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Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/25/2015 10:23:55

If you like adventures grim and gritty, enjoy the odd heist, and are not too particular as to which side of the law your characters might be on, this collection of adventures set in the Free City of Zobeck may be just up your street. Set in the underbelly of the city, the characters will need to be cunning, tricky, ruthless and smart to survive... but if they do, who knows, they may end up rich!


This is more than a collection of adventures, however. It starts with some beautifully-detailed and colourful characters and fascinating locations for use both in these adventures and ones of your own. Each NPC comes with notes on their motivations and goals, their long-term activities, and on 'schemes and plots' - ideas for how they might be incorporated into or even spawn an adventure here and now. The location entries also have adventure ideas as well as floorplans and notes on the folk that you might find hanging around. Standout here is the Silk Scabbard, a fight club/brothel... the entry even has suggestions for the party taking over and running it. There's also a collection of feats, traits, spells and gear that might come in handy for adventurers in Zobeck or indeed those who enjoy city adventuring in general.


Then we get to the adventures themselves, a full seven of them, catering to characters of levels 1 to 10. Run them as a loose sequence, pick an appropriate one when the party comes to town, mix in your own adventures in Zobeck or the surrounding area, the choice is yours. The characters will be caught up in the dark underbelly of Zobeck from the outset, with memorable encounters with people who may prove a help or a hindrance in the future (assuming they survive the encounter, that is). It's a fascinating exercise in how to embed adventures in the very fabric of the setting, creating an harmonious whole that gives the impression of a city buzzing with life never mind what the party gets up to, yet enabling them to become movers and shakers in their own right if that's what they desire.


Each adventure stands on its own as an exciting series of events, taking the party around the city as they seek to complete a mission or find something out. The first is 'Everyone Lies' by Ben McFarland, which sets the characters to look for a local thief's missing girlfriend. Naturally all is not as it seems and a massive web of deceit underlies this seemingly simple task... oh, and they are not the only people looking for the young lady in question... and this is the adventure for 1st-3rd level characters!


Next is 'Rust' by Richard Pett. This 4th-5th level adventure sees the party asked to deal with a plague of demented animated metallic creatures that prowl by night. Who made them, where, and why? Finding the answers may give clues as to why competing merchants are taking an interest. This is followed by an adventure from Christina Stiles called 'The Fish and the Rose', billed as suitable for 5th-level characters. The title is the name of a painting, coveted by many but one thinks she knows where it is - and is willing to hire the party to acquire it on her behalf... an ideal adventure for those who dream of pulling off an epic heist. Then comes 'The First Lab', written by Mike Franke, which is for 7th-level adventurers and delves into the very origins of the gearforged as they are hired to retrieve a diary stolen from a senior professor at the Arcane Collegium.


Matthew Stinson is author of the next adventure called 'Rebuilding a Good Man' and appropriate for 9th-level characters. Someone has acquired (read: stolen) a gearforged body for rather dubious purposes, but perhaps if it was stolen back it could be put to better use... there's an exercise in morality as well as one for the swordarm here. Next, Mike Franke is back with 'Ripper' for a 10th-level party who rapidly get embroiled in the search for a serial killer whether they are interested or not. Finally, there's 'Flesh Fails' from Christina Stiles. Also for 10th-level characters, well it's billed as 9th-11th actually, it involves dark goings-on at the Arcane Collegium and murky dealings amongst the political elite of the city. Successful characters could even use this adventure, if concluded successfully, as a stepping-stone to political power for themselves.


If the Free City of Zobeck features in your game, this book is well worth a look... and if you don't, reading it will make you want to run a campaign set in and around Zobeck forthwith.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
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Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
by Txabier A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2015 23:02:07

A great product, full of many interesting ideas and specialized knowledge offered by many of the industry's top talents, whose proven track record alone makes it a worthwhile read.


Everything that will help any aspiring professionals to better present their ideas is there. Whether it is pitching them, building more coherent and cohesive systems or come up with a print-worthy and publication ready products all on their own, should they decide to do so, you will most certainly find it here.


Do mind, though: this goes beyond "simple" adventure design in a snap. While you most certainly can use it as a great source for (greatly) improving your regular gaming, all of the information contained herein is aimed at helping you plan, produce and streamline your material, from vague idea all the way up to finished product.


I, for one, am using many of its finer points as "pointers" that help me focus my novel-writing, and most of its "hardcore" design rotes as unavoidable landmarks in the thorough and all-encompassing revision of a major game line I am working on at the moment....


So yes, you can say I find this 252 ebook, and absolute must in any designer/writer's library, and one that is well worth the admission price even if you don't find it at a sale price (which I lucky enough to do).


To put it simply and in as few words as possible: if you want to have an audience that is constantly pleased with your offerings, you should get this book and learn it by heart.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
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Southlands Bestiary
by Billy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2015 09:47:24

We did a fill review on www.playersguidepodcast.com/reviews To summarize, the book is fantastic and we highly recommend it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2015 07:32:02

Pirates have always had a fascination for role-players, so it's pretty much inevitable that some were going to turn up... The Introduction, however, takes a historical tack, starting with Viking raiders and going on to consider Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean as well as the Caribbean ones most often thought of when considering pirates for a fantasy role-playing game. It also introduces the historical concept of the privateer, a pirate licensed by his own government to wage proxy war on the ships of opposing nations. This provides a wide canvas, a range of suggestions beyond the norm on which to introduce pirates into your game.


We start in Chapter 1: Lords of the Seas with copious details (including full stat blocks) of five notorious pirates encountered in the Western Ocean of the Midgard Campaign Setting. (If your game is set elsewhere, just tweak names and details to fit your needs.) This is followed by Chapter 2: Faces of the Western Ocean, which presents other NPCs who ply the sea lanes of the Western Ocean whom you can use as enemies or allies, chance encounters or just a passing rumour heard in a tavern. Ideas for how to incorporate them into your plots are included as well as standard details of stat block, background, combat information and portraits. One stand-out is Czakthorash, a green dragon who was the runt of his litter and devised a cunning plan: outclassed by his siblings in regular dragon methods of amassing a hoard, he's established himself as a 'cargo-cult' deity providing trinkets to primitive islanders in return for adulation... and plenty gems and gold as well!


Next up is Palau Kelaparan, Home of Mechuiti and the Behtu. This presents an entire island located in a remote corner of the Western Ocean (or someplace suitable in your campaign world), the residence of Mechuiti (who is a demon) and his cohorts as well as the natives: the pygmy Behtu, who have some unpleasant habits. Explore the place if you dare, defeat the inhabitants if you can... This section includes some ideas for ways of getting your party to go there in the first place. Then comes Umbrasca, another island with a long and dark history. Again the geography is outlined, with locations to explore, and notable inhabitants to meet, along with plot suggestions for how to incorporate it into your game.


If neither of these appeal, the next section presents several Lesser Ports of Call which a ship-borne party may care to visit during their travels... and if they are getting too complacent, call upon the inhabitants of the following section Pirate Bands to provide some opposition. These are provided in outline only, you'll have to put in some work before they are ready for a brawl on the high seas.


We then move on to a Bestiary of the Waves, containing cannibal pygmies and rum gremlins, and notes on rules pertaining to being adrift at sea deigned to enable you to generate an encounter with someone cast adrift at short notice. Next is a section on Ships and Cargo, which provides loads of detail such as ship templates to aid in devising the ships your party sails in or encounters... but despite the heading, nothing much about cargo.


This is followed by Mariner Magic and Culture. Here we find some new spells with a nautical flavour... and others, including some rather cunning temporal ones. There are also some magic items and mariner traits, for characters who spend plenty of time afloat.


Finally, there are some Secrets of the Western Ocean... dark secrets for the GM to know and craft plots around ready to ensnare unwary parties and give them the thrill of discovery as they unravel the mysteries. These are based around aboleths and sea titans, who both once held sway in the depths but whose influence has waned, although it has not faded away completely. At the end there's a map of the Western Ocean, a rather disappointing one as it doesn't show any of the places mentioned in the text!


There's plenty to spark the imagination if you want to bring pirates into your game - particularly if they will be attacking your party rather than the characters actually taking to a life of swashing their buckles pirate-style themselves. It could have done with more maps, the single one provided is virtually useless, but there are some good ideas here, although most will need further work before they are ready to be included in your game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
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Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/20/2015 08:45:06

The Introduction opens with a key question: What is Zobeck? Seems a good place to start, and the text explains how Zobeck is one of the few places in Midgard not to have a feudal overlord since a revolt some 80 years ago kicked out the ruling family... not to mention that it's a trade hub and by all accounts a vibrant and exciting place to live in or visit. If you don't happen to use the Midgard campaign setting, a helpful sidebar explains, it will not take too much adaptation to locate Zobeck in your own game world instead. It's a town with a dark side, a teeming underbelly. It conducts trade primarily by river, and there's a deep, dark forest nearby. Inspiration includes middle Europe, a rich source widely ignored by fantasy game authors.


Chapter 1: A History explains the genesis and growth of this city-state and how its main inhabitants - humans, dwarves, gearforged and kobolds - developed the relationships that they have today. First there were the Fey, who were tricked into a pact that resulted in them becoming the Shadow Fey but gave them so much power that they don't seem to have resisted much. Then kobolds turned up to exploit the wealth they found underground. This annoyed the Shadow Fey who formed an alliance with a human lordling called Stross, who conquered the area and established his own rule... and thus the seeds were laid for what is found today. Interestingly, all the history recounted here is information that any interested character might find out, while it's probably common knowledge to the locals.


Next is Chapter 2: The Free City of Zobeck. This is a survey of the districts that make up the city and the people who live in them. Everyday life, customs, languages, trade... it's all here, vital information for would-be visitors. There are also ideas for adventure scattered throughout, which can be picked up and developed by interested GMs. This chapter ends with notes on the city's neighbours.


Then comes Chapter 3: The Kobold Ghetto which goes into extensive detail about this fascinating district of the city. It may be a tough place to live, but compared to what kobolds have endured in the past it at least provides some security if not much in the way of creature comforts. There's plenty of information and a detailed map to facilitate visits - although non-kobolds do stand out and often get picked upon. Indeed, the ghetto is so alien a place that visitors actually are dazed (as in the condition) for several rounds on entering! There's plenty to see for those willing to brave it, however, and numerous ideas for adventure are provided.


Moving on, Chapter 4: Districts & Locations surveys the most prominent ones, with a 2-page map depicting the entire city and a wealth of notes and details about what is to be found there. There are places to visit, shops to browse in and fascinating individuals to meet... and of course several good taverns to drink (and brawl) in. Scene set, the next chapter - Chapter 5: Gangs, Guilds and Guardians - gets down to explaining the elaborate guild organisations that (at least in their own eyes) control the city as well as the numerous gangs which also lay claim to do so, certainly where the underworld is concerned. You can also find out about the local courtesans, including their habit of getting rival lovers to duel over them. Whilst the city is no longer subject to noble rule, 'society' and courtiers still flourish and those who wish to mix at such rarified levels (or in some way profit from them) will find the details that they need.


This is followed by Chapter 6: Gods, Cults and Relics of Zobeck which sets the religious scene for the city. It's important to know about them even if the party is not particularly religious, as the local deities enjoy meddling and interfering in the lives of mortals. The notes are quite intormative, but those seeking more will find it in the Midgard Campaign Setting. As well as the deities, there are numerous cults and even a group of 'crab diviners' who believe that crabs whisper the truth to them...


Next, Chapter 7: Denizens of Zobeck provides full stat blocks and details of several notable NPCs dwelling in the city, all ready to be woven into your game. Finally, Chapter 8: Magic of Zobeck takes a look at magic as it is practised here. Dominated by the Arcane Collegium, there are some interesting paths of magic and they are explained here: the clockwork school and the Gear domain, along with star and shadow magic which both fall under the school of illumination magic and are held to be unique to the city. For those interested, there are quite a few new spells to study as well as a magic shop to visit and some magical items to keep an eye out for during your stay in the city.


There are a few annoying typos (although you can make out what was intended) and a few references to the Streets of Zobeck supplement: it's probably best to pick up a copy if you want to make best use of this book. Whilst much of the information, especially in the first couple of chapters, covers things that a character might discover through inquiry or research, later material is probably best kept for the GM's eyes only, even where characters born and bred in the city are concerned. Overall, though, it is well-presented and brings a fascinating city to vivid life - the party will remember their visit for a long time to come!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
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Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/18/2015 06:56:43

What part do giants play in your game? If you'd like them to be distinctive personalities rather than 'ordinary' humanoids that just happen to be bigger than anyone else, this might be worth a look.


There's no introduction or preamble, it just dives straight in to the first section. The book is made up of sections about the different types of giant - thursir, hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, and cloud and storm giants - but each section contains a wealth of information that can be used to make them come alive in your game, with details about their history, social organisation and even religious beliefs as well as their relationships with other races and the things they do that are likely to impact on their neighbours. There are hidden gems throughout - for example, thursir like (and excel at) metalwork and feasting, yet they loathe dwarves (who like and excel at metalwork and feasting) with a vengeance. It's not just jealousy either, there's a historical (legendary, really) reason behind the emnity. It's things like that which make them come to life as a people with their own ideas and motivations rather than a mark on a map and a stat block in your notes.


However, it's not all stories and legends, there are solid game mechanics here as well. Racial feats - treating each different giant type as a separate race (which, biologically speaking, they are) - distinctive items of equipment and even magic are provided, along with fully-developed sample NPCs and ideas for adventure using each giant race.


Of course, the different races come over rather stereotyped. Thursir work wonders in the forge, provided they haven't been overindulging themselves with food and drink. Hill giants are stupid and a bit thuggish. Stone giants, on the other hand, are quite gentle and peaceful... and delight in their children, something many giants find quite difficult. Frost giants like hunting intelligent prey and will travel great distances to find someone worth hunting. Everyone else is regarded as slave material (or lunch). And so on. Whilst this makes it easy to categorise them, if you want to make them into real societies rather than groups of monsters, remember that the generalisations refer to the race as a whole and individuals may buck the trend... and indeed, there are hints and suggestions as to how not all giants of a given race are exactly the same. To go back to the thursir, while they detest dwarves and stomp on them at any opportunity, some female thursir are so enamoured of the freedoms female dwarves enjoy that they seek out magic to shrink them to dwarf size to mingle with them in secret!


Giants by their very nature do not live within mainstream humanoid civilisation, but they do interact with it. Using this book, you will be able to make giant communities come to life, whether your plot calls for the party to visit or encounter them, or for giants for some reason (probably warlike) to come a-visiting. Make them into something far more than large-scale humanoids to fight, giants can be people too! However, this is very much a book for giants as monsters/NPCs, albeit well-developed ones, if youm want to actually play a giant you will need more than is here although it may provide useful background.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2015 07:44:35

Drawing on their new Southlands Campaign Setting, Kobold Press has launched its Dungeons & Dragons 5e line with a collection of races and backgrounds appropriate for characters who come from the Southlands or similar environments in your own campaign world. In particular, it capitalises on the mechanical differences between player-characters and their antagonists within this system to distil out the essence of particular races, classes and backgrounds to provide fascinating and challenging options for characters that capitalise on the features of the main Southlands environment - burning deserts and deep jungles.


Mechanically sound yet replete with role-playing potential, you can consider playing a gnoll or aasimar or perhaps one of the lizardfolk, or maybe a tosculi (insect creature), werelion or minotaur appeals. Each comes with some descriptive text, illustrations and a selection of traits and abilities to make the character that bit different, a true member of the chosen race. There's an interesting note on the creative use of animal companions and familiars, too, taking them deep into role-playing and away from the somewhat mechanical approach of the core rules that concentrates on fighting ability to the exclusion of much that could bring them to life within the party as a whole.


The second part of the book considers backgrounds, the third element of a character along with race and class. Backgrounds enhance role-playing, giving mechanical advantages to your characters' pasts, and also serve to highlight the flavour of your campaign world. Perhaps you travelled the desert extensively, or maybe you are regarded as the offspring of a deity... or served one as a temple slave. Sweeping and dramatic, these and more are presented with a wealth of ideas to inform the way in which that character behaves and approaches life as well as providing material benefits such as skill and tool proficiences, languages and items of equipment gained during the past in question.


Well presented with evocative illustrations and a skilful mix of game mechanic and inspiring narrative, it's easy to imagine playing any of the options in this book - the difficulty is deciding which one to try out first!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Campaign Setting Map
by Jim J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 17:38:31

This is an absolutely stunning map and well-worth the suggest price. I wish they would give the Midgard Campaign Setting the same treatment.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting Map
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 10:49:36

This product was initially flawed and problematic, but has since been revised and updated, removing or correcting most of its glaring flaws, making it much higher quality product. It is much easier to recommend this product now.


The art is good and the production values are excellent. The new races seem balanced and in line with existing 5th Edition content. The gnoll and lizardfolk are easy additions to anyone's campaign.
Even if you don't have use for the werelions, they provide a nice template for how to design lycanthrope PCs, and the related sorcerer bloodline is a lot of fun.
The are also a lot of new backgrounds included. While designed to match the flavour of the Southlands, most are generic enough to easily fit into any campaign setting with moderate effort.


Some of the presentation of the races is more in line with Pathfinder than 5e. Several races swap out racial traits rather than relying on subclasses, which is a little odd. It's not broken but not ideal. And the new class options are tucked away in the races, which makes them a little awkward to find.


Read my lengthier review here: http://www.5mwd.com-
/archives/2904



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Bestiary
by Gregg B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2015 12:14:36

I'd grade this a solid B.


It's chock full of quality creatures -- many of which are variants of existing creatures (e.g., varieties of undead that died in various specific ways). Although there are plenty of quality creatures, there's not a lot here that is truly novel or indispensable -- which is why I wouldn't give it an A.


Based on the volume of entries, I wouldn't have any problem forking out the $ 14.99 that's currently being charged on DriveThruRPG.com.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Johnnie W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2015 07:18:28

Looks good and overall seems ok.


But. This is an 3e OGL product with 5e slapped on it. Essentially a bait-n-switch.


It is well done. But the deception is not appreciated.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/09/2015 10:32:21

Gleanings from the company website, this contains a wealth of snippets to add in to adventures set in the Old Margreve forest and round about. To start with there are 20 beautifully-described NPCs, provided to help you bring the place to life. They aren't intended for combat-fodder, if you do want to involve them in a brawl you'll have to provide your own stat-block... but as part of life's rich tapestry, people living and working in the area who might interact with the party, they're excellent. Watch out for Shadow, a black dog belonging to Tsarin the Dirgist. This hound has an uncanny nose for when someone is about to die, and leads his master to the spot so that he can perform a funeral dirge and eulogy for the just-departed. Some say that Shadow's appearance heralds (or even causes) the death... or is it just that he has impeccable timing?


Next up, 25 'reskinned' creatures, that is, the specifically Margreve versions of monsters from the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bonus Bestiary. These just come with descriptions again, but there's an indication as to which monster from the Bestiary you should reference. It's a neat way to put a twist on the creatures you encounter without much effort, and helps make the locale more distinctive.


Along the same theme, there are 15 reskinned spells, which can be used in different ways as you please. It may be that locals use these distinctive variants of spells that the party is used to, or - and this could cause some surprises - it may be that the spells act this way when cast in the Margreve, be it a native or visiting magic-user that casts them! If you decide they are local variants, others may learn them in the usual way... but may find that once they've left the Margreve they don't work as they need local components. Following on from that, there's a Margreve Bloodline that lets sorcerers tap into the ancient powers of the old forest and even become a part of it. If the Margreve is part of your campaign world, a sorcerer may have it - he doesn't even need to be local as long as he's descended from someone who was.


There's also an incantation, a few fascinating local items, and a selection of traits available to anyone who grew up in the area. It's all added flavour, and well worth picking up if you're using the Margreve. The illustrations are rather good - and evocative - too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Seth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2015 13:52:45

With the new updates, this book is a lot better. I was already fairly happy with it, and looking forward to adding it to my table. The new character options for nonstandard races are great. The new updates fixed much of the complaints I had about the book.


I'd still rather see the racial variants treated as subraces and feats rather than using a mechanic similar to Pathfinder archetypes, but that complaint aside, I think this is a flawless book. Great content, amazing art, and now I'm happier with the 5e rules adjustments. I'd probably buy this book for the $15 cover price, but at the $5 sale it's a no-brainer.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Bestiary
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2015 08:10:17

Early explorers of distant and far-off lands often define them by the creatures to be found there, so here is a collection of diverse and fascinating beasts to populate the Southlands and terrorise incautious visitors. These creatures are at home, the party are the interlopers, having to deal with the rigors of the setting as well as the actual monsters themselves. A new land with new monsters provides a challenge to players as well as to their characters as both are venturing someplace new. It's also a way to get over the obstacle of a character knowing more about his surroundings (including the monsters) than his player does!


There's a wealth of opportunity for the GM as well. Treat the monsters not as mere cannon-fodder but as a living, breathing part of the world that they inhabit. The ultimate challenge for the characters may well be to engage in combat with the monsters, but what of learning about them first? Observations can be made, legends learned, and so on, enabling the characters to know something about these new creatures before having to fight them... or such observations can be made after the first stunning shock of a combat encounter as the characters regroup, figure out what attacked them and how they can detect and deal with it in the future.


Even if you don't want to use the Southlands in your game, or the plot does not call for the party to go there right now, the odd creature might have strayed elsewhere. You may have a suitable ecological niche for it where your game is currently set, or it may have strayed - perhaps as an exhibit in a menagerie - far from its natural habitat. There's always scope for new monsters....


The Introduction touches on these concepts and then we're off with an array of monsters presented in alphabetic order. Each comes with all the details we have come to expect: a description, complete stat block, notes on lifestyle, habitat and behaviour and a glorious full-colour illustration. Most entries fill a single page, else they fill two, so users of the PDF will be able to print out the pages that they need without extraneous material. There's almost an hundred of them to feast your eyes upon and build adventures around; and there's a table listing them by CR at the back to help you in setting up encounters appropriate to your characters.


Many of the monsters are uniquely suited to the Southlands, both ecologically and in terms of the overall style of the campaign setting. Perhaps a gentle stroll across the desert will be interrupted as two speckled, wickedly pointed legs erupt from the sand, plunging forward with murderous speed, followed by a spider the size of a rhino... the evocative description provided for the sand spider. Another beast, the subek, is a humanoid crocodile which retains many of the fighting techniques of the animal that is its inspiration such as the 'death roll' of a crocodile dragging its prey underwater to drown, adapting the technique to a land-based grappling manoeuvere.


The giant white apes reflect legends about super-intelligent gorillas found in the depths of Congo rain forests, twisted to suit the Southlands setting yet evoking the same awe and curiousity. The monsters range from pure animal to sentient, from desert dwellers to jungle inhabitants - whatever your needs there is likely something that will suit. Beautifully presented and well-considered, if you are using the Southlands Campaign Setting or have another area occupying the ecological niche of Africa in your world, these creatures will help to bring it to life.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/06/2015 03:20:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


This module was moved up on my review-queue at the request of my players. The following being an adventure-review, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Even the shadow fey can love, in their own, alien way - and so, a scáthesidhe, exiled from the winter court and hence known as the dusk queen, retreated to the dark woods and ruled as one would expect from a lady with her moniker. Against all possibility, a man from a far off land of eternal sun and scorching heat found his path into the dusk queen's dominion, where the two promptly fell in love - and here, the story might have ended, were it not for the construction of a dark mirror, which fueled the latent paranoia of the queen. The traveler, then known as sun king, tried to overlook his lover's continuing descent into amorality and evil, but when he noticed her plans to invade his home, he acted - weaving mighty magics, he imprisoned the queen and sundered her mirror; tales of tragic love being what they are, his solution did not prove to be permanent - and thus, the PCs happen upon a foreboding, dark forest, where the wind itself carries the words "She has returned" to their ears.


Entering the forest, a lavishly-illustrated treant weeping acid tears tasks the PCs in cryptic hints to track down the shards of the dusk queen's mirror - and escape is no option. From hampered teleportation to swarms of shadow stirges, the forest does its best to foil the PCs and yes, there is a table of wandering monsters, of which I encourage you to make ample use. The shadow forest's overview map (which is no less beautiful than the artwork) does provide several obvious paths that can be tackled in different sequences.


The locations themselves can be considered a veritable who's who of dark forest locations - from a pool of shadow nymphs to a bog most foul hiding an ancient monument and a spirit naga to a strike-force of bugbears under the command of a half umbral-dragon leader to a massive hangman's tree, the task of collecting the shards is a quick and interesting succession of iconic locales - and yes, of course, the PCs also get a chance to duke it out with a shadow drake.


Once they have finally assembled all the shards, it's time to face the dusk queen's tower, wherein she tries to cajole them into using the shards to repair her mirror and restore her to full power - hopefully barring that, she will attempt to use force - by means of her own theurge-magics as well as a graveknight antipaladin and his companion. Besting the two deadly adversaries (significantly easier if a strong-willed PC uses the powerful shards to blast them!) will see the end of the adventure and the tower's collapse - for now, for a sequel is in the making. Oh, and yes, there is a powerful, intelligent spellbook to be found here.


Now this pdf has GLORIOUS artworks and cartography all around - and you can actually use both: The module provides an art & map section that reproduces the Paizo-level gorgeous artwork (one provided for most major antagonists!) as one-page hand-outs to show to your players. Furthermore, the glorious full-color cartography of the dark wood is provided in a player-friendly version and to trump that, we also get the dusk queen's ruined throne room as a player-friendly, overview with a grid AND in battle-map-style size to print out - now THIS is going one step beyond! Two thumbs up!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, 2-column full-color standard and the artworks by Bryan Syme are staggering -see the cover? The copious amount of interior artwork is JUST AS GOOD. Yes. This is one of the most beautiful modules I've read in ages, with cartography also ranking in the top-tier echelon, especially due to the copious support regarding battle-map, player-friendly versions etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


My players still talk fondly of Marc Radle's first module published by Raging Swan Press, The Sunken Pyramid, so when I brought this module to the table, they were keen on playing it. The dark wood has a superb atmosphere that thankfully stands on its own and does not provide overlap with AAW Games' superb Snow White duology (Part I and Part II), instead creating its very own atmosphere and mood - which is a good thing. This module is all about atmosphere that is captured in great detail and enhanced by what could be considered to be some of the most stunning pieces of artwork I have ever seen in a 3pp module. Especially at the low price point, this is stunning.


Now I playtested this one twice, for a reason - my players were insanely lucky and had 14 natural 20s in the run of this module - and since it is pretty much a brief one that focuses on atmosphere, this meant they pretty much curb-stomped the opposition. When I ran it for a second time for a significantly less experienced and optimized group, there was one unlucky PC death, though that is to be attributed to abysmal luck. This module is not a meat-grinder and neither is it particularly challenging - the final fight in particular was very easy on my PCs in the first run.


Difficulty-wise, this is not a particularly challenging module, but it is a very much worthwhile adventure that feels completely like a Kobold Press adventure, breathing a sense of ancient fairy tales gone wrong. In direct comparison, the fights themselves do feel like they could have benefited from more environmental peculiarities and hazards - but that may just be me being spoiled. Shadows of the Dusk Queen is a premium quality module with a unique mood that very much manages to depict a compelling, short trip into a dark forest that actually deserves the moniker. My aforementioned nitpicks can mostly be attributed to me being a spoiled bastard and are offset by the quality of both production-values and mood. I do advise GMs running this for an experienced group to increase the difficulty-levels, though. In the end, I am happy with this module - its story resonates, its production values are superb, its builds are non-standard and interesting - and while it may be brief and none too hard, it was a great experience to run. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now can we have more modules of that caliber? After all, that's what made me a fan of Kobold Pres back in the day when it still was Open Design...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
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