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Spire Of The Raven God $5.95 $3.95
Average Rating:3.3 / 5
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Spire Of The Raven God
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Spire Of The Raven God
Publisher: Black Death Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2008 04:53:19
An RPG Resource Review:

The work opens with a description of the unusual setting of Hanan Pacha. It's worth considering using it, rather than just slotting the adventure into your own campaign world, because it is so strange - take the characters out of their usual environment and watch their wonder. However, although it is an intriguing place to visit, it is not completely necessary to the adventure if you prefer not to use it.

Next, there's the outline of the adventure itself. The survivors of a ruined settlement and the local druid enlist the characters' help to evict a bunch of demons from a hollow spire which they have taken over. The backstory gives a clear explanation of how they got there, which helps set the scene for the DM, and gives rise to plenty of intrigue which will be going on even as the characters seek to complete their mission.

NPCs and encounters along the way to accomplish the mission are well-detailed, with all that you need to role-play people and events effectively. There's always a air of 'this is going on anyway, just you have arrived on the scene' that makes for a good feel of an alternate reality in which your characters - and everyone else - really lives, rather than things placed there just for the adventure. Yet they all fit in with what's going on as well.

The mission itself is well-constructed with some travel, negotiation, plenty of combat, nightmares and even some extra dimensions to explore... and that's all before the climax of the actual assault on the spire where the demons have taken up residence! This is no jaunt either, but several challenging levels with plenty of opposition, a fitting climax to an excellent, if combat-heavy, adventure.

Overall, this is a well-presented, challenging and exciting adventure which should suit an organised and competent party of adventurers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spire Of The Raven God
Publisher: Black Death Publishing
by Malcolm M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/08/2008 22:37:03
When angry invective passes itself off as a review, I feel compelled to speak out.

While every reviewer has the right to voice his or her personal opinion, I feel that a one-star review must work to justify its damning criticism as much as a five-star review must explain its effusive praise. A credible reviewer also strives to separate personal disappointment with what they _expected_ a product to be, from their assessments of the strengths and weakness of what that product actually is …

I already reviewed the preview edition of Spire of the Raven God from Black Death Publishing once before. When the preview edition was rescinded, my review vanished. So here I am again, trying to present a balanced look at Spire of the Raven God.

IS IT REALLY A ONE-STAR PRODUCT?

No. While not perfect, Spire of the Raven God by Rex Baker and Joe Calkins deserves at least another star for its layout, design, beautiful color artwork, and maps alone. A single star indicates the worst of the worst; a product with no redeeming qualities or features, not worth purchasing at any price. Spire of the Raven God is far, far better than this.

SO WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT?

Spire of the Raven God is a d20/OGL Dungeons and Dragons adventure written by Rex Baker, and designed for 4 to 6 characters of levels 8 to 12. It's set in Black Death Publishing's campaign world of Hanan Pacha, but the setting is merely background here, and should mesh effortlessly with most baseline D&D campaign worlds, in any event.

As mentioned above, the color art by Joe Calkins and Butch Mapa is quite beautiful -- an obvious cut above what one expects to see in products by third-party start-up publishers like Black Death. The art certainly helps to sell the mood and tone of the adventure.

There are also a number of full-color encounter maps, already gridded with five-foot squares, and showing suggested starting positions for enemies.

Particularly overworked (or lazy!) DMs could probably extract and print the images directly, and lay them out on the game table at need. Anything which helps lessen the tactical burden on the DM is worthwhile in my book.

What else? The text font is large and legible. The read-aloud boxed text is clearly marked and set apart from the main text -- so clearly. in fact, that if you can't spot the read-aloud text while at your gaming table, you've probably fallen asleep behind the screen without realizing it, and your players are busily rifling through your notes.

Two new creatures -- the Woodstalker and the Kameon -- are introduced, complete with statistics and accompanying illustrations. Nothing beats being able to say to players "And you see … this!" And then to listen to the rules lawyers squeal in dismay as they realize that they haven't got _these_ monster stats memorized already.

Perhaps Spire of the Raven God's greatest strength is the obvious enthusiasm writer Rex Baker has for the adventure itself. The thirty-nine pages (forty-three counting the covers and the legal pages) are packed with relevant information. Baker makes a clear effort to give DMs everything they might need, in full, for their money.

The adventure itself is a mix of early wilderness encounters, followed by a little underground exploration, capped off with the invasion of the titular Raven Spire, and a confrontation with a customized Big Bad Evil Guy, whom I will not spoiler here. In short, something for every D&D play style.

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD?

Well, there are some typos in the stat blocks. But there are also similar typos in the stat blocks of most products routinely put out by Wizards of the Coast, so make of that what you will.

It doesn't make the typos any less unfortunate, and if such things are your pet peeve, so be it -- but they hardly warrant a one-star rating for the entire product, or the summary execution of all involved.

In Black Death Publishing's defense, this revised edition has many of the typos corrected, and most of those errors which remain are easily identified and corrected on-the-fly as needed.

Another problem I had with this adventure is that most of the enemies encountered are very familiar to anyone who's been playing D&D for a while. Outside of the two new monsters mentioned above, and the customized Big Bad, you'll be running into familiar monster faces such as Orcs with Barbarian levels, Hags, and so forth …

Perhaps I'm just spoiled (and perhaps Black Death is trying to balance the old against the new, for wider appeal), but I tend to glaze over a bit when I see orcs … again.

Finally, the epic battle against the tweaked-out Big Bad could be a bit over the player characters' heads at 12th level. The adventure offers options for various sorts of NPC assistance in the battle, but I know that some gamers dislike this, as it makes them feel like they're not succeeding on their own.

DMs are advised to look over the grand encounter as written, and decide what would work best to make the final showdown appropriate for their particular group of players. Some DM tinkering may be required to make this happen.

SO, IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes, I do think so. While not flawless, Spire of the Raven God shows a genuine enthusiasm for the material, and a real willingness to give the buyers more for their money.

Most of the problems are minor, and can be corrected with a minimum of DM effort.

While Black Death Publishing may not have hit every note perfectly here, with Spire of the Raven God, it's an admirable first effort from a fledgling small publisher. It bodes well for good things to come in the Hanan Pacha product line..

WHAT'S THE VERDICT?

Spire of the Raven God is worth 3 out of 5 stars, under the harshest conditions. Myself, I'm inclined to give it 4 stars, because it's jam-packed with material, and it makes an obvious effort at every turn to give the DM everything he or she might need to have fun.

Final verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. A worthy, well-intentioned first effort from Black Death Publishing.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spire Of The Raven God
Publisher: Black Death Publishing
by Nigel P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2008 05:37:37
This is the first product from this company as far as I can tell so I'll be constructive: hire an editor. Yes, a real one. And then decide which edition you're publishing for. If it's 3E then having ogres armed with Huge longspears or whatever is fine. If it's 3.5E, you might want to try again. Also, the space for a vrock is 10' not 10' x 5'. Should I go on? I will. Damage that differs depending on the size of the opponent went out in 2E. So which edition is this adventure for again? Oh, and "it's" is the contracted form of "it is". The possessive form of "it" is "its" without the apostrophe. I accept that 90% of messageboard users haven't grasped this but any sort of professional publication should be able to get this right.
The adventure itself is nothing spectacular. Several encounters with an attempt to use the tactical format in a manner similar to WotC. Really, this products needs to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes and then reissued. It's not good and certainly not a good first product.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your response, Nigel. We do have an editor lined up for the next adventure. Minor mistakes and occasional grammatical errors do happen in many products that we review. Please contact us if there is anything else that you think of. We had the adventure play-tested by two different groups in two different areas of the U.S.A. and they all enjoyed the adventure.They told us that the balance between story and battle was 'just right'. They also enjoyed the variety of encounter areas: forest, lower planes, dungeon and caverns.
Oh, one more thing as far as weapon damage goes. I went by the 3.5 statistics used at this link: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/equipment/weapons.htm#meleeandRangedWeapons Damage The Damage columns give the damage dealt by the weapon on a successful hit. The column labeled "Dmg (S)" is for Small weapons. The column labeled "Dmg (M)" is for Medium weapons. If two damage ranges are given then the weapon is a double weapon. Use the second damage figure given for the double weapon’s extra attack. Table: Larger and Smaller Weapon Damage gives weapon damage values for weapons of various sizes. Perhaps you confused the (double weapons type) stats with the old rule that had weapons doing different damages to S, M, and L creatures? Thanks for the tip on the mistake of using It's on page six for a possessive contraction. We did miss one!
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