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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/22/2014 04:08:56
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation of Urban Dressing-content clocks in at 239 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 2 pages of author bios (yay for those - seriously, more books should have them to generate name recognition), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 228 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Okay, so this massive book contains the originally free tavern game Dragon and the Thief, So what's it Called Anyway, So what's for Sale, Anyway I +II, So what's the Tavern Like, Anyway I+II, random Urban Encounters, Barroom Brawls (a pdf any DM should own!) and the Urban Dressings for Alleyways, Docks, Graveyards, Guildhalls, Market Stalls, Parks, Pirate Towns, Sages, Shrines, Temples, Theatres, Thieves, Traders & Craftsmen and The Watch. These all have in common that I've written reviews for them, which you can easily find by searching for the respective product. Since I don't like repeating myself unduly, I won't comment on these and instead dive right into what makes this book different from the sum of its parts, all right?



First of all - unlike some compilations of individual pdfs, this book does not simply cobble the material together - the organization is actually pretty smart: Need names? In the beginning of the book, we get all the composite name-generator tables for e.g. organizations, taverns etc., back to back.



The following organization is generally pretty alphabetical regarding the areas of the city - i.e. all the info for alleyways, then the info for docks (and docked ships), then graveyards (including weird characters and epitaphs), then guildhalls - you get the idea. Now generally, I think that Market Stalls would have been a great place to also position Traders and Craftsmen, followed by the "So what's for sale..."-items, but that's probably a matter of taste.



On the new content-side, we get two 100-entry tables on ruined buildings - both characteristics and appearance and general dressings and also a total of 20 complications for these buildings and 20 legends surrounding them - now don't get wrong, these are glorious, but feel like they could have benefitted from a Dungeon Dressing-style cheat-sheet of terrain hazards...you know the type one find also in the other Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press. We get the same amount of tables for statues and monuments, btw., though here the dressing-table is much more extensive and covers more than the small entries provided for ruins - instead of e.g. "Smashed in windows", we get monuments that double as guard posts, some with starnge depressions etc. So in that regard - cooler here! (Also: Monuments don't require a terrain-hazard cheat-sheet or the like, so no complaints here.) The appearances of Wizard's Towers are also delightfully extravagant, and as such, the table fits only 50 long entries in the two pages devoted to it. However, 100 different dressing should provide ample modification for these, especially due to the rather eclectic selection provided. And if you're starved for ideas, 20 hooks and complications and 20 legends, all adhering to this level of lovingly crafted detail, further add to the experience and variety.



Now I was not particularly kind to "Random Encounters: Urban" and so, RaginGS wan has added additional ones to this book - the first of the new ones being "Fire Sale!", in which a shopping trip to the alchemist results in a sudden fire and a bid to save the alchemist and keep the shop from blowing up - cool! The second new encounter would be all about a dormant, intelligent sword coming back to sentience when a hapless smith was supposed to modify it. Hilarity ensues. Awesome. An Imp-Oracle of fire and soot makes for an interesting info-broker/pyromaniac and investigating a case of vanishing corpses also makes for a nice diversion. Have I mentioned the dread encounter with the Boogeyman of the Alley, a lethal urban fey that is disturbing indeed? Or the encounter in which the PCs have to brave the unstable scaffolding of a church to make sure it's properly renovated...and defeat the old gargoyle nesting there?



The new encounters have in common that they universally mop the floor with the original Random Urban Encounters and actually make for iconic playing experiences. SO kudos for these cool additions!



Now it should also be noted that the "So what's for sale"-pdfs have been nicely collated and taverns, as one of the apexes of any self-respecting adventurer's life, also have been collated- a rather good generator, followed by the sample taverns from installment II, with the barroom brawls thrown in for the mix makes for a nice piece of reference.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no issues of concern - quite a feat for a book of this length. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard with old-school b/w-artworks thrown in and mixed with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively and fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, with one optimized for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.



Okay, if you've been following my reviews, you know that the one Dressing-series that doesn't routinely blow me away, is Urban Dressing. Far too often, the pdfs somewhat lost focus on what they wanted to be - a background dressing? A building generator? A selection of fluff-only NPCs? Now not all Urban Dressing-pdfs can be accused of a lack of focus, but quite a few can. It is my joy to report, that the new content provided for this compilation ranks among the best in the whole series, with especially the copious new encounters blowing the old ones out of the water and the handy tavern-compilation and organization making for one fine and often used component. Now that being said, when a component pdf has a lack of focus, it's still here. The Theatre-tables, while expanded, still can't decide on whether a sight or sound belongs on stage, the audience's area or backstage etc. -a finer gradients for some of these tables would have made them more useful. the Installments dealing with criminals and watch are still rather rudimentary and not particularly inspired and so on.



On the other hand, we have simply evocative entries that, on their own, could spark whole adventures, exotic and inspiring sights and the spirit of wonder RaginG Swan Press' dressings evoke more often than, all suffusing some of these tables and entries.



The organization of this book, in case that was lost on you, is superb and makes navigation exceedingly easy, though , due to some quirk, it doesn't feel as exceedingly, superbly intuitive as the book on Wilderness Dressing, but I can't fault it for that. The truth is, this book is the best compilation of the old urban dressing-series one could hope for - while the newer installments have brimmed with creativity and found their place, this book takes the older entries and whips them into a shape that is infinitely more useful than its component parts, both by refinement and organization and proximity. The new content is neat as well.



So how to rate this, then? See, this is where it becomes complicated - on the one hand, this book contains pdfs I consider rather subpar, whereas it on the other hand also provides some great new content and often-used classics that have seen ample successful use in our games. In the end, I consider this book to be exceedingly useful, but also short of the awesomeness that the Wilderness Dressing-book is - Dm's looking for a way to make their cities more vivid - get this. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing
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Village Backdrop: Hjalward
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2014 08:32:47
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!



Now Hjalward is a change pace for the series, for Hjalward is not only the moniker of a village, but also of a vast defensive fortification, with vast watchtowers and flying buttresses, erected in times long past by giants...or some other strange civilization.



Nowadays, not even a tenth of this engineering marvel remains and the village of Hjalward is located around one of these last remaining defensive fortifications. The attentive reader will immediately realize here that Raging Swan Press has significantly streamlined the layout of settlement statblocks, making the formal write-up of the village actually less cluttered than in a default layout - awesome!

As always with the series, we receive magic items for sale in the market place, an array of rumors and events, information on local dressing customs and nomenclature - but this one goes a tad bit beyond that, also providing a kind of local geography and mythology, thus entrenching the village further in an evocative past.

A kind of frontier's town of the coolest kind, the place is fortified and breathes a mix of frontier's spirit/trading post atmosphere, coupled with an underlying sense of decay that is hard to achieve indeed. The augan, the wondrous watchtower at the heart of the village sure has captured my imagination -what do they guard against? How were they destroyed? If it falls, will it be the end for the settlement? Can the PCs keep it intact, perhaps reclaim a part of the splendor of the wall?



Hints towards Wolfsbane Hollow and the surrounding mountainsides and areas )hopefully!) hint at the cool things to come, and a sample bard finishes what can be considered an evocative installment of the series.



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 - it should be noted that the map's quality is back to the superb standard we've come to expect and not on the slightly lower level of the previous installment of Village Backdrops. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Rife with roleplaying potential galore, suffused by an imagery that is truly iconic, Robert Brookes' Hjalward breathes a spirit of epicness, of opportunity and adventure - sure, you can make this a minor place in your campaign, but just as well, you might blow this up to being an anchor of it or a central component of the things to come - in any way, Hjalward is awesome and deserves a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Hjalward
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Village Backdrop: Prayer's Point
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2014 05:35:45
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!



This village is named after the legendary meditation spot of a powerful paladin of yore, and its idyllic waters glow like gold in the new rays of the sun - and even law and order is enforced by an aasimar paladin - the village sports a population of more than 1/3 of the total villagers sporting this exalted bloodline. As a nice piece of crunch, we get said paladin's full stats, though the statblock faultily denotes his alignment as LN, when it should be LG. The village comes with full-blown rumors, sample events etc. and provides some cool components for low level adventure - animals start to vanish from the nearby forests and there have been sightings of werefoxes.



Whoever knows Alexander Augunas might suspect the true culprits here and their rather harmless nature, but in fact, the secret history of this blessed place might yet prove to be its downfall, sporting a secret history most foul that may well result in a terrible identity crisis for the community once exposed. Settlement statblock, customs, trade and industry - all is provided in the usual depth and quality.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not as flawless as usual for RSP. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography deserves mention here - while by now means bad, it is not the hand-drawn, cool map you'd see in other installments and feels a bit inorganic and generic to me - it's not bad or ugly, jus not as beautiful as the maps of other Village Backdrops. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Alexander Augunas delivers a cool module that has an actually heart-warming, positive low-level module (or an example of bigotry, depending on your tastes) written into its structure, just as it offers ample fodder for mid to high-level adventuring. The village's nature and inhabitants should make sure that PCs want this place as a resort, a base, to remain as idyllic as it seems...alas, we don't always get what we want.



Now writing-wise, this pdf is great and formally, it isn't bad either, if not as flawlessly polished as most RSP-titles. The map, to me is a minor detriment when compared to other installments, but not enough to truly deter one from this cool village. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Prayer's Point
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Village Backdrop: Refuge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/27/2014 02:58:05
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!



All right, by now you know that Village Backdrops come with full settlement statblocks, do you? Well, now you do. ;) The village also features information on the village's economy, customs, nomenclature etc. and provides information on movers and shakers. Beyond that, short tables of rumors and events to enliven the place work as neat additions for the DM to develop into adventures.



Okay, let's get something out of the way - this village is a pirate's haven on a tiny, crescent-shaped island with a volcano on top. The local consortium's ships sail out there and thus, whispers and rumors as well as events supplement this playstyle - the population is dependent on trade and piracy - and thus, this settlement indeed provides refuge for the hunted and unwanted and whether your PCs are there due to being hunted themselves or due to seeking someone - their stay will not be pleasant. Danger modifier +30. Yeah. Ouch.



That being said, if the set-up wasn't ample clue enough, this village *BEGS* to be inserted into a Rzaor Coast-campaign - right down to the CR 4 sample character, who happens to be, you guessed it, a were-shark.



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.



Greg Marks delivers a village that simply BEGS to be included into a given Razor Coast or Freeport campaign - whether as outpost, as competition, this village backdrop can actually stuff a certain plot-hole in one of the Heart of the Razor-adventures. Alternatively, If you're looking for a spot to test the waters (haha!) whether your players would enjoy such an environment, this makes for a great RC-light-version. This is a glorious, fun village - deadly, cool and extremely useful, this is worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Refuge
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Road of the Dead Collector's Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2014 04:26:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 45pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/CR-lists, 1 page advice on reading statblocks and 1 page advice on running the module for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



All right, before I dive in - we get 6 pre-gens to run the module, a short primer-style appendix of the general area of the lonely coast including travelling distances/speed and 3 new monsters +2 magic items, the latter of which both get their own artworks. That's the supplemental stuff. It should be noted that the original "Road of the Dead" may have had more pages, but not more content - the collector's edition simply properly collates the information of the module and thus makes it more printer-friendly.



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



All right, still here? Great! What is this module about? Well, one upon a time, a strange people lived in the forests and vales of the Lost Coast. These people had their own, distinct culture and now, the PCs, via one hook or another, stumble across a complex of said folk. Now the culture is the interesting thing here, for the dungeon mirrors essentially a take on the "Road to the Underworld" that dead souls must take upon death as you probably know from Mayan/Aztec mythology. That is, unlike most mythologies, the souls of the vanquished still are in jeopardy after death - failure on the road means an end to the soul - truly final annihilation. The iconic dungeon herein mirrors the procession of such a conception of the afterlife in the very dungeon - resting, to this date, as one of the finest example of unobtrusive, indirect story-telling I've seen in a dungeon:

From pools of "blood", crimson mists, roads of wails -the complex offers smart, intelligent hazards and obstacles, a barrow-labyrinth with undead that also includes RSP's trademark dressing tables of unique sounds and things that happen, spell fragment-hazards, a divination pool - there are plenty of unique and challenging threats and hazards here - including a now added possibility for more socially-inclined characters to shine that was absent from the original. Now I can't emphasize enough how concise and organic this module feels - the dungeon, in the very act of the PCs making their way through, tells a captivating story by simply existing: Each encounter, adversary and trap has the distinct feeling of being lovingly hand-crafted - from sharpened stalactites to flame-gouts spurting demon maws and unique outsiders and one of the most iconic final rooms in any PFRPG-module - not one component of this adventure feels like filler or anything other than downright awesome.



Add to that the further adventuring options that have direct consequences depending on how the PCs manage their discovery to acting as +1 optional boss battles to challenge the truly capable or lucky groups out there and we have a significantly improved version of a module that already was very good...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as almost always in RSP's offerings, is flawless. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks. It should be noted that the pdf features improved artworks for many a piece and also features one version for screen-use and one for print-use.



Creighton Broadhurst's "Road of the Dead" was a very good module back in the day, but it had minor weaknesses. The Collector's Edition has purged them all and made what shone before a dazzlingly glorious beast. The complex and its story, the adversaries, the hazards - this module is one of the finest examples of indirect storytelling I've seen in ages and imho surpasses in the thoroughly awesome concept of the dungeon and the implementation of its features in the narrative almost every example I can think of. This place makes sense in all the right ways; It's exciting and challenging, but not too hard. It can be enhanced via the bonus/follow-up encounters to be hard, if a DM chooses so. It provides a fascinating glimpse at a unique culture and one I'd hope we'd explore more in the future. The Collector's Edition is a significant improvement in all regards and my dead tree copy, including spine etc., lives up to all the standards as well, adding superb production values to stellar content. Even if you have the original Road of the Dead, the print version is definitely worth its low price and if you don't have the original module, then this should be considered a must-buy anyways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval...and since "Road of the Dead" has not featured in any of my best-of lists...this one does and is a candidate for my top ten of 2014.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Road of the Dead Collector's Edition
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Urban Dressing: Mining Town
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2014 10:25:13
So, what makes the mining towns in your campaign world stand out?

Here you will find some ideas to make a mining town come to life within your shared alternate reality. Suitable for use when planning the township or adventures therein, or even during play when you need to breathe extra life in to it or the party ask about something you hadn't anticipated, it works by giving you a selection of tables. These can be rolled on or you may prefer (particularly if you're planning rather than needing something in a rush) to read through and select the options that appeal most or which fit best with whatever else you have in mind.

The first one is Sights and Sounds. A full one hundred of them, ranging from a pile of abandoned picks to a collapsing shack or a line of miners awaiting a handout from a soup kitchen. Some can be mentioned in passing, many could spark an encounter if not a whole adventure.

Next is a selection of around fifty businesses. Some are mining-specific but many are of more general use: everyone needs taverns and butchers and even blacksmiths! It gives the feel of a quite rough and ready shanty-town, with an area where miners can pitch camp, a mayor who does shady deals and a guard post which views the miners as troublemakers and treats them accordingly. This table will prove useful when the party asks for the local... well, whatever... as well as providing the backdrop of a busy mining town going about its business.

Next up is Folk of Interest. Plenty of 'instant NPCs' here who can be woven into your stories as anything from the person at the next table in the tavern to the source of a whole chunk of plot. Each is described vividly in a couple of sentences although stats are limited to race, class and level - if you need more you will have to work them out for yourself. If you so chose, you could populate your town with them, and weave their stories into your own, giving the impression of a living community that exists irrespective of the presence of the party within city limits.

Finally, there are 20 Hooks, Complications and Opportunities - if the materials already supplied have not given you enough inspiration for events and encounters look here for ones designed to deliberately draw the party in and involve them in whatever is going on - anything from a gas explosion to a murder, a job offer or a green cloud that's engulfing people. Plenty of excitement here, your mining town need not be a quiet break for rest and relaxation between adventures (unless, of course, that is what you want!).

A vibrant collection of resources tailored to suit the particular environment of a mining town. Keep it to hand for the next time your party visits one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
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Urban Dressing: Pirate Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/12/2014 09:54:08
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Urban Dressing-installment clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

There are plenty of Pirate Towens out there - from Freeport to Sasserine and Riddelport to Raor Coast's Port Shaw, there are quite a few of the cities out there and this book seeks to provide a handy way to make them stand out more. The pdf thus kicks off with a massive 110-entry table of sights and sounds to provide local color and hooks at the miniscule level for the PCs - you know, all those small things that make a place come alive: Cured sharks, loinclothed pearl-divers, ordered men from the military on a futile quest to bring order, a mausoleum built of skulls and bones...from the mundane to the extravagant, a neat array of fluff. The next table, spanning 50 entries, contains one sample business for to integrate into the campaign.

It should be noted that, between fishmongers, tattoo parlors and the like, a counterfeiter called "All that Glitters" makes not only for a cool entry, but also for a neat easter-egg for RSP's superb print book of the same name. The type of business is provided in brackets behind the name of the business. And yes, tarboys and similar often neglected professions are here. Kudos indeed!

A massive second table of 50 entries containing sample people of interest can also be found herein and besides corrupt scum, people hustling to get along etc., sea hags and similar creatures make for a small, rare touch of the exotic here for a brilliantly balanced table between the weird and the kind-of-mundane - as far as living in such a city can be considered such.

Of course, sometimes a DM just needs a quick hook/complication to spring upon your players - the table containing 20 events - from gaining the black spot from a stranger to finding a bloated body to weirder entries - yet another neat table. The pdf's final page is taken up by a one-page spread artwork in b/w of a harbor.

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 with thematically-fitting, neat b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Author Josh Vogt delivers one of the most rounded versions of the diverse Urban Dressing-pdfs, with details galore to flesh out a city of the type, ample things to do and each table hitting home just as it should - immensely useful, fun and just helpful, this pdf makes for a great purchase at a very fair price to bring more life to your pirate towns. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Pirate Town
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GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/09/2014 05:44:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation of Raging Swan Press' Wilderness Dressing-series clocks in at a massive 159 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than a massive 152 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Okay, so you know the deal, right? I did reviews for all the constituent files of the wilderness dressing-series and I don't like repeating myself over and over, so if e.g. the exact content of what the installment on "Snow & Ice" or "So what's the Pirate Ship like, anyways?" intrigue you - just check out my reviews for those, all right?



Great - what I will go into details about, though, would be the massive array of brand new tables to e found herein as well as the organization, for especially the latter is downright genius:



The first bunch of the book covers features and events - caves and their dressings, firesite/campsite events and the like complement the installments on ruins and castles. Then, the next chapter provides bandits and travelers to put in respective locations, whereas after that, we have a concise organization of dressing-tables by terrain type - expanded by the equivalent of three full wilderness dressing-pdfs (and we're talking this chapter alone!): Full coverage for swamps and marshes and farmlands as well as borderlands complement well the classics like the glorious primal forests or desolate deserts. Now the final chapter provides ample tables for ships - from shipwrecks and pirate ships to coastlines and sea voyages, the new supplemental content herein once again amounts to a surprising amount.



On a content-base, the campsite tables features no less than 100 full entries for dressing and features each and the same holds true for the tables about caves, which furthermore get terrain properties. The Borderland-content as well as the content on swamps and farmlands follows the full wilderness dressing formula by proving massive tables of 100 entries for both dressing and minor events as well as coming with concise d12-tables of random encounters that include the respective fluff for the adversaries faced. And yes, the variety here is universally as staggering as we've come to expect from the best of wilderness-dressings - from bulls about to break out of control to fey and GARGANTUAN BUMBLEBEES, creatures from all 4 bestiaries get their chance to shine here. The swamp rules-cheat-sheet for DMs, with quicksand, undergrowth and bogs etc. all collated further provides a level of DM-help unprecedented in just about any supplement apart from those by Raging Swan Press.



I should also not fail to mention that exactly this level of detail also extends to the entry on coasts, while 50 entries of sample shipwrecks, 100 entries shipwreck dressing and, once again, 12 encounters, round out this book.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, bordering on flawless - an impressive feat for a book of this length. The pdf comes in RSP's two-column B/w-standard with thematically fitting b/w-art that partially is stock, partially glorious original. The book comes with two pdf versions - one printer-friendly and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs are extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and even ToC etc. is hyperlinked within the document in an unobtrusive manner, rendering navigation by pdf as comfortable as possible. It should also be noted that the pdfs are extremely tablet/smartphone-friendly and render perfectly on my Google Nexus 5 while taking up next to no space -the screen-version does not even surpass the 10 mb. The print-version has its title conveniently placed on the spine and offers a neat, matte cover as well as nice paper. Nothing to complain there either.



The designers John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Seamus Conneely, Brian Gregory, Eric Hindley, Greg Marks, Brian Wiborg Mønster, David Posener, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham have almost universally done a great job and when some tables aren't as glorious as others, then only due to the insanely high standard of the series in general. Now I won't kid you - I didn't particularly look forward to reviewing this, mainly because I did not think I'd be able to say something I hadn't said in one of my reviews of the small pdfs in the series. And yes, I could have ran my usual spiel of talking about the respective new tables, what works and what doesn't etc. - but it didn't feel like it would be enough.



So I postponed and procrastinated. Then, my group went into the wilds, on journey and left civilization, at least for a while.



I've got to go on a slight tangent here: As some of you may know, I print out all my pdfs. I just prefer paper. It makes catching glitches easier for me and is just more pleasant to work with, at least for me. I printed out all the component-parts, archived them in my terrain-folder and had them on standby ever since. I did use them and I enjoyed them. Then I got this book.



The difference, by some strange quirk of my mind, organization in the tome or whatever you may call it, is staggering. This book has since rapidly turned into my most-used DM-accessory book. And oh boy, is my campaign better off for it! And the reason eluded me for some time...after all, I had most of the constituents, why do I use it now this excessively?



The answer came to me the other day - I looked at the ToC and it was there, I read it, it made sense. When I was gaming, though, I did not actively remember where what is, my usual process. Think for a second, recall information xyz, go on. With this book, I didn't have to.



Somehow, the organization of this book, at least for me, is so borderline genius and adheres to some weird principle of how my brain processes information and draws logical conclusions that I don't even have to remember what first letter (i.e. the "d" of desert) the respective table has - via a borderline genius organization of tables and content, my subconscious manages to immediately pick up where the information I'm looking for can be found. Now mind you, I experienced this phenomenon from the get-go, the very first use of the book. This is a triumph of glorious organization and layout and perhaps the best example of the like I've seen in any roleplaying game supplement. This is a proof that layout artists, alongside developers and editors, truly belong to the heroes of the rpg-industry. And it makes me use the book. ALL. THE. TIME.



Now even if this observation does not interest you in the least and you already have all the old Wilderness-Dressing files - take a look at the sheer amount of bonus content. Yeah. Even for people like me who had the constituent files, this should be considered a must-have, a book that every DM should own. This book is a hot contender for my top ten no. 1-spot of 2014, gets a 5 star + seal of approval and while I'm at it - every DM should own this: It's hereby declared an Endzeitgeist Essential-book for DMs. Players, if your DM doesn't own this, get it for him/her - they'll be happy and your gaming experience will improve significantly while traveling - I guarantee it.

Do yourself a favor and get this book for your game. If you're a player, buy it for the DM.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing
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Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2014 09:03:15
This would make an interesting place to visit: a village perched on pylons over a volcanic plain. The inhabitants make their living from the riches - gemstones and the like - cast up by volcanic activity or actively mined under the settlement. Not surprisingly, a lot of the inhabitants are dwarves, but other races are also found. As they trade their wealth for necessities, they get plenty of visits from traders... but may attract less welcome visits from the likes of bandits. All can make for an interesting visit by the party!

There's a sketch map of the settlement, descriptions of notable locations and people of interest, as well as information that can be gathered about Vulcanbridge and rumours that might be picked up there.

The final section covers life in Vulcanbridge, with details of trade and industry, law and order and the like, as well as a short list of random events (roll a d6 or pick the one you like) that might take place whilst the party is there.

It's an unusual settlement and one which could easily find its way into a plot that requires obtaining gems or travelling to a volcanic region of your campaign world.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
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Dungeon Dressing: Dungeon Entrances
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2014 07:54:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Dungeon Dressing-installment clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What's the first thing a noob-group trying their hands at Rappan Athuk will tell you? Yep. "We've been TPK'd by the entrance." The first page makes one thing clear, if you haven't been aware of it before (or by that anecdote) - a dungeon's entrance goes a long way making a dungeon memorable. For the truly time-starved DM, 16 ready-made entrances are provided in the first table, several of which sport interaction opportunities for skill-checks, including DCs and all - what about a locked portcullis with an evocation-magic radiating phoenix, for example?



A 50-entry-strong, two pages spanning table of dressings and features can be used to add unique and memorable dressings to the entrances - including illusion magic (including disbelief-DC), graves of adventurers, abandoned campsites - foreshadowing potential galore, once again interspersed with minor crunch even minor treasure to be found.



A total of 6 traps is also part of the deal, spanning CRs from 2 to 6 and coming with variations to amp up the CR, if desired. Fusillades of arrows combined with pit traps and mist and lightning +storm winds + elemental-summoning make for interesting traps indeed, all provided in RSP's extremely easy to use trap-statblock. While not explicitly multi-round in every trap, the effective results from springing these boils down to the players being occupied for a while...and don't worry - just because one is called "Death Trap Foyer", does not mean that these approach Rappan Athuk's level of lethality...



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 with thematically-fitting, neat b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Greg Marks delivers a memorable little tool for effective foreshadowing, with all tables breathing flair and style galore. The traps themselves are detailed and actually explain how they work rather well, making it exceedingly easy to integrate them, even for DMs like yours truly that actually require their players to roleplay disarming of traps... My only gripe with this pdf is admittedly mostly cosmetic - I would have preferred a less conservative trap to be included as well. This is cosmetic, though - the pdf still justly deserves a final verdict of 5 stars, just short of the seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Dungeon Entrances
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Retribution Collector's Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2014 05:02:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 71 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page CR-lists, 1 page advice on reading statblocks and 1 page advice on running the module for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 62 pages of content, so let's take a look!



I will break my own format for reviewing with this module. The original Retribution was the first Raging Swan Press-product to see the light of day and I bought it on a whim back in the day, long before I was a reviewer. I expected it to suck, frankly, and did so out of a morbid curiosity. I was utterly flabbergasted at what I found. Retribution is probably as close to a traditionally gothic (in the "Castle of Ontranto" "Name of the Rose"-style, not the association commonly used for this term...) mystery as you can get in a module. It breathes psychological depth, symbolism, has an unprecedented level of detail for the NPCs in here and to this date remains one of the best 1st level modules I've seen for any iteration of D&D or d20-based systems like Pathfinder.



Retribution is one of those non-optional relics of good gaming I'd consider a must-own for any PFRPG-DM - why? Because it's not over the top, it's not grindy, it is the perfect, absolute incarnation of atmosphere and mood, with diverse challenges, smart and unobtrusive subtext and, better yet, it retains this fascination throughout, evoking a level of grit and desolation that is simply entrancing - both while reading and while playing it.



My players still talk about this one, and it's been more than 4 years since we ran it and it made second place on my first best-of-list.. Now it's back and got a collector's edition - and honestly, I was afraid. I feared something akin to what happened to Star Wars. Almost perfect cult classics don't do face-lifts well in many cases.



This collector's edition kicks off with a n abbreviated primer on the village of Swallowfeld before getting into the meat of the module - which I will NOT SPOIL. Seriously - just think monastery full of eccentric clerics, snowstorm outside, glorious psychological underpinnings, a great (and easy to run!) banquet scene, slowly rising tension - a furious finale. Social skill challenges to bypass certain obstacles, a dungeon now with a small dressing table, improved artwork...generally, organization is perhaps the most significant improvement here - you get the respective content like magic items etc. on the page you'll need them -the collector's edition requires next to no page-flipping.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as almost always in RSP's offerings, is flawless. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks. It should be noted that the pdf features improved artworks for many a piece and also features one version for screen-use and one for print-use.



Creighton Broadhurst's master piece "Retribution" didn't have much to gain by this Collector's Edition - it was already one of the best 1st level modules I've ever read. On the other hand, it had a lot to lose - and does something smart. It applies RSP's by now acquired knack of making extremely user-friendly books and applies it to the classic, very cautiously streamlining presentation and adding minor bits and pieces herein that do not stick out like sore thumbs and rather organically fit with the module.



I do have the print version (one great reason to get this, imho!) and it should be considered a steal at the low price. - with paper, spine etc. all being up to my standards.



Now let me get one thing clear - this module can be run by even novice DMs (in spite of a banquet scene!) and offers one of the best playing experiences I had for Pathfinder. Additionally, the further streamlining almost makes it possible to run this module sans preparation - one read should suffice for almost all DMs. Beyond that, the improved streamlining of the layout makes the running of this legendary module even easier. This would be a serious contender for my Top-Ten-list of 2014, but let's face it, the first edition already made such a list and this one is very close to it. Hence, I remain with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and one general announcement - people, if you don't have the original Retribution, this is your chance; You literally have no reason not to get this gem and having it as a print edition made me feel all fuzzy and warm. This has its place on my shelf of honor and is truly a must-own for any PFRPG-DM's module-library.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Retribution Collector's Edition
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GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing
by Louis C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2014 12:52:07
I've bought a few of the individual Dungeon Dressing pdfs from Raging Swan which have been grouped into this volume with some bonus material and have found them very useful. As a result I was very excited about this coming out and ordered a copy in hardback as soon as it was available.

For those not familiar with the dungeon dressing series there are samples of the individual sections available as free downloads on the Raging Swan site. Each section (e.g. Doors, Walls, Altars, etc) contain various very usable tables with imaginative descriptions for parts of the dungeon. These are a lifesaver as a GM and are useful either for rolling randomly, looking for something suitable or even just getting inspiration. While it's designed with Pathfinder in mind 99% of the book will fit into almost any fantasy gaming system.

At around 340 pages the hardback is a massive tome and it's solid black cover looks great up on the shelf with the Pathfinder rule books. The book starts with a number of short articles generally about dungeon design which are very useful and the main parts of the book itself are brilliant. I expect to get a lot of use out of this and can see myself buying the Urban and Wilderness books (I have the pdfs but I really like this kind of stuff in hard copy) as well in the near future.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing
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Random Encounters: Wilderness
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/31/2014 11:02:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a weighty 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page advice of how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick this pdf off at a list of statblocks by CR, encounters by terrain, by EL (spanning the gamut from EL 2 to 12) and by designers. Wait, what? Yes, for this pdf is the child of Raging Swan Press' freelancer call and as such offers us the winners of said contest. Hence, I will provide the author alongside the discussion of the encounter. Got that? All right! After author biographies (which imho wouldn't hurt ALL RPG-companies - name-recognition for designers = good thing!), we kick off with Jesper Andersen's "Canoes & Crocodiles" - and what a glorious first encounter it is: The premise is simple - crocodiles (which can be replaced by just about every aquatic critter, should you so choose) versus, you guessed it, canoes. What makes this encounter such a joy to run would be the quick and easy summary of base vehicle rules, concisely and coherently summed for all intents and purposes - the same, of course, goes for the terrain and the canoes. I've never run such an easy vehicle combat - two pages of the pdf are literally all you need and even if you usually shy away from them, this one is a cakewalk to run - even sans preparation. Two thumbs up!



Now Jeff Erwin's "Death-Dealer of the Gloaming Hills" is something less straightforward -it's essentially a miniature tragedy - featuring death, foreshadowing, a mini-mystery and a shapechanger - and that is all I will spoil here, in case players are reading. Still, experienced DMs will consider this one a been-there-moment.

A neat sidequest indeed and especially nice if the PCs are frequently travelling e.g. between settlements etc. Richard Bennett's "Hunters as Bait" is all about one two types of beast fighting one another - with the PCs used as a means to spring an ambush of one of the parties, so the other monster can annihilate its competition. Nice, though probably an encounter you should foreshadow accordingly. Full-blown buff-suites included. Jacob Trier's "Lost Love" is about a bard seeking his stunning beauty - who is not all she seems to be - and alas, heart-break will resume, should the poor sap survive finding his beloved... Still, as much as I hate to be that guy - the encounter is great, the writing neat...but I've seen this particular storyline done quite a few times before.



Fabian Fehr's "Mourning Monster" once again has this touch of the absolutely special - guarded by her crestfallen young grey render, a wizard's mortal remains lie in a circle of standing stones - will the PCs dare to loot her body? Of perhaps, they require her to be resurrected...but how do you explain that to a faithful beast, determined to guard its mistress, mad with grief? In Denver Edwards Jr's "Secrets of the Swamp", the PCs may save a doe and inadvertently stumble into both the undead, sinkholes, a degenerate tribe of lizardfolk and the globster-ooze they worship as a deity...Neat!



F.D. Graham's "Stuck in the Mud" deserves special applause - good encounters don't necessarily mean that there will be massacres and monster-blood galore - in this one, the PCs may aid a kind halfling free his wagon and horse from the mud in a thoroughly compelling and awesome change of pace. Two thumbs up for being this brave and daring for something completely different! Also by Fabian Fehrs would be an encounter, where the coolness lies in the details - a clearing that houses abandoned brownie-tunnels now is the home of a wasp swarm and may collapse as soon at the PCs step inside -great insult-to-injury encounter, with the tunnels of the fey lending the special touch to everything.



Jacob W. Michaels' "The ants go marching in" is very much a question of morals - the PCs happen upon the gruesome execution of a faun, buried and covered with honey, via ants - slow and agonizing, while two inquisitors watch - whom to help, whom to trust - and the ants march ever onwards.

The final encounter, Brian J. Ratcliff's "The Gray Grove", comes with color-blighted creatures, fey and the true source of the forest's blight, a color out of space. And I *LOVE* the interaction of fey/lovecraftiana here, I really do, but I wished this were a full-blown module; For one encounter, the resolution and scope feel too grand and somewhat too stuffed together. that being said, I very much hope to see such a module one day!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as almost always in raging Swan Press-products, are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience and in two version, with one being optimized for screen use and one to be printed out. Artwork consists of thematically fitting stock art you may have already seen in other RSP-books, but oh well - take a look at the low price and page-count: Still superb in the production value department.



Random Encounters: Wilderness provides excessively-detailed encounters that range from very good to stellar . while some of the encounters here have basic plots that are a bit old, while one is slightly beyond its scope, you only notice this because they are so good - the respective encounters have many a thing going for them, with "Canoes & Crocodiles", "Mourning Monster" ad "Stuck in the Mud" being my favorites - especially the latter, which is so fun in its utterly mundane premise, which manages to be exciting in spite of no creature-feature overkill and no deathtrap-9000-killer-combo, is just awesome - because it is about very pure roleplaying without sacrificing tension. Now I may have seemed complain-happy throughout this review, so let me make this abundantly clear - this is a neat selection of encounters and well worth 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval. And it has done one thing: Make me universally look forward to the things these authors put out in the future. So go ahead, check it out!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Encounters: Wilderness
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Dungeon Dressing: Goblin's Pockets
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2014 07:28:27
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Dungeon Dressing-installment 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!



The first page is taken up by a short explanation of how to use this pdf and a d0-table that helps you determine on which table to roll and how often. And oh boy, do these table's names already spell out the respective themes of the tables:



No.1 would "Utterly Worthless", 50-entry strong (like all tables herein), features delightful things for adventurers to grab - a tangled ball of multicolored thread, a dried up snake. The left arm and head of a doll. A half-eaten shoe soaked in brine. A mouse stuffed with strange herbs. While this one (and the other tables) have entries for roll twice/thrice, in a cool twist, the resulted items are nailed together, glued together, dirty etc., adding more variety than a simple reroll otherwise would. Awesome.



"Broken and Battered" is probably better suited for clues, though the anarchic goblins have spared these in any way - lockets defaced with mustachios, sling stones with traces of gnawing, angel-shaped-pendants that have been bereft of their wings - disturbing and still funny and once again full of narrative potential.



Table number 3 is all about "Yummy tidbits" - with the roll thrice-entry commenting they've been made into a stew. Stew in pockets makes no sense? Pshaw, these are goblins we're talking about! Meat with canine fur, honeycombs with bee-bodies, bird heads, cheese so covered in green fuzz it might run off at any moment... delightful, disgusting, fun.



Finally, table number 4 provides shiny treasures - like whetstones with holes drilled through the center. Small pairs of scissors to run around with. Collections of buttons, preserved eyes, ancient turnips, dented coins from obsolete kingdoms...once again, rather interesting entries. (Though gold, or rather, silver/copper values for some of them would have been appreciated...)



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 with thematically-fitting, neat b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



I do not begrudge author Eric Hindley this task - goblins are hard to depict properly - on the one hand, they ought to be somewhat comedic, on the other hand utterly psychotic - plus, they are since Burnt Offerings the iconic humanoid antagonists that set the tone for Pathfinder (and made me, back in the day, start getting the books...) - what I'd like to say is: This assignment was probably hard...and fun. And the fun translates. I'm writing this review after a bunch of underwhelming, crunch-intense books that dragged down my mood considerably. (Contrary to what some of you might think - reviewing bad books is a ton of work and no fun at all...) After reading this one for the first time, my mood was back to excellent - you might not exactly need this book, but it enriches your arsenal when depicting goblins. And some entries are plain funny and made me smile. And there aren't that many lighthearted supplements out there. Add to that the top-notch production values and this bland of the hilarious and horrific that so well reflects the goblin mindset gets 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Goblin's Pockets
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Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2014 12:05:28
Borderland towns have great potential for adventure in themselves, as well as being a useful jumping-off point for adventure in lands beyond... somewhere to gather rumours and supplies if nothing else.

So, how to make it more interesting than a stop at the supermarket? Try this book for a start.

In the style common to many Raging Swan Press books, this work consists of several tables covering different aspects that might apply to, in this case, a borderland town. Reading through them is recommended, you will find ideas spawning as you do so; but if you are in a hurry rolling dice and using whatever you come up with generally works well too.

The first table is Sights and Sounds, and is good for setting the scene and making the place come alive in your player's minds as you describe it. There's a full hundred sights and sounds... and the odd smell... any of which could lead to a whole side-adventure of their own if you (and the party) choose to follow it up.

Next up is a fine list of Businesses. For many parties, coming into town is for the purpose of conducting business: now it can be a lot more than selling loot and purchasing supplies, new weapons and armour and so on. This is followed by a collection of Folk of Interest. They might be who the party has come to see, they might have a job for them... or they might merely be sitting at the next table in the inn and strike up a casual conversation.

Finally, if you want to make things really interesting for the party, grab a d20 and roll on Hooks, Complications and Opportunities. This is a mixed bag of events that will involve them, like it or not, in the ongoing life of the town. Poisoned wells, invasions of rats or enemies, offers of money and strange events... about the only thing missing is an earthquake!

The party will never forget their next visit to town!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
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