventure which pulls features a fairly normal scenario and then an exceptionally weird and cool scenario for its second part. Coming straight from Monte Cooke Games, it's no surprise that this has the right feel for Numenera, but overall I found the first part (The Temple) and the overall hooks kind of lacking in comparison to some of the adventures from the Corebook.

The Temple begins with the PCs stumbling across a weird structure and then being given the brush off by several cultists. They then depart and the structure vanishes. It's then really on the PCs to feel curious enough to do some digging and to try and make their way into the structure. The GM will likely have to do some work to really make this adventure appeal to her players -- for instance, the idea of needing to use the Temple to travel a long distance quickly or chasing someone inside whose stolen something valuable to them.

However while the first part is fairly so-so, the Vortex really shines once the PCs get to the second part. Without spoiling too much of the twist, the PCs much race against time to solve a number of challenges in another temple somewhere much further away and significantly warmer. This section contains minimal combat and has a heavy emphasis on exploration, travel and the weird that Numenera does so well. This section also has a great hook and really pulls the players in (and is exceptionally difficult!) and is absolutely worth it. Just watch out, as there are several areas which could absolutely be lethal to PCs, including suggested GM Intrusions which can easily kill a character.

The Vortex is an intriguing setup and pair of location-based adventures, but the initial Temple adventure just doesn't do as much to capture the imagination as any of the four adventures in the Corebook and will make GMs have to do a little more effort to really make your PCs get invested.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vortex
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Celestial Wisdom
Publisher: Ryan Chaddock Games
by Bryon K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2014 14:00:24

This is the first third party published product I've seen for the Cypher system and I was really intrigued by the concept. Celestial Wisdom really delves into the Datasphere and goes out of its way to make it both familiar to players not only based on our real-world understanding of the Internet and information sharing, but also familiar to people who've been doing more classic fantasy tabletop role-playing games for years.

The production values for the book are great. They use a lot of really striking colour and art assets which really set things apart from the style used by Monte Cooke Games products. While it doesn't look like the Numenera books, the product does have a very neat visual aesthetic and really feels well put together. The layout is clean and the material is easy to read and reference. The cyphers and artifacts are organized to make printing cards simple, but the bright colour scheme does get a little much with neon greens and purples. An index for the different cyphers and artifacts (as well as a one sentence blurb about what they do), would have helped me make more sense of these items and not need to dig in quite so much to find things.

Content-wise, Celestial Wisdom deals with ideas for new Machine Intelligences living within the Datasphere called Data Gods; new descriptors and foci specifically related to the Datasphere as well as general cybernetics and robotics; a handful of new cyphers and artifacts related to the datasphere; and finally, four locations to use as jumping off points for adventures into the Datasphere.

For me the real highlight of the book was the collection of Data Gods. Presented in a style similar to organizations from the Numenera Corebook, these vast Machine Intelligences each have their own unique agendas, working for or against one another (or sometimes simply doing their own things) and tying into the wider world of Numenera as well. Each offers a character some unique benefit for their worship in place of a Skill (as per the Organization rules). These Data Gods really remind me of the presentation of deities from older fantasy role-playing games, and it would be very easy to create a "Cleric" using this supplement.

Celestial Wisdom is an intriguing mix of new and familiar ideas and is definitely worth picking up if you've enjoyed playing a cleric-like character in other games or are just curious to see another author's take on the Ninth World.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Celestial Wisdom
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