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Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:53:06

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

This 19 page PDF gives us the Shadow Fey as a playable race. There is some history of the Shado Fey here and even a few more creatures. Additionally, there are some new class archetypes, racial powers, and some new feats. While it says Pathfinder on the cover there is enough here to use in any game.

This book in particular makes them more than "drow with horns" or "bad tempered elves."



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:52:40

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

This 12 page PDF is part of Kobold Press' Deep Magic series. It presents a new Sorcerous Bloodline (Shadow Bloodline), a new Warlock Patron (The Light Eater), and a new Rouge Archetype (The Whisper). There are also, as expected, new Shadow themed spells. Not explicitly tied in with their Courts of the Shadow Fey, but certainly 100% compatible and thematically appropriate.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:52:21

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

This is a short-ish adventure for 8th level characters in a fairy tale romp. Not a "Disney" fairy tale, but a Brother's Grimm one. A shadowy evil, but sad Queen, needs to reconstitute her broken magic mirror that contains her life force. Doing so will make her powerful again. The PCs have found the five magical shards.

A great little adventure full of dark fairy tale tropes. Easy to run in a session or two and makes for a nice side quest after running the Courts of the Shadow Fey. The Dusk Queen herself is an interesting character that might work well in my War of the Witch Queens Campaign. In that of course she would need to win at the end of this adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Dusk Queen for 5th Edition
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Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:50:55

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it. These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great. They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds. But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world. If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild. Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition. Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race. They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns. I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison. But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level. So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow? Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur. Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite. The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. Pathfinder version, 130 pages Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey. We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court. These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons. We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power. The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated. This has my attention already. Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs. This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.

Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is the mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue. In some ways it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things. Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view. Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner!

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press. But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care. The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.

This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading. I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.
The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities.

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is.

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun. Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it. Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer. Why? The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose. If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost. In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do. By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Click to show product description

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Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:50:49

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it. These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great. They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds. But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world. If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild. Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition. Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race. They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns. I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison. But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level. So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow? Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur. Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite. The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. Pathfinder version, 130 pages Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey. We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court. These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons. We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power. The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated. This has my attention already. Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs. This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.

Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is the mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue. In some ways it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things. Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view. Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner!

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press. But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care. The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.

This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading. I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.
The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities.

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is.

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun. Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it. Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer. Why? The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose. If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost. In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do. By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Courts of the Shadow Fey for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:50:40

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it. These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great. They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds. But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world. If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild. Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition. Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race. They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns. I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison. But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level. So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow? Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur. Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite. The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. Pathfinder version, 130 pages Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey. We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court. These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons. We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power. The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated. This has my attention already. Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs. This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.

Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is the mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue. In some ways it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things. Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view. Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner!

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press. But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care. The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.

This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading. I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.
The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities.

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is.

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun. Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it. Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer. Why? The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose. If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost. In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do. By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey for 5th Edition
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The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2020 13:51:30

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-shadows-of-4e.html

Gloomwrought is a large city located in the Shadowfell. This product came in a box with a 128-page Campaign Guide, a 32-page Encounter book, a poster map of Gloomwrought, monster counters, and a 30-card deck of Despair cards. The Despair cards were a nice feature since they could add to the mood of "gloom, despair, and agony on me." While the cards had mechanical effects, the vast bulk of this product is fluff. The crunch amounts to some NPCs and encounters, all easily converted. There are a couple of monsters, but they analogs in every other version of D&D.

Gloomwrought gets the most ink here and that is fine. The city is something of a crossroads in the Shadowfell and it is likely where characters will end up.

One of the nice things about the D&D4 Shadowfell line being done is it is now easier to go back and include something like Gloomwrought in the HPE series of adventures that had come out three years prior. In fact, it is entirely possible to make ALL your D&D 4 experiences live and act within the Shadowfell if one chooses. I find this personally satisfying since my 2nd Ed AD&D experiences are largely molded by my chosen campaign world of Ravenloft.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (4e)
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Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2020 13:50:08

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-shadows-of-4e.html

The Shadowfell is now a feature of the D&D 4 landscape and many products have discussed it including many of the adventures and Monster Manuals. With the Player's Option book we get classes and races based on the shadow realms and how they can be used.

One of D&D4's greatest strengths was it's modularity. Adding or subtracting material from the game was easier than ever before. It is a feature that 5e adopted, though not as radically as 4e. Adding more classes then never felt like a bloat since you could limit the number of classes or races or any other feature. The Player's Option books were that in execution. Heroes of Shadow introduces the Assassin class, the Blackguard Paladin option, the Vampire class, the Binder option for Warlocks, and additions to other classes such as clerics (death domain), warlocks (gloom pact for hexblades), and the Necromancy and Nethermancy schools for wizards. Since classes are so detailed this covers the majority of the book.

The Vampire class should be mentioned since it is different. The idea behind it is that no matter what a person was before this, they are now a vampire and they can progress in power as a vampire. Not for everyone, I am sure but there was an elegance to it that can't be denied. It also worked quite well to be honest.

There are some new races of course. The Revenant is back from the dead with the power of the Raven Queen with them. The Shade has traded some of their mortality for Shadow stuff. This is the best version of the Shade since 1st ed. The Vryloka are living vampires, one of my favorites in 4e, and variations on Dwarves, Elves/Eladrin, Halflings and Humans.

There are new Paragon Paths for many classes and Epic Level Destinies. A handful of new feats and some new equipment.

It is a fun set of options that really had the feel of the shadow-soaked 4e world down.

Plenty of great ideas for a 5e game using the same classes (all have 5e counterparts) or as fluff for other versions of the game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow (4e)
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2020 12:38:02

The Keep on the Shadowfell was the first-ever adventure published for the D&D 4 game. We are introduced to the game world and the rules via a quick-start set of rules included with the game. Nearly everything you need to get started with the D&D 4 game is here. The adventure itself is designed to invoke memories of another keep, the Keep on the Borderlands, but here ante has been raised. The keep is not near some giant monstrous humanoid condo, but on the veil between the material plane and the mysterious Shadowfell. There is a lot more going on and it can feel very combat heavy and even a touch predictable. But that is fine for a 1st adventure. Everyone is still too busy figuring out moves and markings and surges to worry whether or not rumor X or rumor Y turns out to be true.

It is here we are introduced to the newest god of the D&D pantheon, the Raven Queen, and this adventure starts an epic quest between the forces of good and the forces of evil in the form of Orcus. Eventually, in later adventures the players will learn that Orcus is trying to steal the Raven Queen's power and become a God. So there are also, er...shadows of the Throne of Bloodstone series (1e) here and eventually Dead Gods (2e). It is also here we are re-introduced to the Shadar-kai, a humanoid race that lives in the Shadowfell and how it has changed them. It changed them a lot actually since in 3e they were elves. Here they are human. In 5e they will become elves again.

I ran this adventure using the 4e rules and then again years later converting it to 5e. It ran fantastic each time. I also wrote up a set of conversion for BECMI style D&D Basic. I have run it, but it looks like it should work well with that too. I start the characters off at 5th level for that.

If you can find a copy in print it is a fun introduction to the D&D 4 game. The PDF is free at DriveThruRPG so it only costs you a click.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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GAZ13 The Shadow Elves (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/21/2020 12:02:49

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-review-gaz13-shadow-elves.html

The world of Mystara/The Known World doesn't have Drow, but they do have Shadow Elves that fill the same ecological niche, but not the same mythological niche. Like the drow, the shadow elves do live underground, are harmed by bright light and separated from the main, light elf, race many centuries ago. And that is where the similarities end.

To understand the Shadow Elves best it is helpful to understand a bit about the world of Mystara and their Immortals.

For the unintiated Mystara does not have gods, but rather immortals, that help guide the affairs of mortals. The immortals in question here are Rafiel and Atzanteotl. I will deal with them in the review, but sufice to say that Immortals of Mystara tend to meddle in the affairs of entire races. Shadow Elves are a prime example. This book is also one of the first introductions to the Hollow World of Mystara.

GAZ13 The Shadow Elves

This book is a 103 pdf, larger PoD book. It was originally published in 1990 and it was written by Carl Sargent and Gary Thomas. Cover art is by the fantastic Clyde Caldwell with interior art by the equally fantastic Stephen Fabian. The book was designed for the Dungeons & Dragons, aka Basic or BECM line. I am reviewing the PDF and PoD version from DriveThruRPG.

The book is split up into a Player's Section and a Dungeon Master's Section. While each is numbered starting at "1". The table of contents (printed) starts with the Players Section, but the book (PDF and POD, and hyperlinked bookmarks) start with the DMs section and then the Player's section. The Player's section does say "READ THIS BOOKLET FIRST!" So I think I am going to star with the Player's Section. This only makes sense since all DMs are also players.

Player's Section

This 32-page section introduces us to the book and to the Shadow Elves. This section also includes the very helpful "Other Books to Use" which gives some resources that would be helpful for a player dealing with the lands of the Shadow Elves, mostly GAZ 5, The Elves of Alheim and GAZ 10 The Orcs of Thar. I also found that GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri was also useful.

Here we are introduced to the Immortal Rafiel and how he and his works have really guided the Shadow Elves to their modern state after their split with the Light Elves. This covers the history of the Shadow Elves as they know it. It is an interesting read and does exactly what it supposed to do, separates the Shadow Elves from the more popular Drow. You get an idea for the size of the Shadow elf realms (larger than any other country covered by the GAZ series.) and how the various settlements/cities are connected. You get an overview/example of a day in the life a Shadow Elf. The importance of the Shadow Elf shamans (clerics) and the "Soul" crystals in the birth of a new Shadow Elf is covered and how important each birth is. (This is something that is actually revisited in 5th Edition D&D Elves).

There is a great section on Creating and Playing a Shadow Elf. This speaks to the strength of D&D BECMI. It can easily allow a new race/class without "breaking the rules" as it were. Shadow Elves can advance farther than surface elves. This is explained by their unique nature. New skills for Shadow Elves are also covered. There are also many "new" spells for Shadow Elves. I say "new" since many are from AD&D or alterations of other D&D spells. Additionally, you can play a Shadow Elf shaman (cleric). It is one of the best examples of playing a D&D / BECMI Shaman. The Shaman has a few more spells, most of these are newer though there are some reused AD&D spells. Note: I say "reused" not imply that these spells are somehow lesser, they are not. They are all (for the most part) new to D&D BECMI, but players of other editions will recognize them.

The player's section has a yellowish background. It does not make it difficult to read at all, but it does make it visually separate from the DM's section.

Dungeon Master's Section

This section is 64-pages with inserts. The Immortal Rafiel is the primary focus of this section, or at least his importance is stressed. He was not the genesis of the Shadow Elves, but he certainly shaped their evolution. He is the center of their religious life and since religion features so much in their everyday life, Rafiel is central to everything.

While the Player's Section gives us the Shadow Elves as they see themselves, this section gives us Shadow Elves and their history as the Immortals see it. Their story begins 6,000 years ago (5,000 BC) when Mystara was young and Blackmoor was a magical and technological global power. The elves were living in what would become Glantri until 3,000 BC when Blackmoor was destroyed and the Great Rain of Fire happened. Mystara was knocked off her axis and ice caps melted and new ones froze. The Shadow Elves sought safety and sanctuary underground.

Here they encountered the followers of Atzanteotl, and evil Immortal, and some began to follow him, but most moved on and soon found Rafiel. Now here is where things get uniquely "Mystara". Rafiel was a Nuclear Physicist in Blackmoor. The explosion that nearly destroyed Mystara was his reactor. OR his reactor saved him when the Rain of Fire ( not to be confused with the Rain of Colorless Fire from Greyhawk) happened. In any case, this former human now leads and protects the Shadow Elves. Back to history, there is a nice objective timeline that covers what the Shadow Elves have done in their time below the surface. Including learning that others did survive (they thought all life had perished) and what they want to do about Alfhiem. Here you learn also that there are some false beliefs purposely put into the player's section that are corrected here. For example, the "Soul Crystals" do not contain or house the souls of elves as all Shadow Elves believe, instead they are bits of the Radiance (from under Glantri) that are the nuclear equivalent of magic or the magical equivalent of nuclear energy. Science and Magic get blended a lot when dealing with Blackmoor.

Shamans and their roles are also covered in more detail here. It is here since there are secrets that a Shama learns as they progress in levels that are supposed to remain unknown to them at lower levels. A really nice way of doing it if you ask me. This includes some new Shamanic spells.

The geography of the Shadow Elves' lands is covered. Including the towns, major cities, and the passageways in between. Also covered are the possible location of more soul crystals and how many. We also see the different types of animals living near or with the Shadow Elves including the "Skinwing" or a flying dinosaur they use for patrols. This is reminiscent of both the Mahars of Pellucidar and the running lizards of the drow. A couple of other monsters are presented, but I would have liked to have seen some more. Likely these would have been covered in other Gaz products.

There is a neat little section on what everyone else thinks of the Shadow Elves include Glantri scholars, orcs, elves in Alfheim, and a dwarf. Later on, we also get what Shadow Elves in other lands are up too.

Several important NPCs are also covered including Rafiel and Atzanteotl.

There is also a Shadow Elf specific character sheet. I stress function over form.

The PDF has maps you can print out and the Print version has the maps bound in the pages.

The text is easy to read if it is a scan of a printed document.

The PDF is $9.99 and the softcover POD + PDF is $18.00. If you are getting the POD it is worth it to add the $2 to get the PDF to print out the maps and character sheets.

Using this Book and Shadow Elves

If you are unfamiliar with Mystara then some of the ideas mentioned inside will sound "out there" to other D&D players. Nuclear explosions? Post-Apocalypic Elves? Immortal physicists? Aztec like humans living in a Hollow Earth? But they are all perfectly sensible in a Mystara campaign.

The writing of this Gazzateer is top-notch, easily one of the best, and right up there with GAZ 3. The Shadow Elves are also a little more interesting than Drow in my opinion. Their lives make perfect sense once you see things from their own point of view. They would in fact make a fine replacement for the Drow in many games.

The player's section would work "AS IS" for most versions of D&D. Shadow Elf Shamans are easily converted to future D&D Clerics. Adding them as a race or type of elf is also very easy.

Honestly, they are perfect for anyone that wants to play a Drow but wants something that is a little different.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves (Basic)
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Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches
Publisher: 5Realms Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2020 14:12:03

This is the full text of the Public Domain "Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches" by Charles Godfrey Leland published in 1899.

There is no additional text or game content included. You are paying for the formating and the cover. While I am happy to have another copy in my digital library there is nothing additional to what you can get for free on the Internet.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches
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Witches and Wyverns
Publisher: Lernaean Studio
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2020 14:06:32

W&W is a very quick, rules lite game in the tradition of the Old-School D&D. Or more to the point, how old school D&D is typically remembered these days. I tend to think there is some "glamorization" of the old days of gaming as characters barely needing a name because they were going to die that soon. While this certainly could happen, it was not the norm. For a buck you get 20 pages of east to use rules and very basic character concepts and monsters.
The 2d6 is easy to use and like most good systems it gets out of the way quickly. It's a good game for people that don't want a lot of rules and don't mind rules abstraction.

I disagree with the central premise though that todays games are all "faeries and unicorns" and I find the notion destracting from the central conciet of the game. Plenty of of old school games were light and fluffy, plenty of new games have TPKs every few sessions.

Again, the game is a buck and it would be great to play in an afternoon. Maybe even as a subsititute for my normal game while I am waiting for my minis to dry.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witches and Wyverns
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Astrology
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2020 12:44:24

A great short guide to Astrology as it works in HârnWorld. Easy to ready with lots of excellent color art. Specific to HârnWorld, but could be adapted to use in other games with ease. Which it should be since this is an often neglected bit of "Science" of a "Medieval" or "Dark Ages" like world. If nothing else, grab it for the art; the star maps and drawings.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Astrology
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BX Options: Class Builder
Publisher: The Welsh Piper LLC
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2020 12:32:24

Originally posted here (and with more links to spreadsheets): http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/review-class-struggles-bx-options-class.html

Over the Summer Erin D. Smale released his BX Options: Class Builder book as a guide to how to build custom classes for the B/X, Basic-era, style games. Of course, I had to grab it. I love making new classes and anything that involves a little number crunching is great in my opinion.
Though I will admit I was at the same time worried that this would just be a rehash of the formulas used in Dragon Magazine #109. Well, I am happy to report it is not, and there is more to this book than just that. In fact, the author even points out in the book the original system. My back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that for levels 1-14 they both should give you the same numbers. But more on that in a bit.

I am going to break this up into a normal review and then follow with a Class Struggles.

Review BX Options: Class Builder

The BX Options: Class Builder was released originally has a special edition print version via The Welsh Piper's website over the early part of Summer 2020. The book later came to DriveThruRPG in a 2nd Editon mid Summer 2020. I will be covering the DriveThruRPG version only today.

The PDF is 82 pages, full-color art covers, with black, white, and blue color inside. The interior art is all b/w from various stock art publishers from DriveThruRPG. The advantage of this is the style of the book is very likely to fit into all the other books you might have in your collection.

The book is broken down into two larger sections. First is the class builder itself and the calculations for it. Second is a collection of Classes and Sub-classes for B/X D&D and clones, with the math worked out. There are also a few Appendicies.

The layout of the book is very, very clean, and easy to read. The PDF is bookmarked and the table of contents is hyperlinked.

After the Introduction, we get right into the builder itself. There is a single page of explanatory notes (that is all that is needed) and then a worksheet (a plus for the PDFs!).

After this, there are descriptions of basic abilities (armor, weapons, prime requisites), special abilities (thief abilities, spells, powers), restrictions and "Locked" abilities. All with associated XP costs.

These numbers are then added up. The Base XP is then plugged into one of the four base classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif) for experience levels 1 to 14 (B/X standard).

Simple really. And that is only the first dozen pages.

The rest of the book is dedicated to "rebuilding" each of the four base human classes and the three demi-human classes. All seven also include various sub-classes. For example, the Cleric is built first and the numbers match those found in most clones and the original sources. Class variants cover new variant classes that add, change and/or remove abilities from the Base class. In the case of the cleric different types of Gods they can worship are covered. These are designed not to differ too wildly from the base class.

After the Base class and Variant classes the Sub-classes, with calculations and full XP tables, are covered. Again in the case of the cleric there is a Crusader (more combat, less spells) and a Shaman.

This is repeated for the Dwarf (Elder), Elf (Archon), Fighter (Barbarian, Beast-talker, Beserker) , Halfling (Warden), Magic-User (Necromancer, Sorcerer), and Thief (Assassin, Bard, Scout) classes.

This covers the bulk of the book (some 50 or more pages) and really is a value-add in my opinion. Some of those classes we have seen in other sources, but others are new or have new ideas. The Necromancer for example can create golems. Great if you think that the golems have the spirits of the dead in them or created Frankenstein-style.

Since this system is aimed at B/X level play, the obvious clone to support it is Old-School Essentials. It is not an "Old-School Essentials Compatible" product as in with a logo, but acknowledgments to OSE are made. So it would be fair really to compare the overlap of classes between this and OSE-Advanced.

The overlap is where you expect it to be, what I call the common Advanced classes (minus a couple); the Assassin, the Barbarian, and the Bard. There are some "near" overlaps as well.

The OSE Assassin compares well to the BXO-CB Assassin. Their XP values do differ, but not significantly so. BXO-CB Assassins have more HP. Both classes have the same skills. The Barbarians compare well enough with the BXO-CB Barbarian having more HP again. Bards have the most differences. BXO-CB Bards have more XP per level, less HP, and fewer overall spells. I don't consider any of this to be "game-breaking" or even "game-stretching", just different flavors of the class. Rename one "Bard" a "Skald" and there you go.

Shamans are a little bit like Druids and Crusaders are bit like Paladins, but different enough to provide some nice flavor to the game.

The Appendicies cover a number of topics like adding various thief abilities, a break down of the core seven B/X classes, skills, equipment, spell failure, home terrain, animal special abilities and abilities for higher-level characters.

The book is very high quality and has a lot of utility for all sorts of B/X uses. Working through the numbers it works great for levels 1-14. If you extend it to level 20 this would affect the numbers for spell casters. For example, Magic-users in BX/OSE gain spells to level 6, for a 2,400 XP addition. If you take this to level 20 Magic-users gain up to 9th level spells, this would be 3,600 XP added to the base. GRANTED this book does not claim to support above level 14, or more to the point, spell levels beyond level 6.

Class Struggles

How does this work in the real world? Or more to the point can it work with classes I have worked on.

Printing out the sheet, which is great thanks to the PDF, I worked out what my own Witch Classes would end up. Now please keep in mind I am going to do some things beyond the scope of this book so any issues I might encounter are not due to the Class Builder but more likely my use of it.

I already mentioned there are differences in the Bard class. The author even points out that these differences are really expected and that is OK because it will vary on how each group decides to use a particular class. So with that now as a given, going deeper into this and expecting some variation is fine.

I went through the math on this for my witch class. I will not go into the details here because I created a Google Sheet you can see for yourself. Note you will need the Class Builder book to know what these numbers actually mean. I am going to talk about the cases that vary.

Linked here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10_GxHtudXBGjgnov0W242HTAvj1_6l_17LI1J55b9H0/edit?usp=sharing

Long time readers might recall I did something similar using the Dragon #109 system a while back. In fact the spreadsheet is the same with the Dragon #109/Thoul's Paradise test on the first tab and the BXO:CB test on the second tab.

The "Thoul's Test" goes back to a couple of posts made by Thoul's Paradise that I discussed:

So a couple issues right away. Witches cast arcane spells, but they are not quite the same as those a Magic-user can use, there are more divine spells really. Especially for the Pagan Witch.
What I opted to do was make the "Witchcraft" spells worth 200xp to 300xp per level. A nice split between what the Divine (100xp) and Arcane (400xp) spellcasters have.

The witch also has Occult Powers. These are spell-like abilities. Since they can be used more often I gave them a cost of 250xp each. Though 300xp per would have been fine too.

In the end I came up with something pretty close to the numbers I have been using forever and published for close to 20 years. The differences are so trivial as to be considered error or even "noise."

These are also very, very close to the numbers I got using the Dragon #109 system. I have not compared it to the system used in ACKS Player's Companion, but my memory of the system and playing with it when it first came out tells me that I should also expect similar numbers. Especially since the ACKs system and the Class Builder System both use the same BX base and assumptions of 1-14 (or so) levels of play.

Going back to a source the author and I both have used, Breeyark: Building the Perfect Class, I realized that the author of that resource IS the author of this book. The systems are different but are built on similar premises. Also, they should grant the same or very similar results.

The BX Options Class Builder is a very fun book with some great class choices as an added bonus of some worked out classes. There are no spells offered for the new spell casting classes, but that would have been way beyond the scope of the book anyway.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BX Options: Class Builder
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Path of Horror (Storypath Cards)
Publisher: Nocturnal Media
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2020 14:57:59

Path of Horror is a Story Path Card collection From Nocturnal Media.

They retail for $11.99. DriveThruRPG also has them as PDFs you can print or POD for $3.99 and $11.99 respectively.

These cards in particular have a horror theme.

The Game Master keeps the "Theme" cards and then deals out 2-3 cards to each player. The play can then play their cards at appropriate times. In the end the Game Master can play the Climax cards.

The theme cards include things like "Lost Cause" or "Hint of Madness." Other cards are "Remembered Dream" or "Found Item" or "Lurker." The cards are all numbered, so lower number cards are played before higher ones. They add a bit of color to your game and a bit more roleplaying and input from the players. They also require the Game Master to think a little more on their feet than usual since not everything can be planned out.

Currently, my son is using them in his "Curse of Strahd" D&D 5 game and I am planning on using them in my "Ordinary World" for Night Shift and "War of the Witch Queens" for Basic-era D&D.

There is quite a lot that can be done with these cards and since they rely on player input they can also be reused a lot.

What attracted me to them originally was the cover of course. The art reminded me of this card deck I had as a kid.

Certainly worth giving them a try in your games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Horror (Storypath Cards)
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