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Advanced Arcana Volume V
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2016 10:41:22

Opening, as with the other books in this series, with a letter to a now-quite-senior student at the Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft, where he is about to enter his fifth year and now needs to choose a senior mage to whom he will apprentice. In stressing the importance of choosing a mentor wisely, there's an interesting glimpse into mage society - it's quite like the real-world academic society that I inhabit! The author also warns that some of the spells in this volume are 'unruly' if not downright dangerous.


Next we hear from Kabaz Anvitz, putative author of this tome. He states that magic is a tricky subject, that for every answer you get two more questions arise, that even after a lifetime of study there are things that still elude him totally. He then raises the question: is magic in some way alive? An idea that is widely discredited in academic circles yet... he cites research that suggests otherwise. Certainly a matter which could be disputed at length within academia, and perhaps by scholarly mages in your campaign world too.


Next, stepping out of character, the introduction identifies the core question of this volume as being "What would a spell with a mind of its own look like?" Magic is generally represented as either a scientific process, cause and effect studied and understood, or as a primal force that is cajoled and manipulated, with the first being more common in role-playing games as it's easier to write rules for! But a lot of the... well, MAGIC is lost if you get too scientific in your approach. The spells herein are an attempt to regain some of the feeling of wonder about spell-casting, even if they still abide by the rules. There are various different methods employed, including Patron spells (for those whose magic comes from an outside source, clerics and the like), Automatic spells (which go off apparently at random without the caster having much control), Capricious spells with random effects based on a Spellcraft check made when they are cast, Interactive spells which the caster can attempt to modify after he's cast them, and Unsafe spells - which have a tendency to get out of hand. Plenty to conjure with here!


After outlining and explaining the rules mechanics necessary for these new spells to operate within the game and notes on various ways of handling an influx of new spells into your campaign, we move on to spell lists (by caster type) and the detailed spell descriptions of over an hundred new spells. As always, just reading through them spawns plenty of ideas for their use... and they make for fun reading as well.


After the spells, there are four appendices. To start with, some new feats designed to be used by those who would cast the spells presented in this tome. Next come familiar traits, a new mechanic for giving your familiar assorted beneficial, mixed or awkward traits - each has a points value and the sum of your picks must equal zero. Then come notes on sentient spells - neutral outsiders whose abilities and personalities are based on a specific spell, literally a spell come to life. Wierd... but with potential. Finally there are biographical details (and game statistics) for various luminaries of the magical world - who knows, maybe one of these will turn up to discuss the nature of magic with your party wizard.


Overall, another collection of thought-provoking spells, these ones with considerable potential to cause havoc on your tabletop. Enjoy...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume V
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Haunting Lodge (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 11:24:41

A remote hunting lodge is enveloped in a never-ending blizard... and it's spreading, threatening settlements nearby.


The background for the DM explains just what is going on there and why, and a series of hooks are provided to help you pique the party's curiousity. Getting them there, and providing any information before they go, is left to you - what is presented here is a pure site-based adventure with the lodge described in detail. The map comes from the Map-a-Week feature on the Wizards of the Coast website, it is presented here and the link in the PDF still works at the time of writing if you want the original.


In some ways the place is quite disappointing. There's not much there for parties who live to loot, nor are there any NPCs or monsters to talk to... just ghosts, and grumpy ones at that, which will attack. Every one is provided with statistics for meeting them on the material plane or the ethereal one, and violence appears to be the only way to deal with them, they cannot be laid to rest by discovering secrets or righting wrongs.


An interesting basic concept which has rather fallen down in execution and development, alas. I'd recommend adding your own enhancements to make it a bit more interesting.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Haunting Lodge (3.0)
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Black Rain (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 11:22:17

Black rain is a strange phenomenon, mercifully rare, that either causes or marks a short period when all divine spellcasters are cut off from the deities. During one such event some rotten swine saw fit to attack a temple dedicated to St. Cuthbert - just when the clerics there cannot do much about it Can the party help?


The suggestion is made that you use a temple in a large town/city in your campaign world, preferably one in which the party has a good reputation already. A suitable floorplan is provided, modified from one in the September 2001 edition of the Map-a-Week feature on the Wizards of the Coast website (the original link in the PDF works at the time of writing), but if you have already established a layout for the temple you wish to use it should proved relatively simple to adapt the descriptions to suit your own temple.


There is a brief DM's background and several hooks to get the party involved. Basically, one day the city awakes to find this nasty black rain falling and then the alarm is raised at the St. Cuthbert temple. The party can get some information from the town watch commander or by gathering information, and then they will have to figure out how to get into the temple as there is a strange energy barrier around it!


Once they do find the way in (you may have to steer them a little, as only one method is apparently possible), they will have to fight the invaders - with any clerics or other divine spellcasters operating at a bit of a disadvantage as their magic won't work. Best to stock up on healing potions! The intruders will have to be defeated - they are not willing to negotiate - but if they are, the local bishop will really owe the party one!


It's an exciting mission with twists that should make the party - especially the clerics - think about what they are doing.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Black Rain (3.0)
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Advanced Arcana Volume IV
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:17:27

Like previous volumes in the series, Arcane Arcana IV takes an aspect of magic that you might not even have thought about before and, by presenting a series of innovative spells around that theme, turn whatever you did know - or thought you knew - about it on its head. This time it's all about the concept of 'schools' of magic. The opening letter, addressed to a student who is embarking on his fourth year of study at Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft, points out that it is at this point in his training that he needs to select which (if any) school he will specialise in, and introduces this book as containing spells that challenge the classification of spells by school. The foreword by the compiler of the collection, the academic mage Kabaz Anvitz, is on similar lines complete with references to other (sadly imaginary) works in true academic style.


The introduction explains, out-of-character, a little more. For many players, a spell's school doesn't really matter, it is just a handy classification and based on the sort of effect that spell produces. This book attempts to make schools more meaningful. It includes dual-school spells, whose effects cross the boundaries between schools, alternate-school spells, which have a core action and additional effects based on how they are cast, and alternate-list spells where the effect is mostly the same whoever casts it, but with variations depending on whether the caster is a wizard, a druid, a witch or whatever. There are also more fountain spells (which enable the caster to regain spells already cast as well as having their own effects) and of course other spells that are just here because they sound interesting...


The detailed spell mechanics for the new types of spell are explained, but they make more sense once you've had a look at a few of the spells in question. So, on to the spell lists offered as usual by caster type, followed by the full descriptions of each spell. It's here that you find details of how the dual-school, alternate-list and alternate-school spells actually work in practice. Plenty of interesting ideas here, just reading through them starts ideas flowing...


The first appendix presentes the elite arcanist, a new base class of spell caster who is limited in the number of spells that he can cast, but extremely potent with those that he does know. He has access to any and all spell lists, never mind schools of magic. Fundamentally, they believe that the true path to magical power is the ability to master the best of everything that magic has to offer, rather than simply specializing in one small corner of all that is magical. They focus on understanding the underlying principles behind magic, which allows them to unlock the potential of every spellcasting class, and also gives them the ability to perform a number of stupendous feats of spellcasting, including casting two spells at once, copying spells that they have been targeted with, and casting spells that they don't even know. Yet they are active adventurers, not academics who do not venture out. There are certainly potentials here, although they do tend to want to 'talk shop' with wizards and sorcerers whenever they get the chance - and can be a bit aloof and dismissive of those who do not use magic (or even are not as obsessed by it as they are!).


The second appendix talks about places of power. If you have ever wondered if a mage gets any benefit from being in his own sanctum, this will give you your answer with some optional rules that allow the party wizard - or, of course, some evil fellow the party is opposing - to set up their magically-honed base of operations, based around arcane rituals that bind the location to the mage whose sanctum it is. All manner of equipment and decorative features are available and actually provide game mechanical effects as well. The third appendix looks at spell mastery, providing a way for a spellcaster to specialise in a particular spell and cast it to better effect rather than the standard model where - apart from metamagic effects - a spell is as potent when cast by a lowly first-level wizard as it is by an experience one of far higher level. Good if a mage wishes to develop a 'signature' spell or just demonstrate the benefits of all that hard work spent studying his craft. Examples - using spells from the Pathfinder RPG core rules - are given, but it should not prove too hard to come up with similar effects for your favourite spells if they're not listed here.


The final two appedices deal with wish and miracle spells - possibly the most powerful spells in any spellbook and certainly ones where your imagination can run riot - and biographical details (and full game statistics) for some legendary spellcasters, many of them providers of the spells in this book. They're quite entertaining and bring their magics to life.


So, more thought-provoking ideas and spells to conjure with, continuing the academic approach to magic that fits well with the image of the bookish wizard - more gloriously-imaginative spells to delight any mage and ideas to chat about whenever mages gather together.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume IV
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Matters of Vengeance (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 10:40:47

Set in and around the village of Three Forks, you can place this adventure in any remote section of your campaign world that is a few days' ride from a city. The area you select should feature nearby forested regions and be able to accommodate an abandoned village and a nearby manor house as well. The adventure is best run during the winter, but can be run at whatever time of the year suits your campaign best.


An extensive background for the DM reveals a bitter tale of lost love and vengeance and undeath some two hundred years old. Now a descendant of the former lord of the manor seeks to regain his domain...


Several hooks are supplied or you can merely have the party hired to rid the old manor of an infestation of undead. Ideally, even if you have attracted their attention through one or more of the hooks, they need to meet with the aspiring lord of the manor before getting involved as this will give them a better idea of the underlying history behind the events that are about to unfold.


The adventure proper begins once the party arrives in Three Forks, the deserted village. A map is provided and the adventure starts with location-based encounters as they explore. Eventually they will reach the manor house itself and will need to explore it and deal with the evils therein. Although most of the opposition is undead, there's a very live band of mercenaries around as well - they, at least, might be open to conversation, most else of what is encountered will need to be engaged in combat. However, the Big Bad Guy at the centre of the adventure is likely to engage in negotiations with the party, undead he may be but he retains a lively mind and a thirst for vengeance.


Notes for follow-up adventures encompass several outcomes and draw rather neatly on the backstory. Overall this is a well-crafted adventure with a certain melancholy that should live on in your group's memories.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Matters of Vengeance (3.0)
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Lochfell's Secret (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2016 10:37:00

This adventure tells the tale of the small port of Lochfell, which has been seeing some problems of late. The background describes, for the DM's benefit, what is actually going on: all the locals know is that people are vanishing, a few folks have reported seeing a monster, and they need some help to deal with it. Several hooks are provided to bring this matter to the party's attention.


However you get them there, the adventure begins when the party arrives in Lochfell. The town is buzzing with rumour, as not only is there a possible monster on the rampage, someone has started grave robbing as well. There are opportunities to ask around a bit, which should lead the party to the place most people seem to have been near when they disappeared. Going there will lead to a good brawl and a lair to explore... and that has a few surprises, including several exotic monsters and someone hatching a plot that even the original monster didn't know about!


The lair complexes are clearly mapped with good room descriptions showing you what's where. The main adversaries have detailed stat blocks - it will be worth your time getting fully conversant with their abilities to run them to best effect - they should be played to the full to provide intelligent and challenging opposition. It's a fairly standard delve, but enjoyable and providing a real sense of satisfaction once everything's cleaned out and set to rights. There's little in the way of follow-up adventures suggested, although one antagonist had friends who might lament his passing...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lochfell's Secret (3.5)
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Advanced Arcana Volume III
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/26/2016 08:36:05

Like the previous two volumes, this one opens with a letter to a student mage from a well-wishing family friend (or is it his step-father... the friend seems close to his mother and there's been mention that his father is dead?), enclosing the gift of a rather tasty spellbook... the rest of the volume being the spellbook itself.


As before, the spells therein are organised around several innovative themes. This time they are 'opportune' spells that can be cast speedily when specific conditions arise, 'arcane well' spells that give access to unlimited use of a minor effect but only until you cast the parent spell, metamagic spells which alter other spells (somewhat akin to metamagic feats) and 'ascension' spells which are more than one level at once. You may well ask how that works...


The foreword by Kabaz Anvitz is even more philosopical than before, speculation on the nature of spells and of magic itself, and again makes for a good read and inspiration for those spellcasters who like to delve deep... or characters who like to muse over the campfire of an evening! Playing with the underpinning theory of ones trade is a constant habit of the academic, and if you like to portray your wizard character thus, it can prove entertaining. (One wizard character of mine described it as 'contemplating the ultimate which-ness of the why'... and the GM presented me with a beautiful mandala for him to gaze at when he did so!) Of course, the author reaches no conclusion after running through several theories, but says that he's presenting spells that challenge existing notions of what spells are and what you can do with them.


This is followed by an out-of-character explanation of the core themes and basically how they work, along with notes of how you might introduce these new spells into your game in a meaningful and effective manner. If you choose to make it more difficult to acquire or learn such 'exotic' spells than it is to access the 'common' magic as presented in the core rule books, some optional game mechanics are presented to make that happen - anything from making them harder to cast to making them harder to locate, needing to be researched from scratch or even acquired via the black market because for some reason or another they are not permitted. If you go for a more plot-based route, one of the appendices has biographical material and stat blocks for some of the mages who invented these spells - your characters can have an opportunity to study with a true master!


After notes on the game mechanics of the novel spell types, we get to the actual spell lists (by every type of spell user) and the alphabetical list of full spell descriptions. Hours of fascinating browsing... and the spell lists are hyperlinked so if you are reading on-screen you can dive straight to the one you want. Throughout, sidebars add interesting commentary and speculation.


Finally, the appendices present a selection of alternate potions, scrolls and wands - such as an aromatic potion that exists in gaseous form rather than a liquid, some new sorcerer bloodlines that are true lineages of arcane power, and some unique witch patrons with real personality! And there are some legendary mages, instrumental in creating some of the spells in this book, all ready for your characters to meet.


All in all, another fascinating delve into the craft of magic, something to keep the most bookish of wizards absorbed!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume III
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Advanced Arcana Volume II
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2016 10:44:18

Following on from the first volume of Advanced Arcana, this one starts with a similar letter to a student who has now completed his first year at Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft. Likewise, the foreword to the book proper reveals that it was written by the same academically-minded mage, Kabaz Anvitz. This time, he says, he wants to concentrate on useful spells rather than those picked to challenge commonly-accepted principles of magical thought... but of course, he's ended up doing that as well. For a start, he explains - in a wonderful mix of in-character theory and game mechanics - just why a wizard 'prepares' spells in advance in terms of how spell energy is stored and used. At least, a rationale for the game mechanic! It's always been something that bugged me - ok, it's the game rule but why does it have to be like that?


This book presents over an hundred new spells ranging from first to ninth level, and the underlying theme of many of them is the idea of spells which can have more than one effect depending on anything from caster whim to the conditions under which it is cast. There are more of the multi-part or 'segmented' spells introduced in the first volume, which require several spell slots and require extended casting time as well. A full explanation of the mechanic is provided in case you do not have access to Advanced Arcana I, however, and then expands it to encompass layered segmented spells and variable segmented spells, which are new to this book. There are also notes on various ways to introduce new spells into your campaign, a process that causes some GMs no end of difficulty whilst others take it in their stride. The problem of introducing new spells to spontaneous casters who are not limited as to how many spells they know just how many they can cast in a day is also covered. These notes should help enable all GMs to handle novel spells with confidence.


Explanations done, the spells are presented first as spell lists for each spell-using class and then alphabetically with full descriptions. An example of a variable segmented spell is Ardesalf's instant biography which inscribes facts about the target being into a blank book or scroll, the more times cast (one to five times) the more you find out about your target... and there are many more innovative and interesting spells to be found here.


The Appendices are well worth reading too. The first contains notes on some of the distinguished mages who devised the spells herein. Perhaps they will turn up in your campaign, or merely be legends young wizards hear about during their training. The second deals with spellbook customisation. Perhaps a wizard would like a fancy binding or wants to write his spells on something other than paper, parchment or vellum... here are some ideas, their costs and their properties. Oh, and don't forget the ink... Other appendices deal with really wierd familiars (how about a bookworm?), alternate arcane bonds and exotic spell components - if you use one of these along with whatever's required for the spell you are casting, you may get some fascinating additional effects.


This is the sort of book that makes you wish magic were real... but inasmuch as it is within your game, it makes an excellent addition to magical knowledge!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume II
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Advanced Arcana
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2016 11:39:54

How does magical education work in your game? There's quite a trend within Pathfinder RPG product to suggest that you can go to school to study magic, just as you or I in the real world can take classes in history or computer science... a reasonable assumption in a setting where magic is part of everyday life. This book takes this view, opening with a note penned to a newly-accepted student by a family friend, an older mage who wishes him well. This explains the purpose of the work, a collection of spells that should prove useful to any aspiring mage. Three specialist groups of spells are mentioned: 'quick' spells which are lesser-powered versions of spells that can be cast fast in an emergency, spells which refresh the mind and enable the re-casting of spells already used for the day, and 'segmented' spells that occupy several slots rather than one, but allow pretty amazing things to be done.


Next are some delightful philosophical thoughts by the original author of the book, clearly someone who takes magic seriously and doesn't view it merely as a list of actions for use when brawling! Much of this skilfully blends an in-character approach with recognition of the underlying game mechanics... as example, "According to the ancient sage Drawzi of Astocthes. the cost of a spell is measured in mental energy, with spells being classified in nine tiers based on the amount of energy the spell consumes when cast", which is prehaps the most delightful way of describing that spells come in levels and the higher level your character is, the higher level spells he can cast that I have read! It's a very academic approach, some readers may find it a bit heavy going, but if you want to play a spell-caster who takes a studious approach to his magic it will give you some wonderful ideas to throw around in casual conversation to bemuse your colleagues who swing swords or pick locks for a living.


Following an outstanding illustration of a 'Young Mage' lounging with a book in his hand, a couple of sidebars explain the mechanical implications of segmented spells, showing how they play out, and notes on how best to incorporate the spells from this book into your game. A wizard wishing to buy his own copy of Advanced Arcana needs to come up with 25,000 gp, for example!


Now getting down to business, spell lists are followed by full write-ups of each new spell. There are lists of spells for alchemists, bards, clerics, druids, inquisitors, paladins, rangers, sorcerers/wizards, summoners, and witches. The full spell descriptions are presented in standard format, and merely reading through them conjures up many an idea for using them to effect...


As example of the novel concept of the segmented spell, have you ever wondered how places consecrated to a particular deity have all those cool effects associated with them? Perhaps high-level clerics devoted to that deity spent a lot of time and money casting holy presence there: it builds up over six castings of a spell that takes four hours and material components of incense and oils costing 1,500 gp (that's for each of the six castings, mind you) but provides several effects that make it clear that this is indeed a holy place. Even better, you can customise these effects from a list so that they best reflect the interests and concerns of the deity in question.


Then Appendix 1: On the Assembly of this Tome contains a delightful account of the life and times of Kabaz Anvitz, the ostensible author of this spell book. Excellently written and entertaining, it continues the 'academic' theme of his introduction - and demonstrates clearly how being a bookish and scholarly mage can provide plenty scope for adventure! Other appendices present new clerical domains and sorcerer bloodlines, as well as what are termed focussed wizard schools. These allow a wizard to develop a narrower speciality in their magic than the standard schools. Oh, and there are some new familiars tucked away here, if you fancy something a bit exotic - an animated object, perhaps, or a poison frog. Or maybe you'd rather have a rabbit familiar.


The whole book is a delight, with thoughtful spells, an endearing academic approach to the study of magic, and some fantastic illustrations. Just the thing to give to an aspiring mage...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
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Grand Safari
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2016 10:59:23

One of the delights of Traveller is exploring new parts of the universe... and here's a whole campaign about doing just that. Set in the Gypsy Knights Games alternative Traveller universe, it puts the party as members of the Gentlemen's Club of Dashwood (an society you'll find in the book 21 More Organisations) who have booked themselves onto a hunting safari into the unsettled Hannibal Subsector (Leonidas Sector) which is located to spinward of the Dade Subsector in the Clement Sector. You can read about the Dade Subsector in the work Dade Colonies too. Nine pre-generated characters are provided but you can use your own - provided they are 'posh' enough (reckon on SOC 8+) to join the Club or can wangle an invitation from a member to join the trip. There are also safari staff and ship's crew roles, but these are probably best filled by NPCs.


What we have here is a series of loosely-linked adventures which can be played in any order, linked by the theme of the Safari, which is a competition. Various activities accrue points, and these accumulate towards a prize and enhance standing within the Club. The game begins at a Club meeting on Dashwood or at the first stop, a skills training day on Aisha, after which the party should be allowed to choose from a list of available safaris (adventures) which ones they want to do and in what order.


There's plenty of detail to help you run this campaign, from planetary data to the Clubhouse on Dashwood. The safari contest rules are introduced and then it's on to Aisha for Skills Day. Here, the party has the opportunity to demonstrate prowess at various activities: rifle marksmanship, archery, horseback riding, climbing, stealth, and making a shelter out of native materials. Points are awarded for all these activities - and characters who do well despite being unskilled in a given discipline may gain rank 0 in the appropriate skill. The party is then shown a list of six expeditions and can decide the order in which to visit them.


Each expedition is the presented in detail. For each one, there is a defined objective and the party will have a certain amount of time and the appropriate equipment to undertake it. Interestingly, sometimes the task is being done for someone else - for example, in the Sea Hunt the Club has been contracted to capture certain fish for a research group. Some of the tasks involve killing, but there are enough places in which capturing or even making recordings of the target animals or plants will garner points so that those who are uncomfortable with the idea of hunting for sport will find plenty to do. Naturally, each location visited boasts more than the target creature and there are extensive random event charts and other encounters to further enliven affairs. Once the six hunts have been undertaken, the party returns to Aisha where points are added up and prizes awarded.


Full details of all the systems in the Hannibal Subsector are provided, at least to the level that they are known to the Club. As far as is known, none of them have been settled yet... but there's sufficient detail in the system write-ups to allow for that if the party choose to do so in later adventures, or for you to write your own campaign around exploring and settling any one of them. Many do not even have names yet, just catalogue numbers, although some have acquired unofficial names bestowed by the Club during earlier safaris. The ship on which the safari will be undertaken is also presented, complete with deckplans and full details including those of a surface (wet) boat provided for ocean travel during the trip. Finally, there are a few ideas about other things that might be going on in the area...


This presents an exciting and original campaign framework, with loads of detail to support the adventures provided or indeed facilitate your own in a virtually unexplored subsector.



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Grand Safari
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Stone Dead (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2016 11:36:52

This adventure is set in Respite, an isolated town along the banks of a river fed by a nearby hot spring, which is renowned far and wide for the practice of the healing arts - you can place it anywhere suitable in your campaign world. But all is not well...


There is some lengthy background that explains the combination of happenstance and malign action that has brought about the current situation and a synopsis of how the adventure should play out - pretty straightforward, the party has to find out what's going on and deal with it! Some hooks are provided to get them to Respite in the first place - perhaps they have encountered a refugee, as many of the townspeople have fled, heard rumours, or have reasons of their own to be visiting the place anyway.


The approach to town is covered in some detail, as there are some odd features which the party may pick up on - although they serve more to indicate that something is amiss than give clues to the actual problem. There's a map of the gatehouse and one of the town centre - if you want detail of the rest of the town you will have to supply it for yourself. The maps these are based on come from March 2001 entries in the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website, but are no longer accessible from the link provided in the PDF.


There are plenty of opportunities to build up suspense as the party explores what appears to be a deserted town, and once they find the Bad Guy there will be an epic brawl to defeat him... and his monstrous sidekick (a decidedly nasty new monster born of dark magic) as well. Once their dastardly plot has been defeated - and, boy, it's an excellent one! - the task of rebuilding can begin.


It's a sneaky adventure that kind of grows on you, at first glance it doesn't seem much, then you realise how atmospheric it can become, especially if the party has visited Respite in the past. It's worth considering having this happen just so that the effects of this visit are really shocking!



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Stone Dead (3.0)
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Ill Wind in Friezford (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2016 11:33:18

Misfortune often comes all at once, and this certainly has been the case for the once-prosperous village of Friezford. The opening notes explain all, but it's not completely clear how much of this background the party should actually know in advance...


This is a classic ghost adventure, with the ghosts requiring certain things to be done for them by the living before they can return to everlasting rest and peace. So of course, the trick is to figure out what they want and survive long enough to accomplish it. Needless to say, it's not only the undead which will pose problems... and there's a whole bunch of new ghost special abilities to make even the ghosts more potent. One of these, the ability to manifest a solid object (even whilst the ghost manifesting it is still, of course, incorporeal) is quite interesting and worth considering for other ghosts in your game.


There is a run-down of all the ghosts around (and there are quite a few), along with the single specific condition that will allow them to depart to their rest. Only then do we get to the hooks to get the party involved with the situation and the information that they can gather (or access via bardic knowledge) once they decide to investigate further. There's not a lot, because it was apparently over an hundred years ago that the village was overrun and common knowledge is by now not very detailed.


Four events are provided, which may be run in any order as is appropriate given the party's actions. These should provide plenty of action and excitement. There is a map of Friezford and its environs, and a good detailed run-down of the locations - and of course what happens should anyone visit them. Some of them are really quite 'spooky' and can be played up to emphasise the atmosphere of the ghost town.


The main problem with this adventure is the very specific terms under which most of the ghosts can be laid to rest... to be precise, how difficult it is to firstly discover them and then put them into effect. At one point, only two very specific spells will work which the characters may or may not have: and if they do not, it's airily waved aside as a sidetrek that's up to the DM to arrange to gain access to them... even though it's never made clear just how they are supposed to discover which spells they need in the first place!


That aside, the actual ghost town and events going on there should provide a fair bit of quality spooky entertainment for your group.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ill Wind in Friezford (3.0)
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Dawn Adventures 2: Hell's Paradise
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2016 11:16:39

Rooting around the Dawn Sub-sector - next door to the Cascadia Sub-sector of the Gypsy Knights Games alternate Traveller universe Clement Sector - this adventure sees the party in a Cascadia Colonization Authority search and rescue ship looking for an exploration ship that has gone missing. The Trailblazer-class scout ship the party is in is the same as the one provided for Dawn Adventures 1: The Subterranean Oceans of Argos Prime - and indeed the adventure starts on Argos Prime. Nine pre-generated characters are also provided, as well as a map of the Dawn Sub-sector and listing of the systems therein. Naturally, you can use your own characters and ship, and indeed set the adventure somewhere in your own Traveller universe without too much amentment necessary if preferred.


The target system of Calliope is detailed extensively - at least, what is known of it - with the main world shown as being largely covered with water with just three small land masses. There is extensive sea life but little to be found on the land. It is not yet settled by anyone, but the Nordic Exploratory Society have been surveying it with an eye to locating suitable sites for a colony. It is their survey ship that has gone missing.


In a neat tie-in to Dawn Adventures 1: The Subterranean Oceans of Argos Prime, the search and rescue ship complete with the party on board have been sent to Argos Prime to assist with the disaster that befell the planet during that adventure. If you want to use the same party you did for that adventure, you'll need to have them reassigned to new duties in order to get them involved in this adventure. Representatives of the Nordic Exploration Society request help, and the party is tasked to investigate. There's a fair bit of background about the Nordic Exploration Society, how much actually needs to be shared with the party is unclear, but this may be made available if they are interested.


They will have to stop and refuel at Biocca, which is a friendly frontier world. As well as the fuel they can pick up some information and a meal whilst here, but they ought to be on their way to Calliope quickly.


Once there, the investigation can begin. The ship itself can be found quite easily... but where are the crew? There's a decklan of the survey ship, assuming the party decide to search it, with full descriptions of all that is to be found there. Eventually the reason for the ship being here, rather than returning as scheduled or even reporting in, will become apparent... but will the party be able to figure it out and how to deal with it before suffering a similar fate?


This is a nice treatment of what is, once discovered, a fairly standard risk of interplanetary exploration, with a few neat ideas to make it less predicable. It proves good fun to run, but is possibly more suitable for a one-off game using the characters provided than as part of an ongoing campaign with cherished characters... yet, it's dangerous out in the black, sometimes parties need to be reminded of this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dawn Adventures 2: Hell's Paradise
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Dawn Adventures 1: The Subterranean Oceans of Argos Prime
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2016 08:59:49

If you think Traveller is all about exploring new worlds, then this adventure is for you... because in it the party is hired by the Cascadia Colonization Authority to go explore parts of Argos Prime, a strange world where the surface is barren and the interior contains bodies of water and other necessities for life. It's set in the Gypsy Knights Games custom universe, but it ought not be too hard to find a suitable location in your own campaign setting if you prefer. Likewise, pre-generated characters and a survey ship are supplied, but are not essential.


There is a map of the Dawn Sub-sector with brief details of all the worlds therein, two of which have already been settled by the Cascadia Colonization Authority (the Dawn Sub-sector is next along from the Cascadia one). The target world, however, has been independently colonised by peoples of Greek and Slavic origins although negotions are in progress to plant a colony there as well. The Argos Prime government has also allowed a couple of mining companies to begin work, primarily in the world's two asteroid belts but also on the surface... unfortunately these companies do not get along, and bickering has turned to brawling on more than one occasion.


Full details of Argos Prime are provided - everything from physical geography (quite remarkable and unique) to government and cultural information. System data is also provided as well as maps of Argos Prime, both the frigid surface and the subterreanean areas where people can live. There are also full details and deckplans for the ship provided.


Then things get interesting. Rather than a fully-scripted adventure, you are provided with a situation, a disaster (which is variable in nature, you decide how severe it is) and some suspects... the aim of the adventure is for the party to figure out what - and who, if applicable - caused the disaster... and they thought that they were here just to survey and assess potential locations for new colonies. There is a lot of tension and distrust between various factions and organisations, which is likely to spill over into events.


The parameters for the surveys are laid out precisely: both location and what the party needs to do whilst they are there. Charts are supplied from which you can give them the relevant data once they settle down to collect it, and each location that is to be surveyed is detailed as well. Also, randon encounters tailored to each location are supplied to liven things up a bit.


Then we get to the impending disaster. The general nature is outlined in some detail, but its severity and just where it happens is left to you. The party will - assuming that they survive - be hauled off their survey duties and asked to investigate. Six different options for what caused it are provided, along with a whole bunch of NPCs to question and various 'clues' which may or may not point to the guilty parties, depending on whom you decided was behind it all. Red herrings abound and it can be quite easy for the party to go off along a completely different track - it's recommended that you limit the red herrings so that the party do eventually home in on the correct suspects. Or of course you may decide that it was a freak accident and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, nobody was responsible. Then the party will have to debunk all the conspiracy theories flying around!


Overall it's a delightful mix of exploration and investigation with an innovative methodology that allows you to determine what was actually going on without having to make everything up for yourself. Great fun - but it repays careful preparation although it is well-enough organised that you could run it on the fly if necessary!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dawn Adventures 1: The Subterranean Oceans of Argos Prime
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Cascadia Adventures 3: Fled
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2016 08:48:37

As with the previous two adventures in the Cascadia series, this one is set in the alternate Traveller universe created by Gypsy Knights Games - it takes place in the Cascadia Sub-Sector which is part of Clement Sector. Again, the whole thing starts with the Razz Casino on Chance, a planet in Cascadia. Pre-generated characters and a ship are provided, or you can use your own. The advantage of the characters provided is that they are embedded into what is going on with links to the Casino and an array of useful contacts who pop up during the adventure to help - but if using your own characters it's not too hard to work them in. Likewise, if you are not using the alternate universe it will be possible to amend the adventure to fit in with your own. If you have either of the previous two adventures, there is some repeated material - the pre-generated characters, the ship, and details of the Razz Casino itself - primary for the benefit of those who only have this work. Each adventure stands alone, so if you like this one, go back and try the other two!


The plot is quite straightforward - or at least appears to be when first introduced. A fellow called Hawthorne, part of Razz Casino security, has stolen a large amount of money from the Casino and the owner, Carrie O'Malley, wants not just the money back but Hawthorne's head on a platter as well. The party will be tasked with going to Cascadia, where Hawthorne used to live, and visiting his ex-wife to find out if she knows anything about the theft or Hawthorn's whereabouts. They'll have to be discreet, as this lady has since remarried... to one of Cascadia's leading politicians.


Once the party has accepted the offer - and it is, shall we say, in their best interests to do so - they can begin to make their way to Cascadia via Dimme, another world where they can refuel. Throughout, scenes are presented as 'essential' (necessary to the plot), 'optional' (flavour and role-playing opportunities, but not contributing to the plotline) and 'contact' (where the party has a chance to gather useful inforamation) - a neat trick to keep things moving yet create a sense of reality in your game.


There's a spot of local colour - and time for a meal - at Dimme, then on to Cascadia where the main part of the adventure takes place. There's a lot going on, particularly on the political front with a major election coming up and the party soon gets caught up in it all. There are copious details of Cascadian politicians and their parties to provide background and substance to what is going on. Many of them could make useful contact for the future. Or enemies, of course, depending on the interactions the party has with them. Many in the Cascadian political scene play the game hard and with deadly sincerity.


It all builds up to an exciting climax at a political rally. There's a plan of the auditorium and full notes about what's where and what is taking place. Guile rather than brute force is likely to win the day, indeed this is the case throughout the adventure. Parties who plan their actions and come up with inventive schemes to achieve their goals are likely to do best... but fear not, at several points there are opportunities for a brawl, although the consequences may not be to participants' liking.


A well-written taut adventure that could leave the party with some measure of renown - or notoriety - as well as powerful friends and equally powerful enemies. And a ship.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cascadia Adventures 3: Fled
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