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City Supplement 1: Dweredell
by Mark S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/26/2013 02:37:08
Dweredell is inexpensive and it is a fair value for the money.

I rate it at two stars because it has some good flavor text and does not cost much.

The city map is OK, but there is a major flaw that limits its usefulness: Encounter areas are marked on the maps with numbers.

This city map is the most important part of the publication. The numbers on the map render it useless as a game aid. This is a huge and glaring problem.

The publishers should revise this publication so it has two maps. One map should show encounter areas and/or areas of interest. The other map should show the city without notations.

An unmarked map is so elementary, so standard, so essential, so necessary, so obvious that one wonders why it did not occur to the authors.

Please fix it!

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 1: Dweredell
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City Supplement 3: Anyoc
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2013 06:10:26
A description of a moderately large city, this supplement has 19 pages of text, and a further 10 pages of maps, plus the floorplan of a guardhouse. Six of the maps are of the city as a whole - with numbered labels, text labels, and no labels, each in colour and black-and-white. The remaining four are expanded versions of the main maps, each showing a quarter of the city, in larger size for printing, but without extra detail.

The city itself seems suited to a high fantasy world, due primarily to the vast scale of the architecture. The governor's palace, for instance, is ten stories high, and the city walls tower 300' (higher than the spires of many medieval cathedrals, in the real world). All of which is perfectly reasonable for a high fantasy setting - and the walls, in particular, are implied to partly magical in construction - but not, perhaps, for more low fantasy campaigns.

Having said that, a few tweaks to the descriptions is all you'd really need to change it. Beyond the architecture (which is atmospherically described) the basic concept of the city is that is largely ruled by three noble families that don't entirely get on, and that it is built on the ruins of a much older city, dedicated to the forces of evil before its eventual destruction. Unfortunately, not a lot is made of the latter point, it's more of a plot hook than something that is really explored in the supplement.

There are full page stat blocks of the heads of the three noble houses, the governor, the commander of the city guard, and the high priest of the main temple. All, except maybe the priest, seem surprisingly low level for the size of the city. (The population isn't given, but we know the guard force is 250-strong, so it's surprising that the guy in charge of it is only 4th level). But they are at least well thought out and distinctive.

A number of locations, including all the shops along one street, are given brief descriptions, which can add flavour to the setting. There are also discussions on some unusual local flora, a mildly narcotic drink (no worse than alcohol, really), and some unique architectural materials, as well as things like the sewers and the water supply. Again, some of this implies a high fantasy setting, but nothing too far out of the ordinary.

There is also a page of scenario ideas, some of which would work in any city, and some of which are more specifically tailored to this one.

All in all, not bad if you're looking for a fair sized, but not huge, city to put down in a fantasy campaign. The setting it is part of seems fairly generic, so there should be little difficulty in applying to most campaigns. The maps are reasonable, and the layout and proof-reading are both good. It doesn't, perhaps, have a true 'wow' factor, but it's quite good of its type.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 3: Anyoc
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Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
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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City Supplement 1: Dweredell
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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Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies
by Jonathan N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/03/2012 01:00:17
Coming from one of my favorite game theory and commentary websites The Alexandrian, I decided to give this adventure a go despite no longer having anything to do with the D20/3rd edition ruleset. I converted the numbers as best I could to 4th edition D&D and plunked it down in the middle of a sandbox campaign. When the heroes found it the place inspired horror, most especially with the very detailed table of chaotic magic changes that might occur while casting a spell or from prolonged exposure to a pool of elemental chaos. The rest of the complex was interesting in its own right as well, and since it's on sale right now for a measly two bucks I definitely recommend it, even if you have to do a bit of legwork converting to your system of choice, if for no other reason than for the clear and well made dungeon history (open enough to plant nearly anywhere, but logical and detailed enough that you know why things are in the state they are) and table of random effects for overexposure to chaotic magic.

There were a couple problems with clarity (it was confusing whether room 1 is where the adventurers were expected to begin or end up later due to some conflicting information), and trying to remember the big ol' chart for use when your players inevitably poke the pool of chaos (or spend too long dungeon delving - I found that OSRIC's exploration timing rules helped keep track of game time here) is darn near impossible without flipping around between the pages a few times, but on the whole this adventure had some cool elements to it as well as helpful advice in running things. Alas my players have long since learned to leave spiked doors shut, but perhaps one day they will return to finish what they started...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies
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City Supplement 2: Aerie
by Kenneth A. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2009 03:11:44
A great little city for use with any system. It has everything that a city of this size needs, and a few cool maps. Only problem I may with this are the names, which seem a little too generic (and cliche) for my liking.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 2: Aerie
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City Supplement 3: Anyoc
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2008 09:52:16
This product presents an exotic and colourful fantasy city which manages both to have a lot going on within and yet be self-contained enough to be dropped into an existing campaign world. Its history is rich and strange, as the multicoloured stones of which it is built are unique in the way they were mined and treated by unknown ancients, successive peoples have inhabited and used what these ancients left behind.

Opening with evocative descriptions that could be used as 'read aloud' text as the characters arrive for the first time, there is a brief introduction to the history and architecture of the city before a discussion of its current governance (neatly tied in to the historical record). Next some leading figures in town are described, beginning with the Governor himself, and including leading nobles, clerics and the guard commander.

This is followed by a more detailed gazetteer. Here you can find out about different parts of the city including plenty of tradesmen and others that your characters might wish to visit. Many of the locations described already spawn ideas for possible adventure, while numerous sidebars describe things - such as a special ruby crystal material (a bit like amber) and goodberries - common here but perhaps not encountered elsewhere. But if the descriptions don't give you ideas, there are quite a few specific adventure seeds provided for you to embroil characters in, most not requiring them to know much about the city or its inhabitants before they start. The work ends with a selection of maps of the city, in colour and in black and white, labelled and unlabelled to suit your needs, including one over 4 pages which can be stuck together to make a poster.

As presented, there's enough to drop the city into your campaign world and let characters pay a visit or two; while there is plenty of potential and scope for you to expand on the detail should they - or you - decide to make it a more focal point of your adventures.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 3: Anyoc
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Spells of Light and Darkness: The Art of the Flame and Void
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2008 11:54:39
The opening discussion talks about how most spellcasters, arcane and divine alike, are liable to have at least dabbled with magic involving either light or darkness, or indeed both; but that for those prepared to delve deeper great power is to be found. Most spells with either the light or the dark descriptor are to be found in the Evocation school of magic, and can negate or dispel those with the other descriptor.

There then follows a collection of spells around the themes of manipulating light and darkness, drawn from a variety of sources with some being original and other having been modified from the original source (or in the case of those from the core rulebooks, the errata have been applied).

Overall, it's an interesting thematic collection, and could be of use to either someone playing a spellcaster who'd like to specialise in this area or the DM preparing spellbooks for his NPCs (or to be found as look); a timesaver if you don't want to delve through all your spell collections. But it lacks much in the way of commentary to link the spells within the light/dark theme or show the particular ways in which a specialist in light (or darkness) might use them to greater effect than a mere dabbler. A good start, though, but it could do with more work to become the sort of scholarly study mages really want!

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spells of Light and Darkness: The Art of the Flame and Void
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Mythos Audio Library 1: Call of Cthulhu
by Chris H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2008 01:26:00
I wanted to love this product. After all, the source material is top-notch weird fiction, and I very much enjoy H.P. Lovecraft's stories (although he does overuse the word "Cyclopean" in "The Call of Cthulhu). It's very nice to have an unabridged reading of "The Call of Cthulhu" to listen to while doing yard work, exercising, or commuting. Thus I eagerly bought this product as soon as I learned of its availability here.

However, I have to register some disappointment in the narration. The product description touted the reader's "rich voice" and "deft characterizations," but I confess that I wouldn't be able to second those descriptions. The only "characterization" that I noticed was in the reading of the newspaper article from the Sydney Bulletin in Part III of the story--where the reader read the Bulletin article a little louder and a little faster, but not in a different tone or accent, than the mainstream narration.

But my biggest complaint is that the reader mispronounced several words, and pronounced others inconsistently. The reader consistently mispronounced "bas-relief" (a word that recurs frequently in "The Call of Cthulhu"), making the "bas" part sound like /bass/ (like the fish) instead of /bah/; the reader also insisted on improperly pronouncing the "s" in "Fleur-de-Lys" ("Lys" should sound like /lee/, not /lease/). "The Call of Cthulhu" features a schooner called "Emma"; the reader consistently pronounced "schooner" as /shooner/ rather than the proper pronunciation, like /skooner/. And the reader could not seem to decide how to pronounce "Cthulhu," sometimes making it sound like /kuh-TOOL-hoo/ and sometimes like /KOO-too-loo/. An audiobook narration should have impeccable pronunciation. This one doesn't, and the mispronunciations really distracted me from the story itself.

So there are two levels at which to judge this product: the story by Lovecraft, and the audio execution by Dream Machine. My star rating focuses on the latter: this particular audio production is, in my opinion, subpar and definitely not up to the level of Lovecraft's prose.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Mythos Audio Library 1: Call of Cthulhu
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Publisher Reply:
The only time I respond to a review is when it contains factual inaccuracies, and that's the case here: Every single one of your pronunciation complaints is, ironically, wrong. Both "bah-relief" and "bas-relief" are correct pronunciations of the word. Similarly, both "lee" and "leese" are correct English pronunciations of Fleur-de-Lys. In both cases, the pronunciation used in the audio book is the more common pronunciation (although this may have regional variation). In the case of the pronunciation of "Cthulhu", I believe you'll discover that the syllabic emphasis varies by who's saying it. This was a deliberate choice, reflecting the unusual pronunciation of a word not designed for human lips. I'm sorry you disagree with that artistic choice.
Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2007 14:37:17
A whole year of French culture and I still do not have an appreciation for abstract art. Of course I spent eight years in French classes and can barely order a steak at a Canadian restaurant. When it comes to abstract adventures, I obviously still have not acquired that appreciation.

Mini Adventure 2: Black Mist, by Dream Machine Productions, is an abstract adventure in the since that it does not follow a particular story or plot. Instead, it is a series of events that take place in the days following the outbreak of a deadly Plague. The plague is detailed as it ravages a town over a span of 30 days. Quite a bit of importance is put into what happens each of the 10 days, which was very enjoyable.

The concept behind a template type adventure is not new. A lot of DMs use adventures simply as templates. When I use an adventure in my actual campaign, I tend to strip away the plot anyway and replace it with my own, but having it prestripped gives me a rather vague feeling as I read through Black Mist. I think all the material is there for a solid adventure, but its scattered about, despite the excellent job of bookmarking, the placement of rules and events left me flipping around a lot. The layout itself could use some work as there is entirely too much whitespace and blank pages throughout the book. The book does a good job of detailing the days events, but there are other places in the book where they discuss a suggested rule or a suggested encounter that fits into an earlier event. For instance, there is a fire that happens between days 9 and 10, but the rules on fire are tucked away towards the end of the book. This makes for a ton of places that feel disjointed.

Its ashamed too because the material is very creative and provides a good sense of a dreadful plague. Though it would have been helpful to DMs if a model city was provided, the writers do a decent job of describing what the city needs to include.

For the Dungeon Master
The additional rules in the back give some solid instruction on how to use mobs, riots and fires in the game. I also liked the timeline of the events that was included.

The Iron Word
Mini Adventure 2: Black Mist has a lot of good ideas that make it up, its just a shame that the layout was not up to par. The lack of direction and a stable understanding of what should happening can be frustrating some, but for the DIY DM whom does not mind a tab bit of work, the style of this Mini Adventure can be quite helpful. Just remember that you are only getting three quarters of an adventure.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
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Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/08/2007 11:42:34
Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist is a 65 page d20 adventure for four characters of levels 5 to 7. This is the second adventure in Dream Machine Productions' Mini-Adventure line, the first adventure being The Complex of Zombies. In this adventure the PCs are challenged by a city wracked by a deadly plague, and must attempt to deal with the city's terror, or flee the quarantine imposed by the city officials. The adventure is suitable for easy insertion into any campaign world, and in particular any large city in that campaign world. This adventure is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.

The product comes as a single pdf file. There are no bookmarks, but there is an extensive table of contents (which unfortunately refers to actual page number rather than pdf page number, and in this instance they're about 6 pages different). The product is decently formatted and presented, barring the odd blank page and the occasional white space, with some good art from a variety of different sources, and good use of boxed text, useful playtest tips, good handouts and well-identified subsections. Writing and editing is good as well, with some solid mechanics for the new material and the various statistics provided. Overall, a nice looking product, although probably something that could've been condensed into less pages with better formatting and layout.

This adventure is an event-based and location-based adventure taking place in a large city. Given the nature of the adventure, it's probably best to set this adventure in a city that can support the adventure, in particular the nature of the city defences (number and level of NPCs), and the large number of people needed for riots and mobs. The adventure background is fairly simple - a city is affected by plague, a deadly one, and the PCs are drawn in, willingly or unwillingly, to deal with it and the effect that the plague has on the city.

As such there is no specific format to this adventure, being loosely presented, with major and minor events highlighted within a specific timeframe, and additional random encounters and ideas given. The city itself is not detailed at all, and, given the intricacy of the adventure, one must probably have a decent city map with well detailed information and locations to make this adventure work well. This includes, of course, city personalities, shops and other locations. To run this adventure smoothly, would probably require a fair amount of work, but work that will most likely be worth it.

The adventure is all about a deadly plague affecting a large city. The PCs have the choice of either helping to combat the plague or attempt to hole out and possibly flee the city. The latter will be quite difficult given the city's defences, and most PCs will be inclined to do the former, but both options are dealt with effectively. Threats that the PCs will face include dealing with mobs, catching fleeing city folk to avoid spreading the disease, fires, necromancers raising the dead in the city, and of course the deadly plague itself.

The plague is something quite akin to the Black Death, and I often wondered if it wasn't too deadly given the timeframe of the adventure. While the plague is staged, a few poor saving throw rolls can easily spell out the death for a particular PC. The restrictions on magical aid against the plague make it particularly difficult for PCs to deal with it and the effects of the plague, such as ability score loss. A few failed saving throws can really hurt. Over large timescales, the plague can almost not be avoided, and PCs will have to hope they survive and can help the city in their weakened state.

The adventure provides plenty of new material to add some spice to the game and make things run smoothly. These include the rules for the plague, new templates for diseased undead, various new necromantic magical items, new spells, rules for running mobs and large crowds, and rules for handling large fires in a city. As such there's plenty of new material to digest, and plenty of new things that will challenge the PCs as they try to survive the plague and defend or flee the city, both tasks that will require the utmost care and a little luck to avoid the worst of the plague.

Overall, though, I find this a refreshing change from most adventure that you find on the market these days. While it is by no means problem free or won't require some work and possibly some tweaking, it's a challenging and different adventure that will both terrify and challenge the PCs. Having to deal with mobs, armies of undead, fires and a deadly plague make for a chaotic scenario that can be quite breathless, for both players and DMs (who need to keep track of everything in the adventure). The lack of a city plan and details means DMs will need to come well prepared to throw the players and the plague into the city, and to make the adventure come to life with real people and lasting consequences. I was pleased with the adventure, and would certainly recommend running it if you're after something different.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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