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Mini-Dungeon IWG05: The White Wyrm Awakens
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/11/2016 08:33:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintery Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


The adventurers have met the Hvíturiddare, the riders of winter wyrms - and the Vikmordere, trusting the PCs, reveal that not all are worthy to ride these magnificent beasts into battle...nor are all wyrms capable of becoming mounts, even with the wyrmreins - hence, the PCs are guided to Ormurhellinum - in this sanctuary, the PCs have to collect magical ice shards while besieged by winter wyrmlings - only to finally enter the sanctum, where a full-blown winter wyrm will attack - taking the wyrmreins item, the PCs will have to mount the raging beast and stay on it, while it tries to squash them - only the bravest of heroes will triumph - but have a superbly powerful mount while the reins are in place...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's fifth mini-dungeon for ITWG is friggin' AWESOME. High-concepts, awesome benefit, evocative culture and dungeon - superb. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any hesitation.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG05: The White Wyrm Awakens
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Adventure Chronicle #1
by Richard H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/10/2016 15:12:35

Not bad for a first issue the reviews were nice and love the fact that the ads are all hyper linked to websites for the products. The biggest problem I had was that the whole issue seemed very heavily leaned towards pathfinder. The one 5E adventure seems like it would run great and will probably try it out in the upcoming weeks. But I would really liked to have seen a duality in the non adventure content (i.e. The Menagerie, The Arcanarium, The Gauntlet) and have both a Pathfinder and 5E version of that content. Otherwise great first issue and will deffinitely be looking to pick up the next one.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Chronicle #1
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Mini-Dungeon IWG04: Ways of the Old
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2016 02:39:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintery Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


Sorrow's Snekkja may be the key to quenching the evil slumbering within Serpent Lake - unfortunately, the most reliable source who may know about this elusive item would be the well-known skald Boddi Boddason, whose last known destination was the crypt of a forgotten jarl - hence, the pdf are off to examine exactly this complex - and the PCs indeed find it...and the hints of Boddi's presence, drawing them further and further into the complex, only to find a makeshift office...and the skald deceased...but thankfully, his journal does provide a hint...but the PCs will have to escape the powerful aptrgangrs that stand guard within these confines - and yes, the combat here can be avoided, the curse broken - if the PCs are well-versed and smart enough to realize the option...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's fourth mini-dungeon does it right: We have a great, flavorful build-up; evocative read-aloud text...and non-combat means to resolve the danger. Traps and even a bit of investigation set-up (optional) are provided - this is great and makes the formula work in spite of its brevity. My final verdict is 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG04: Ways of the Old
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Mini-Dungeon IWG03: The Jotunn Encampment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/08/2016 15:31:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintery Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


The adventure assumes that the adventurers have returned to Völfsheimr with Jarl Vornig's artifacts - in their absence, a scouting party has discovered an encampment of Jötunn-kin in an abandonned Vikmordere fortress - the encampment needs to be neutralized. Enter the PCs. The main adversaries in the encampment are høyondes and the fortress actually sports a pass-code clever PCs may unearth as well as means of freeing hostages - and, via a levitating ruby, the PCs will have a chance to rub their triumph in to the Jötunn king...provided they manage to defeat their powerful adversaries.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's third expansion-mini-dungeon for Into the Wintry Gale is an unpretentious, fun little side-trek versus smart-acting adversaries - a fun romp and well tied into the main story. No complaints there, though the mini-dungeon does not have this one elevating idea of genius. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for a good mini-dungeon.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG03: The Jotunn Encampment
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Mini-Dungeon IWG02: Snowblind Sanctuary
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/06/2016 05:30:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintry Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


Stumbling through a particularly nasty blizzard in the mountains, the PCs stumble into a tunnel of an abandoned Vikmordere sanctuary - and it is unique: Deadly traps and atmospheric environments hearken, including a concise, relatively logical puzzle. Now it should be noted that, much like the first module, this does use a creature from Into the Wintry Gale (and an item from Raider's Haul as one treasure) as a combat challenge. Now here's what I did - I ignored it. Radical, right? No, seriously, this mini-complex works surprisingly well for 2 pages as a pure exercise in atmosphere and ruin-exploration...which is testament to the concise writing herein...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's second Into the Wintry Gale-expansion mini-dungeon is more versatile than the first and sports an ultimately more interesting complex alongside an intriguing little puzzle that makes sense. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars for a solid, nice dungeon.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG02: Snowblind Sanctuary
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Mini-Dungeon IWG01: Den of the Glacial Bear
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/04/2016 02:59:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Additionally, it should be noted that this is intended for use in conjunction with the upcoming "Into the Wintry Gale"-saga.


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


The PCs stumble across a heavily injured vikmordere-raider, who has been badly mauled by a glacial bear (stats can be found in the associated ItWG-books; if you don't have access to them, template a bear with a winter/frost-themed template) and asks the PCs, if they save him, to save his brothers. The cave itself shows the brutal struggle between man and nature. Exploring the well-described, but otherwise pretty bland cave, the PCs can find survivors and finally face off with the glacial bear - who was defending her cubs from the vikmordere - but the angry beast isn't playing nice...


Having defeated the creature, it's up to the players how to treat the surviving cubs - leaving them to their fate is a sure death-sentence...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art - kudos!


Justin Andrew Mason's first Into the Wintry Gale-expansion sports nice read-aloud text and a brief sidetrek - but that's about it. Personally, I got nothing out of this one - the fluff is nice, but there isn't that much to do - explore the caves, witness the build-up, fight boss, done. It's an okay mini-dungeon, but lacks the evocative setting the better ones have in spite of their brevity. Basically, this is a creature-showcase for the creature in the associated book. I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mini-Dungeon IWG01: Den of the Glacial Bear
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Shattered Heart Adventure Path #4: Crucible of Faith
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/11/2016 04:46:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The (for now) final installment of the superb Shattered Heart-saga clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let's take a look and answer the question whether this installment managed to retain the ridiculously high quality of the first three parts of the series!


This being an adventure-review, the following text contains MASSIVE SPOILERS. Potential players should not read ahead and jump to the conclusion instead.


...


..


.


Still here? Only GMs around? Great! So the worst is done, right? I mean, this powerful paladin has been establishing an outpost on the wild, jungle-island with its volcano, what can possibly go wrong? Everything. The PCs are on trek to the burning isle...and it's not looking good. Upon arriving at the newly established colony, they are not welcomed as saviors - for the few people that do exist still on this accursed land lack the strength to do so. Diseases run rampant throughout the settlement - from bubonic plague to slimy doom and worse, all are afflicted...including the paladin Faerilon. Provided the PCs can care for the weakened populace, they'll notice a couple of disquieting developments - when an ashen giant with a rather dark sense of humor arrived, people were all too happy to have the massive brute help with construction - even though his tree-slingshot-like means of transporting proved perilous for the smaller population...but when people started disappearing, getting sick...well, who if not that leprous brute to blame? Under pressure, the poor sap of a paladin ventured forth to slay the giant - who happily obliged in combat, but ultimately proved to be no match for the holy warrior...who had, in fear and ignorance just slain a creature based on prejudice...and promptly fell. This is when a grotesque, equine-skull-headed monstrosity took the paladin...and did things to him. From there on, it only took a dead cleric to make the local situation escalate at a horrid pace - welcome PCs, enjoy your all-expenses not paid trip to killer plague island incorporated!


Kidding aside, the module goes into ample depth regarding the fighting of the various plagues and caring for the populace and, much like in the installments before, the PC's actions do matter - the community point score (handy tracker included) determines the ultimate outcome of this module. Whether or not the PCs manage to save the populace or not, the module can be pictured as pretty much a sandboxy exploration of a rather hostile wilderness environment: Strange ape-men (kech) are hiding in the jungle alongside their disease-carrying ape companions and if the PCs don't intervene, even reaching the final temple, much less restoring it, will prove to be nigh impossible. In the forests, multiple fully mapped encounters await and grisly talismans lead deeper and deeper into kech territory. A particularly grisly find awaits the PCs upon finding the remains of the slain ash giant - entombed in mud and focus of dread magics, the mud-baked carcass rises as the new monster herein - lavishly illustrated the dread yercindere with its tentacles and diseases makes for a dread agent of the mastermind behind the kech's aggressions - in case you haven't figured that out by now: A leukodaemon stalks the jungles and he and his allies make for brutal foes and deadly ambushes - but unless the PCs stop these dread beings, there's probably be no colony left to return to...


Making their way past the hellish jungle (potentially infected with a disease/poison-combo that is a truly nasty affliction), the PCs will have to make their way in the direction of the badlands, where steam geysers and vaporized flesh provide icky hazards and fallen gobbets of leprous flesh bespeak a horrid sense of humor on the side of the remaining, though not necessarily hostile ash giant, who btw. takes the news of his brother's death with a cynic pun...and provides directions, when prompted - to either the "big" trouble of the "little" one. Hint: Both are truly nasty territories titan centipedes or HUGE amounts of army ants - the PCs will unknowingly pick their poison, while hopefully not falling prey to the roaming belkers. Btw.: The ant-combat may be actually the more lethal of the two - one careless application of fire and the PCs face off against a nasty grass fire - full, detailed hazard rules provided.


And yes, in the end, the PCs will have to scale the mountain - these climbing challenges take magic into account...and if you're like me, you may actually want to flesh out that section a bit: Call to Arms: Ropes by Fat Goblin Games imho makes with its pioneering a nice supplement to enrich the trip through the jungle further. Well, suffice to say, the climbing PCs may well draw the attention of multiple flame drakes. The crater itself sports a unique type of magical flora, firefrost moss, which can provide an interesting edge - for, within the crater, a massive tree of obsidian looms, as lava trickles in streams from it - the PCs have to brave magma oozes and elementals crazed by the desecration of the tree in a furious and truly intriguing combat - with streams of lava and the tree standing at the very edge of the volcano, the PCs can meet rather grisly demise due to the smart selection of foes. Attaching the proper, healthy branch may see the tree come back to health and the PCs return home to live happily ever after...right?


...


Wrong. Instead of a hero's welcome, the PCs are greeted by emissaries from the eldermoot and a newly reinstated paladin, with papers that show Carlyetta (and them!) to have been deemed guilty of heresy - uncommon harshness for the eldermoot, for sure. However, neither the inevitable waiting in the wings, nor the paladin or the halflings seem to care much...let's hope that astute PCs realize that one of the envoys is indeed their asura foe in disguise, which can potentially make the finale easier...but still challenging. Should the PCs prevail, it's once more time to tally up the community points and see how Carlyetta's mission has went - how much communal spirit and openness is within the hearts of halflings very much depends on them...and whether Carlyetta has to rejoin the fallen leaves among the clergy. Their foe may be defeated...but the corruption at the heart of the eldermoot and the accusation of heresy surely provide ample means for further adventuring...and hopefully epilogue modules in the future...


As always, the pdf does contain player-friendly versions of the gorgeous maps, with and without grids.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to AAW Games' two-column full-color standard for the series and the book sports multiple awesome full-color artworks. Cartography is absolutely superb and quality-wise excellent. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the PoD-premium dead tree version sports a neat glossy cover, thick paper and vibrant colors.


Michael Allen's final installment depicting the re-consecration of the holy tree-shrines of Piccolo is perhaps the most conventional of the modules - compared to the mind-bogglingly evocative third installment, the overall set-up is less complex, less fantastic...and needs to be played to truly work its magic. The combination of elemental themes and pervading sense of decay suffusing the environments herein work in more subtle ways, but they do work - where the previous installments required quick thinking and focused on a wide diversity of tasks, the structure of this module very much mimics the flame and fire of its element: It begins with a slow burn, ignites and then continues to increase the heat. Unlike the previous modules, this one's focus is less on investigation and more on pure wilderness survival against a cadre of lethal adversaries and challenges. This does not, by any means, make the module bad, mind you - the modular, somewhat sandboxy depiction of the island and its perils fits the theme and provides a welcome change of pace, with "burning" - both physically and metaphorically (fear, faith, rage, disease, etc.), constituting an apt leitmotif for the module. While my personal favorite remains the third of these modules, ultimately all of them, this included, can be considered to be masterpieces; to what extent depends on your taste, but their quality as such cannot be doubted.


My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and, yes, nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2015.


Since this seems, for now, to be the last of the Shattered Heart-adventures, let me with some observations regarding the whole adventure arc (APs are whole campaigns in my book that span at least two thirds of PC-levels...):


Shattered Heart is one of the smartest and most rewarding linked series of adventures I've read. The saga constantly takes note and the community point gauge for moral behavior works well, though the farther the modules progress, the easier it becomes to maintain a good chunk of them. The tactics of the primary antagonist are a joy and befitting of a creature sporting this intellect and agenda. Maps that feature illusions as handouts remain one of my favorite things to see in a given module and going the extra mile in that regard is fantastic. The awareness of modularity and fact that this series assumes smart players is refreshing - players are rewarded constantly for using their brain and showing compassion.


The critical achievement of the series, to me, lies in the fact that it takes basically one of the blandest plotline-structures (Re-consecrate elemental temples? Oh, haven't seen that one before...) and blows you away with it - both thanks to the unique cultures and downright awesome environments you explore, this series manages to make the old trope of elemental temples actually work with a narrative vibrancy that invigorates one's inspiration. The problem for all authors out there, though, is that from now on, any elemental-themed module will automatically be compared with this series...and beating it will be exceedingly difficult. The end of the saga if open and deservedly so - the Shattered Heart-series presented herein very much inspired me as a GM...and it certainly could use two or three follow-up modules...perhaps the "Sickened Heart"? The curious amount of two rather rare outsiders, time and again, do point towards further threats to Piccolo...and I sure as hell want to see the PCs trying to clear Carlyetta's name, engage in the shadow politics and backdealing of the society here...heck, should this ever be made into a hardcover, rest assured that both setting and expanded adventure-possibilities exist in abundance. The fact that each module plays differently, but manages to retain the same exceedingly high quality standard is impressive - most series sooner or later falter, at least a bit. This does not. Shattered Heart, as a collective, is a gem that establishes Michael Allen as one of my favorite adventure authors. Get these modules - they're worth every single penny.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Heart Adventure Path #4: Crucible of Faith
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A00: Crow's Rest Island
by Peter C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2016 13:30:37

This is my first download from AAWGames. The production values are top notch and the adventure introduction and setting are well-detailed.


The adventure itself is atmospheric and moody. I like the consistent dark tone. The encounters can be insanely dangerous, if I'm reading them correctly, but that's par for the course for a published Pathfinder adventure.


I can find no technical flaws in the PDF and the adventure content is consistent and well written. Five stars!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A00: Crow's Rest Island
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Shattered Heart Adventure Path #3: The Breath of the Goddess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/07/2016 04:06:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of the so far truly superb Shattered Heart-saga clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


...


..


.


All right, still here? Great! When the continent-sized Dracoprime fell, the halflings of the idyllic island archipelago suffered; abandoned by their erstwhile allies, the culture that developed twists familiar tropes: Medium-sized humanoids, indentured workers (slaves by another name) became one of the few contacts to other races and xenophobia thrived. When the redeemed cleric Carlyetta recruited the PCs to re-establish the tree-temples of the great mother, the PCs were in for quite a culture shock as they learned about the eldermoot, social structures and the culture of the archipelago. However, as often, dark forces scheme and plan and the quest to restore the temples is fraught with perils - as the PCs embark to the third of these temples, they get a great first glance look at the cataclysmic, almost imaginable proportions that haunted the halflings.


The temple of air is perhaps one of the most unique structures to ever grace the pages of a module: Picture 4 titanic arcs rising from the sea, arcs that channel raging winds into a massive, miles-high tree-shaped titanic structure of clouds. Now picture one of these arcs broken, smashed by continent-sized bones of the legendary Dracoprime, with ancient bone-protrusions emerging from the rugged waves - it is this vista that graces the PCs and re-establishing the temple properly will not be easy.


Each of the arcs sports means of anchoring, sure - provided they can prevent their vessel from crashing while docking, but it is one in particular the PCs will have to explore - and it is here they'll be greeted by a sight most ominous, as pickled corpses dangle in the wind and screeching screams emit from the eternal storm. This is the handiwork of a well-meaning, but utterly insane bard and as the PCs explore the complex, they'll find scenes of grisly butchering and stumble over multiple sepia snake sigils placed to halt the progress of explorers. With a deranged stalker, the PCs bear witness to a tale of woe, as the last days of the halfling clergy is conveyed via ample amounts of journals, as they try hard to piece together the use of strange artifacts. Beyond the stalking adversary and lethal outsiders awaiting in the complex, this whole section can be considered one gigantic puzzle - not a puzzle in the traditional way, but in the act of exploration - as the PCs explore the complex, more and more pieces of information are gathered in the all but abandoned halls and from these, alongside their own knowledge, may they deduce how to restore the temple to former glory...if they are not wasted away by the scouring, maddening winds that begin to drive them insane the moment they arrived. It should be noted that the insane bard can be saved - and smart PCs better should do so.


Why? Well, for one, like the previous books, the community point tracker is always there in the background, tracking transgressions and kindness as a kind of meter for how, by action, they can influence not only Carlyetta, but the very soul of the halfling people of Piccolo. The insane bard knows - he knows about the fall of the last cleric, who has buried himself upstairs in the arc after cannibalizing his brethren - and it is due to this foe that the poor man pickled the corpses, tried to make them unpalatable for the ravenous undead...who awaits upstairs, buried alive by his own hand. (And yes, there are alternate ways to learn about him.) Now I mentioned outsiders...well, there is a brutal and glorious encounter: You see, these fellows have illusions...and the pdf actually provides a map for the illusion into which the PCs stumble! Map-wise, the presence of the like goes above and beyond - kudos indeed, this is what I always wanted to see!


Now the tainted, perverted undead does have a mob of undead (rules all too seldom used) and does look a bit like a "boss" for the module...and he is. However, the true challenge lies, ultimately, in research of the arch, in putting the pieces together - like Indiana Jones exploring an ancient ruin, the strange archeology that is the leitmotif here is absolutely unique and hearkens back to the wild-eyed exploration of ruins in old-school modules...only that now, we have degrees of skill-check-failures to determine functionality, various means of upgrading skills via learned knowledge...etc. Sure, your maxed out scholar character has a chance to know on his own how to use components required to repair the temple...but if you lack such a character, you'll still have a lot of information to uncover and, like e.g. The Witcher's approach to knowledge, the more you learn, the higher are your chances for success. Of course, all of this would be much easier without a volatile madman and winds that literally undermine your sanity...but the PCs are adventurers for a reason, right?


Now, there is another issue waiting in the wings: If you've followed my reviews so far, you'll know that a particularly nasty asura plots the downfall of the whole project...or rather, it's perversion via enigmatic cyclopean runes. Now, at this point, your players have had chances to uncover the Byzanthine plot, sure - but considering the brains and smart approach of the adversary, they required their investigative A-game to do so...and manage to work within the confines of the social structure of the halflings while doing so. The chance for success is slim, but it should be noted that this book actually devotes almost a full page to the chance that the PCs want to follow up on these leads prior to even engaging the module - yes, this has basically an inversion-sandbox option. Now that is truly awesome. Where am I going with this? Well, as the PCs manage to piece together the means to restore the temple, they'll be sooner or later greeted by a sight most peculiar, as a raft of dødelig arrive, drawn by the no longer madness inducing winds. In case you're not familiar with these beings: Think "non-evil petrified-bones-undead halflings with a love for life and Dia de los Muertos-aesthetic" who were the result of the most powerful lich's final spell. The macabre entourage is hassled by psychopomps seeking to destroy them and hopefully, the PCs intervene and are not suckered in by the outsiders - you see, the dødelig need help. Living in one vertebra of the massive fallen skeleton, the undead beseech the PCs to follow them through the spine of the fallen Dracoprime, where tons of water are kept at bay by the inherent magic of the titanic skeleton.


Thus, the PCs travel through a location most mysterious and the journey will be perilous - with yaoguai, crysmals and karkinoi, we have an uncommon, cool array of adversaries befitting of the unique terrain - and yes, the encounters have individual maps. Once the PCs have made the perilous journey to the dødelig's home, they'll see perhaps one of the weirdest settlements ever - beyond being inside the friggin' Dracoprime and VERY far below the sea, huts of fishbone and ancient folkmusic tunes complement an overall thoroughly weird locale - from the village in the spinal cavity of the titanic skeleton, they'll have to delve deeper to confront the insane dødelig sorceror who can btw. merge with his kin via the dødeligation-spell into a powerful amalgam. Still, this is not how it ends, for he falls, and as he does, the false god worshipped by him awaits - the dreaded drakalfryda, a twisted amalgam of flesh made from halfling corpses that can regenerate its torso...think of it as a lavishly-illustrated inverse-hydra...and yeah, it is as disgusting as it sounds. It is in these depths, however, that not only the freedom of the dødelig can be won - guarded by the powerful Tiberolith guardian, ruins can be found...and deciphered. Cyclopean ruins that make rather clear that the runes used above are anything but benevolent and could be used to bring the whole clergy of the mother goddess under control!


It is here that the asura's game is thwarted, theme-wise by the very leitmotif of community, as the bridge between dødelig and living halfings provides a subtle symbolic resonance regarding the theme of the books - by connecting with the past and one's ancestors, betrayal in the present can be unmasked, thwarted. To wax less poetical: If you know the past, you can learn from it - particularly if your past can actually talk to you! Thus, the finale of the module is devoted to the showdown against the unmasked asura, as the PCs return to the arc...and his tactics are smart. Even if the PCs are clever regarding their actions, the adversary does have a rather interesting array of tactics to which he can resort. Then, he seems to fall...and only one temple is left...but the paladin Faerilon Hayweather has surely secured that one, right? There are no big problems to expect, right? ...guess what? No. And yes, things went harder downhill than you can imagine...


(And yes, the community-tracker-sheet is included...)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring mistakes or problems in that regard. Layout adheres to the beautiful 2-column full-color standard of the series and the book sports several absolutely stunning full-color artworks. Cartography, while not as gorgeous as in other installments of the series more than makes up for it by the sheer amount: Extra player-friendly map of an illusion-encounter? Graphical representations for the spine? Versions with and without grid? All here. 15 (!!!) pages of maps. 15. Seriously, I take this amount of maps over a single beautiful one every day. The pdf is fully bookmarked. I do own the premium paper print copy of this module...and it's beautiful.


Okay, so two excellent modules in a row in an AP are already a rarity; two that manage to be exceedingly smart in a row...are even rarer. Two that manage to qualify as candidates for my Top Ten? Even rarer. Guess what? Michael Allen does it again. I am utterly, completely blown away by this module - come-on: A miles-high tree of clouds, maddening winds, gigantic arches? This is FANTASY. This is imagination. This is the in-your-face one-inch-knock-out punch for all those boring, lazy dungeons out there. Beyond the VERY smart and uncommon adversary-choices and the enemies that actually act according to their brainpower and capabilities, it is the truly marvelous location that sets this apart - and in particular the brainy first part: Only very rarely have I been so engrossed in the exploration of a fantastic place, so bewildered, astounded, baffled. The description and unearthing of clues here is so vivid, I actually dreamed about visiting this place. I'm not kidding. And after the challenging first part, the more combat-focused second part delivers in all the right ways as well. This module is absolutely astounding in every single regard - from terrain to the moving parts to the option to sandbox its VERY PLACE in the series.


Michael Allen deserves my deepest respect - apart from 4 Dollar Dungeon's Richard Develyn (if you haven't read my reviews about them and buy one. Seriously. You won't regret it!), no other adventure author has managed to get a streak of this many modules that deserve a final rating of 5 stars, seal of approval and a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of the respective year, this time around 2015. Yes, it's THAT good. This is a prime example of the art of adventure craft and another excellent reminder of how damn good AAW Games have become. Now here's to hoping that #4 can maintain this brilliance...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Heart Adventure Path #3: The Breath of the Goddess
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #7: Entrance to the Forest Maze
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/05/2016 03:47:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


So, at some point, the PCs will probably stumble over (or seek out) the massive forest maze within the haunted forest, as it holds a rather crucial component for many of the resolution-paths of the main module. The entrance to said maze is expanded in this pdf, in the guise of brownies testing the PCs (and introducing them to the delightful concept of minitaurs!). Beyond these, the pdf sports a cool "move matches"-style puzzle with sticks and a well-crafted riddle...oh, and the pdf makes ample use of the absolutely awesome flora and fauna introduced in Snow-White, so yeah - an all around awesome mini-dungeon!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.


Jonathan G. Nelson's "Entrance to the Forest Maze" may well be the best of the whole series - and when Stephen Yeardley is the guy your material has to compete with, that means something. If you're using Snow-White, this is absolutely brilliant - the use of the unique flora and fauna of the haunted forest makes this mini-dungeon feel unique and alive and seeing a well-crafted puzzle and a good riddle as well offers something for players to do beyond killing everything. Now there is one catch - you practically need Snow-White to get something out of this - but even if you don't you can still scavenge puzzle and riddle...and it should be emphasized: This is FREE and costs literally nothing...so go ahead and get this cool, fun mini-dungeon. This would be 5 stars +seal of approval even if it weren't free.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #7: Entrance to the Forest Maze
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #6: Campsite in the Haunted Forest
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/05/2016 03:45:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


So, this is an expansion to Snow-White and completely optional - the second half of the module, is, as you know, pretty much a free-form wilderness exploration of the haunted forest that lives and breathes by the unique flora and fauna. Sooner or later, the PCs will have to camp. This mini-dungeon basically provides a small clearing and the campfire and surrounding things - beyond random (or not so random) encounters on the trail there, the PCs can find bladebark leaaves here (depending on the current season) and a small cave-entrance hides a twisted item that could really vex the PCs - a magic candle with three types of wax - yellow, orange and red - while the first phases are beneficial, the red wax results in rather nasty repercussions, making it thoroughly fitting for fey - always tip-toeing the line between the whimsical and disturbing. Additionally, the candle hides another, potentially lethal secret...what secret? Not going to spoil that here - download it and you'll see...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.


Jonathan G. Nelson's campsite is perhaps the most universally useful of the Snow-White mini-dungeons: While having the main Snow-White book and using this in conjunction with it obviously is the most rewarding way, this can be inserted into just about every forest. Granted, there is not much going on - but there doesn't need to be. This is as unpretentious as it gets - a humble campfire encounter/scene with a great idea - how much more can you ask for in a mini-supplement like this, much less a FREE one? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #6: Campsite in the Haunted Forest
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #5: Cabin Catastrophe
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2016 03:01:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


So, what do we get here? Well, basically, we get a brief expansion of Snow-White in the traditional sense - know the Huntsman's cabin, how it doesn't really impact the plot? Well, this allows your PCs to properly explore the potentially rather creepy cabin of the Huntsman. The cabin itself has been rigged by the Huntsman - it now sports several traps waiting for the unwitting fools that would stumble in. Nice, if you're like me: The archetypical role of the Huntsman is made more relatable by using this mini-dungeon - there is indirect storytelling that tells you something about the motivations and character of the huntsman.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.


Much like the previous mini-dungeon, this is very much an extension of the main-module, highlighting what could e considered a "deleted scene" - not necessary for the plot, but more than handy to have, we get a well-written exercise in indirect story-telling. Granted, the trap-centric challenges are not that diverse and the pdf is mechanically less interesting than the best in the series, but from a narrative perspective, this can be considered a great addition to the main module. That, and Will Myers' cabin is FREE. Free is hard to beat and a free expansion for the glorious main-module that seamlessly fits in? Heck yeah. (Oh, and if you need a slightly creepy, trapped hunter's cabin, this'll do the job!) Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval in the context of Snow-White. (As a stand-alone, it loses some of its charm - for such purposes, consider this 4 stars instead.)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #5: Cabin Catastrophe
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #4: Glass Golem Go-Round
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2016 02:58:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


Okay, so this one takes place just after the PCs have been recruited, but before they begin the sweep of royal chambers/gauntlet at the beginning of Snow-White....and basically, this is not a regular mini-dungeon; instead, one should understand this as an optional tie-in, for the castle's glass-domed dining courtyard shatters, as a lethal glass golem seeks to kidnap Lumi! (Yes, this adds yet another kidnapping angle to the main meat of the module - one I enjoyed!)


Featuring info on the golem itself and the rather complex set-up, the encounter is exciting and diverse and emphasizes PC-competence versus that of regular creatures - nice!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf sports a small version of Ruhtin's excellent artwork from the main Snow-White book. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.


Will Myers delivers a great expansion to the main Snow-White module; while not a dungeon per se, this instead opts to be a great encounter that supplements the main module well. It's just one encounter - but it's a great encounter with cool visuals...and it's FREE. Seriously, go get this right now if you're planning on running Snow-White! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #4: Glass Golem Go-Round
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Snow White Mini-Dungeon #3: The Army Surgeons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/30/2016 06:54:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.


Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is one of the optional expansions for AAW Games' superb Snow-White mega-adventure and thus has a certain fairy-tale-flair and can easily added into the superb mega-module.


Got that? Great!


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


...


..


.


Still here?


All right!


This "mini-dungeon" is actually, much like "The Spirit Bottle" a rather unique set-piece: The Klavekian kingdom is not known for being particularly welcoming regarding the stance towards non-humans - and this pdf puts the players in a situation, where they witness one of the more unsavory practices firsthand: Leikata and Ommella Ruumis are both retired army surgeons - and now they're part of the Klavekian means to destabilize the "hostile" area called haunted forest, known hiding places of fey and non-humans alike...by controlling and re-animating zombies and sending them inside. The problem is: Something went wrong, big time, and now zombies roam...and the two clerics are locked inside their little abode, trapped by the undead and nearing death - in order to save them, the PCs will have to defeat the undead (potentially enjoying the neat plunder-table included)...and then make a decision...for while what the clerics do is not ethical, to say the least, they still follow orders and provide a service to the local populace by relocating the undead...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.


Stephen Yeardley's third mini-dungeon intended as a Snow-White tie-in is interesting mainly due to the moral conundrum and potential for consequences it poses. That being said, beyond the basic idea, it does feel a bit less imaginative than the superb first two Snow-White mini-dungeons, which would mean, I'd usually refrain from slapping my seal of approval on this. However, this is FREE, and as a free offering, it provides a fun, intriguing set-piece, well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Snow White Mini-Dungeon #3: The Army Surgeons
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Snow White
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2016 06:14:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 243 pages, not counting front cover, back cover, editorial, etc; if you take away the KS-thank-you page and the SRD, this huge book still remains 240-pages strong. My review is based primarily on the hardcover of this book.


I backed Snow-White on kickstarter, but have contributed to this massive book.


All right, first: A brief history of this project. Back in 2013, AAW Games released a two-part adventure-saga as part of their A-series of modules, set in the campaign setting of Aventyr. The adaptation of Snow-White as a module was heavily inspired by traditional, non Disney-fied versions of the folktales; basically, the ones I grew up with, and did a LOT of things right - with several highlights and takes on the tropes, a lot of imaginative potential and unique environments, the series made my Top Ten list of that year. When the kickstarter was launched to expand upon this already excellent basis, I knew I'd have to get it. Now, a massive hardcover in full color graces my book shelf - but has getting the revised version been justified?


The short answer to this question is frankly "OH YES!!". The more complex answer is a bit longer. Before diving into the meat of this mega-adventure, let me clearly state that this is not just a module - this book basically doubles as a city/wilderness sourcebook and has greatly expanded upon the concepts of the original iteration of the adventures. All right, but before we do: A piece of advice for both players and GMs - try to not SPOIL yourselves - this mega-adventure works best when you do not immediately know what you're actually playing, so put up those GM-screens, fellows.


In order to avoid SPOILERS, potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right, only GMs around? So the Klavekian kingdom and its more loyal vassals often have rather strained relationships - there is racism versus non-humans, the ever-present tax man looming and then monsters and hazards both mundane and magical exist in the world of Aventyr...plenty of work for adventurers. Unless you're at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, the war is far away and the resident adventurers are out there smiting the villains, who wisely hide in their hell-holes to bide their time until more turbulent times arrive. Indeed, in the lull and pastoral idyll seem to be but the precursor for a new golden age for the town of Morsain: The daughter of the town's lord Herttua Valta is about to be wed - to royalty, no less: Gorgeous, intelligent Lumi Valkea Valtatytar is about to be joined in wedlock to none other than the Klavekian Prince Ruhtin - and, seeing how the job-situation is pretty bad, the PCs have accepted guard duty - not knowing they'll be guarding nothing short of a royal wedding!


Suffice to say, the module thus begins in an unconventional manner - guarding the festivities, after all, is not an undertaking you embark on while armed to the teeth with weapons of magical mass destruction and in grimy, blood-caked armor - the PCs will be pretty much naked regarding the magical arsenal, which provides a unique change of pace from the get-go. So, Castle Morsain - in the original, this place was little more than a backdrop for the mechanically relevant components. Here, nothing could be further from the truth: The castle sports a huge full-page illustration (one of many, just fyi) and detail-wise even explains the flag-based warning-system employed. Moreover, the massive castle actually sports drop-dead-gorgeous isometric full-color maps made by map wizard and heir apparent to Jonathan Roberts, the one and only Tommi Salama. Yes, I may be a bit ecstatic regarding them...but they're just so beautiful!


Ähem, beyond the gorgeous presentation, the beginning of the module has been streamlined - in order to prove their mettle, PCs will still have to deal with the security of the castle's respective rooms, which conspicuously contain a significant gauntlet of traps - now here's the interesting component: The respective traps escalate in power - in a surprisingly linear way, but they did so in the original...the trick this time around is that the skill DCs provided generally sport degrees of success. Of course, the increasingly devious traps and poisons employed only are a means to determine the capabilities of the PCs and, if in doubt, there is a means to save lethally poisoned PCs in the guise of the famous and beloved queen attendant Haijyin. Of course, this should already incite paranoia and distrust - are the grinning ragamuffins (think of them as a cross of racial-equality/anarchist/anonymous-like guild) behind the traps? To make that clear - No. The traps are there to provide a means to judge the competence of the respective adventurers - for, eventually, after investigating the local crème-de-la-crème, sooner or later, Lumi is very likely to drop down during the pre-wedding banquet - and a member of the elusive group is running - fast.


Whether or not the PCs manage to grab the fugitive, Lumi will be unconscious, courtesy of a brilliant, nigh impossible to detect 5-component-based super poison. Under the stern auspice of a less than amused prince Ruhtin, the PCs will be assigned guard duty....and, obviously, the night will not be kind: Awoken by a hustle, the PCs will have to storm Lumi's room, only to witness swarms upon swarms of bats and even dire bats trying to abduct Lumi! Worse, each area of effect attack in the noble chambers will be VERY expensive...so yeah, fireballing the swarms is NOT a smart move... This particular encounter was a bottleneck in the original module - well, this time around, we have scaling bats depending on the capability of your PCs and the proceeding chase across the roofs is wonderfully detailed and smart. And yes, the module goes on whether the PCs manage to retrieve her or not - Lumi will be kidnapped...potentially by a doppelgänger of a PC, whisking her away right from under Ruhtin's eyes, implicating the PCs to be in cahoots with the ragamuffins...but I'm getting ahead of myself.


On the next day, the PCs will certainly have their work cut out for them - after convincing Ruhtin of their noble intentions, the hunt is on - how exactly, well, that does very much depend on the sensibility of your group - thanks to a scroll of locate object, the PCs may actually find a culprit - who promptly dies when captured, of course...but there is a more..let's say, wicked: The Huntsman, with Lumi in tow, leads 4 horses into the woods - and the PCs will have a highly complex and entertaining chase on their hands (it is here that you can use the chase-deck, should you own it) - the chase offers alternate obstacles and is pretty brutal, as the PCs make their way through the never-ending sea of trees. However, the huntsman actually is VERY smart - 4 horses, an orb of misleading and invisible correct horse - unless the PCs are up to their very a-game, they'll be on a wild goose chase. But, alas - while Lumi may be lost in the woods, the Huntsman doesn't manage to finish her off - instead, he is destined to meet his end at the poisonous mandibles of strange albino-centipedes...and the PCs will stand in front of royalty without anything to show for. However, the albino-centipedes and complex investigations (with a streamlined mini-game) may provide a means that points towards the catacombs beneath caste Morsain, sealed beyond a logical lock with a connect-the-dots-puzzle.


However, before (or while the PCs are crawling through these catacombs, you may wish to have them explore the massive, fully detailed town of Morsain - the colossal place is a true fairy tale town - perhaps THE evocative fairy tale town. What do I mean by this? Well, know how I said that this was a sourcebook as well? Guess what: Morsain has enough material to run a whole campaign in it - and I certainly hope we'll see many more adventures here, for the potential is MASSIVE. If you consider yourself a scholar or someone versed in mythologies and fairy-tales, this will be an exercise in proving your mettle: No less than 144 locations (!!!) are provided, plus 6 delightful adventurers - these are fluff only, but hilarious: Sandoval Poe with his tame ravens Eddga and Alleynne is fun, but obvious; a kid grippli ranger is fun - but see, the 144 locations and shops cover...just about all of Grimm's Fairytales - including the more obscure ones. The truly astounding achievement about them, though, is how they all add a unique spin on the material, codifying it in the context of the roleplaying system: The Bremer Stadtmusikanten become polymorphed bards in the guise of animals; Hansel and Gretel are selfish witch-killers, spirit-bottled secrets sold by a night hag in disguise, shops that always see you make a loss, Bluebeard as a barber - all of this just breathes imaginative potential and literally can occupy you for years, should you choose to develop the material. The chapter also features rules for varying proficiencies in a given language (simple and long overdue!) and, as a whole, renders this massive chapter exceedingly compelling. Obviously, the city is fully mapped.


Speaking of maps - the aforementioned catacombs, which, in the original, were nothing more than a short filler, now are a proper dungeon, 4 levels strong, with the elements as a theme - before you groan at an elemental dungeon: One, it comes with superb isometric maps. Two, and more important, this is a dungeon for the thinking man - sure, you can waltz through this one - but the whimsical fairy-tale style riddles and puzzles contained in this dungeon actually make it a delight to run - with a lock of hair as rewards for braving the dangerous dungeon, the PCs return to an enraged prince and lord, if they manage to survive the snipers, that is. Only to have Hajyin teleport them after the hair, smack into the middle of the haunted forest - which has its name for a reason...and it's COLD. VERY COLD.


Remember when I said that this was also a wilderness sourcebook? Well, the haunted forest comes with a massive alchemist's journal of magical plants - from bladebark leaf to ghost flute shrooms, the massive chapter sports a huge array of lavishly illustrated plants that have intriguing alchemical uses, come with harvesting and use-information...and yes, this section also covers unique non-combative fauna - fey elk, frost crickets, frogs of ice, beetles with leprechaun-like faces...and have I mentioned the miniscule minitaurs or the laughing squirrels...there also are paralytic fleas...angel moths...and quite frankly, with these unique plants and creatures and the detailed random encounter pages, you can run encounters for weeks before even touching the main plot of this free-form section of the adventure. The haunted forest does have several places that can prove to be rather lethal, depicted in more detail, though. The first of these and one of my favorite hazard-encounters ever, would be the bottomless pit - a predatory, intelligent pit. No, I am not kidding. And yes, careless groups can actually be TPK'd by this beast.


More on the whimsical side, which is never far from the dark in this eerie forest, would be an opportunity to play kasta, a unique mini-game with some fey in their fully mapped glade...and also find out about a fey currently entombed in a coffin of crystal - this being is tied to another sub-storyline of the forest, namely the forest's maze. The maze now sports a much more complex design, has an absolutely gorgeous map, more versatile encounters - and, it has a twist: Like every good maze, it obviously has a minotaur - who waits, weapons drawn, at the center, guarding a girl forever asleep - though the strange fruit that caused this sleep can also be found in the forest, obviously their effect can only be broken by true love's kiss - something you either roleplay or check via tables provided. This girl is btw. tied to the fey - they both fell afoul of the dread fruit - and yes, the minotaur, fearsome though he may look, is the girl's guardian and family, so murder-hobos will potentially be in for a shock.


Anyways, sooner or later, the trail will lead the PCs, e.g. via the girl they just saved, to a hidden cabin close to some gushing waterfalls - and yes, the cabin is fully detailed with isometric maps as well...and by now home of the 7 dwarves (AAW Games' crew being represented in their awesome artwork - including my dear departed friend Joshua...he would have loved this...) who are currently kinda-but-not-really are holding Lumi hostage/thinking on what to do with her - after all, the position of non-humans in Klavekian society is anything but nice: Capable and actually nice, their traps and fighting capabilities are pronounced, so a friendlier approach may be in order - whether by fight or party, the misunderstanding is hopefully cleared - but meanwhile Lumi has fallen to the wiles of her adversary, put into stasis by the queen attendant's cursed items, guarded by dangerous flora - and yes, you can actually run this first and then have the PCs search the forest for potential cures, leading to the girl etc. - the whole haunted forest, ultimately, is thoroughly modular - and so is the solution to this module.


You know, there is more than one way to awaken Lumi - alive or unconscious, in love or not, allied with the dwarves or not - and this ultimately determines the social climax of this module, the homecoming - no less than 8 (!!!) final scenarios are detailed for the GM. Now here's the catch, though - the PCs may, even after all this, potentially not realize what they played...or they lack evidence of the exceedingly cunning queen attendant - who has a superb means of escape in her repertoire. So yes, she will probably get away...but there may be a wedding after all. Sure, the honorable and reasonable scenario sees a wedding with Ruhtin, right? Well, I always had a thing for pale, black-haired women with red lips and blue, grey or green eyes...so personally, were I playing this module as a PC...I'd try to go for true love, become an outlaw and try to fulfill my childhood fantasy of living happily ever after with Lumi...which would put the mightiest nation of Aventyr hot on my trail...but I guess that would be a tale for another module...


Now obviously, this module is not limited to the adventure - there is an array of unique magical items to be found in here and none other than Wolfgang Baur has crafted an array of unique spells -which includes spinning straw to gold or animated, dancing hatchets? Have I mentioned the wall of animated gloves that may chaotically poke or slap you around? There is also a poison- and trap-index, full stats for 3.5 and PFRPG and Ed Greenwood provides a tragic twist on the classic tale in his "The Things We Do To Chase Beauty" short story, which expresses sympathy for the devil. If you're not familiar with the unredacted tale...the classic Grimm-tale is included herein...oh, and one thing made me grin from ear to ear: You know, all those gorgeous, massive maps? They come in an appendix...and with extra, player-friendly, key-less versions. And yes, beyond the isometric ones, we ALSO get top-down versions - now THIS is how map-support for such a premium module ought to be done - absolutely gorgeous!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - for a book of this size in particular, the editors did a great job. A special shout-out to the layout artists Justin Andrew Mason and Jensen Toperzer - the 2-column layout is STUNNING - with apple blossoms and apples as borders for read-aloud texts and gorgeous initials, this very much aesthetically feels like a beautiful, old fairy tale tome. Similarly, the artists Mates Laurentiu, Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason, Jen Page, Bruno Baxila, Eric Quigley, Jack Holiday and Jeff Ward have achieved something remarkable - in spite of the different artists, this book's huge array of artworks, many of which span whole pages, are not only original - they have a distinct, unified visual identity and style, basically think about classic roleplaying artwork in full color quoting fairy tale imagery. THEN add the absolutely superb maps by Tommi Salama, player-friendly versions included. Oh yeah, the electronic version is fully bookmarked - but if you have the option, get the hardcover. It's gorgeous.


SERIOUSLY, if you usually skip my conclusion's first paragraph, please read it this time around - these folks deserve recognition for the fantastic work delivered. This is one of the most beautiful, huge adventures I've ever read and seriously is so concise in its aesthetic direction it is a pure joy to just flip through the pages.


Stephen Yeardley, Jonathan G. Nelson and Will Myers, with contributors Jacob Blackmon, Justin Andrew Mason and Joshua Gullion (R.I.P.) have taken an already legendary two-part-saga and crafted something thoroughly outstanding from it. Where the original modules had some bottlenecks and minor filler places/weaknesses, this new iteration of the material is absolutely legendary in every way: What was before a bland filler mini-dungeon is now a thoroughly unique dungeon; what was before a bit opaque or linear is now thoroughly modular: If your PCs out-or underperform in the module, the narrative is there to catch you - basically, this module is now as nonlinear as it can be and can be considered a thoroughly unique take on a tale as old as time. The adversaries are smart and the book goes one step beyond - the city of Morsain and the haunted forest would be great stand-alone source-books - even as "only" a scavenging ground of backdrop for your own stories, this is a massive success and worth every cent of the asking price a hundredfold -personally, I'm particularly impressed by the immense feat of making a linear tale we all know thoroughly modular and FRESH.


So no, there can be no question, not even an ounce of a doubt regarding the final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval + BUY THIS!!!-recommendation. As a reviewer, I face only one conundrum - the original modules already made my Top Ten-list of a year (which should tell you something about how good this is now!) and I have a policy of not nominating books twice for my Top Ten lists - otherwise, e.g. Strange Magic's constituents or Ultimate Charisma would grace my lists in the respective follow-up years. As crunch-books, I could at least designate them as EZG-essentials, though.


However, there is a huge amount of new material in this book...so what to do? Well, Frog God Games' Cyclopean Deeps was a two-part-saga and Part II has been retroactively added to my Top Ten of 2014. Here, however, that wouldn't feel right, for this would score higher than the initial books. I thought long and hard...and know what? This deserves a Top Ten of 2015 spot...so I'm cheating my own system, hopefully retaining my fairness regarding the other nominees: This gets an unranked bonus-spot on my Top Ten of 2015 -this would be on the list, high on it, were it not for the previous wins. Consider this as basically a thoroughly impressive, wonderful book that could work just as well with younger audiences. I know who I'm running this for soon... Ähem...oh yeah, once again: Get this!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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