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Broodmother SkyFortress
by gonzalo e. p. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2017 10:44:27

It's a great adventure full of useful advice on running games in the OSR stile. The art is awesome



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broodmother SkyFortress
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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:42:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book is 64 pages long, with one page credits...and we actually get MORE out of the book than its 64 pages. How does that work? Well, let me elaborate.

This pdf is based on the second edition, primarily the print edition. It has received pretty much a selection of awards. So why review this now? Because all reviews I found did not really prepare me for what this book actually brings to the table.

So let's start with the obvious: This book is radically and systematically designed to make use of the features of the physicality of the medium book. The hardcover comes with a sleeve and on the inside of the sleeve, you get a massive full-color map that can be found via a secret link if you get the pdf version. The map , much like the cover image and interior artwork, all adhere to author Zak Sabbath's unique and distinct style - a style that may polarize, but personally, I enjoy the somewhat post-punk/post-gothic, fantastic anachronism that the depictions of the city as black claws rising from the world conveyed - my immediate association would be the BLAME manga-series and its sprawling, cruel structures...but this is no mere quote, it is an aesthetic vision and, as all good art does, it will not be to everyone's liking.

The book's structure. Well, on the inside of the sleeves and yes, throughout the book, would be instructions for charts: The front and back cover, on the inside and outside, provide charts, with representations of the claw-like sprawling city structures framed by numbers; by for example dropping dice on these artworks, you can, among other things, determine quick and dirty damage and attacks versus body parts or use it to jumpstart your imagination in a variety of other ways. One page away from the inside of the back cover (which btw. contains a gigantic table), we have a vast selection of professions - similarly, relations between them can thus be quickly determined. And indeed, while not all such functions championed by the book can be perfectly translated to all the different systems out there, I should not be remiss to mention that a significant section of this pdf is devoted to being basically one of the most amazing GM-aids I have ever read, regardless of the system you're using.

If you have ever read a fantasy book like China Miéville's brilliant Bas-Lag novels and wondered how to ever depict a sprawling metropolis like that in your game without resorting to copious levels of handwaving or gigantic tomes of prepared material - this book is the answer. the urbancrawling rules are meta and brilliant: The book sports a vast array of so-called urbancrawling rules and tricks that allow you to almost instantly generate whole neighborhoods, street webs, etc. - beyond the fantasy metropolis, these methods can easily be employed in pretty much any roleplaying context, whether you're going for the fantastic hive, a sprawling science-fiction station, non-Euclidean ruins... generating chaotic street-networks within a few minutes has been a boon for my own campaign ever since I read the ideas here. They may be deceptively simple, yes - but oh so effective. And no, I am not going to spoil the details here. Why? Because I really want you to get this book.

Now, these urbancrawling rules obviously can only provide the framework for an enterprising GM to use, but in conjunction with aforementioned graphs and tables, the book becomes more interesting. And if you require a vast array of detail, fret not, for a significant portion of the book is devoted to gigantic table upon table of names, professions, goals, names - and tying the NPCs together in social webs is similarly covered. I tried it. Within 30 minutes with this book, I can make a moderately detailed series of very professional feeling villages, neighborhoods and similar settlements. And I suck at drawing maps and am damn picky. And yes, from looted bodies to fortunes and magical effects, the strange and uncommon all tap into this massive dressing collection herein.

Now, the dressing here does depict the Vornheim setting; the Grey Maze, its sprawling spires rising from the arctic plane, a city near a forest that should not exist, of which scholars claim that the trees may be phlegmatic undead; a city wondrous and vile, near the city of goblins, situated on a hive of stone, ostensibly the result of legendary medusas once petrifying the flesh of whatever once was...the world?. Here, the church of the god of Iron, Rust and Rain and the church of the goddess of all flesh exist. It is within this city that the decadent upper class has taken to the fad of purchasing slow pets, highlighting their copious surfeit of spare time; it is here that sometimes, there are masquerades; sometimes, the gates are opened to the wolves. It is common knowledge that the skin of snakes and serpentine creatures are books that contain ancient secrets and that here, the wyvern of the well can be found - who will unerringly answer ONE question for any interlocutor. From the granary cats to the grub nagas and thornchildren, a selection of truly imaginative creatures inhabits this place...and a selection of superstitions can provide a vast array of different adventure hooks.

Which brings me to yet another aspect of the book: You see, Vornheim is ALSO a book containing three modules.

I'll be brief, but potential players should still jump to the conclusion. There are some SPOILERS to be found here.

...

..

.

The most common would be the House of the Medusa, wherein the PCs have to infiltrate the house of one of the fabled medusas...oh, and if they kill her, they may inadvertently de-petrify a significant part of the world, making it flesh once again...with far-reaching consequences.

The second module deals with the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng, a menagerie of strange creatures gone totally rogue, where the primary antagonist of the book, the mastermind takes on a form most peculiar - and if the PCs don't want to brave all those lethal and unique creatures, they should be up to their A-game.

Thirdly, we have the labyrinthine puzzle-dungeon also known as the library of Zorlac, basically an interesting infiltration/espionage-scenario at your fingertips...or a truly strange place to visit and work in.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a very buy one-column or two-column standard, with a ton of information on every single page. The layout is obviously made for the A5-booklet (6'' by 9'') size, though I'd strongly suggest not printing out multiple pages on one sheet of paper here - the sheer information density means that the font becomes too small if you try that here. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The book is incredibly aesthetically pleasing if you enjoy Zak Sabbath's style of art, with layout using black frames on the pages - so yeah, this is not the most printer-friendly of books. And while the pdf does an admirable job at maintaining the raw functionality of the physical dead-tree hardcover, the sheer switching of sheets of paper takes a bit away from the immediate functionality when comparing the printed version or screen-version with the physical hardcover. The hardcover is the preferred version - with nice binding, sleeves and even the covers having a function...so yeah. If you can afford it, go for print.

Zak Sabbath's Vornheim is a piece of art that captured my interest to a higher extent that many, many books of ten times their page-count and more. As a GM-aid, this provides some phenomenally-innovative tools of the trade that even veteran GMs may not necessarily know yet - I learned more from this book's tricks than from any comparable GM-book, which is a feat in and of itself, considering the experience I have. While the quick-and-dirty attack-charts or any chart really, may not be for everyone, I'd be seriously surprised if any GM went into this book without some seriously cool new tool of the trade.

The city Vornheim itself represents one of the most evocative settlements I have read in a long time: Beyond the truly fantastic setting, its unconventional premises and unfettered, raw collection of absolutely inspired tidbits, the influences of contemporary weird fiction and the writings of Borges are readily apparent on every page. The city manages to evoke a sense of wonder only all too rarely still found among the settings out there - it is phenomenal and I would not have minded a 500-page tome on the city; it's brevity is almost painful, it's excellence achingly pronounced, particularly if you've found yourself bored with standard settlements and most so-called "fantastic" cities and customs.

The 3 modules contained herein all have different, interesting angles and while I explicitly remained brief in their descriptions, they similarly...well, are brief. They are interesting, evocative, inspired...but brief. Oh so brief.

You're probably seeing where this is going. Vornheim is, in all components of its content, whether as a GM-aid, as a sourcebook or regarding the modules included, a truly phenomenal offering; each component shines brightly like a cruel Northern star - but at the same time, while the components are interconnected, I could not help but feel like it was buckling under its own ambition - the book is so jam-packed, it strains at the seams and universally leaves the reader inspired and wiser, yes - but also wanting more. You will not finish reading this book and feel saturated. When I came to the end of the setting-section, I was disappointed I did not get more; the same held true for all other sections. This book represents a perfect kit to create a glorious city, a sprawling moloch. It perfectly depicts one of the most unique, fantastic cities I've read...but it may be, at times, too good, too inspired for its own sake.

I can absolutely see someone expecting a campaign setting/city-setting wanting more; I can see those craving adventures wanting more detail; I can see those that looked for the GM-aid components wanting to receive more dressing, more details, more tricks...but ultimately, all of these criticisms are not fair. Do I believe that this, at double the page count, would have been even better? Heck yes. Do I want a full-blown, massive sourcebook on Vornheim, perhaps a whole mega-campaign or AP set in it? OH YES. Yes, please. But the thing is - the book does not try to be just a city sourcebook; just some modules, just some game-aids - while the amalgamation of these components may put a strain on the reader, they also force the GM's hand.

Vornheim says: "This is what you can do with the book. Want more? Then strain your creativity, use your own brain. CREATE." This book, in short, forces the GM to act, to create. It strips away the pretensions, the excuses we make time and again and tells us to make its contents our own, make this grey maze our grey maze. Sure, we may crave just consumption - but this does not try to be simply consumed - it forces you to create, by virtue of its own brilliance.

All the accolades heaped upon this book are justified. While the pdf loses a bit of the impact of its physicality in the electronic version, I still consider this to be one truly amazing, unique book that should grace the shelves of any self-respecting GM. It is a brilliant exercise in inspiration, a rallying call to flex one's own creative muscles - it is, in short, an intoxicating vision. Get this.

My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, this receives the EZG-Essential-tag. This belongs into the library of any advanced GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
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Weird New World
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/14/2017 07:56:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/sandbox clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 60 pages of content, though these pages are formatted for the A5 (6'' by 9'' booklet)-size, which means you can pretty easily fit 4 pages of content on one sheet of paper when you're printing this out.

All right, so this represents pretty much one of the experiences where I got a book merely for completion's sake. The title "Weird New World" did not appeal to me and neither did the cover...but I am very much happy that I did get this book.

So, what is this? In short, it is a depiction of a fantastic version of Antarctica or a similarly icy environment - and I mean "beyond Norse sphere of culture"-level icy environment. As in polar nights and days. And while I was reading through this book, I realized...that I had never seen this angle attempted in an RPG-supplement. Basically, this adventure's goal, if you want to put it that bluntly, is for the PCs to chart a kind of Northwest Passage. Wait!

I know, it sounds dull.

Believe me when I'm telling you that it's anything but dull!

So the premise is pretty simple, yes - there are tiny civilization outposts represented by stations and their soldiers, but what exactly you do with the set-up that's provided is wide open - a sandbox in the truest sense of the word. But a sandbox that is more than just basics: First of all, I should note the grand scale - the final page of the pdf is devoted to a gigantic map of the hex-crawling environment that can be found within these pages; this area is so big that it also comes with quadrant-versions for printing out.

Thing is also- cold does not equal cold in the arctic; everyone who even has spent one winter in a Northern climate will know the massive differences - and hence, the pdf introduces basically 6 different climate zones, with varying degrees of winter severity, codified also by the respective months of the year - and they are brutal. If you thought going into the arctic with metal weapons and armor...well, not a good idea. The different effects on the player characters can be harsh. Of course, random encounter tables, by sea, land and ice, are included in the deal, with brief descriptions of the respective encounters. This extreme cold weather system alone may be well worth the scavenging potential, but it is, by far, not the central draw of this supplement/module.

You see, the draw of this toolkit/setting to throw your PCs in lies, to a vast degree, in the question of what you do with it: The pdf is littered with story seeds. Of course, there would be the local Inuit stand-ins, the Eskuit tribes and the less than amicable treatment they receive at the hands of the agents of the "civilized" world; but that is only the tip of the ice-berg. (Haha - okay, I'll punch myself later for this!)

Anyways, in order to give you a closer idea of what to expect herein, I'll have to resort to going into SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, so let's start with the obvious: There are elves. But not some kind, friendly Santa's Little Helpers. And no cliché ice-elves...but the bane of the frickin' Eskuit. You see, the elves in these climates once believed that they'd set sail to their undying lands...and landed here, believing that basically their afterlife had been compromised, that this bleak, icy hellscape was their purgatory. Obviously, the only way to solve this is and get to the proper undying lands... is to KILL EVERYONE that taints these elven lands. Yeah, they are not nice.

Beyond these, there would be an adversary straight out of a simulationalist survival story - the Beast. A super-strong, hyper-deadly and aggressive, preternaturally cunning white bear that will do its best to hunt down the PCs. It should be almost taken for granted that, yes, there also is a Carpenter-Thing waiting to be encountered (and woe to those that carry its seeds to civilization!) and there is a living aurora that makes what people believe it to be true - so listen well to the PC's speculations! A Rushmore-esque representation of dread Ymir carved in the ice, a shuttered village full of vampires (30 days of night, anyone?), remnants of ancient civilizations and strange obelisks can be found in the white wasteland.

If you don't get devoured by the white worm, you can even meet bird-people, a man who exerts mental control over caribou...and worse. Beyond these copious seeds, each of which can potentially carry a whole adventure, there also are detailed mini-dungeons.

One of them would be the cavern used by pirates to hide their treasures - where body-invading fireflies can be found alongside caves that make you believe you're among anthropomorphized candy can be found. (Okay second one with that theme in 2 weeks...sometimes, my life is weird...though, admittedly, here, it is a hallucinogenic fungus' work...) Beyond that, remnants of super-science and vending machines can be found as well as puzzles solved - it is intriguing to see the execution managing to make modern elements fantastic. The description helps the GM drive home the strange dynamics that happen when medieval/early modern characters meet modern objects.

Have I btw. mentioned the references to reptilian people and the insane weirdos that believe they're Norse gods?

The first of these mini-dungeons, though, would pale in direct comparison of the second of the more detailed locales: The great shipwreck #2: The ship has been impaled on a column of coral, with mast and sail under water, with only the rear of the ship rising from the water: The exploration of the mapped ship adds an amazing sense of verticality to the exploration, one rarely seen...and there would be strange survivors...and there are undead (including invisible ones) that operate on subjective gravity. Yes, this can be one of the most amazing scenes...but things get cooler. You see, the coral shaft is hollow and leads to even stranger, subterranean caves...and crawling it down may see the PCs attacked by a squid, as it's ripping apart the column, its tentacles potentially sealing the shaft in a truly claustrophobic and cinematic encounter. And have I mentioned the strange spine-fish men down below?

Oh, and there would be, outside of these locales, the plateaus that contain ancient cities, now haunted by the abomination that wiped out the culture...or frozen mammoths....and no, I have not touched on everything herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf is pretty printer-friendly. The interior b/w-artworks are sparse, but evocative and act as nice handouts, if you want to. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The cartography is solid and does its job.

James Edward Raggi IV's Weird New World is a fantastic supplement that contains a ton of gorgeous adventure hooks and seeds. Incredibly dense, the book can conceivably provide at least a month or even up to half a year of more of gaming if you really want to squeeze this gem dry. Chock-full with a massive array of glorious seeds, inspiration and potential, this represents one of the best exploration modules I have ever read - while there is ample of weirdness and a plethora of deadly creatures to be found in these pages, that is not what makes this supplement exceptional.

What makes this supplement/module shine is that, more than the collective sum of the weirdness-toting things you can encounter, it is always the icy eternity of the area that represents the true adversary here, that makes the module/environment work. This is inspired, evocative and a sandbox in the truest sense - and no, if you're sensitive - while challenging and yes, lethal, this book is never unfair, never dickish or sadistic for its own sake. Relentless and brutal like the environment it depicts, yeah - but gloriously so. In short: To me, this represents one of the most amazing of the early LotFP-offerings, a book that should be considered to be a must-own. Now can we please get a revised and expanded option that I can get in print, preferably with a poster map?

Forgot the verdict? Oh yeah, obviously 5 stars + seal of approval. A must-have offering, even if you're playing another system. This is definitely good enough to convert...and if you're an OSR-gamer, then what are you waiting for? Get this now!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weird New World
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Tower of the Stargazer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:50:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page b/w-version of the cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though these pages are A5-booklet-sized (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit about 4 of them on a given sheet of paper, provided your eyesight is good enough.

This review is based primarily on the print-version with new layout from 2014, though I took the electronic version for reference purposes.

So, first things first: This is intended as an introductory module...perhaps not necessarily for gaming as such (more on that later),but for LotFP's distinct style of design. What do I mean by this? Well, this module is suffused with numerous designer's notes that elaborate on specific design decisions and rationales, helping the referee understand why and how certain things are the way they are. At the same time, if you're expecting copious read-aloud text or the like, you're at the wrong place here. If you expect mercy or a gradual learning curve, then you'd be similarly in the wrong place. This module is pretty much sink or swim for referee and players alike.

The hook is as simple as it gets, intentionally so, and the dungeon is very much a contained and relatively static environment, making that aspect "easy" - but only that aspect. The story's simple: There was a wizard known to gaze at the stars; his tower remote and removed from the nearest civilization. People talked about him in hushed whispers and his only lackey took care of most things pertaining paltry mortals. It's been a long, long while since anyone saw the wizard. The intrepid group of victi...ehrr, I mean murderhob...ehrr, I mean "valiant adventurers" has decided that the tower's rife for the plucking.

....and this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only referees left? Okay. So...know how I consider both "Grinding Gear" and "Hammers of the God" hard but fair? This one...makes sense in a similar manner, but is mean. Logical and methodical in its meanness, but yeah. We begin in the field before the tower: Iron spikes rise from the ground equidistantly, ringing it and the open ground between the spikes and the tower is a blasted ruin, where lightning bolts keep striking. Do the PCs carry long poles? Metal armor? Then they should hurry and get inside. Between the spikes and the tower, there is a percentile chance to be hit by lightning...something a level 1 character is not likely to survive. In order to get in the tower, two options present themselves: A knocker and a handle. The knocker makes the doors open themselves. The handles are shaped like serpents...and touching them makes them come alive. Bite the touching character. Save vs. poison or DIE.

That may sound harsh, but when you think about it, it makes sense in-game: Guests should knock when visiting an evil wizard...and the handles are serpent-shaped. The detail is there...and this is a level 1-module in a relatively rules-lite system. It also serves a purpose of establishing a design-paradigm: Details matter and internal consistency is important. In fact, the whole module can be seen as a conditioning, a teaching experience if you will...one that is gleeful in some of its more sadistic moments...but never one that can be considered to be thoroughly haphazard. There are some moments that are nasty, though: There would be wine as treasure, for example: Well, one bottle has gone bad: Drinking it will cause...bingo. Death. The wine's worth something, so with some ill luck, either a PC or a client may die there...which can spark further adventures, sure...but considering the lack of options to detect the spoiled one, it feels cruel.

Speaking of cruel: You see, the aforementioned lackey of the wizard's been gone for many a year, frustrated by the constant misuse by his cruel master...whose spell he sabotaged, trapping the wizard in a circle of salt. The PCs can find the old stargazer. He's been standing, upright and still, confined in the circle, for more than 50 years and his mood is foul...but he does try to put on a benevolent Dumbledore-act...and if the PCs buy it, he asks them to go. If they refuse, he drops his act and becomes threatening. But as long as the PCs don't do anything, he can't do jack. It's the choice and consequence paradigm.

At the same time, the wizard tower depicted here feels very much magical: Within these halls, one can find a levitation shaft used to navigate it, a frozen storage containing vials of blood (which animates and becomes aggressive) and a ghost custodian of the eldritch section of the wizard's library. This ghost challenges the PCs to a game: Select chess, darts, anything you have that can engage your players and potentially is over quick to not stall the game...if you're too good at chess, for example, and doubt that your players could beat you...well, then don't play chess. Why? Well, if the PC fails, the ghost is freed and the PC dies, taking its place. There is no salvation for the eternal guardian here.

One highlight of the exploration of the dungeon would certainly be the wizard's workshop, where an acidic pool of liquid contains strange fish and a complex telescope-like device allows for the opening of the tower's roof...and perhaps the most hilarious, amazing and mean part of the module: All this arcane machinery pertains the wizard's studies: He's been obsessed with other planets and wanted to learn to get there.

Unless the PCs were VERY thorough with their research, they may be in for a surprise: Looking through the telescope, they can see strange entities on another planet. With some serious experimentation, item-use and the like, they can use the device to fire a transport-beam t the planet...but unless they have VERY carefully done their research (unlikely), any PC foolish enough to try to use this beam will be transported to that planet...his molecular consistence changed to something that is considered a delicacy there...and he'll be eaten/drunk/slurped up. (And yes, there is an artwork of a view of the entities...) This whole procedure requires A LOT of effort on part of the PCs, is mean and memorable and pretty unlikely to happen...but it exemplifies to a degree the philosophy of magic being very dangerous, demanding respect.

Oh, and regarding internal logic: It makes sense. Traps and dangers are where intruders shouldn't be. When the PCs find a corpse, sewn up with gold thread in the basements and loot the thread, they'll be attacked by the animated organs inside - deservedly so, I might add! Another aspect I'd consider haphazard in its design: Several magic mirrors provide either significant benefits...or suck in a character, consuming his soul after 3 days, with no means of saving him: Breaking the mirror kills the PC. Sure, anyone who's read Kull-stories knows that gazing into wizard mirrors is a bad idea...but still. Somewhat akin to a deck of many things in its randomness, without the warning the item carries. There is no way to determine the function of mirrors before, btw. - no reward for being smart or observant. Such unfair sections are what tarnish this module in my book, which is a pity, for the atmosphere evoked is cool indeed: In which other module can the PCs find a 16-armed skeleton in a cell...complete with artwork...and have it have no function apart from sparking the player's imagination? The dressing and details are great and evocative.

Heck, the module even has a puzzle - a simple one, but yeah: The treasure chests are contained beyond damaging force fields and the PCs will have to manipulate a console and try to find the right combination to lower the force-fields and gain access to the significant treasures contained in the wizard's vault...provided they don't panic and run into them when they're separated by them...you see, if your PCs believe they can smash their problems away, they'll be in for a rude awakening that is bound to be pretty terminal: There is a very real possibility of the whole tower blowing up in a devastating nova if the PCs try to use brute force to solve the problems of e.g. the workshop. I get it. The angle here is to cultivate a consciousness for when to tamper with something and when not to...but, at least in my opinion, Grinding Gear and Hammers of the God did that job much, much better.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice and easy to read two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks provided herein are amazing, particularly for showing weirdness rather than the usual suspects of monsters, rooms, etc. - they show stuff when it matters that it has an artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover booklet is printed darker than the pdf, being mostly grey-black...which, ironically, enhances rather than detracts from the artworks...though the cover is pretty much a mush of black, the stairs nearly imperceptible. Cartography is detailed and functional b/w, with furniture etc. included. there are no player-friendly maps included as a cut-up handouts or the like.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Tower of the Stargazer" is actually a well-written crawl through a wizard's tower - as in: The ideas and environments are amazing, the things that can be found are interesting and the emphasis on player choice refreshing: The more greedy the PCs are, the higher is the chance they'll die horribly. And, for the most part, the module is fair in its risk-reward-ratios. For the most part, for there are a couple of scenes, some save-or-die-sections, that can only be described as dickish and completely out of left field.

Where Hammers of the God rewarded deliberate exploration and meticulous respect for the environment and its story, where Grinding Gear's whole set-up required care, precision and a keen mind, this one has this tint of haphazardness not only within the roll of the dice, but within its underlying structure. It feels a bit like an "You must be this tough to play here."-sign that exaggerates subjective flaws (or merits, depending on your perspective) and clichés some folks attribute to old-school gaming. In short: This was obviously written, at least in parts, as a kind of proving ground highlighting some of the best, but also some of the worst aspects of old-school gaming. As a whole, this feels, at least to me, like the weakest of the early LotFP-modules. It showcases the aspects that made the other modules stand out and has the very distinct narrative identity, but, both in comment and design, it also requires you to buy into a certain mindset of capriciousness when it comes to the lives of PCs that contradicts the paradigm of successfully letting PCs dig their own graves, so perfectly exemplified by the telescope, the animated organs, etc..

I like this module, but as a whole, I do feel like it undermines its own point regarding the way to game it tries to teach. Then again, perhaps I'm overanalyzing this and the module's playtest ran too smooth, requiring a couple of middle-finger save-or-sucks. I don't know. If you enjoy HARD, brutal and unforgiving modules, if you don't mind a very real potential for a sudden, not entirely deserved PC-death, then this makes for a great, challenging and atmospheric dungeon. If you firmly adhere to the "reap what you've sown"-school of GMing, I'd suggest getting Grinding Gear or Hammers of the God instead. How to rate this, then? Well, this is not a bad module, but neither did it blow me away. For groups that like the dark and weird that consider themselves to be hardcore...this is worth checking out. As for my final verdict...well, while for me as a person, this is closer to 4 stars than 3, as a reviewer, I can't round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
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Tales of the Scarecrow
by Geoff S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2017 16:11:50

Great short adventure. It was very easy to set up, and my players had a blast. I recommend it strongly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Scarecrow
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Hammers of the God
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/09/2017 10:18:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 84 pages - these are A5-sized (6'' by 9'') and thus, you can fit up to 4 on a given sheet of paper when printing them out. The font-size is appropriate when doing so, mind you, so no undue straining of the eyes.

All right, it's a trope as old as fantasy gaming (older, in fact!) - the dwarven empire/civilization that crumbles. We've seen that before, right? Well, as it happens to be, the PCs have come into the possession of a map, which will lead them straight to one of the lost places where dwarves once dwelt. Now, as you may have gleaned by this, the module thus requires a dwarven civilization, yes...but as a whole, any referee worth their salt can add this into LotFP's pseudo-17th-century setting with minimal tweaking/emphasis of the mythological nature of these beings. The module is intended for characters level 3 - 5, though even stronger characters should still be sufficiently challenged by this. In case you're wondering, btw. - this is pretty much PG-13. While certainly not the most light-hearted of romps, it is not a grimdark or particularly gory/depressing module.

Anyways, the module does not take any prisoners and begins pretty swiftly and with a resounding drone...From here on reign the SPOILERS, so potential players should skip to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, there are some common characteristics we ascribe to dwarves: They are stoic and pragmatic conservatives that carry grudges. So, what if the collapse of their empire was not one brought about by external threats, but by a series of well-intended decisions that ultimately brought down the culture...you know, like empires are wont to. To a certain extent, this reflects a downfall that was a whimper, not a bang. The dungeon the PCs are about to explore represents the very final death-throes, where the propensity for devastating grudges and shame turned towards self-destructive behavior on a massive scale. Below cascading purple mists, the PCs will find the remnants of an ancient massacre between humans and dwarves, undisturbed for ages untold.

When mankind entered the dungeon, the dwarven high-priest reacted to the failings of his clansmen in holding the intruders at bay with the spiteful, grudging finality of the ancient religion of the old miner, crushing specially prepared seeds which created the ever-present purple mist, its toxicity negated by the aeons, the mist may now only be cosmetic...but that does not mean that stupid PCs may not dig themselves a horrid grave here.

Now, I mentioned how the complex had rested undisturbed for ages and indeed, the module manages to convey a stunning and evocative sense of antiquity via its prose and internal consistency - combat-wise, there is not that much to defeat but animated dwarven spirits, more automatons than free-willed undead, as the PCs explore these ancient halls...but there doesn't have to be that much in this regard. The module reaches a level of detail that eclipses that provided for most dwarven sourcebooks I've read and evokes an overall sense of truly evocative consistency that is mirrored, time and again, in the varioustidbits and dressings provided - in some cases, literally.

There would, for example, be the tradition that EVERYTHING about an important dwarf's life should be chronicled...and thus, there are halls, where rune filigree-layer lies upon layer, with the intricacies of various layers and their exploration yielding new knowledge. There is also the library, which best exemplifies the truly impressive attention to detail this module sports: The library, you see, contains no less than 100 books. Here's the thing: There is a cliff-notes version provided for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I am so not kidding you.

Players and PCs interested in lore will have a true field day here and, more importantly, the books will provide actual benefits to the party, should they exert the due diligence and properly do their legwork. There is, for example, one trap, aptly called juggernaut, which is one of the two bottlenecks of this dungeon's exploration - a gigantic mechanism that may very well squash the whole party...but if they have taken care, it won't just boil down to quick wits to escape this doom. Much like all good modules, this rewards smart players and not just good rolls of the dice.

If you're into lore-rich modules, I will have probably sold you on this already, but it's important to mention that the religious doctrine and principles of the Old Miner's faith is mirrored in the challenges faced and that it is lore and attention to detail and player participation that will yield the true treasures of this module...while greed and the mindless plundering of tombs may well see the PCs stranded with cursed items and an immortal nemesis at their heels. Both are by no means mutually exclusive, mind you...though the true treasure as such lies in a portion of the complex the PCs may well never get to see.

You see, the monumental sense of antiquity evoked is constantly underlined not only by the grandeur of ancient dwarven designs and monumental pomp, but also by the subterranean nature of the complex: In the instances where the PCs reach "open ground", the sheer vastness of the realms below, the limitation of both light and darkvision in the endless black, are used in amazing ways: When the PCs walk an arch of stone over a gigantic, black chasm, lose track of the place they came from and only see the arc ahead, while hearing a myriad of things in the dark, only the most jaded or foolish of players will not become uneasy. Similarly, at the shore of a subterranean lake, there lie strange towers, high beyond the radius of any illumination the PCs are likely to have - and these towers, in fact, are type of crane that interacts with strange metal tubes...airtight quasi-submarines that need to be navigated through a whirlpool to gain access to the second part of the complex. Navigating the tides is VERY lethal and anyone foolish enough to try the outside will notice this the hard way - and indeed, dealing with the crane in this subterranean harbor carries its own risks. Oh, and PCs better check the tubes...they've been here a long way. Oh, and airtight, so think twice about torches...Yeah, this is most certainly something that not all groups will enjoy, because it is PROBLEM-SOLVING that is not contingent of rolling the dice. Personally, I absolutely LOVE it. We need more of the like.

So yes, this dungeon feels more like a true archaeological exploration and more like a true journey of discovery than your average hackfest; it is a module that, from rooms of ritual shaving to strange devices and lethal traps, rewards getting into the mindset of the culture, rewards behaving like an explorer of a civilization fallen and gone. This is a harsh module; it is NOT easy. However, at the same time, it is exceedingly fair - unless you consider PCs being bitten by potentially lethal snakes for poking sans checking, their finger into a hole bad form. Personally, I like that. I like that, by virtue of the impressive atmosphere, the PCs are faced with a complex that DEMANDS respect...but that also deserves it.

If all of that sounds very conservative, then rest assured that the PCs have the chance to not only find and fight the dread transmorph, which oscillates between forms and attacks, but also may poke through a wormhole...and potentially be poked back. Have I mentioned the chance to get a hyper-deadly butterfly that will kill the first living creature the PCs encounter after leaving the complex? Yes, there is the delightfully weird aspect, though it is, fittingly, I might add, subdued compared to the stars of this module: The complex and culture of the ancient dwarves.

The pdf, just fyi, comes with a solid map of the complex - no player-friendly version is included, but considering the fact that this complex very much lives by means of exploration, I am okay with that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard in A5 (6'' by 9'') that comfortably fits 4 pages on one sheet of paper. Big plus for me, as a dead-tree purist: The printed out version is easier to read than previous LotFP-offerings when thus printed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports several nice 1-page original artworks - one of which in full-color, while the others are b/w - in particular the campsite at the subterranean body of water drives home perfectly the sense of gigantic proportions and solitude.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Hammers of the God" is a phenomenal module that borders on being an environmental setting book. I have rarely seen a complex presented this concisely, with an impressive thematic and internal consistency. The ancient dwarven culture depicted herein, with all its small peculiarities and aspects, is evocative, intriguing and provides an exceedingly strong leitmotif for the module. It can also be easily transplanted into just about every setting and manages to make the dungeon the star: More often than not, my insistence on cool terrain features and hazards is read as a condemnation of classic dungeons. Far from it! This module very much exemplifies what you can do with a VERY classic trope, how you can make one of the oldest concepts and make it shine - by details, details, details and consistency. Few modules have managed to capture the sense of being an adventurer exploring a complex with a distinct identity this well; at no point will anyone confuse this module's dungeon for any other dungeon. This has a unique, glorious identity. It, much like the "Grinding Gear", also rewards smart players, as opposed to optimized characters. No matter how lucky or optimized your characters are, they can and will die in these halls if the players don't act smart. You know. Like in a game less based on rolling dice and more on the wits of the players.

Now, don't get me wrong - there is plenty of dice-rolling...but personally, I love how this rewards brains over luck and how it has the guts to say: "Okay, you found the treasure...do you really want to plunder that tomb over there? All right, so these are the consequences..." Greed is not necessarily punished, but the rewards gained from it are double-edged and cut both ways, whereas understanding and dealing with the culture of the complex in an even-handed manner will yield slightly less treasure, but it's true treasure sans strings attached... This is a module that rewards choices above all else and does not hesitate to show the consequences.

As a whole, this can be summed up as one truly astonishing, well-crafted exploration of a fantastic complex, one that will bring a smile to any group that loves exploring sites with a rich and vibrant culture and history, as a harsh, but also fair module that provides challenge and wonder galore. This module, much like Grinding Gear, is good enough to convert to other systems, should OSR-gaming not be exactly what you're looking for; it makes for an excellent scavenging ground for ancient dwarven cultures and complexes and represents my reference module for dwarven complexes, kept from even higher accolades only due to the lack of a player-friendly map to cut up and hand out...but then again, drawing the map's supposed to be part of the exploration....Anyways, my final verdict for this gem will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hammers of the God
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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2017 08:26:06

Great stuff. The atmosphere is alien and wonderful. I love the processes and hints for quickly producing neighborhoods and city settings along with a quick floor plan design method. Fantastic stuff and the writing is entertaining and witty. A very enjoyable toolkit for any game master.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
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Blood in the Chocolate
by Michael G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2017 16:54:45

The product description describes Blood in the Chocolate as "A psycho-sexual romp that pits characters not just against their enemies, but against their own twisting, melting, inflating, or poisoned bodies." It is also, obviously, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turned into a crazy colonial-era dungeon crawl. And, moreso than any other adventure I've read, you get what it says on the tin. The dungeon hews to the plot of the 1979 film pretty closely. The Oompah-Loompahs have been reimagined as mutated cocoa-bean pygmies and the enigmatic (trademarked) Willy Wonka has been swapped out with a more sinister capitalist conquistadora, but by and large, if it's a scene in the movie, it receives a DnD-ification in Blood in the Chocolate. The result is a very recognizable factory, if less suitable for children. Blood In The Chocolate delights in turning your childhood nostalgia into twisty horror.

Most indie RPG authors seem content to rehash and emulate corporate products. But Blood In The Chocolate is unabashedly weird, and passionate, and kinky, and gruesome. If you follow Kiel Chenier's blog, you might correctly conclude that some of the horrors about to befall your adventurers are author appeal, but they are presented in a very clinical, body-horror sort of fashion, and mostly arise from the source material.

The editing is, unsurprisingly, better than any corporate product's. This is especially true of the PDF, which is clean and well-organized and well-hyperlinked. There's no filler: every line of text is useful to the adventure and Chenier never waxes purple. Just concise, vivid description. The illustrations are also marvellous-- beyond what you'd generally even see in a corporate retail book.

Lucia de Castillo is a singular villainess: ruthless but intelligent, stylish but irredeemable. Like the hit film was driven almost entirely by Gene Wilder's performance, I think that the success of the adventure very much depends on the DM's ability to portray her. Luckily, there's a full two-page psychological profile outlining her personality, desires and weaknesses, as well as a section explaining, quite neatly, how she managed to open a crazed chocolate factory long before chocolate should rightly have been discovered. Still, my sole negative note for this adventure is that it is an intimidating role for a novice DM-- but those with a few good adventures under their belts should have no trouble.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood in the Chocolate
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Blood in the Chocolate
by Raven S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2017 08:18:36

Blood in the Chocolate, is a well written and well thought out adventure that can be used as part of a campaign or a one shot.

I read one review calling this adventure racist and that his players would walk away from the table instead of playing it, because of the use of the word Pygmy, we must remember we are dealing with the 17th Century and like almost every European back then they would call a people something they were familar with, anyone who knows thier history well recall that Native Americans were call Indians and that was only because they thought they had reached India.

Pygmy definition. A member of any ethnic group in which the average height of the adult male is less than four feet, eleven inches. There are Pygmy tribes in dense rain-forest areas of central Africa, southern India, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Clearly the reviewer did not actually read the description of why they were called Pygmies in the game or he would have not have written so harsh of a review and only gave it one star.

When we start calling a fictional adventure, with a fictional race racist, then something is very wrong, that means the person or persons walking away from a game that is set in the 17th Century where the majority of people were racist, that does not mean we should hide from it, it should be taken as a learning experience not to make those type of mistakes ever again.

There are movies and tv shows set in the 19th Century that do show racism, for example the TV show Underground and the movie Django, do people boycott those tv shows or movies? I think not! If we are to think this way then why do we play games such as D&D, Pathfinder or any other Fantasy RPG where there are races such as Dwarves, Elves and Orcs which show very much racism towards one another, I do not see anyone wanting to get up from the table and not play those adventures, so the same thing holds true with fine adventures such as this one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood in the Chocolate
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2017 20:03:15
I pride myself on running adventures in game stores and bars for my local rpg meetup group. I have probably run over 100 different sessions for the meetup and usually with strangers. I have never had as much fun running a game for strangers as I did Blood in the Chocolate. My players were laughing and crying with horror, I played up the Wily Wonka creepiness and wtf factor of the module and I have never had so much fun with a group. What Mr Chenier has done is create one of the funniest, strangest, and most outrageous adventures I have ever come across. Other reviews have focused on the content of the adventure so I will not retell it. But I want to focus on a few critiques I have read about the adventure First off anyone complaining about the Pygmies must have not read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The book has the Oompa Loompas as nothing more then thinly veiled racist caricatures of aborigines or Africans. Mr Chenier has obviously not only read the novel but incorporated the original Oompa Loompas for his adventure but is doing it all in good fun and jest. He shows a great love and respect for not only the book but the wonderful 1970’s movie. Since this a LOTFP product it is not offensive as it is tongue in cheek, anyone offended by this really didn't understand what they were buying. And as a personal note, Political Correctness has no place at a game table. If we as Game Masters are afraid to run games for fear of offending people we are doing nothing but censoring ourselves and I game to push boundaries and challenge people not to just kill kobolds and orcs. Anyone looking for treasure or a traditional dungeon crawl style game in a LOTFP adventure needs to reassess their priorities, James Raggi chooses adventures that provoke strong and visceral emotions in gamers but also subverts most standard D&D style tropes and Blood in the Chocolate does this in a spectacular fashion. This is also one of the better organized adventures I have come across, layout, usability at the table and ease of use are all spectacular and more designers could learn from his style. I read the adventure once before I ran it with little prep and was very satified at how easy it was run. And the Villain is just plain awesome I feel people who don't like her simply couldn't roleplay her well and need box text to be able to get across her subtleties. Sometimes there are just evil people who you want to take out in a game and do not need a reason or tortured back story to explain it. My players played the adventure ran into her right at the end in her Master bedroom and escaped to a different LOTFP setting that I won't spoil here. If you like LOTFP, grindhouse horror, satire, Willy Wonka and can realize that this adventure is trying to not only be funny and memorable but also subversive you will end up having one of the best adventures you can buy today. I for one will buy anything Mr. Chenier publishes in the future. This is a new classic that I will be running for years and can't wait to GM again. My only complaint is that I didn’t get to experience it as a player. I have never laughed as hard running this game and it has created memories I'll cherish for years.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood in the Chocolate
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2017 13:07:07

This adventure is essentially the 1971 musical film version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory written up as a dungeon crawl, except with some seriously unpleasant content added. The adventure's actual goal is to have all your PCs inflating like Violet Beauregarde because someone apparently has a thing about this. Pretty much all the hazards in the adventure have either a chance or a certainty of creating this effect.

Let's have an overview of some of the other delightful things in this adventure:

  • "Pygmies" who worshipped the master villain as a goddess because she was white, work as slaves in the factory, and attack the PCs with blowpipes. Now, ok, the Oompa-Loompas in the original Willy Wonka were pretty bad to start with, but it could have been improved a bit..
  • A scene where an NPC who is inflated like a blueberry is fastened to an altar being gang raped by 2d6 pygmies.
  • Two innocent children that the PCs can rescue from prison. A little while afterwards the PCs are asked to make a save and if they fail, there's a probability they'll be compelled to eat the kids. And yes, they're 100% real flesh-and-blood children, not made of chocolate or something like that.
  • Outside of the first 3-4 rooms, no treasure at all. Many of the rooms just have nothing in them that would be of interest to the PCs and there is no reason why they'd stick around.
  • A factory that makes chocolate which is incredibly popular all over the world and has been for years, even though it has a 10% chance of causing permanant and obvious debilitating side effects every time it is eaten. The adventure tries to hedge this by saying that it applies only to "chocolate eaten inside the factory" but nothing changes it when it leaves. On top of this, the reason it's so successful is because the factory is making chocolate bars 2 centuries earlier than they were invented in real life, but it turns out that the weird poisons and corrupted cocoa have absolutely nothing to do with this, and the factory would work perfectly well with ordinary stuff and presumably be just as successful.
  • Based on the above, a master villain who's described as being hideously evil even though she has no motivation to be nor any sense in being, and a quest that has the PCs trying to murder her and take over her factory because some other traders would like to own it instead. Oh, and the possibility that they'll meet her in the first room of the adventure and - since there is nothing in the adventure that powers up the PCs or weakens her, and a lot that harms the PCs - that's actually the best place to fight her.

The sad thing is that the layout of the adventure is great, the cheat sheets are useful, and the walkthrough comic is an excellent idea. So full marks for editing, but none at all for content.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Broodmother SkyFortress
by Robert C. I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2017 16:22:37

I liked Broodmother Skyfortress, I haven't had a chance to run it- but I plan to, and think my players will have a lot of fun with this scenario. I've already introduced the Carousing rules into my game last session and they were a hit (one of my PCs partied and was thrown in the pokey- he adlibed that it was because he puked on the burgomaster, another was ripped off by some huckster while drunk). These are the kinds of things I love to introduce into my OSR game, weird little subtables and such that are asymetrical, bizarre and a hell of a lot of fun. Another great product from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broodmother SkyFortress
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The Grinding Gear
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/26/2017 09:53:45

An Enzdeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 27 pages of content. However, the maps are 4 extra pages in a separate pdf and the module also comes with a handy 3-page GM-cheat-sheet. With the exception of the maps in the separate pdf, these pages generally are formatted for an A5-paper-size (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit up to 4 of the pages on one A4 sheet of paper, though your eyesight should be good if you opt for that option.

Okay, this module is called "Grinding Gear." It's penned by James Edward Raggi IV and is released by LotFP. From the cover, I expected a meat-grinder of epic proportions and indeed, the introduction seems to confirm that - the author talks about failure to gain the final treasure being a real option. But...is it really so nasty? Well, I'll answer that in the conclusion, but to prevent false expectations: This module expects you to track rations, light sources, encumbrance. These aspects DO matter herein and greatly influence whether or not you'd call this fair - the author makes sure that you should convey that to the players and not suddenly make these matter when they never mattered before. If you're like me and have a healthy leaning towards simulationalist gameplay and emphasize consistency in the world...well, then this can be played pretty much in sequence. I'd strongly urge Referees itching to run this to start enforcing these hard equipment tracking rules before beginning this module. Similarly, if your players have a bad attention span and don't make notes, this module will chew them up and spit them out, but notes (or even a good memory!) will certainly be sufficient to prevail. One more note: The cover may be macabre, but the contents of this are very much PG 13.

All right, and this is as far as I can go sans diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, while the cover with its massive array of corpses looks like one malevolent place and while it does feature prominently in the grounds of the dilapidated inn that makes up the first area for the PCs to explore: The corpses seem to litter the statue in pretty much a 20-ft.-radius and thus already provide a kind of hint regarding the diameter of whatever effect killed the beings. Similarly, closer examination will should the tell-tale signs of needle-like injuries and the beings seem to be pretty bloodless. You can probably find out where this is going - if not, let me spell it out for you: The statue indeed does contain the entry to the dungeon of Gavin Richrom, the creator of this complex.

Gavin at once loved and hated adventurers - he worshiped their wits and panache, but when he lost his daughter to an adventurer (who subsequently met an untimely end), he constructed this place. Opening the complex' entry-level results in sleeping gas being dispersed in a 20 ft.-radius and the sound of the complex opening subsequently will attract the massive swarm of mosquito-bats (aka stirges) that lair in the attic of the ruins of the inn.

But if the players are smart, they can't only avoid exsanguination, they can also exploit this behavioral pattern to actually explore the otherwise pretty lethal attic of the inn. Speaking of inn, chapel, etc. - the patron saint of tinkers, St. McIver (Name could be easily replaced) does have a significance...as do other aspects. You see, if PCs are really thorough, they may actually end up finding a hint on the shingles of the very roof of the complex...and realize from the objects they can find in the ruin, that whoever lords over this place is obviously not 100% sane...

Now, while purging the aforementioned stirge-like creatures is perfectly feasible, the PCs should conserve their resources, for they still need to explore the dungeon. It should btw. be noted that, time and again, notes on plaques strewn throughout the dungeon very much make these aspects known - the very first room actually does note that the PCs (and players) must take care and carefully observe. The actual traps that litter the complex thus often do not feel like they are meant to destroy the PCs - instead, it feels like a twisted game between Richrom and the groups seeking to plunder his complex - think of it like playing through a dungeon made by The Riddler or the Joker, minus their leitmotifs, obviously. Suffice to say, the complex as such features traps that range from "You die!" to "Hand turns blue" - and the severity usually is tied well to the actions preceding it. Lack of caution does not necessarily get you killed, but observation will get you further: Determining e.g. the effects of a specific magical light in conjunction with the hint on the roof can yield further information and allow further progress into the complex - though hostile adventurers who just want to get out already make sure that this is not for the faint of heart.

Here's the paradox - the module tells PCs, for example to NOT enter an underground chapel - and indeed, the associated trap, which raises the floors of several pits, each of which contains a potentially TPK-strength foe, is nasty. However, the PCs will have to play the game - i.e. deduce how to enter it, disarm the trap...or go for the "take stuff and run approach" - and yep, the powerful critters are telegraphed ahead of time. This is not unfair. Similarly, the handout player map of a pat of level 2 constitutes an interesting fake lead - one which may make PCs actually abandon the quest if they're not diligent enough.

Risk and reward, in short, come hand in hand and the ability to determine when it's prudent to risk your life and when it's just stupid... that's pretty much what this module is all about, gaining that almost sixth sense, if you will. For example, braving a potentially very lethal rock-paper-scissors-themed trap can be an epic experience and result in an interesting enlightenment. Ultimately, the PCs will, by some means, whether it's a wall or deadly critters, be incapable of leaving the place - which is exactly why rations, torches, etc. become so important.

Similarly, e.g. a magical organ and deducing the mindset of the dungeon creator very much become important - in order to find the true tomb (not the false one on the handout...), the PCs will have to pass several puzzle rooms, in which slots will require the spelling of the proper answers - and it is here that careful exploration is rewarded, for one question would indeed be how many idols of St. Iver there are in the tomb. While some of them can be brute forced, as a whole, adventurers who are sloppy (much like the ones who got Richrom's daughter killed) may thus end their careers early, entombed alive, sans an idea to beat the dungeon. On the other hand, if the PCs did their job well, they may well find the true tomb - but once again, the ability of the PCs to get proper loot out of it (beyond the basics) is contingent on observation and carefully acting - rushing players may see parts of their reward crumble to pieces before their eyes...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. If your eyesight is pretty good, you can fit 4 of these 6'' by 9'' (A5) pages on one sheet of paper. The pdf does sports some nice b/w-artworks in the same style as the cover. The supplemental material and maps are decent and do their job appropriately. Two thumbs up for getting both a letterpack and an A4-version of the pdfs. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can't comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

James Edward Raggi IV's Grinding Gear is an amazing, challenging module that basically takes the play mode and assumptions of playing an investigation, the attention to detail, calculated risk-taking etc., and applies that to the genre of dungeon-crawling. The puzzles herein are fairer than those featured in pretty much most adventure-games and the means at the PC's disposal to deal with the challenges in the book mean that, as a whole, this can be considered to an all-out amazing dungeon for groups looking for a challenge.

It also, by virtue of its design, rewards you for thinking along, for not just tuning off. In short, this is an extremely rewarding, difficult, but fair challenge of a module, one that is much fairer than its title may suggest. Now yes, this can result in nasty deaths...but similarly, it never really requires just luck to defeat anything. Similarly, it challenges, since they mostly hinge on player competence rather than character competence, also mean that it can be converted VERY quickly and that it similarly can be run sans issues for a diverse set of levels, even beyond the official recommended range of 1 - 4. At 5th level, some aspects start lose their danger, though, so if you believe you need to water this down a bit, that's an option as well!

This is, in short, a glorious module that challenges players and PCs alike. Well worth the price of admission, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. If you're looking for a module that requires brains AND brawn to defeat, get this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Grinding Gear
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Blood in the Chocolate
by Shane M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/22/2017 04:00:16

I know the reputation LotFP has so I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised, but reading Kiel's blog he seems pretty progressive. This adventure features some really glaring racist stereotypes - the 'pygmies'. The text weirdly emphasises they are not, in fact, pygmies, but they are short, brown-skinned, violently primitive foreigners. If I tried to run this as written at my table, half my players would walk out and not come back. Very disappointed.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Blood in the Chocolate
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Publisher Reply:
For anyone else reading, the description of what the pygmies are, and how they came to be that way, is covered in the preview pages. Judge the matter for yourself.
People of Pembrooktonshire
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/10/2017 07:52:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 44 pages, with about 1/2 page being devoted to the editorial, leaving us with 43 1/2 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf is made with the assumption of A5 (6'' by9'') booklet-size. I printed out 4 pages on a given A4-sized page. While this is possible, I only recommend this option to people with good eyesight - the pdf is crammed to the brim with text and thus, my dead tree iteration became somewhat strenuous to read. If in doubt, print it out regularly.

While intended as the companion book to the "No Dignity in Death"-adventures, the content herein is useful beyond the confines of OSR-publications and frankly, can fit into pretty much any game, from GUMSHOE to Castle Falkenstein to traditional fantasy.

So, in order to talk about the content of this pdf, we have to talk about Pembrooktonshire. The eponymous location is a settlement, isolated between labyrinthine hills, noted for being remote and the source of absolutely superb craftsmanship. It is also pretty advanced, compared to most fantasy settlements, with printing press and the like existing in it. Conversely, it is not haunted by evil monsters or the like, nor is it routinely ravaged by dragons, tarrasques and similar critters, thanks to the secret (nope, not gonna spoil that here - it's cosmetic and easily replaced anyways) of the surrounding environs.

It is still my contention that it represents perhaps the most succinctly depicted hell-hole I have read, settlement-wise, in all my years of GMing, perhaps because the satire this represents is cutting, precise and delightfully dark. Let me elaborate: Pembrooktonshire is not a bad place to be for adventurers per se, but the eponymous people that live here render it horrific to me in a most palpable manner: This pdf depicts the most camp, hilarious and at the same time nightmarish depiction of tradition and "proper" behavior I have seen in any roleplaiyng book ever.

Pembrooktonshire is governed by a complex set of social rules from which the PCs, being outsiders, will always be excluded; laws and pretty much name and everything else are, somewhat like a dark comedy of manners meeting a dystopian suppression apparatus, exist to benefit those with the proper name, family tree and status - i.e. not you and me. This level of codification of behavior extends to nomenclature, public face, religion and commerce. If you've grown up in a status-conscious environment or ever felt ostracized by a clique of your peers - this is that, the quintessential high-school clique you are NOT part of, blown to the n-th-degree, coated with the lacquer of a pseudo-Victorian obsession with etiquette and doing things comme il faut.

Sounds horrifying? Well, yeah, it is - not in a blood-and-guts-way, but rather in a subdued manner that slowly grows and grows, as the PCs inevitably wait for the fall-out...which may never come. If this sounds grimdark to you - it's actually not. Why and how? Well, at the same time, pretty much EVERYONE (and I mean EVERYONE) in this supplement is a ridiculous caricature of camp, often hilarious adventuring potential.

Let me give you an example: It would obviously be improper to purchase fur abroad, so what's a good Pembrooktonshire lady to do in light of the absence of the dangerous animals that would yield such goods in the vicinity of the town? Well, Anthony Alford, the furrier of the town's answer is simple: Rats. Squirrels. Chipmunks. Stray kittens and dogs. Yes, the ladies will parade these around town, claiming their value as exotic pelts. No, he has no idea how to work with actually valuable fur. There would also be the bored corn farmer, who has built a gallows in his field, reasoning that, as soon as it's there, it'll be sued sooner or later.

There is a nod towards Delicatessen in here; there is a prodigy-level sculptor here...though all his works look like him to non-Pembrooktonshireans. There is a delusional child who thinks he's invisible. Some members of the great families have a standing bet on driving a local trull insane. There is a butcher whose wife at least provides 4 kids...and his funds are running out...and there would be a lamplighter, whose sarcasm is constantly interpreted as truth, granting him the reputation of a sage.

In the absence of proper sources of oil, troll blubber is used by one enterprising businessman...but if it is, against advice, stockpiled, it spells a recipe for regenerating disaster...Basically, each and every of the NPCs featured herein has his or her own angle that often manages to blend the surreal and camp with the darkly hilarious. Think of the cadre of NPCs herein as this NPC your PCs have developed a fondness or dislike for due to an almost surreal quirk of personality or some way in which you present the guy; the NPC that suddenly becomes more important in your game than it should be from the default book. Each of the NPCs herein has the potential to be just that guy or gal - laden with adventure-potential galore.

One more thing: While never explicit and generally PG 13, this does skirt some dark topics and probably should be used with care when playing with sensitive kids.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills, art-less 1-column b/w-standard - this is basically text sans graphic elements or the like, with names and occupations bolded for your convenience. The file comes with a b/w-cover artwork that doubles as a back cover, so yeah - printing it out and using it as an envelope works. The pdfs, both cover and actual pdf, come in two iterations - one for the standard US-letterpack paper-size and one optimized for European A4-paper. Nice! Not so nice would be the fact that the pdf has no bookmarks. If you want to use this, you better print it out.

It's hard to properly contextualize the dark humor that suffuses this collection. Delicatessen would be one frame of reference, obviously; but more fitting would be some of the non-protagonist characters from the classic Brazil...or, if you're familiar with the British series "Little Britain" (early seasons) and "League of Gentlemen" (not, not the extraordinary ones) - that would hit the nail on the head. Perhaps it's the environment I grew up with, but this rural nightmare, this anti-villanelle and the snide look at the characters of Pembrooktonshire feels, in spite of its almost surreal accumulation of horrific things that could happen, as one of the most amazing collections of NPCs I have ever seen. Basically, just adding one of these surreal characters as an adventure hook to any settlement should keep your PCs busy for a while. As such, the pdf has maximum scavenging potential and makes good use of its system-neutral presentation.

If you combine all of these grotesque characters and use them in one town...well, then you'll probably have the at times most disturbing, but also most hilarious collection of weirdo-NPCs you can think of. The pdf can also be pretty educational in the hands of the right GM. If a player has never suffered through an environment of rigid etiquette and exclusionary practices (or was always on the other side of the fence), then this may well present a superb, satirically overcharged insight into how it works. My own experience of the book was basically that of a collection of NPCs that conveyed the same notion as the camp British series or Osamu Dazai's Ningen Shikkaku, though in the latter case in an infinitely less depressing manner.

But perhaps I'm over-intellectualizing this book. What you have to know is this: This little pdf contains a treasure-trove of absolutely amazing, weird, sometimes disturbing, sometimes tragic, sometimes comic characters that often are all of these things at the same time. How a few lines of text manage to evoke this level of concise oddity stands testament to James Edward Raggi IV's talent.

It is my firm conviction that, even when not using the modules, this remains a handy book to add spice and peculiarity to any drab settlement. I adore this book, more so than the minimalist presentation and annoying lack of bookmarks made me deem possible. This is excellent and if you have a stomach for twisted, dark humor and scathing satire, this will deliver in spades. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



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People of Pembrooktonshire
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