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Blackbyrne Publishing
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Age of Lords: Campaign Setting 4th Edition D&D
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/31/2012 08:34:26
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/31/tabletop-review-age-of--
lords-campaign-setting-dungeons-dragonspathfinder/

Age of Lords is a campaign setting designed by Blackbyrne Publishing for use with either 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. As 4th Edition is what I am familiar with, those are the books I took a look at, but I would imagine the only real difference between the two versions comes down to mechanics and little else. Being familiar with the core rules of each system (and having access to the core rule books for your respective game) is a must.

Age of Lords focuses on the world of Braugh and it’s main continent, Thallorand. The world of Braugh is one shaped almost exclusively from war; a battle between the God Brothers, Gorrand and Zorm, led to their imprisonment inside the planet by the Goddess of Balance, Threllion. Even imprisonment was not enough to put an end to their battle, and the two Gods exerted their power to bring about life on the planet. Threllion created the human race, while her opposite number, J’choral, the Goddess of Chaos, introduced monsters to the world. As the races of the world expanded across the continent of Thallorand, fiefdoms were established and war among the mortal races raged. It was only when the dark races invaded from across the sea that the continent banded together in The Uprising in order to protect themselves from annihilation. Following that brutal war, the Age of Lords begins proper. The continent has been divided into six kingdoms that survived the war, and while the borders of the kingdoms are respected for the most part, border crossing is only permissible with the express permission of one of the six lords. To gain permission, adventurers must compete in Pit Games, IE gladiatorial combat, and emerge victorious.

The campaign setting, outlined in both the Campaign Setting and Expedition Guide, is one full of conspiracies and peace held in check by only the thinnest margins. You’ll need a group of players interested in more than just the standard dungeon crawl. While there are opportunities for combat aplenty, both in the Pit Games and exploring dungeons once you’ve gained the permission of a lord, the politics of the realm will inevitably require a good deal of wit and subterfuge to fully take advantage of what these books offer.

Working from the 4th D&D rules, Age of Lords utilizes the core races, all the classes from the Player’s Handbook and the majority of the classes from Player’s Handbook 2 (information for Avengers, Invokers, Shamans, and Wardens are not included in the materials, but those classes and a few additional races are available at http://blackbyrnepublishing.com/SampleFlavor.html for those interested). In addition to the basics, two new classes (Ostorians and Half-Dark Elves) and one new class (Blade Conjurer) are added. Ostorians are half-breed human/bears cursed by Druids, primarily suited for primal and martial classes, and seem suited for tanking more than anything else. Half-Dark Elves are the result of unions between Dark Elves and other races, and more often than not are the product of rape and are born into slavery. The chance of a Half-Dark Elf being produced through consensual means is a “rare occurrence,” which, I don’t know, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that I would ever want to work into one of my adventures, but the option is there if you want to pursue it. The race, should you decide you want to use it, is primarily suited to the Rogue class, with an occasional Sorcerer or Warlock. Neither of the new races seemed particularly interesting to me, but the added class, Blade Conjurer, is another matter.

Blade Conjurers can best be described as a Magic Knight; during The Uprising, wizards used Elvish magic to train soldiers how to imbue their weapons with arcane powers. The class is designed to function first as a Striker and secondly as a Defender. The powers attributed to the class will generally do damage to a target, followed by a secondary effect. These effects either tend grant the player the ability to shift as a result of their attack, slap a status effect on the enemy, or inflict ongoing damage until the enemy can make a saving throw.

The major game play mechanic introduced by the setting is the Pit Games. Pit Games generally pit the players against a single monster or a group of monsters, and not only require that the players survive the encounter, but scores them on actions that occur during the battle. For instance, a criticial hit will add +3 to your score, while using a second wind or reaching 0 hp is a -1. The GM will set the High Score needed to be successful, and you can tailor rewards based on how well your players do in combat.

Blackbyrne Publishing’s motto is “Story over Rules” and the books excel at this. The back story provided is quite interesting, and the creators do a good job to work all of the standard D&D classes and races into their own world without making them seem out of place. The Campaign Setting provides a wealth of information about the entire continent, the kingdoms that existed prior to the Uprising and the ones that still exist post-war, and the details provided for all the various locales is quite extensive and gives you plenty of areas for your players to explore. Each class is given new Paragon Paths exclusive to this setting and there are a handful of monsters created specifically for this setting. Possession of all the core D&D books is required, however, so this isn’t something you could just pick up and play on your own.

The actual presentation does leave a little to be desired. I reviewed the PDF versions of the texts so I couldn’t comment on the quality of the available hardbacks, but the information is nicely laid out and very accessible. Artwork in the books range from above average to merely serviceable. I did catch a few typos and grammatical errors, which certainly caused someone like me to shake my head every time I found one, but there is nothing bad enough to detract from the game itself. In the end, however, Age of Lords puts forth enough interesting ideas and usable content to be worth a read. Even if you’re just looking for some locations, monsters, or a new class to plug into your existing campaigns, Age of Lords is handy reference material.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Age of Lords: Campaign Setting 4th Edition D&D
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The Hidden Current 4E
by Kurt R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2012 12:45:28
I haven't begun the adventure with my group yet, but having read through the campaign several times I must say I am very impressed with the thought and detail put into the adventure. The author has done a good job with party scaling (based on the number/level of PC's), and it looks like several angles are explored to provide hooks for the party to remain engaged. The encounters seem well balanced and are well-contextualized within the frame of the story (no "filler" encounters). The maps provided are very helpful with the visualization of the encounters, as well. Full 1" grid maps are included for the DM to lay out for quick encounter set-ups; this is much appreciated and will definitely help in streamlining the campaign.

I will add to the review after the adventure has been completed. So far, so good, though.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Hidden Current 4E
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BP-CS0 Secret of the Pit Pathfinder
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/20/2012 21:34:52
You're in an arena. Fight!

As a preview of the publisher's battle maps, they seem like a very good idea. As an example of the publisher's ability to create stat blocks, it's usable with some potential for improvement. The two levels given for the Blade Conjuror class, another attempt at this much-discussed concept, suggest the converted rules need tightening up. This doesn't tell me much about the setting.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
BP-CS0 Secret of the Pit Pathfinder
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BP-4 Sands of Despair Pathfinder RPG
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2011 14:46:56
A few months ago, I ran the first part of Blackbyrne’s Dark Veil campaign. The editing and descriptions were very well done and the ideas behind the adventures were cool and creative. Sands of Despair, the follow up campaign, is an expanded effort. It succeeds and fails exactly where the previous editions of the series do.

Sands of Despair is an Indiana Jones style campaign which embarks the PCs on a journey to recover the Artifacts of Dalacore in the Sands of Despair. The first part of the adventure has a linear structure and the second half of the 95-page adventure opens up a semi sandbox game where the players go back and forth through time. The last part brings the PCs back to the present time to recover one of the artifacts.

This is one of those adventures that has a ton of great concepts, but will need to be heavily adapted for any campaign. There aren’t too many series that makes me feel that I, the DM, is being railroaded. A problem with most of the series, this is very evident in time travel scenes where the PCs are locked events that are set places in time. The idea of going back in time to be apart of the battles is great, but the writer missed a great opportunity to incorporate the actual PCs impact on the history.

For the Dungeon Master
You got to love any adventure that combines worthy ideas with detailed maps.

The Iron Word
Sands of Despair churns some strong imagery in its descriptions and has a ton of great ideas. The adventure does need to be injected with a few puzzles and a tactical combat or two.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
BP-4 Sands of Despair Pathfinder RPG
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Publisher Reply:
Hey Nathan, Thanks for the review! I try and read every review and take something away from the comments to enhance the next adventure. One point (VERY small) that I'd like to make is; it's the Artifacts of Daggeroth the players are trying to find over the course of the Campaign Arc. On the point of the impact the players make on history, I must admit that I am a giant Star Trek fan and the Temporal Prime Directive has been drilled into my head, lol. All kidding aside, my intention was to actually not let the players make an impact on the past, however gain a firm grasp on the importance in their future, I will work to make that more clear in my future writing. Thanks again!! Jeff Gupton
Where is my Spellbook? 4E
by Adam C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2011 13:08:52
This is a very well designed adventure that I believe is suitable for any adventurer from beginner to experienced. The author is very descriptive and makes sure you have all the details that you need to be able to succeed. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters as much as we did, and the town left lots of room for further adventures. It is a great inclusion to have the maps and guides provided to assist in the imaginative process of the author. I am looking forward to hopefully many more adventures all as great or even better then this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Where is my Spellbook? 4E
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Within Death's Gaze Pathfinder Version
by Doug H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2011 12:17:39
I originally downloaded the 4E version of this adventure over a year ago and was pleased to discover that it is now available in Pathfinder. The maps are a big improvement to this adventure and I’m pleased that the original artwork on the first page of the adventure remained as I thought it was a good pen and ink drawing. Since first reading this adventure I have become a fan of this company’s work and do recommend this to others.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Within Death's Gaze Pathfinder Version
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Encounter at Fairvale 4E
by Stephen N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2011 13:29:04
I was setting up to play Blackbyrne's BP1 adventure (The Hidden Current) and used this as its intended prequel module. This could easily be dropped into any early campaign as its a rather universal theme (the PCs start by browsing around a local market, when a bad guy unleashes monster into the crowd. Chaos and mayhem ensues.) Battlemap scale images are provided and some NPC backgrounds are included if the DM does want to use as a transition module. My PCs definitely enjoyed.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Encounter at Fairvale 4E
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The Prophecy Revealed Pathfinder RPG Edition
by Doug H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2011 21:10:24
I wanted to go out and play some Pathfinder after reading this adventure. It's a great story and nicely gets characters involved in the Prophecy without them having solve an overly complex task they could miss while playing.

The artwork is great and I like the encounter maps and new monsters

I think GM's could learn a few things about story telling from this adventure.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Prophecy Revealed Pathfinder RPG Edition
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Where is my Spellbook? 4E
by Ian J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2011 23:07:08
I feel it is a good beginning adventure. The town & area seems to have lots of potential for more adventures. I liked the maps, too. The NPC's are well-fleshed out & I found the idea of an absent-minded sorceror quite amusing. Hopefully this is only the 1st of many adventures in Mr Lloyd's world !!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Where is my Spellbook? 4E
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The Manor of Deceit 4E
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2010 11:55:04
This adventure is not truly hack-and-slash but it is combat heavy and filled with combat encounters. Players looking for more role-playing opportunities may be turned away, but the overall storyline is well done and interesting. The Manor of Deceit fits very well with the Dungeons & Dragons 4E system and is a great way of running lower level characters.

The illustrations and maps found within The Manor of Deceit are fantastic! The printable battlemaps are full color and include the 1″ grid. For easier running of the adventure, smaller representations of these maps are included throughout. The layout is very professional and each encounter is properly described and detailed.

The storyline contained throughout is typical Fantasy styled with a purpose and keeps the party moving forward. There isn’t much substance to the storyline itself, but it fits in well with D&D 4E.

This rating is based on the overall quality of the adventure and the general interest of wanting to play without considering what style of play is desired. For those looking for an adventure with more social interaction, this is not it. Or for those looking for a true hack-and-slash adventure, this is not it either. The Manor of Deceit lies somewhere in-between with a lot of combat encounters and an overall storyline that has a purpose. This rating is based on a comparison of this adventure versus those of a similar style.

Blackbyrne Publishing has produced a very high-quality adventure module filled with great combat encounters and a well-written storyline. The full-color printable battlemaps enhance the value of the adventure module and the PDF itself. The module could benefit from further narrative on the setting and the storyline, but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality as the DM could easily come up with their own ideas.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor of Deceit 4E
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The Manor of Deceit Pathfinder RPG Edition
by Jey L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2010 16:00:07
The artwork is improving and the writing is still quality! :)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor of Deceit Pathfinder RPG Edition
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The Hidden Current-Pathfinder RPG Edition
by Jey L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2010 15:57:17
The artwork could be better, but the writing is quality! :)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Hidden Current-Pathfinder RPG Edition
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The Manor of Deceit 4E
by Doug H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2010 10:13:39
The Manor of Deceit is an enjoyable 3rd level adventure that places characters up against a challenging adversary and awards them with experience and possible allies for future adventures.
Blackbyrne Publishing has improved on the illustrations in this their second full-length adventure and provided a more professional looking product without compromising the company’s intent to keep the presentation similar to the original style of Dungeons and Dragons.

I'm becoming a fan of this company and hope to see more adventures in the future.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor of Deceit 4E
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The Hidden Current 4E
by Donald J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2010 14:40:24
This adventure was a real time saver for running with my gaming group. It includes battle maps for every encounter, not just one double-sided poster for two encounters usually offered in WoTC 4e publications. The background story, combat encounters and skill challenges create a cohesive plot that unfolds nicely before the players as they face the challenges before them. The artwork and maps are good quality for the price of the adventure and the layout of the publication helps the GM to streamlessly deliver a good gaming experience. I will definitely purchase future installments in the Dark Veil campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hidden Current 4E
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The Hidden Current 4E
by Ed G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/20/2010 16:07:46
http://www.robotviking.com/2010/04/16/send-your-adventurers--
upstream-with-the-hidden-current/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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