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Qin Legends
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2016 09:27:45

Opening with an almost lyrical description of a combat between three adventurers and a couple of ball-and-chain wielding giants, this book contains details of higher-level abilities in Taos, Martial Arts and Magic, as well as magical items and an adventure. This material will help characters rise to even more legendary heights, all in keeping with the style of the game.
Firstly, The Power of the Taos looks at taking a character's power beyond the four levels described in the core rulebook. Legendary indeed will be the things that a character can do. Next comes The High Levels of the Martial Arts which offers new combat techniques that will indeed have their practitioners talked about in epic accounts, perhaps compared to the gods themselves, with additional lower level ones as well as probing the heights of level five and six. Plenty here to enable each character to define and perfect their distinctive style and to give those minstrels and story-tellers something to write about!
This section also covers the costs (in experience) of taking any skill to Legendary or God-Like levels, not just combat ones. There is also a wealth of information about the combat styles honed over generations by the leading martial families - perhaps out of favour at court these days, but if fighting is your thing, potent indeed and redolent with cultural richness. To learn a particular technique, a character must already be skilled in the associated martial art. Many such techniques and styles are well-known and a connoisseur can recognise them from the distinctive stance and movements of the practitioner. Of course, to learn these, the character has to find a master and persuade him to teach... not as easy as looking up a local dojo and paying for training!
Each style is introduced with its history and the mechanics of actually using it in play. Then the different techniques incorporated in that style are described in detail, flavour and game mechanics wrapped together in an elegant and logical package. This approach makes it easy for players to describe what their characters are doing as well as to handle the mechanics of the combat. They are all dressed up with colourful names too, after all, practising the Style of the Mortal Kiss of the Metal Butterfly sounds a lot more legendary than saying you are pretty handy with a dagger!
Next, The Magic of the Gods provides the same service for magic as the preceding chapters have for Taos and Martial Arts, taking it to the next level. There are many higher-level (legendary and godlike) spells and techniques for the aspiring magic-wielder to study and master. Then Treasure of Men, Gifts of the Gods introduces a method for creating legendary items and presents a selection of example items to get you started. Whole adventures could be written around such items, and it’s easy to see how those who possess them can themselves gain legendary status. They do not just have a list of abilities or effects, each has its story that tells of its origins, describes its appearance, and makes it into a true artefact to be quested for or treasured. If that wasn’t enough, we also have Celestial Objects which are crafted, it is said, by the gods themselves and bestowed on mortals who have gained favour in their eyes.
Finally there is a scenario called The Treacherous Prince, which is intended to follow on from the scenario in the core rulebook and forms the opening of the “Tiàn Xia” campaign. Or of course you can use it in your own campaign as you see fit. It deals admirably with character growth, starting with the ostensibly simple task of escorting a bride to her new home… then finding themselves embroiled in growing tensions between townsfolk and barbarian tribes that lead to demands that very important heads should roll or all-out war might result! It presents plenty of atmosphere, the sense of being at the centre of affairs and, of course, opportunities to start forging your own legends.
The additional rules material is well-nigh invaluable and the scenario exciting – what more could you want?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin Legends
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Qin: The Warring States
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2016 08:48:23

Opening with a short but atmospheric piece of fiction that tells of a young girl who survives a bandit raid on her village but flees straight into a dragon's lair, this is a game set in a semi-historical China, mysterious and exotic. If you enjoy shows like Monkey and The Water Margin you will feel right at home here (and if you fancy the game but don't know these shows, try to track them down!). There is a brief outline of the concept and an even briefer one of 'what is role-playing?', and that's the Introduction.


Next comes The History of Heaven and Earth. This is written in a gentle lyrical style, true in nature to the way such myths are told in ancient Chinese literature. These are the stories that children might grow up with, learning of the formation of the world and everything that is in it. Everyone should read this, it will help players get into the right frame of mind as well as providing background that would be familiar to their characters. Sweeping through dynasties, explaining religious belief and more, this sets the scene and the tone.


Mood set, next come a selection of pre-generated characters. Use them as exemplars or leap in and play them if you want to try the game out before getting to grips with character creation. A swordsman, a soldier, an exorcist, a taoist, a renegade, a spy, and a highwayman await your pleasure, each with a backstory, full stats and an illustration.


This is followed by Characters, which explains how to create your own from the ground up. Even if you want to use the pre-gens, read though this to get an idea of how they work from a game-mechanical standpoint. Starting with a concept - a brief pen-picture of what you have in mind - you distribute 14 points between the Aspects (Metal, Water, Fire, Wood and Earth), select a Gift and a Weakness and purchase Skills with a further 15 points. Then you have yet another 15 points to assign to Combat Techniques, Taos and Magic. Then you can make up his background, what got him to where he is. Bear in mind that your character is intended to be a hero from the outset, with luck he should become a veritable legend.


There are plenty of notes to explain what all these terms mean and guidelines to aid you in picking the right ones to suit the concept that you have in mind. It's all quite straightforward and easy to understand, but couched in the style of mystic China, making it easy to slip into character. Once he is ready for play the next chapter, The Rules, puts all this detail into context showing how to use your character's abilities to effect. However, there's a note recommended that in some ways the rules should be a last resort, to be turned to only when it is not clear what the outcome of an action might be. They make use of the Ying-Yang Die, which is actually two D10s of different colours rolled together, subtracting the lower result from the higher to get your result, which needs to exceed a 'success threshold' based on the difficulty of whatever you are trying to do. You add Aspects and Skills to your roll as well. That's pretty much it, but there is further explanation and examples to set you up for play.


Next come chapters on The Taos, Martial Arts and Magic. These give the game its unique flavour, particularly the Taos. The Taos are the decrees of Heaven that govern the operation of the universe, and particularly the world of men. Some exceptional people - like your characters of course - are able to bend the Taos to their will. It seems a bit complex and daunting at first glance, but persevere - it's well worth it! You may think of them as feats which verge on the supernatural - leaps that appear to defy gravity, for example. Martial Arts deal with all manner of combat. It is the norm for people to tend to specialise in a single weapon, but to strive to become exceptionally good with it.


We then move on to understand the world in which the game is set, with The Warring States describing recent history, governance, justice, geography and the like; then Life in the Warring States discussing what it is actually like to be there - family life, morality, social conventions, clothing, food and so on. We then learn of Jiang Hu: The World of Martial Arts, a semi-mystical world on the margins of society where people can get a second chance and where martial arts reiqn supreme. Other chapters look at The Hundred Schools of Thought (prevalent philosophies), Religions and Superstitions, and finally Living in the Warring States, which covers weapons and equipment, and other costs. This concludes the 'player' section of the book.


We then enter Game Master territory. It's always a bit puzzling when everything is packed into one volume - are players expected to buy a book and not read half of it? How many people only play a game and never GM it anyway? Every group I've been in, there was generally almost a fight over the GM's chair. Anyway, here we find The Bestiary - a fine collection of monsters from fact and fable with which to beset your party, The Powers Behind The Throne (which deals with Gods and dragons...), notes on handling experience and renown and on setting the scene for your players. Plenty of useful information and advice here. Finally there is an introductory scenario, Towards a World of Forests and Lakes, This serves as an introduction to your campaign, with the characters coming of age and beginning their adult careers... and of course nothing quite goes to plan, with ghosts from the past and portents of a troubled future threatening to disrupt their chosen lives almost before they have begun. Pains are taken throughout to show how the rules work to effect, thus providing an introduction to game play as well.


Altogether this is a fascinating embodiment of legendary China, a place that never was but could well have been... and remember, do not despise the serpent for having no horns, for who is to say that he will not grow into a dragon!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Warring States
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Mindjammer – Dominion – FREE QUICKSTART
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2016 10:07:18

The book opens with a brief overview of what Mindjammer is all about and an excellent concise summary of how the Fate ruleset works. Even if you do not intend to play Mindjammer, this is almost worth picking up for the Fate overview alone - excellent for introducing new players to the game mechanics. However for those who will be playing Mindjammer, comments relating to the game are woven through it, so again even if you don't need the introductory adventure, your players might find it a useful quick reference to the rules.


Next, four pre-generated characters are provided to enable you to jump right in and play - the rules summary doesn't explain how characters are created, it concentrates on how to actually play the game. They are carefully interwoven to create a coherent group with reasons to be together at this time and place, a nice example of how to create a party for this game... although they may or may not want to form a longterm relationship, as two of them are fugitives who have been captured by one of the others! One is a sentient ship, complete with a synthetic human analogue avatar for those occasions when being a starship in inconvenient.


Finally, there's the introductory adventure, which takes the party to Yand, a rediscovered world on the edge of the New Commonality of Humankind's sphere of influence. It is hotly contested by both the Commonality and a neighbouring (and hostile) bunch called the Venu. There's a lot of background about the planet itself and its current situation crammed in here. It's a fascinating and well-developed system. The adventure itself revolves around retrieving a kidnapped agent of the Commonality, and spreads over eight scenes - although you don't need to play all of them. For example if you only have a short playing time, like a convention slot or a single evening, you could get by with three scenes. There's a detailed timeline to help you stay on track. The adventure is exciting, and also demonstrates how the Commonality operates which - as it is all-pervading - is a good guide as to whether you and your players are going to enjoy playing Mindscape. There's a lot going on, a lot to keep track of, and the GM should study the adventure thoroughly before play begins to be able to stay on top of it. If the party is successful, other published adventures make for good follow-ons, assuming the party stays together, giving you the beginnings of a campaign as agents of the Commonality.


This is an excellent introduction to this game which makes the most of its particular character and should give your group a good idea if this is a system they'd like to play longterm.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer – Dominion – FREE QUICKSTART
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Wondrous Stash Vol. 01 (5E)
Publisher: 00Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2016 07:29:20

There's no beating about the bush here, this product just jumps in with both feet and opens with the listing for the first wonderous item - an aberrant mask. That's pretty wierd, so I think I'll move on swiftly to the next, which is rather neat: animated caltrops. You all know what caltrops are, right? Four spikes so arranged that one is always pointing upwards - very bad for horses' hooves or anyone going around barefoot. These ones come in a box and by use of various command words they will distribute themselves according to your desires and even tidy themselves away back into the box afterwards.


With each item there's a description of what it does, often an illustration, and three novel things: optional quirks, optional flaws and a quote that sums the item up quite neatly. So for the aforementioned caltrops, the quirk is that the user tends to expect everyday objects to do what they're told and the flaw is that some of the command words are tricky to pronounce and you may have to repeat them a few times before the little beggars respond to you. Not nice if someone is chasing you...


It's all about providing something a bit out of the usual. Perhaps it is a passing huckster who tries to sell the item to the party, or something they see someone else using or something to make a stash of loot more interesting. There are some neat and flavourful ideas here, and many could spawn an interesting backstory that the party could research or may even become objects of desire that they might hear about and seek out, to the level of being the focus of an adventure.


Used sparingly, these can enhance your game and make the party think about the things that they find. Don't over-use them, though, or they will think that they are exploring a joke shop not a dungeon.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wondrous Stash Vol. 01 (5E)
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Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2016 07:50:12

This adventure is aimed at beginning PLAYERS as well as at first-level characters starting out on a adventuring career. Thus, as the author explains in his foreword, some of the encounters may seem a bit simplistic to more experienced role-players. It's also quite low on role-playing, presumably on the grounds that it's all that die-rolling stuff that's novel and needs practising - anyone can talk after all, even when imagining that they are someone else! There is a cut-down version of the usual Raging Swan 'masterclass' on the anatomy of an encounter along with notes on reading stat blocks, so I guess that it's expected that the GM will know what he is doing, even if his players are learning the game.


There's a map which shows the area in which the adventure takes place. Interestingly it is depicted as over the sea to the southwest of the Lonely Coast, Raging Swan's default setting. The overall concept of the adventure is that there is a valley that the locals won't go near, many believing it is haunted, and for some reason - perhaps sheer bravado, perhaps one of the hooks provided - the party decides to go there and take a look around. As the adventure begins in the town of Dulwich, there are opportunities to gather information before setting out for the five-mile journey to the south, partly through thick forest, to reach the valley. There is no direct path, they'll have to go cross-country. Some minor events are provided to enliven the trip, but a major brawl is unlikely...


Once there, the above-ground part of the adventure is sand-box in style with a list of locations which the party may investigate as they please, and a few encounters to throw in as the need arises to maintain interest. There's also an optional encounter to use if your players seem to like the role-playing aspects of the game - but be warned, if they go in looking for a fight things are likely to end badly for them.


The below-ground part of the adventure is provided by the three tombs situated in the valley. Two are sealed and appear undisturbed, the third is a creature's lair and actually seems to be a natural cave formation rather than a tomb. Each 'mini-delve' is well-constructed and coherent, with traps and monsters to deal with and items to loot... all the thrills of being an adventurer encapsulated!


Everything is quite open-ended, the party will be able to come and go as they please, but the whole gives the impression that life is going on as normal whatever they decide to do. For follow-up adventures, one suggestion is that the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands adventure from the same publisher (and author!) could be located nearby. This is an excellent introduction to classic adventuring and should give new players a fair impression of a hobby that hopefully will give them years of fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs
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Base of Operations (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2016 11:11:10

Set near a 'frontier' town, this adventure is perfect if you have a low level party (say around 5th-level) who have begun muttering that maybe they ought to establish a home base for themselves. You see, said local town knows of a keep nearby that they are willing to give to a party if only they'd just clear out the unsavoury folks who are squatting there!


There's a fair bit of background, some of which the party might be able to find out in advance... and one item they won't discover until long afterwards but which ought to put a smile on their faces! The adventure itself falls into three phases: the township, the road to the keep and the keep itself.


A few hooks are supplied to get the party involved, and there are some basic details about the town. You might want to flesh this out a bit if the party does decide to settle in the neighbourhood. The road is dealt with briefly, but if you want to throw in any enounters along the way you will need to come up with them for yourself.


Finally the keep itself, which is built part-way up a cliff into which a mine has been dug. There's a basic plan of the place and descriptions, along with notes about who is where and what they'll do when their home is invaded by the party. It's likely that most of the inhabitants will want to fight (and, for that matter, that the sight of them will make the party want to fight too), but they are quite an interesting and varied bunch and the fights should prove entertaining. In the event of party success, a couple of follow-on options are provided.


It makes for an interesting if straightforward adventure, with the possibility of providing the party with a new home. What's not to like?



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Base of Operations (3.0)
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An Eye for an Eye (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2016 10:34:23

This is a neat little adventure to throw into your campaign some time after your party has thwarted the evil plots of someone who managed to get away from them, or just have proven themselves a bit of a nusiance to someone... and what party doesn't manage to put backs up at least somewhere that they go in your campaign world? For this adventure concerns vengeance, vengeance wreaked against the party when they have managed to irritate the wrong people once too often.


The first part of the product describes the members of the Council of Wrath, a bunch of mercenaries who specialise in vengeance. You pay them, they'll deal with whoever has annoyed you. They are a well-developed bunch of ruffians, with varied and complimentary skills honed to their preferred line of business.


A few running notes are supplied to aid the DM, particularly in the opening phase, when the Council runs a surveillance operation on the party to determine exactly what they will be up against prior to determining the best opportunity to attack. Very paranoid parties might pick up on this, but it's unlikely - these guys are good at what they do. They also make sure they have an escape plan ready during the final stages of their investigation, when they attempt to engage the party in conversation, often asking about past exploits - it all sounds like casual conversation in a bar to the unwary.


In the next phase, they really show their professionalism, convincing some other group to take the party on just so they can watch them in action. You can draft in whoever you feel are appropriate, but some additional NPCs are provided in case you do not have suitable ones of your own. Their next move is just as impressive - they kidnap someone the party is known to value as an insurance policy... or to use as bait. And only then do they mount their attack, generally trying to draw the party into an ambush, possibly as they try to rescue whoever got kidnapped.


Should the party survive, it's likely they will want to know what was going on, and ways for them to accomplish this are also provided.


This is a neat idea, impressively presented. Keep it handy for when the need to take the party down a peg or two arises...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
An Eye for an Eye (3.0)
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Gibbous Moon Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2016 08:26:06

As an interesting and quite thought-provoking adventure, Gibbous Moon makes an attractive side-adventure to slot into an existing campaign, or indeed to run as a one-shot game (perhaps using the pre-generated characters suppied).


As usual, we begin with information on how to read a stat block and the anatomy of an encounter, classing Raging Swan masterclasses that feature in every adventure (after all, they don't know which one you'll pick up first!). Then we get on to the adventure background: a tragic tale of someone afflicted with lycanthropy who's quite horrified at what he has become and is trying to find ways to live with his affliction.


OK, so how do you bring the party into the mix? As the lycanthrope has been raiding the nearby village, it may just be that the villagers will take advantage of passing adventurers to ask them to investigate just why their cattle are being stolen a few days before the full moon each month. To get them to the village, called Barlow, it may just be on their way to someplace else or they may be on a trip to pick up the bones of a hermit who used to live in a hermitage not far from the settlement.


For most, the starting point will be Barlow itself, however they came to be there. The village and its inhabitants are described comprehensively, with details of demographics, notable people and locations and of course a map. There's plenty to find out here, for those characters who enjoy investigating and asking around. Most inhabitants are either humans or dwarves, and there are some tensions between them - the dwarves are relative newcomers and some of the 'old' residents do not care for their modern ways disturbing a pastoral idyll. With this wealth of information it will be easy to bring the place to life.


The second part deals with the hermitage at Clear Pool... with the hermit dead (else why might anyone be after her bones?) it has provided a refuge for the lycanthrope. Of course, the party has to get there first, and there just might be something lurking in the undergrowth... Once there, the hermitage itself is actually a series of natural caverns in a cliff-face that have been adapted into quite a nice residence. Again it is described in immense detail, making it all sound very 'real', something to bring to vivid life.


And here it becomes interesting. Of course, many parties will just want to fight... but if they are willing to try talking. It may be possible to persuade or intimidate the lycanthrope into changing his ways - and he, of course, would dearly love to be cured of his affliction.


With the neat twist of several ways of resolving the adventure and a few ideas for further exploits - even including taking over the hermitage as a base - this is a fascinating little side-adventure that should prove memorable.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gibbous Moon Collector's Edition
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Dwellers Amid Bones Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2016 10:53:39

This adventure is intended as a bit of a sidetrek, or something to happen whilst travelling from one place to another, yet has plenty to keep the party interested and occupied. Starting with the customary Raging Swan masterclass in reading stat blocks and the anatomy of an encounter, we soon get to the meat of the adventure, with a background that - without giving too much away - tells of a tribe of orcs advanced enough to actually bury their dead and what happened to the tombs once the tribe was driven off.


If you want a reason for the party to get involved (rather than stumbling into the situation apparently by chance) a local lordling is provided to hire them to deal with a couple of dragons that have been seen flying around some hills a few days' travel away. There's some information to ferret out and a neat additional twist in the shape of a dream/vision for any half-orcs in the party.


Next, we get to find out about the local village, which has been raided by those flying varmints. It's sent on the edge of the Tuskwood and has a shrine to an historic hero that they are trying to build up into a pilgrimage destination. Most inhabitants are either farmers or loggers, and are a mix of halflings and humans for the most part. There's a map of the village and quite a lot of background information to make the place come to life.


The next section deals with the Tuskwood. If nothing else, the party will have to traverse it in order to reach their destination. It's pretty wild and dangerous with boars, wolves and worse to be found there. The party will have to travel through it for 3-4 days to reach their destination, and so plenty of material is provided to make that trip a little bit interesting...


When they reach their destination, they find a small network of caves in a small cliff within the forest. From then on in it is more or less a dungeon-delve, although even here there are opportunities to speak with at least some of the denizens rather than fight with them. Just to make things a little more exciting, part of it has been flooded by an overflowing pool. Rules for moving and fighting underwater are provided at the end of the book for those risking these passageways.


This makes for an excellent interlude, exciting and potentially lucrative, for any party travelling in the area. The whole thing hangs together well, with enough twists in the plot to lift it out of the ordinary.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dwellers Amid Bones Collector's Edition
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Against the Cult of the Bat God
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2016 09:58:06

The usual preamble opens the book, a brief bio of the author, notes on how to use the adventure from a mechanical standpoint (reading stat blocks, the anatomy of an encounter and so on), and then there's a rundown on the Lonely Coast, the wild frontier in which Raging Swan's adventures are set. The default location for this adventure is a remote and insular village by the name of Oakhurst, but it's relatively simple to either use a village in your own campaign world instead, or relocate Oakhurst lock, stock and barrel to a suitable location there. If you do decide to use Oakhurst, it's presented in considerable detail including locations, principal inhabitants and a map.


We then move on to the adventure itself, beginning with the background and a synopsis. Several ideas are provided to intice the party into visiting Oakhurst - they'll be needed as it is a dismal place with hostile and insular inhabitants, not somewhere you'd visit for pleasure. Like many of Raging Swan's adventures, there's a timeline of events that are going on irrespective of what the party does, not only providing a good feel of life going on regardless but also presenting a real threat: if the plot is not thwarted in time, disaster will befall the region!


To start with, the adventure will involve investigation and general poking about, but the more physical members of the party need not fear, they will soon have opportunity to engage in combat as offence is taken at their nosiness. To support the investigation, there are several locations which the party can visit, with notes on what they can discover at each one. Events - as detailed in the timeline - are presented with ample support to enable you to run them effectively.There are many little touches - such as a chart of 'Sights and Sounds' - to add flavour to proceedings.


After the investigative phase, the characters ought to feel moved to visit a decaying and decrepit manor house to pick up clues, and again there is a wealth of detail to make this a delightfully creepy exploration... even before they get down into a veritable dungeon underneath the house, and then the final part of the adventure leads them to a hidden cave deep within a cliff where they will (hopefully) thwart the cultists once and for all.


With plenty of traps and an abundance of mad inbred cultists to contend with, this is a classic and creepy adventure with plenty of brooding atmosphere.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Cult of the Bat God
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Retribution Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/08/2016 08:38:31

This is a massive adventure which should allow successful first-level characters to make their mark... or find an early and chilly grave! The default setting is The Lonely Coast, a sparsely-populated frontier region just crying out for adventurers to explore it, which is available for free from Raging Swan Press, but it could just as easily be put in a suitable remote corner of your own campaign world.


To start off there's the customary masterclass in the anatomy of an encounter - if this is your first Raging Swan adventure, make sure to read it - followed by a brief introduction, complete with map, to the Lonely Coast. This introductory section also contains the background to the adventure, a synopsis of what ought to happen and notes on religion, for religious belief and betrayal lie at the very heart of this adventure. Two new faiths are presented here, but it is relatively trivial to substitute similar ones from your campaign or to just claim them as local to this particular area. Of particular note is how one cult, the Unalterable Way, takes the nice, fluffy, warm lawful good worship of Darlen and turns it into something grim and strict.


The adventure itself follows, falling into three sections. The first part, Sanctuary, involves actually getting to the Priory of Cymer, where the rest of the action is centred. It's no easy task as the weather has turned bad and is getting worse. Usefully, there are notes on how to deal with those parties who decide that the prudent thing is not to continue with the journey: the objective is to end with them trapped in the Priory as storms rage outside!


Once there, part two of the adventure is one of increasing isolation and fear as a dreadful plot is revealed, and part three leads the characters on a challenging delve deep below the Priory to put a stop to it. Throughout, detailed encounters replete with those little features that make the whole thing come alive are presented, complete with all the rules information you need to run them and plenty of hints and tips - everything from role-playing suggestions to troubleshooting unexpected party responses. Parts one and two of the adventure present mainly physical challenges, whilst part three is one of investigation, interaction and role-play. Thus there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to shine, whatever their preferences and talents.


The whole thing hangs together beautifully, a compelling dark tale to play out against rising winds and gusting snow. It's atmospheric with a real sense of danger, yet should the party prove successful they can bask in a real glow of satisfaction at having removed some evil from the world. You don't often get THAT at first level!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Retribution Collector's Edition
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Weapon Cache Vol. 01 (5E)
Publisher: 00Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2016 08:41:40

Billed as '25 New and Amazing Magical Weapons for Your D&D 5e Game' this little product has a lot packed into its 12 pages. As the introduction states, they want to recreate the sort of wonder that magical items kindled in the hearts and minds of players reading Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. If you've been around since fantasy role-playing burst onto the scene 40 years ago, by now you will be more likely to assess an item for its usefulness - what bonus does it give? What normally invulnerable monsters can I hit with it? - rather than just stand all amazed at the idea of a sword that bursts into flame or has a mind of its own. One way to rekindle the wonder is, of course, to invent new items that are magical in more senses than the conventional ones, and this is what has been attempted here.


One way is by introducing little quirks. Perhaps YOUR magical sword, whilst on paper is the same as any other one with the same stats, looks different or has some unique characteristics or preferences. Maybe that ring only works if placed on the fourth finger of your right hand, and sulks if you wear it anywhere else (look, they've got me doing it now, that was a Megan original spawned as I typed...). It may even be a slight flaw, not severe enough to be a curse but which perhaps means you'll be a bit more likely to sell or give away the item to some unsuspecting fellow.


So each of the 25 weapons in this collection is provided with a name, weapon type (that Arcane Reaver might not be a sword like the picture, maybe it's a great big halberd!), an indication of how rare it is and why, and a paragraph or two explaining what it does. Then you get several optional quirks and flaws uniquely suited to the weapon in question. Imagine for instance a magic blowgun that automatically coats darts from an inexhaustible supply of acid, but which makes its user crave spicy food! Just to add to the amusement, the text is spattered with pithy quotes, usually from someone watching the weapon in question being used - how about "It was horrifying watching Brogan beat that enemy soldier to death. But towards the end of their fight I found myself tapping my foot in rhythm with his strikes..." - what sort of an image does that conjure up?


They are altogether rather fun, and well worth introducing to your campaign. None are so powerful as to unbalance your game, but they could make good items of loot in a dungeon or removed from the body of a fallen foe (especially after the party has had the 'pleasure' of being on the receiving end of the item during the brawl...). Definitely worth a look!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weapon Cache Vol. 01 (5E)
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2016 11:37:37

Whilst in many games, travelling to a place forms part of the adventure, in The One Ring the journey often IS the adventure, so this is a timely and useful addition to the game line. Anyway, I love maps!


So, let's start with the maps. They're glorious. And big - looking at the PDF version, on a large-screen PC, I'm not even getting 50% of them full-screen. There are four maps in total: Rohan & Gondor, Mordor, Wilderland and Eridor... but each comes in two forms, one for players and one for the Loremaster. The Loremaster version has loads of locations and other details, whilst the player version is the sort of thing a local cartographer might have made and sold to the Company when they were planning their next trip. A real delight to the eye, and practical for the game as well. The paper ones will no doubt look nice on your wall or enhance your tabletop when playing.


The set also contains a 32-page book which explains that Journeys and Maps is all about the adventures a company can have on their travels - chance encounters, hazards, natural events and more. The first chapter looks at travel by road, with plenty of ideas for things that might happen to the company arranged by region, making it easy to select the most appropriate event for them. Unfriendly locals, opportunistic thieves, or darkness lurking in a ruined farmhouse and more await... or they might just get lost! There are also suggestions about tailoring Hazards to specific regions, with a wealth of examples to get you started. Any can prove a momentary distraction, many have the potential to be developed into far more.


The next chapter deals with Boats and Ships. This provides just about everything you might want to know about travelling on the water rather than the land, with both river and sea journeys being discussed. There are notes on planning journeys, the types of vessel available... and of course hazards specific to the water.


The next section looks at things apart from hazards that can be used to enliven journeys. Here are interesting things to see, places to spend the night, fascinating people to talk to... not every encounter or event need be a bad one despite the abundance of hazards provided earlier.


The last chapter, Bones of the Earth, discusses ruins and explains how to design your own. Start by deciding who built it and what it was originally used for, then think about its present appearance and what it is being used for now. A whole bunch of ideas here. Finally, there is an Index of Locations covering everything that's been published to date, telling you both the book and the page number you'll need to consult to find out more.


Overall, this is a well-nigh essential aid for the Loremaster, and the maps are beautiful!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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Road of the Dead Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/05/2016 06:28:06

The original Road of the Dead was an impressive adventure, both in content and in presentation, so it's hard to see how it can be improved upon...


The adventure is located in Raging Swan's Lonely Coast campaign setting but, as it deals with remnants of a far-distant past just about everybody has forgotten about, it can be placed in a suitable location in your own campaign world with minimal effort. Before getting into the adventure, however, there is a very clear explanation of how encounters are set out showing you exactly where to find each item of information you might need whilst running it. A lot of people lay encounters out clearly, but actually explaining your methods in advance is a nice touch. Traps and monster stat blocks are similarly laid out in detail, and this is followed by an overview of the Lonely Coast, to enable you to establish the adventure's location easily, complete with a good map.


Next comes an Adventure Background and an Adventure Synopsis. The Background gives all the detail you need about the situation, and the Synopsis walks you through the intended sequence of events. There's a note about the best way to relocate the adventure if you don't want to use the Lonely Coast, and then more detail of the complex whose exploration forms the actual adventure, complete with a beautifully-detailed map that has a 'hand-drawn' feel. Several ideas are provided for why the characters come across this adventure, including blind chance (after all, it's over ten centuries old and most folks don't even know it's there!) as well as reasons for why they might be in the area about other concerns. Neat.


The adventure proper then begins, with everything you need to run the characters through finding the entrance... complete with pictures to show your players as well as detailed plans of each location. This is well-resourced indeed! Everything is very clear and detailed, you will not need to spend time rummaging through other books to find additional information.


The adventure itself is deliberately challenging for the intended Level 3 characters, partly because they have ample time to rest, regain spells, etc., as they explore and partly because, well, it's intended to be a dangerous place anyway. But the rewards are pretty good, especially for those who like - or know where they can sell - ancient artefacts and knowledge.


It is a well-devised and beautifully-presented dungeon crawl, with a coherent underlying rationale and plenty of exploration and combat to challenge the most determined adventurers. Moreover, it is not - as so many such adventures are - very linear, the characters have quite a lot of freedom in where they go and what they do whilst exploring the depths. There's an excellent atmosphere of treading ancient halls that have not been disturbed for countless generations... and even some follow-up activities if desired.


Some six pregenerated characters are provided, each with loads of detail, complete equipment, etc., not just some stats, should you wish to dive straight in to the adeventure; and there is a goodly amount of background material about the Lonely Coast setting so that you may place this adventure there even if you are not already familiar with it. All this makes it easy if you are looking for a one-off stand-alone adventure rather than one to slot in to an existing campaign.


It's a fun delve with a coherence often lacking in your average dungeon-crawl. Things, creatures, are where they are for a reason, not just because there was an empty patch on the map. That's the sort of thing that I like, a place to explore that actually works within the context of the shared alternate reality of the game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Road of the Dead Collector's Edition
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The Sunken Pyramid
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2016 08:04:17

This may be the 'free' version but you get a lot for... well, nothing. It's a good way to take a look at the quality work Raging Swan Press does before shelling out your hard-earned cash for one of their adventures.


We start off with some humerous remarks from the publisher (who is also co-author) and the standard Raging Swan Press masterclass in the anatomy of an adventure (which is so good I'd say grab this even if you are not in search of an advenure right now, it will help you organise your own better!), then we move on to the adventure background. There's this strange sunken rock offshore, you see, and nobody's quite sure if it's natural or was constructed... and the background explains, for the GM's eyes, what actually is going on there and why it's so much of a threat right now.


Then it is explained that as the adventure involves exploring this sunken pyramid, as it's known, you can drop it pretty much into any suitable coastal area in your own campaign world - you can use a town there instead of White Moon Cove. However, with it being an underwater adventure, you'd better ensure that the characters have access to some means of breathing underwater, indeed, that they can swim! There's also an appendix on Underwater Combat that ought to come in handy. There are several plot hooks to get the party involved, or you can run an introductory encounter that takes place in White Moon Cove (or whatever settlement you are using in its place)... and there are even a couple of suggestions aimed at the more mercenary types who want to know what's in it for them if they undertake this dangerous exploration.


Next there is a timeline for the adventure, a neat device that gives the feel of events moving on irrespective of what the party is doing, and some quite extensive notes on sahuagin, some of whom will be encountered along the way. We then move on to White Moon Cove and there's sufficient detail for you to run that settlement... indeed all those little touches like completely unrelated rumours that serve to bring it to life. And a sketch map, so nobody need get lost.


Then the adventure begins, with the introductory encounter Night Raid. It's a bit of stirring action in its own right, as well as leading in to the adventure proper. To start with, of course, the party has to get to the sunken pyramid, which requires a sea-going boat. If they don't have one, arrangements are in place to have one turn up at a convenient moment (complete with a reason for the captain to cooperate). Once there, they need to swim down to it, some 30ft - a respectable SCUBA dive in the modern world, so you see the need for fantasy equivalents in the shape of spells or magic items. There's a neat cross-section of the pyramid to give you a feel for it, and the notes required to explore the uppermost level... if you want more than that, go buy the full version of this adventure!


As ever, a well-presented and resourced adventure. The one error I've spotted is that 'grizzly' is normally a term reserved for bears, when speaking of fates they are usually 'grisly'... but overall this is a good taste of what Raging Swan Press can do, so get it and have a look. Likely you'll be back for more...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sunken Pyramid
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