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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2017 08:30:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them.

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits– stats for all 4 variants are included, just fyi. Big plus in the 5e-version, btw. – the lizardfolk get, at least partially, unique actions that represent their culture: We get e.g. the Tlaloc’s Blessing reaction and similar design decisions to represent the influx of draconic blood and the peculiarities of the tribe.

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi warpriests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – who btw. comes with legendary actions as well as access to lair actions.

Speaking of which: Beyond the numerous variant monsters mentioned, I enjoyed the variety of the builds: The 5e-version goes above and beyond to make the respective lizardfolk feel unique and concise; the versions of the new creatures, similarly, are interesting. As a minor complaint, though, it should be noted that here and there, very minor hiccups can be found – an attack value that’s off by one (challenge 8, thus +3 proficiency bonus, with Str 16 = +6 to attack, not +5), but these glitches are rare and the exception – the stats, as a whole, as surprisingly well-made. Among all versions of the module, they are my favorites.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module apart from a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the Gm to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. 5e’s as a whole well-crafted mechanics help as well; to the point where I honestly believe that the mechanics of this version may be the best of the bunch in terms of creativity and how they enforce a succinct cultural identity. Were it not for the minor hiccups in the stats, I’d award this version my seal of approval as well. While thus not absolutely perfect, this still remains my favorite version of the module, directly followed by the PFRPG-iteration, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – recommended as a fun, challenging module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (5e)
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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2017 08:24:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them. The PFRPG-version comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits that employ a modified unholy template – stats for all 4 variants are included, just fyi. The PFRPG-version, just fyi, employs both variant templates (here: unholy) and archetypes in the respective builds, making the opposition generally an interesting cadre.

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi warpriests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – who btw. actually has class levels as a standard bearer cavalier, making her a potent commander!

Speaking of which: Beyond the numerous variant monsters mentioned, I enjoyed the variety of the builds: From the numerous variants of monsters to the archetypes and templates employed in their creation, the respective critters are interesting, challenging and fit the thematic angle of the tribe. Also relevant: The module does not break the WBL-assumptions: While the hoard of the big boss is massive, the majority of coins are copper – it’ll be a logistics-challenge to get the coins to civilization…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the Gm to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. The PFRPG-version of this module does a lot right: It doesn’t break the WBL-cap and can be inserted as a fun. Challenging module into any campaign without breaking its power-level. All in all, this is a well-made anti-dragon crawl with a smart foe. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2017 08:23:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content. It should be noted that the extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps is not included in the 13th Age-version.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi – thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda.

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

A big plus for fans of 13th Age would undoubtedly be the inclusion of notes on how the respective icons and Nyrionaxys II’s agenda interact, providing some proper contextualization for that aspect of the game. This level of attention to detail also is represented by a sidebar talking about creature sizes and their more abstract meaning in 13th Age.

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits. Here would be a good job to comment on the 13th Age stats – the book does a rather good job at converting to the system – from creature-type classification to internal consistency, the creatures presented make sense – when something should have a draconic ability like resist acid 16+, it does. Both natural even and uneven hits, damage types, etc. can be found in the respective entries and builds of the adversaries encountered. Some of the critters also make good use of the escalation die, which is another mechanical big plus.

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi priests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, mummies and spirits, kobold trappers and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet. As a minor complaint regarding design aesthetics – while the optional cover rules covered are nice, terrain-wise, the adventure could be a bit more dynamic in 13th Age – you can tie cool effects to the escalation die…but that’s just me complaining at a high level.

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon – and no, she is not a simple black dragon; she actually has more than 300 hp, making her less prone to being killed off too quickly, an issue that dragons in 13th Age tend to have.

Big plus, btw.: Instead of focusing just on treasure, the conclusion-section here talks about the repercussions for the champion tier into which the PCs undoubtedly have ascended at the end of this module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color. The 13th Age-version of the module, as per the writing of this review, did lack the player-map bonus pdf, which makes that aspect a comfort detriment. The 13th Age-version comes with a second, more printer-friendly version with a white background. Artwork deserves special mention: The module sports a couple of really nice full-color artworks.

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the GM to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns. The 13th Age conversion of the module has been handled with care and is well-crafted.

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. The well-done mechanics help as well, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars – though I have to round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (13th Age Compatible)
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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2017 08:21:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them.

As you can glean from the cover, the OSR-rule-set employed in this version of the module would be Frog God Games’ Swords & Wizardry. We get both ascending and descending AC-values.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi. Thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda. Which brings me to a problem that’s somewhat inherent in the system and the faithful version to the system: In S&W, dragons can be pretty fragile – and compared to her servants, the dragon boss of this module unfortunately adheres to this formula; here, a deviation from the standard rules to account for her boss-nature would probably have made sense.

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits…

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi priests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, kobold trappers, spirits, mummies and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon. Still, while S&W obviously uses smaller numbers and her AC and defenses are impressive, at 32 hp, the dragon still remains comparatively fragile.

Speaking of monsters – the stat-conversions to S&W are solid, as far as I’ve seen. Spell-names are adjusted, etc. Big plus, btw.: The hoard of the dragon, while massive, is WBL-appropriate and shouldn’t pose a problem for ongoing campaigns. In fact, being mostly copper, transportation may yet pose some interesting problems…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. The OSR-conversion to S&W is solid and generally well-crafted.

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the referee to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. A minor issue of the S&W version, at least if your PCs are lucky, may be the relative fragility of the boss – but that’s something inherited from the system. Still, compared to the other versions, I feel that this version is slightly less compelling – mainly since the versions for the other systems work so well due to the mechanics; to make up for their brevity, more flavor and/or bonus-content for the OSR-version would have been nice. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
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Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2017 04:35:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so the first thing you’ll notice herein would be that you get more than one statblock per creature: After a brief description, we also get a couple of paragraphs on the respective critter, contextualizing the foe with lore – I really enjoyed this decision, as one of the complaints I had against the monster-presentation of e.g. 3.5 and its derivatives, was that the glorious, often inspiring lore of previous editions completely fell by the wayside. So yeah – nice! Secondly, you should be aware that each of the creature-types herein gets a nice b/w-artwork that is kept deliberately to remind you of a sketch in e.g. an explorer’s handbook, with a sheet of paper making the drawing look like it was taken straight from an in-game artifact. This may just be a small layout decision, but considering the fair price-point, it is one that provides a significant increase regarding immersion. Speaking of which: Each entry also comes with in-character quotes that could be seen as further inspiration.

While I’m at it: We get advice for building a battle with the creatures, nomenclature, things to be found in its lair (or where the creature is encountered) and at least two interesting adventure hooks per critter. So yes, as far as supplemental material goes, this pretty much covers all bases. Big plus!

Now, let us take a closer look at the creatures themselves, shall we? The first creature would sound ridiculous when described, but the cool artwork actually manages to make the creature look badass – the addanc, which is basically a cross between a beaver and a crocodile, building dams and making for a deadly, semi-aquatic predator. Versions for challenge ¼, 2 and 5 are included – the statblocks, btw., are precise, and the multiattacking critters make for cool, fantastic critters.

The second creature type is actually more than just a variation of different iterations of one creature – instead, this pdf sports druidic guardians – each of which is radically different from the others: Tiny mushroom guardians come with false appearances, with incapacitating spore cloud clock in at challenge ¼. Stone guardians (challenge 1) can hurl rocks and sport a movement/gesture to bypass them – cool! The challenge 2 water hounds are elementals can squeeze to tight areas and the hounds may exhale waves of cold water in small cones. The challenge 3 vine protector sports multiple vine barbs, can conceal itself as vines and regenerates non-fire damage…and finally, the shrine stone, (challenge 4) is another sentry that can be deactivated once more with the proper sign – all in all, these guardians make for cool non-animal guards to make pagan/kinda-druidic adversaries to supplement such sites. Particularly the building the battle entry here provides some nice context for everything here -we also, btw., get 3 adventure hooks here..

We also take a look at giant animals, 4, to be precise. The dire owl (challenge ½) has a cool signature ability: 1/day vomiting a poisonous pellet at a foe. Oh, and their screeches are deafening. Neat! At challenge 1, monstrous rats have keen smell and diseased bites, as well as nasty claws. Oh, and pack tactics, obviously. The bloodboar is a challenge 2 foe with deadly charges that cause more damage and may knock foes prone. Oh, and once per rest-interval, the boar can recover from a deadly blow. Painful tusks and a 1/day squeal that rallies boars to attack (providing advantage on the next assault) complement a cool beast. The challenge 4 dire lion sports keen smell and pack tactics, pounce and yes, perform impressive leaps and execute several attacks. Slightly weird: The creature has a bite and claws and also a savage attack – the savage attack is not covered in multiattack, nor is it mentioned in pounce. Extrapolating from the presentation, I am pretty sure that the bonus action attack granted by knocking foes down with pounce should be the savage attack.

After this, we take a look at a deadly creature – the elemental known as a knaerk, a thing somewhat akin to granite, spider and hairless goblin blending into a nightmarish thing, these threats can burrow and earth glide, making the deadly ambush predators that can drop stones on foes – minor complaint: Losing the restrained condition requires a move action – a PFRPG-remnant. This glitch can be found in all 3 iterations of the knaerk (Challenge ¼, 3 and 6). The elder knaerk can also generate full-blown cave-ins, though the move action glitch can be found here as well. Another strange formatting peculiarity: The average damage values for the knaerk abilities are missing, even though the other monsters herein sport them.

The final category of critters made me think of classics in a good way: Spiderbears! Yeah, and you thought wolf-spiders were bad news, right? These critters not only sport pack tactics, spider climb and may move unimpeded through webbing, they also are strong – the smallest ones already clock in at Str 15! Adult and elder spiderbears gain webbing attacks (recharge 6 and 4 – 6, respectively) – cool: Not just, stat-wise, a duplicate of ettercap webbing…the nets are flammable. Spiderbears can also sense the location of beings in the net, have a poisonous bite. Minor complaint: The elder spiderbear’s skills are both off by 1: At challenge 7, the creature should already have a +3 proficiency bonus.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are excellent on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the pdf is similarly well-crafted, though it does sport a few minor hiccups. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column full-color standard and the pdf’s b/w-artworks of the sketches are really neat. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks – nice!

Dale C. McCoy Jr.’s monsters herein are great – they are flavorful, yet feel somewhat grounded and, in lack of a better term, realistic. Plausible. The guardians, animals and fantastic monsters herein are nice, with the added information, hooks and quotes adding some nice narrative potential to all of the monsters, contextualizing them properly. While not 100% perfect, this is well worth checking out for the fair price point. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods (5e)
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Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/22/2017 04:25:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Magic-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All right, after a neat introduction, we move straight on to the new spells contained herein – and before you ask: They take the ACG-classes into account regarding their spell-levels, but alas, not the occult classes – particularly weird since we get new class options there later…but anyway, let#s take a look at the spells, shall we?

Death incarnate requires that you’re a dragon and is level 8 and makes you undead for the duration – sans HP recalculation, but with a DR, immunity to cold and electricity, doubled frightful presence range and extra negative energy damage with claws. ODD: “which can used to heal yourself in your undead state as a full-round action” – so, does only the bonus damage heal the dragon? One total or that of two claws? That whole construct is wobbly. Deflect breath weapon is an interesting spell: It sports evocative visuals for both cones and lines and nets massive bonuses to Reflex saves as an immediate action spell – I am a bit torn here: While I like the visuals, the spell does take away from the deserved paranoia and fear that breathing dragons should cause. Cool: Elemental fear causes energy damage to those struck by your frightful presence, slashing if you have no breath weapon. I am pretty sure this spell was intended to be a dragons-only-option, which it RAW is not. Fear focus makes this problem more apparent: It focuses frightful presence into a cone and forces the targets to save – on a success, they become frightened, on a failure panicked. At 3rd level, that is highly exploitable for characters that managed to get their hands on some sort of frightful presence – at this level, there usually is a negate option for successful saves. Also weird: The spell notes as level only sorcerer 3 – does that mean that wizards can’t cast it? Or is that just a glitch?

Heartseeker is a level 1 spell (level 2 for cleric/oracle/shaman) that adds 5 + CL, maximum 15 negative energy damage to a weapon’s next attack. Lure of greed enchants a coin. All dragons within long range, sans requiring line of sight/effect, must attempt to get to the coin and once they reach it, the stand captivated in front of it. The spell contradicts itself: It notes that Will negates, but the text mentions that it requires saves on subsequent rounds. It also doesn’t cover what happens when multiple dragons seek to claim the same coin and at 3rd level, it is pretty low for the powerful compulsion it RAW presents.

Manifest greed manifests a targeted dragon’s greed as an ectoplasmic creature with DR 10/-, one size category larger than the dragon and it has all natural attacks and the target’s armor class and is one size category larger than the dragon targeted. Yeah, that’s not how that works in PFRPG. Okay, what type has the manifestation? If it has a larger size, what if the dragon’s Colossal? Size-increases change stats, AC and attacks. Beyond that, an allied dragon could potentially double its destructive effectiveness, provided the spell worked as it should. Scale lock targets dragons or reptiles: The target becomes automatically grappled and then, you use the target’s CMB to deal damage to it. The target creature can attempt to grapple versus its CMD to be able to move. Two successes are require to break free of the grappled condition. Oh boy. The math here is a mess. Can the scales pin the target? Do two successful checks end the spell?

Shredding scales is a 2nd-level burst that causes slashing damage via your scales. Spell envelope is a cool idea: You create a spell cocoon, into which you place another spell before the end of your next round: SR versus the spell placed is reduced by 5. This is a VERY cool option. However, nearby casters may also place spells in the cocoon, which makes it less clear when the spell in the cocoon is hurled towards the target. As soon as it’s placed inside? On your next turn? More importantly, the effects stack with feats etc. that reduce SR – but which character may use these? Is the caster of spell envelope the guy to check for these feats or the one that placed the spell in the cocoon? Or both? This is a really cool spell, but that aspect needs some explanation. Same goes, obvious, for the greater version.

We also get a total of 5 summon extraplanar dragon spells, which are thankfully relegated to the higher levels. Tainted treasure poisons a hoard and is ridiculous: It deals 1d4 Constitution damage (erroneously referred to as Con once in the text) for 7 rounds to a dragon that touches it. Fort save each round for half damage. Oh, and guess what? It’s not a poison, RAW – no immunity. This has an excellent chance of killing or severely crippling dragons. It’s also a level 4 spell and highly situational. Still, this needs a serious whack with the nerf-bat. Wheeze on the other hand is cool and interesting – it increases the breath weapon reset time by 1d6 rounds on a failed Fort-save. Big kudos! Wounding wheeze adds your choice of either fire or acid damage when the target uses its breath weapon - interesting. Wings of the wyrmling gets rid of age-related Dexterity penalties and improved maneuverability to average. Solid.

We also get some draconic class options herein, the first of which would be draconic implements for the occultist. As a resonant power, we have natural armor increases and the base focus power lets you, as a standard action, expend 1 point of mental focus, conjuring draconic shape that causes fear – the number of targets affected is limited by range, mental focus invested and by the HD of the targets – high HD-creatures in relation to your own HD suffer less. Impressive! The focus power include breath weapon, form of the dragon, better senses, temporary hit points or wings – all of which sport some sort of nice scaling. As a minor complaint, the ranged touch-based conjuring of a spectral dragon maw should probably at least cause force damage – RAW, it is untyped. The option does come with its own spell-list – and as a whole, I’m pretty surprised. I liked this! There is a variant of the enchantment school for the wizard, one that replaces enchanting smile, dazing touch and aura of despair. Sly master nets you a scaling bonus to the social skill checks and as a capstone, it lets you recast enchantment spells of an equal or lower spell-level after saving versus an enchantment spell. Interesting.

The option also nets an aura (that does not specify when it’s gained) that penalizes saves versus fear and mind-affecting effects, with higher levels increasing the range. Dragons targeted with fear or mind-influencing effects gain a bonus to bypass SR. At 8th level, enchantments cast versus dragons get a much higher save – interesting. There are also two arcane discoveries: Dragon wizard lets you target dragons with spells that target specific creature types – I think this should specify one type; RAW, it can yield some weird interactions. The second one nets you further bonuses for bypassing SR. We also gain the dragon spirit for the shaman: Increased movement rate and Nimble Moves, swift action-base sense enhancement, a fear-inducing gaze, a natural armor-bestowing ward and blur. The spirit animal gains natural armor bonus and a minor (or increased) fly speed – that does not specify maneuverability, alas. The spirit abilities net a limited use untyped damage causing melee touch attack (why not type it?) and at 11th level, the shaman treats all weapons as keen. The greater spirit ability yields fire resistance 5 and 3/day a 15-ft. fire breath (1d6 per class level!) with a 1d4 cooldown. In case you’re wondering: Yes, this is a linear improvement over fiery soul. 5 resistance less for an upgrade of 1d4 top 1d6 per level? Yeah, ouch. The true spirit ability yields form of the dragon II and the manifestation capstone nets fire resistance 20, immunity to paralysis and sleep and 60 ft. blindsense.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal, but leave something to be desired on a rules-language level. While there are plenty of examples where the pdf manages to get this right, there are quite a few inconsistencies in the finder details. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard with a while background and interior artwork is solid, full-color stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Maurice de Mare’s dragon spells and archetypes are an odd bunch: On one hand, they attempt complex and interesting things, offering some evocative and really amazing tricks – on the other hand, they stumble, more than once, in the details…and weirdly, not always in the difficult aspects. Still, this almost feels like the work of two designers or at least, like content created at different stages of one designer’s development. There are some rather problematic aspects herein, but similarly, one can find some gems. Still, this is not enough for a unanimous recommendation. If you’re willing to work a bit with the material, you may find some gems, but this is a mixed bag. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes (PFRPG)
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Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2017 09:18:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 255 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 248 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so this is a massive book for the...let's say, more unconventional races out there. The respective write-ups have a couple of things in common, so let's start with establishing that: For the most part, the races have either not been properly covered in the respective books that introduced them or get some additional coverage herein; the write-ups contain a well-written prose-introduction to the race at hand, proper age, height & weight tables (YEAH!), the basic racial stats, alternate racial traits, notes on society, nomenclature and the like and racial equipment as well as archetypes. A formatting peculiarity here would be that the archetypes specify an "Associated Class" instead of putting the class-name in brackets behind the archetype's name, but that's a purely cosmetic decision. It is a matter of taste whether you like that the archetypes herein list the abilities they replace and modify in their respective lists in the beginning of the archetype entry. The plus-side is that you quickly see whether the build is relevant for your concept or not. The downside would be that one loses the direct correlation between abilities gained and replaced...but since I figure that this is more important for me in a reviewer-capacity than for people using the options, I will not penalize the book for that choice.

Racial deities can also be found and the respective entries sport sample NPCs for your perusal, beginning at the low levels and scaling up to the higher CRs - while the levels are different from race to race, you generally should find a feasible build for each roughly approximated level-range. 5 such builds are provided per race.

The pdf also contains a MASSIVE array of favored class options for each of the races, covering the classes up to and including the ACG, as well as the Ultimate Psionics-classes - yep, fans of Dreamscarred Press, this book has some serious fodder. Fans of rogue Genius Games amazing Time Thief class will similarly love that the class gets its due here. For those of us who enjoy a dash of science-fantasy, the chapter on racial technology should put a smile on quite a few faces, with 9 spells interacting with racial technology provided for your convenience, taking some of ten classics from ten Technology Guide. Similarly, feats required for crafting etc. have been reproduced in this section and we get specific items for the "non-high-powered" (more on that distinction, or at least as how I see it, later) races that are featured in the book. These items encompass a serum that lets tengu spout wings, heavy gravity beam-weapons (really cool!) or microwave based charge-draining guns. Skinwalkers gain ferocity-enhancing implants as well as enhancer-drugs or claw plating as well as a skinwalker bloodrager archetype that modifies bloodrage to grant less potent numerical benefits, instead enhancing the Mark versions of implanted cybertech as well as floating charges while in his bloodrage. Interesting one!

Samsarans can implant a memory decryption device and I was rather intrigued by the Technology/Time-Thief crossover archetype they get - at the cost of massive set-ups, these guys get less motes, but can use them to grant herself instant turns...and surprisingly, it avoids the readying exploit . From context and logic, it seems like delaying isn't viable either, but as a nitpick, I think it would have helped to spell that out here. Very potent, but interesting option for the class.

Lizardfolk equipment sports selectively harmful poisonous gas thrower, underwater combat tech and internalized triggers, while gillmen receive 3 archetypes: Voidwright arcanists may dabble in the dark tapestry mystery for arcane exploits and can drain tech items. I would not allow this guy. He casts Sor/Wiz spells as divine spells, which is utterly OP. The samurai ancient infantry gains limited bloodrager castintg with a unique list as well as tech expertise instead of mounts and order, which works out surprisingly well - like it! The advanced error dread tech and dread tricks and gains a tentacle at higher levels, but loses 3 terrors and psionic manifesting. Elans gain 5 pieces of cool devices, including hard light thieves' tools and enhancers versus psionic assaults in a solid, if potent item array. The catfolk tech rigger is a modification of the investigator class, replacing poison tricks and the associated alchemy options with appropriate technological replacements. Oh, and no studied strike, but we do get tech bombs. Finally, androids not only receive a rogue archetype, but also ten Technology domain.

Speaking of androids: These guys would be the first race graced with a full entry, so let's move from the tech-guide appendix back to the start of the tome, shall we? One note here: While it would be possible t analyze the content in piece by piece, this would bloat the review to something in the vicinity of 30+ pages - this book is incredibly dense. In favor of readability and to give you a proper overview of the material contained herein, I will thus endeavor to remain brief in my descriptions of the material.

As you can glean from the introduction of androids here, the regular races featured herein rank approximately on par with the stronger core races and plane-touched races. The base racial traits don't tend to be modified, but it should be noted that this does not mean that you won't get new material out of the race trait section: Androids, for example, can benefit from the anomaly alternate racial trait, which eliminates their morale bonus lock-out, but at an appropriately hefty cost. Similar alternates are provided and include making them e.g. being potentially prone to being bluffed. The living weapon brawler uses energy weapons instead of unarmed strikes in his distinct fighting style, while the nanoshade is a ninja who replaces ki pools with nanite reserves and even potentially infuse them into targets. Thought scribe psions replace disciplines and discipline abilities with psionic circuitry and Scribe Tattoo, gaining psionic tattooing at increasing potency. Wiremind cryptics lose the trap-related abilities in favor of some skill bonuses, which sounds unremarkable - but 6th level's ability is somewhat potentially problematic, granting effectively a second psionic focus. Considering the vast combo-potential of quite a lot abilities, this is something I'd be incredibly weary of at that level -I'd frankly disallow it and consider it problematic.

Beyond these archetypes, we get quite a few nice class options to evade at higher levels, for example, blindsight, add electricity damage to Elemental Fist, gain some resistances, extra race ability uses -etc. The philosophy, the Final Cause, and the associated inquisitor archetype are solid and the spells as well as the power presented herein (which allows you to Upload yourself into an android body) are intriguing. Items that allow androids to use nanite surges to generate antimagic shields (which are partially selective!) and such make for a cool array as well. It should also be noted that each of the races comes with a small chapter that deals with integration of the race into an ongoing campaign, its themes, etc. -which is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

The second races presented herein would be the catfolk, with the nine lives racial trait being worth of special mention - it can be sued exactly 9 times and can prevent death. This is, obviously, not intended for all campaigns, but depending on the type of game you're running, it can be considered to be amazing. Among the class options, we have the feral rager barbarian, who gains a mobility-focus (dodge-bonuses, Ref- instead of Will-save bonus in rage) in favor of the classic DR etc. Treedancer slayers get a modified talent selection and a replacement for tracking, moving stalker to 7th level and focusing on climbing etc. The race gets a whole array of rogue talents that include subtle communication via tails, fast squeezing, etc. The grymalkin bloodline gets a dazing touch attack. On the racial feat side, we get better flanking etc. as well as Copy-Cat, which allows you to duplicate of a feat used by an ally - its frame is that it requires the feat to be used in that encounter. And it has a per-encounter limit. sigh Insert here my rant on why per-encounter abilities make no sense whatsoever. On the plus-side: Low-range blindsense due to Sensitive Whiskers? Makes sense to me and the high-level Pounce and Rake option will find its fans. The racial deities number 3 this time around and the associated archetype this time around would be the ghost hunter paladin, who is, bingo a nemesis-type archetype focusing on the destruction of incorporeal foes. On the magic-side of things, we have a spell that allows the ignoring of circle of protection and protection from type spells (Yep, adding that to the arsenal of my nasties...) as well as an evil spell to cause toxoplasmosis and the conjuration of a semi-real, feral cat-swarm. A magical prayer kit and a wine that is potent, but used in religious ceremony, enhancing cleric abilities complement this section.

Changelings would be the third race herein and represent perhaps one of the most customizable of races I have seen - the alternate racial traits further diversify the array of choices the base race provides, with the option of Paternal heritage mattering (and replacing the hag heritage). This trait alone covers almost two pages, with races from drow to suli and the ARG-races covered alongside many herein. Kudos indeed! The Heartshorn witch is easily one of the coolest archetypes in the book: The witch removes her heart, making it into a stone - this acts as an Achilles heel, yes, but it also allows the witch to redirect (with restrictions) effects to the stone. This is simple and elegant and I really enjoy it. The incantrix sorcerer is a bit less cool, replacing bloodline arcana and the 9th and 15th level bloodline power with SR, arcane sight and Cha-based Knowledge and Spellcraft. The healing-themed Cleansed sorceror bloodline can mitigate some potent negative conditions and makes for an interesting take on the arcane healer. Some solid rogue talents and the accursed bloodrager bloodline (with limited use staggering gazes and horrific visage as well as other, neat hag-themed abilities) complement this section. We also get a Cleansed bloodrager bloodline that focuses more on gusts of wind to disperse miasmas or purification by fiery bursts, featuring more visceral and less angelic themes than the sorceror version -kudos for making these so distinct from one another.

The feats allow for the further development of the magical ancestry of the race...or for the storing of potions in your lungs (!!). Eye-dyes and 3 racial deities also are part of this chapter and we get no less than 4 archetypes associated with these deities, 2 for the cleric class, 1 inquisitor and 1 ranger, though apart from the caravan-master style ranger, I wasn't blown away by these brief tweaks of the base class. Hag Aspect spells and darklight as well as caps that make you hard to be remembered can also be found here.

Next up would be the elan race and it is one I have a love-hate-relationship with; on the one hand, I adore the race for its unique history and feeling, and on the other...well, if you've ever played a truly efficient elan, you know how potent they can be. The numerous traits featured herein do provide some nice customization options that stand out, providing e.g. temporary crystal armor, being breathless and the like - considering the power of the traits replaced, these make sense indeed. I am not a big fan of the alternate racial trait, which pays for +4 Str,D ex or Con with -2 Charisma, as that renders the race more min-maxy than it already is. This minor guffaw, however, is quickly remedied by one of my favorite archetypes herein, the ratha priest slayer psychic warrior, who specializes in hampering the abilities of the devout. Similarly, the creche defender fighter provides a nice, slightly psionic option - compared to the archetypes of the other races, these stand out via their conceptual strength and the fact that they offer distinct playing experiences. Some crossover rogue talents and the arcane elan bloodline for sorcerors allow for a wider focus for the race than before, which is another plus. The feats provide some nice expasnions for elan abilities in conjunction with psionics and from psiflares to mundane tomes that provide benefits, we have a strong equipment section as well. The racial deity is supplement by a psionics/oracle crossover that works rather well and the psychic domain. 5 solid racial powers can be found -and while one permanently degrades an item's hardness, its massive +5d6 damage boost can be a big issue with characters that have the option to create weaponry ex nihilo....so yeah, I'd strongly suggest banning that one. Speaking of which_: Crystals that can hold psionic focus for paltry +3K should die in a fiery blaze. Considering the massive combo-potential one such crystal alone can yield...

The gillmen section provides claws, among other things, as alternate racial traits (as often, you have to defer to the default rather than having the type of natural attack spelled out), though the angle is interesting - as presented here, the race has been freed from the dominion of their erstwhile masters, which is represented in a more wholesome flavor. Archetype-wise, we get an aqautic monk, the wave crasher, the lightningcaster magus (bingo: electricity specialist) and the tentacled horror bloodrager, who provides the eldritch flavor that you'd have expected, with tentacles that can hold but not use) items and higher-level off-hand tentacle attacks. The precise rules-interactions here can become a tad bit wobbly, as tentacles usually are natural attacks. The section also provides the nice catshark familiar as well as new options, once again including psionic ones and even a temporal talent and the order of the sinking ship, which is a bit problematic: When issuing an order, he is not affected by environmental damage, which RAW would include pits of acid, lava, etc. - it's pretty clear that that's not meant, but still - a more concise wording would make sense here. On the plus side, from giant seahorses to snapping turtles and manta rays, the new companions included are neat. The feats are okay, but I'm not 100% blown away by them, Racial deity wise, we get a good deity and Cthulhu, who also gets Bringer of Insanity warpriests, which tie into the Madness domain and replace sacred weapon with sneak attack - not blown away here. The depths shaman spirit is, on the other hand, pretty cool - and speaking of which, the racial spells this time around are nifty: Conjuring forth basically weaponized salmon to bludgeon your foes is cool. And yes, you can fence with a swordfish. Wall of water is also pretty classic. The magic item section this time around is decent, but not universally so: Adding + casting ability modifier to damage (even possible for SPs) can be rather potent, particularly underwater, when you also add the spell-level of the highest spell/SP known to damage dealt. Yes, it can only be used on melee weapons, but I can get past that as well.

The next race within would be the lizardfolk, who get a potentially diseased bite, chameleon scales, bulky or small physiology - some cool alternate racial options here. The tribal defender fighter would be a defensive fighter who gains several nice abilities that enhance the protection of allies, though the competing attack roll mechanic introduced at higher levels is not something I'm fond of. The cannibal bloodrager bloodline makes for a cool and well-crafted one, though, once again, a high-level option isn't perfect and can be (slightly and not too efficiently) cheesed. The chapter also contains the Anointed One PrC, which provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and 2 + Int skills per level. The PrC focuses on an anointed weapon and the use of oils to enhance it, dabbling a bit in mutagens and discoveries for an alchemical fighter. The option to lock weapons with an attacker is interesting and concisely presented, making use of AoOs and the weapon in question to negate hits, which is per se, damn cool. A GM should just be weary to not let an indestructible weapon such as an artifact fall into the hands of the character. The serious array of racial feats allows for the expansion of the potency of the natural attacks. Personally, I am not a fan of yet another feat to increase the damage output of Vital Strikes. Two racial deities and 3 subdomains can be found, and no, I don't have any issues here. Oracles may choose the albinism curse, which is pretty cool The anti-fire battle-magic squall makes for a potent and neat spell and the magic items, for the most part, are neat - though once again there's an option here to further increase Vital Strike damage. As always, I'd advise caution here.

Among the merfolk, we gain two full-blown subtypes in addition to the alternate racial traits, with the angufolk and the octopi adding some nice visuals, though the latter, with +2 Dex and Con, are a bit lopsided on the physical side for my tastes. Still: Octopi-merfolk. Cool. Archetype-wise, the cyraniel bard is an investigator crossover with diminished spellcasting and an inspiration pool to enhance skills. The thematically-fitting aegan sorceror bloodline, which draws upon the Sea King's powers and the carcharodon bloodragers that tap into the wrath of megalodons, make for solid options, though the former has a purely cosmetic hiccup in the capstone header, sporting the "20" from the level it's gained. I really like the feat that lets you see better in murky water and mud and the swift octo-trip option among the racial feats. Edible cork and coral armor make for nice pieces of equipment. A new power lets you form legs on land and there are some nice utility underwater spells. The iconic belt of the land walker also provides a nice option to allow merfolk to adventure on dry land. I also liked the ink-grenades here and the artifact, the trident of the 7 seas, is appropriately potent!

The chapter on samsarans has the unfortunate handicap of having to compete with the Dynastic Races Compendium, though one should mention that it doesn't do a bad job at it - the alternate racial traits are solid and tie in well with the reincarnation-angle of the race. The pdf takes a different approach here, focusing more on the aspect of time, with the chronomancer wizard (who basically replaces schools etc. with spell echoes and customized bonus spells, arcane bond, etc.), the anti-evil knight eternal paladin and the timeless warden druid, who emphasizes the cyclical nature and is more a guardian-style priest of nature than a wood-stalking hermit, gaining channel energy, but losing wild shape, woodland stride, etc. The Panacean sorceror bloodline would, bingo, be another arcane healing option - their touch can provide nourishment and they even receive some lay on hands and mercy-tricks. Depending on your attributes, you may select feats to retain some knowledge from previous lives and some samsaran priests may even use channel energy to heal ability damage and drain - though thankfully with proper prerequisites and ratio - kudos! On the faith-side of things, the deity presented here is supplemented by the dreams mystery and the vision subdomain, both of which are solid options. I am particularly partial to the nonlethal damage causing touch that comes with a free merciful upgrade at later levels. Showing the truth of a soul via a polymorph-effect or gaining flashes of insight from previous lives are some examples for the spells featured herein...and there is a blade to grant final death to reincarnating creatures. It also makes sense to me that there are capsules that contain information from past lives. All in all, I liked the chapter, but compared to the in-depth look in Dynastic Races Compendium, it was shorter and thus had less space to develop its take on the race.

Next up would be the pretty potent skinwalker race, who gains alternate change shape options among the alternate racial traits and traits to ignore a single 5-ft.-square of difficult terrain while running or charging. The archetypes feature the beastwalker druid, who gains the ability to assume hybrid forms via wild shape. The kinetic assailant replaces the mind-blade enhancing options with the means to use move actions to store kinetic energy in unarmed or natural attacks, increasing their damage output. While generally functional, the core ability of the archetype deviates significantly in the way it is presented from how such rules-operations are usually phrased. As such, there are a couple of rough patches here. The rougarou witch replaces patron and may choose the governing attribute for her magic. With diminished spellcasting and familiar as well as a natural spellstrike variant, the archetype is really intriguing and provides an interesting playing experience - two thumbs up for this one! The wild stalker hunter is a minor tweak. Cursed scars and wounds and new animal foci make for more compelling options. The racial feats focus on enhancing natural attacks (such as using a swift action to add a grapple attempt to a bite), tripping foes that run from you, etc. - all in all an interesting selection and one that thankfully hides pounce behind a sufficient level-cap. Beyond 3 sample deities, we also get a new shaman spirit, who focuses on the moon - including "lunacy" to confuse targets - and yep, that's where the word comes from -in German it's "mondsüchtig" - moon-addicted, but that as an aside. I like the spirit! The moon/hunter-theme also extends to the spell-array, with one allowing for the sharing of the skinwalker's bestial form...The magic items cover an iteration of the classic lycanthrope-mantle, transformative masks and shape-locking arrows.

Next up would be the tengus, who can hail from ravens and sports a rather nice assortment of traits and solid alternate racial traits as well - no complaints here! Aerialist swashbucklers focus on jumping over foes, attacking them from above, etc., while crow shamans get modified class skills and spells as well as some trickster style at-range theft...and item-cloaking. Nice one! Kite fighters specialize in the war kite (!! - That's a new weapon herein, btw.) weapon, while raven knight cavaliers get a raven that can carry them at 1st level at 1/2 speed (important note, considering the limitations of aerial mounts - but I still wish it didn't use an absolute value and instead employed proper carrying capacity and size-interactions. Spell scavenger wizards can use left-over magic to power spells and siphon off magic from dispels - interesting. A critical Eye Gouge feat is interesting...though move action combat feat duplication once again suffers from per-encounter mechanics. Using filth to make weapons infectious is...disgusting, but cool. The pdf contains two racial deities as well as an OP damage channeler, whose channel energy damages both living and undead, excluding the character. Yeah, no. Full untyped damage there? Nope. The spying subdomain is nice and so are the new magic options, which include the long nose curse, sword snapping bite and the theft of eyes. The magic items include geta that allow tengus to walk through hurricanes and warkites that help jumping or call down lightning. Pretty cool chapter!

The final two races herein would be more potent than the others, which is why I considered them to be worthy of extra mentioning - the wyrwood has full construct immunities (but also their instantaneous 0 hp destruction), while the wyvarang begins play with unassisted personal flight. Both are imho aspects that require some GM-consideration. But both also have in common that we have basically heard and seen nothing about them or their respective culture before, with the wyrwood entry making pretty clear that they can be an intriguing option when handled with care. Their crafted nature and stone-based variant, the latter provided in the alternate, make for an interesting background. Similarly, there is an option for a wyrwood to have emotions, unlocking them for a variety of options. The character options have a really cool tactician, who gains 3 unique strategies as well as the option to act as full cover for allies and some free-form temporary hit points that are shared among the collective - I assume that these are replenished after a rest, but I'm not 100% sure - they could also manifest upon forming a collective. The golembreaker would be anti-construct/undead/etc. rogue - nice! Alchemists can gain construct-healing options via a discovery and there is the eldritch bloodline, which, for bloodragers, features shield and low-range force damage for those nearby while in a bloodrage. The sorceror iteration of the bloodline instead features at-range Sleight of Hand, spying, etc., focusing on arcane subterfuge. Feats to craft Wyrwoods and repair them are neat, but I am particularly impressed by the ability to hold positive or negative energy for a limited time and deliver it to targets - the two feats here are really intriguing. A form of variant channeling for constructs and two philosophies can be found alongside the amaranthine mystery, which focuses on knowledge and construct mastery - including flooding the minds of foes with information. Construct-affecting cure-variants can be found, and the remainder of the magic and psionic options is decent, with e.g. a psionic shield other variant. In the magic item section, an item class that can absorb energy damage to regain spell levels deserves some serious warning, as the item class can delimit spells. The massive price is what keeps me from complaining more here - not broken, but potent.

The wyvaran, forged by the Tinkerer from kobolds and wyverns in the magical forge known as Cauldron (no, not the city in the Volcano!) come with a slew of alternate racial traits that include honoring the trapmaking of their kobold forebears, poison glands, better darkvision and fast healing when taking electricity damage - thankfully with a daily maximum to avoid infinite healing exploits. The class options include the intuitor investigator, who replace Inspiration with Intuition (which is governed by Wisdom, as are other class features). Regulator rangers replace the druid-y components of the ranger with warpriest tricks, while stormlancer cavaliers gain either the Air or Weather blessing and flight-enhancing tricks instead of the whole mount/charge-tree - cool one! Skylord monks lose fast movement and slow fall in favor of better flight options. The wyvern bloodline allows, among other things, a bite and the option to assume a semi-wyvern form at higher levels. Including poison. The racial feat array includes several ones that enhance flight as well as options to use wings defensively and the option to use tail or wings for attacks - cool: These are properly codified as secondary/primary natural attacks. The equipment section sports shrieking armor (which makes a ruckus when charging) and there are two racial deities provided. Reaper clerics can deliver inflict spells via weaponry and they can use their scythes to generate arcs of energy that are half negative energy and half "pure force" - does that mean force damage? I'm honestly not sure, but either way, losing a domain and channel energy makes for a viable trade-off for these potent tricks. The racial spells include the 9th level pillar of doom, which is pretty damn badass (it can explode or topple) as well as the updraft cantrip, which can help while flying. The magic items this time around are less interesting in my book, offering a crown that causes panic, a morningstar with form of the dragon I - you get the idea.

It should be noted that the book contains a massive spells & powers appendix by class and level, as well as a massive 5-page index that helps navigating this massive tome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a crunch-book of this size. I mean it. The bonus and damage types are admirably, impressively consistent, the rules-language and narrative voices of the respective chapters have been brought together into a concise whole - the editors Richard Moore and Kevin Morris have done a really good job here. Considering the number of authors involved, that's an impressive accomplishment! Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the book sports a significant array of full-color artwork, both original and stock pieces. The book comes with EXCESSIVE, nested bookmarks for your convenience - in conjunction with the appendices, this makes navigation of the tome very comfortable. I cannot comment on the physical version, since I do not own it.

My heartfelt congratulations to the cadre of authors: Michael Eshleman, Joel Flank, Sasha Hall, Maurice de Mare, Dale McCoy Jr., Matthew Ryan, Richard Moore, Kevin Morris, E. Steev Ramsdell, David N. Ross, Rachel Ventura and George "Loki" Williams. Racial books have a hard time convincing me of their reason to exist - you see, I expect more from a race than stats - I expect a culture, an interesting roleplaying angle. That alone is, for many races, a hard task. This book had an even harder standing. I never made any pretensions of liking the ARG - I hate the book with a fiery passion. This tome is largely based on races from the ARG - but it manages to make them feel like more than the sum of their mechanics, adding depth and dimension to them. Now, I consider the wyvaran and wyrwood races, balance-wise, problematic; same goes for the skinwalkers, but it would not be fair to penalize this book, as it was crafted to build on the existing races. To cut an already oversized review short: This massive tome manages to add much-needed depth to the respective races. The racial class options, while not all pure amazing, most of the time tie in with racial options and forma concise whole that makes it pretty clear how they tie in with the race in question. This focused identity adds further dimensions to the races in question. The fluff serves to enhance the individual entries as well.

For a book of this size and depth, let it be known that the crunch is impressive - while there are some instances where I can complain and nitpick, as a whole, the book holds up really well. My gripes come mainly from my knowledge of combos, from minor nitpicks and a rather conservative power-aesthetic. I think, for example, that psionic options herein tend to severely undervalue the massive power that more psionic foci can net. It should be noted, that crunch I'd consider problematic remains the exception in a massive book.

Most folks probably will encounter no issues with the material herein and it should be strongly emphasized that the majority of the material herein works smoothly - to the point where I was honestly impressed. This may not be perfect, but it most assuredly is a high-quality compilation and an incredibly tightly-packed book of crunch that brings to life races that were nothing but pale stats before. What more can you ask for? If you hated these races before, then this book may change actually that! If you wanted more detail, then this book will deliver. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium (PFRPG)
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Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:50:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my review queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so while this is a massive module, it should be noted that it also doubles, to an extent, as a small settlement supplement – the appendix depicts the city of Hunstoc, which represents the backdrop of this adventure, in rather impressive detail – not only are the respective key environments discussed, we also get the full, proper settlement stats AND a one-page full-color map of the place; basically, we go above and beyond here, in a level of detail that is quite nice to see for an appendix.

That being said, you are interested in this because it is a module, right? As such, I will try to shed some light of the adventure itself, a process that necessitates that I go deep into SPOILER-territory. This means that, from now on, only GMs should continue to read on; potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion to avoid having their fun spoiled.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Perfect! The Lich Queen (a nod towards the classic modules or the 3-part saga made by Savage Mojo?) is served by a cadre of liches called Putrefects…and only the 3 most trustworthy and potent gain the coveted title of Queensminister, elevated beyond the status and concerns of petty mortals and immortals alike. One of the chosen few would be Chalmos, whose obsession with the accumulation of money would do a certain, famous Runelord proud, but that as an aside and potential means to contextualize the adventure in some campaigns.

Chalmos did happen to make one groundbreaking discovery, namely the creation of a device that would be capable of making Gold for a relatively affordable price, the so-called Aureus Conflux. The putrefect knew of the potentially groundbreaking change a device like this could generate and thus hid it very carefully in a complex of his own creation, murdering all potential witnesses, co-workers etc. – and thus, the Conflux has remained a secret hidden from prying mortal eyes for more than a thousand years…and it would have stayed that way, were it not for a side-effect in the gold-manufacturing process: raw mercury, which has begun spilling into the drinking water. This may not be enough cause for alarm for the outsiders and immortal undead guarding the complex…but it is most assuredly enough to put the adventurers on the trail of the strange complex…

The action starts with the PCs investigating via one of the numerous adventure hooks, the reason for the recent troubles of the city of Hunstoc and ultimately brings them almost immediately to the dungeon complex in question, for this is, in essence, a dungeon exploration. That being said, there are quite a few peculiarities that should be noted about the complex: We begin, for example, with a lead mine, which contains pools of mercury. That is the first “room” of the complex and it sets a very important tone for the whole complex, namely one that emphasizes a) a magitech/clockwork-y/steampunk-esque aesthetic: The first enemies are clockwork sentries with automatic weapons and an advanced junk golem, the mining titan. This means that the module seamlessly fits in with a variety of settings, from Midgard to Thunderscape. Secondly, these respective aspects are colored sufficiently in a quasi-medieval context to make them not too intrusive, should you prefer a more down to earth take on things. Thirdly, the room does come with a full-page battle-map-style version of the map, a process that repeats throughout the module.

This brings me to one of the most amazing components of the module, namely its full-color cartography: Beyond the GM-maps provided for your convenience, the module also comes with an extra pdf that clocks in at an impressive 34 pages; half of these are devoted to the respective maps with grids, while the other half sports grid-less maps – and these are player-friendly. This makes use with VTTs and when printing out the maps VERY comfortable for the GM. If you’re like me and hate drawing maps/suck at it, then this pdf is a godsend. More importantly, the detail provided on the full-color maps means that the module can do something that is rather important for the functionality of the module: It can really capitalize on the tactical aspects of PFRPG.

From the mercury pools in the very first encounter onwards, the dungeon makes serious use of terrain features in its combats – from the poisonous pools to stalactites falling, the way in which terrain and traps, hazards etc. are employed, is utterly remarkable. There is an array of items, which, for example, can prove to be rather helpful in dealing with some challenges herein…but at the same time, neither luck nor combat min-maxing will save the PCs alone – this module’s aesthetic very much represents a fusion of old-school, challenging dungeon-crawls: Spectral board game mini-games, the bridge of revere psychology – this complex is NOT about just rolling well; it is about honest, old-school using the wits of the player, rather than the PC, to best the challenges faced.

That being said, the tactical component mentioned before is still very much a given requirement to see this complex through to the end…to give you an example: One of the areas has, with handy, color-coded transparent overlays, the respective environmental effects all at one glance for the GM. There is a rainbow room (If that doesn’t make your PCs paranoid…) or the elemental chaos engine, which sports glyphs on the floor. In short: The combats and hazards often double as traps AND make excellent use of the maps featured.

Another peculiarity of the gilded gauntlet would be that, while it is narrative-wise not the strongest of modules, it does manage to tell its story via both direct and indirect means, blending the two to convey the information required for the PCs. Have I mentioned the section that focuses on magical mirrors? Now, yes – this is a gauntlet style adventure, as the title frankly states – this would be a module I’d expect to play at a convention…but unlike many such modules, it actually makes cohesive sense…and it blends the virtues of gauntlets with more traditional modules. What do I mean by this? There is not a single boring room in this dungeon; much like most gauntlets, each room is a highlight-room and thus, you won’t find rooms to ramp up tension or the like, no dressing rooms, no simulated living chambers. But at the same time, the module justifies its set-up rather beautifully – the reason for the gauntlet being a gauntlet make sense, the lack of living quarters etc. and similar dynamics are justified by the choice of creatures, challenges etc. – which unanimously sport interesting twists: Whether when facing Thallium elementals or mercurial necroplasm, the module sports adversaries that fit the environments as well as puzzles to engage the mental faculties of the players…and reaching the Aureus Conflux makes for a suitably lethal climax…and once the PCs have cleared it, there is a ridiculous amount of wealth to be gained…probably. For one, it is very much likely that the machine was damaged. And then, encumbrance is a limiting factor…and so could, frankly, be the realities of the economy, gp limits and much more. So while the probability of success should come with some forethought on the part of the GM, the module does have sufficient narrative reasons to make absconding with the gold a dangerous endeavor…

It should be noted that, while the module does use Lore in some places to determine PC knowledge, the module similarly has groups covered that do not use this skill.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top notch, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a neat 2-column full-color standard that manges to fit a surprising amount of information on the respective page – kudos for not bloating the page-count artificially! The module features some nice full-color artworks, but from an aesthetic and usability point of view, the massive cartography in full-color, including player-friendly maps, would be the main selling point on an aesthetic level for me.

When I read the number of authors involved in the creation of this dungeon, I was frankly surprised: Michael Allen, Charlie Bell, Casey Clements, Daniel DeStephen, Michael Eshleman, Allan Hoffmann, Andrew Hoskins, Dale C. McCoy Jr., Steve Miller, Richard Moore, Sam Polak, Mike Welham – that’s a lot of authors, quite a few of which I consider to be good indicators that I’ll like a given module. Still, developer Richard Moore has done an impressive job at unifying the narrative voices of the authors to prevent tonal disjoints between the rooms.

Modules worth winning. Both Frog God Games and TPK Games have made a tag-line of hardcore adventures. Lamentations of the Flame Princess has similarly done so, but with a different focus; neither of these companies has done much with the formula of gauntlets, and for a good reason. Gauntlets are hard to make and cater to a specific demographic. And they often suck hardcore. You see, any idiot can make an unfair module and label it as “challenging”. A good gauntlet is a bit like the extreme-sport version of dungeoneering: It remains constantly challenging for PC and player; it is lethal – but it needs to remain fair. It needs to alternate the way in which it challenges the PCs and players without getting boring…and in a published adventure, it also should tell a decent story, remain plausible. In an age where hard modules result in whining by some players, where others actually cheer on unfair design and praise it as challenging, it’s very hard to generate a module that challenges veterans, yet remains FAIR.

The gilded gauntlet manages just that. This is one of the hardest dungeon-complexes I have ever had the pleasure to run, but it is hard without resorting to ridiculous amounts of save-or-suck tricks or unfair enemy/hazard placement, instead focusing on presenting a tightly-woven, intricate web of unique rooms and tricks, on showing what you can do with the format. In short, this is one of the best examples of a gauntlet-style dungeon I have ever seen…also thanks to its impressive use of blending terrain, strategy and cartography in its challenges.

This is a module that requires both brains and brawn to solve and it will challenge even groups that usually waltz through published modules. In short: This is glorious. It may not win any rewards for its story, but it doesn’t have to – it is FUN. Yes, capital letters. If you and your group are bored, if you’re looking for a challenge that blends new-school tactics and strategy with old-school emphasis on smarts, then this is the dungeon for you. I absolutely adored this dungeon and consider it an excellent and uncommon option that feels like a refreshing breath of fresh air in the genre of new school dungeon explorations. The sheer diversity of the challenges posed herein and the clever use of the maps and terrain in particular elevate this adventure beyond its brethren. Hence, it is my pleasure to award this 5 stars + seal of approval – and this qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

This is not for newbies or the faint of heart, but veteran groups should adore this gem of a dungeon! I know that I did!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
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Just want to say thank you very much for taking the time to review, and I am glad you enjoyed it.
Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
by Marja E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2017 19:21:21

I bought this book hoping to find resources for gamemasters who want to create societies for their campaigns. i.e. "kingdom building." I already have other historically-oriented resources, but game-oriented resources would be useful, even if they would require adaptation from Pathfinder to my preferred systems. The Book of the River Nations does not have anything like this.

I knew it had resources for ambitious players who want to conquer or administer them.

The Book of the River Nations assumes that the characters are exploring and colonizing empty lands. Without resources for gamemasters who want to create societies for their campaigns, or want to interpret a setting's existing societies for the campaigns, it is ill-suited to ambitious characters conquering or administering existing societies, or to adventures for other characters caught in the middle.

The population sizes and army sizes are both far too low for settled agricultural societies. When William the Bastard invaded England, he took an army of around 10,000 people, and conquered a land of around 1,000,000 people. In the game a colossal army has 2,000 people, and an area as large as England would have around 20,000 people in 132 hexes.

The rules don't account for differing climate, or differing crops, or for the advantages of irrigation in semi-desert, though it costs more to build towns in desert.

The rules don't account for trade routes to the mother country or through the new one.

I have to wonder what emptied these lands: have people never settled there? have people already settled, but been killed by invaders and new diseases?



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. This book was designed to be a companion to the Kingmaker adventure path. At the time, the kingdom building rules were only available in the adventure path, where players couldn't see them. Unless you are designing a campaign with similar assumption as that AP these rules do leave some holes, as you pointed out. These reasons are why I have not made any significant expansions of these rules in 6-ish years. I hope you enjoy some of our other supplements more.
Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
by Rick H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2017 18:25:28

I got to run though part of this adventure at an event this last weekend, and consequently purchased it to use in my home game. As a player, the parts I played through were hugely enjoyable, and reading though the rest I'm not disappointed. The adventure is fairly straight foreward-on the surface. There isn't great complication in information to track or maps to explored. There are, however, many out-of-the-box problems that need to be carefully considered. I really liked this approach- the information the characters require is readily available, but making sense of it is key. Further, the encounters mix monsters with hazards in interesting environments. There's a lot of content for the price, and I look forward to using it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: The Gilded Gauntlet (PFRPG)
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Thank you very much for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it. And I am glad you enjoyed it so much. I hope you have fun running it for your own group.
JBE'S Big Book of Everything [BUNDLE]
by Troy D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/03/2017 10:00:47

::pushes button...damnit... :: pushes button again....damnit.

I can't get the thing to do six stars no matter how hard I try. Oh well...

Well...

I just downloaded the bundle. Out of the 90+ files, 76 of them are PDF's. The others are mobi, epub, and hero lab extensions. Since I am a PDF guy, I am going to focus on those.

Out of the 76 PDF's 6 of them are printer friendly versions (nice!) of previous works. That leaves us with 70 PDFS. For 20 bucks. That's .29 cents a PDF.

It gets better. 1385 pages worth of content. All of them have a cover and at least one page of OGL, so subtract 140 pages. That is still 1245 pages of content. Actual, usable content.

Now, when you take into account that you are getting compendiums, races, adventures, monster manuals, and beautiful full-color maps...

This bundle is a no brainer. There were bundles like this last year that were no brainers. This is the first no-brainer of the season. If you have not already put your hands on this beast, then you need to. Well worth the average of THIRTY CENTS a book. Well done JBE!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
JBE'S Big Book of Everything [BUNDLE]
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I'm really glad you liked this so much. Thank you for taking the time to review!
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
by Martin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/28/2017 14:01:42

Spoilers Alert

This short adventure is intended to be played over one session, two at the most. It starts with the characters being sent to the town of Mossdale to bring a shipment of spidersilk rope, a rare alchemical item that is only found there due to the village proximity to the Webmoss Woods. However, Mossdale was overrun by spiders and while battling the stragglers from the spider “army” the characters discover a few survivors and learn that the spiders captured many villagers and amongst them is the alchemist they are looking for. What happened is that an entity of pure thoughts managed to slipped to the Material Plane and took control of a giant assassin spider. Curious, it wants to study and control more advanced beings, so it ordered

While tracking the spiders through the Webmoss Woods, the characters may encounter other denizens that can provide a bit more information about the spiders and their strange behavior. Depending on the information they get, they may find or stumble upon an ancient rock monument where the spiders converge and there, have their showdown with the “possessed” assassin spider.

Overall, the module is well made despite its brevity. One has to keep in mind that it is intended to be brief, so it is not a bad thing. The idea is good and while I would have liked a bit more information about the being called the Great Hive or on the town itself, the module’s goal is not to provide a long campaign or a complex adventure. It does what it intends to do: provide a challenging and fun adventure for an evening of gaming. Drawbacks? Well, two of the encounters are a bit strange to me. The first one is the wererat living in the wood with his giant rat friends... It is not a bad encounter, but there is really no rationale as to why this particular wererat would choose to live in nature as opposed to their normal habitat. Any good GM can come up with a reason, but it still feels strange to me. The other weird encounter is with a summoned dretch who has been trapped in its summoning circle for centuries. I get that the encounter adds to the strangeness of the ancient ruins the characters are visiting, but at the same time, I have trouble understanding why Drothic barbarians with the power to summon would waste their resources summoning a dretch. Of course, the reason why is lost to time and the creature may have been summoned as a mere messenger, but the encounter just feels out of place. It just feels as if the encounter was added to provide more challenge for the characters rather than to add flavor to an otherwise interesting locale.

Despite these two little things that may not bother someone else, I think this is a good module and one that not only reaches its goal, but that offers many possibilities to expand on the material presented here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
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Thank you for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it. Please feel free to check out our other adventures and share your thoughts on them as well.
d66 Compendium
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2017 12:43:56

Solid product. I bundled this and Compendium 2 into a binder to take with me to Traveller sessions as Referee. Great stuff for ideas.

This also works as a brainstroming setup for writing. looking at the names, events and places, then with it all in your mind get a flavor.

Easy enough when printed out to change up some details by crossing out and writing in new ones. can't wait to make up some of my own tables. This product and compendium 2 would be well served by including a few table blanks numbered 11 to 66.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
d66 Compendium
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Thank you for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it.
Scenes of Space Hex Battle Maps
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2017 12:36:00

I liked this a lot. I used the asteroid map in a recent Traveler Session. nice big hexes on four sheets. I like that there are ifferent sizes. No problems printing and cutting these pieces to fit together with some tape.

Price was good at 2$

I would buy more if there were more in the series.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scenes of Space Hex Battle Maps
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Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods (5e)
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/20/2016 15:09:31

Disclaimer: I received a review copy.

Now, I have to say that I am massively impressed with this product. It is not a bestiary so much as it is an ecology primer on a bunch of new creatures that are original, inspiring, and effective. Ranging from animal to elemental to monstrocity, there are plenty of interesting and original creatures to use in your campaigns. For each creature or type we are given a wide number of alternative builds, whether they be stronger versions of the base creature, or full distinct variations on a similar theme. For instance, we get young, adult, and elder spider bears, while the druidic guardians are varied by elemental type.

Each cluster of creatures comes with plot hooks, potential treasure (when it makes sense), and pointers for how a creature might behave in battle. This, coupled with the brief but comprehensive descriptions give creatures a depth that is not conveyed in a 1 page stat block. And although the hit point values are a bit low for a given CR, the creatures themselves are excellently represented for 5th edition statistics.

I very much look forward to seeing more books like this, and it has even changed my view on what shorter bestiaties should be. Without the history of older and established monsters, every new beast needs to be as fleshed out as the ones in this book.

5 out of 5 stars, and my royal seal.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods (5e)
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