RPGNow.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse
 Publisher Info
Lances
Lances
$5.83









Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
Hex Crawl Chronicles 6 The Troll Hills - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2014 02:55:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Hex Crawl Chronicle-series clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD, 2 pages blank, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As always with modules, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? Let's go! First of all - the hex-crawl map to explore this time around spans two massive pages and depicts mostly mountainous terrain with hills, cut through by rivers. The population of this rather...hostile area can be summed up by belonging to 3 ethnicities - the descendants of the once proud civilization of golden men, degenerated to hunter-gatherers (and kind-of guardians of their now-disease-ridden ancient ruins), the somewhat pilgrim-like (at least in style) tan or olive-skinned witch-men and finally, the Xanlo River men, hybrids of Witch Men and Northern Men. Beyond these, the area is, surprise, infested with trolls...and hags. The latter with a twist, though - retelling the creature, in this land, elven maidens who have reached 1000 years of age venture forth into the wilderness to become nymphs or dryads...or hags, depending on their alignment. Personally, I love the idea, though it might require some serious reskinning/ignoring of this uncommon ecology. Among the humanoids, few elves still dwell here, but some dwarves remain - the licorice-chewing, bee-keeping Zarkos dwarves. These dwarves can brew a special healing moonshine from their tears when caught under a full moon.



Now I did mention those ruins, didn't it - well, they include a cement bunker, complete with wights in strange silvery suits - nice pulpy flashback there! There also is a rune-slab to be found here, which may open the way to a mini-dungeon - though one with a confusing map that refers to two levels (level 2 and 3) that are nowhere depicted or commented upon in the text - I *assume* they're intended for teh DM to flash out, but the map also shows no entry-point. From conjecture, one can deduce that "level 2" is supposed to be the entry...but still. Annoying glitch here.



Beyond poisoned shrooms (tsathoggastools!), trolls, hags and troblins galore, strange mole creatures and trading posts patrolled by clay golem enforcers make for interesting backdrops - but what about rope bridges that suddenly become the battle-ground between an evil cleric and his demons and medusa-brides of a blind wizard? A two-headed troll (including again, a mini-dungeon) and old red dragon, mutating water, animated wooden golems , were-bear druids...quite a few interesting discoveries to be made.



It should be noted that a city of blue glass, devilkin, mimic-troll-hybrids, an archmage's former sanctum, now the hunting ground of hags, acid weirds, prismatic serpents...and even a hekatoncheires loom in the crags and canyons that dot this area - as always with HCC: Players better be on their toes!

The pdf also has an appendix of the uncommon creatures



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally quite good, though not as tight as most FGG-releases. Layout adheres to an easy-to-print two-column b/w-standard with nice thematically-fitting original b/w-art here and there. The maps are serviceable, but as mentioned, not always 100% precise and don't come with player-friendly alternatives.



John M. Stater knows how to write extremely compelling wilderness-modules and this is no exception - the dynamics, ideas etc. all hearken back to the heyday of mature fantasy, with pulpy elements spiced in here and there. The conversion to PFRPG by Skeeter Green and Erica Balsley is generally rather well done - especially since classes like the Magus, relatively exotic creatures like kami etc. are included, at times reskinned, at times studded with templates/levels etc.



Generally, there's a lot to do and the dwarven enclaves throughout the hills with their own peculiarities, the strange cults and religions - all these are compelling, as are the remnants of the ancient cultures here and there. Where this one is a tad bit on the weak side compared to other HCC-installments, would be the meta-narrative: While there are connections between sites, dynamics etc., when compared to the Pirate Coast, or installment no.3, the movers and shakers feel a tad bit weaker in style and connectedness. This holds especially true for the mini-dungeons - for the first time in the series, none truly captivated me; In fact, there are various locales herein, be it the city of blue glass or some similarly awesome spot, I would have rather seen detailed properly.



Now bear in mind, I'm complaining at a very high level here - this module will occupy you for many, many sessions and drips inspiration, but for me at least, it somewhat lacked the je ne sais quoi, the focus on the sense of antiquity of a raw world - the troll hills are an iconic locale, but perhaps the focus on two types of critters didn't help too much here...or I'm just getting spoiled...

Anyways, 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!]
Hex Crawl Chronicles 6 The Troll Hills - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/29/2014 03:41:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion anthology of 4 adventures to enhance Razor Coast clocks in at 162 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages char-sheet, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 152 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here?



First of the adventures would be Richard Pett's "Angry Waters" for 10th level characters - which could be summed up in the words "Quest for Eldorado," at least on a superficial level. The PCs are recruited by one dazzling lady-captain, captain Mercy and her crew - they require the PC's assistance, since they've found the legendary veiled isle - unfortunately, it's within the territory of Armada. What's Armada, you ask? Well, if you've read China Miéville's "The Scar", you'll have an idea - Uriah Tame, the vile lord of the place, lords over a lawless city made of vessels tethered together. Unfortunately, Tame and Mercy aren't exactly on speaking terms. Thus, accompanying the crew on their voyage, the PCs are off to said place. Here, a rather cool mechanic takes root -the PC's actions accrue Victory Points, which serves as a means for the DM to determine the loyalty of Mercy and her crew towards the PCs...and whether they'll be betrayed. Neat! It should also be noted that the module offers quite an array of troubleshooting advice, should the PCs betray Mercy at given stages in the module, making it rather easy to run. But back to Armada - in order to secure passage, the PCs will have to brave the decadent, chaotic revels on Armada in a cool mini-game of skill and, potentially, combat.



Securing passage, the PCs then finally reach the isle in question...which first brings me to an issue. Armada...ought to be more detailed, Seriously, I love the concept (air elementals as spies, btw.!) and its presence in the module, but at the same time, I feel that Armada would change the power dynamics in Razor Coast as a setting, whereas it here is mostly an afterthought to the plot of this one module. So DMs using this in razor Coast probably ought to give some thought to the change of dynamics Armada's existence poses to the power dynamics of the coast. That complaint out of the way, the island is interesting - displayed as a mini-hex-crawl (YEAH!), not only has another crew of pirates been stranded there (and make neat adversaries/allies, depending on your PC's actions!), the island is also home to degenerate orcs sired by the local girallon populace, which makes for formidable guerilla foes. Worse, said intelligent primates are led by a deadly girallon vampire, offering the true Pett-horror in terrible traps and truly spooky environments. What about e.g. a corpse of a fallen pirate, stuck on a tree and stuffed with rotten fruit, thus attracting swarms of hornets? Yeah, shudder-worthy...in a good way.



Sooner or later, the PCs will finally reach the city of gold - beyond the gold, deadly guardians remain, as do sadistic traps (which I will not spoil) as well as some old-schoolish puzzle-like hazards. Exploration of the city will sooner or later put the PCs in a position, where they may wake an ancient evil and defeat it...also dooming the island, which proceeds to sink, while all hell breaks loose. As they are trying to escape with as much gold as possible, the PCs will reap what they have sown throughout the module and potentially have final chances to out-gambit their opposition. A rather uncommon module that shows well that Richard Pett's talent is not limited to dark adventures - he can obviously craft old-school explorations just as well!



The second module, would be Gary McBride's "Black Spot" - in which the PCs are once again hired for a mission, this time by one captain Riggs, who wants them to help him salvage the grounded wreck of the Flying Fortune, which is stranded on a tooth-like mountain in the middle of the sea. Once again, the journey provides ample opportunities for bonding with the crew. As soon as the PCs reach the iconic locale, though, a completely different tone begins - exploring the Flying Fortune proves to be one of the finest examples of mood-setting I've seen in any mystery/horror module - the slowly creeping suspicions rising, inquisitive PCs may soon deduce that something's not right with captain Riggs. Indeed, he was the captain of the Flying Fortune and as clues accumulate, the PCs may actually find out that he's possessed by a weird, parasitic black leech. Taking the captain prisoner, killing or saving him or falling prey to his wiles, the PCs find themselves in a nightmare most uncommon: Riggs ran afoul of the wiles of the Engineer - the vanguard of a planned neh-thalggu invasion, whose ship is hidden in the depths, just missing a few brains to launch true otherworldly death on the Razor Coast. In order to stop the aberration's plan, the PCs will have to brave the vastly iconic and superb ship and its dread inhabitants:



From strange undead-like creatures to jade butterflies used for scrying (which are also rather deadly!) up to a heart-pounding race to escape the self-destruct of the ship upon the defeat of the dread engineer, this mystery/horror-module makes for a superb offering - even in Gary McBride's great oeuvre, this one stands out as one superb example of adventure-crafting, including the extensive notes on possible aftermaths. Glorious indeed and both as stand-alone and as part of Razor Coast, a great module!



The third module, intended for 11th-12th level, would be Owen K.C. Stephens' "Jungle Fever" - yes, grandmaster crunch actually took up the pen for an adventure - but how does it fare and what's it about? It starts with a simple, yet uncommon hook - the PCs are hired by the mistress of a brothel, which has suffered from a curse/returning disease that is, of course, bad for business. But, and that is no hyperbole - your players won't see where this module is going with that angle. Soooo...players, seriously, skip ahead... All right. What happens if isolated Tulita become desperate? They, in this case, turned to a dragon turtle as a false deity, cannibalism and worse....and no one would care. Problem is, their island harbors a special plant which amplifies the power of the dragonsmoke-drug. A Tulita survivor seeking help stumbled across a truly vile captain with this drug and she promptly set out to erect her own, no less vile and despicable colonial nightmare on the island, enslaving everyone, poisoning the dragon turtle and killing the spiritual leader of the tribe in a most gruesome manner. Now her super-drug didn't catch universally due to limited supplies and the wanton cruelty of her men - and now, only one of her former crew remains, for the wench has reaped what she's sown - the dread cannibalistic shaman turned the tables upon his vanquishers upon returning from the dead, making terrible disease-creature-incubators of the living and turning the island into full-blown nightmare territory. In order to stop the disease and its undead carriers, the PCs have to find the island, navigate its treacherous reefs and end the various despicable existences on the island as well as the false turtle-totem and its degenerate offspring -preferably including all the dread dragonsmoke enhancing flowers and before Pele smashes the island for the atrocities there. Seriously...wow. If I hadn't known better, I would have assumed one of the masters of dark horror here - Owen K.C. Stephens delivers in spades here, with a module that encapsulates all the terrors of colonialism without falling into the "tulita are good"-glorification some parts of Razor Coast fall prey to. This module is dark, iconic, action-packed and full of great, unique creatures. If you've asked yourself why Paizo got Owen for their module-series - here's a superb reason. I've always said that I'd enjoy it if Owen wrote more fluff - this one is an excellent example for that stance. Impressive indeed!



The final module, by Tom Knauss, would then be "Sinful Whisper" for 5th level characters - but can it stand up to its predecessors? The PCs are hired for a task they're bound to hate rather soonish - escort a noble scion, a pampered (but capable!), arrogant elven woman to a taboo island where her former vessel was attacked, her fellow noble scions taken by bestial men. The thing is - the island isn't taboo for nothing - chocked in hallucination-inducing, paranoia-enhancing spores, populated by degenerate subhuman creatures, the trip to the island not only will lead them all into dire danger, but also on a journey into the heart of the surprisingly dynamic elven maid - who may be turned towards good or evil, all by the PC's actions - if they manage to survive the truly dastardly creatures and not lose their sanity to the plants of the place, the vile practices there or the ancient evil slumbering beneath the island's soil, waiting patiently for its time to return to truly vile glory... This module is psychological horror paired with some truly disturbing imagery and on par with the best and most disturbing ones I've read for PFRPG - a good indicator that Tom Knauss should try his hand at these types of modules more often!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice an undue amount of glitches. Layout adheres to Razor Coast's two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with quite a few iconic, awesome original pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf comes with one bookmark per adventure, which makes navigating rather hard and in the pdf, at least the cover is a bit blurry - something absent from my hardcover copy. The maps in full color are great, though I wished they had player-friendly versions included in the map folio.



4 modules by masters of their craft - and I don't use that lightly - and all 4 are killer. Seriously, all 4 of the modules in this book greatly enhance not only a Razor Coast campaign, but can easily stand alone. In fact, at least "Angry Waters" probably works slightly better as a stand-alone, with Armada otherwise changing the political landscape of the coast a bit too much for my tastes. The other 3 are plug-and play in the truest form, with the last one offering actually a way into Port Shaw's elite sans rubbing shoulders with the despicable masters of the place and thus making for an all but required addition for particularly virtuous groups. Now let me say this again, loud and clear - each module herein is killer. Each one, 5 star + seal of approval material. However, the scarce bookmarks and lack of player-friendly maps make for somewhat significant detriments. Usually, I'd rate this down a whole star for these issues...but the modules don't deserve that. They're too good, even providing, in multiple instances, vistas that help make the Tulita less annoying one-dimensional good guys. As such, I think they should be considered required for Razor Coast. If I may offer a piece of advice for DMs: Don't fall back quite as often on the "island-sinks"-gimmick as implied here; a given campaign should probably one employ this plot-device once and I'd suggest "Angry Waters" as the best candidate. Owen K.C. Stephens' module doesn't require the sinking and actually poses an interesting conundrum if the island remains...

But I'm rambling. Long story short - too good to be rated down, in spite of some comfort-detriments - 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2014 04:44:32
An Endzeitgeist.com review

46 pages, 1 page front cover (by Wayne Reynolds), 1 page editorial, 3 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page dedication, 5 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover. That leaves 534 pages.

534. Pages.

It's been a long time since Razor Coast has been released and there's a reason my review took this long. First of all, let me preface this with a disclaimer: I can't, by any means, be truly neutral regarding Razor Coast. I just can't. you see, there would be no Endzeitgeist without this book. It was Razor Coast that made me excited enough about a book to actually end my online abstinence and register at Sinister Adventures back in the day. I didn't even have a Paizo account. I had no idea Rite Publishing or Open Design even existed. Without this book, NONE of my reviews would have ever been written. Without it, none of the friendships, none of the kind people would have ever entered my life. I was stunned by the kindness of Nick and Lou and then...Sinister Adventures went down. My heart bled, I raged, I reasoned...all the steps of grief, as pathetic as that may sound. I never ordered a refund. I waited. When Frog God Games took Razor Coast and uploaded the KS, I thought "NO WAY" - why? Because the funding goal seemed insane. The requirement to commit 30-buck preorders from back in the day, get new artwork etc. blew up the goal and you can't begin to understand the amount of exhilaration I felt when it funded...with flying colors, reaching all those stretch-goals. I couldn't believe it. At this point, not only had Razor Coast's prior vapor ware status been the grain of sand that was in the center of my decision to go reviewer, it had amassed such a n epic level of expectations, I started dreading the arrival of the massive tome (#213, btw.!) and all the bonus books I went for via the KS.



Then, I started reading it. And from a reviewer's perspective, I was looking at a problem of no small proportions - Razor Coast seems to defy proper reviewing. Usually, when I take a look at a module, I take a look at the plot, hooks etc. and then give you a synopsis of what to expect, try to analyze issues with the plot etc. Alternatively, a sandbox gets a similar treatment, but more free-form. Well, Razor Coast refuses to fit in either mold. So what is this monster's structure? We have inciting incidents, that kick off a given arc - two massive major plot-arcs suffuse this tome. These are supplemented with vignettes, set-pieces and stand-alone encounters as well as relationship subplots. These are here, and in the end, it's up to DM and players to decide in- and outgame which/what to pursue. Essentially, Razor Coast tries to combine the free-form modularity of a true sandbox campaign with the plot-driven structure of an AP.



Now, usually, I'd just give you a run-down of the general plot-structure - that doesn't work here. If I were to list everything herein, this review would probably be as long as all my Slumbering Tsar-reviews combined. So instead, I'll tell you about what can be found herein: First of all, there would be indulgences, i.e. Sinister Adventures' small pdfs, converted to the PFRPG-ruleset. This means that Craig Shackleton's dueling rules, including the bind combat maneuver, have been updated. These are intended to essentially make the swashbuckler a more valid option char-build wise and if used as intended for low-armor, dex-based fighter, makes sense. The thing is, the feats aren't particularly weak and while not per se broken, e.g. treating a one-handed piercing weapon as a reach weapon can be broken badly - enlarge character, magus levels etc. At prereq BAB +1, too easy to abuse, also thanks to the feat not requiring an explicit action, thus making it possible to combine this with other feats. Then again, the parrying rules per se are solid and have seen some use in my game. The Tulita-ethnography comes the throw maneuver (which feels unnecessary) and also some feats, one of which isn't as broken as it was in 3.X, but fixing unarmed threat range at 18 sans following usual rules of threat range enhancements would be bound to lead to confusion. The Mai'kal archetype gets a somewhat broken ability at 15th level, allowing them to, as an immediate action, reverse an attack on the adversary 1/round as an immediate action for 1 ki point. The essay on underwater adventuring contained here is also nice, though after the release of both Sunken Empires and Alluria Publishing's glorious Cerulean Seas, there are better options. But you don't want me to pick this one apart crunch-wise, do you? The adventure is what counts, so what can I say about it before I go into spoilers?



Let's give you an overview - the Razor Coast is a tropical paradise, though not one sans its dark past. The native population, the Tulita, lived in relative peace until colonialization began and the white/yellow/black/whatever men came and defeated them handsomely. Now, the once sacred whales are hunted, the eggs of the venerable turtle smashed and colonial ignorance has erected Port Shaw, a thriving port on sacred ground. Dark days have found the paradise in peril, as racial tensions rise and evil conspires above and beneath the waves. Here, one thing should be noted - the writing is superb. In a genre, where Freeport and Sasserine constitute two very iconic settlements with their own flavor, making a given age of sail-style settlement stand out is quite a feat and neither settlement would be confused with Port Shaw (though they probably could replace it with some work) -the writing makes the settlement, the whole coast really, come to life from the pages. immersion is also increased via the entries on e.g. deities in the appendix. Oh, have I mentioned that5 thanks to a collaborative effort with Green Ronin, the book actually offers information on how to handle both Freeport and Port Shaw in the same setting and how they geographically relate? Yes. Awesome.



Now beyond the leitmotif of colonialism and the resulting racial tensions and cultural warfare, we have a leitmotif of progress vs. nature in the guise of colonial powers destroying natural resources and killing essentially the sacred animal guides of the Tulita. This topic per se is rather subdued, though its presence can be felt in one of the main plots, but more on that later. Now I've mentioned relationship subplots - and these deserve the moniker. Essentially, Razor Coast is as character-driven and NPC-rich as you want and a former band of heroes, down on their luck and destined for an inglorious downfall, is provided in excruciating detail - these beings are characters in the truest sense of the word and while they all have been broken, the PCs have a chance to mend them. The same btw. holds true for the legendary widow of Captain Razor and even some antagonists - overall, indifference will lead to depressing ends indeed, while invested PCs can truly make a difference and save those souls from the abyss into which they gaze. If you're like me and read these, you'll probably recognize yourself or some of your friends n their darkest hours in these NPCs - yes, they're that detailed. So if your PCs are big on the ROLE of roleplaying, Razor Coast provides ample potential.



A DM also gets special tools - essentially, a level-by-level breakdown of potential plotlines/encounters to run as well as check-list-sheets for the respective levels/phases of the plot as well as an NPC-relationship tracker help further in making sense of the tremendously complex, vast array of potential plots one can craft from Razor Coast. Which is rather interesting, for the plot per se is as strong as you'd expect from a linear AP:



SPOILERS



Essentially, colonialism and the killing of animals has helped dread shark-god Dajobas and his chosen to return to shore. Dread were-sharks have infiltrated Port Shaw and expect to hold a massive feast of carnage and death in its streets. Furthermore, the legendary kraken-fiend has all but taken control of Port Shaw via a secret society and plans to soon reap the city. Then former plot is conspiracy 1, the second one no.2 and both make for linear, rather epic (apocalyptic, even!) scenes - within the modularity of the vast tome, these stories are what drives the meta-plot. And yes, they're infinitely more complex, tied to x characters, strange islands, sunken treasures, betrayals long past etc. And yes, in order to not bloat this review beyond 20 pages, that's all you'll be hearing from me regarding the plot(s).



/SPOILERS



Soooo...those plots and all the encounters, flavor etc. need to be organized. The tools are there. Before we go into that, another caveat, though - look at the end of the book. Among the indulgences, several mini-modules await and the book also features essentially what can be considered an additional Voodoo-themed adventure that is completely optional. These are NOT part of the main-book's outline, nor are the modules from the expansion "Heart of the Razor", though the latter help with levels in which the main material is a bit less versatile than one would expect. It should also be noted that the appendix features new creatures galore, including, yes, undead cannibal pygmies (and their unliving totems!), a race of degenerate Cyclopes, drugs, items both mundane and magical and much, much more. Have I mentioned the hand-out driven puzzle/treasure map, options for underwater adventuring etc.?



Since its formal approach to adventure-craft is so different, the grand question would be how to rate this... which brings me, perhaps to a surprisingly early



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a book of this length - while there are glitches in here, they are relatively few and far in-between. Layout adheres to a parched-map-style full-color 2-column standard that is easy to read. The respective full color artworks are universally drop-dead-gorgeous and the maps are as well. While some maps have the scaling-numbers slightly pixelated, the maps themselves are plenty and beautiful. Furthermore, the map folio offers player-handout-style maps of the respective areas herein, adding for me tremendously to their use. The massive tome comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The pdf's artworks sometimes feel a bit less high-res than those present in the hardcover - if you can, I'd definitely suggest going for the full-color dead tree tome. Printing this would probably cost more in ink/toner than just getting the book anyways.



There's another reason for this - you'll need post-its. Seriously. A metric ton of post-its. I have a very good memory, but still - running this behemoth will require you to have a lot of things at your fingertips, even with all the help the book tries to give you.

Which also brings me to the reason why this took forever - first of all: Novice-DMs need not apply. Sorry. Even for me, who considers running modules of ZEITGEIST-complexity easy, with years of sandboxing campaign information, this is a rather complex endeavor. The best advice I can give is to read the whole book. At least twice. Which won't be an issue, since the respective areas are full of iconic encounters, compelling characters and superbly dark, gritty, nail-biting climaxes. The writing is superb and just glorious. It should also be noted that the shades-of-grey themes actually are there - while the Tulita generally are pictured as the good guys, there are ample exceptions and only scarcely does the book stoop to painting a clear b/w-contrast. When it does, though, it MAY be slightly jarring - the whole book essentially portrays the process of colonialization in all its violence and despicable facets. Indigenous population under control via drugs? Yes. Cultures destroyed? Yes. Slavery? Yes.



There are not much saving graces for the powers that be here and thematically, that is the only narrative weak spot in an otherwise surprisingly versatile plot. While the book actually manages for the most part to maintain complex moralities and shades of grey in all protagonists and even in some of the more despicable antagonists, when it comes to the Tulita, it sometimes reverts to simple b/w: Portraying them in a very much romanticized noble savage-way. I'm been discriminated against and personally, it's probably this experience that makes me consider this to be, in its way, just as problematic as a demonization of a given people. In any other setting/module, I wouldn't have complained here, but in the gritty, surprisingly deep Razor Coast, this feels a bit off at times, especially due to generally, the depiction maintains an enlightened, non-glorifying stance. But then again, perhaps that's just the cultural studies mayor talking. To let me make this abundantly clear - this is NO white guilt-trip, theme-wise, but it also falls, by a margin, short of what it could have been in that regard.



It took me some time to analyze what made this, at least in my perception, harder to run than e.g. Slumbering Tsar and similar massive campaigns. The reasons are twofold: For one, the massive tome shoots itself somewhat in the proverbial foot by noting several sample motivations à la "Champion of the Tulita", "Allied with the Powers that be" etc. IGNORE THESE PREMISES. While one could craft a Razor Coast-campaign with these themes, the overall narrative is imho neutered by trying to shoehorn it into one of these adventure-path-like premises. Essentially, the whole of the book does not particularly support these themes. Yes, they're there, but looking for them and trying to jam the sandbox into that frame tremendously hurts the experience and limits players/could lead to a less versatile experience for them. The support for these pseudo-AP-motivations is just not pronounced enough and I'm of the conviction these hurt the book more than anything else. So, again: Ignore those.



Secondly, the organization of the massive material is more confusing than it ought to be - the "build-your-own-AP"-section with all its checklists and help doesn't help that much - or at least, it didn't help me. Why? Because it lacks the supplemental material, even from the same book. Tying indulgences and "bonus-storyline" (and Heart of the Razor) into the whole would have made this section much more useful. Another issue would be that you first get Port Shaw, then the Key-NPCs, then the planner and then the encounters/meat of the book. Essentially, the planner is talking about things, which, if you read this in a linear way, you haven't read and have no clue about. So if you start reading, skip this section and return after reading. While this isn't bad, it also makes preparing this behemoth more challenging, at least at first sight, than it ought to be. Much of the problems simply dissipate if you just read the meat of the adventure, the setting-information etc. and start planning for yourself.



One of the reasons some people experienced a slight backlash here, can be explained via the tremendous expectations associated with this tome, while others lie primarily at the problematic organization. This book would have imho fared better by sticking to a sandbox-presentation and then just add a generic time-line and insert encounters into that. Just my 2 cents, of course. Endeavoring to make this both an AP and a sandbox ends up unnecessarily complicating this.



Now all of this sounds awfully negative - and it shouldn't, let me make abundantly clear that this is a rite-of-passage-style monster-tome to separate the men from the boys, DM-wise. It's challenging (Though not Frog God Games-hard.) and ultimately a great module that takes cultural cues otherwise scarcely, if at all, explored and provides a rich, fun, dark and at times downright evil setting that oozes unique style and flair, provides superb writing, ideas galore and more potential for fun than MANY collective modules/APs of similar length.

Is it for novice-DMs? Hell no. Is it polarizing? Yes. Is the crunch universally awesome? Nope. But does this belong into every PFRPG-DM's library? In my opinion, yes. Razor Coast is a gloriously wicked tome, superbly written and while it is not perfect, I don't regret a single cent I've spent on it. (And yes, I went all-out on the KS.) Is it the perfect tome of superlatives that years and years of expectations painted it in, in many a mind around the globe? No, but it honestly couldn't have been. What it is, is a great mega-adventure in a unique setting, full of unique, interesting characters and a living piece of PFRPG-history, a mega-adventure your players WILL keep talking about for years to come. And while it didn't make my Top Ten-list of 2013, it came damn close, by virtue of its originality, scope and ambition, by its narrative clout and the hard work of Nicolas Logue, Lou Agresta, Tim Hitchcock, John Ling, Ton Knauss, Frank Mentzer, Richard Pett, Craig Shackleton, David Posener, Greg A. Vaughan, Adam Daigle, Wolfgang Baur and Brendan Victorson.



To me, this tome is still 5 stars + seal of approval must-have material. It may not be perfect, but it is different, ambitious and downright evocative. And we need more books of that caliber, that take chances with something different, both in form and ambition. Oh, and if you're an experienced DM, you'll be hard-pressed to find a given module to better show off your skills - in the hands of one, this vision will come alive in all its blood-drenched, tropical glory.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast Freebooter's Guide - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/17/2014 09:37:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This player's guide for Razor Coast is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 92 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off the Freebooter's Guide with an overview of the races and their respective roles in Razor Coast - including rather the central conflict between the pirateish settlers and the Tulita, the indigenous people of the Razor Coast. A lot of flavor is devoted to depicting these ethnicities, but we also get new races, two to be precise: The first would be the Dajobasu, Tulita cursed (or blessed) by the dread shark-god. These ostracized outcasts gte +2 to Str and Wis, -2 to Int and Cha, darkvision 60 feet, +2 to stealth and survival in swamps, +4 to swim, may hold their breath thrice as long as humans, +4 to sense motive, +1 natural AC and as alternate racial traits, they may 1/day utter a drowning curse (as per the gatorfolk's ability - why not include the stats here? Players won't have access to the stats of the curse - which is btw. detailed in Razor Coast's main book...) at the cost of a phobia for water - which unfortunately has no mechanical repercussions. They may also opt for +2 to intimidate to demoralize foes or exchange the paltry bonuses in swampy terrains for a swim speed of 20 ft. - the latter feels a bit like a powerful trade-off. Overall, a solid race, if a bit on the powerful side with two +4 skill bonuses.



The second race would be the Menehune, small somewhat gnome-like followers of Pele, the fire goddess. Menehune get +2 to Con and Cha, -2 to Str, have a base movement rate of 20 feet, get +2 to AC in their favorite terrain, have resistance 5 to fire, +2 to perception and Craft/Profession to create objects from stone or metal, are treated as one level higher regarding spells with the fire descriptor, fire domain, fire bombs etc. Menehune of Cha 11+ also get 1/day dancing lights, flare, prestidigitation, produce flame as spell-like abilities. Meheune also get low-light vision, gnomish weapon familiarity and may 1/day shroud their arms in fire for cha-mod+ character level rounds, dealing an additional 1d4 fire damage + 1d4 for every 4 character levels. Sooo... do low level menehune with low cha-scores get no access to this? The ability has no minimum-round caveat. Alternate racial trait-wise, Menehune may get fast healing 2 anytime they take fire damage, but cap at 2 times character level. Alternatively, they can get the traditional gnomish SLAs or exchange their slas/fire magic affinity with either 1/day invisibility (though only for themselves)or expeditious retreat. Finally, they may choose for a knowledge skill as class skill and a bonus to climb or a further +2 bonus to craft/profession. They also suffer from cold vulnerability, which somewhat offsets their otherwise significant bonuses. Still, slightly on the powerful side. Another nitpick would be that the invisibility & expeditious retreat SLAs lack the minimum charisma-score restrictions - though whether by design or oversight, I'm not sure. It should be noted that both races come with 3 favored class options each. One of the Meneuhune's FCO's have some minor issues - the bardic FCO specifies "Add +1 per every six class levels to the number of people the bard can affect with the fascinate bardic performance." Does that mean it can be taken once and then automatically nets the benefit every 6 levels? I assume not, so why not stick to the established formula à la "+1/6 to the number of people..."



All right, that out of the way, we are introduced to traits - 11, by the way. The traits are solid. Next up would be archetypes - a coastal barbarian with favored terrain water, a cannibal that can mitigate parts of his/her post-rage fatigue by devouring the flesh of foes, a Tulita-bard with 3 exclusive performances (one of which allows for the substitution of performance-checks to protect allies from movement-impeding effects), a tomb raider-style chaser of legends (who may temporarily heal allies or temporarily grant improved uncanny dodge) who is particularly adept at disabling traps and evading things.



Clerics may opt to become servants of Pele via the Volcano Child archetype, requiring them to take the fire domain (and only that) at an effective +2 cle level (thankfully not netting access to abilities earlier), diminished spellcasting, but also endure elements versus hot climates, the ability to sheathe weapons in flames and later channel slightly enhanced fire instead of positive/negative energy. The caller of storms is similar, but gets full spellcasting and replaces channel energy with the ability to recall expended spells. The buccaneer fighter is essentially a swashbuckling fighter, replacing armor training and weapon training with the option to deal additional damage whenever he/she has moved through threatened squares as well as some naval-themed bonuses. Harpoonists are exactly that, specialists of the harpoon...and honestly, I really liked this one. It makes choosing the harpoon as a weapon a valid, if not optimal choice. The Deep Sea Tracker is an aquatic ranger who fights with net and trident and later becomes amphibious, gains cent etc. More interesting would be the Headhunter-archetype, who utilizes four types of shrunken heads for various benefits - interesting!



Blockade Runner rogues are specialists of disguise and smuggling. One of their abilities allow them to use Escape Artist to trip foes - something I'm not 100% comfortable with, since skills are rather easily boosted. I'd also be interested whether bonuses to trip that usually apply to CMD would then apply to the skill-check instead? Finally, the Scrimshaw fetishist would be a wizard archetype who may enhance his spells via the inflicting of painful boosts and scribing their spells on their own body - at the cost of both spellbook and access to scribe scrolls. This archetype is rather cool and works surprisingly well, coming with mutagen-like benefits and better metamagic..for the price of pain.



We also are introduced to two new base-classes, the first of which would be the Disciple of Dajobas, who gets proficiency with shields, light and medium armor, simple weapons and shark-tooth based weaponry, d8, 4+Int skills per level, casts divine spells of up to 6th level spontaneously via wisdom (which is a bit odd - plus: Raging shark-worshippers and high wis...I don't know), 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves and must take the hunger domain. They get a scaling bite attack that counts as a primary natural weapon (or secondary when wielding manufactured weapons) and they can enter a non-fatiguing variant of a barbarian's rage. They also gain the ability to speak with sharks and crocodiles and may, as befitting of servants of the shark god, act rather well in water, increasing aquatic adaption over the levels, becoming even amphibious later. They may also turn into sharks. All in all, an interesting blend of cleric/druid and barbarian, though probably not a class players should aim for...unless they are okay with serving a truly vile god. Also, don't expect favored class option benefits or archetypes for this class or the second one, for that matter.



The second base-class would be the Yohunga, a Tulita-class that gains d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with 3 Tulita-weapons, light armor and simple weapons as well as 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves and spontaneous divine spellcasting via Cha of up to 6th level The Yohunga also gets a mana-point of 1/2 character level + cha-mod (+1 at 3rd level and every other level after that) and a special necklace tied to a tikiman - if the tikiman is destroyed, then so is the necklace - which deals damage to the Yohunga. Tikiman? Yes, the class is, much like the summoner, a pet-class, i.e. the tikiman remains active as long as there's at least one point of mana left. Various passive powers of the tikiman, of which there are 11, can be added to a tikiman's already nice ability-suite - which btw. includes improved evasion. As a balancing factor, HD-increases have to be purchased also via these powers, meaning you'll be spending a lot of tiki power-slots on those. Now I *assume* that the chosen powers apply to ALL tikimen, but the pdf fails to specify that particular tidbit of information. Unlike familiars (though they also share spells), Yohunga get additional tikimen at higher levels, allowing them to have multiple tiny constructs at their command. There also are several powers available that utilize mana to temporarily bolster the tikimen's capabilities - from poisoned/paralyzing blowgun darts (Diablo II, anyone?) to temporarily granting DR/energy resistance to them. The tikimen can also grow in size, mimic jungle-animal voices, grow and even merge with your tikimen. Several of these abilities have HD-limits/caster level limits to choose them. Per se a cool idea for a class, though honestly, the HD-increase is rather costly when compared to other pet-classes. Also, the spells to properly heal a tikiman ought to be expanded - RAW it is very hard to heal tikimen, with mending being rather slow and boring and not particularly effective in battle, which makes the tikimen rather fragile - to the point where the spells are imho all but required. Additionally, no time-frame for tikiman-creation is given - does it take time to craft them? Can they be replenished quickly or do they require a hiatus after being destroyed? A promising class, but one in dire need of clarification/more information.



Next up would be write-ups of Razor Coast's deities (not including Dajobas or Tulita spirits, btw.), including two new domains (in addition to the aforementioned hunger domain), closely followed by the chapter on PrCs. The Captain of the High Seas and the Old Salt, two 5-level PrCs deserve special mention here - both provide further benefits when combined with the stellar "Fire as She Bears" and allow you to dive further into the naval aspects of a campaign. Non-Tulita living among them, may become Paheka - per se a solid, if not too awe-inspiring 5-level PrC that represents well someone who has gone native and received the blessings of the people. The table is missing all plusses, though - somewhat irritating. The 5-level Pele Liberator PrC (which the table calls Tulita liberator instead) may lose one level of spellcasting progression...but oh boy - wis-mod times/day AoE 20-foot healing at long range equal to 1d8 per two caster levels, plus nauseated enemies on failed save. OUCH. Speaking of ouch - lava burst capstone. 1d10 per caster level, half on round 2, half on round three. While not broken per se, rather impressive - then again, the PRC's smite is based on class level, so more of a dud there - until 5th level, where in addition to cha, wis is added and full character level to damage. That's regular attribute, cha AND wis? Sorry, not gonna happen anywhere near my game - especially since their smite does not end with one attack and since it can be used character level times per day. This needs a massive whacking with the nerfbat.

We also get a 10-level PrC with the Shaw Sheriff that once again lacks the plusses in the table. The Shaw Sheriff gets up to +5d6 sneak attack progression and several trick shots, essentially way to increase the efficiency of blade+pistol fighting. Fluff-wise, the Dragoons of Port Shaw put out a reward on the sheriff's head, just as his/her renown grows and makes it less and less likely that the general populace hands him/her over - adding informant networks etc. makes for a PrC that is tied in a very cool manner into a setting - one that could easily be modified to work for other cities/settings with problematic authorities. Two thumbs up for that one!



After that, we are introduced to a variety of different mundane weapons and equipment as well as 3 new drugs, one new poison and 3 small boats - the latter sans the FaSB-stats though - I would have loved to see them for tiny vessels like this. Prices and short pieces of information on some famous/notorious captains and ships for hire in Port Shaw also can be found here - nice!



We also are introduced to a chapter of feats - 24 to be precise. While there are some filler feats in here (boring +2/+2, later +4/+4 to two skill-checks-yawn!), we also get feats to improve mana/tikimen, use pistols as melee weapons, quicker shapechanging, more reliable swimming, cleave-tripping, feint while moving, make swim-by-attacks or essentially surf. One particularly awesome feat allows you to efficiently hold a pistol to an opponent - potential (and rules) for Mexican stand-offs included! Now see, that is a cool type of feat, though the puzzling mentioning of a ref-save to negate damage in the stand-off sidebar feels like a relic of a previous design - as written, the attacks do not allow a ref-save to reduce damage. Cool in concept would be a feat that nets one tikiman a massive (cha-mod) HD-boost - but has it go haywire upon rolling a 1. Unfortunately, the feat fails to specify whether the rogue tikiman still goes dormant upon expending all mana. If so, does it retain its hostile intent? If it does become dormant, what if you feed blood as per another feat to one of your non-rogue tikimen and regain a point of mana temporarily? Does it reactivate? Can you replace a rogue tkiman or does the haywire tikiman reduce your maximum amount of tikimen available while it still roams the wilds? The Trance Dancer feat allows you to enter a ritualistic dance as a full-round action to temporarily ignore the dazed, fatigued, exhausted and stunned conditions as well as enchantment effects - but only for as long as you can make perform (dance)-checks with an ever-increasing DC. The problem with this feat would be that it does not specify what type of action maintaining the dance is - since Perform-skill-checks can vary wildly in length, that's a crucial issue - move action? Standard action? Does tripping the dancer end the dance?



We also get new spells to help targets reach the surface (or drown them) via an in/decreased buoyancy, make them immune versus the cold of the abyssal depths and their pressure, hit vessels with rogue waves, implant false memories of taboo acts in targets or make a breach watertight. Among the magical items, we get strange harpoon bags, enchanted fish-hooks (that conjure forth fiendish sharks or crocodiles), obsidian/pyroclastc grenades, a quarterstaff that dominates those beaten into submission (which could use a slightly more precise wording - its intent is that it only dominates those beaten into unconsciousness via non-lethal damage, but it can dominate unconscious targets even when dealing non-lethal damage to another creature) and magical tattoos: Created via one of the new feats, these count as wondrous items, take up an item-slot and get per se neat, concise rules. Among the tattoos, there also are special Tulita tattoos - one of which e.g. generates as many +2 icy burst shurikens as the Tulita can throw in one round. The problem here would be that they do not vanish - RAW, the shuriken are permanent and thus could be used as a steady source of income, at least in theory. The other tattoos are fine, though.



Among the animal companions, we get Haast's Eagles, Moa and Wetapunga as well as some minor local variants of existing animal types. Also rather cool, we are introduced to 17 local herbs and plants and how they are used - neat! The book concludes with a nice gazetteer-chapter in which players can glean some basic information on the respective locales and thus spare the DM a lot of exposition while providing enough player-friendly information to entice one into the rich lore of Razor Coast. The book also comes with two pages of char-sheets.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is okay, but not that great - there are quite a few editing/formatting glitches to be found herein, sometimes acting as slightly detrimental to the rules-language. Layout adheres to RC's per se beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks are almost universally completely awesome. The hardcover book's cover-artwork is not as blurred as the one of FaSB. Paper is rather thin in the physical version.



Lou Agresta, Tim Hitchcock, Tom Knauss, John Ling, RA Mc Reynolds, Rone Barton and Greg Vaughan are all talented designers and authors and it shows in the compelling narratives herein, in the setting-flavor that oozes in buckets from these pages. In the brightest moments, this guide indeed captures well the flair and panache of Razor Coast and showcases their capabilities. Unfortunately, that does not extend to the whole pdf - there are quite a few issues with the rules-language herein, filler-feats, massive issues with the Yohunga base-class... all of those accumulate.



Another issue would be that this pdf endeavors to be a player's guide and partially succeeds at its goal - at the same time falling flat of guiding players regarding the tone the campaign shoots for, which approach (as per the RC-book) to take etc. - if one player shoots for a Disciple of Dajobas, another for a Tulita and a third for essentially a colonialist pirate, as a DM you have an issue on your hands. Especially the former class does simply not belong in a player's guide - or at least requires a massive caveat. As a sourcebook, it fares slightly better, though e.g. the decision to include the player-material indulgences in the campaign setting instead of in this book should be considered slightly unfortunate. Personally, I also would have loved to see a slightly tighter synergy with FaSB, but that's okay and just a nitpick on my part. In the end, the Freebooter's Guide to the Razor Coast makes for a valid companion for a RC-campaign, but one that should see careful DM-oversight due to some problematic options/balance-concerns (*cough* Pele Liberator /*cough*).



In conclusion: Some light, some shadow - a mixed bag - final verdict: 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Freebooter's Guide - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/25/2014 06:57:10
Swords and Wizardry sets out to be a return of the first role-playing game, the three little books in a paper box along with the first expansions, all brought into the 21st century as a 133 page PDF. Ambitious indeed! Did it succeed? This is free, so it is guaranteed value for money. However, there is also the issue of time. When you decide to use a system, or even to learn it, you devote a big chunk of your free time to it. Should you do that for Swords and Wizardry?

First a few words on where I stand. I began playing with the Mentzer edition back in 1979, so the original books were before my time, but I have looked through them and did not share the enthusiasm for "back to basics" those books represented, so my view of this is a bit slanted. Just to explain where I stand when reviewing Swords & Wizardry.

The PDF is absolutely beautiful and evocative of the style of the first edition Player's Handbook. It is well indexed and has lovely illustrations that fit the theme very well. I was very impressed by the Eorl Otus cover. After a brief introduction, it shows you a character sheet, and from there jumps right into the meat of making a character - no dawdling into long explanations of what a role-playing game is here! It has 9 classes, 5 races, alignment (law-neutral-chaos), and multiclassing - all done on 15 pages! Compactness was indeed an feature of the early editions.

Already, I get the wibes of just how hard the game was back then. The thief, at first level, has a 10% chance to pick locks, with the helpful description "Thieves can pick locks; some locks might be unusually difficult, in which case the Referee might reduce the percentage chance as appropriate". So, not only is my chance to succeed 10%, the rule also specifically mentions that GMs can make it more difficult, and retries are not mentioned. Sigh, one thing I did not want to be reminded of. Also, some classes have minimum ability scores to enter, depending on attributes, which are of course rolled randomly on 3d6. If you manage to get a score of 15 in the right attribute for your class, there is a 10% bonus on experience points. Admittedly, attribute scores do not do much besides this, but why those who have rolled higher on some initial rolls should be rewarded with speedier advancement eludes me. This theme continues; high scores are generously rewarded if you are in the right class, otherwise not. And yes, different classes have different experience requirements for advancement, which is used as an excuse to hold back multiclassing...

Ordinarily, I'd stop reading here, this is just too many things strongly contrary to my role-playing preferences, but since I've been asked to review this, I will continue.

The next chapter deals with combat and adventuring. It makes a point of saying that the original rules were obtuse, and that those give include many design choices, and can be freely changed. It then goes on to explain a fairly straightforward combat system; group surprise, group initiative, spells declared in advance, no spellcasting in melee. It also presents a number of variations of this theme. This is all fairly easy and intuitive and actually a good system once you decide which options to use.

Next comes a section on hirelings and castle-building, showing the game's war-game roots. Simple and workable, and there are actually siege rules in the back of the book.

Next up is spells, which begins by saying that spells over 6th level are not really needed - this is typical of the mood of the rules, telling GMs that just because the highest tiers of power are described in the rules, they need not be used. To me it comes across as a bit snide, but for campaign play it is actually a good idea to have slow advancement. I just feel that this belongs in a missing campaign section. The spells are simple but workable and quite similar to what we have in later editions. A few spells, like wish and limited wish, have very few guidelines but otherwise the spells are good.

After this is the referee's section, and if you were waiting to get to know what the game was all about, you are not told but shown what a dungeon is. The encouraged playstyle is a sandbox, while at the same time showing how to design a dungeon. It goes on to explain other types of adventures, including mass combat and siege. The monster pages contain an amazing 7-8 monsters a page while remaining playable. There is even a page on creating your own monsters, and monsters are tiered by level. The treasure section has an introduction that says "...too much fairness feels artificial to the players...". Again capturing the sandbox feel. What cannot be found here is advice to the GM on how to run a plot, drop clues, foreshadow, set a mood, or how to interpret rules and spells like the aforementioned wish - developments in role-playing techniques those first little books lacked.

Overall I must say I am impressed by the work, much more than I thought I would be when I began reading it. Yes, there are things I don't like, but these are personal preferences. When you make a retro-clone like this, you always have to decide what aspects of the original game are important to you. Swords & Wizardry made these decisions differently than I would, they have their own vision of what the game was and should be. At the same time, they put a lot of emphasis on presenting different options, which I feel makes the game bewildering. Maybe you will love these things even if I did not. The game is simplistic but definitely playable. The writing is fluid, it is a beautiful book, and the price can't be beat. Well worth a read, and might well influence how you play role-playing games, whether or not you choose to play Swords & Wizardry as written. "The rules are just guidelines. There is not a rule for everything. When in doubt, make a ruling." is the introduction to the referee's section, and captures the spirit of the game very well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2014 03:50:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This system for naval combat is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 4 pages of advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 88 pages of content.



So here we are - by now the third naval combat system for Pathfinder - after Paizo's system fell flat of my expectations and after EN Publishing's book thoroughly disappointed me, let's see whether this supplement can do the trick!



We kick off this sourcebook, as is only prudent, with an explanation of the terminology used as well as a handy diagram that explains how a ship is positioned in relation to the wind. In order to have a ship, one requires ship construction-rules - these are very concisely-presented here: Essentially, each vessel has locations, which could be thought of as 20-foot cubes that can be individually targeted by hostiles. How you place your locations is mostly up to you, though you have to adhere to certain conventions regarding length and breadth and height, allowing you to also add additional decks by stacking multiple locations atop one another. It should be noted, that one hull location could contain one or several decks, though! Each location-cube belongs to one of two classes - hull or rigging. Both types have different stats, costs etc. and their relationship has crucial consequences regarding the ship's attributes.



Attributes? Yes, ships have a str-score of 30+no. of hull locations + build modifiers and they also have a dexterity of 10+rigging locations-hull locations + build modifiers. (The latter, in case you're wondering, offer the choice between sleek and broad hulls. Ship armor-class is calculated just like with a regular character, though rigging is slightly harder to hit. It should also be noted that the rules depict not only touch AC (should you ever require it), but also the susceptibility of a ship from below the waves in a rather interesting manner and that they aren't silent on this matter either regarding AC. Carrying capacity, hit points - all of that is very intuitive and makes creating ships and grasping the system exceedingly easy.



Now where things get slightly more complex would be with movement - your ship has 3 movement rates, or speed values. Each point of speed roughly corresponds to 20 feet of movement - but why not simply go with the movement? The answer's simple, really - you actually could do that. But speed is also a resource AS WELL AS a restriction. Ships have no brakes in the traditional sense and thus you *HAVE* to move the value of your speed rating each round - furthermore, naval maneuvers like turns etc. have an associated speed cost. You thus have to actually plan movement rather carefully, adding a VERY cool tactical dimension to the combats that is easy to learn while offering opportunities aplenty for strategies and finesse - after all, sailing against and with the wind modifies your available speed. Putting essentially resource and restriction into one value is, in my humble opinion, a stroke of genius. Of course, ships also have a maneuverability and your ship's load influence how agile your vessel turns out to be - again, the rules here are very much n line with how characters work.



Now if you're like me, then you tend towards a relative preference toward simulationalist approaches - I tend to have my PCs track rations etc. For people who prefer this additional spike of realism we get advanced rules herein - the first of which would be the impact of wind speed on a vessel's speed rating. More complex, yes, but rather easy to grasp. And if you don't think that can be utilized for maximum awesomeness, I once ran an adventure based on the absence of wind - essentially stranding the players on the equivalent of the Méduse's grisly tale - no combats, just slow psychological descent into madness as the veneer of civilization started to crumble. Glorious. Of course, the more obvious use would be to handle ships sailing before a storm, as the sidebar "Riders on the Storm" suggests. Now beyond sails, engines (both steam-powered and alchemical, in varying efficiency-classes) and oars are also handled, and once again parallel to characters, ships get their own CMBs and CMDs and saves.



Saves? Yep. Though as objects, ships are immune to will-saves, ref and fort-saves, while hard to do, can be rationalized - which the pdf btw. also guides a DM through, explaining how to narrate a successful save. As you could glean from me spilling the beans about alternate means of propulsion, there are a lot of customization options here - 8 sizes of cannons, rams, crow's nests - it's easy and essentially just like equipping your character - locations having a certain amount of space, i.e. slots. There you go - elegant and intuitive. Where there are cannons, there better be grape shots, chain shots and the like and yes, for everyone who despises gunpowder in their games, reskinning is always an option here. Speaking of options - while cannonballs of a uniform size are the default simplification for fun's sake, there are rules to explain how to handle different cannonball-sizes, if you want that level of realism. the same holds btw. true if you'd prefer realistic load times - these have been, due to the presence of magic and to keep cannons cool, significantly shortened to between 1 and 3 full-round actions. For once, that's a simplification I will keep in my game.



Now I've mentioned grape shots. I shuddered upon reading this, for while the mechanics of the grape shot are solid, they don't take individual ACs into account. Well...UNLESS you take a look at yet another alternate rule that lets you take these into the equation as well! Even before ship armor, miscellaneous equipment like fire pumps, specific locations and the like come into the equation, we a thoroughly customizable base system of rules that is concisely presented and easy to learn, while providing just the level of realism you choose for your group.



Specific locations? Yeah, from smuggling compartments to brigs, captain's quarters etc., we have quite a few customization options here.



But a ship is only an object - we also need a crew. Recruiting a crew is done via relatively simple rules...but what about morale? We are introduced to a new loyalty-score, which is modified by the captain's level, his/her cha-mod and the mods of navigators, chaplains etc. - oh, and lost battles, pay, time at sea, charms and dominates - all of these are taken in. Additionally, charismatic captains may actually inspire their crews! Now we all have seen this: A basic issue in most naval combat systems would be that they degenerate into a one-on-one between DM and the captain's player.6 officer roles, all with benefits and vacancy penalties and special actions in combat does an excellent job in engaging the WHOLE PARTY, even beyond the capabilities of the respective classes that fill the roles. Now how does that work? Essentially, your players roll initiative twice - once for the level of their characters and a second, naval initiative wherein they may make the respective naval actions, ensuring that they don't have to spend actions to encourage the crew when they'd rather be flinging fireballs or swashbuckle through the riggings. It seems counterintuitive at first, but in play it works wonders - also due to each role using certain attribute-modifiers for their respective naval initiative. Food, crew placement, crew advancement, officer and enlisted roles - there isa neat level of detail going on here.



Now how does naval combat work? First, the most upwind ship may claim the weather gauge, which nets some bonuses (tough e.g. the +2 speed bonus may not fit in all strategies...once again, careful deliberation...) - but only until another ship manages to steal the weather gauge via skill or luck: Again, we have a neat dynamic herein that expands the tactical possibilities of naval combat. After that, the combat (with the exception of naval initiative) works much like a regular combat - but there also are 13 special naval actions introduced alongside 5 special attacks (including crossing the boards). We also get a handy table for spotting ships, some new skill uses (Can you disguise a ship? Yes, you can!) and an abstract, but relatively elegant way to determine losses among the crew (and prevent them, if you're a ship's surgeon. Of course, there is also the final resort of self-destructing engines, if available - and yes, the consequences are dire and the situation narrative gold.



Of course, as you're probably noted by now, specialists could have a field day here and yes, if you're so inclined, then a total of 9 feats allows you to improve your capabilities in that specific field - which is awesome, for while the system does not require such an investment, it rewards those that do. Now magic and naval combat is where a certain other naval supplement came totally apart - so how does FaSB deal with it? In one word: Perfectly. Instead of spamming us with useless over-specialized variants of spells, we get new uses for spells: Chill/Heat Metal+ cannon = useless cannon for duration of the spell. Zombie-crew? Possible. Control Winds vs. Control Weather? Covered. Fabricate? Repairs ship-location. Prestidigitation can btw. be uses to flavor gruel if food is scarce, thus offsetting the loyalty-penalty for eating gruel all day. We also get 9 spells, one of which temporarily transforms a part of the sea into GLASS., potentially trapping ships... Oh, and yes, there also is a ghostly crew for the wholesome necromancer captains among us.



Not content with all of that? Why not build levitating ships? Ships made from bone, coral or locations perpetually engulfed in flames? Masts that prevent casualties by means of feather fall? Enchanted bowsprits? Sails that steal souls? On the character level, what about enchanted rum? Magical hammocks? Tiny mechanical monkey with an extradimensional holding space? Harnesses that conjure forth ghostly whales to draw the ship? Yes. All here.



Now so far, we've limited ourselves to combat, ship-building and crew - but what about pursuits? Fully covered. Terrain obstacles for naval pursuits? Easy creation guidelines, various samples provided.



Don't want to stat a lot of crew? We get quite a bunch of sample statblocks (though it should be noted that they use Razor Coast's simplified gunpowder-rules), but thus no gunslingers. The book mentions "Brace of Pistols" as a great supplement and I concur, though I consider the absence of gunslingers still a huge pity. Now while there are a lot f relatively generic statblocks, the occasional weird one is in here to spice all up and sample characters galore accompany this chapter.



Beyond a pirate's song to sing and animated cannons, we also get full-color ship record sheets, 5 sample ships and finally, a 1-page appendix of sample ship names.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is still very good, though a couple of minor typo-level glitches could be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard. Artwork is mostly thematically fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover of the book has solid production-values, though the paper feels slightly thinner than in other FGG-releases. The cover-illustration is a bit blurry in both the pdf and hardcover and was probably not intended as such.



*Ähem* In case you haven't noticed...look what's absent from this review: Yes. Serious complaints. This system is hilariously easy to grasp, working with established design-tenets and expanding them in a smart way that borders on being brilliant. Neither in 3.X, nor PFRPG have I ever seen such a concise, well-presented naval combat supplement - creating ships is exceedingly easy and fast, naval combat proved to be engaging for the whole group instead of for just one player and this supplement, unlike some books I've recently reviewed, does a splendid job at NOT creating logic bugs in-game. At working with the system and producing something that transcends and mops the floor with each and every naval combat system I've seen so far, offering a surprising amount of easy customization options and actually rewarding tactical combat decisions. Strategy, fun, easily implemented and presented in a truly concise manner, Lou Agresta & John Ling's "Fire as She Bears" is THE system for naval combat: Whether it's "Skull & Shackles", "Razor Coast" or something completely different - this supplement is a, let me emphasize that, MUST HAVE.



Seriously. Naval combat has never worked so smoothly, so seamlessly, so elegant. Heck, if I ever run En Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP, I'll ignore "Admiral o' the High Seas" and stat the ships with this. In spite of the work, the result will make it worthwhile. This is the perfect blend of options, solid rules, toolkit and makes for an extremely tight supplement, one I can't praise enough. I wouldn't be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints, though - the lack of sample gunslinger-characters is a very minor detriment and honestly - I wished this had been a massive 200+page book with even more options, items, naval actions, magic items and sample ships.



...Yeah. That's about all the negativity I can muster against this superb book. This is non-optional. I want sequels...plural. Enchanted viking-ships, perhaps? After all, the Northlands Saga is impending...



This belongs into the library of each and every DM who only contemplates running naval adventures, a superb offering if there ever was one and the system that banished Mongoose's 3.0 "Seas of Blood" and Paizo's own system into oblivion. It's that good. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval, in spite of minor flaws here and there as well as this being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2013. From here on out, this will be the only naval system that sees any use at my table. Congratulations to the authors for a superb job!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
The Northland Saga Part 4 - Bood on the Snow, Sword and Wizardry Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/09/2014 03:12:44
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Northlands-Saga-series is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



Still here? The area of Estinfird in the Northlands is depicted in lavish detail regarding its infra-structure and mindset - considered rather provincial by the jarls of the Northlands, this area is a true frontier among frontiers, where men are truly free and not even the yoke of jarls reaches. The geographic area by the way also includes full settlement statblocks for all mayor settlements herein, lending a further level of detail to the respective settlements. But what exactly requires the PC's intervention? well, unbeknownst to just about all mighty beings, the beast-cult of the demon god Shibauroth has been gathering its strength: Making its adherents rather stupid, but enhancing them into deadly, primitive, cannibalistic killing machines via twisted runes, the cult has risen and seems to follow a surprisingly organized plan. The PC are to travel to the largest settlement, the town of Three Rivers, where local hero Hengrid Donarsdottir has traveled. On their way, they can recruit essentially a small army of undisciplined followers and hirthmen (alas, no Ultimate Campaign-synergy) to help the beleaguered capital of Estenfird.



On their way to Three Rivers, the PCs will have chances to deal with first encounters against the Beast Cult and, via befriending the Great White Stag, potentially even turn an otherwise lethal ambush upon the bestial cultists. In order to reach the city, they'll also have to sneak past the camps of the unorganized cult. Finally, inside the town, the PCs will have a bit of time to get accustomed to the fully mapped and lavishly detailed town before the horns are sounded and the assault begins - depending on the amount of followers the PCs have recruited, the respective monsters get hurt/decimated. Oh boy - the siege is awesome - standing on doomed ground, the PCs will have to combat elementals, badger-sapper-squads and even keep a war-mammoth from breaking the nigh-impregnable gates - all while ice trolls and drakes ravage the town in one of the most concise, superb depictions of a deadly siege I've ever seen.



As the dust settles, the PCs will be in for a shock - the aasimar warrior-maiden has been kidnapped! Thus, the PCs have to enter a haunted marsh and infiltrate the poison-thorned, hedge-labyrinth of a frozen marsh maze in which the beast cult seeks to sacrifice the daughter of Thor himself in order to bring down their deadly beast-god: The finale sees the Pcs storm the ritual and hopefully free Donar's daughter from her bonds - otherwise, the terror has just begun. Oh, and bravery is required here - essentially the final encounter is insanely hard and requires the PCs to focus on their goal of interrupting the ritual - should they succeed, Thor himself will annihilate the beat cult and scourge it from the lands. And while the treasure is rather weak due to the savage nature of the cult, the Aesir don't forget the PCs, as the module concludes with a feasting held by Thor himself to congratulate the PCs - if they succeeded, that is. If they failed, they'll have a CR 22 Thanatotic Titan on their hands and survival chances that are at best slim...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed some minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to FGG's printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes both with lavish maps and artworks as well as extensive bookmarks for your convenience.



Kenneth Spencer continues to deliver and provides an exceedingly awesome, cool module that breathes the spirit of Sword & Sorcery, dark fantasy in the north and simple panache to an extent that made me marvel at how the author managed to cram that many awesome ideas into the scant few pages. Now the module is not perfect - no Ultimate Campaign-support, some minor glitches - but this is epic, versatile and just compelling in so many ways, all of these nitpicks are swiped away by the sheer awesomeness of this superb module. Fans of Northlands and their lore, savage cults and challenging modules that push your players to the edge - this is for you! This is old-school awesomeness and Frog God Games very close to at their very best - my final verdict hence will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. When do we get part 5?

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northland Saga Part 4 - Bood on the Snow, Sword and Wizardry Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
The Northland Saga Part 4 - Bood on the Snow, Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/09/2014 03:12:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Northlands-Saga-series is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



Still here? The area of Estinfird in the Northlands is depicted in lavish detail regarding its infra-structure and mindset - considered rather provincial by the jarls of the Northlands, this area is a true frontier among frontiers, where men are truly free and not even the yoke of jarls reaches. The geographic area by the way also includes full settlement statblocks for all mayor settlements herein, lending a further level of detail to the respective settlements. But what exactly requires the PC's intervention? well, unbeknownst to just about all mighty beings, the beast-cult of the demon god Shibauroth has been gathering its strength: Making its adherents rather stupid, but enhancing them into deadly, primitive, cannibalistic killing machines via twisted runes, the cult has risen and seems to follow a surprisingly organized plan. The PC are to travel to the largest settlement, the town of Three Rivers, where local hero Hengrid Donarsdottir has traveled. On their way, they can recruit essentially a small army of undisciplined followers and hirthmen (alas, no Ultimate Campaign-synergy) to help the beleaguered capital of Estenfird.



On their way to Three Rivers, the PCs will have chances to deal with first encounters against the Beast Cult and, via befriending the Great White Stag, potentially even turn an otherwise lethal ambush upon the bestial cultists. In order to reach the city, they'll also have to sneak past the camps of the unorganized cult. Finally, inside the town, the PCs will have a bit of time to get accustomed to the fully mapped and lavishly detailed town before the horns are sounded and the assault begins - depending on the amount of followers the PCs have recruited, the respective monsters get hurt/decimated. Oh boy - the siege is awesome - standing on doomed ground, the PCs will have to combat elementals, badger-sapper-squads and even keep a war-mammoth from breaking the nigh-impregnable gates - all while ice trolls and drakes ravage the town in one of the most concise, superb depictions of a deadly siege I've ever seen.



As the dust settles, the PCs will be in for a shock - the aasimar warrior-maiden has been kidnapped! Thus, the PCs have to enter a haunted marsh and infiltrate the poison-thorned, hedge-labyrinth of a frozen marsh maze in which the beast cult seeks to sacrifice the daughter of Thor himself in order to bring down their deadly beast-god: The finale sees the Pcs storm the ritual and hopefully free Donar's daughter from her bonds - otherwise, the terror has just begun. Oh, and bravery is required here - essentially the final encounter is insanely hard and requires the PCs to focus on their goal of interrupting the ritual - should they succeed, Thor himself will annihilate the beat cult and scourge it from the lands. And while the treasure is rather weak due to the savage nature of the cult, the Aesir don't forget the PCs, as the module concludes with a feasting held by Thor himself to congratulate the PCs - if they succeeded, that is. If they failed, they'll have a CR 22 Thanatotic Titan on their hands and survival chances that are at best slim...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed some minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to FGG's printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes both with lavish maps and artworks as well as extensive bookmarks for your convenience.



Kenneth Spencer continues to deliver and provides an exceedingly awesome, cool module that breathes the spirit of Sword & Sorcery, dark fantasy in the north and simple panache to an extent that made me marvel at how the author managed to cram that many awesome ideas into the scant few pages. Now the module is not perfect - no Ultimate Campaign-support, some minor glitches - but this is epic, versatile and just compelling in so many ways, all of these nitpicks are swiped away by the sheer awesomeness of this superb module. Fans of Northlands and their lore, savage cults and challenging modules that push your players to the edge - this is for you! This is old-school awesomeness and Frog God Games very close to at their very best - my final verdict hence will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. When do we get part 5?

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Northland Saga Part 4 - Bood on the Snow, Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Hex Crawl Chronicles 5 The Pirate Coast - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2013 10:49:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth installment by John M. Stater's massive Hex Crawl Chronicles-series is a massive 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,3 pages SRD, leaving us with a massive 54 pages of content - at the low price-point an excellent bang-for-buck ratio!



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



All right, still here? Much like the fourth installment, we get two full pages of hexes to crawl through, though approximately a third of them are made up by the sea. As with other Hex Crawl Chronicles, it should be noted that this is a wilderness sandbox, where PCs journey from hex to hex, stumbling over adventure and embarking on player-driven quests - this is essentially one huge sandbox in the truest sense and hence, not all adversaries that can be found or fought here adhere to one CR or come with complete statblocks, though you'll find no shortness of those in here -from CR 15 Bonny Prince Andus and his 4 subcaptains to two more lords and their subcaptains, we get quite an array of different pirates to shake up and change the dynamics of these places. While build-wise, these being are not particularly complex, we at least get them spiced up with magi and even a multiclass duelist - though personally, I wouldn't have minded a gunslinger here as well.



The Pirate Coast is a truly intriguing place, culturally - once inhabited by Stone Giants and riddled with their monuments, nowadays the colonial sea people (white-skinned travelers that arrived from over the sea), the Bull-god-worshipping, island-dwelling Bucranians and the xenophobic, mechanically savvy yet emotionally crippled "Last Men" weave a cultural panorama somewhere between memories of Mu, Crete's lore and late colonial anarchy - and yes, elven and dwarven ethnicities are also covered here and rumor-tables offer additional incentives for adventuring.



Now unlike regular adventures, herein we get an array of locales, depicted in sufficient detail for DMs to develop or run as sidetreks - and oh boy do some of them breathe imagination and panache: Take the little valley and its shallows, where dinosaur ghosts manifest and a temple left by the ancient elves hides not only a deadly portal into annihilation, but also a boon if the PCs manage to solve the complex's weird riddles. Or what about a sword guarded by energy-drain-causing swarms of deadly butterflies and their mindless zombie slaves, perhaps all following the commands of green slime hiding in the hearth...or some other being that has crafted this strange micro-ecosystem...



Death awaits foolish adventurers disturbing sealed away pit fiends and a valley that is often visited by the lord of all horses may also see potential problems if the adventurers lay their hands on his centaurs or equine servants. Covens of hags, clouds that cover you in gold, served by oblivion wraiths, goblin tribes, lonely cambions, strange dwarves led by an opal-eyed "seer", granite cliffs hiding the mansions of stone giants left behind from ages long gone, giant beaver-dams, a neutral sect of hermit monks, ritual sites of alien, long-forgotten gods from the outer dark - and even Zarathustrans, monks that believe they have transcended humanity -all of these and so much more can be found within these pages. Fur-traders, seal-headed humanoids, oracles of the woods,, a windswept plain where the spirits of the 4 Black Winds may be conjured forth, a fully mapped mini-dungeon, an alchemist who grows obedient women in vats, hunting grounds of killer squirrels, a wood-craver that can create doppelgänger made of wood, a bored goddess of fortunae, trbes of warrior-nymphs, rainbow-crows guarding divine fire... There is fodder for weeks upon weeks of adventure herein.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though by far not perfect - I noticed minor inconsistencies here and there, double letters etc. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author John M. Stater and PFRPG-conversion chief Skeeter Green have delivered us a supplement that brims with raw ideas - so many in fact, that I wager you could easily spin a whole campaign around the ideas herein. Skeeter Green has learned from part 4 and this installment of Hex Crawl Chronicles offers more variety - alchemists, magi etc. make for more versatile builds than in the previous installment and statblock-wise, we get a lot of material, though personally, I'd upgrade the magical items of most beings herein, especially of the high-level NPCs. That being said, you won't buy this for the statblocks - you buy this for the IDEAS.

Whether to supplement Skull & Shackles or Savage Tide with free-form wilderness (h)exploration or to add to Freeport or Razor Coast, this mini-setting (for that it is) brims with more awesome ideas that almost demand being made into an adventure than some campaign settings I've read. With a touch for blending familiar and lien, we are taken on a ride into realms both wondrous and distinct, where piratey coolness and a sense of Sword & Sorcery rawness mix and foolish PCs might meet their demise by annoying the wrong hermit. Now all great? Almost. For a supplement about pirate coasts, there is a distinct lack of storm/seas phenomena & ship-combat and the like and no stats for legendary pirate ships can be found in these pages - which is a bit of a pity. Still, I can't find it inside me to rate this down for its flaws - it offers too many good ideas and an just about unbeatable bang-for-buck ratio; This could literally be 1/2 a year of diligent roleplaying! Half a year spent with fun, wonder and excitement and the thrill of very old-schoolish danger. Final verdict? In spite of the flaws, 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Crawl Chronicles 5 The Pirate Coast - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2013 21:13:23
Heart of the Razor is a 4 adventure anthology of piraty adventures for your Pathfinder campaign. The adventures are a great compliment to the Razor coast adventure path but can be played completely separate in any campaign.

Each adventure brings something new to the at seas adventure, something that people will enjoy. Even what seems like the most straightforward of premises, finding treasure, takes a series of twists and turns.

What was Iron
The strongest of the adventures without question is Owen Stephens JungleFever. The story was great at pulling in the players and is staged like a 3 act next entry into Pirate of the Caribbean.

What was Not Iron
The two level 5 adventures were great, but I wish there was a lower level adventure for early level adventures.

The Iron Word
Heart of the Razor is great for that side trek adventure where the PCs find themselves on a ship and you want to establish a strong non generic adventure. The editing performs its job, giving strong side bars and a clear direction for each adventure.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2013 14:58:12
It is amazing how much time a typical party will spend on ships and boats in a Role Playing Game. With Countries, enemies and new plunders usually separated by rivers, oceans and seas, players spend at least one or two sessions in a campaign arc aboard on a sea vessel. Fire As She Bears presents a set of meaty shipbuilding and ship combat rules that will ignite those long boring sea rides.

Fire As She Bears is one of the most engrossing subsystems of Pathfinder you are going to find. The systems bread and butter is an innovative building block system that creates an abstract series areas on the ship. In these areas, you place elements such as weapons, rigging, armaments and special options. The abstractness of this block system allows players and dungeon masters to creatively design their ship without delving t into engineering logistics. Once a ship is created, a unique recruitment system allows you to make your ship functional without creating dozens of NPCs.

The Combat system significantly differs from the Pathfinders static ship to ship combat system. In order to engage all PCs in the system, they receive Leader. With another element of smart design, the roles are not specific to any class or race, but instead relate to key ability scores. During Combat, players perform actions based on these roles, damaging the opposing ship and its crew. The combat feels very epic and adds depth to what even the most mundane pirate plundering.

For the Dungeon Master
This system is built for those who like depth. The ship options are plentiful and allow for a diverse assortment of ship creations.

For the Player
This is a very player friendly system. One of my biggest beefs with sea combat is that a good many systems only speak to 2 or 3 character classes leaving the rest high and dry. This system allows for any class to shine as they must pick the right roll, right equipment and perform the right tactics.

The Iron Word
Fire as she Bears is an in depth sea combat rule system with a very different set of ship building rules. This is a great buy if you plan on a party being at sea and you want to adds some pop

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
by Jonathan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/22/2013 13:32:15
This is a nice step up from the last S&W book I looked at. Frog god games got it right on this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rule Book
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Rappan Athuk Pregens
by Arnaud A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2013 03:19:09
Useless ! Completely useless ! It's just pregens for the old 'Wizard's Amulet' module. Even with background for this adventure and not for Rappan Athuk :-/

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Rappan Athuk Pregens
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Unusual Suspects - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2013 04:44:32
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 105 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/foreword, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 97 pages of content, so let's take a look!



NPCs are the fodder of a given campaign and a DM, at least in my opinion, should have names and NPCs galore in the ready when designing a given campaign, providing a vibrant backdrop for PCs to interact with - and this pdf endeavors to provide NPCs in that vein - from the humble to the deadly.



Generally, the massive NPC-collection provides us with 3 general types of environments - Town, travel and Tunnel - each taking about one third of the pdf's page-count, providing NPCs galore. But what do we get? The entries do actually come with portrait-style, beautiful b/w-mugshots of the respective characters and if applicable, new feats, mutagens and the like. Each statblock covers either one or two pages with all necessary information covered on the respective pages, thus allowing you to print out only those NPCs you really want to use. Now let's take a cross-section of each chapter's NPCs.



The town-section kicks off with Mawuu, a young street guide/runner-boy the PCs may encounter as he tries to steal from them or point them throughout the mazes of the city's bowels- also a nice possibility to introduce him as a kind of surrogate son. A famous horse-breeder, a bareknuckle fighter looking for a less physically taxing career up to more complex characters that essentially are adventures in and of themselves - there e.g. is a saintly doctor gentlemen driven by schizophrenia (or abyssal whispers?) into becoming an alchemically-driven serial killer -Dr. Jekyll, anyone? Corrupt watchmen, bastard heir-revolutionaries, socially deadly courtesans, obnoxious celebrity adventurers with a knack of being the sole survivors of expeditions - and there also are deadly assassins, invisible stalkers that specialize in ruining reputations, legendary smiths, a lich bard, a hobgoblin assassin/serial killer, an immortal free-willed eidolon, a former master spy turned kingpin/two-face mobster boss, planar city guides and a legendary mongrelman monk. Have I mentioned the ennui-driven ruiner of reputation femme fatale vampire lady and the bone devil inquisitor?



The second chapter kicks off with an expert seeking to atone for his character flaws, an halfling doing the orphan-scam, a gorgeous snake-oil saleswoman, a wild-child turned champion, a female goblin murderess and a disturbing fanatic, scouring the lands, burning any that disagree with her fundamentalist ideology. Heretic druids, harpy bards, a tragic rogue turned paladin turned antipaladin, a legendary skald from the northlands, an elven elite archer and the ghost of the wailing queen can be found in here - as well as the witch of the crossroads, which consciously breaks the rules in a minor way, blending a witch's familiar and the diabolist's companion - in an imho VERY justified and oh so much cooler decision. Seriously - I'm all for the crunch being subject to cooler decisions/story-telling and the decision to do so is properly acknowledged, so no complaints there. Have I mentioned the half-fiendish treant barbarian?



In the depths of the world, we also get individuals who are rather unique - from a snoring, but capable loadbearer to nasty svirfneblin misers, ghast rangers, degenerate geologists driven by strange compulsions, paranoid dwarves, potion-vendors that think they are living constructs (especially cool if you use a construct-race in your campaign!), a "blind" cleric with a hidden agenda, a derro rust monster trainer draped in human-skin cloak, a serpentfolk wizard, a minotaur cleric, a deadly kobold summoner (including his eidolon Claws-in-dark), a duelist devoted to the god of death, an awakened cave deinonychus, a spider-made drow-hunting gnome lady, an oread paladin with celestial blood and both a drow inquisitor and a deadly dark stalker cave druid complete this massive collection of NPCs.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read 2-column-b/w-standard with superb, original b/w-artworks for all NPCs adding quite some value to the deal. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.



Ok, before I go on, please take a moment and read the list of designers responsible for this collection: John Ling, Liz Courts, Adam Daigle, Tom Ganz, Mike Kortes, James MacKenzie, Hal MacLean, Greg Oppedisano, David Schwartz, Amber E. Scott, Willie Walsh. Yeah. You know these names, don't you? Take a look at your dungeon/dragon-issues. At your Paizo-supplements. Yeah. I could stop the review right here and there.



I won't - instead I want to mention that the designers under lead-designer John Ling did not opt for the easy way out, instead using copious archetypes, multiclassing and also providing fodder for fans of alchemists, summoners etc. - without focusing too much on them. Add to that the fact that the respective characters actually come with evocative stories that can spawn whole campaigns, not just adventures and are actually a joy to read and we get one superb supplement that comes with faces for all characters in here, adding further to its value and well-justifying the price-point of this collection -hence I'll clock my review in at 5 stars + seal of approval: DMs out there, get this - it will enrich your campaign and take quite some work off your shoulders as well as inspire you for years to come.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unusual Suspects - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Rappan Athuk - Pathfinder Edition
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2013 02:24:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 676 pages long, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 10 pages of thanks for kickstarter backers, 4 pages of SRD, 15 pages of space for character obituaries, 5 pages of advertisements,1 page front cover and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 635 pages of content.

How does one review the third iteration of Rappan Athuk? Seriously. I asked myself this question for quite some time. Slumbering Tsar, the last monster-book by Frog God Games came in installments. Not so the granddaddy of dungeons, the so far highest grossing PFRPG-kickstarter and one of the highest funded RPG-products ever - Rappan Athuk starts off as this vast monster of content and here I am, at the point of writing this, after big-mouthed announcing that my review for this monster would be ready for Gencon. How am I to do this? In order to fully appreciate the book and quality-check the new content, I'd have to go through all of it and that's exactly what I'm planning to do. I initially thought about comparing it to its former two iterations, but with the review going to be as bloated and the limited use for people out there, I'll refrain from doing so. Since asking for mercy would be futile, I'll leave off for now with another wish: May Orcus look the other way, I once again open the pages that contain the most deadly dungeon I've had the pleasure of running in 3.X.

And how else to kick off such an epic milestone than with a tribute to the true legends among the RPG-designers like Arneson, Barker, Bledsaw, Gygax - touching and well-written. Speaking of well-written: If you know one of the older iterations of the dungeon, you'll know the legend of Rappan Athuk and have a warm (or clammy, if you're a player) feeling when reading the 66 rumors about the dungeon of graves. While an introduction on how to read the dungeon entries was expected, we also get a nice overview of all the levels and their names and then a 2-page side-view map, which makes it (relatively) easy for the DM to get how all the levels are connected. After that, we get into the first chapter, entitled "Wilderness Areas: Dying outside the dungeon". Now THAT's an announcement. Before I go on, I have another little thing to talk about: In the last two iterations of the dungeon, there were several monsters that are IP of certain wizards - when I recall such monsters being there, I'll try to comment on how they've been replaced.

Since from now on, I'll delve into massive SPOILER-territory and since this dungeon is probably the most epic you'll ever play in, I encourage players to skip to the conclusion (after about 3 metric tons of text).

Still here? If you're a player, you may incur the wrath of Orcus AND Tsathoggua by reading on. They watch us. They watch us all...
...Still here? Sure? All right, let's explore the area around Rappan Athuk! The chapter kicks off with the one ways to start old-schoolish wilderness-depictions - random encounters by area (And, again a map), thankfully also including non-hostile patrols - 5 of these general areas are presented. After that, we're introduced to the less savory individuals that haunt the area around Rappan Athuk. If you expect standard bandits, you'll be in for a surprise, though: What about a doppelganger rogue that not only comes with cronies, but also NPC-companions as a kind of party-anathema or a wizard that has enslaved a bunch of trolls? Not only are the respective bandits listed in their own entries, we also get encounter areas for PCs looking for some serious trouble/stamping out of the lawless beings: Care to take on the dragonmarsh's froghemoth, for example? Or PCs wanting to participate in a not particularly harmless fey festival? Other highlights include two mapped bandit-mini-dungeon, a fane with a dread prophecy, a sea-hag coven, a wrecked pirate ship and can purge a tribe of vicious bugbears from an (Also mapped) ruined fort and if the PCs are REALLY eager to die outside of Rappan Athuk, they can also try to invade the island home of the local wyrm...

And then, we get to the inverted-cross-shaped surface graveyard under which the dungeon rests - as well as a one page of grave-markers and the iconic entry to the dungeon: The very first trap is deadly and a potential TPK-machine - when I first ran my players through the first Rappan Athuk installment, they died here for the first time and knew that RA doesn't Screw around... In contrast to the other incarnations of the dungeon, we now also get two alternate, although also rather problematic entrance to Rappan Athuk - and deep levels of the dungeon to boot. However, the entrance is underwater, the caves are guarded by a kraken and at low levels, the PCs will probably die here - if they persevere and e.g. find the solution to a great puzzle, they might score the help of a neat ally - and the PCs can use ANY help they can get.

Another potential location from which to gain access to the legendary dungeon now rests atop a desolate ridge over the marshland and comes with a stellar artwork that immediately evokes a sense of almost lovecraftian foreboding - the cloister of the dread Frog God with two different cloisters and multiple levels of crypts and dungeons containing chthonic remains, dread intelligent killer frog swarms, old artifacts and challenges aplenty - creepy, unique in atmosphere and mood, the cloister of the Frog God would have made for a stellar adventure on its own, especially with the nice, player-friendly overview map: Here, though, it's just a precursor of the dread to come and a possible entrance to a sublevel (4A) of the dungeon of graves. But one thing remains before we delve into the dungeon of graves itself: Zelkor's Ferry, the small settlement and its immediate surroundings are detailed as well, including a nice old necromancer whose resurrection attempts may have some unforeseen consequences for the PCs subjected to theme - rules-wise an awesome throwback to the risks of returning to life.

But we've stalled long enough: Let's go through the dungeon, level by level. And yes, this review will probably be rather bloated and long... After passing the dread trap at the beginning, The PCs delve into the stinking, disgusting first level of Rappan Athuk and meet one of the place's iconic inhabitants - the slow, unkillable and truly dreadful Dung Monster (nicknamed "Dungy" by my players), which has probably slain A LOT of PCs. The level 1A, temple of the final sacrament, is another personal favorite of mine -accessible via more than one location, it features mocking, taunting inscriptions reflecting the challenges faced in this temple and PCs should beware - not only is the temple HARD, it also features an entrance to the dread bloodways, but more on these later. On Level 1B, the abandoned bastion, the PCs can encounter mist-filled alcoves containing strange and deadly connections to the otherworld as well as an organized force of goblins that will respond dynamically to incursions. Special mentioning also goes to the rather cool traps contained on this level. In direct contrast, the "Mouth of Doom" (level 1C), a mostly deserted and rather easy level makes for a new way to introduce characters to the rigors and dangers of Rappan Athuk - among the challenges and ideas on this level, most intriguing, at least to me, was the option to play at a rather neat divine slot machine and get some uncommon boons - or summon disaster! On the classic level two, insane madman Marthek still looms, but those familiar with the older installments will notice that Saracek the fallen, skeletal champion and dread adversary, has been upgraded to antipaladin in this iteration, making the undead menace even more deadly than his prior fighter/blackguard version. Of course, the third "boss" menace is also still here in the person of Ambro the Ogre.

The new area 2A will be hated by players - now, Rappan Athuk also has its teleporter-maze level. Yes. Teleporter Maze. Ouch. On the plus-side, the PCs can actually find a surface one-way teleport out of the dungeon. On the downside (for them) and to my everlasting glee, they actually have a chance to die by BUBBLES! Yes. Rappan Athuk can even kill you with friggin' bubbles! I love it. "How did your character die?" "Welll...ehh...he...was killed by bubbles." I HAVE to kill some PC off this way, I just have to! The Demon's Gullet, the sequel to the Mouth of Doom, also provides rather appropriate challenges (still being deadly, but not as bad as the main levels...) for low-level PCs and even features a wishing statue that could grant you your heart's desire - or swallow and suffocate you. Speaking of swallowing and related deaths - with level 3 and its eponymous warning of purple worms, the dungeon gets deadly. Prior to this level, Rappan Athuk is challenging - from here on out, it gets deadly as hell (or rather abyss) and this incarnation is no different - old favorites like the oracle are still present in this version of the dungeon and Scramge (now a rakshasa maharaja, btw.) and his assault should challenge the hardest of parties - unless they act smart indeed, this level WILL see the end of your PCs.

Speaking of the end of PCs - the warning "Don't go down the well" still applies - and level 3A, still features some of the deadliest, most sadistic encounters written - not to speak of this level's boss and his iron golem bodyguards. That's NOTHING, though, compared to the sick and deliciously evil traps that can be found on level 3B - here, the PCs can get into CR 20+ encounters. Several of them. E.g. Greater Stone Golems plus hasted regular stone golems. Or Stone Treants. Have I mentioned the ancient mummy lords guarding the creatures known as ravager spawns (CR 20), gibbering orbs (CR 27) and then, the legendary Ravager, a CR 30 beast that could very well be a spawn of Rovagug. Compared to the apocalyptic dread of level 3B, 3C, the third of the "beginner's levels" of RA feels almost tame - an enclave of healers wanted to once flush out the threat of Orcus. Now, though, only a bleak disease-ridden complex populated by vermin and worse remains. Especially the fountain of pestilence, which generates demons, rats etc. will make for a cool encounter indeed also thanks to the disturbing artwork that portrays it.

It is in level 4 that the PCs will face off with the main quest of Rappan Athuk for the first time - since the ultimate goal (and who are we kidding - rather futile) is to kill Orcus, it is here that the PCs will have to invade the first temple of Orcus and get a sense of the depravity and things to come - and face challenges that will have them sweat blood and tears: The NPCs make use of the Disciple and Zealot of Orcus Prestige Classes (more on those MUCH later), making the adversaries more deadly. Max the intelligent and potentially benevolent (at least as far as RA goes...)otyugh also makes a return. How challenging is the boss encounter? Well, the text tells the DM to buy the players a drink if they prevail and indeed, the finale is lethal...though in the context of the dungeon, it's just the beginning. The Basilisk Caverns (level 4A) include a potential dwarven cohort, the eponymous basilisk(s), a team of lethal goblin adventurers and even a mated pair of vampire/succubus with a rather evil trick up their sleeves... Level 4B, the "Gut" is essentially not a regular level, but a vast tunnel with several sub-sections that links the "beginner's dungeon" (understand that "beginner" means NOT easy) with the main-levels of Rappan Athuk - via Zombie stables, a subterranean inn run by a mongrelman, a colony of plantoids and more foes - including a Tiefling fighter with a rather interesting two-weapon build.

Level 5 provides us with the lair of Banth, wicked transmuter and his creations. Here, players can recruit further allies (or replenish their ranks after suffering losses) with two characters and especially rangers and druids might have a chance to shine/get nice companions in this level. A stream of lava runs through level 5A, the prison of time, in which time elementals guard the so-called Dark Thelaroi are contained - I look forward to reading more about these weird beings in future adventures. In level 5B, "Aladdin's Lament", some problematic, genie-themed items can be recovered - if the PCs manage to survive e.g. the ingenious and awesome trap that will make them feel like frogs in a blender. The level also utilizes some rather neat inscriptions to set the mood. Level 6 has always been one of my player's hate-levels - the Maze not only contains a storm giant ghost and the remains of the legendary titan Ereg-Tal, but also comes with 10 (!!!) sample mazes for your perusal - making sure that PCs will hate these labyrinthine corridors. Level 6A once featured a mind flayer in a gorgeous illustration - unfortunately, with the IP-problems, we only get the intellect devourer-substitution and no new illustration to depict the aberration. The bosses of the level, 3 ancient, well-equipped trolls and the spider/human hybrid, the Spider Queen, also make this level a nice challenge.

Level 7, the aptly-named gates of hell, has also been redesigned: While the cerberus-like 3-headed hell-hound being still here, we also get a great substitution of the mind-flayers and giths that once populated this level in the guise of encephalon gorgers and morlocks - a much better r3eplacement for illithids, though I still bemoan the absence of the good ol' squid-heads. In Level 7A, the halls of the phase minotaur king, the PCs not only will have to defeat this legendary minotaur and navigate even more deadly labyrinths, they will also have to deal with more lethal goblins from the subterranean city of greenskins and a crimson death as well as water weirds in their native elements... Level 8 contains the "Tomb of the Evil King", a breather for PCs - at least partially - the vast amounts of cave scorpions, the river flowing through the level and the eye of the deep (which replaces a beholder) still make this a challenge, as does the option to find and unleash a banshee, but generally, this level feels less lethal than others. Level 8A, the tomb of the beacon, on the other hand is one of my favorites: This vast level set in a primarily vertical cave features not only a waterfall, antimagic fields and a side-view map, but also offers PCs the chance to meet the utterly disturbing Blood Orchids and even form an alliance with flumphs! Come on, who doesn't like flumphs? The new level 8B contains not only a neat subterranean jungle, but also has the chance for the PCs to find evidence of a now extinct breed of intelligent apes and utilize their leftovers: Turns out the mummified monkey dung is explosive and that among other treasures, the PCs can find a banana of holding! Now that is cool!

And honestly, the PCs will need all the potential tools they can get their hands on, for starting with level 9, things start to get truly painful: The second temple of Orcus awaits and its caretaker, Gudmund, has a vital key the PCs will need. Unfortunately for them, the disciple of Orcus is not exactly a nice fellow and the demon-enhanced showdown will challenge your PCs to the breaking point - especially if you're a sadistic DM like me - there's a maze with a bunch of teleporters on this level and making a running dash for the area allows your NPCs e.g. time to rebuff - just as a tip in case players first manage to breach the temple's defenses and seem like they're winning. ;) Level 9A, the Hydra's Lair, contains one of the truly evil dick-moves of this dungeon: Extremely well-hidden, there's a tomb of a CR 26 death knight AND a CR 27 Demilich. When compared to these "bonus-bosses" of epic power, the normal foes like huge groups of trolls, a pair of umbral dragons and a 12-headed Pyrohydra guarding the mithril gates leading to level 11 feel almost easy. Until you recall and experience their power that is. Hope that your PCs are smart enough to let the two ancient beings lie... Level 9B and 9C make up the two levels of the well of Agamemnon and while the first level is not too hard, the whirlpool the PCs will have to brave to access the latter level will test their luck and ingeniousness, a good precursor for the difficulty that awaits the PCs in the person of Agamemnon, the now-corrupted vampire archwizard and his groaning spirit-brides.

Level 9D are the bloodways, first introduced in Rappan Athuk Reloaded: Taking the trope from the classic "Desert of Desolation"-set, the bloodways are a labyrinth filled with bloody, red mist that obscures vision, are almost impossible to truly navigate and make up 4 (!!!) levels of dungeon - the bloodways are flavorful and confusing, though their boss, Duke Aerim the bloodwraith, feels rather like a bit weak for the level. That being said, the confusing and lengthy nature of the Bloodways makes it still a disturbing challenge and perhaps one of the hardest levels - and there are the forgotten tombs, where undead mummy-priests and even a marilith awaits, so enough potential for death and mayhem here. Let's hope that by the time PCs reach level 10, the aptly-named Lava Pit, they have some option to make themselves immune to fire, otherwise the local salamander-population under the command of CR 28 noble salamander sorceror Irtuk will annihilate the PCs. Who are we kidding? Even if they are prepared, Irtuk and his elemental creatures will constitute a challenge that could break all but the most experienced players - and let's hope that their curiosity doesn't kill them - there's essentially a nice "story-kill" also possible on this level. Level 10A, the "Great Cavern" is appropriately-named - with another total of 4 pages of maps depicting both an overview as well as the respective sites. Among the creatures herein, the PCs can find the "Mother of all Purple Worms", two legendary orcus-mummies, negotiate with an insanely powerful lich who actually is a foe of Orcus, navigate a colony of fungus people and find another set of mithral gates and even a vein of gold! In level 10B, the goblin outpost features some rather interesting green-skins - armed to the teeth, having multiple class-levels and teamwork powers, they and their unit training should make the PCs reconsider hard any notion of underestimating goblins and provide them with a taste of the things to come.

In level 10C, the Talon of Orcus, another outpost of the Orcus-worshippers, has also a rather large contingent of deadly foes and overshadows the goblins from the prior level - the Seer of Orcus, special stone golems etc. won't make things easier for the PCs and the broken, MPD-afflicted adventurer they can rescue may yet succumb to the traumas he had to endure - with potentially fatal consequences, but also some very fun roleplaying potential. On level 11, the PCs can encounter, among other beings, a neothelid (which replaces a beholder, if my memory serves me correctly) as well as find the statue of a high priestess struck by a divine curse - greed and risk/reward ratios of groups are put to the test here, though I always considered it a pity that per se no way to free the priestess has been included. Oh, have I mentioned the mithral vein? Level 11A not only features the gates to the subterranean city of goblins, but also perhaps the hardest group of NPCs in the "rival adventurer"-style encountered so far with non only a hall of 40 wraiths at their beck and call, a group of high-level vampires will bleed the PC's resources further dry. Wait, you say: Goblin City? Yes, one of the largest levels of Rappan Athuk is the meticulously detailed Goblin City of Greznek in level 12A - a roleplaying town that comes with its own attitude-adjustment sidebox and the options for starved adventurers to not only stock up, but actually do some trading and even side-questing, making this city a great alternative and break from all the dungeon crawling. Level 12 contains a whole array of potential cohorts and the reason is rather evident by its title: The Slave Dens contain all those unfortunate enough to have been caught by the servants of Orcus or the goblins and it is from here, if anywhere, that the PCs will need to stage their escape attempt should they get caught alive by anyone. Worse for the PCs, two elite priests, their mohrgs and their option to summon a balor also are a part of the fun things they can encounter this level. Another cool break from standard dungeon crawling would be level 12B, Tiamat's Puzzle, in which the PCs do explore a dungeon, yes, but one focused very strongly on riddle-solving and with a different theme. It is here the PCs may find a potent sword, which remains cursed for now - until they find the parent-sword in the vermin-themed level 12C, that is. This level is more about mass than threat and probably will have the PCs feel a surge of power, which is ok, I guess -especially since the giant amphisbaena anaconda is waiting for worn-down, overconfident PCs...

Level 13 houses a dread ghost antipaladin - and options to die. Hard. By becoming cursed, by facing a mirror duplicate and by failing to properly navigate the portal on this level, for it is here that the only point of access to the final level can be found. But we'll return to examine that later - after we've checked out the Goblin Barracks and the military commander of the greenskins (13A), followed the winding Dark River (13B) to Zombieland (13C). Where, bingo, a LOT of zombies wait. To be chopped to pieces. That's fine, let the PCs smash through whole armies of them and find a way to access the "Lost Levels" as soon as they are released. As soon as the PCs are overconfident enough, they can find a wall of force - if they bash it down, they'll have fun with 2 CR20+ liches and the dread evil artifact, the Zombiestone of Karsh. Now if you're familiar with the classic mythology of demon-princes, you may not be surprised to find that the defense of the lowest of the three temples of Orcus falls to not only extremely powerful beings, but actually to a combination of demons, undead and disciples as well as Maphistal, a demon lord of his own right. If the PCs manage to clean this temple as well, they might actually have a teeny-tiny sliver of a chance against the Demon Prince of Undead. Level 14A houses a tragedy - it is here that the defeated army of Tsar retreated to and that a fallen angel and a dwarven undead abomination still lead an army of hundreds (literally, there are that many) undead in their congregation, guarding level 14B, aptly titled "The Grand Cornu of Orcus" - here, the high-priest of the demon-lord of the undead makes his final stand, here his shadow-advisor Pagonis, his Kyton torture-master, his denizen of leng librarian Ashfallen and his personal, powerful undead servants wait and work tirelessly for the detriment of all that is good and holy and it is here that the epic battle against this stain upon the planet will reach its penultimate climax- at least, that's what one would think until one sees the "Architect's Workshop" (level 14C) - where legendary planar architect Glazerel waits alongside his anima engine, where PCs can be hurtled to seemingly prehistoric times, a strange mercane-bar tended by valkyries, awaken stranded in a Kyton-hospital (Silent Hill is calling...), travel to a strange garden eden, battle an undead gold dragon and visit a plateau that might very well be adjacent to Leng itself - the planar chaos and dimensional sidetreks are plain awesome and make this my favorite new level of the dungeon.

Speaking of which: Only one to go: Level 15. The Den of the Master. When the PCs, covered in their own blood and naked, pop up in this dimension, they are in for an immediate blasphemy for fun and giggles, continuing blasts of evil energy and can kiss regaining clerical magic goodbye. Apart from highest echelon demons, we also get a selection of Orcus' most powerful level 20 allies as well as..well. Orcus' friggin' avatar. CR 35. The PCs better be running for that teleporter circle to et as fast away as possible from the Demon Prince. Though, of course, if they prevail, Orcus is gone for 666 years and their feat will be sung of in legends forevermore...

The pdf also contains stats for all new monsters, an appendix with the "Disciple of Orcus"-archetype, the Archwizard and Zealot of Orcus-PrCs, a total of 38 new magic items (of which many are artifacts), an appendix detailing the presumed default gods of the Necro/FrogGod-verse, illustrated pregens for level 1 and 6 of all CORE-classes, but not of the APG/UM/UC-classes, a total of 37 pages of battle-maps as well as the aforementioned obituary-sheets, which imho will see a lot of use...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches and the scarce minor formatting glitch did not detract from my enjoyment of this mega-dungeon. Layout adheres to FGG's two-column b/w-standard and the most iconic of the b/w-artworks have been re-used from the previous two iterations. It should be known, though, that we also get a vast slew of new pieces of art of a comparably stellar quality. One major upside since the latest incarnation of Rappan Athuk is that all encounters feature directly the CR-ratings for the respective areas, which is a huge help, as is the decision to include major statblocks where they are needed in the dungeon - layout wise, especially in direct comparison, this version of Rappan Athuk first mops the floor with its predecessors and then gobbles up the remains. The pdf has also been lovingly bookmarked, enabling easy navigation in this monster.

Rappan Athuk is perhaps the best dungeon released for 3.X. In my opinion, it's the best dungeon-centric module for the system. However, it had its weaknesses: While the initial levels had been detailed to the nth degree, the final levels felt a bit more abrupt and less imaginative. Another weakness was that the module(s) did not offer anything for low-level PCs to do. And finally, the wilderness was not as detailed as I would have liked it to be. These three weaknesses have been purged in the PFRPG-iteration - with the new low-level dungeon, PCs can suffer from 1st level on. The new wilderness-areas and 0-level entry-levels to the dungeon of graves are glorious. The sideview map means I don't need a spreadsheet of connections between areas to navigate the dungeon. The Frog God's Cloister would have made for an awesome module in itself. And the bonus-content keeps on coming: Even when compared with the reloaded version, the latest iteration feels vastly superior - minor ties to Tsar and the upcoming Sword of Air (which are always unobtrusive and don't require the ownership of either), top-notch new levels at the higher levels of the dungeon, more deadly foes, more artifacts and even cool utilizations of PFRPG-rules - Plain awesome all around.
Now is there something I did not enjoy as much? Well, yes. I'm a huge fan of the APG-classes and you'll find no alchemist, no inquisitor, no magus etc. here (though witches are there). I would have enjoyed more support for them. The replacements of IP-protected monsters make sense and work well in the context of the dungeon and serve to mostly enrich their environments, not detract from them. (Though I still miss mindflayers...)

So. After writing this review for x hours, reading the whole monster thrice, I can say I look forward to my kickstarter-exclusive level and the bonus modules as well as the player's guide, all of which will also be reviewed in due time by yours truly. For now, I'll have to give my final verdict and even if my copy of Slumbering Tsar wasn't growling at me from my bookshelf, I couldn't rate this any lower than the full 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval - this could literally be all the deadly, imaginative old-school dungeon-goodness you'll ever need.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rappan Athuk - Pathfinder Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Displaying 1 to 15 (of 87 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG