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Gaming Paper Barbarian
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/23/2014 02:58:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This small pdf by Gaming Paper is 8 pages long, 1 page cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1/2 page empty, leaving us with 5 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



DISCLAIMER: As a short look at the editorial will show you, I've looked over the beta of this pdf and helped develop it - I did not control the final outcome or have a say in what goes and what stays, though, and thus don't feel my verdict is compromised in any way.



That out of the way, let's take a look, shall we? We kick off this pdf with a thoroughly well-written piece f in-game prose that gets one in the mood, detailing the hostilities between greco-roman seeming people and barbarians, before getting into the respective traits for barbarians - which take a surprisingly smart approach - whereas usually, traits are exchangeable minor bonuses with one-sentence explanations (and hence not particularly fun to read), this pdf takes a different approach - first of all, it determines several basic roles, the first of which would be non-adventuring barbarians.



In boxes with a black background and white letters (not very printer-friendly...), we get the respective traits, in this first case bonuses to initiative under certain circumstances - the first one netting a +2 to initiative whenever you don't have maximum hit points - which is not something I'd consider good design...always carry around that kitten for the 1 hp-scratch... On the plus-side, each trait, even beyond the description of the general role in barbarian society, comes with a full-blown description that makes the trait more than just a numerical bonus.



Other traits allow you a bonus to will saves against spells and spell-like abilities of foes you've intimidated and another nets you, 1/day +1 round of rage if you hit a foe twice in melee in the same round - which is hard at low levels and later rather easy. While not particularly elegant design-wise, not broken either. More interesting would be imho a trait that lets you track creatures as if they're larger or one that mitigates the fatigued condition's penalty when using aid another. Changing facing upon defeating foes, being the last of your kind (and thus hardened to fear- and despair-effects) - all come with nice fluff. Another trait allows you to reduce the duration of the fatigued condition incurred by allies by 2 rounds (for fellow barbarians) or one round (for non-barbarians), but not fatigue with an indefinite duration. Getting 1/day plus one final round of rage when damaged in the last round of rage or receiving one free, non-AoO-provoking move action upon receiving damage, but before falling unconscious make for other interesting concepts via traits.



Next up would be some simple archetypes, the first of which would be the Raider - raiders lose medium armor proficiency, but become faster, later get a bonus to dex and may use essentially a spring attack variant of charges - i.e. charge as a standard action and then move again in a straight line, not exceeding your double base movement. per se cool ability for wolf-pack style tactics, but *usually* moving through the square of an opponent requires an acrobatics-check and moving in a straight line through a target's square doesn't always make sense...just picture the gelatinous cube blocking the dungeon tunnel to get where I'm going.



The second archetype would be the Auctor, who gets less rounds of rage, but instead gains a kind of favored enemy-style bonus against his own type (and later - other types). Okay, I guess.



The Lusus Naturae takes a penalty to cha while raging, but may use this penalty as a bonus when intimidating and is a specialist at using the intimidating glare power.



The pdf also offers three new rage powers: Death totem and its lesser and greater brethren - lesser death totem allows you to incite fear in foes hit in melee (or struck by your ranegd attacks), while its regular version allows you to ignore nonlethal damage, ability damage, energy drain and fatigue-themed effects while in rage and the greater version allows you to substitute 1d4+1 points of temporary str-damage for your regular damage - the latter might be considered too powerful, especially due to not requiring a save and stacking with itself.



The pdf closes with 1 new feat, which nets you HP when you reduce a nonhelpless creature of HD greater than you to 0 HP - which means that in order to break this, you require kittens with metric ton of templates added - but it still can be done. A caveat of x/day uses would have helped there.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed some minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has A LOT of text - you'll get your money's worth from this - the font is small. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn't require them at this length.



Author Daniel Comrie has crafted an interesting supplement - taking the (at least for me often) very boring task of reviewing trait-pdfs to a point where I actually enjoyed reading this - the traits and concepts herein resound, are inspiring even, and the prose can be considered neat indeed. Now crunch-wise, the pdf isn't particularly elegant in some cases, with slight ambiguities in the wording/rules and similar hick-ups. Now that doesn't mean the pdf is bad - quite the contrary: Design-wise, a lot of damn cool things are done with traits, often offering more than a bland situational bonus on roll xyz that we've come to expect from (and be bored by) traits.



I'm in a bit of a conundrum here - on the one hand, this pdf tries very hard to be innovative with one of the most yawn-worthy components of character design and succeeds. On the other hand, it also has some serious rough edges that should be addressed. How to rate this, then? In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars...but have to round down to 3. I still encourage you to check this out - the prose and design-ideas to scavenge are rather interesting, and hope the author will continue to try to do interesting things with traits.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Gaming Paper Barbarian
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Demoncall Pit
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/22/2014 12:06:12
A compelling backstory launches an epic adventure in which the party is called upon to stem an influx of demons called up by a ritual spoken of in prophecy... what is there not to like?

There are suggestions as to how to get the characters involved, and a wealth of notes to help you run the adventure effectively - especially as clue-finding and puzzle-solving are inherent to the plot and not all groups favour such things, or find solving puzzles easy. Ways to make this work with the group you have - after all, you know them and their preferences! - are given, select the route that suits the folk at your table.

But fear not, there is plenty of demon-slaying, undead to turn or otherwise defeat and treasure to grab so whether or not your party likes puzzles they will have plenty to deal with.

Basically, the adventure involves the characters advancing on a crypt out of which demons are already streaming, with the intent of doing something about it. Simple, yet challenging. It's all go from the outset, supported by an extensive map and concise but evocative descriptions. Notes continue the introductory theme, providing information on how to cope with whatever the party throws at you. Players being players, they WILL come up with something you haven't thought of, but used carefully the information provided will enable you to cope, and cope well (especially if you are well-prepared and know the module well in advance!).

As you can imagine with demons streaming forth, the consequences of both success and failure are going to be quite critical as far as the world is concerned. Four possible outcomes are discussed, one of which involves the party visiting the Abyss (and yet again, it's explained how to manage that, if you are even willing to run such an excursion). Overall, a well-contrived and exciting adventure presented a good challenge to an organised and competent party. Enjoy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demoncall Pit
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A Sneak Peek Guide to Orbis
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/27/2014 02:47:22
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free teaser of Gaming Paper's Seeampunk-setting of Orbis is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial/SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content - though that would rather be 16.



Why? Well, because the pdf has one weird quirk - even if set to single page, it always displays two pages at once, something that usually only happens when a file is scanned in. Slightly annoying, but oh well.



So what is Orbis about? Essentially, it endeavors to be (as far as possible) realitsic, at least regarding the results of the availability of magic - the old guard, those that command arcane and divine might, are essentially the rulers and the machine age has relatively recently upset their power-base, inciting a struggle between the old and new, technology and magic, rich and poor - so far, so compelling - as further enforced by the nice in-character narratives in boxes.



In the following sections on the respective nations, we get a glimpse at potential for racial issues, colonialist discourses and problems and similar relatively unexplored tropes and topics that do offer quite a compelling selection of varying topics to cover via adventures (of which there are at teh very least, 3 planned) - in a world in revolution, a lot of changes can be made and the PCs may well end at the forefront of said upheavals.



All the usual races can be found on Orbis (so no humano-centrism), but orcs and half-orcs are unknown - instead, there are Crocodilians, who get +2 Str, -2 Cha, can hold their breath twice as long as humans, get a bite attack at 1d6 that is treated as if it were an unarmed attack (why not as a primary natural weapon?) and can be used in e.g. monk damage progressions as if it were a regular unarmed attack. Furthermore, they can 1/day move double their movement rate as part of a move action. The race feels a bit strong, but still okay. I hope the bite attack is streamlined for the final books, though. The second new race would be the Hekano - aquatic humanoids (full blown water + air breathing) with 4 tentacles they can use to make skill checks while protecting themselves. They also get +2 stealth,+2 to Int and Dex and -2 to Str. Those tentacles are a can of worms - can they wield weapons? If not, why? Can they activate magic items (via UMD a skill-check...) - do they get better grapple? Urgh...the concept is cool, but I fear that unless handled with much, much care, these guys will end up as terribly broken, even though the concept is intriguing. It should be noted that, while they do get a lengthy write-up, neither race comes with an age, height and weight-table, something I hope to see in the final book.



Now a new rule would be the calibration of weapons - via concise, easy to grasp rules, one component stat of a weapon can be raised, whereas another is lowered - which per se is damn cool - more damage for slightly less chance to hit (i.e. +1 damage, -1 atk) and similar options sound like fun. Magic items that are calibrated lose some of the inherent bonuses they get, but can be calibrated for three benefits instead of the standard two - and here I'm not 100% sold - why? Because threat range and crit multiplier are part of what can be calibrated. That means x5 scythes and picks. Urgh. Stacking with keen etc.- urgh. Also, giving a weapon range may be cool, but is the thrown weapon, if it was prior to calibration a pure melee weapon then treated as an improvised weapon? Uses it str or dex to calculate atk? Can it be thrown at the end of e.g. a flurry? Why not make weapons more usable for different maneuvers instead or provide an anti-calibration to make items especially suitable to destroy the efficient, but fragile wonders? The system is complex and can be rather cool, but I hope that all the moving parts are properly covered in the final books - this, as written, is still very exploitable.



The pdf concludes with a massive map of the world.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but various beautiful b/w-artworks.



From what I could glean, Dan Comrie and Steven E. Schend have created an intriguing setting full of adventuring potential, cool nations and ideas - but at the same time, this pdf leaves me slightly cautious - while Orbis seems very intriguing, both tentacled humanoids and the calibration-mechanic are cool, but require very skilled hands to properly pull off without breaking the game - a mastery I'm not 100% sure that is there from what I've seen so far. Now this being a free sneak-peek, there's nothing to lose here and the ideas per se are inspiring - now let's hope the team Gaming paper has assembled is up to the task and that enough space is allotted to the respective rules. I am cautiously intrigued and hence my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Sneak Peek Guide to Orbis
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All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
by michael s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2013 12:25:07
Disapointing, wish DRPG had a return policie. Nothing new or exciting, just another bland combo of dungons

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
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Slavers of the Sunken Garden
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2012 11:26:32
This module is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 3 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 18 pages of content, so let's check this out!

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

Still here? All right! The pdf kicks off with an overview-map of the complex before the module introduces us to the back-story of an archdruidess, an ancient nature spirit and a harnessing of essence gone horribly awry - and so the hidden valley of the druidess remained undiscovered for ages. Until representatives of a fiendish guild of slavers found the we--hidden vale and began the slaughter. When the PCs encounter the corpse of a satyr, they can track back the trail to the illusion-covered entrance to the vale, where an advanced basidrond will make for the first deadly challenge, coming with some nice sample hallucinations induced by its spores. Unfortunately, the guardian of the vale, a rather massive advanced wood golem will make for yet another deadly challenge.

Unfortunately, the pdf is not free from glitches, as e.g. Glenfinnian, sprite librarian, is missing from the stats and doesn't mention using the standard sprite-stats. From here on, the PCs will have to act smart in order to defeat the savage slavers, for the module comes with alarm-response tactics and if they do well, they might actually not only deplete the ranks of their enemies, but also face down with the leaders of the enemy forces - a mighty druid as well as a half-fiendish, winged ape-like humanoid! The latter is a damn cool boss, not only for his ability to cause alarms, environmental hazards etc., but also for the fact that he's actually an aerial combatant. If the PCs are successful in dealing with the slavers, they might not only have saved a the vale's remaining fey, they will also have gained the friendship of the rare ebonwing pegasi by preventing the corruption of her offspring- great if you're like me and plan to make extensive use of the upcoming "Companions of the Firmament"-book by Geek Industrial Complex.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed things printed bold that shouldn't be etc. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with battles emphasized by symbols, somewhat similar to Adventureaweek.com's symbols. However, here, they have not been implemented to their logical conclusion and there only are combat and trap symbols, and not for all statblocks - which essentially take up space and make this adventure feel unfinished/rushed.

The b/w-artworks are sketches and the 3d-bird's eye view illustration unfortunately is just as ugly as the majority of the sketchy interior illustrations. It should be noted that the module comes with a 20-page pdf that has battle-map-style pieces of maps to create the adventure while playing, which are compatible with the mega-dungeon - the cartography is awesome, btw. The pdf is fully bookmarked.

Originally released for Free RPG-day, Gaming Paper's module provides us with some cool adversaries, an uncommon location, interesting environmental factors - what can go wrong? Short answer: A lot. Long answer: The artworks suck. Editing and formatting are not up to the standard of all their other releases. The bird's eye-view is sloppily depicted. And then there's the amount of content: 18 pages. Legendary Games provides us with short modules for 5 bucks, with original full-color artworks, stellar writing and drop-dead gorgeous artwork - this module is weaker in all regards. 0onegames' "The Sinking" modules provide only slightly less content (or even more), for 2 bucks and actually most of them are better. This module costs 9 friggin' bucks - for the pdf. Yes, the cartography is awesome, but honestly, that's not even close to enough to justify the price-point, especially when you can get Citadel of Pain, a 100+-page module that is vastly superior in every way for just a buck more. Worse yet, this module was once intended as a Free RPG-release and handed out, and while other 3pps like JBE and LPJr Design give away the pdf-versions of their Free-RPG-day-offerings for free, this pdf has the audacity to cost 9 bucks.

If this module would in any way, whether regarding artwork or content, justify the price-point, I wouldn't complain - I'm willing to pay major bucks for great content. I expected a cool, detailed module for the price-point and instead got a very short module that even surpasses Caragthax by TPK Games in brevity without having the class of Legendary Games. For 2 or 3 bucks, this module would be a 3-star file, but honestly, for 9 bucks you can have Ben McFarland's full-color, Jonathan Roberts-cartographed, stellar, longer "Breaking of Forstor Nagar" - which btw. also has vastly superior full-color maps. Try as I might, this offering has no single component, no merit I can find that would justify its insane price-point. Buy "Citadel of Pain" and once you've gotten that, get "All-Stars take on the Mega-Dungeon", but avoid this overpriced thing like the plague. My final verdict will be 1 star due to an inability to stand up to any of its competitors in any discipline.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Slavers of the Sunken Garden
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All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:58:53
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

I generally don't review much of the stuff released for Pathfinder. The system is fine, just too rules heavy for my current taste. It doesn't stop me from grabbing adventures and sourcebooks for the system, as most of the stuff, even the licensed stuff, is top notch and easily convertible for my needs.

Tonight I'm looking at All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon. Now, everyone has their own opinions on who's a star adventure writer and who isn't, but I recognized 3 of the 4 names right off the bat, and 2 (if not all 3) are certainly starters on any adventure writers team I might assemble.

Now, the adventures within all use geomorphs that can be found in Gamin Paper's Mega Dungeon 1 release, but it's not required for play, as the dungeons are all mapped out in each adventure (and labeled if you did want to use the sheets with it).

Lets get to the meat of the matter: How do the 4 adventures stack up?

The first one we get is The Temple of the Half-Born by Monte Cook. Certainly the headliner. He's pulling this from his Ptolus setting and redesigning it. I have no idea how close in remains true to the original, and I'm not dragging the monster out to check. It's for 7th and 8th level characters. Monte seems very comfortable with the Pathfinder system (as well he should) and there are DC checks throughout the text. Undead heavy, but what do you expect for a dungeon under a temple? Four Tankards out of Five

Arena of Souls is the next in line. It's written by Brian Cortijo and is for characters of levels 3 and 4. The author's name doesn't ring a bell for me. Here's where it lost me: "PCs begin the adventure waking up alone in an unfamiliar setting, stripped of all of their possessions". Sorry, tapped out and moved on to the next adventure, as this screams "railroad" to me. No rating, as I stopped reading at the above point.

Alright, Ed Greenwood is the next author. He gives us Lost Coins and Flying Bones for 4th and 5th level characters. I happen to like Ed's work. He gives a rumor list and nice background material. Ed also gives very detailed encounter descriptions. It gave me an old school feel, but then any adventure that includes a Gibbering Mouther tends to do so for me. I'll give Ed Four Tankards out of Five.

Last but certainly not least, we get Keep Away From the Borderlands! by Steven Schend for beginning characters. Now, I'm going to quote Steven's opening paragraph, just to give you a feel for what follows:

As much as I’d love to make this a full homage to the early days of roleplaying, I won’t bother you with a “Welcome to the land of imaginations!” and all that. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve played in or run a roleplaying game before using one set of rules or another. You probably don’t need hand-holding to walk you through a dungeon or tell you how to prepare or use this material1. What you do need is a good old-fashioned starter adventure to get a new campaign rolling—and I hope this module !ts the bill for you.

How's that for getting you in the Old School mood? There is an implied, sandboxie setting that could be fit easily into nearly any larger setting. There's a rumor list, there's a Generic Dungeon Details list (I'm yoking this) and even a Generic Corpse Detail list. Some of the NPCs even have pre, current and post adventure status's written up for them and well as some post adventure hooks. It's an excellent starter adventure for new or experienced DMs. Five out of Five tankards. Heck, I'd even give Steve a "buyback" if he patronized the Tavern ;)

Overall, a very strong product. Even if you just used the 3 adventures I read, the cost to you would be 2.50 a piece.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
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Citadel of Pain
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/10/2011 05:48:04
This pdf is 119 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page of ToC, 1 blank page prior to the content, 1 page of Kickstarter thanks to patrons, leaving 113 pages of content, quite a bunch! It should be noted that the new version of the pdf is separated into 2 files - adventure and map-sheets and thus uses up less space than before. (The high-res map-sheets should be printed out anyway!)

The adventure kicks in with a neat splotch of blood and a famous line by Oscar Wilde prior to getting into the action. It should be noted that this adventure uses the mega-dungeon map from Gaming Paper and includes 25 sheets for the map of the dungeon. The sheets are b/w and large enough to use with miniatures and come with a grid. Early in the adventure we also get an extremely useful one-page overview map and this is just as far as I can go without delving into massive

SPOILERS.
...Potential players, please jump to the conclusion. Seriously, you don't want to spoil this one.
...
Still here?

....
All right! The adventure takes the PCs into a citadel sealed by liquid, magic-resistant stone that once belonged to mad and sadistic Vilseph Dumond, who sought to transcend mortality by building the ultimate torture device. Prior to the Citadel being sealed, an almost vanquished army of monster sought refuge and the citadel has lain dormant for long. The PCs are hired via 3 sample hooks or one of your own making to enter Rogthondar, the dread citadel, alongside Twith Ballancastor, alchemist extraordinaire, whose drilling tank provides for the PCs entrance to the otherwise sealed dungeon. Yep. They enter a citadel covered by liquid rock via a drilling-tank. How cool is that? Of course, this act of drilling is not too simple and panicking guards as well as the dread dumondite (the liquid stone) do their very best to make the entrance to the citadel feel well-deserved. Additionally, the atmosphere of claustrophobia is almost tangible right from now on to the very end of the adventure.
Even cooler, though, is the micro-society that has sprung up within the bounds of the citadel, sentient altar-prototypes of the legendary Eureka Rib lead different fractions in an ongoing struggle and seek to further transform and propagate their very brand of superior creatures. The PCs enter the playing field of the dungeon's politics via the fraction of the deviceless (they don't have an intelligent torture device), who are lead by humans and work as a kind of police-force in their quarter, which also contains the bazaar, a rather surreal hodgepodge of ogres, minotaurs, bugbears and troglodytes. Food, of course is scarce, valuable and especially any food not being fungal or a derivative of an alchemically-modified edible vermin called slitch is guaranteed to bring A LOT of attention with it.
Another peculiarity of the area controlled by the deviceless is a huge cistern from which alchemical slough is extracted to create so-called demi-potions - unstable alchemical potions that come as three sets of quality and with 20 (sometimes utterly hilarious! Examples include blown-up lips that blind you, but help you swim due to increased buoyancy, becoming a meaty ball with a face and growing hair... a lot of it...) side-effects per level of quality for the imbiber that are thankfully temporary enough to make the game-relevant, but also amusing to the afflicted player. A simple mini-tracksheet containing the factions also helps the DM manage the reactions of the different factions, but more on that later, after all, the PCs have just crashed into the citadels neutral ground, the kitchen, and may be stunned to see a kind-hearted troglodyte futile attempts at saving one of the guards that accompanied them and got hit by the dripping, deadly liquid rock. That's where the fun starts: Lou Agresta & Rone Barton's former collaborations have been more than rife with several interesting and ingenious tidbits of fluff and this one is no difference: The premise of a wholly isolated society with its own balances and the arrival of newcomers is played up to the fullest: From cults springing up to celebrate the advent of the liberators to the simple fact that in such a limited population everyone knows certain rules. Everyone but the PCs, that is. Add to that a nice smattering of a kind of urbane "slang" employed by the denizens (with easily mistakable measurement units like "a human hand" - no, the ogre does not want a severed human hand, you sicko!) and you're in for a background that may in and of itself offer hours of roleplaying fun and potential for both hilarious and dangerous situations.

Indeed, after maneuvering the strange and curious bazaar and at least partially getting to know the place, the PCs will have the opportunity to defeat some foes and thus gain the option to talk to an ambassador of the alchemically-mutated deviceless (who don't have an altar, i.e. a sentient torture device), who seeks to use the novelty of the PCs for a "diplomatic" mission to the respective monster clans. As a benefit for the PCs, the deviceless mention the fabled eureka rib, perhaps the very only possibility for the PCs to once again escape the citadel - of course, coincidentally one of the sentient altars worshiped as gods by the humanoids might very well be said rib... Unbeknownst to both ambassador and PCs, the grandmaster of the linen-wrapped mutated alchemists has more on his agenda, though and the ambassador seems to be an instigator of the worst kind... This concludes act 1.

Act 2 serves as a rather free-form flow of the different monster territories, first of which is the Fantôme-bugbears: Mutated bugbears half-caught in the realms of dream, whose altar is possessed by a ghost who in turn acts as a seal that holds back the tide of nightmarish creatures from the depths of dreaming shallows. Interfaction events, already explained prior to this, also are presented: They are events that can be introduced to change the balance between the factions like assassination attempts to keep the political landscape of the citadel mutable. Mutability is a good cue: The fantôme bugbears _all_ come with individual, imaginative, cool mutations and whether the PCs battle or negotiate with the dread Oneiromant, the ghost trapped on the dread bed-altar has some rather interesting/disturbing dreams and if one PC accepts the boon and curse of the bed, they'll have to contend with a dread invader from dream.

The second faction presented are the minotaurs, who worship the dread white witch, a rotating marble pole with an attached harness that end its merry-go-round by suddenly stopping and slamming the victims against its base - the resulted witch-kissed minotaurs regenerate and henceforth are infected with strange...things that make them almost unkillable. To make matters worse, interfaction events and an internal power struggle between king and high-priest over the amount of minotaurs to be exalted by the witch has the faction torn and not necessarily makes the PC's quest to see the devious and aggressive torture device any easier. Even more interesting: The device actually has an inkling how to escape and in an act of self-preservation might even try to creatively talk to PC out to destroy it.

The Troglodyte camp is similarly unique: Transform by their altar, the foul-smelling brutes have found a monastic (and a pronounced contempt for their untransmogrified brethren) calling via their iron-skinned new forms. The paranoid leader wants one of the regular troglodytes forcefully recruited and once again, faction politics might make it harder than at first glance. The metal-syringe-studded iron ball they use for transformation might yet offer another clue, though...if the PCs brave the merciless troglodyte's requests or infiltrate the compound.

The final faction are Riddle's End's Ogres, three-eyed intelligent ogres (wizard class levels, baby!) obsessed with magic and subsequently out for the PC's tools. The deceptive ogres actually can prove to be a significant challenge, as they prepare one of the smartest and deadliest ambushes I've seen in quite a while in their partially submerged complex- the PCs will definitely remember the clever ogre's assault. The hidden altar of the ogres, a grisly spine-snapping chair, sunken and yet possibly repairable. Have I mentioned a water elemental and its pet octopus or the possibility of the PCs flooding a region of the citadel?

And then there's the slog, a kind of common ground to which the PCs will frequently have to return on their subquests. Sooner or later, the saviors from Without (the term for "from outside the citadel") will come to the attention of Gabrele, a _GOOD_ ogre to assassination attempt, minotaur recruitment drives etc., the PCs will have their hands full and you as a DM enough fodder to make the citadel feel even more alive. More importantly, the slog offers the PCs something to fight for - the unique culture of the citadel, as mentioned earlier, its endearing slang and the fact that here of all places, while besieged by mad factions, humanoids and men have begun an probably unprecedented, more or less peaceful coexistence, at least among the general populace. This rather strange yet endearing utopia, based on a claustrophobic equilibrium of power, is about to come crashing down with the PCs finding the lower condensing room where a nasty surprise sits ready to initiate the furious climax of the adventure.

Act 3 features the condensed sentient alchemical waste hinted at in the bazaar during the very first encounters, a dread and deadly ooze. made out of gallons of discarded alchemical waste. To make matters worse, the deviceless finally move into open action trying to bury the PCs alive buried and sealed in dumondite - but to no avail. At this point, the undead (and surprisingly nice and cooperative) gnomish engineer might offer the final clues for the activation of the Eureka Rib, which initiates the epic final confrontation of the module: Here the faction-tracker will come in handy - the PCs and their allies as well as the opposition are up for an epic showdown, having the PCs try to get past several attack squads and offering a very cool cinematic run, finally facing off against Grandmaster Sinas Crabbe of the deviceless. After this showdown, a PC (or ally!) will have to brave the unimaginable agony of being subjected to the Eureka Rib (or destroy it and escape thus) and thus choose the fate of all Rogthandor: Freedom for all, escape for but the PCs and continued confinement for the inhabitants or an escape for the PCs alongside a devastating self-destruction that kills everything inside - quite a weighty decision to thrust upon the subject's shoulders, after all, while the inhabitants are peaceful now, who can tell how they'd react to life outside? Do they remain relatively docile, becoming the PC's faithful army? How do the humans react, with prejudice or even a pogrom? Or do the humanoids revert to their usual clichés, ravaging the lands? If the PCs killed all, how can they live with such a genocide at their hands? And what to make of the ribs significant permanent (yet not overtly game-influencing) powers like stopping to age? And what of Vilspeth? The possibilities are endless.

The pdf also features stats for optional assassins, a list of magic items by value, 8 pages of lovingly-crafted hand- outs (which should be standard - handouts are GREAT and help immerse the players in the story), a one-page version of the faction tracker and two pages of the handouts of the torture-device visions.

The pdf closes with the additional sheets to expand the mega-dungeon.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches - the few that existed in the first version have all been taken care of. Layout adheres to the clear two-column standard, is b/w and features aesthetically pleasing borders. The inside artwork is b/w and ok, though nothing to get too excited about. The pdf is EXTENSIVELY bookmarked, with each subchapter, encounter etc. there, including the CRs - commendable and a boon for the DM.
I'm not the biggest fan of large dungeons, at least most of them tend to degrade into "Kill all"-sprees or fail to present sufficient social/infiltration changes of pace to keep my attention. Some dungeons are well-enough designed in their craft to have me ignore this time and again, Necromancer Games and its heirs being among the prime examples. But then there are some dungeons that don't feel common. That feel different. Like e.g. the classic Banewarrens. The Citadel of Pain stands tall and proud in this tradition, feeling completely unique in being not a dungeon to wade through and slaughter anything that crosses your path (though that's an option, too!), but instead combining political intrigue and mystery of urban adventures with the claustrophobic and hostile environment of a dungeon.
It took forever to write this review, if only due to the fact that I was hard-pressed to give you even an essential overview of the possibilities and imaginative potential of this environment - the society Lou Agresta and Rone Barton crafted rivals e.g. the strange societies of China Mièville in imaginative potential and iconic quality. Even better, the duo of authors have managed to create an adventure, that thanks to the tracker makes it easy for the DM to handle complex faction politics and ensure modularity. The crowning achievement of adventure-writing any sandboxy adventure, at least to me, is utter modularity and freedom of choice. While printed adventures always have to somewhat rely upon minor guidelines to ensure the story works, I've rarely seen an adventure that can be modified this easily and I guarantee that no two ventures to Rogthandor will be the same - there are that many possibilities.

The climax, the sentient altars - there are a lot of great ideas herein and, sometimes, adventures make players ask themselves questions: Is it right to slaughter all these humanoids that don't hurt anybody and are oppressed by cruel ruling castes? Is it right to eradicate the sentience of an intelligent item begging for quarter, even if it's evil? Where does being a hero end and being a murderer begin? Even if the general populace is not evil, is it right to release them into the world? The repercussions of the successful adventure are wide and might upset the social order of a certain stretch of land (and I haven't touched upon the boons for the PCs...), offering adventure ideas galore and the sympathetic cultural hodgepodge in Rogthandor potentially points towards questions of culture, identity and racial understanding. While not the easiest adventure to run and definitely not one to run spontaneously, Citadel of Pain ranks among the most rewarding, iconic, complex and thought-provoking dungeon-adventures I've read in quite a while, supported by a commendable amount of handouts, map-sheets and awash with creative ideas. Have I mentioned the subtle and gratifying humor that is interspread within some of the encounters and e.g. the demipotion-lists? I'm running out of superlatives to heap upon this awesome piece of writing and thus will just say that, if I could, I'd rate this 6 stars - my final verdict will be 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. If you're even remotely intrigued by dungeons or any of the things I mentioned, do yourself a favor and check this out. You won't regret it.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Citadel of Pain
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All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/10/2011 05:45:48
This adventure compilation for Gaming Paper's Mega Dungeon map pack is 62 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 55 pages of content.

This anthology provides for takes on the mega-dungeon, i.e. for configurations of the some of the components of the map pack. It should be noted that each configuration results in a small dungeon and that they cannot be pieced together to create a huge dungeon - essentially, the 4 dungeons are completely separate from each other. If you're on the fence about the map-pack, you should know that while the pack facilitates running these adventures, it's not a requirement. That being out of the way, we'll delve into the adventures and this, being an adventure review, from here on contains
SPOILERS.

Potential players might want to skip to the conclusion.
...
Still here? All right!

Monte Cook is the first with his dreadful Temple of the Half-Born, which some of you might remember from Ptolus -this is no reprint, though, but a completely original take on the concept introduced - essentially, the dungeon is populated by several deadly half-formed fleshy, cadaverous abominations under the control of a dread fleshformer who makes for a surprisingly hard foe - the creature turns out to belong to a race of humanoid outsiders, who are rather hard to kill... I'm not one of the Monte Cook fanboys. I really like some of his designs, but I also own books that I did not enjoy. This short adventure, though, captures what is great about his writing when it works - one of his excellent works and even better when you have a Ptolus tie-in. Level 7-8 characters wil definitely remember their sojourn into the temple...

The next all-star would then be Brian Cortijo, who abducts us (quite literally!) to the Arena of Souls - a subterranean arena where individuals have to fight for their lives for the amusement of depraved individuals of all species. While the premise of the adventure is cool, it uses a mechanic that not all groups will be comfortable with - namely the fact that the lvl 3-4 PCs are abducted and stripped of their gear to fight in the arena. The battles in the arena are another potential problem that remains unresolved - I know for example that my players would flat-out refuse to fight for the depraved audience of the arena, even if it meant their death. The possibility of the PCs attacking with the audience is also not covered. The escape attempt and subsequent defeat of their captors (with a rather climatic final fight) rocks, but the limitations and possible loopholes in the plot that accompany this kind of scenario makes it a tad bit more problematic than it necessarily has to be.

Ed Greenwood is next up and has a rather interesting scenario - a once great smuggler/merchant guild has fallen some years ago, and while the guild is gone, several of their huge assets remain to be found. Against the backdrop of cool smuggling tactics (alone how the gold is concealed is pure genius), the lvl 5-6 PCs finally find the secret complex which harbored the guild's treasure. This makes the adventure rather high on the treasure's side, but also means that the PCs will be hard-pressed indeed to battle their way through the complex: The new inhabitants belong to the most disturbing variety and act and fight SMART. Really smart. Environment stacked against the PCs, intelligent adversaries, smart spell-selection. I can see this complex become the tomb of more than one group of hapless (or greedy!) adventurers. Combine that with frightening scare-tactics and the fact that the PCs have no easy way out of the complex and you're in for a deadly, claustrophobic, well-written adventure. My favorite of the bunch, to be honest.

The final take on the mega-dungeon by Steven Schend is entitled "Keep away from the Borderlands" as a nice nod for all the grognards out there and centers on a border keep (Captain obvious is obvious today.) that has failed to respond to inquiries for some days. The adventure is unique in that is uses the maps of the map-pack not to provide the framework for a subterranean complex, but rather for aforementioned keep. The adventure is intended for 1st-level characters and starts off by the PCs witnessing a suicide by one of the guards who jumps to his death. Blue fires have haunted the keep ever since a holy day has passed and the PCs are up for a mystery: Some of the soldiers have raped silent temple maidens and subsequently got punished by a dread curse that was brought upon the keep as divine punishment by a splinter sect of the moon god. The fact that a relative of a local lord is involved with the crimes (and the lycanthropy-inducing curse) further complicates things, as does the (largely obliterated) strike squad that was supposed to get him out.

The now-cursed fortress hence includes the remains of the guards (some of which now lycanthropes), undead, some of the religious knights hell-bent on retribution and the remains of the strike-team. The adventure is interesting due to the coverage of the consequences the survival of individual NPCs have as well as due to the plethora of conflicting agendas - unfortunately to the point where the respective plot-lines get a bit muddy: The players will have a hard time figuring out just what the hell is going on in the fortress. The adventure also presumes a certain political landscape (and a belief) that makes the adventure feel rather setting-specific - while this works in favor of the adventure with regards to flavor, it can also be considered detrimental with regards to the plug-and-play potential of the adventure. When all's said and done, the final installment of the All-star compilation felt as if it was intended for a longer module and had some parts cut that would have made the adventure truly outstanding. As written, it requires some work on part of the DM as the nature of a dungeon map used to represent a keep makes close-reading the individual entries a requirement, as there seem to be some minor discrepancies.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I only noticed 2 minor formatting glitches (words in italics, for example). Layout adheres to a clear b/w-two-column standard and the pdf features extensive bookmarks. The b/w-artwork is nothing to write home about, unfortunately. It should also be noted, that due to space-concerns, only the bare minimum of statblock-information is printed herein, but that is not a reason to detract from the final score. What does fracture into my final score, though, are the problems I encountered with the second and fourth adventure: While both are good adventures, the second involves two angles some groups will have problems with, namely being captured and fighting for an evil audience. The fourth, while making for an interesting mystery-scenario, somewhat felt a bit shoehorned to me in that it felt more like a campaign-setting specific adventure that has been cut down to fit into the available space. That being said, even with these gripes, the first and third adventure alone are worth the low asking price and the 2 adventures I had problems with still remain good adventures, though they are not exactly stellar. With the epic Citadel of Pain, one of my most favorite adventures of this year, this adventure-anthology has rather big foot-steps to step into and while the scenarios herein are excellent to good in quality, the whole anthology feels like it falls just short of being stellar. For the low price, you should check out the 4 adventures, especially if you already own the AWESOME Citadel of Pain. My final verdict will be a good 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
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Citadel of Pain
by Paco G. J. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2011 10:48:20
This review was first published in G*M*S Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.

This pdf is 119 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page of ToC, 1 blank page prior to the content, 1 page of Kickstarter thanks to patrons, leaving 113 pages of content, quite a bunch! It should be noted that the new version of the pdf is separated into 2 files - adventure and map-sheets and thus uses up less space than before. (The high-res map-sheets should be printed out anyway!)

The adventure kicks in with a neat splotch of blood and a famous line by Oscar Wilde prior to getting into the action. It should be noted that this adventure uses the mega-dungeon map from Gaming Paper and includes 25 sheets for the map of the dungeon. The sheets are b/w and large enough to use with miniatures and come with a grid. Early in the adventure we also get an extremely useful one-page overview map and this is just as far as I can go without delving into massive

SPOILERS.
...Potential players, please jump to the conclusion. Seriously, you don't want to spoil this one.
...
Still here?

....
All right! The adventure takes the PCs into a citadel sealed by liquid, magic-resistant stone that once belonged to mad and sadistic Vilseph Dumond, who sought to transcend mortality by building the ultimate torture device. Prior to the Citadel being sealed, an almost vanquished army of monster sought refuge and the citadel has lain dormant for long. The PCs are hired via 3 sample hooks or one of your own making to enter Rogthondar, the dread citadel, alongside Twith Ballancastor, alchemist extraordinaire, whose drilling tank provides for the PCs entrance to the otherwise sealed dungeon. Yep. They enter a citadel covered by liquid rock via a drilling-tank. How cool is that? Of course, this act of drilling is not too simple and panicking guards as well as the dread dumondite (the liquid stone) do their very best to make the entrance to the citadel feel well-deserved. Additionally, the atmosphere of claustrophobia is almost tangible right from now on to the very end of the adventure.
Even cooler, though, is the micro-society that has sprung up within the bounds of the citadel, sentient altar-prototypes of the legendary Eureka Rib lead different fractions in an ongoing struggle and seek to further transform and propagate their very brand of superior creatures. The PCs enter the playing field of the dungeon's politics via the fraction of the deviceless (they don't have an intelligent torture device), who are lead by humans and work as a kind of police-force in their quarter, which also contains the bazaar, a rather surreal hodgepodge of ogres, minotaurs, bugbears and troglodytes. Food, of course is scarce, valuable and especially any food not being fungal or a derivative of an alchemically-modified edible vermin called slitch is guaranteed to bring A LOT of attention with it.
Another peculiarity of the area controlled by the deviceless is a huge cistern from which alchemical slough is extracted to create so-called demi-potions - unstable alchemical potions that come as three sets of quality and with 20 (sometimes utterly hilarious! Examples include blown-up lips that blind you, but help you swim due to increased buoyancy, becoming a meaty ball with a face and growing hair... a lot of it...) side-effects per level of quality for the imbiber that are thankfully temporary enough to make the game-relevant, but also amusing to the afflicted player. A simple mini-tracksheet containing the factions also helps the DM manage the reactions of the different factions, but more on that later, after all, the PCs have just crashed into the citadels neutral ground, the kitchen, and may be stunned to see a kind-hearted troglodyte futile attempts at saving one of the guards that accompanied them and got hit by the dripping, deadly liquid rock. That's where the fun starts: Lou Agresta & Rone Barton's former collaborations have been more than rife with several interesting and ingenious tidbits of fluff and this one is no difference: The premise of a wholly isolated society with its own balances and the arrival of newcomers is played up to the fullest: From cults springing up to celebrate the advent of the liberators to the simple fact that in such a limited population everyone knows certain rules. Everyone but the PCs, that is. Add to that a nice smattering of a kind of urbane "slang" employed by the denizens (with easily mistakable measurement units like "a human hand" - no, the ogre does not want a severed human hand, you sicko!) and you're in for a background that may in and of itself offer hours of roleplaying fun and potential for both hilarious and dangerous situations.

Indeed, after maneuvering the strange and curious bazaar and at least partially getting to know the place, the PCs will have the opportunity to defeat some foes and thus gain the option to talk to an ambassador of the alchemically-mutated deviceless (who don't have an altar, i.e. a sentient torture device), who seeks to use the novelty of the PCs for a "diplomatic" mission to the respective monster clans. As a benefit for the PCs, the deviceless mention the fabled eureka rib, perhaps the very only possibility for the PCs to once again escape the citadel - of course, coincidentally one of the sentient altars worshiped as gods by the humanoids might very well be said rib... Unbeknownst to both ambassador and PCs, the grandmaster of the linen-wrapped mutated alchemists has more on his agenda, though and the ambassador seems to be an instigator of the worst kind... This concludes act 1.

Act 2 serves as a rather free-form flow of the different monster territories, first of which is the Fantôme-bugbears: Mutated bugbears half-caught in the realms of dream, whose altar is possessed by a ghost who in turn acts as a seal that holds back the tide of nightmarish creatures from the depths of dreaming shallows. Interfaction events, already explained prior to this, also are presented: They are events that can be introduced to change the balance between the factions like assassination attempts to keep the political landscape of the citadel mutable. Mutability is a good cue: The fantôme bugbears _all_ come with individual, imaginative, cool mutations and whether the PCs battle or negotiate with the dread Oneiromant, the ghost trapped on the dread bed-altar has some rather interesting/disturbing dreams and if one PC accepts the boon and curse of the bed, they'll have to contend with a dread invader from dream.

The second faction presented are the minotaurs, who worship the dread white witch, a rotating marble pole with an attached harness that end its merry-go-round by suddenly stopping and slamming the victims against its base - the resulted witch-kissed minotaurs regenerate and henceforth are infected with strange...things that make them almost unkillable. To make matters worse, interfaction events and an internal power struggle between king and high-priest over the amount of minotaurs to be exalted by the witch has the faction torn and not necessarily makes the PC's quest to see the devious and aggressive torture device any easier. Even more interesting: The device actually has an inkling how to escape and in an act of self-preservation might even try to creatively talk to PC out to destroy it.

The Troglodyte camp is similarly unique: Transform by their altar, the foul-smelling brutes have found a monastic (and a pronounced contempt for their untransmogrified brethren) calling via their iron-skinned new forms. The paranoid leader wants one of the regular troglodytes forcefully recruited and once again, faction politics might make it harder than at first glance. The metal-syringe-studded iron ball they use for transformation might yet offer another clue, though...if the PCs brave the merciless troglodyte's requests or infiltrate the compound.

The final faction are Riddle's End's Ogres, three-eyed intelligent ogres (wizard class levels, baby!) obsessed with magic and subsequently out for the PC's tools. The deceptive ogres actually can prove to be a significant challenge, as they prepare one of the smartest and deadliest ambushes I've seen in quite a while in their partially submerged complex- the PCs will definitely remember the clever ogre's assault. The hidden altar of the ogres, a grisly spine-snapping chair, sunken and yet possibly repairable. Have I mentioned a water elemental and its pet octopus or the possibility of the PCs flooding a region of the citadel?

And then there's the slog, a kind of common ground to which the PCs will frequently have to return on their subquests. Sooner or later, the saviors from Without (the term for "from outside the citadel") will come to the attention of Gabrele, a _GOOD_ ogre to assassination attempt, minotaur recruitment drives etc., the PCs will have their hands full and you as a DM enough fodder to make the citadel feel even more alive. More importantly, the slog offers the PCs something to fight for - the unique culture of the citadel, as mentioned earlier, its endearing slang and the fact that here of all places, while besieged by mad factions, humanoids and men have begun an probably unprecedented, more or less peaceful coexistence, at least among the general populace. This rather strange yet endearing utopia, based on a claustrophobic equilibrium of power, is about to come crashing down with the PCs finding the lower condensing room where a nasty surprise sits ready to initiate the furious climax of the adventure.

Act 3 features the condensed sentient alchemical waste hinted at in the bazaar during the very first encounters, a dread and deadly ooze. made out of gallons of discarded alchemical waste. To make matters worse, the deviceless finally move into open action trying to bury the PCs alive buried and sealed in dumondite - but to no avail. At this point, the undead (and surprisingly nice and cooperative) gnomish engineer might offer the final clues for the activation of the Eureka Rib, which initiates the epic final confrontation of the module: Here the faction-tracker will come in handy - the PCs and their allies as well as the opposition are up for an epic showdown, having the PCs try to get past several attack squads and offering a very cool cinematic run, finally facing off against Grandmaster Sinas Crabbe of the deviceless. After this showdown, a PC (or ally!) will have to brave the unimaginable agony of being subjected to the Eureka Rib (or destroy it and escape thus) and thus choose the fate of all Rogthandor: Freedom for all, escape for but the PCs and continued confinement for the inhabitants or an escape for the PCs alongside a devastating self-destruction that kills everything inside - quite a weighty decision to thrust upon the subject's shoulders, after all, while the inhabitants are peaceful now, who can tell how they'd react to life outside? Do they remain relatively docile, becoming the PC's faithful army? How do the humans react, with prejudice or even a pogrom? Or do the humanoids revert to their usual clichés, ravaging the lands? If the PCs killed all, how can they live with such a genocide at their hands? And what to make of the ribs significant permanent (yet not overtly game-influencing) powers like stopping to age? And what of Vilspeth? The possibilities are endless.

The pdf also features stats for optional assassins, a list of magic items by value, 8 pages of lovingly-crafted hand- outs (which should be standard - handouts are GREAT and help immerse the players in the story), a one-page version of the faction tracker and two pages of the handouts of the torture-device visions.

The pdf closes with the additional sheets to expand the mega-dungeon.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches - the few that existed in the first version have all been taken care of. Layout adheres to the clear two-column standard, is b/w and features aesthetically pleasing borders. The inside artwork is b/w and ok, though nothing to get too excited about. The pdf is EXTENSIVELY bookmarked, with each subchapter, encounter etc. there, including the CRs - commendable and a boon for the DM.
I'm not the biggest fan of large dungeons, at least most of them tend to degrade into "Kill all"-sprees or fail to present sufficient social/infiltration changes of pace to keep my attention. Some dungeons are well-enough designed in their craft to have me ignore this time and again, Necromancer Games and its heirs being among the prime examples. But then there are some dungeons that don't feel common. That feel different. Like e.g. the classic Banewarrens. The Citadel of Pain stands tall and proud in this tradition, feeling completely unique in being not a dungeon to wade through and slaughter anything that crosses your path (though that's an option, too!), but instead combining political intrigue and mystery of urban adventures with the claustrophobic and hostile environment of a dungeon.
It took forever to write this review, if only due to the fact that I was hard-pressed to give you even an essential overview of the possibilities and imaginative potential of this environment - the society Lou Agresta and Rone Barton crafted rivals e.g. the strange societies of China Mièville in imaginative potential and iconic quality. Even better, the duo of authors have managed to create an adventure, that thanks to the tracker makes it easy for the DM to handle complex faction politics and ensure modularity. The crowning achievement of adventure-writing any sandboxy adventure, at least to me, is utter modularity and freedom of choice. While printed adventures always have to somewhat rely upon minor guidelines to ensure the story works, I've rarely seen an adventure that can be modified this easily and I guarantee that no two ventures to Rogthandor will be the same - there are that many possibilities.
The climax, the sentient altars - there are a lot of great ideas herein and, sometimes, adventures make players ask themselves questions: Is it right to slaughter all these humanoids that don't hurt anybody and are oppressed by cruel ruling castes? Is it right to eradicate the sentience of an intelligent item begging for quarter, even if it's evil? Where does being a hero end and being a murderer begin? Even if the general populace is not evil, is it right to release them into the world? The repercussions of the successful adventure are wide and might upset the social order of a certain stretch of land (and I haven't touched upon the boons for the PCs...), offering adventure ideas galore and the sympathetic cultural hodgepodge in Rogthandor potentially points towards questions of culture, identity and racial understanding. While not the easiest adventure to run and definitely not one to run spontaneously, Citadel of Pain ranks among the most rewarding, iconic, complex and thought-provoking dungeon-adventures I've read in quite a while, supported by a commendable amount of handouts, map-sheets and awash with creative ideas. Have I mentioned the subtle and gratifying humor that is interspread within some of the encounters and e.g. the demipotion-lists? I'm running out of superlatives to heap upon this awesome piece of writing and thus will just say that, if I could, I'd rate this 6 stars - my final verdict will be 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. If you're even remotely intrigued by dungeons or any of the things I mentioned, do yourself a favor and check this out. You won't regret it.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Citadel of Pain
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Citadel of Pain
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2011 10:35:16
When you hear that the writers of Citadel of Pain began their endeavor with a fairly simple map on gaming paper, you shouldn’t feel bad for cringing a little. I know I did. I fully expected a run of the mill by the number adventures adventure to sell a product, behavior that has been honed from years of putting up with this from those wizards on the Coast. I even put off reading it for 3 days because I was afraid I was going to have to give a fairly low review as I hate run of the mill adventures.
Just as it is living at home with a wife of 10 years, I was familiarly proven wrong, as Citadel of Pain is a meaty, campaign inspiring product that is one of the best adventures I have read in the Pathfinder game since Paizo’s Kingmaker path. Good adventures include out of the box mechanics and that is what makes Citadel of Pain shine. The unique story that begins with the players surfing on the back of a mechanical drill is sugary icing on the cake.
At 120 pages, City of Pain, written by Lou Agresta and Rone Barton and published by Gaming Paper, spaces out a lot of adventure. DMs can certainly center a storyline around the Fortress of Rogthandor, now nicknamed the Citadel of Pain because of its weird alchemical monstrosities and defenses. The scientific creations gone wrong scenario allows for some strangely unique adversaries for PCs. In one part of the adventures, PCs will have to negotiate with several different factions within the Citadel, and this presents a cool new mechanic where players actions are placed on a chart that will determine the future adversaries later in the adventure. Unlike traditional reputation point systems, I found the letter crosschart to be far easier to handle and way less math to keep up with.
The adventure is broken up into several acts, each act containing a very non-linear path of movement. In addition, every part has a “lose scenario” which makes for a very open ended adventure that always puts the PCs in control and provides them positive and negative consequences for their actions.
For the Dungeon Masters
Citadel of Pain is incredibly organized and contains detailed artwork and detailed handouts that will truly engage your players. The adventure does a strong job of integrating mystery, puzzles, combat and social encounters.
The Iron Word
Citidal of Pain is an impressive outing by first time adventure publisher Gaming Paper. There is so much to do in the adventure. The non-linear way the adventure was written makes you glad to be the DM so you can read about the dozens of pages of material you probably won’t use, depending on the routes your PCs take.



Disclaimer – Lou Agresta is the organizer (and orange leprachan) of the Iron GM Tournament, of which I am a yearly competitor. Gaming Paper is a yearly sponsor of the Iron Player Tournament, of which I am lead organizer. I take great pains to make sure that my reviews are unbiased and that a crappy product will be lambasted like the others .

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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