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Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2014 05:11:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First: What do I mean by "new" Urban Dressing? Well, the first run of the series had a certain hit-and-miss quality; It endeavored to take components of the city and use the Dressing-formula to depict them. Alas, cities are complex and organic and the success not always guaranteed. Then, with a certain pirate town, the series changed - away from describing a single component (like a park/temple etc. and failing to take some moving bit or another into account), instead focusing on a general theme and the means for the DM to evoke this theme. This, then would be the third of.these new Urban Dressings.



We begin our trek through the Borderland Town with a table of sights and sounds one may encounter - spanning two pages and featuring drunken warrior, mercenaries, heads mounted on iron spikes and similar portents of a harsh environment, we have quite an array of great mood set pieces.



The second table sports sample businesses - from inns with great food, but drafty rooms to torchlighter guilds, places for convalescence etc., the 50-entry strong table sports an array of businesses whose very presence in a town may well spark an adventure hook! If you're like me, you have a couple of key NPCs when designing a town, those you require for a given adventure to work, and then create red herrings and common folk (which you develop later) - well, this pdf takes some of that work off your shoulders, with 50 sample folk in a table, all sporting a cosmetic peculiarity or a special mannerism that helps make them distinct, while also featuring race and suggested level/class in brackets.



Finally, we receive a table of 20 hooks and complications for those times you really had no time whatsoever to prepare anything - alarm bells, providing covert-ops intelligence on the town's militia or dead soldiers of a neighboring kingdom - there are plenty of different ways to develop each of them.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.



Josh Vogt's take on Borderland Towns, at least for me, leaves nothing to be desired - atmospheric, studded with easily implemented, yet never generic (at least in the derogative meaning of the word) entries, this installment of Urban Dressing is extremely useful.

Now, personally, I would have liked to see at times a clearer distinction between borderland themes versus ones that could be applied to frontier's towns, but that may just be me being terribly nitpicky. This pdf is , useful, fun and well worth a final rating of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
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Subterranean Enclave: Deephearth
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2014 04:16:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Ask and thou shall receive. When I complained in my review of Mith'Varal that an underdark coastal town would have been awesome, I hadn't read this. Yeah. Tied it once again at the endless sea, this time around we receive an underdark coastal town - or rather it, was. Until recently, an earthquake has blocked access to the endless sea...and then, the disappearances began in the small community of svirfneblin...



The village itself sports a selection of rather delightful morsels - from a petrified, hollowed out mushroom (which houses the temple of the village) to the recently created land bridge, there are quite a few things to see - including a svirfneblin who has literally worked himself to death, trying to reopen the channel to the endless sea. And indeed, at closer scrutiny, the council of Three who is ruling the place seems to be a bit inconsiderate towards their populace, up to the point where one may assume that there is some other reason beyond obvious economic concerns for the dwarves-hating community to try to re-open access to the sea...

(And no, I'm not going to SPOIL whether there is, and if yes, who is the mastermind behind this village's plight, but I do consider it a well-executed take on a rather old trope.) We also receive full stats of one particular...inhabitant...of the place...in the loosest of terms and the interesting, peculiar lighting conditions - there is none. Darkvision suffices the gnomes, hence your PCs better bring light...then again, they'll be VERY easy to spot in the featureless dark...and who knows who or what may pick them off...)



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked. Cartography, as always with Tommi Salama's work, is downright awesome.



Brian Wiborg Mønster's Deephearth should, by all means of its components, elicit at best a "been there, done that"-yawn apart from its geography. It doesn't. While I've seen the components before, their execution is more than solid and works rather well - the little tidbits coming together manage to make the settlement work better than it would have a right to do. Still, when compared to previous installments, it feels slightly less unique in its conflicts and context. Hence, I will settle for a final rating of 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Deephearth
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Random Encounters: Wilderness II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2014 03:42:36
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (with statblocks by CR), 1 page author bios (nice!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Now this is a collection of encounters that resulted from Raging Swan Press' open call for freelancers by various authors and come with +/- 1 EL scaling information. The encounters herein can easily be plugged into a given campaign, so from here on SPOILERS will show up. If you're a player, please jump to the conclusion.



The first encounter fits perfectly into the desolation of a desert with a minor dressing table, providing one nasty adversary for low levels PCs - a were-vulture ranger and his raptor companions. While only CR 4, be assured that this guy can be lethal - I once killed off 3(!!!) PCs with a harpy-sniper and that did not have the buff-suite and smart tactics of the ranger - a challenging encounter, especially nice for experienced groups and mostly remarkable for the damn fine NPC-build!



The next encounter has a cool idea at its base - what do the small elementals do? Well, they may gather in harmless schools, extinguishing flames and harassing PCs...and if you turn hostile, you may well have to face the enraged caretakers! I *really* like that concept and the escalating conditions in the encounter.



"Creeping Coins" is about the final resting place of a notorious thief, now a ghost, and his animated treasure hoard - generally nice, though also a lost chance - the encounter mentions a fascination with riddles, an illusory sphinx...but no riddle to actually ask. While RSP has enough riddle-pdfs, a sample would have been nice.



"Desert Rose" is interesting - the pdfs are crossing a wadi, a dry riverbed and the onset of rain has them flee towards a ravine (and yes, flashfloods are a thing in the desert) - alas, the influx of water also revives the dry shrubbery and reactivates the deadly assassin vines - neat, especially due to the helpful, damn cool round-by-round breakdown! Realistic, cool, two thumbs up!



"Lenate's Love" is a damn cool encounter as well - a fiendish gargoyle in love with an animated statue may be too much for the PCs to handle - unless they deduce a way to use the statue's programming to their advantage and have it help destroy the gargoyle. Tragic and still, fun and smart.



"Mojepe's Grove" can be a social or combat encounter, depending on your preference - a tribe of xenophobic, desert-dwelling halflings and their awakened cactus master. Diplomacy and combat - all possible, damn cool, two thumbs up!



"The Sting of Sun and Sand" has the PCs encounter a barbarian driven mad by sun and dehydration -they can kill the man or save him and find the remnants of his caravan - where a sandstorm and giant scorpions await...nice, if a bit conservative.



The final encounter, the "Vulture King" has the PCs face the remnants of a tengu-caravan turned ghasts/ghouls/etc., who, surprisingly, don't immediately attack those stumbling into their oasis, offering to accept sacrifices for water. Grim and strange, a cool encounter especially suited for shades of grey sword and sorcery, but I wished the encounter was more of a settlement, less of a fire and forget affair.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both are fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the pdf sports multiple gorgeous b/w-artworks.



Mikael Berg, Fabian Fehrs, Mark Hoover, Kiel Howell, Jacob W. Michaels, Jens Demandt Mouritsen, Christopher Wasko, Nick Wasko, Daron Woodson - congratulations, gentlemen - there is not a single boring encounter herein. While not all blew me away, the vast majority of encounters herein have something utterly unique going for them. Idea-wise, this is definitely an inspired supplement and showcases well the talent of those involved. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5, with a special shout-out to Desert Rose, Lenate the Lovesick, Children of the Sky and Mojepe's Grove - I'll be sure to use these!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Encounters: Wilderness II
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Subterranean Enclave: Mith'Varal
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/09/2014 03:18:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This second installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Mith'Varal, literally meaning "mithril" and "mine" in Dwarven, was once a frontier's town nestled at the shore...wait, what? Yes, thankfully, this subterranean enclave becomes interesting almost immediately by virtue of its uncommon geography - founded underground on a mithril-rich peninsula, a river runs through it and it saw its heyday of prosperity. Alas, this time has waned, the fate of all mining towns - one fine day, the ore ran out. Mining continues to this day, but Mith'Varal's name has taken on an ironic shine and slowly, a sense of desperation creeps into those still here, still hoping for a reversal of fortunes.



Which also makes for a portion of the town's internal strife - most miners are still commanded to dig in Varal Tarak, whereas a group of hidden, seditious miners is exploring other mines, hoping to be lucky at one of those places. Then there also would be the guards of the place, the rather creepy "Faceless Guards" with their mithril masks, some of which may hide more than a greedy heart behind their featureless visors and their fully statted leader Gunar Hammerblow... And then there would be, one particularly nasty overseer of a dwarf and testament to the cliché that some dwarves are simply greedy, vile-tempered bastards... Events and whispers also mirror these themes of glory lost, repression and quasi-totalitarian work-camp like atmosphere -"of course our miners are free to go..:" Yeah, right. And what of the Thegn? Well, coincidentally, he has not been seen in public for years and neither has he given any public audiences...weird, right?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



Brian Wiborg Mønster delivers a different kind of dwarven settlement - one resounding of the old trope of dwarven greed, yes, but here said greed is turned towards their own people. The at first subtle theme of totalitarian control and military dictatorship starts resounding with the reader and takes an interesting turn once one realizes the difference in mindset that would have made for a boring rebel vs. oppression story and instead turns it somewhat on its head - the dwarves *want* to work, to mine. The issue is how to go along doing it! Once could, of course, read a criticism of corporate culture red tape and limitations imposed on employees into the sub-text of this enclave, but I'm not sure how many of my readers out there would appreciate me going on and on about the history of Marxist criticism, capitalist philosophy etc. - hence, I'll cut to the chase:



I loved this installment. My one gripe is purely cosmetic and pertains to the fact that the location on a peninsula would have made making this a subterranean coastal town possible - which would have been highly uncommon and a tad more iconic. Since this constitutes my only gripe with this pdf and is utterly dependant on my own tastes, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Mith'Varal
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GM's Monthly Miscellany: November 2014
by Forrest E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2014 19:14:26
I Love Raging Swan's stuff in general and their free GM's Monthly Misc. is no exception. Interesting Articles & tantalizing tastes of some of their products. They put out Pathfinder compatible products but much of it can be used for almost any current fantasy RPG. Their products are high quality & I find them an extremely useful source of ideas even when I don't use them as is. These free monthly installments will give you a great way to see if their products are right for you.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Monthly Miscellany: November 2014
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, Forrest. I think it\'s the first I\'ve had for a Monthly Miscellany. I\'m delighted you enjoy the instalment so much and thanks for taking the time to post up a review.
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:14:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First: What do I mean by "new" Urban Dressing? Well, the first run of the series had a certain hit-and-miss quality; It endeavored to take components of the city and use the Dressing-formula to depict them. Alas, cities are complex and organic and the success not always guaranteed. Then, with a certain pirate town, the series changed - away from describing a single component (like a park/temple etc. and failing to take some moving bit or another into account), instead focusing on a general theme and the means for the DM to evoke this theme. This, then would be the second of these new Urban Dressings.



We kick off this UD with a massive, 100-entry-strong table of sights and sounds - from taskmaster's whips a-crackin' to prostitutes, desolate picks and wheel marks embedded deep in the mud, to essentially miner gangs/factions or just singing people - there is a lot to see and embellish here.



Now the business-section deserves special mention in this file -a total of 50 different entries can be found herein and range from guild halls to shoemakers and drug dens to even people where you can buy bad luck and curses to get rid of your rivals and foes - and yes, the latter example just screams murder-investigation to me and immediately made me come up with a complex module.



Now if you're like me, there is one thing annoying about designing settlements - the non-story-relevant NPCs. You know, the guys that have a name and look only so that your plot points don't stick out like sore thumbs. Well, this pdf provides a total of 50 short fluffy descriptions of sample characters, with suggested alignment/class/race info in brackets. Why do I consider that awesome? Because, apart from making the world more dynamic and believable, it helps add a sense of momentum to the game - what may just have been a note may resonate with your players, resulting in extensive development of such a sketch and adventures beyond that - and this organic growth is what makes a town come to life. It does help that the characters here run the gamut from bitter, old crones with a slight magical aptitude to philanthropic ladies of the elven aristocracy. Two thumbs up!



The final page, then, covers different complications, which range from eerie green mist rising from the ground to cave-ins, mysterious perpetrators breaking every piece of mining equipment in town to gas explosions and troll/bugbear bouncers/suppression tools - each of these is varied and should at least be able to spark one full session of adventuring, perhaps even more. They also run the gamut from relatively common to weird and span thus a range for various playstyles.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.



Josh Vogt's Mining Towns are in one word, awesome. The plethora of local color one can add via this pdf to any mining town is impressive, diverse and just smells of grime, dust and hard work - and I love it! This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval for its creativity and diversity.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
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Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/03/2014 04:24:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Starspun Hollow may seem like a mirage to the weary traveler - situated in the midst of a rather unpleasant swamp, the village breathes an air of hospitality one would not expect from such a remote location - and indeed, the population, mostly made up of humans and halflings indeed seems to be friendly and surprisingly wealthy - mostly due to an exotic resource of most fantastic and yet easy to integrate into a given campaign.



Not too long ago, a druid observing a rare species of spider noticed the reflective properties of their webs, which not only reflects moonlight, but which subsequently brought wealth to the remote locale - after all, what better way to clad the resplendent beauties at court than in comfortable clothes that shimmer and reflect?



Alas, this influx of demand also brought traders and more humans to the formerly halfling-dominated settlement and with them came demands on a more high-scale production of starsilk, echoing conflicts we can observe in real life - progress and the lure of wealth versus the old ways, with one side accusing the other of being overly cautious and the other smelling the taint of greed behind the looming progress.



Which of these proves to be true and how the village further develops is very much up to the DM, the players and the usual amount of whispers, events and characters help further fleshing out the village. The CR 7 sample character and her animal companion are also neat, though I have to say that I consider one thing a true pity - with such a rich, evocative background, why not make the silk a new magical material and provide tangible benefits for it? While not beyond the capabilities of any Dm, this constitutes the one oversight in an otherwise glorious installment of Village Backdrops.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Nicholas Wasko's first Village Backdrop is a winner - Starspun hollow breathes adventure-potential, subdued, yet tangible fantasy and ideas galore - it is a village most players will love exploring and devising a reason to visit the place is built into it as well - this is a furious, glorious installment and were it not for the obvious oversight with the silk as an alchemical/magical resource, it would be an instant seal of approval candidate. Without it, it misses the seal by a margin - for "only" a highly recommended 5 star final verdict. Two thumbs up for the author - consider me stoked to read more from your pen, Mr. Wasko!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
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Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/02/2014 05:14:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Alternate Dungeon-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As in the first installment of the series, we begin with basic considerations for making the change of scenery to the alternate dungeon interesting - this time emphasizing the importance of mirrors, evil emanations and stuck doors before beginning with advice on running the place - with animated objects, sounds, decrepit structures etc. helping in keeping up the atmosphere. Here, the house fares better than the groves, while in the suggested treasures, things necessarily become a bit more generic.



The suggested function, here more a combination of ambient effects and background story is more versatile than in the first installment. Once again, the pdf comes with advice on "harvesting" dressing, which feels a bit out of place in direct comparison to the groves -how does one harvest e.g. portraits that follow the players with their eyes? How does one harvest echoing footsteps? That being said, the dressing-table this time around does not have the filler roll twice/thrice and generally has quite an array of glorious entries that will especially help novices to the genre of horror make the stay at a haunted house memorable.



Now the haunted house denizens suggested as adversaries are more or less what you'd expect - ye olde' assortment of undead and the same holds true for the 3 haunts - dancing decor, arcane locking doors and the suggested hazards are rather conservative.



The 3 adventure hooks included are solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.



Alexander Augunas' alternate dungeon-suggestions for haunted houses are solid especially for novice DMs looking for inspiration regarding haunted houses. Now if you're a veteran Ravenloft/CoC/etc.-DM, then this one probably won't blow you away - the helpful considerations were okay, yes, but e.g. escape prevention (a default trope in haunted houses!) is glossed over, as is the general location of the house. Harvesting suggestions for dressings feel weird in the context of the haunted house and the supplemental reskins/hazards are old tricks for veterans. Whether this pdf is for you very much depends on your experience with horror modules in old mansions - if you're a veteran, don't expect to find much new herein - unlike the installment on mystic groves, the mansions uniqueness is derived more from story and individual dressing and this pdf, by nature of its scope, is hard-pressed in providing enough on that front. If, on the other hand, you are a novice DM or simply have no experience with these types of set-ups, then this will make for a good step-by-step guideline for you, collecting some of the classic tricks and considerations. My final verdict will hence clock in at a final verdict between "good and useful for novices" and "nothing for veterans" of 3 stars - quintessentially, a solid pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
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Town Backdrop: Wolverton
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2014 04:02:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a massive 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR-index, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First of all, this is a kind of full circle for me - when I started reviewing, Raging Swan Press' free mini-setting The Lonely Coast immediately grabbed my attention and made me buy Retribution, their first module. Now, hundreds of reviews of Raging Swan Press-supplements later, this book provides the fully detailed information on the largest settlement in that remote stretch of land, the town of Wolverton. Hence, it is only appropriate that we begin this book with a proper introduction to the stretch of land, including traveling distances, weather etc.



Now, if you know the village backdrop-series (and you SHOULD!), you'll be familiar with the formula used for this town - we receive a full-blown town statblock, information on what magic items can be bought, town lore, nomenclature, dressing habits, etc. However, as befitting of a larger settlement, Wolverton is more than just a village on steroids.



This becomes readily apparent from the extremely detailed map to the sheer number of notable places provided. (As always, player friendly maps can be downloaded on raging Swan Press' homepage.) 28 different notable locations at a glance are provided, and for conveniences sake and to help navigation, we also have them grouped by type - see, THAT is considerate! Wolverton is a walled city at the coast, situated atop some cliffs and the castle of the local pseudo-aristocracy, the Lochers, situated on a promontory. The town features a quarter separated from the rest of the town by cliffs (keep the rabble out) and sports a massive river flowing through it, the Arisum. Hence, the town also features several bridges that span the river and the town is fortified with solid walls.



So far, so good - but what is going on in the place? Well, a metric ton of things: let's begin with whispers and rumors - as opposed to just 6 for a village, we receive a FULL PAGE of 50 rumors, each of which has the potential to spark a full-blown adventure! Another example for this pdf going above and beyond would be the inclusion of information for kingdom-building and using Wolverton in conjunction with such a campaign. Festivals and traditions like "Wolf's Night" provide more than just a bit of local color, in the aforementioned example, townsfolk bake wolf-shaped biscuits and children get to eat fang-shaped sweet bread while adults in wolf skin walk the streets to scare children. Now if you can't use this festival to e.g. convert something Halloween/samhain-themed or make a lycanthrope-plot more interesting, I don't know! Weekly markets and a total of no less than 50 entries of sights and sounds (think of them as mini-hooks, dressing, etc.) spanning two-pages further enhance the unique and detailed perspective one gets of the glorious town.



Of course, if you prefer hooks to be less subtle, perhaps the 50-entry strong, two-page spanning table of events might do - from street urchins trying to steal from the PCs to being recruited for the theatre to pouring rain that renders the muddy roads difficult terrain, these events not only are interesting, they are, most of the time, downright inspiring, especially for the brevity with which they have to work. Oh, and if THAT still is not enough, you'll be happy to know that properly and fully developed hooks are interspersed throughout the whole book.



Now the town itself has plenty of truly interesting locales and places to inspire the prospective DM - take an inn, " The Hare and the Ass", which has recently been taken over by a half-orc. Said half-orc was raised by dwarves and thus knows the recipe of the Thunderhammer clan's famous beer, seeing quite a few visitors as a result - in spite of the latent xenophobia exhibited towards the green-skin.



While at no point obtrusive, fans of Raging Swan press will rejoice at e.g. small Easter-eggs and tie-ins with Hosford and other locales in and around the Lonely Coast. What this pdf acts like, can be best described as the massive linchpin that ties the whole of the Lonely Coast and its peculiarities together, rendering the whole picture more concise - while adding flourishes to just about every component of the area.



The various taverns, people controlled by intelligent helmets - we have *a lot* going on here - including strange experiments, no less than 3(!!!) major smuggling gangs (including their own conflicts, moralities, leaders and headquarters), burgeoning sorcerous power among those that should not e able to exhibit it (and some intrigue there...) - we have * A LOT* going on in this town - enough to cover a bunch of PC-levels!



Beyond this extremely detailed town, though, we also receive statblocks of its inhabitants - from merchants and peasants, reeves and high priests, rulers, veteran watchmen and a whole slew of smugglers and low-lives can be found herein - including the signature detailed fluff to supplement all of the named NPC-statblocks - background story, personality, mannerisms, distinguishing features and character-specific hooks - anything you ask for, it's here.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' b/w-two-column standard, is printer-friendly and generally nice to look at. The artworks range from thematically fitting stock art to pieces I haven't seen before and the cartography is awesome - the town makes sense and looks rather neat. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one to be printed out, and both come excessively bookmarked.



I can't comment on the print-edition since I do not own it (yet).



John Bennett delivers the final missing piece of the puzzle that is The Lonely Coast and much like many a puzzle, this one piece makes the whole picture seem all the more enticing. As a hub full of adventuring potential, Wolverton elevates the other pdfs in and around the Lonely Coast by serving as a plausible, cool town full of local color, nice customs and adventuring potential. Even when used on its own, though, the town shines - Wolverton has taken to heart all the little improvements of the "small" series- extremely detailed, with rumors, sights and hooks galore, it also provides a multitude of flavors of adventuring it supports: Wilderness? No problem. Dungeon? Why not. Coastal caves? Covered. Courtly intrigue? Possible. Shadow War? Jup, feasible. You name it, this place has the means to provide an extremely detailed canvas for your brush.



Wolverton is more than just an oversized village backdrop - it is a full-blown, thriving, pulsing town rife with adventure potential, a place filled to the brim with details and local color, expertly crafted to serve as a hub for PCs, to support a plethora of playing styles...and still retain a unique identity. An impressive feat indeed and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval, as well as a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Wolverton
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Subterranean Enclave: Severed Umbra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/27/2014 06:29:33
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This first installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What is this series about? Well, in one sentence: "Village Backdrops for the Underworld." That's the truth in theory - i.e. you'll find a settlement statblock, a market place, a couple of notable folk and places, lore and rumors, sample events - by now you know the formula that works so extremely well. In practice, this is rather different beyond the formal criteria. Once, when the slums of the city of Fairhaven plummeted into the underdark, squashing an enclave of dark folk and subsequently cutting off the survivors from both the upper world and the realms below, people were forced to work together - the result being a most unlikely constellation:



In Severed Umbra, now once again opened and a vibrant trading spot with the realms below, regular folk coexist with the enigmatic dark folk, having adopted their mannerisms and habit of dressing. Surrounding a lake that is the home to weird phosphorescent fish makes for a cool general location and the village is also sporting a place where lizards are cultivated for their meat as well as a dark rag outfitter, psychotropic shroom addicts, a psychotic halfling evoker ( level 9, fully statted) and a fully statted dark stalker co-leader of the town. Beyond these obvious hooks, acclimatization to the dark and actually kind dark stalker healers (!!!) make for further odd, yet pleasant peculiarities.



Better yet, aforementioned sample events prove to be pretty helpful in driving home the special considerations a place like this requires.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



I couldn't have imagined a more suitable writer to kick off the new series - Mike Welham's Severed Umbra is delightfully unconventional and distinct, with more hooks than you'd imagine to find in the pages of such a supplement - possibly even enough to base a whole campaign on this camp of former outcasts, forged together into an unlikely unity. The one problem I see with this pdf is that it sets a very high standard for the whole series and the pdfs to come - I hope other authors can match this cool locale. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for a great place indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Severed Umbra
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Village Backdrop: Star Run Falls
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/26/2014 03:07:15
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Star Run Falls, if the name was not ample clue, is a village primarily inhabited by an elven population. Constructed via magic thanks to the rather famous small academy of wizards, the place, while otherwise rather peaceful, also sports a certain fame beyond its borders and usual capacity.



However, it may very well be that the peace of the village is about to see an abrupt, unpleasant end - the so-called "Crimson Shadow King", whose hunt is heralded by the chirping of crickets, is gathering goblinoids in the woods, stealing elven babies...all for some nefarious purpose. (Alas, said purpose is explained and...well, is nothing to write home about, alas.)



Beyond the plot around human refugees, we also receive 3 statblocks - one for villagers, one a ftr3/wiz 3 and a half-gold-dragon unicorn (!!!) -rather cool. As is the implied duality of classes between refugees, the potential for racial tensions etc. - any Dm worth half his salt can make this village a compelling and cool place to visit and work in -especially if you add the potential for magical shenanigans the academy adds to the mix.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



John Bennett is a glorious author - he knows how to craft neat settlements, is well-read and has quite an array of tricks up his sleeve to inspire DMs using this village. Star Run Falls is more than one would assume from the cliché of the elven happy-idyllic-village and the monumental falls add an iconic landmark as well. However, the implied threat to the town...made me groan. I'm sorry, for the rest of the village is just breathing great ideas, but I can't get over the implied villain. The threat he poses feels contrived, the moniker somewhat cringe-worthy (also: Don't cite the Crimson King unless your king is just as epic...) and over all, this ONE component almost spoiled the whole village for me. I know, it is a nitpick, but even with more than a week between draft 1 and 2, I can't find it in me to ignore it and still cringe. Rest assured, though, that, from rods that produce dancing lights to the rest of the hooks and demographics (including two souls that share one body in the headmaster/mistress of the academy!), the village *is* worth a visit. I just wished the villain and his master plan had remained opaque or at least, been more imaginative. While these constitute only a fraction of the word-count, it is enough to make this slightly less awesome than what I'm used to by John Bennett. Hence, my final verdict will "only" clock in at a good 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Star Run Falls
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Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/19/2014 13:27:43
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have fostered an atmosphere of almost palpable anxiety -and a high danger-value.



Beyond the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people, the usual amounts of rumors, events, items to purchase etc., we also receive the stats of the hidden BBeG of the village as well as, rather cool, rules for the special moonshine sold in town - I love little mechanical pieces of crunch like this supplementing the fluff of an awesome village.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
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Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2014 07:29:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Vulcanbridge is perhaps one of the most interesting, unique settlements in the series so far - situated on a volcanic plain, the result of gnomish ingenuity and dwarven labor, Vulcanbridge is constructed as a hanging village on several stable pylons - which is rather neatly represented in the gorgeous map of the settlement.



It should be noted that the pylons of course suffer from tectonic issues and hence, the settlement, nowadays more dependent on delving below the liquid lava towards the gems and ores hidden within the bowels of the earth. The unique construction of the settlement and its frontier's position are also represented in the items for sale, the rumors and unique tools that characterize the uncommon and dangerous, extremely unique conditions present in and around this village.



The rather unique construction and surroundings are also represented in the damn cool events and if these, at times, potentially high-stakes adventure seeds are not enough, the incognito gold dragon in the town may make for one rather intriguing complicating factor.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.





Mike Welham's Vulcanbridge is, hands down, one of the most unique settlements I've seen in the whole series and ranks with its ingenuity and cool options that brim with adventure potential galore as a superb example how an extremely gifted writer can enrich one's game in a scant few pages - the implications for cutting edge industry and the will of mortals to succeed against the odds of hostile terrain, even in a fantasy context, just makes for a surprisingly vivid and unique backdrop that grips one's imagination - this is one of those settlements your PCs will come to love, one of the places they will want to save, no matter what. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
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Demiplanes: The Frozen Cage
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/12/2014 05:29:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan Press' new series detailing Demiplanes clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The demiplane know as the Frozen Cage is...surprise: A cage! *cicadas chirp* Yeah, I know. So an ancient, daemonic evil has been imprisoned Now, a recent incursion of the vile crusaders of the shattered sky has almost brought down the defenses of the Wardens of the Frozen Flame, guardians tasked to ensure that dread Shektelmatu remains bound.



In the frigid, lavishly mapped wasteland, which may have regular gravity, but also enhanced cold/diminished fire magic and dimensional lock effects, a table of 50 entries of dressing provides frigid bones and remains of ancient battles to stumble across. emerging in the ruins of a temple, the PCs will probably be spotted by the dread host that seeks to unleash damnation - and the guys may actually want to parlay. while their leader is an insanely powerful antipaladin, the PCs may yet be fooled...or coerced. The potential for a frigid cat and mouse game in the planar tundra definitely is there!



Broken Bulwarks haunted by the living dead, flaywind bilzzards that may skin you alive, ashen grey fields of necromantically charged snow - the locations herein are iconic and pretty much can be read as a best of the environmental shenanigans of the classic Frostburn tome. Have I mentioned the fully depicted legend provided herein?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press printer-friendly two-column b/w standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original cartography for the supplement is cool and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.



Robert Brookes' second Demiplane is once again one I'd definitely use - it's concise, the cartography is awesome and the theme and style suit my tastes very much - in the hands of a capable DM, this can be a very interesting combination of the frigid wasteland/undead battlefield tropes and fans of "A Song of Fire and Ice" - well, this could be considered an amped up, contained version of the North and its basic conflict. That being said...the Twilight Demesne has raised the stakes very high and while this demiplane is awesome, it is also much less versatile - it's a pretty much straightforward conflict with cool terrain and nice background thrown in the mix and does not lend itself to its predecessor's versatility. hence, my final verdict will omit my seal of approval by a margin for a final verdict of still awesome 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demiplanes: The Frozen Cage
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Demiplanes: The Twilight Demesne
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2014 06:05:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment in Raging Swan Press' new series detailing Demiplanes clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So what is the Twilight Demesne? Well, the easy answer would be that it's a truly dark forest - one wove from the Plane of Shadow and thus a fluif, self-contained place with normal gravity. Ingress and egress to the plane, planar traits (like enhanced light/darkness descriptor magic) and impeded magic - all covered.



Notable denizens and a lore-section as well as a 20-entry dressing table ensure that you have the tools to drive home that the players are not in Kansas anymore, often also utilizing mechanics beyond fluff - neato!



Beyond that, the starlight shrine, where petitioners can divine the future if they manage to parley with the enigmatic keeper (a fully statted CR 12 kitsune oracle) or brave the dangerous midnight labyrinth of folded spaces that brings new meaning to being lost in the woods, a grove, the permanently in darkness clad willow and its guardian... More beckons - take for example kytons that were subjected to the keeper's wrath, now remaining as dendrified, stunted and thorny trees or the true, enigmatic creator of the place that I won't spoil here...but seriously, what self-respecting adventurer can turn his/her back on a massive moon of jagged obsidian that contains a door of intricate clockwork locks and the things contained beyond this strange gate?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press printer-friendly two-column b/w standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original cartography for the supplement is cool and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.



Robert Brookes' Twilight Demesne sets a very high bar for a first demiplane - iconic, distinctive, with adventure hooks and ideas galore, a cool NPC and truly memorable imagery, this opens the series with a perceptible bang! At the low price, a true steal and a supplement that can easily be integrated into just about any campaign - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demiplanes: The Twilight Demesne
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