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Cults of Freeport
Publisher: Green Ronin
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/13/2013 08:30:47

This, as its title implies, is a sourcebook focusing the Cthuloid aspects of the Freeport setting, which have, of course, been there ever since the original adventure trilogy. We get eight evil cults here, any of which could be easily transported to any other fantasy RPG setting - since there are no rules here, the RPG in question doesn't even have to be a variant of d20.

The cults themselves are mostly chaotic evil, with two or three exceptions. Four have more or less directly Mythos inspired origins - Hastur and Yig are, of course, included, and the other two (while never named as such) are Nyarlathotep and Morrigan. A fifth is based on the Forgotten Realm's version of Loviatar, here envisaged as a goddess of BDSM. For the remaining three cults, we have vicious pirates, seekers after forbidden knowledge, and demon-worshippers. Each cult has its own distinct personality and theme, giving a variety of different forms of evil and avoiding a feeling of "sameness".

At 145 pages, this is a large book, and with none of that taken up by stat blocks, that means that each cult can be fully fleshed out. We have their history, mythology, their aims and objectives, rites and rituals, and so on. Furthermore, the actual cult as it exists in, or near, Freeport is described with detailed write-ups of its NPCs, and room-by-room descriptions of whatever passes for its temple - each with a detailed floorplan.

The book is black and white, with high quality artwork. Much of the material in it is pretty gory, although it falls short of explicit detail. Most of the cults, in short, are truly loathsome, and we are left in doubt as to why. Each is also accompanied by a resume of a four-part series of scenarios (you'll have to provide the details yourself) showing how PCs can encounter, fight, and hopefully destroy each cult as they rise in level.

In short, if you're looking for some worshippers of evil and insane gods to include in your game, this is a useful resource, with plenty of original ideas. Although written for Freeport, it could easily be transplanted into any setting where the cosmology fits. The statless nature may be a problem for some, though. You'll have to figure out stats for NPCs, and also work out what magical powers (if any) the evil gods give their followers, and I could see that for some GMs, especially of rules-heavy systems, that could be quite a pain.

But if all you want is ideas, here are some truly memorable and ghastly villains to bring a taste of horror to your fantasy game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of Freeport
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Natural Wonders - Flora
Publisher: Tangent Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/24/2013 09:39:56

This quite a large supplement for the price - 77 pages, discounting cover, contents, and license. It's a list of fifteen plants suitable for a fantasy world. They're specifically linked to the Ados campaign setting by the same publishers, but there's no reason why they'd have to be. Plants are just plants, after all.

However, the book is more than a description of some odd botany. Each plant comes with an extensive rules section, explaining how it can be used to make potions, items, armour, and the like. All of these various items are summarised in tables at the back, and cover a wide range of low-level, mostly non-magical, goodies. The list of these items, and their linking to specific features of the world, in the form of unusual plants, is the heart of the book.

The page count is upped by adding in scenario hooks to each plant, with stat blocks for NPCs who want to hire the PCs to collect the stuff, or want to steal it of somebody else, or whatever. This does feel a little like padding, especially since the stat blocks aren't always terribly relevant, but it does at least give some ideas for short encounters.

The layout is very basic, although the artwork isn't bad, and it shouldn't be tough on printer ink. All in all, it's a useful little supplement that could add colour and useful material to a game world, whether one's using it with its intended setting or not.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Natural Wonders - Flora
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The Murmuring Fountain
Publisher: Legendary Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/24/2013 09:18:01

This is a short gothic-themed scenario for low-level characters, with clear nods to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Robert W Chambers. It's beautifully illustrated, with high quality full-coloured maps, and is an original, if simple, idea. The adventure itself is 10 pages long (plus 2 pages of maps) and essentially consists of just two linked encounters, but should serve as a nice diversion in the midst of something longer.

The downside is that it's clearly intended as a diversion from some other specific adventure - I have no clue which one, and legal reasons apparently prevent the publishers from saying! Fortunately, it should be adaptable enough to insert somewhere else, since all it really requires is a village with some light woodlands nearby. It's well done, and worth a look, but one wonders what the point of linking it to some mysterious, unnamed, other scenario was when it didn't need to be...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Murmuring Fountain
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Creator Reply:
Hi JK, Thanks for your purchase and your review! I'm glad you enjoyed the adventure's style and atmospherics of the adventure. I actually just ran this adventure and its companion, "The Fiddler's Lament," in my own home campaign the last two weeks and had a lot of fun with them as well. You don't always get the chance to run the things your own company produces, but I did and they went great! All that aside, the answer to your question is contained on page 3 of the adventure on the credits page under "Special Thanks." All of our Gothic Adventure Path Plug-Ins are designed first and foremost as a great horror-themed Pathfinder RPG accessories, but each of them also has a natural connection to a particular Paizo Adventure Path. If you'd like more information about that Paizo AP, you can access a free download of the player's guide to their Gothic Horror AP at this link: http://paizo.com/products/btpy8j0q?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-Carrion-Crown-Players-Guide. I look forward to your continued business and hope to see more reviews from you. If you ever have questions about our products or simply want to order directly from us, contact us at makeyourgamelegendary@gmail.com! Jason Nelson Publisher, Legendary Games
Trouble in the River City
Publisher: S.T. Cooley Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/24/2013 04:51:04

This is a city-based scenario in which the PCs become involved with the conflict between two criminal gangs. It's event driven, rather than location driven, with a relatively linear plot. That may lead to issues if the PCs choose to do something unexpected, although it's more likely that they would circumvent sections if this happened, rather than cause the entire plot to collapse. In fact, as linear plots go, it's quite well done, with much of the action following on logically, rather than assuming to much of the PCs - still, players who prefer a more sandbox style might notice they're being herded. Speaking of which, I particularly like the chase sequence, which should be great fun if the players go along with it.

A strong point with the scenario, however, is the amount of background detail on the setting. Much of this has nothing to do with the plot, and so can be safely discarded if you need to set the scenario in a detailed pre-existing city in another campaign world. (For example, the city doesn't even have to be on a river for the scenario to work). Having said that, it's well done, and much of it can be put anywhere, giving a feel to the setting that not only brings it to life, but provides the PCs with plenty to do outside of the core plot. In particular, there a good number of well-described NPCs in the appendix, some of whom have no direct involvement in the plot at all (they may, of course, have had a bigger role in later scenarios in the series) but do give plenty of opportunity for interaction.

The artwork is good quality line art, some if it excellent. The maps, on the other hand, are just geomorphs, although they're as good as one could reasonably expect a geomorph to be. The scenario was intended as an introduction to a longer series, but is also designed to work well as a stand-alone, and is a good and well-written example of its kind.

[Note: The later parts of the series were not, so far as I can tell, ever published.]



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble in the River City
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The Green Dragon
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 11:28:57

"The Green Dragon" describes that staple of fantasy gaming, a good quality inn with a mixed clientele. The inn is moderately sized, although not exactly large, and has a number of amenities in addition to the large tavern room. If you're looking for an inn to add to a city, or possibly even a more out-of-the-way location, this is a supplement, as with everything I've seen so far in the "City Streets" series, that's well worth the price.

The maps are hand-drawn, and not quite up the standard of those in the previous two entries in the series, but they're perfectly good for their intended purpose, showing all the key locations and giving a clear idea of scale. For some reason, each floor plan is repeated twice in the book, but even ignoring the duplicated bits, you have nine pages of content here, which is slightly more than in the earlier entries in the series.

Unlike those previous two, the plot hooks here aren't in the inn itself, or its history, but in the mixed bag of characters who call it home. They are well described, although statless, as this series is system neutral. For most, writing up stats shouldn't be hard in any system, but it's their backgrounds and personalities that make the place interesting. And, of course, that provide for the potential plots. Some are implicit simply in who they are, but a selection of plot ideas is provided for those who want something more explicit.

More than just a regular inn, this one provides plenty of opportunity for your PCs to get involved in the lives of its inhabitants, and get a short adventure or two out of it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Green Dragon
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The White Tankard
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 10:51:58

The fifth in the line of "City Streets" supplements, this follows the same format as its predecessors, including the duplication of the first four pages, explaining the method used to describe characters and locations. This is over a third of the content, and rather unnecessary, bearing in mind that you can get it free with "Gior's Glassworks". Failing that, it could at least be at the rear of the book as an appendix rather than appearing before the main content.

The remaining six pages make up for that, although not quite as well as in the second and third volumes. The sketch map floor-plans are good for their purpose, although, for some reason, they all appear twice. The location itself is a slum tavern used by the Thieves' Guild to make deals and by the scum of the city because there isn't anywhere cheaper. It's well described, coming across as a truly horrible place. Indeed, the fact that the depravity here sinks to child prostitution might be a little much for some groups.

Having said that, while it's a great as a ghastly hangout that even rogues would want to avoid if they had any alternative (which they may not, it being a Guild meeting place), it lacks the spark of originality in "The Lord's Kennels" and "The Black Ape". It's a good location, and a useful addition to any city that has a suitably large slum area and active criminal gangs, and it does include some good plot hooks, but this series has done even better.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The White Tankard
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The Lord's Kennel
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 10:21:19

The first booklet in the "City Streets" line after the free taster "Gior's Glassworks", this manages to improve on that initial effort. There are seven pages of content here, plus four pages explaining the generic system used to describe characters and locations in the series. These four pages are duplicates of those in "Gior's Glassworks", and, again, most of the information in them isn't really used elsewhere in the book (and is, by and large, fairly obvious anyway).

That aside, the rest of the booklet is of high quality. The artwork is greatly improved over that in the free taster, and the floor-plan of the building is also well drawn. The location itself is simply a dog's kennel used by the local nobility, and from which it is possible for PCs to buy dogs of their own. That might not seem very interesting, but it's woven in with a plot about the building's former purpose as a gaol that provides immediate fodder for a short scenario or two. Whereas "Gior's Glassworks" was a well described location that happened to have some plot hooks bolted onto it, here, the potential scenario is worked directly into the concept. And it is quite a good one, although it might need some tweaking depending on the nature and history of the city you wish to place it in.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lord's Kennel
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The Black Ape
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 09:51:39

This follows the standard format of the "City Streets" line, with four pages describing the generic system used to describe characters and locations in the remaining five. The layout is nice and clear, and the artwork is top quality. The floor plan of the location is also very nicely done, a good piece of hand-drawn mapping.

The building in this case is an inn on the docks, frequented by pirates and rowdy sailors. It is raised above the merely average by two key elements. Firstly, the Polynesian theme of the tavern is likely to be memorable in itself, and is described atmospherically. This alone makes it more than just another dockside tavern. And then there's the plot background, explaining how the inn came to be, which provides plenty of opportunity for a short scenario or two - a couple of specific story hooks are provided, if needed.

On the whole, an excellent booklet that describes a rare thing in urban supplements - a unique and memorable inn. It should slot neatly into any seaside fantasy city.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Black Ape
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Gior's Glassworks
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 09:15:26

This describes a typical glass-worker's business suitable for any fantasy city, and the people who work there. There are only 5 pages of actual content, with a further 4 pages explaining the generic terms used in the "City Streets" series (most of which is either fairly obvious, or not actually relevant to this product). The artwork is generally poor, but otherwise the editing and layout are competent, and the hand-drawn sketch map of the building shows all the salient points.

The actual description of the place and its inhabitants is the point of the booklet, though, and this is well done. The NPCs are well-rounded and believable, and should slot effectively into any fantasy urban setting. Three plot suggestions are provided at the end for using the location in-game, although the main purpose of the booklet is probably providing local background and rounding out a city setting.

On the whole, a good systemless product and worth picking up.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gior's Glassworks
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Domains of Adventure: The Museum of Infamous Heroism
Publisher: Highmoon Press
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 07:53:31

This 7-page booklet (plus cover and licence) is fair value for the $1 price tag. It describes a museum that could be located in any fantasy city, with the main focus being on the stories behind some of its exhibits. These are frequently generic, although those in the "local exhibits" section may need tweaking if the campaign setting differs from that assumed here. The floor-plan at the end is simply but nicely done, apart from the lack of furniture and windows, although, to be fair, it doesn't add much to the product, either.

The booklet is essentially a springing-off point to provide some ideas. Some specific plot hooks are suggested on the final page, although one could come up with more from the exhibits themselves. If what you're looking for is some ideas to incorporate into an urban setting, and maybe spark some vignettes, this isn't a bad place to look.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Domains of Adventure: The Museum of Infamous Heroism
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Medieval Landscapes: Peasant House
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 07:15:28

This is an excellent introduction to the everyday life of a peasant in a more-or-less European feudal society. It is 16 pages long (plus cover and contents page), and entirely rules free. Half of those pages are taken up with high quality computer-designed images of a peasant village and the interior of a typical home - these are provided both with, and without, a key pointing out specific features.

The remainder of the book describes the life of a peasant, providing a basic background to the bottom rung of the feudal system in Europe. It describes how the system works from a legal and practical viewpoint, as well as such matters as food, clothing, housing, tools, and the agricultural calendar. There are also suggestions or how some of the main character classes relate to the peasantry, and halfling, dwarven, and elvish attitudes towards the feudal system. Naturally, the latter may vary somewhat depending on particular campaigns, but its a decent starting point. There is also a list of fifteen possible plot hooks for use in game.

The layout is good, if colour-heavy. There are a few minor glitches in the proof-reading here and there, but nothing to cause any sort of problem. It is, of course, specific to a campaign based on medieval European society and climate, but that's not much of a limitation in most games.

I'd highly recommend this as a good, clear an simple, view of peasant society for anyone wanting to add more flavour or short encounters for PCs wandering through agricultural countryside.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Medieval Landscapes: Peasant House
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Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
Publisher: Dream Machine Productions
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 06:25:32

Although described as a "mini-adventure" this is really a sandbox setting - albeit one based around a series of events rather than a specific locality. It's also worth noting that that, of the 65 pages, only 45 are actual content (indeed, many of the other 20 are entirely blank), and 4 of those are duplicate copies of player handouts in slightly different formats. The font size is quite large too, so, again, the book isn't as large as it appears at first glance. Still, for $5, the length is quite reasonable.

The book concerns the effects of a terrible plague on a fantasy city. The plague, of course, has to be immune to Cure Disease, and similar spells, or it frankly wouldn't be much of a threat. Which means that you would have to able to accept that such things are possible within your game world. The source of the plague is never explained, although there are some suggestions as to what it might be; however, the intent is clearly to bring some of the horror of real-world medieval plagues (the black death, the sweating sickness, and so on) to a game. In other words, its supposed to be about how the PCs react to something beyond their power to prevent, only to mitigate. This might not work well for all groups.

The content covers the course of the plague, including a whole series of events that occur throughout the city as it progresses. These include rioting, fires, unpopular civil ordinances, and, of course, the fact that the city is quarantined from the outside world. Although PCs might be helping to enforce, or possibly break, the quarantine, the main piece of "traditional" D&D action is the potential fight with some necromancers who briefly try to take advantage of the plague to unleash a horde of zombies from the mass graves. Like the other scenes in the book, though, this will need fleshing out by the GM, although stats are provided.

The book has new rules as well. Obviously, there's the plague itself, but there are also rules for mob action, rioting and urban conflagrations, as well as four new spells and a template for applying to undead. A major issue here may well be the plague rules; since it obviously can't be fought with magic, and has to be deadly to be scary, there's no obvious reason that the PCs won't catch it, with potentially disastrous consequences.

I like this book because it's original and different. It tries to bring something that medieval people were genuinely, and rightly, scared of, and tries to bring that same sense into a d20 fantasy setting. It sweeps the characters up in a horrific situation, giving them the opportunity to focus on the small aspects of life, presenting them with individual challenges framed against a larger, and more implacable, backdrop.

But it won't be to everyone's taste, and a GM may need to approach with caution.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
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Corwyl: Village of the Wood Elves
Publisher: Green Ronin
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/30/2012 07:55:14

This book describes a single wood elven village, with a population of just over 400. But it's actually rather more than that, supplementing Green Ronin's "Advanced Race Codex" (or the earlier "Bow & Blade") with a detailed description and evocation of wood elf society.

Considering that it is only a village, the 95 pages of the book provide as much information as some smaller city supplements. There are only a couple of maps, and one floor-plan, but, given the nature of the village, no more than that is needed - most of the 'buildings' would be trees with two or three hollow chambers inside. Where it shines is the descriptions of the characters, which not only bring the setting to life but provide the basis for numerous plot hooks and potential stories.

The central theme is that the village once suffered a devastating attack from the drow, and that, while the physical scars have all healed, the emotional ones have yet to do so. But, on top of that, the interactions between the various NPCs should provide plenty of inspiration, and a number of plot hooks are explicitly spelled out. There are about 50 NPCs written up here, all with detailed backgrounds and plausible and varying motivations, and I'd say there's enough here to form the basis of at least a short campaign. There's also a handy index at the back to keep track of all the characters, and how they relate to one another.

If there is a problem, it's perhaps that D20 (at least in its D&D form) may not actually be the best system to bring this out - if you're primarily interested in fighting monsters in subterranean labyrinths, a woodland village full of (mostly) CG elves may not be the most useful thing for you. That isn't to say that there aren't plenty of opportunities for wilderness adventuring, or for fighting against the drow or the local orcs, because there are - none of that sort of thing has been left out. But a system with a stronger emphasis on social skills might actually bring out more than the book-as-written. Fortunately, the NPCs are so well described that translating to another system shouldn't be hard, should you wish to do so.

There are, in addition, two new core classes, two new prestige classes, and a number of new skills, feats, spells, and domains, all of which fit in with the elven theme. A lot of this is interesting and original stuff, tying the society together with its theme of spirit guardians and magic gained from ancestor worship.

Overall, this is very well done, and one of the best supplements of its kind that I've seen.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Corwyl: Village of the Wood Elves
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City Supplement 1: Dweredell
Publisher: Dream Machine Productions
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/30/2012 03:52:38

This is a simple city supplement, one that provides only a broad overview of the location. It is, in other words, a city to briefly visit, but not one to serve as the basis of even a short a campaign. The central theme is that is a decaying and dying city, one that used to rely on a trade route that no longer exists.

The booklet is 10 pages long, and includes 4 NPC descriptions, 14 locations and the stats for a magical drug, all for D20. The map of the city looks quite nice, but the detail is vague. That goes for the locations, too, which have only a few short paragraphs of text at most. One location has floor-plans, but these are unlabelled, and there is no room-by-room description of it. Considering the short length of the booklet, there is a reasonable description of the city politics. It rounds out with a few suggestions for plot hooks and some suggestions for placing it in a GM's own campaign world.

This is not a detailed city book, more a collection of ideas and some hints for directions you could take stories in. The concept for the city is a good one, and one not often seen - most cities with any detail in fantasy supplements tend to be bustling places, and this one is dying on its feet.

Taking it on this basis - as a single location that you might stop off at on the way to somewhere else - it's actually quite well thought out. The $2 price tag fits that, and earns it a 4-star rating.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 1: Dweredell
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City of Archendurn
Publisher: Iron Crown Enterprises
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/30/2012 03:14:28

A reasonable description of a fantasy city with a Celtic flavour. It is clearly intended to be adaptable to a range of campaigns and rule systems, and so leaves some details vague (for example, there's only brief information on the city's spell-casters). Stats are provided for both Rolemaster and d20.

On the down-side, the production is basic. The maps are simple, but functional, and the layout is minimal. The only piece of art in the book (unless you count the cover) is so poor that it's hard to imagine why it was included - fortunately, there is only the one of it.

The positive is that the book is fairly thorough. It is 54 pages long, and includes descriptions of culture and society, as well as a number of locations. Floor-plans focus mainly on inns, and there are a number of plot suggestions, and many bits of useful detail. The feel is intended to be Celtic and low-magic - the latter in particular, may require some adaptation to be useful in a typical d20 campaign.

Overall, it's a reasonable product, but nothing outstanding. It does the job adequately, but no more than that. It may be particularly useful if you're looking for something with Rolemaster stats, since there isn't too much of that about.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
City of Archendurn
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