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
Five Henchmen
Five Henchmen
Pay What You Want









Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
Underworld Races: Draaki
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/12/2014 06:26:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. So what are the Draaki, wait don't tell me - "descendant from dragons-blabla", right? Wrong! Yeah, I was surprised as well.



Indeed, the now nameless race that was to turn into the Draaki once enslaved the primal dragons, now looking deceptively like their erstwhile slaves. If you want the whole story, though - then check out this pdf.



Onwards to the mechanical side of things - Draaki receive +2 to all physical attributes and -4 to wisdom, making them too geared towards martial endeavors for my tastes. They have the reptilian subtype (they are NOT dragons!), receive low-light vision and darkvision 90 ft, SR of 5+ character-level, light blindness and may change shape into a drow-likeness. They also receive +1 to atk and a +2 dodge bonus to AC and saves versus draconic spells and abilities. They also sport 5 subtypes. One has a slapping tail that deals 1d8+str-mod damage, but fails to specify whether it's a primary or secondary natural attack. One has gliding wings (which allows them to glide - d'uh - and never take falling damage) and 3 sport breath weapons - one cone of acid, one line of electricity and one a line of fire, all usable 1/day as a standard action for 1d6 points of damage, no scaling.



Over all, the Draaki's base racial characteristics feel a bit too much - two superb senses, SR AND the subtype-ability together feel a bit bloated. We also receive favored class options, which generally are solid, though the addition of force damage to alchemist bombs feels odd - so direct hit versus incorporeal targets is marginally effective? Yeah?



On the other side, rules for weaponry made from dragonbone and special sinew bowstrings for composite bows make for damn cool, if powerful materials. A total of 6 new racial feats are provided - gaining a fly-speed with your wings at 5th level would be damn nice, and energy resistance versus your breath weapon's energy is also an okay, flavorful way of enhancing racial fluff, while two feats that just net skill-bonuses fall firmly in the filler category. The feat that enhances the tail attack is just confusing - "You may use your tail to make one secondary natural attack per round in addition to attacks of opportunity." Come again?. So...can I use the tail to deliver AoOs now? Is it a secondary natural weapon or a primary weapon or both? Total confusion. Is the secondary attack at (I assume...) the usual penalty IN ADDITION to the secondary (or primary?) attack? No idea - those tails need clarification. As a kind of mini-capstone to the feat-tree, with 3 feats prerequs, we can get +4 to UMD AND +2 to ALL saves versus spells and spell-like abilities...ähem...this is cool, yes, but too strong for my tastes.



We also receive 3 new magic items - greaves that allow you to slow falls by bounding from wall to wall (damn cool!), a focus to improve their breath weapon and a periapt that permanently bestows a new spell on the draaki. Said spell is one of the 3 new ones and nets a secondary bite attack that deals bleed damage on a crit. Okay, I guess. Very interesting would be the spell that increases the effectiveness of the breath weapon used in conjunction with it - think of it as a teamwork breath weapon disguised as a spell. Finally, one spell bestows a draaki breath weapon or +1 use of it.



The final piece of crunch would be a 5-level racial paragon class, which renders these breath weapon-focused tricks viable in the first place: At full BAB, d10, 4+Int skills and up to +2 ref and fort, +3 will and +3 natural armor, the paragon class is solid - it allows the draaki to get more than one breath weapon, increase their damage dice, and even combine them in one action. Their increased spell resistance has not been properly bolded and they receive detect magic at will and 1/day dispel magic and as a capstone, they increase flight speed, breath weapon range and also receive DR 2/-.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though a couple of bolding glitches, typos and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The Draaki have me torn - on the one hand, I consider the base race a tad bit too strong, a tad bit too geared towards the nomad/martial trope. On the other hand, the base breath weapon of non-racial paragon-draaki are pitifully weak, while the PrC makes them more powerful, without making them too strong. Indeed, when taking the feat-cost etc. into account, the racial paragon-class may even be a tad bit weak. The new items are cool, though the spells are a bit weak. The feats leave me torn as well.



So, are the Draaki boring? No, they're not - they are an interesting race and rank among the better of draconic-looking humanoids I've read. Their supplemental material ranges from great to slightly problematic. All in all, they are a nice race, but one that could have used a tad bit more streamlining. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Draaki
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Hoyrall
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/05/2014 03:48:24
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. So what are the Hoyrall? Apart from an interesting name (if you're Scandinavian or familiar with the languages, you'll get what I mean), they are a race of parasitic creatures from the stars, brought here and held in check by otherworldly entities whose struggle goes far beyond what has been gleaned from other Underworld Races-pdfs - the extended origin myth of them is AWESOME, full of grand ideas and the stuff of myths - fluff-wise, a glorious beginning.



The insectoid creatures had their hive-mind kind-of sundered and today, individualism exists - and hence, the potential for PCs. Rules-wise, these guys receive +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str and -4 Cha, count as humanoids and aberrations, are small, have a land speed of 30 ft and a climb speed of 20 ft, 60 ft darkvision, get scent to sense creatures below 25% HP or carrion, are light-blind, get +1 natural armor, stonecunning, +2 to saves versus mind-influencing effects and two rather iconic tricks - number one would be the option to use their own blood con-mod times per day to deal 1d2 dex-damage for 6 rounds, 1 save to cure, scaling DC- cool. More important, if you've seen the cover - these guys have 4 arms. How do the authors balance that to prevent them being utterly broken chainsaws of shredders? All hands but one are off-hands and for every hand beyond the first used, they incur -3 to AC, CMB, CMD and ref-saves until the beginning of their next round. Yes, this adds a whole slew of power attack/expertise-like math to playing these guys. And no, they may only can one spell at a time - no dual-casting, thankfully. This makes the Hoyrall overall very effective fighters, but it also is balanced via light blindness, str-penalty etc. and in my game, they did not unbalance things - for this was one of the races that required a playtest to properly judge.



The array of FCOs is universally solid and we also receive the Siktauryi Specialist archetype for Gunslingers - but what are those Siktauryi? They are essentially stingray-like guns that fire globs of acid, which is made from POISONS. You feed these things POISONS to make acid. Awesome. Especially since more potent toxins increase the damage of the globs of acid. As living creatures, they can be healed (!!!). Another cool piece would be mated carapaced organic growths that allow for long-range communication - think living walkie-talkies. Yeah, awesome! But back to the specialist: Bred to work with siktauryi, these Hoyrall cannot benefit from poisonous blood, but they can directly feed the siktauryi via their modified hands and later, increase their "reloading" speed. I'm sorry. This reviewer Is just grinning from ear to ear right now - little, 4-armed insectoid psychos with living guns? THIS is what I review for. Weird, awesome and oh so cool!



A total of 6 racial feats allow for less penalties when using multiple arms, better feinting or carrion sense, increased blood toxicity, bonus damage when feeding one's siktauryi with one's own toxic blood and covert communication via antennae - iconic, interesting feats - nothing too strong, nothing too weak. And yes, if you want to burn 6 feats, you can get rid of all the penalties for multiple arms...you'll be a mean little shredding chainsaw of a hoyrall...but you'll be 6 feats poorer.



3 unique items allow people to utilize hoyrall antennae communication, draw forth infinite daggers (which dissipate again) or receive a hoyrall phantom limb that is, indeed, a ghost of a limb - it acts as a +1 ghost touch longsword! Cool idea!



Finally, we receive 6 new spells, three of which are devoted to emulating degrees of a hive-mind, while one nets you a fascinating carapace, one allows you to spit poison and one nest you a prismatic gaze attack - the last spell may be a bit strong for the levels associated with it, depending on your campaign's power-level.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



YES! *THIS* would be Mike Myler at his very best - the rules are solid and make multi-arm characters work. The fluff is GLORIOUS and inspired. The items are winners. The archetype is brilliant. The spells are cool. This is the Underworld Races-series at peak performance, with new, cool fluff, awesome crunch and, in spite of the very powerful benefits, a balanced race. This pdf had me grin from ear to ear and while it is not long, I guarantee that this is one of the coolest races you'll have seen in a while. The Hoyrall are so unique, so distinct, I *had* to introduce them into my campaign. Forget the Thri-Kreen, these guys are so much cooler! (Also: They are not broken.) While not all rules herein are perfectly streamlined with established PFRPG-canon, the reasons for deviating are unanimously due to maintaining balance, while allowing you to play and do things no other race can do.



This is AAW Games at its best, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Hoyrall
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Gitwerc
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/21/2014 02:39:58
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. From there on, the gitwerc are described - amidst the numerous dwarven races forged from the ancestry of the dvergr, the gitwerc could be called those most out of line with conventional dwarvenkind in other campaign settings - not even the mad derro feel like fitting analogues, mainly due to a completely different focus. What d I mean by that?



Well, they went into the earth's molten depths and erected an empire, but Aventyr isn't like other worlds - in the bowels of the earth, the devils are bound and the gitwerc have entered infernal pacts with the forces of HEL, rising to become emperors among emperors, realizing the coming of the Dracoprime before its impact was felt - the gitwerc are feared and notorious indeed - and their history is far more expansive and interesting than that of their other dwarven brethren, adding more to the overall race's mythology. With distinct, disturbing eye and flesh-colors, a penchant for body modifications and unique racial traits, they also stand out in that department:



Gitwerc receive +2 Con, Cha and Int, -4 Dex and Wis, are slow and steady, receive 60 ft darkvision, are native outsiders that still need to eat, breathe etc., receive cold, electricity and fire resistance 5, +1 natural armor, always treat diplomacy and sense motive as class skills and sorcerors of the abyssal/infernal bloodlines treat their caster level as +1 for the purpose of bonus spells or bloodline powers. Additionally, they can see perfectly even in magical darkness and suffer from light blindness...oh, and they receive an alter self-like effect to pass as a dweorg as a supernatural ability. Yeah. And know what - while stronger than the core races, they are in line with aasimar and tieflings, so exactly 0 complaints on my end!



Speaking of 0 complaints - this extends to the copious favored class options the Gitwerc receive. A total of 6 racial feats allow Gitwerc to add oomph to their infernal flair - whether it's being a devilishly sly negotiator, receiving a kind of natural armor spikes that damage those foolish enough to grapple you (upgradeable to a nasty carapace), making consumed alcohol flame-breathe or assuming the look of creatures whose skin you've worn...wait. What? Yes, Gitwerc enjoy wearing flayed skins, which are one of the new items. The other being the dread HEL bottles (think deadlier alchemist's fie that is essentially a micro-lava-splash-weapon...and blood candles, which can be made via a new spell (and easier made via a feat) - these allow the victim's souls to be ripped from their bodies and subsequently being siphoned to HEL. Even before the HEL contracts, this makes the Gitwerc capital "N"-level nasty. The other two new spells beyond the fashioning of blood candles allow you to counter grapplers as a swift action with impaling horns or conjuring forth spectral, flaying blades- ouch!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.





Julian Neale and Mike Myler's Gitwerc are awesome - hardcore lawful kings of the Underworld, they resound with myths of the more nasty of dwarvenkind like Alberich, combining this with cool infernal tyrant and tieflingdom tropes, crafting a small window into a race's culture that is greater than the sum of its parts and which still has its own identity - more fluff, concisely presented, unique items and a thoroughly disturbing array of items and we have a race that is distinct, appealing, and won't be confused for anything else - unless the Gitwerc want to. This is by far the best of AAW Games' dwarven races, with no issues to speak of and storytelling potential galore. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Gitwerc
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Dweorg
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2014 07:26:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. From there on, the dweorg are described - amidst the numerous dwarven races forged from the ancestry of the dvergr, the dweorg could be called those most in line with conventional dwarvenkind in other campaign settings - apart from better craftmanship and gruff demeanor (penalizing social skills when interacting with upperdwellers), they adhere to the regular dwarven virtues and attributes. Not only are the dweorg the dwarves closest to surface dwellers, unlike many races of the underdark, they are not utterly evil and rather an unappreciated vanguard against the threats from below.



Now as has become the tradition with underworld races-pdfs, we do receive quite an array of new favored class options, which include faster extract preparation (which may be a bit situational), better fighting with bludgeoning weapons etc. and "dwarven" weapon specializations. On the very nitpicky side, reductions of arcane spell failure by 1.5% per point may be a bit wonky -while the default is to round down, I'd complain here, but the fact that sufficiently consequent investment in it nets a heavy armor proficiency might be considered a cool idea, so I'll let that one slip.



Now we do get a racial archetype, the dwarven Smithkin fighter - endured against the elements (and non magically to boot), these guys are better craftsmen of things both mundane and magical, are limited to bludgeoning weapon groups regarding weapon training and may imbue weapons first with the flaiming, later with the flaming burst quality. An okay archetype, I guess, and one that receives a glorious full-page full-color artwork, but also an archetype that simply isn't that interesting.



A total of 7 racial feats are provided and one in particular is BRUTAL - clanmind lets you share in all teamwork feats of any dwarf from your hometown for 1 round wis-mod+1/2 level times per day as a swift action and also improves aid another - this makes the dwarven phalanx of home defenders VERY dangerous. Conversely, gaining fire resistance 5, 10 and 20 and the same for cold just elicited yawns from me - not bad, per se, but also a far shot from being interesting.



Now item-wise, we are introduced to a new spice, fungal rope and the new material called liavous crystals, which mimics adamantine, but is cheaper - at the cost of losing all potency when exposed to sunlight. On the magic item side, we have this installment's winners - the Pocket Anvil and the Instant Forge - with the anvil coming with full rules for being used as a missile (I sneak attack with an anvil!) and the forge making adventuring + crafting feasible. Two thumbs up for these! Finally, we are introduced to 3 (6 if you count the variants) new spells: One that grants the subject knowledge of dweorg history and variants of the cure x wounds spells that have greater effect on dweorg and a stew that greatly increases hit point recovery rate when resting.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



All right, Mike Myler & Julian Neale's Dweorg...I'll come out and say it, when compared to other Underworld races-pdfs, this one feels a bit...bland. The FCOs, feats and the relatively lame archetype didn't wow me (with one feat exception) and the spells didn't either. The pdf is relatively brief beyond the general origin myth provided in all Underworld Races-pdfs and while the production values are great and awesome, the two magic items alone can't really pull this one back up - it simply does not deliver that much inspired content for a brief pdf and falls slightly below even the book on drow - had we received more culture, more information on what makes dweorg unique, whether crunch or fluff, I would have felt otherwise, but as written, this one simply felt a bit flat. And yes, this may be rather harsh, but I actually considered it somewhat boring, especially when directly compared to the no way perfect, but inspired book on the dvergr and their great archetype. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 because the items and great production values do not deserve a 2-star-rating.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Dweorg
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Funglet
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/04/2014 04:27:48
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. From there on, the funglets and their variants are described in evocative details that goes beyond the thankfully present age, height & weight tables before we delve into the racial traits of the funglets.



Funglets receive+2 Con and Int, Wis or Cha depending on the subtype and also -2 to Str and Dex. They are large plants with a base speed of 20 ft., have a reach of 10 ft, low-light vision, darkvision 90 ft and are dazzled in bright light, automatically also incurring a -2 penalty to all saves versus spells and effects with the light descriptor. They also receive a +1 natural armor bonus and a vulnerability to fire. Now I've mentioned subtypes - Audirefunglets receive +2 to Wis, Fantafunglets have a base speed of 30 feet, +2 natural armor bonus and +2 to Int and Maculasfunglets increase natural armor bonus to +2, +2 to Cha and are poisonous, weakening foes and damaging str.



Funglets also receive an extensive array of favored class options for just about all classes and we also receive information on fungal jungles. The material Boletann also deserves special mention - crafted from specially treated fungi, this material nets its wearers DR and acid resistance and makes for a cool, weird option to add to one's arsenal. A total of 6 specific feats are also provided for funglets to expand their racial options: Vomiting forth poison or generating blooms of poisonous spores, burying one's roots into the soil or duplicating tree shape and receiving improved capabilities regarding grappling and similar combat maneuvers via lianas or even handling small objects via these tendrils - a cool all killer, no filler array of stylish feats.



Now if that wasn't cool enough, what about a great array of new fungoid symbiotic suits that you can wear? And then, there's the mushroom domain - beyond fungal strides, this domain has one thoroughly iconic ability: Making caps of exploding shrooms that you can throw at your adversaries. No, I'm not kidding. Now if this is not enough - the respective exclusive spells the supplement offers is all killer...+1. Medicinal Mushrooms? Yep. What about melding your legs with a massive mushroom trunk and jump across the battlefield, ignoring (and not provoking) AoOs in one of the coolest modus-style-spells I've seen in any iteration of a d20-based system. It should also be noted that the offensive fungal spells, including carnivorous shrooms provide iconic imagery and that a massive mushroom apotheosis even comes with a cool little table of shroom-types generated. My one gripe here would be that the pdf does not provide the fungal alchemy and actual effects of these shrooms.



The pdf does conclude with the glorious CR 10 Fungal Golem as a brutal, deadly, cool adversary that includes all the information on construction et al.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mike Myler and Julian Neale's Funglets are AWESOME. That's it. Get this. Now. Need it more detailed? All right. This may be a short pdf, but there is not ONE piece of lame or boring content herein. The feats do iconic things. The Funglets may be powerful, but still remain balanced choices that won't break default racial power levels. Add to that the cool critter, the simply superb mushroom domain, and we have a great supplement that literally is all killer, no filler. Well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Funglet
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

B20: For Rent, Lease, or Conquest
by Jacob T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/24/2014 12:13:01
For Rent, Lease, or Conquest is an excellent module. I was very impressed with the amount of detail provided. There are no less than 4 story hooks to get players interested in the manor as well as the full stat block for every creature found in the mansion. It was designed in such a way to be entertaining for both seasoned and new players alike. I ran it with a larger group of players than suggested so it was fairly easy for them to accomplish but they loved the variable nature of the adventure. They had a lot of fun with some of the artifacts found in the house which added to the humorous nature of story. It also opened a lot of options to the party for the rest of the campaign I am running. Overall a very well written module which I plan to use many time over.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B20: For Rent, Lease, or Conquest
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Classes: Psilocybist
by Martin T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2014 11:29:03
The idea of a Mushroom based Prestige class was an interesting one and this class certainly adds to the abilities of someone who has the Mushroom Domain (which the character must have to take the class). The new Mushroom Domain spells are interesting, if slightly weird, and would certainly surprise PCs who came across an NPC who can cast them.

However buyers of this book should be aware that half of the book is an exact copy of the Mushroom Domain/Mushroom Golem sections of the ... Underworld Races - Funglet ... book and so purchasers of that book are effectively getting just 8 new pages of material (all about the new Prestige Class). Because of this I give the book only a 2 rating, even though if purchased by itself it would have a 4 rating.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Classes: Psilocybist
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
We would be remiss not reprinting the mushroom domain, given that it is so integral to both the psilocybist prestige class and funglet race! We\'re sorry you didn\'t think the artwork in the book was worth a few more stars, but are a bit confused; if this book is being bought by itself (we don\'t have a package deal for this and the funglet PDF, but we may soon!), why are you reviewing it in combination with a book from another series? Also, we are excited to hear what you think of the funglet book—please add a review for that as well! :D Thanks!
B20: For Rent, Lease, or Conquest
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/08/2014 06:26:38
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/10/08/tabletop-review-for-ren-
t-lease-or-conquest-pathfinder/

With third party releases for Pathfinder, the bad tends to outweigh the good. Because so many companies just throw out things for Pathfinder without any sense of balance or quality control, the really good third party releases can get lost in the shuffle. This is doubly true for release with a sense of humour. They’re rare enough as it is, but to find a comedic adventure for Pathfinder that is also exceptionally well done, well, the old “needle in a haystack” cliché is more than apropos. That what makes me so glad I found and picked up “For Rent, Lease or Conquest.” The adventure is a lot of fun, it is as funny to play as it is to read through and it really shows that there is still originality and cleverness left in the Pathfinder market instead of a bunch of adventures that are little more than derivative dungeon crawls. For Rent, Lease or Conquest isn’t just one of the best Pathfinder adventures I’ve experienced this year, but it is one of the best adventures, regardless of system.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest is for four to five Level 7 characters. It is also compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and a few other OGL systems and as such it contains stats for both primary variants. The adventure is a direct sequel to a previous release from AAW Games entitled, Death & Taxes. I have neither read nor played that one so I can’t comment on its quality but I can say that For Rent, Lease, or Conquest is perfectly standalone and you do not need the previous adventure to make it work. The adventure contains multiple maps and all the antagonist/monster stats you will need to run the adventure, making it a rare Pathfinder product where you are not prompted to look through or purchase three or more other books besides the core rulebook(s). I love this. It’s a nod to how expensive and overwhelming Pathfinder can be and also keeping costs low for the potential purchaser of this adventure. Because this piece doesn’t require more than the core rulebook and the adventure itself, it’s a wonderful way for newcomers to experience Pathfinder. They get to play a mid-level character and see that not every adventure is “enter a dungeon, kill things for loot and repeat until dead or the mission is over.” This is exactly the type of piece I would use to introduce someone to Pathfinder, especially if their previous RPG experience was with a more thinking/less hack and slashy system.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest is a lot of things rolled up into one fantastic adventure. First it covers the issue of a guildhall or place for the adventurers to rest their feet. I remember when I was a kid, the biggest challenge in AD&D 2e was not playing the game, but what to do when you character leveled up enough to have followers and/or a keep to maintain. Sure it’s cool your Ranger attracted a Basilisk ally, but where will you guys stay when you’re not murdering dungeon inhabitants. You can’t live in hotels forever! In the case of this adventure players are given a simple hook. There is a large and impressive looking house in town that may be haunted. The local real estate agent wants it off her books for tax purposes. She can’t sell the thing, so she offers the PCs a deal – clear it out and it is theirs for free! Everyone wins. Of course the adventure won’t be that simple…

The second aspect of the adventure is that much of the piece mirrors the typical “haunted house” style dungeon crawl. These tend to work better in games like Ravenloft, Chill or Call of Cthulhu but that’s because those houses tend to actually be haunted with something. In the case of For Rent, Lease or Conquest, the house isn’t actually haunted. It’s filled with some unusual squatters and it was built by an eccentric sorcerer so it’s understandable by the local peasants assume something spooky dwells within the manor. Half the fun of the adventure is the house and its different denizens. What I really liked it that the focus isn’t on the usual hack and slash rigmarole that turns too many OGL adventures into generic trash. Sure combat is potentially plentiful, but the adventure is more about exploring and encounters. Most of the encounters can be solved by talking or using one’s wits instead of a blade. This is absolutely fantastic and a wonderful alternative that more adventures should offer. After all, the Bard’s gift of gab and the Paladin who put on their skill points into Diplomacy and other talking based skills are just going to waste otherwise! The inhabitants of the house are amusing, charming and memorable and are a wonderful example that not all sentient races look or think alike. The end result should be one that has players wistfully remembering this piece for months or years to come.

The third part of the adventure that I absolute love is the climax. After the PCs have solved the problem, some thugs have come to claim the house for themselves. After all, it’s worth a lot of money and property always goes up in value, especially when it is built by a famous architect. After all, you never know what inflation is going to do to those electrum pieces you’ve been storing under your bed AND there isn’t much of a concept of interest banking in fantasy RPGs. Now the roles reverse as the players can use the magic nature of the house (and its inhabitants) that once stymied them against the GM. Indeed, the roles of the PCs and GM switch at this point with the PCs configuring the layout of the house and its abilities to stop the invaders while the GM acts as the adventuring party, guiding the ne’er do wells through the house until they meet a gruesome or comedic end. This is such a wonderful breath of fresh air with this piece and it will surely be a highlight for everyone who plays it.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I can’t say enough good things about For Rent, Lease or Conquest. It’s original, innovative, imaginative and most of all – a lot of fun. This adventure shows you can have a good dose of comedy in a piece and yet still have it be something the players and their characters can take seriously. It’s smart, self-aware and is a perfect response to all the usual reasons people say they don’t enjoy Pathfinder. I can’t recommend this highly enough and it really is the best Pathfinder adventure of the year. Every third party company (and even Paizo to a degree) should consider this required reading on how to write an adventure that captivates rather than relying on standard tropes and generic dungeon crawls. Definitely a must have for any fan of the system.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B20: For Rent, Lease, or Conquest
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Drow
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/08/2014 03:52:40
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races with a general subterranean origin-myth for the races that inhabit the lightless depth of Aventyr - which can, coincidentally, be introduced with relative ease into other settings. Now part of this myth is the origin of the most famous of subterranean, evil races - the drow. The dichotomy and splitting of the elven races takes a more classic turn in the example of Aventyr than in Golarion's take on being drow. The association with spiders and poison in the prominence of the Goddess Naraneus, a matriarchal society -all classic elements one may or may not like are in here.



In a nice twist, female and male drow receive different minor modifications to their skill sets and the favored class options provided are nice as well, though personally, I would have loved to see a gender-divide there as well. In a slightly problematic formatting decision, there are no new racial rules immediately following the header that announces them and we instead follow up with information on new equipment - either something got cut out here or the formatting is problematic.



Now drow receive some rather awesome alchemical items that massively influence the fighting styles of drow - from web shackles to webbing that may attach weapons via webbing to arms (great versus disarming or after throwing weapons) to the special ink and paper drow use make for cool options. Shadowy water that increases the potency of the stealthy drow, soldier's rations and mage hand-utilizing gloves.



A total of 6 racial feats provide drow with further tricks -requiring less sustenance, receiving bonuses versus a specific target who managed to elude your wrath, a grudge-feat versus surface elves and one to master feinting with drow weapons make for nice ideas - especially arachnid acrobatics is cool - for an acrobatics-check, the drow temporarily receives a climb speed - yes, spiderman would be jealous.



The pdf also provides a new domain, the drow domain - the domain abilities allow the cleric to sheathe weapons in negative energy and take damage to improve the senses of the cleric - which per se is a cool ability. Taking damage for improved sight is cool...alas, as soon as a drow is undead, this ability has the unintended consequence of being a free, unlimited, if slow, healing option. Granted, since the duration of the improved sight is tied to the damage taken, the sight component becomes nigh useless, but who'd care?



This domain also provides a grand total of 9 new exclusive spells that allow you to render targets flat-footed for one round, clothe yourself in shadow or step through the shadows and even provide some protection against light-based attacks. What about making high-level undead that retain some of the capabilities of the deceased's capabilities while they still had their mortal coil. The level nine spell is particularly nasty in the negative energy, ability damage and regular damage the spell deals - still (with leeching), the amount feels somewhat less than what I would have expected at ninth level - especially since the ribbons require touch attacks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mike Myler & Julian Neale's drow-sourcebook provides some nice options and especially the items herein can be considered truly awesome. The information on the society, items and some of the tricks the drow offer here are universally compelling and cool...but that being said, the domain just isn't inspiring. It's not bad, but neither is it glorious. While greatness can be found here, e.g. in the weapon webbing, the arachnid acrobatics etc., the pdf is a bit on the short end and for that; I do think that e.g. a glorious beast like the dvergr's underminer or similar truly mind-boggling content would have helped this pdf. As written, it is a good, if not particularly remarkable book on drow and well worth a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Drow
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Ahool
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/30/2014 05:56:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races-series with an extensive history of the underworld's genesis -a subterranean origin myth, if you wish - from the banishment of the infernal forces of HEL in earth's core to the forging (and splintering) of the dwarven races to the rise and fall of the dracoprime and the arrival of the colloid (the contribution of your's truly to the lore of Aventyr) , we get an interesting, well-crafted origin myth here, one supplemented by a full blown-table of age, height and weight tables not only for the ahool, but for all underworld races.

After this general overview, we delve right into the write-up of the Ahool -so what are they? Demonic interaction with mortal races tends to spawn new species -and thus, the Ahool were born and from these did spawn the ahooling -a race of blood-drinking, vampiric humanoids. Ahoolings get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are monstrous humanoids, SR 6+class level, darkvision 60 ft, resistance 5 to sonic and cold, a natural bite attack at 1d4 as a primary weapon, get +4 to fly-checks thanks to vestigial wings (which can become full-blown wings via the racial paragon class) and suffer from light blindness.

Apart from their moss caverns, the race also receives a significant amount of favored class options, which generally tend to be rather cool and cover most of the classes. However, a glitch has crept here in the option for the fledgling ahool racial paragon class: The FCO specifies that the race receives +2 ft. fly speed, which needs to be increments of 5 ft to work - so far, so good. But weirdly, the FCO mentions that there's no effect if it has not been selected 5 times, which contradicts how the FCO works movement-rate wise - so which is it? Minimum increments totalling 5ft or 10 ft.? Clarification would be required here.

We also receive two so-called racial archetypes, which essentially constitute of a select array of alternate racial trait-kits that can be applied to the ahooling - the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Ahooling - both receive change shape effects and alternate movement rates. Most interesting, though, would be the modularity that seeps into the racial paragon class - the racial archetypes influence the apotheosis granted by the class.

Now I've been mentioning this 5-level PrC, which nets full BAB-progression, good ref- and will-saves, d10, grants and increases fly speed up to 60 ft., 2+Int skills per level, +3 natural armor bonus and the class allows the race to learn to blood drain, receive claws as secondary attacks and also learns to unleash obscuring mists, gusts of wind and finally receive a kind of apotheosis towards being closer to a full-blown ahool. They also receive a couple of appropriate proficiencies and the option to unleash a limited amount of sonic blasts on foes..

The ahooling may also opt for the Ironsinger PrC, which nets a 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, +5 natural armor bonus progression and also DR 4/- over the 10 level-progression. The class also receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and increase the damage output of the sonic blasts granted by the fledgling racial paragon class. Beyond an array of thematically appropriate spell-like abilities, dazing and staggering sonic attacks and a capstone that lets them force targets to save multiple times to evade the lethal sonics.

Beyond these options, we also receive a total of 7 racial feats to improve bite attacks, flight and swoop down on foes, inspiring terror or reading information from the blood of those they consume. Speaking with bats and gaining fiendish familiars is also covered here.
On the glorious side, a moss rope and net and bloodflow staunching moss make for cool alchemical items, whereas 3 magical items and 3 spells add further, nice options - throwing darts of obsidian that damage those without natural armor trying to use them, or the cool ahool crown make for neat items.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some italicization errors. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler and Julian Neale deliver a great race that is high concept and intriguing - but alas, one that partially falls short of the great promise of the race's concept - the revised edition has completely cleaned up the confusion of the ahooling's flight and while the FCO-glitch persists, this greatly enhances one's ability to use this race: First of all, unassisted flight no longer is generally available for the base race. Beyond that, while I do consider the base race's racial traits a tad bit too strong, with especially the low SR being unnecessary, the fact that the race can't lower the SR makes the playing experience interesting. We have a significant improvement over the first iteration of the pdf and while the race is a bit on the strong side, it is not broken per se. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Ahool
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Dvergr
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/29/2014 08:33:28
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races with a general subterranean origin-myth for the races that inhabit the lightless depth of Aventyr - which can, coincidentally, be introduced with relative ease into other settings. Now part of this myth is the genesis of the dwarven races, of which the dvergr would be one - to be more precise, the race is most in line with the dueragr base race, though it is modified further with some minor skill modifications.



The dour, aggressive dvergr also benefit from quite an array of diverse favored class options, quite a few of which utilize an interesting distinction in that they represent the xenophobic frame of mind of the dvergr by being explicitly efficient against the Upperworlders. The FCOs, all of them, actually are rather neat - no complaints here.



Beyond these, we receive perhaps one of the most ambitious archetypes I've seen in quite a while with the Underminer cavalier archetype. While the archetypes' first columns lack the bolding of some ability-names/restrictions. The archetype per se is all about dire badgers and similar burrow speed utilizing mounts - now the great thing here, would be, that the archetype actually may not only carry the underminer cavalier below the surface, the archetype also provides an interesting mechanics to cover carrying passengers with the cavalier on the bumpy ride - so yeah, the tunnel may collapse soon after, but this class makes for some glorious scenes...and if you can't imagine a scenario where this will be awesome, drop me a line and I'll give you some ideas. Burrowing trampling and erupting from the ground as part of a charge (including rather painful potentials for being caught in mini-cave-ins), generating difficult terrain and yes, even concise rules for wrecking structures can be found among the arsenal of these badger-powered subterranean tank-like beasts.



We also receive quite an array of cool of items with aerodynamic picks, special grappling bolts and the deadly ambersticks (essentially alchemical dynamite) and 6 new racial feats allow dvergr to dwell in their xenophobia and further enhance their hatred for upperworlders. Special tricks to avoid ending up in a bury zone and options for throwing picks for a unique fighting style between melee and throwing.



Goggles that help underminers and similar characters with the tremor sense they grant and darkvision/x-ray-vision granting spyglasses can also be found within these pages, as can a spell to detect dwarves, one to escape to the surface by following gleaming motes of light and one that generates a superbly effective collapse.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Miek Myler and Julian Neale's Underminer is one absolutely glorious archetype and the items, alchemical and magical plus spells make for a great supplemental material. The dvergr's origin myth and glimpses into their xenophobic society make for a great read - and the top-notch production values make this a gorgeous pdf to read. That being said, while there are a couple of minor formatting glitches, this would still qualify for the highest of ratings, but on the downside - we could have used more information on dvergr society...and generally, more content. If you strip away the general myth you may know from other Underworld races-pdfs, one has to concede that a couple of more pages of content would have been nice indeed. Due to the relative brevity and the cosmetic glitches, I'll settle on a final verdict of 4 stars - if the archetype even remotely interests you, be sure to check this out.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Dvergr
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

B19: Tower of Screaming Sands
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2014 08:39:27
A simple and straightforward adventure: the party comes across an old abandoned tower deep in the desert and venture inside to loot it... or is it so simple?

The book starts with the adventure background, detailing how the tower - bored within an obsidian monolith rather than built stone by stone - came to be and telling the story of the deranged yet powerful wizard who made his home and last refuge here. Whilst the nature of the adventure is such that it can be incorporated into any suitable desert journey, several 'hooks' are provided to get the party headed in the right direction if you prefer that approach.

First, of course, they have to get there. Deserts are not safe places to travel in what with the heat, natural hazards and hostile wildlife... and some good advice is provided for running desert journeys which you'll want to hang on to for any time your players take it into their heads to have a desert trip. It's recommended that you use a mix of random encounters as well as the three provided, and that you keep the players interested by keeping time fluid, glossing over the long hours of plodding and highlighting encounters. Do not forget that the environment can be as much of an enemy as any monster - heat, thirst, the weather and the lack of landmarks can all take their toll on even well-prepared parties.

The encounters provided (by the way, there are THREE encounters, don't get confused by two of them being headed 'Encounter Two'!) give a good mix of excitement: with natural hazards, monsters and a nomad tribe to deal with. It's not all combat, interaction and thinking things through also play their part.

Provided the party survives mostly intact, they will eventually arrive at the tower. It may be by chance, or they may be here because of one of the hooks - or even after talking to the nomads during their journey. Here, there's a wealth of information to aid you in running this, the main part of the adventure - including two options that make things decidedly more stressful and potentially deadly for the characters.

The place is full of traps! Now, the background makes it clear why this is so, but it will not be obvious to the party - as some players do not care for lots of traps you may wish to consider if this is the right adventure for them, but you know your group... Many are deadly, so beware. There is loot to be had, so many groups will find it worth the risk.

The tower boasts three levels, and as well as the traps there are plenty of other threats, mostly undead. If run as a one-shot, having a cleric and a rogue in the party will be advantageous. The top level is the lair of the original creator of the dungeon and provides the scene for the climactic battle... one which must be won if the party is to escape alive.

The usual high standard of presentation from AAW is displayed, with copious amounts of information well-organised in colourful blocks that make it clear what's what: read-aloud text, information, trap mechanics, monster notes, skill checks and so on. This makes the adventure very easy to run, although like most some study beforehand would be a benefit. Appendices provide the mechanics for encounters in detail, using both Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rulesets.

Overall this is a good 'classic' dungeon crawl with lots to do and see, a good challenge for the intended level of party with the focus mostly on trap-solving and combat. An exciting time should be had by all!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B19: Tower of Screaming Sands
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

B18: Three Faces of the Muse
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/30/2014 06:47:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Before we begin, I should mention that this is an adventure review and as such contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? Okay, first of all, all you history and art-buffs out there, especially those with some knowledge in Renaissance art and the greats will have a field day here: Imagine a vast cathedral, where an artist called Michello, known for his superb magical crafting prowess died while making his epic fresco. Remind you of something? Yeah.



Now in a fantasy world, that wouldn't be too big of an issue - alas, the cathedral has since been haunted by strange phenomena and the artist's soul remains lost. Enter the PCs, as they explore the massive cathedral - fully mapped and coming with player-friendly maps, btw. And these renaissance-style drawings reminiscent in style and execution of DaVinci's famous drawings are simply AWESOME, even for the high standards of AAW Games.



Now while the goal is clearly defined in the resuscitation of Michello, in order to succeed, the PCs will have to brave the cathedral, which proves to be surprisingly deadly - choirs of madness-inducing allips (complete with sample insanities) and various, cool foes make for a challenging if not exceedingly lethal first part. Where the module becomes thoroughly awesome is with the second act - turns out, an asura called Aprame-Vara-Dharme, muse of Michello, has (kind of) claimed the artist's soul. Via some detective work and clues, the PCs will find that taking the pigments and completed brush of Michello to finish the fresco.



Upon completion, the PCs have to venture into the thus opened demiplane in one of the most iconic scenes I've read in a while and brave the dangers of the Elysian fields and vanquish diverse, weird threats and finally the asura to free the soul of Michello. The module also provides an xp-per-encounter run-down and a new item as well as statblocks for both D&D 3.5 and PFRPG for the challenges herein.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead, gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, testament to Joshua Gullion's prowess and talents - they will be sorely missed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the cartography by author Michael Allen is superb and fits the module's theme.



Wow. Even by AAW Games' standards, this module is one glorious blast - the encounters are inspired, the theme is uncommon, the hints and nudges towards real life are there, but unobtrusive and not distracting at all and the added twist of the fate of Michello and the cool villain make for an overall cool experience. Now if you've read "Gallery of Evil" - this is essentially superior in just about every way. It's smarter, the encounters are more diverse and the second act is just weird in all the right ways. Author Michael Allen delivers in spades here - this is a great module and worth every cent. We need more unique modules of this quality - 5 stars + seal of approval: A module not only for art and history buffs, but also for everyone who looks for a thematic change of pace and truly iconic imagery.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B18: Three Faces of the Muse
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Rise of the Drow
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2014 02:56:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome of a module is 494 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page designer signatures, 1 blank page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages ToC,2 pages of SRD, 2 pages of backer-lists, 12 pages of advertisements (all in the back), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 469 pages of content...that's A LOT, so I'll better get going!



First, let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I reviewed the original Rise of the Drow-trilogy back in the day, and it already was a very good array of modules then. When this kickstarter happened, I was asked to be a stretch-goal and I agreed. I did receive compensation for my contribution to this book, small as said contribution may have been - an ecology (I'll point out in the review) was penned by me, but I had no influence over any other part of this book. I do not consider my judgment in any way compromised and if you've been following me, you'll have noticed that I'm just as adept at criticizing my own work, so yeah - this book, if anything does not get an easier standing with me. Still, full disclosure in regards like this is a necessity to maintain my integrity. If you are still in doubt, feel free to check my original reviews for the trilogy, posted quite some time before even the announcement of the kickstarter that made this book to verify this.



Next up, since this is an adventure-review, here's the warning - the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right!



If you're familiar with "Descent into the Underworld", Part I of the original Rise of the Drow trilogy, then you'll realize one thing from the get go - you get your money's worth in this tome. The AAW crew has NOT skimped on the art budget, quite the contrary - from a one-page panorama of the starting village of Rybalka to the copious amounts of artworks in lavish detail (and color!), this is more than the sum of its constituent parts - take the keep the PCs are to investigate in the beginning - its whole surrounding area has now been properly mapped and expanded to include some gruesome remnants of the ancient fields of battle - including a couple of rather deadly creatures stalking the place...Have I mentioned that chaotic remnants of magic infusing the area (in case screaming skulls and diseased, mad treants did not drive home the point that this is unpleasantville...) or the rather problematic new residents of the keep?



From a panicked "prisoner" (you'll see...) to the exploration of the creepy place, the PCs have a neat array of threats ahead of them - and intelligence to gather. Rather nice here would be the module actually taking into account that the PCs probably will (and should!) regroup at the village sooner or later - if only to do some legwork. The exploration of the dungeon beneath the keep has also been upgraded with a much needed (and useful!) place - a kind of teleport nexus (hard to use, but players probably will find a way...) of a cabal of drow/undead, the so-called ossuary collaborative. Here, people knowing the original trilogy will look a bit puzzled: Yes, Yul, the nasty drow mhorg can still the "boss" of this dungeon - but the AAW-crew took one of my gripes with the original trilogy, the relative weak tie-in of the first module with the rest, and slew two brutes with one stone - the PCs receive powerful gifts from a mysterious drow female as they explore the complex - the lady Makinnga seems to be looking for an alliance and her extremely powerful items indeed are nothing to scoff at...plus, this alliance may be a shadow of the things to come for your players.



Exploring successfully the dungeon beneath the keep, the PCs are next off to a trip into the bowels of the earth, the wondrous realm called underdark. Or rather, in AAW Games' setting Aventyr (Norwegian for adventure, btw.), the world called underworld - and no, you won't (yet!) find Lethe or the like, but seriously - this is a world in itself. One of my grand disappointments with most 2nd and 3rd edition underdark/world-supplements of our game and, to a lesser extent, Pathfinder, is the lack of claustrophobia, of wonder, of strange horizons unconquered. The good ole' Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, one of the best resources I've ever read, is a rare exception to this - and the second module of the series garnered high praise from me initially, trumping the whole Second Darkness AP in one fell swoop. So AAW could have just left that alone. They didn't - they vastly expanded the whole section. Not only do we get tables of underworld hazards the players will have to adapt to, random and special encounters to face while the explore the vast network of tunnels - this time, they get to save a dwarven caravan from drow raiders and then, explore the vastly expanded dwarven city of Embla. Studded with crystalline Gonjolas, fully mapped and vastly expanded to provide a vast political panoply for exploration, interaction etc. - all while maintaining believability. What do I mean by that? Fungus farms, trade routes - the city feels alive, realistic and still thoroughly fantastic. Embla was great before, but ultimately only a grandiose backdrop - now, it's a vast sandbox to expand, develop and play in - complete with a creation myth, prices for beard-jewelry and trimming (YES!!! Now if that ain't dwarven, what is?), notable NPCs, different stores, taverns, banks and even a recipe for dwarven bread. Now, if your players don't bite, you can guide them through the story-threads rather easily here, but I literally, for my life can't imagine a group of players who wouldn't at least be intrigued by this strange place.



Beyond Embla, a short primer of some interest for the city of Stoneholm (tangential to the module - just there if your players want to check it out - now that's detail!) also can be found herein. While in Embla, the PCs will have to thwart an assassination attempt on the ruling council of the mercantile dwarves (after they've been thoroughly introduces into the intricacies of dwarven hospitality) and then, follow one of three paths to pursue in the aftermath of the drow's cowardly attempt at destroying the back-bone of the dwarves. Or at least, 3 paths are assumed and depicted - overall, the whole chapter is mostly written as a sandbox and thus offers quite an array of tough choices - two of which, though, have dire consequences: Returning to Rybalka to warn the village will see Embla fall to the drow and the PCs consequently will have to navigate either the ruins of the gorgeous city or avoid it altogether - sample encounters and the like are provided. A direct assault on the city is also possible, especially if your players are all about kicking the door in, murder-hobo style - and the battle indeed will be epic. The most detailed of the 3 paths, though, and the one the players should imho choose for maximum enjoyment, would be the one to Holoth's back entrance.

This choice will also change the final adventure in the trilogy, mind you. But back to the exploration trip through the wilderness. This trip, in the original, constituted the very best in underworld wilderness I've seen in ANY Pathfinder module. That was before the addition of the dreadful underworld dragon Nidh-Cthon and his demesne Jorumgard. And before the addition of Venthin's Hold, a truly despicable, extremely dangerous city hidden in the bowels of the earth, where no appetite, no matter how depraved, may be satisfied or the caves of the bat-like humanoids, the ahool. This would also be a good time to mention that the settlements get full settlement statblocks. And then, a gorgeous one-page illustration of a fungus jungle starts with what can be considered a herbarium of giant fungi of the underdark - what for example about a giant fungus that makes perception checks easier when adjacent due to its funnel-like shape? What about moonlight-like-radiance emitting mushrooms that imbue powers to e.g. reverse gravity to those drinking parts of the shrooms in alcohol. Especially impressive here - all fungi and molds herein get their very own full-color artworks (most including a humanoid figure as a frame of reference) and beyond these plants and wondrous hazards, mycelosuits are also introduced. These suits can essentially give you a mushroom suit that coats most of your body, rendering you weird, but also providing some very cool bonuses.

Plus: Seriously, how awesome is walking around covered in a weird suit of fungal fibre? Especially if the fungal suit constantly ejects tendrils and he like to propel you forward in e.g. forested environments? Oh, and then there would be the mushroom domain - one of my favorite domains currently available for Pathfinder. Why? Because you learn to generate explosive caps and kill your foes with force damage dealing mushroom caps. Not cool enough yet? What about entering shrooms and exiting through the same species? Or about the array of exclusive spells introduced? What spells? Well, what about fusing your legs with a mushroom and ride it? No, really. There's a spell here that fusing a hopping shroom to your feet, making you ignore difficult terrain and nigh invincible against most combat maneuvers, but also providing a severe hindrance to your spellcasting? Yes, picture it. Glorious. Especially if you evoke carnivorous shrooms erupting from the floor to eat foes?



What about special weather conditions like fungi sweat and spore storms? Yeah - and then there would be the new, superb map of the fungal jungle and the already by now (at least in my game) cult mushroom harvesting mini-game, with a cool makeover. Oh, and the jungle itself has MUCH more going on inside as well... This section of the module was great before - it's stellar now. Here is also a good place to note one of the smartest layout decisions I've seen in a while: Each of the 3 parts has its own, distinct, unique and gorgeous layout in full color. And I'm not saying the following due to Joshua Gullion (also known as fellow reviewer KTFish7 and a true friend) being responsible: The layout in this book is friggin' Paizo-level, depending on personal preferences even beyond that. Each of the various styles used just is stunning, complements well the full color illustrations and is just downright gorgeous. My girl-friend is professionally involved in layout and LOVES what he's done here - even though she usually has only complaints regarding my RPG-books. Better yet - the herbarium gets its own distinct layout - and in the context of this vast tome, that means if you just want to use the fungal jungle rules, you can immediately see where the section starts - flip it open, done. The same holds true for the 3 modules etc. - rendering this tome rather user-friendly. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that the layouts used here are among the most beautiful I've ever seen.



That out of the way - I know what you want to hear about - the vast drow city of Holoth and what is going on there. Well, let's start with a cohesive and concise gazetteer to the city - including detailed houses, power-structure, produce etc., allowing a DM to portray a very vivid depiction of the place. Each noble house (including two shadow houses)gets a full write up to inspire DMs further/expand the place, while each member of the main antagonist-house of Gullion actually gets a massive, full background story - making them come alive and potentially offering smart PCs way to use/trick/defeat the opposition. Speaking of which - roleplaying opportunities to strike deals with demons or devils, staging a slave revolt against dinosaur-riding drow taskmasters.



Chaos reigns in the city of Holoth, as the drow and the vidre wage war around the central fortress containing the dread artifact Vidrefacte - and to stop the threat once and for all, they will have to navigate the spider-shaped temple of the drow and enter via the temple Tolgrith tower. Here, the level of detail has once again been upped significantly - what about a 1-page table of quasi-magical herbs, all with different effects for one or 3 doses? Favorites like the mosaic tile golem or the book golem also make a triumphant return to form here. And the PCs better hurry, for each effect of the vidrefacte demands the power of souls to fuel it - and life is cheap in the underdark. Literally every day the PCs dawdle costs between 200 and 500 HD of creatures their lives...Yes, these drow are capital "N" Nasty genocidal megalomaniacs... If the PCs are smart, though, they'll return to an alliance with the undead-affine Makinnga that, via her magic and items might have helped them time and again (and is a great way to keep players on track): She proposes an alliance to destroy the vidrefacte: If the PCs can get 3 personal items from each family member, Makinnga can use her talents to distract that family member...and delay the collapse of the tower upon destruction of the artifact. The PCs have to essentially create their own ticking clock in the end and are responsible for what happens - greed for magical items versus survival instinct - brilliant. And the PCs better damn well heed this advice and alliance, unless they're buffed up and maxed out to the brim. Why? Because the tower and its foes are BRUTAL. We're talking Frog God Games level, mixed with TPK Games-style boss battles. What do I mean by that? Navigating the tower is brutal in itself - but in order to stop Matron Mother Maelora, the PCs will also have to escape the friggin' demplane of venom (now fully depicted and containing one of the most iconic boss battles I've seen in ages!) and final defeat the mastermind of the genocidal drow in a massive, chaotic free-for-all that lets them reap the benefits of their deeds and puts them in direct confrontation not only with the matron mother, but also her strongest allies and the dread vidre in a deadly free-for-all of epic proportions. A round-to-round breakdown helps the DM track all the complex interactions here and then, the collapse of the tower makes for a truly deadly escape - and, as for magic and the like - unlike most high-level modules, this one actually takes teleportations, flying and similar escape tricks into account and provides sensible explanations why the PCs should better damn well run on their own two legs...



Escaping from a city in chaos, the PCs will probably never, ever forget how deadly those damn drow are...and if even my players did so with PCs either fallen or severely battered and bruised, they still talk about the original module in reverent tones. This one is even better. So go figure! Different results, different end-game scenarios...all provided here...though, if you're like me, you want to go for the high-level epilogue module next!



Beyond the epic modules (at this point, we're on page 394 of the book!), we get the ecology of the enigmatic vidre, written by yours truly. I'm, of course, biased as to how this turned out, so feel free to tell me whether you liked it and why/why not! (And yes, I managed to point towards Rogue Genius Games great research rules in this one as an optional rule...) and also have a strange affliction and power components (inspired by Rite Publishing's 101 Special Material and Power Components) in here, though you need neither book to (hopefully!) enjoy the article.



Now not all is great in here - I'm e.g. no fan of the new drow domain - I consider its crunch somewhat flawed - gaining sight-based powers for negative energy damage falls apart with undead casters immediately and the other spells provided here didn't blow me away either - so this one is a definite "pass" for me. Then again, there is the gloriously whacky (or disturbing, depends on how you play it!) mushroom domain, so one flop, one top evens out for me. We also get a handy page of general drow traits for both 3.5 and PFRPG for the DM and then are off to the crunchy bits, i.e. the statblocks of the creatures and NPCs herein, provided for both Pathfinder and 3.5, each with its own index for convenience's sake and easy navigation - nice!

.



Here, let me go on a slight tangent: AAW's modules provide statblocks for two systems that are related, but distinct and different - and both have in common, that their details eat up space. 60 pages of 3.5 stats, 64 PFRPG-stats. This means that you probably won't use the stats of the other system, right? Well...it actually depends. Personally, for example, I HATE how PFRPG weakened the Demilich. I'm taking the 3.5 statblock of that one over the PFRPG-equivalent and make a conversion of it - and having the statblock already done helps here. Perhaps that's just me, but I actually like how this results in alternative builds available for a minimum of work. Plus: Take a look at the page-count. Even sans using the statblocks of one system, this tome still clocks in at a massive 400+ pages. That's a lot of material.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - while any book of this size will sport a lonely glitch here and there, the overall book is surprisingly error-free. Now I've already gushed about the drop-dead gorgeous, superb layout. I'll do so again - It adheres to beautiful, stunning two-column standards and each of the different styles used is beautiful in its own right. Then there would be the artwork. I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this is one of the most art-intense 3pp-books I#ve seen so far, with quite an impressive array of "show, don't tell" full-color pieces that are simply stunning and, at one glance, help immerse the players in the epic. The pdf comes with a vast array of bookmarks, indexes for statblocks and the different layout styles further help with navigation. Kudos! Now, as you know if you've ever purchased an AAW-module, the cartography by Todd Gamble and Jonathan Nelson, quite extensive and improved from the already great original pieces, is simply stunning. As per the writing of this review, I don't yet have the hardcover in my hands, so commenting on the quality of the binding, paper etc. is not yet possible. HOWEVER, I do own quite a bunch of AAW-print modules and they have in common that they use high-quality paper, glossy covers etc. - production values of a top-notch level beyond what I usually get when purchasing print.



When I reviewed the original trilogy and when the kickstarter was announced, Jonathan Nelson and the whole AAW-crew told me, they'd make this book a full-blown 5-star + seal of approval beast. Big promises indeed and, to be honest, I was somewhat skeptical - the original trilogy worked well and had its glorious moments, but it also had some severe weaknesses regarding tying the modules together and some minor logic bugs. These are gone. Now you may not realize this in the beginning, with the start being rather slow and relatively linear, but this is not only a huge, sandboxy module, this is the most expansive underworld/underdark-sourcebook I've read in ages.



The second half of the "Second Darkness" AP, back in the day, felt somewhat soulless to me - yes, the underdark depicted there was strange, had deadly creatures and cool hazards and the finale rocked. But it, at least to me, felt like a big kind-of-dungeon. It didn't feel like a cohesive, huge world, with its own rules, culture, flora, politics. Yes, it was a HUGE step up from 3.5's exceedingly boring slugfest "City of the Spider-Queen", but still - to me, it fell short: Of the level of detail I expected, of actual believability. Perhaps that's just the scholar in me, but there are many components to making fantastical settings work and the underworld should elicit wonder, this slack-jawed awe, this feeling you're not in Kansas anymore and have entered a world governed by strange rules and convention different from the surface world.

Rise of the Drow manages to pull this off. The AAW-crew has an uncanny knack for crafting believable, unique cultures, social norms and the like and the places and their inhabitants depicted herein adhere triumphantly to this tradition, with the guest-authors Brian Berg, Christina Stiles, Jason Stoffa, Joshua Gullion, Kevin Mickelson, Mike Myler, Owen K.C. Stephens, Will Myers, Chris Bayes, Curtis Baum, Justin Andrew Mason, Michale Allen, Rory Thomas, Todd Gamble and Steven Helt (and yours truly, at least I hope so!) bringing their A-game to the table and add their talents to the basic frame crafted by Stephen Yeardley and Jonathan Nelson. Most surpisingly here - the narrative cohesiveness of the voices of the narrative and the book - too many authors ften result in disjointed prose, something thankfully absent here. Oh, and take a look at this list - notice something? Yeah, that's pretty close to a veritable who's who of great game-designers, with several publishers among them.



As a vast module, Rise of the Drow manages to weave a vision of drow as efficient, deadly adversaries to be feared indeed, with so much going on, so much additional material and level of detail, that I can almost guarantee that no two groups will play this vast module in the same way. Want to go linear, run this like an AP? No problem. Want your players to explore and truly get into the meat (or rather: rhizome!) of the underworld and go full-blown sandbox? No problem either. Your players start experimenting with magical spices? There you go, full blown table of unique effects. In fact, the only module that came close to this in structure (but not in detail) would be the legendary, unavailable closed patron project "Empire of Ghouls" by Kobold Press, then Open Design, which reigned supreme since I managed to get my hands on it as my all-time favorite underworld module. Where I'm getting at is: I can't, with all the modules I've read, for the life of me, mention a single underworld-module in any iteration of a d20-based system that would be on par with this beauty. Mind you, that from someone who is actually rather sick of the drow as adversaries.



Now don't get me wrong, this book surely isn't perfect. here and there, certain magic items or effects could have used a slight streamlining and not all supernatural effects the PCs will encounter have the crunch detail to e.g. dispel them...but personally, as much as you'll be stunned to hear his...I like this decision. Why? Because thinking of 2nd ad 1st edition, there were so many cool terrains, weird magical effects, strange phenomena - all not codified with caster levels and the like. And honestly, in some cases I think the game is better off that way. Magic, when pressed in too tight a corset, ceases to be magic and becomes a science, something you can study and predict. Now, before prospective adventure authors start grinning: No, I have not lowered my standards, for where it is necessary, where it is feasible (i.e. in the vast majority of cases), the module actually uses spells, effects etc. and provides all of this information. And personally, I don't think I need harvesting DCs or a check to but mushroom fragments into a bottle of alcohol and dissolve it. This beast of a sourcebook/module is exceedingly detailed, but in a matter that makes sense. It leaves room for the strange to be strange. And overall, the crunch felt more refined than e.g. the at times problematic supplemental crunch used in e.g. Razor Coast.



It also offers a cornucopia of uncommon ideas, one of the best final fights (and penultimate bosses), a glorious mini-game, takes the capabilities of the high-level PCs into account, offers freedom sans losing its track. And while I probably won't run the saga again now, I will do one thing - scavenge the hell out of this book. The impressive amount of improved and new content makes this a great purchase even for those that own the original trilogy. I'm going so far as to suggest this being a truly worthwhile purchase even as a kind of regional sourcebook to plug and play in your game- you won't find an underworld-sourcebook of this quality anywhere else.



I already went into the pricing (this book is not cheap), but honestly, one look at the page-count (even minus the statblocks of the system you won't use) shows you why I still consider this great: To give you a relation - Razor Coast, another massive premium content sandbox, has a rather ill-fated, ineffective "build-your-own-AP"-chapter that confused me and almost ruined the whole experience for me. Said chapter of Razor Coast took up 100 of the 500+ pages and some less-than-perfect crunch ate more pages from the otherwise superb tale of colonialism and dark fantasy pirate-mega-module. What I actually used in both Rise of the Drow and Razor Coast is approximately on par, with Rise of the Drow even winning by a margin. So yeah, in relation to one another, I think the price for this massive, full-color premium book is damn justified.



So let's sum up my ramblings: This is the best currently available underdark sourcebook to scavenge ideas from, a glorious sandbox, an epic module with a furious climax and extremely high production values in the layout, art and cartography-departments to boot that fuses the sense of old-school underworld-exploration wonder and level of detail with a pressing, action-paced new-school approach and manages to please both my old-school sensibilities and my craving for cinematic, epic new-school scenery. This is a massive accomplishment and the measure by which all future underdark/underworld modules will be judged. It also is a no-brainer 5-star+seal of approval-book and a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014 - no matter whether you run this or just scavenge its pieces: This verdict holds true even if you never want to run this and just take components for your own game. Once the print copy arrives, it will get an honored place next to my copies of Slumbering Tsar, Rappan Athuk, my Midgard Campaign Setting and Coliseum Morpheuon as one of the books that defined Pathfinder modules for me. Have I mentioned I really, really don't like drow anymore?

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2014 02:53:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The ultimate finale of Rise of the Drow clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement (in the monster statblock sections - annoying if you print them out), 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 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.



All right, still here?

The war against teh drow is over, matron mother Maelora defeated. Oh those villains...so high level, yet so stupid...Or not. Sometimes, evil mastermind have something called "backup plan", as befitting of their mental attributes. So does the Matron of House Gullion. In order to defeat her, the PCs will have to track her down in her deity's home turf, the demiplane of venom. The module kicks off with an interesting little puzzle to recreate the portal before the module kicks off - and it will strike the PCs as weird - PCs just won't die. They stabilize at -9 hp. If they die and are lft behind, they return mysteriously, find strange healing draughts...but this all part of the master plan and is tracked by the DM via a specific table. More on that later.



The first arrival area is still relatively straight-forward, with a relatively simple puzzle to escape the section - which becomes a very interesting beast indeed, as Maelora escapes through a cube-like teleport maze full of deadly adversaries and no respite - to vanquish this extremely deadly place, its vast array of new creatures (which include btw. venom demons, colossal advanced spider zombies with more than 700 Hp and the dread spite spitters and venomwights...) and sheer endless onslaught of deadly foes, the only way for the players is to use their brains in a rather unique piece of abstract thinking - which personally, I love. Have I mentioned the fact that the venomous water slowly sears and saps away the PC's strength alongside the war of attrition of the adversaries. It shoudl also be noted that the planar labyrinth, which remains rather complex, gets individual maps for quite an array of the rooms to follow - why? Because these areas are complex, as are their challenges - titan bards with bad poetry, cannon golems, Despairs (the remnants of powerful adventurers defeated on a plane foreign to their alignment - and potentially the fate of the PCs...), a mighty drow malefactor (see TPK Games' great class, all necessary information included)/ warped-weaver in 3.5 and finally, vanquish Maelora, transformed into a spider-like dark angel hyper-monstrosity of no less than CR friggin' 23. Worst stat: 20. Yeah, ouch. Rather awesome - mind-blowing bad-ass one-page handout-style artwork of the mistress.



The encounters have their own index and just about all new creatures get their own full color artworks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the module come with copious pieces of great original full-color artwork as well a a ton of cool cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Stephen Yeardley and Joshua Gullion's "Commander of Malice", is a slug-fest (and no, I don't mean that in a derogatory way) and an epic war of attrition - all those artifacts, items, wands, potions your PCs have - they better start hoarding them, for even with suggested WBL and smart planning, the module can whittle down the considerate resources of high level PCs. That being said, the module, by design, will evoke hate from your players. The relentless onslaught of powerful foes, the strange terrain, the slowly creeping realization that something is fundamentally wrong. The sadistic requirements to the thinking faculties of your players...this is a module that carries bragging rights for beating and is one of the most difficult modules I've seen in ages. The sense of accomplishment in the end will be vast indeed and elicit cheers and high-fives. Still, by its very design, this module walks a very fine path, namely the one that your players, even with the catch that should prevent premature death, should be frustration-resistant and have joy while slogging through (literally!) endless waves of foes. If they don't have a healthy resistance to frustration, a mindset that they have to work for their triumph, then this is not for them. If they do, though, they'll have a truly unique experience.



Now one thing you should be aware of beyond that - this module's text is short - the statblocks, as is the wont with high-level modules, take up a lot of space and that's not something to complain about. Still, minus the creatures etc., the module is "only" 27 pages long - which looks insultingly short. And I won't kid - personally, I would have preferred more details, less war of attrition. That being said, you DO get your money's worth here - the mazes are damn complex and actually *running* this beast as opposed to just reading it, takes A LOT of time. It took me longer than the Prologue and the first Part of RotD combined. So yeah - this beast is definitely not for everyone, though if you're an aficionado of high level foes and builds and require foes to pit against the PCs but don't want to make them yourself - even as a statblock collection and only to scavenge, this has something going for it.



Now that out of the way - I do have to say, I still consider it the weakest part of Rise of the Drow, not due to being bad, but due to having a much narrower appeal than Prologue and main book - this module is a challenge to be beaten and should make the old-school crowd and fans of truly brutal modules exceedingly happy, but if the regular RotD already tested your group to their breaking point, then be cautious - this is for pros indeed. I won't hold it accountable for its brevity or its design choice, for it succeeds well at what it does, but I still think that a tad bit more versatility would have improved this beast. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 109 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG