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A Frigid Demise (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2016 10:17:25

Well, this is 'Dungeons and DRAGONS' after all, so it's nice to have an adventure that involves a dragon occasionally. It involves a crafty old white dragon by the name of Charasta, and the background notes for the DM tell you all about her.


There are various ways you can introduce this adventure into your campaign. Perhaps they hear rumours of a dragon in the area and go looking, or they may be on the trail of an ancient box that is said to have the power to alter the weather. More likely they are investigating some caverns and they come across her lair by chance - she's kept it well-hidden, after all.


Whatever you choose, the adventure involves a visit to her subterranean lair. This will prove a challenge as it is freezing cold and mostly underwater! Copious notes are provided to enable you to handle the effects of cold and being submerged on the characters. The map is based on one by Dennis Kauth that originally appeared in the Map of the Week feature on the Wizards of the Coast website, but the original wasn't bigger than the one in the module, despite suggestions that you download it (which now takes considerable searching to find anyway!).


There's a comprehensive description of the lair itself, and plenty of detail about how Charasta will respond to the party coming to visit... it doesn't appear that she'll make them welcome, and in fact the only option appears to be to fight - both with her and the various guardians she has in place (along with assorted barriers and traps for the unwary). The party will have to be cunning, skillful and lucky to avoid a frigid demise...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Frigid Demise (3.0)
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Desert Sands (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2016 10:13:49

Caravans travelling through the desert have been disappearing. Doesn't matter which desert, pick any suitable one in your campaign world. The backstory for the DM explains why, with a neat twist that makes it something out of the ordinary, and there are a few hooks to attract the party's attention - some will do even if they are quite a way from the desert in question (you could even have other adventures on the way there if you wanted!).


Asking around at whichever end of the caravan route the party finds itself will pay off, there are quite a few snippets of information for them to gather. Eventually, however, they will have to venture forth onto the desert sands and all the accompanying dangers of extreme heat, dust storms, etc. There's a rare botanical treat here too - a cactus treant! Somewhere along the route, the party will encounter the location of the attacks and if they are lucky, the base used by the attackers.


There are some interesting and unusual possibilities for further adventures based on what is actually going on should the party try talking rather than rushing straight in to a fight... but plenty of opportunity for a good brawl if that's what they are after. The ramifications of variois actions the party may choose to take are also discussed, which could also lead to follow-up adventures.


Overall, a neat little adventure with scope to develop into a major plot point in your campaign if you wish, or just to be another job in the party's adventuring career if you prefer.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Desert Sands (3.0)
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Fait Accompli (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2016 13:27:50

Set in the wilderness north of an outlying domain of a kingdom (or independent region) somewhere in your campaign world, on the face of it this is a straightforward 'clear the dungeon and kill the dragon' mission... or is it?


The backstory explains the history of the situation - that a white dragon stole the symbol of rulership from the Baron of Icendale (killing the Baron in the process) and that without it nobody, however good their claim, can take over. Moreover there's a prophecy that outsiders, not Icenvale citizens, must fetch it back, a local who tries will die in the attempt. It also covers a lot more stuff that contributes directly to the advenure, including how the dragon arrived in the first place and the current state of affairs. There's also an adventure synopsis that covers the perils the party must face on the way to deal with the dragon.


Several hooks are provided to get the party to Icenvale, at least, if not actually on the trail of the dragon, while introductory events once there are designed to catch their attention and hopefully enlist their aid in dealing with it. Details of the main township, Frosthaven, and leading inhabitants are provided, although if you want a map you will have to come up with your own. Things get quite devious depending on whom the characters talk to, but eventually they ought to be on their way to the mountains north of town, where the dragon dwells.


There are many dangers en route, for a start a blizzard is raging. The area's not completely uninhabited either and there's some wildlife to fight off as well. Finally the party should reach a castle called Karrack, an outpost which is where the last Baron met his end in the dragon's jaws. The dragon apparently lives in some nearby caves, but Karrack needs exploring and clearing as well. Both castle and caves are mapped and described well, and all relevant monster details are provided.


This adventure is lifted above a mere delve/dragon bash by the political overtones in Icenvale, and this is handled neatly throughout the adventure, particularly in the opening scenes and the conclusion, where a range of consequences based on the party's level of success and their choices are provided. There are some interesting suggestions for follow-up adventures too. The 'adventurous' parts of the adventure are challenging too, both the trek to Karrack through the blizzard and the ensuing combats should provide plenty of entertainment - it's a well-rounded adventure that should leave successful parties feeling satisfied with their exploits.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fait Accompli (3.5)
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A Dark and Stormy Knight (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2016 12:14:03

Imagine a party of first-level characters caught out in a storm in a remote area where the only shelter appears to be a hollowed-out tor, once used as a tomb and recently unsealed by an earlier storm that knocked the stone blocking the entrance aside. It's likely they'd go in... but will they come out again?


A short backstory gives the history of the area and the tor itself, and the adventure synopsis explains what takes place during the course of the storm whilst the party is sheltering there. A few hooks are provided to get the party interested, useful if you think trying to stay dry is not sufficient incentive to get them into the tor in the first place. A sidebar introduces the concept of 'storm-peace', a custom that allows beings that would be likely to fight each other to seek shelter from the violent electrical storms that plague this area in the same place without having to watch their backs.


The adventure itself starts with the storm, violent even by the standards of this area. It soon becomes apparent that the only shelter available is within the tor, and then a site-based delve begins. You'll have to map the surrounding area for yourself, but there is a plan for the tor's interior and copious notes on what is to be found there as well as an assortment of events that will take place during the course of the adventure.


It should prove exciting enough for first-level characters, and ought to pose sufficient challenge to make them think about what they are doing and consider their tactics carefully. There's a suggestion for further adventure once the tor has been cleared out, and some nice low-level magic items to find.


Overall, it's a neat little site-based adventure to keep to hand for when a first-level party is travelling around in a suitable part of your campaign world. It provides the sort of exploits that could help some newbies to the adventuring game start making a name for themselves.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Dark and Stormy Knight (3.5)
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Tower in the Ice (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2016 11:52:04

This is a site-based adventure in which the party investigates a tower which protrudes from a frozen lake in some cold and remote corner of your campaign world. There's a short background to let you know who's actually living there now, an adventure synopsis and some hooks to get the party to go visit the tower in the first place.


The adventure itself begins at the tower, so you will have to manage the party's journey to get there - remembering that it's VERY cold round there, with the associated environmental risks - and any investigations or preparations they wish to make in advance of their trip. There are notes on handling extreme cold, and also to accommodate parties who might want to approach the tower underwater, rather than walking out over the ice to the entrance that is visible.


A clear plan of the tower is provided, along with detailed descriptions of rooms and their inhabitants. These not only provide stat blocks and tactical notes but also gives likely reactions to whatever the party might do. Suggested reactions are intelligent and give a good feel of creatures going about their business and responding when the party turns up rather than existing in stasis until they appear - nice aid to creating an alternate reality.


The adventure ends when the tower is cleared out... it's unlikely that anything other than force of arms will do. There are brief notes on possible follow-up adventures, but basically it is merely the suggestion that some other antagonist might take up residence and need to be cleared out. It's a good delve adventure with the added edge of being bitterly cold and wet.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tower in the Ice (3.5)
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To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2016 13:03:25

In an area recently devastated by war, it seems that trouble is stirring again. There's quite a lengthly backstory for the DM that explains just who is intended to cause trouble this time and why, then the adventure synopsis describes how the party arrives in a settlement troubled by gnoll attacks and, should they investigate further, end in a site-based delve through subterranean tunnels to deal with the antagonist and his cohorts.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved in the first place by getting them to a small town called Evenfall. Several events take place here which lead to a gnoll-hunt which eventually takes them to the antagonist's lair. There's no map, and little information, for Evenfall but the actual events are covered in sufficient detail to enable you to run them effectively. Likewise although the initial pursuit of the gnolls ought to result in a skirmish all you are supplied with are notes on the group of gnolls and their likely tactics. The lair is supposedly in a wilderness area, but that too will have to be made up, although the actual tunnels are both mapped and described well.


The assumption is that all those within the tunnels will fight rather than enter into negotiations. Although the backstory explains why the antagonist is doing what he is doing, it is unlikely to come out during the course of the adventure, which is a shame as it adds some depth to what otherwise is a definite 'Bad Guy'... especially as if he manages to make good his escape he will carry on, not to mention the possibility of taking revenge against interloping heroes, so the information could be of use. Perhaps it can be worked into initial enquiries in Evenfell or in materials found in the lair.


Overall it is a reasonable combat-heavy delve adventure, but with the potential to be something more with a bit of added thought from the DM.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
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Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2016 07:48:20

The backstory tells of a remote village that was saved from a devastating plague some 200 years ago by a kindly couatl, but which of late has been experiencing some difficulties - or at least, some people think so. The humans who live there seem blissfully unaware, but various fey has had problems in the surrounding woods. What is actually going on is explained at some length for the DM, of course.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved. What's needed to start the adventure is for them to visit Pearlglen, the village in question (so named for the freshwater pearls found in the area). It's a site-based adventure which starts in the village but takes the party to where the individuals behind what is going on are to be found. There's a map of their lair, but none of the village or the surrounding area, so if you feel the need of one, you'll have to find or devise something suitable. Despire the lack of map, the village is well-described with several locations to visit as the party attempt to find out the nature of the trouble. There's a bit of interaction to be had here, which should culminate in the party visiting a nearby ruined temple.


There is an encounter on the way, which is likely to end in a fight, but although it's described there is no diagram to help you set it up. The temple (once the party gets there) does have a plan as well as a full description. Most of those found there intend to fight rather than negotiate, but there are detailed tactical notes to help you run the combats.


The conclusion assumes that the party is completely successful, so if anything goes against them you will have to work out what happens next. There are some notes regarding follow-up adventures which could prove interesting, however. It's a nice straightforward 'go fight the bad guys' adventure, but it may be hard for the party to discern the full details of the fairly elaborate plot that has been hatched by the antagonists... a bit of a shame, it's a neat piece of deviltry!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
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Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2016 13:16:51

This adventure involves cleaning out a fairly unusual bunch of bandits, and can be run if the party comes across them or even as the climax of a hostage-rescue plotline, seeing as the bandits in question are rather fond of kidnappings - provided, that is, you want to write one.


There's a very short adventure background that just details who the bandits actually are, and an equally brief adventure synopsis that is basically 'raid lair, kill bandits'. Then there are some hooks to get the party involved, and once suitable hooked it is up to you to get the party to the lair entrance. From there on, you are well supported with a map and good descriptions of what will be found within. The map is quite unusual, a sketch of a cross-section through the lair rather than a floorplan. It gives an excellent impression of the layout, but might pose problems for those happier with a grid-based floorplan, especially if they rely on miniatures for handling combat... and there's combat a-plenty, this is an adventure for groups who relish a good fight!


There's not much in the way of suggestions for follow-up adventures, but there are a couple of ideas that could prove interesting if you want to develop them. Fundamentally this is a lair clearance operation with unusual opponents that ought not to prove too intellectually challenging to your party but does provide them with ample opportunities to brawl - perhaps it can be used as an interlude to more thoughtful adventures, or just when you know the party is itching for a fight!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
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Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 13:05:08

The DM's background takes you back about 20 years, a tale of a noble family based in a rather remote location... with good reason, as you will see. Given that this adventure started out as a web enhancement to the Libris Mortis which is all about undead, the adventure is jam-packed with them! Worse, one has become aware of the party and is out to get them...


It all starts so innocently with a definitely alive nobleman inviting the party to a banquet at his manor, to be followed by a night hunt. When they get there the table is set for a fine al fresco feast which transpires to be of the highest quality. After-dinner drinks are served indoors, and then the hunt is on!


The house is well-described, for those who'd like to explore it, and the social activities are also covered well. The more malign events of the evening are rather more vague - of necessity, as they will depend on party actions. Enough, however, is included for you to be able to run the adventure provided you do enough preparation to have the antagonist's abilities at your fingertips. The consequences of the evening and follow-up adventure suggestions provide ample scope for messing with the party in a most enjoyable manner, too! A neat and fun adventure, fairly simple but with some interesting twists.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
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Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 12:36:58

This adventure is a bit of a horror story (it came out in October, after all, and there's a tendency for horror themes to abound around then), and can be run either as a single site-based adventure when your party is in the right place or - if you are willing to create your own 'prequel' adventures - as the climax of a series of events involving some of the main characters in the plot of this adventure. Interesting thought...


It's set in a remote area, where Night Falls is the only settlement to be found. Ideally a harsh northern area with bad winters and summers that don't get very hot should be used, but if you struggle to get the party to go near such places anywhere that settlements are few and far between will do. Night Falls is noted for a large graveyard, the Tomb Steppe, and folks from miles around use it in preference to burying their dead in local farmland.


The adventure background lays it all out for the DM and there's a lot going on that even the residents of Night Falls do not realise, never mind the party. The hooks provided to get the party involved (obviously not used if you have been running prequels) are based on the party just happening to be in the right place for the adventure to happen. Once they are in Night Falls, things begin to happen at an ever increasing pace, sweeping them into what is going on. There's a reason behind all this, as the backstory revealed...


The settlement and its inhabitants are well-described, enabling you to make the adventure atmospheric and suitably creepy. There's a lot of interaction to begin with, then events lead the party inexorably towards the centre of the graveyard, the skull-shaped Great Mausoleum. This is mapped out and described in detail... but terror mounts as even after exploring it and laying what's there to rest, there are still matters to be dealt with in town!


A neat adventure with some unexpected twists, there are some ideas for follow-up adventures and a couple of new monsters and a nice magic weapon.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
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Thicker Than Water (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 10:30:07

There's a Chinese saying "Devils give you your relatives, thank all the gods that you can choose your friends" - will your party, in particular one member of it, feel that way after you have thrown this adventure at them?


Interestingly, this is an adventure which comes to the party, rather than being set in a given location to which you have to manoeuvre them. It involves a series of events driven by a single NPC, about whom plenty of background is provided. First of all, though, you have to decide how you want to run this. You can go for a 'high preparation' mode in which you build up lots of background involving your target character, who will be a descendant of Charad, who is also an ancestor of the NPC instigator. With this route, events should be spread out over a considerable length of time, with other adventures inbetween... the suggestion is that you start with the first event when the party is 3rd or 4th level, with the seventh climactic event only happening when they have reached 12th level. That takes a lot of pre-planning and campaign organisation, so two alteratives are also presented, one more compressed (especially useful if your party is already at or near 12th level when you first consider this adventure) and one that has the target character as an NPC who approaches the party for help.


The series of events are then presented, each with sufficient detail to run them with ease. Although they are linked, this will not be apparent to the party as a whole or the character singled out for attention, at least not at the time and possibly not even in retrospect. Even individually, the events are quite interesting and can occupy the party nicely as minor side-adventures, but over time they all build up. Throughout, there are references to what the party can discover should they realise that something is going on and decide to investigate a bit. The whole thing is quite open-ended, with various ways to reach the final climactic event and a range of outcomes depending on what the party does... running away is one option! Whatever they do, however it plays out, there may be consequences, and some ideas for further adventures are provided.


If you like deep, complex, long-running plots this is well worth a look, especially if you are aiming for a long-running campaign (or have already embarked upon one). There's plenty of action and excitement, and despite being focussed on just one party member, everyone will find themselves with plenty to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thicker Than Water (3.0)
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 11:28:11

It's all about conspiracies, about ancient vampire pulling strings behind the scenes... even the Camarilla are wary of the Black Hand. Yet in revealing a conspiracy, it's a delicate balance between giving you the tools you need to feature it in your game and exposing so much that it isn't scary or exciting any more. The Black Hand has had a chequered existance, being first introduced in Vampire: The Masquerade 2e with Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, then being wiped out by Vampire: The Masquerade Revised Edition - it's mentioned explicitly that they no longer exist - but had proven so enjoyable that it was decided to bring them back. Of course, if it's not to your taste, you can ignore them, but if the thought of a conspiracy running through the depths of the heart of vampire society excites you, presents an opportunity to build tension in your chronicle (or blow it apart entirely as what seems normal to your coterie is turned on its head) then this is worth a look...


The book begins with Chapter 1: Black as Hell, Dark as Night, which introduces the whole conspiracy, its rituals, practices and underlying ideology (not that it's that simple, there are various strands of thought and different factions), and provides the mechanics necessary for creating your own Black Hand characters, to play or as NPCs. The lineage of the Black Hand is truly ancient, predating all the other sects. Formed of disparate groups linked by common goals, the origins seem to lie in a 3,000 year old bunch of mages who came to the Middle East (but where from?) and attracted the attention of Egyptian immortals who took them deep into the underworld where they found an ancient city, sunless and brooding. Many alliances and betrayals followed as these originals worked with (and against) other groups during the ages between that initial discovery and tonight... for those who adore the sweep of vampire history, there are some treats in store here.


Then, Chapter 2: Bahari - Cult of the Dark Mother explores those who worship Lilith and the particular spin they put on things, including the unique way they practice thaumaturgy and necromancy. Lilit's faithful knew of that dark and brooding subterranean city, called Enoch, of old but were not great explorers. But they bided their time, formed alliances and eventually got there... yet soon had to turn their minds to the protection of their faith as other religions arose around them. Mysticism, beliefs, legends abound, delve deep to discover the Bahari take. Did Lilith spawn her own vampiric line? Some believe she did. The study of Litith is the study of pain, with creation and transformation mixed in, for how can these be accomplished without pain? Find out the appeal of this sect, what its adherants believe and do, and bring them into your chronicle to best effect.


In Chapter 3: The Dark Below, we read about infernalism and how some see it as a way to bring on the apocalypse while others regard it as a dark evil that needs stamping out forthwith. The true aims of the Black Hand, unlike other vampiric cults, are very obscure and known only to a few (and they probably don't agree completely as to what they are). In recruiting members, they seek out vampires who are curious about things they really ought not to be delving into... perhaps one or more of your coterie will attact their attention? More history, more philosophy, more ideas - plenty to read and mine for ideas here.


Next Chapter 4: Dirty Secrets talks about the wide range of characters involved in the Dark Hand apart from vampires themselves - mummies, werewolves and even more abominable entities... ghosts and even the mortal necromances of Enoch. Although the Dark Hand is very much a vampiric conspiracy, they are not above drawing anyone else they view as potentially useful into their ranks. There are notes on how to create many of the entities they might suck in, as well as information on how to use them as antagonists, allies or even as player characters.


Finally, Chapter 5: Watch the Hand provides an example chronicle, ready to use or as inspiration for one of your own devising. It's exciting and fast-paced, dragging the party straight into the heart of the conspiracy almost from the outset.


The addition of the Black Hand to your chronicles can add layers of depth and hidden meaning to your game. For some, it might be a bit too much, for others it will enrich the experience and give purpose to vampiric existance - as a part of the conspiracy or as an implacable opponent... or seeking to find out just what is going on before taking sides. You may even decide to keep it all bubbling away below the surface, barely perceived by the characters, until...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
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V20 Lore of the Clans
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2016 09:37:42

If you have been playing Vampire: The Masquerade for any time, you probably have a stack of clan 'splatbooks' giving you the low-down on the various clans of vampires (especially if you are an experimental role-player and don't stick to identical characters all the time). Here notes on all thirteen clans have been gathered together into a single sourcebook containing a wealth of vampire history, tradition and outright lies, all ready for you to delve into.


Each chapter addresses the nature and traditions of a single clan from the standpoint of a vampire who is a member of that clan. How truthful are they? Well, about as truthful as any vampire is, and most of them make politicians look vaguely honest. Starting with the history of the clan, the chapter also contains information about how the clan operates tonight, and provides a range of new powers, merits, flaws, and other rules information which can be used to customise a typical clan member as you please.


The approach is vaguely scholarly, and proves quite an entertaining read. Most could be gathered by a curious vampire of any clan who is prepared to research and talk to members of other clans - after all, any vampire has a lot of nights to fill and needs a good hobby! Of course, for older vampires it's not history, it is something through which they existed although memories may not be as sharp, or may be coloured by later events and opinions. Only the Storyteller knows for certain what is fact and what is fiction in his own campaign... and he may not be telling!


With appendices covering the Caitiff and the Antitribu and a selection of notable vampires, this work provides a fascinating insight to vampire society and is well worth reading, especially if you enjoy all the details that take this game to a high level of absorbing role-playing and storytelling.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Lore of the Clans
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Bad Light (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2016 13:11:52

With the title 'Bad Light' given to a scenario set on an ocean coastline near a trade route that's threatened by a reef, and a plot which centres around a light-tower built against a cliff it's quite easy to guess what might be going on... but there's a bit more to it, as the adventure background lays out for the DM. Moreover, there is more than one way for the party to solve the problem, which gives a nice feeling of freedom of action and allows for ingenious ideas and tactics,


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved, neatly giving a variety of options so that you can spring this on them pretty well whatever they think they are doing at the time. However, it's primarily a site-based adventure, with the action proper beginning once they arrive at the lighthouse, which rejoices in the name of the Pearl Tower having once been coated in mother-of-pearl scales (long gone now, pinched by raiders). A plan is provided, along with detailed descriptions of who and what is to be found there.


There's also a secondary location that needs to be visited, covered in less detail so you may want to spend some time on designing the surroundings. Once matters have been dealt with - and that will require fighting, the antagonists are not the sort to be talked out of their activities - there's a brief mention of some follow-up activities. Overall it's a neat little adventure that can be dropped in somewhere suitable as part of the exploits of a typical band of adventurers.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bad Light (3.5)
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V20 Rites of the Blood
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2016 12:39:21

Just as their unlife derive from it, so does vampire sorcery have its basis in blood. Quite messily at times, as the opening piece of fiction describes (all in the best possible taste, I'm glad to say, your imagination is left to fill in the less pleasant bits!). Many vampires wonder just how blood does what it does for them, the more curious ask what else it can do. Out of this inquiry comes more exotic knowledge. Raw power shaped and controlled by ritual... magic. This book, then, looks at what effect blood rituals (and indeed blood sorcery as a whole) has on vampire society, as well as the price an individual vampire pays to develop his arts.


Ultimately, it's all about power. Raw power. Some clans codify their knowledge and pass it on, master to apprentice, sire to childe... but others reach deep into themselves to tap into powers they might have learned to control but do not really understand. The theme here is the cost of power, the mood is the strange and often scary wierdness of it all. Even vampires themselves see it as unnatural, which coming from unnatural beings is strange indeed! Ancient secrets and recent discoveries, quite apart from the disciplines practiced by all vampires, blood magic involves individuals wielding almost limitless power that can as easily overwhelm as it can serve. Treat with caution...


Chapter 1: The Ivory Tower starts a survey of blood magic as practised by various vampire groups by looking at the Tremere and thaumaturgy. The very history of the clan is bound up in their practice of thaumaturgy and it makes interesting reading to see how they used it to claw their way from untrusted outsiders to valued members of the vampire community (even if viewed somewhat warily)... and then the Camarilla was formed, and they established their position. There's more on their current status and the way in which they work, then follow detailed descriptions of commonly used rituals, including the rule mechanics for using them.


Then Chapter 2: The Sword of Caine continues in similar vein, explaining how blood magic is used by vampires of the Sabbat. Various kinds of magic are practiced and these are explained at length. The recurrent theme is that whatever magic is studied depends on the clan affiliation of the vampire studying it: although there are a few exceptions when particularly curious individuals somehow manage to learn a different style. The Sabbat also practice a variant form of magic called the ritae, which involve not just blood but faith as well. Detail is immense, reflecting the way in which spell-casters pore over their books and scrolls, amassing vast amounts of knowledge, a constanct feature of this entire book.


And so it continues with chapters exploring the blood magic practices of other groups - Chapter 3: The Movement looks at what Anarchs do including wierd and wonderful 'Hacktivist Thaumaturgy' that mixes computer technology, blood and magic and Chapter 4: The Independents explores the exploits of Assemites, Setites, Giovanni (who are in to necromancy big style). Then Chapter 5: The Unusal covers the Inconnu, the Tal'Mahe'Ra and even looks at the magical creation of creatures such as gargoyles. Not that that is supposed to happen any more, the Tremere had to give up their gargoyle habit when they joined the Camarilla but... well, the appropriate rituals are laid out here. Chapter 6: The Damned looks at demons, with a note explaining that these demons are not the ones of Demon: The Fallen, but rather demons as vampire view them. This chapter is steeped in the history of vampiric dealings with demons and inclues a section on the Sabbat Inquisition. Don't mess with them...


Finally, Chapter 7: Secrets of the Blood attempts, as far as is possible, a systematic analysis of blood magic from its fundamental principles. Whilst this mainly concentrates on the game mechanics necessary, there is enough background for a studious player to make his vampire character sound like he knows what he is talking about!


If magic is to play a leading role in your chronicle, or your character wants to study it, this work will provide ample resources. It is perhaps a bit of a niche interest, but reading through these chapters gives an insight into quite a lot more than just ritual spellcasting vampire-style... it provides added depth to the activities of sects and clans and so gives further insight to the shadowed world of vampires.



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V20 Rites of the Blood
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