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Malevolent & Benign II
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/18/2019 14:22:54

You can never have too many monster books in my mind. Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent. Monsters have taught me so much over the years. Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school. One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

In many ways I actually like M&B2 more than M&B1. This book is 110 pages with 150+ monsters. Again we have a color cover (which is fantastic by the way) and black & white interior. In fact all the art is a step up. If M&B 1 was akin to a MM3 or FF2 then this one is the next in line, but with no loss of quality. The monsters are new and quite deadly or at least the ones that are not deadly are interesting. I have not picked up the softcover yet, but the PDF is fantastic. 10 bucks for the pdf or 20 for the pdf + softcover book is a pretty good deal. Especially for a bunch of new monsters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Malevolent & Benign II
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Malevolent and Benign
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/18/2019 14:11:50

You can never have too many monster books in my mind. Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent. Monsters have taught me so much over the years. Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school. One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

Malevolent and Benign has long been a staple on my game table. 128 pages with 150 monsters, all in OSRIC format. The monsters are all new (to me), with some converted from other OGC sources. The art is quite good and the feel of the book is something like a Monster Manual 3 or a Fiend Folio 2 really. It sits on my shelf right next to my monsters books, or in theory, it does. It is actually out on my game table more often than not. The softcover is very nice to have and the PDF is fully bookmarked.

The book also has a small section on new magic items associated with these monsters.

For $10 it is a good deal.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Malevolent and Benign
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Advanced Adventures #19: The Secret of the Callair Hills
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2019 11:22:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was sponsored by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All right, as always for the series, we use the OSRIC rules-set, including a couple of deviations from said system’s formatting conventions; conversion to other OSR-games is pretty simple. As for level-range, the module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 3 – 5 and it takes places in a borderlands-like frontier’s region, which is represented by a hex-crawl area. Unlike many hex-crawls, the hexes themselves aren’t numbered, instead providing terrain features etc. It should be noted that there are two overland maps – one for the general region (with a scale of 1 hex equaling 1 mile) and a second one, which takes a slightly more detailed look at the area, with a hex being equal to ½ a mile. The overland exploration does feature entries that focus on animals, humanoids and bandits, making for a subdued and quasi “realistic” take, which is something I generally enjoy. A further plus here would be that the hex maps are not boring – from rivers to hills etc., the region feels plausible and diverse enough to explore. The icons chosen to represent specific places also are easy enough to differentiate from another. The pdf does include two mini-dungeons as well, both of which cover 4 rooms arranged in a linear manner. The module, as always for the series, does not contain read-aloud text for the most part, though one of the adventure hooks does provide a bit of text for the GM.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, by frontier’s region, I meant that design and to consciously evoke the whole frontier-narrative; you see, the Callair Hills were once part of the domain of the Ynlar, a proud warrior race who kept the goblin population in check, mining and working on the silver that their native lands offered. When southern settlers came to know of these bountiful lands, the response was swift and predictable, and after a period of initial peace, greed triumphed and the Ynlar retreated to the prospectors…until their burial lands were to be settled, whereupon a bloody conflict saw them wiped out. A period of calm followed, due to political circumstances, and now, settlers had once again been sent off to Callair Hills to farm and mine. And this is where the PCs come in.

There are three hooks: Happening upon a farm where the dead still lie, getting a job offer, or being warned by settlers leaving. Callair Hills have been haunted, and folks are dying. Farms are destroyed. It’s up to the PCs to find out what happened. Okay, so this premise is per se interesting, and before you groan – it’s not a noble savage narrative that’s spun here. The map contains quite a few farms that may be destroyed, abandoned or inhabited, though no sample names or NPCs are provided. Close examination of the area will show that there are quite a few burial mounds, with skeletons inside – at least at day. At night, the skeletons (more powerful than usual) roam the area, though, oddly, this is not represented in the random encounters. An alternate table for of encounters for nighttime journeys would have been nice.

Further exploration of the area will feature the ruins of an old fort, the first of the 4-room mini-dungeons, where a scholar can potentially be used to fill the PCs in on the region’s history. While creepy, the fort has a couple of nice cultural tidbits – a means to preserve food, some cave locusts, etc. This is atmospheric, but ultimately a sidetrek and mechanically and story-wise, not relevant. You can skip the entirety of this complex and still “beat” the module.

The same does not hold true for the second mini-dungeon, the biggest burial mound in the center of the fields. Though “big” is relative – RAW, the map uses a scale of 2 feet per square, which makes the first room 10 feet wide and long. If you usually track PC positions, this can be a rather claustrophobic experience and makes running it a challenge.

This complex, once more, does a good job at establishing a culture for the Ynlan, and it contains two tomb guardian undead bodyguards resting, as well as the new creature, the barrow lord, a rather potent 7 HD undead. If the PCs plundered his tomb so far, they won’t have much choice but to attempt to destroy the undead – but if they have reigned in their avarice and act quickly, they may attempt to communicate with the undead, provided they have a means to converse with the undead. (Another way to handle this would be aforementioned scholar…) Turns out that the barrow lord swore a solemn oath to defend the ancestral lands from invaders…and clever PCs may succeed in convincing him that his undead legions have been killing harmless farmers that do not constitute invaders. Or, well, the PCs could go on an extermination crawl and clear all the mounds and destroy the barrow lord – after all, he and his undead legions have been killing innocent folks.

The pdf includes notes on further adventures in the region.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks that I’ve seen before. The cartography is b/w and does its job, but no player-friendly versions are provided, though the scale-decision for the final mound is puzzling and harder on the GM than it should be – most groups will need to redraw that one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is the first module by Geoff Gander I’ve read, and it has potential: I like the descriptions, the theme, that it does not stoop to just providing an annoying noble savage narrative. I enjoy the subdued themes, and for a first module, this is pretty nice. However, the adventure really suffers from its brevity. Some encounters by night, some pressure, more expansive mini-dungeons, more details for the farms and overland exploration – this has the makings of a nice adventure, but its scope seems to be too much for the few pages it has to develop its ideas. I know one-page-dungeons and mini-dungeons that are meatier. This module, in short, is flimsier in content than its page-count would make you believe. You can finish this in under 4 hours, easily – even quicker if your players are very “get the job done”-style driven veterans. With 3 or 4 pages more, this could have been a really good adventure. As provided, its brevity neuters any impact it might have had, the atmospheric tidbits etc., and reduces it to a solid, if woefully short offering. My final verdict can thus not exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only due to this being the author’s first module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #19: The Secret of the Callair Hills
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Advanced Adventures #18: The Forsaken Sepulcher
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2019 14:31:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is part of a series of reviews requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, nominally, this module is intended for 4 – 6 PCs level 10 – 15, though I certainly advise in favor of sticking to the higher end of the level-range here. The adventure, like all Advanced Adventures-modules, uses the OSRIC rules-set, and can be converted to other OSR-rules relatively easily. It should be noted, that, like the entirety of the series so far, it deviates somewhat from OSRIC’s formatting conventions, which is something that might irk you.

The module sports a couple of monsters, the first of which would be the arcanoplasm, a slimy thing that can mimic low-level arcane spells cast near it. Amalgam golems are basically stone golems that have a second mode – after 5 rounds of combat, the fiery spirit within ignites them and their constituent tar. Avmar are 12-foot tall black stone beasts with a horn, and its arms can slap targets back. Fungal renders are massive fungi that tear apart their prey with their tentacles, and they can throw themselves upon targets. The fungus has a regeneration, but does not specify an end – I assume that killing the critter ends this. Hephaestans are basically a 10 ft.tall humanoid clad in heat – a smith-race, somewhat akin to azers.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, just GMs around? Great! So, when Caleb and Trenton, two high-level adventurers, finally decided that it’s time for retirement, they concocted a get-rich-quick-scheme. Having made a living of plundering tombs of other folks, they decided that the rich and powerful would probably be rather interested in seeing their mortal remains properly secured. Thus, they ventured forth, using their considerable assets to find a barren planetoid and construct their elite sepulcher there; ostensibly impregnable. While they met their doom on an unspecified world, the sepulcher did house a total of 7 tombs when they vanished from history – though only two of them are depicted herein, with the rest up to the GM to fill in. So, if you do have a killer dungeon, it can be slotted into this rather easily.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and here, I really enjoy the baseline: The remoteness of the location and the legend should definitely be made clear to the players, if they hope to have a chance; it sets expectations for what this module offers in terms of lethality. On the other hand, the basic premise also falls short of what it could have been. If you expected some sort of unique hazards or planetary shenanigans from this premise, I’ll have to disappoint you. There are no unique global effects to be found that would be derived from the whole planetoid angle – 4 Dollar Dungeons’ “Panataxia”, one of my all-time favorites, did show how an analogue angle can be done much more satisfyingly. If you’re btw. a member of the old-school crowd that started sneering due to said module being for PFRPG – do at least check it out. I’m pretty positive that you’ll love it, regardless of system employed.

But I digress. This module thus contains two dungeons, which may be accessed via the per se barren hub-complex. The first module would be “The Mithraem[sic!] of Elissa”, as the map calls it. There a “u” missing there. The dungeon is thoroughly linear – while there is one instance where you can go left or right, the branches only diverge for this one room. There is another diverging branch, where one direction is basically a dead-end – other than that, the rooms pretty much follow a linear sequence. This is important, as, bingo, you guessed it – this complex is full of traps where the entrance snaps shut and wizard locks. Let’s take a look at the first trap, shall we? The floor contains grooves, and when the PCs enter the place, metal bulls with wheels materialize, and charge the PCs at 300 ft. per round, dematerialize in the back of the room, and then charge again. The room is RAW 30 ft. long, so not sure if this would imply having to make 10 checks per round. Oh, wait. Not checks. Attack rolls! You see, you must bull jump, and that is obviously done via attack rolls! Didn’t you know? The bulls also seem to be egalitarian and sentient, as, regardless of PC movement speed or timing, the PC will have to make two such attack rolls and make them to cross the room. Why? Because the module said so. That’s why. A PC hit must btw. make a Dex-check to remain standing. I assume It’s impossible to jump the bull while prone, but RAW, the book doesn’t state so.

There’s a second variant of this – a discus room that follows the same paradigm, save that, on a 20, you get decapitated. Speaking of vorpal…the gargantuan minotaurs later have, of course, vorpal axes. Yeah, you totally want your players to have two of these, right?

The room after the bull-room contains a gate that will suddenly manifest, and attempt to suck PCs into the gate. -2 penalty’d Strength check for every 5 ft. moved; on a failure, you also get 5 ft. closer to the gate. Touching it basically ends the module for you, as you are stranded in Hades. The gate is one-way. By the way: The room with the gate? It has a 20 ft.-broad ring you’ll need to navigate around the gate – at the top most, 4 saves are your margin of error there, and the pull extends 50 ft. and does not turn off. Having fun yet?

Have you realized the quasi-Greek notion? Well, do you expect hints from the vapors in the oracular room beyond? Well, tough luck! You’re actively penalized! On a save vs. spell, you either become confused, or die. And the oracle? Ghost. With a riddle. The riddle is okay, but failing to answer it will chain lightning you. Oh, and no save. Why? Because the author said so. The author also seems to fail to grasp how some basic spells work. The priestess has turned vampire, fyi. Her resurrection rite is really cool (and gory), but the rules suck: The floor’s lick with gore, so PC movement is halved, and each PC has a 50% chance falling. Yep, the thief is probably really pissed by having their abilities not taken into account by now.

The second dungeon would be the “Crypt of the Slime Mage”, which is more deadly than the previous one. It’s also divorced from real world lore, but considering how bland the Mithraeum was, I’m not too unhappy about this. The dungeon is slightly less linear, which is a nice plus – though 6 of the rooms will have to be crossed. As has by now become standard for the author, it’s the “My way or you die”-school of design; the walls are impassable, rooms slam shut and wizard lock, and you basically guess what’s meant or suffer the consequences. Know what makes high-level play cool? The stuff you can do. That you can bypass stuff, be creative. This module once more strips the PCs of their capabilities, because it’d be harder to design for.

There is an instance, where pressing 4 gemstone buttons out of sequence will power word:Kill the PCs. While not required to proceed, this is a ridiculous dick move. Speaking of which: What about a room that slams shut and wizard locks, leaving 3 rounds to escape (which is probably where the PCs find out the hard way that all their cool magic doesn’t work) before being crushed, no save. That’s literally GM-fiat TPK. The PCs can also fall into a trench of mold, and, you guessed it…save or die for a change of pace! At a -3 penalty, though. We don’t want to spoil those players, right? There is also a spear-based trap that can cripple or instantly kill the PCs hit, which is ridiculous: 3 times 1d8 HP damage and that dwarf? Toast. It may be kinda realistic, but it doesn’t fit into the concept of how OSRIC works. It highlights the discrepancy between interpretations of HP and abstraction of wounds discussion. It reads like it has been written for a completely different game. There is also a conceptually cool trap – a room that rotates, with spikes inside. Here’s the thing: Whether the PCs can exit, you roll a d10. There is a 5-in-10 chance that the exit will be available for a PC. This is abstract, and it does not matter if two PCs are adjacent or not. The exit can be in range for a PC, but out of range for his faster buddy. This is just dumb and obviously had no contact with either play at the table or an even halfway interested rules-editor or developer.

Also, what about a balor in a room that surprises 5-in-6. Why? Because. There is a non-skippable room with different traps – it is not clear which is correct, and all effects for opening them are unpleasant. In the end, the slime-lich looms. Treasure guarded by a symbol of death, for a final extended middle finger.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, atrocious regarding rules-integrity. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has a couple of solid b/w-artworks. The cartography is basic and does its job, but we get no player-friendly maps. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for chapter headers, but not for rooms or dungeons.

Alphonso Warden’s “Forsaken Sepulcher” is not a return to what made “Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” worth the effort to fix for some groups. It is, design-wise, atrocious and checks off each and every instance of bad design, from arbitrary challenge-resolution mechanics, to a ton of save-(or no save)-or-die instances that are neither telegraphed, nor earned, up to the mostly bland and cookie-cutter complexes, the tombs never become interesting or rewarding to explore. I don’t object to save or die, but this adventure uses it to create an arbitrary, GM-fiat-based difficulty that violates a ton of tenets of the games we play.

The complexes herein? They are a chore. Granted, this is not as bad as his worst offerings, but it also is a long, long way from being worth the asking price or effort to play and prepare. Heck, I was in equal parts bored and infuriated while reading this module. That’s a hard thing to achieve.

This is a bad adventure, and at this point, I’m just glad that I can finish writing this review and delete this adventure from my hard drive. This module really shows that the author obviously a) either doesn’t play the game anymore or b) never has. And if he has played the game, his GM obviously was HORRENDOUS. This is not “convention-game”-challenging; it’s just a grind that I can’t even recommend to the most die-hard of punishment-gluttons among players. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #18: The Forsaken Sepulcher
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Advanced Adventures #17: The Frozen Wave Satsuma
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/23/2019 02:55:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back-cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon-supporters.

All right, so this module does have a bit of a culture-clash vibe, in that it taps into some Oriental Adventures-style content, but fret not – the material within can be slotted into pretty much any quasi-early-modern-period gaming. If you’re not familiar with some terms employed within, a brief glossary has you covered. As always for the series, the module is penned with the OSRIC rules-set in mind, but can be translated to most OSR games with relative ease. Similarly, as has become tradition for the series, formatting conventions do deviate from the standards set by OSRIC, but are pretty concise in these instances.

The module contains 5 new magic items – one that allows a horse to move through underbrush and not be tracked, a figurine, and two ice-themed items that help mitigate the environmental challenges faced within. The most interesting item presented would be a harp that can lock listeners ina loop of their last actions. The new monsters aren’t particularly interesting as far as I’m concerned. Two are provided, an ice-squid and a sahuagin-variant with tentacles for legs. The latter is, somewhat unfortunately named “Krabben”, which is the German plural for crabs. They have nothing to do with either meaning here. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

The complex to be explored within is fully mapped in b/w, but no player-friendly iteration is provided. The adventure is intended for a group of level 3 – 5 characters, though it should be noted that the players should behave in a smart manner – otherwise, they may encounter something that may well see them wiped out. Apart from a brief section of introductory prose, the module has no read-aloud text.

In order to discuss the adventure in more detail, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, when an oriental magic-user turned bonkers, things took a rather uncommon turn: The magic-user turned north, supporter by his ogre-mage and ice-elven buddies, and managed to secure the eyes of frost men, using them in a rite to craft a ginormous junk (the ship!) from ice itself – the eponymous Frozen Wave Satsuma. Recruiting the notoriously nasty wako (basically pirates), he set sail to plunder the realms of barbarians (i.e. Westerners, i.e. the realms of your players), just as the magics that hold the vessel together continuously chip away at his mental state. It’s been a few weeks since the alien vessel has started haunting the coastal regions, and it’ll be up to the PCs are trouble-solvers to stop the raids that set forth from the unearthly ship once and for all.

As far as premises are concerned, this is already better than a ton of modules out there, and the ship of ice, with its frigid temperatures, icy mists and slippery surface makes it clear that the complex is just as much the enemy as the foes faced. The global effects of the dungeon help to constantly remind the players in which type of weird ship they will find themselves. Lighting conditions etc., the need for footwear and the like – all is concisely presented, including taking tracking etc. into account – and that is important, for the module has a timer of sorts. When the PCs assault the Frozen Wave Satsuma, a seriously massive raiding party is currently…well…raiding! They will return sooner or later, and if the PCs have by then not made sure that they have a valid plan to deal with them, they will find themselves overwhelmed.

The good thing here is that the terrain and “dungeon” offer plenty of ways for clever players to deal with this issue: You see, the ship is VAST, cavernous, and actually pretty dangerous. The deeper holds and decks are infused with darksome magics, generating an almost palpable sense of foreboding, one that is contrasted in interesting ways by small tidbits like noting that a character is a master of rhino-karate. The hostile NPCs/commanders present also feel alive – curious players that play their cards right may find out a lot about the power-dynamics, relationships etc. of the characters on board, which could well yield the edge they need to survive if things go wrong. Or, well, they can also try to murder-hobo everybody…but considering that there is e.g. a level 8 samurai on board, this may be a tougher call than what you’d imagine.

The PCs can free slaves, reclaim pillaged relics, and end the threat of the Satsuma, they can free e.g. a snow leopard to attempt to get the beast to deal with the overwhelming force of wako; they can attempt to use the creepy (and deadly) haunt-like effects inside to shake off pursuers…there is but one thing that felt like an utterly unnecessary addition here, and that would be the partially flooded lowest level, where the Krabben, including the ice-squid lurk. Their presence doesn’t make that much sense and feels like a late addition that dilutes the focus of the module a bit. On the plus-side, if you don’t mind their inclusion, they can act as a good further adventure hook – not that the module would have required it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect –a pronunciation guide for the glossary would have been nice and I noticed a few instances of spell-references etc. not formatted correctly. Layout adheres to the no-frills classic 2-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf sports a few pieces of solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The lack of player-friendly versions of the b/w-maps is a comfort-detriment.

Joseph Browning and Andrew Hind joining forces on this one was a good call indeed. “The Frozen Wave Satsuma” may be a short module, but it actually manages to capture the spirit of old-school modules, the nostalgia these types of adventure aim for WITHOUT being derivative. This is a huge plus in my book. The interesting complex, combined with the design-aesthetics highlighted throughout the module, ultimately makes this feel like a lost classic. It recaptures that ephemeral flavor AND manages to be novel and interesting. Is it perfect? Nope. I’d have loved to see more detailed tactics, perhaps means for PCs to hijack the vessel…

But honestly? This module has entertained me more in its 13 pages than many modules of twice that length. It is easily one of the best installments in the series, and one that I’d definitely recommend checking out. This managed to capture my imagination, and really achieves attaining the goal that this series of adventures has – to provide new modules that feel like classics. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars…and while the formal criteria-hiccups would usually prevent me from doing so, this one really captured my imagination, which is why it also receives my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #17: The Frozen Wave Satsuma
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Advanced Adventures #16: Under Shattered Mountain
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/14/2019 10:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

So, as always for the Advanced Adventures-series, this module is intended for OSRIC-rules, but adaption to another OSR rule-set is very much possible. Nominally intended for 5 – 8 characters level 9 – 12, the adventure is very modular and represents more of a sandboxy backdrop than a unified narrative, and it should be noted that, difficulty-level wise, the adventure ranks in the upper echelon. There are a few encounters herein that are very dangerous and that will potentially destroy careless or unlucky players. These are not always telegraphed that well in advance, so an old-school mindset that can deal with character-death is very much recommended. On the definite plus-side, it should be mentioned that the more intelligent adversaries do get tactics that set them apart and help the GM render them appropriately dangerous, making them stand out a bit more than they’d otherwise would.

As far as supplemental materials are concerned, we get 4 new monsters – a pretty deadly toadstool critter, cavern crows that can be driven into a frenzy by the scent of blood, the lightning devil, and a unique devil are provided, all with appropriate stats. As far as adversaries are concerned, some beloved classics can be encountered, and a few of them are surprising – but I’ll get into that below.

The pdf does contain two new magic user spells: At 3rd level, we have Hestler’s Verbal Disruptor, which generates a white noise style acoustic-dead zone, is an interesting one. Black Embrace, a 7th level spell, booby-traps a corpse, which will embrace the living, draining their life-force. Cool visuals there.4 magic items are included as well, with experience and GP values noted properly. One of them, a flask that can be used to poison targets or be harmless, is nice, though here, a deviation from OSRIC’s default assumption of save-or-die for poisons would have imho made sense from a design perspective. A cooldown or countdown of sorts would have certainly made falling prey to that item less frustrating. One of the items is cursed, and honestly, it may actually be fairer than this one. A bloodsucking dagger (with rather nice mechanics) and a rod are also part of the deal here.

Now, before we go into SPOILER-territory, let’s briefly talk about how this is set apart from most modules: Shattered Mountain is vast, and as such, it contains miles upon miles of tunnels that lead from a) to b) – in a way, it is reminiscent of a wilderness crawls inside a mountain, limited by the claustrophobic tunnels. This structure allows and encourages insertion of your own adventure modules and scenarios and characterizes this firmly as more of a backdrop than a primary narrative. This is also further emphasized by the random encounters table, which is pretty hefty and feels down to earth enough.

In fact, the lion’s share of the adventure is taken up by a variety of not necessarily connected encounters, each of which comes with its own functional little map. These are NOT aligned in a linear manner, which, once more, represents a big plus as far as I’m concerned. On a downside, the respective areas (10 of which are provided) are designated with letters: “Area F”, for example. However, on the respective maps, we have starting positions of dynamic adversaries, for example, also denoted by letters. When you look are the map of “Area B” and read “A, B, C”, you can’t help but feel that this choice of labeling wasn’t too wise. Using Roman or Arabic numbers, glyphs, whatever, would have been more comfortable for the GM in these cases.

Beyond these encounters, there is a more conventional 2-level mini-dungeon included here… But in order to discuss more of the details of this adventure, I will have to go into SPOILER-territory. From here on out, I strongly urge potential players to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid SPOLERS. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, among the encounters, we have, among other things, a slightly loopy fungal druid (including the series’ by now traditional deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions), a tribe of troglodytes, aforementioned cavern crows in conjunction and cohabitation with gargoyles, trolls, earth elementals, stone giants – the aesthetics here seem to be deliberately close to what you’d expect from a classic AD&D adventure – whether you consider that to be a bug or a feature depends on your own tastes. For the most part, I have to admit to being not exactly blown away by them, as the terrain simply doesn’t matter as much as it probably should. Compared to the fantastic “Stonesky Delve”, the caverns under shattered mountain feel quite a bit more sterile. I did mention that this module can be really deadly, and perhaps unfairly so. This claim primarily stems from one of the encounters, which springs not one, but two very old red dragons on the PCs – once they pass a certain threshold, they’ll be blasted by not one, but two breath weapons. No, the dragons are not hostile to another; they work together.

While it is “realistic” in a way that going down the wrong tunnel may get you killed, I did not consider this one to be particularly fair or enjoyable. There is no foreshadowing here, and I’d strongly advise GMs to seed some warning signs for the players. Otherwise, this is pretty much one of the bad “Lol, you die”-type of old-school encounters that doesn’t earn its lethality.

More fair, if certainly no less deadly, would be aforementioned mini-dungeon: Sheth, aforementioned unique devil, has his own little complex that spans a total of 21 keyed locations. This mini-dungeon is a hackfest in the purest sense, and if you’re looking for some good ole’ murder hobo-ing, this’ll do, perfectly. From the gorgon guardians to a lamia to twin rooms housing no less than 6 (!!) stone golems in total, this complex is brutal. Said lamia has btw. high-level adventurers and a trolls charmed, making the encounter function somewhat akin to handling rival adventurers. We even find nilbogs here, and as a whole, this dungeon is deadly, but cool – there is for example a really cool trap, where a collective of screaming magic mouths may render the PCs unconscious. While this can TPK a group, mundane means to offset the trap (as well as magical brute-forcing) are viable tactics, making this a cool example of a trap that has more than one step, and one that rewards player skill over PC luck. I really liked that one. Sheth and his cohorts are similarly a challenging and cool final encounter. Here is a lost chance, though – the lightning devils and the pool featured in the final encounter don’t really interact, and as cool as some of the trap/hazard-related aspects of the complex are, they don’t extend to actual interaction with the creatures, which makes them feel a bit more sterile than they’d otherwise seem.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good of a formal level, though there are deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions. On a rules-language level, I’d consider this to be precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf features no interior artwork beyond the editorial page, and cartography in b/w is functional and solid. However, no player-friendly, unlabeled versions have been provided.

James C. Boney can write really, really cool dungeons. The author gets the theme and tropes of classic fantasy really well, and I am particularly enjoying the tactics of his adversaries, as well as the creative and fair traps that his modules mostly seem to feature. At the same time, I couldn’t help but being somewhat unimpressed by this offering.

I love the notion of Shattered Mountain. The crawling through labyrinthine, lengthy tunnels is something I really love. Heck, I’ve written more than one book devoted to the theme of subterranean gaming. That being said, this feels, whether by design or by lack of inspiration, somewhat cookie-cutter in what the encounters offer. They are pretty segregated from one another, and theme-wise, there is no encounter within that I couldn’t have improvised on my own. On the plus-side, the mini-dungeon makes for a rather enjoyable hackfest – I can see that one work great for a fun convention game, for example. If you’re looking for a hard, but fun hackfest, the mini-dungeon included certainly delivers.

Still, this module has the somewhat unfortunate timing of having been released after “Stonesky Delve”, which not only offers a more alive, terrain-wise interesting adventure with verticality, nooks and crannies to explore, etc. – it also offers much more bang for your buck. This is by no means a bad adventure or hub/backdrop, but it also could have been much more. If “vanilla” AD&D flavor is what you’re looking for, then this delivers – if not, then you’ll be better off with “Stonesky Delve” or similar adventures. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #16: Under Shattered Mountain
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Advanced Adventures #14: The Verdant Vault of Malakum
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2018 10:18:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at only 9 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, ½ a page of SRD, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

As always, this Advanced Adventures-module uses the OSRIC rule-set, but can be theoretically converted easily to other rule-sets. The adventure is designated as suitable for levels 8 – 10 and works best with a well-rounded party and…Pffff BUAHAHAHA … …I can’t do that. I just can’t. The Verdant Vault of Malakum’s brevity is a plus. No, I am not going to dignify this with a SPOILER-warning. Damn. I just did that, didn't I? No one should attempt to play this. From the get-go, we realize what we have actually bought here: The vault is 3 miles away from the settlement…and then, the module continues to talk about how slowly the PCs can get through the jungle, noting that they can only cover 4 miles per day. … Notice something? We get a list of random encounter monsters (nothing interesting here), and that’s not all. In the jungle, turning undead is penalized. Why? Because the jungle is EEEVUHLL. … The entrance to the vault of the erstwhile despot Malakum is a stone head, flanked by basaltic columns. These are ropers concealed by illusions and surprise 5 times in 6. Means to detect? Nope. This dickishness is just a taste of the things to come. In the vault, we have -6 to turning undead. And every 3rd and 7th of the 60 steps down into the dungeon is trapped. Tedious, even for super-methodical groups? Yes. Not telegraphed? Yes. Boring and bad design? Heck yes. If the PCs stumble into them, the slide will dump them in a pool of slimes that all hit automatically. Oh joy. That’s harmless as far as this module is concerned.

Know these “great” modules that do NOT account for PC capability, instead neutering them or forcing them to basically guess what the author wants them to do? You know, the author’s extended middle finger à la “EFF your rules, you will do this as I intended or die horribly?” Yeah, well, we have the like herein. A lot of it. There is a room that is basically an elemental maelstrom: There are quasi-Egyptian hieroglyphs here (included as visual representations) that represent the 4 elements, and that the PCs must hit to cancel the respective elemental pain. (Magic-users will not survive here.) Oh, and how this trap works is utterly obtuse in its wording. I had to read it 3 times. The few monsters herein don’t really have a strong leitmotif. Babau, a shambling mound and yellow musk zombies. No creeper. There is one interesting hazard/creature synergy, a venus man-trap that combines violet fungus rot and deadly bites – but the formatting is weird here. Why isn’t this listed like a creature? You know, like the fungi? And no, they can’t avoid damage or properly bypass this or any other one, even if the players get/guess how a trap or hazard works.

This is something to bear in mind: The Verdant Vault of Malakum is a thoroughly linear dungeon. There is no way to bypass any room within. Remember that.

So, the boss, Malakum, is a greater mummy, the rooms wizard lock and slam shut all the time...blablabla. Nothing you wouldn’t expect from the author at this point. If you expected a plant-dungeon: Nope. There are a few plant monsters, but the dungeon per se does not have any semblance of a proper leitmotif or cultural identity. Oh, and there is this nice trap in the beginning. Where (black) tentacles spawn from the walls. If 4 hit you (save vs. spell, fyi), they tear you apart. Death. No save. Because that totally is how being hit with multiple tentacles works in any (A)D&D-related game I know. Each PC is targeted by 4 of them. Per round.

Ah, and there is an obtuse relief-based puzzle and the utterly baffling “Path of Stars.” This room has a black floor, 30 ft. below. Motes of light dance on it. Touching the floor…is instant death, no save. If you really strain, you can hear the author’s ethereal whispers of “EFFF You.” That’s how this whole room reads like. And yes, for funsies, if you touch the white motes of stars, you…die; if you touch the black void, you….BINGO, also die, no save. Sounds legit.

You know, because it’s a piece of the night sky, transplanted here. No, this is not telegraphed in any way. Just getting started. The PCs can activate platforms that levitate down, which flip over in a 1-second rhythm. One side is safe (oddly, the white one…you know, white like the motes that kill you, no save, when touching the equivalent on floor below), while the other evaporates you if you fail a -4 save vs. spell. Of COURSE, you can’t teleport or fly here. That’d be actually…you know…use of resources. Not even CLEVER use of resources, mind you, but damn cookie-cutter adventuring…but using that would contradict the author’s utterly baffling and random fiat, so this module raises a middle finger to your players. Play like dumb drones and walk into the unavoidable traps. You know, like you’re in a bad computer game.

Thought that this isn’t so bad? Okay, do you know how you cross it? Dexterity check at -3 to jump ON AND to jump OFF. Depending on how you read the crappy, imprecise wording, you either arrive at 9 (!!) or 18 (!!!) consecutive Dexterity checks at a “-3 penalty”. Okay…isn’t that supposed to be a +3 penalty? You know, because of roll under as a default? Never mind that OSRIC’s rules explicitly state that such things should not necessarily require skill-like checks… I swear to any deity, imagined or real, that may or may not exist, that I am NOT making this stuff up. That’s actually what’s in this module. An excerpt. Of the mercifully short adventure. Told you that this being so short was a good thing. And before you ask: No, you can’t turn off the whole thing. Just sending the thief across won’t save the other characters.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are good. On a rules-language level, this is a mess. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no interior artwork apart from the glyphs. The map is functional and b/w, and no player-friendly (MUAHAHA – the only way these words will ever find their way into a review of this adventure) map has been provided.

Alphonso Warden’s “The Verdant Vault of Malakum” is an unmitigated mess. I try, very hard, to see the positive in all supplements I review. Heck, I derived some sense of fun from his messy, but somewhat inspired “Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” meatgrinder. I do try.

The nicest thing I can say about this one, though, is that reading it didn’t waste much of my time, as it’s shorter and slightly less boring than the atrocious “Prison of Meneptah.”

This adventure has not seen any contact with realities at the table, with actual players. It feels like a product of a frustrated author, who has read, but never actually played the game AND who has no idea how game design, math, rules language, etc. work. There is NOTHING to salvage here.

How crappy is this? Even if you guess the author’s fiat correctly and somehow manage to correctly determine the arbitrary limitations imposed on PC capabilities, even if you basically hand out the module’s text and have your PCs run through it, they’ll STILL DIE, unless they are ridiculously lucky.

You can check. The math, thankfully, is not that hard to check for OSR-games. It is painfully obvious that no one even bothered trying to check the basics here.

This module’s “challenge” is just about dumb luck.

There is no skill on the side of either the PCs or the player’s side involved.

This feels like the spiteful AND phoned-in response of someone who read “Tomb of Horrors” or Grimtooth supplements and thought “Well, this is dumb – skill can actually avoid some of these ridiculously lethal death traps! Oh, I know, I can replace that with requiring dumb luck! Ha! That will most assuredly make gamers happy! ‘Cause, you know, that’s what makes roleplaying so cool, right?”

This is worse than a permadeath videogame with sucky RNG.

I can’t imagine that ANY group out there finished this adventure without copious amounts of GM handwaving, redesigns and/or vast death tolls. This is a horrible, sloppy mess.

I am genuinely sorry for the paper that I used to print this adventure’s few pages. And I printed the pages on both sides. That makes 5 sheets of paper wasted on this module. As I close this review, I am deleting this adventure. It’s not worth the space on my hard drive. I try to end on a positive side. Thanks to the adventure’s brevity, only 5 sheets of paper were wasted. And these will now go where they belong. In the trash bin, hopefully to be recycled into something more meaningful than this. Like tissues. Final verdict: 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #14: The Verdant Vault of Malakum
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Advanced Adventures #15: Stonesky Delve
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/03/2018 04:31:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, first of all, this is, as all Advanced Adventures-modules, written for the OSRIC system, but conversions to other OSR-systems are easy enough. The formatting deviates in some aspects from OSRIC’s formatting conversions. This module is intended for characters level 4 – 7, though it should be noted that it requires a smart and well-rounded group to excel – this is old-school in that PCs not smart enough to run in some instances, will indeed die. Horribly, I might add. The pdf does not sport read-aloud text beyond the brief introductory prose, which means that this needs to be properly prepared.

There is another special thing to note here: “Stonesky Delve” is the first tournament module in the series, and as such, it spends quite a lot of space to explain how to run and judge the performance of the adventuring groups. One page is devoted to the time scoring sheet, one to the exploration scoring sheet, and two pages contain a total of 10 pregens. While I applaud the inclusion of so many pregens, it’s annoying that you have to basically copy their stats by hand. The equipment of all characters are on the back of the page.

Now, the tournament framework means that the module is intended to be run in two 4-hour slots; in-game, the PCs get a cave moth pupa that will hatch in 72 hours, for the PCs have to spend at least 72 hours in-game exploring the complex…and a maximum of 120 hours. So yeah, we have a time-limit here, which is smart, as it adds a degree of urgency to the proceedings. Indeed, the framework is simple: The PCs are hired by dwarves to explore and map caverns where ancient dwarven holds may be found. This is also the reason I don’t mind the lack of player-friendly maps here – it is, after all, the task of PCs to map this place. It should be noted that, unlike most convention/tournament modules, this may be hard, but it’s NOT just a meatgrinder! This, if anything, behaves more like a ROLEplaying module than all previously-released installments in the series. It should also be noted that the module can easily be sliced in two, should you desire to do so.

The pdf sports a couple of unique/variant monsters – an umber hulk variation, a predator with a massive tongue that works best in conjunction with piercers (cool!), a three-tongued giant frog, a spitting gibbering mouther variant, and the classic vampire moss also gets stats. These feel down to earth and somewhat plausible. Solid.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, one glance on the map will show you what sets the first aspect of the module apart from many others: the first dungeon of the module represents an exploration of the caves of the eponymous Stonesky, but unlike countless modules out there, this complex manages to really evoke a sense of plausible fantasy spelunking. This is, in part due to the clever positioning of enemies, which are chosen and placed in order to evoke a sensible illusion of a subterranean eco-system; at the same time, the complex is set apart by its focus on verticality: When you’re rappelling down a massive tunnel next to a waterfall, and try to get down in the middle of the place to avoid being eaten by cave morays, you’ll know what I mean. The complex comes with a side-view and a top-down map of this area to help you picture the complex.

This sense of fantastic spelunking is absolutely amazing and enjoyable, and, more importantly, it rewards the exploration that is part of the central story angle: Thorough players can, for example, find a well-hidden cavern where the echoes of a dwarven deity’s words resound. This secret is rewarded well regarding scoring, and is but one aspect of the adventure. Aforementioned waterfall? Curious PCs that brave the tunnel can find a leaking decanter of endless water as the source, as well as the remains of a being. This commitment to details and player agenda over rolling the dice is evident in many details: Smart PCs can avoid combats and hazards, and exploration is thoroughly rewarded, and blends the plausible quasi-realism of spelunking with the wonderful magical sprinklings that made the best of the AD&D modules of old stand out. Danger and rewards are closely entwined, and player-skill trumps dice rolling.

PCs can accidentally flood passages with slightly acidic water, and from cramped spaces to vast differences in height, the cave complex is absolutely fantastic: In one cavern, the PCs may happen upon the resting place of Radivither the Breaker, a dwarf of the first generation, he who discovered theft, death, insanity and murder – a mighty impulse and spirit, he is not a combat encounter: Instead, Radivither acts as a kind of haunt/possessing, malignant entity – but encountering this deadly echo can also provide a great boon to the dwarves that hired the PCs. This commitment to focusing on player- as opposed to PC-agenda also can be found in the tunnel that allows the PCs to make their way to the second part of the module: To get there, the PCs have to pass a magical means that prevents access, seemingly preventing progress. The means to bypass this magic is to walk the corridor backwards. Really cool!

Part II of the adventure, the Hold of Dwergma, is a more conventional dungeon without the verticality of the cavern complex that preceded this place; the complex comes with a sewer system that clever PCs can (and should) use – for there is a mighty (and insane) cleric/magic-user here, one who can and will annihilate careless PCs if they do not take care…particularly since the fellow actually gets a detailed tactics breakdown. The PCs can encounter an animated stone fist with flawed intruder detection; hallucinatory tobacco, ancient tomes of lore (noted with title, weight and gp-value), a grue-like thing and a flail snail – the inhabitants are well chosen, the complex is smart and flavorful, and e.g. traps are telegraphed in a fair manner. That being said, this second part does not reach the amazing creativity of the first part of the module, feeling more like a classic denouement to the potentially fantastic things that you can encounter in the first half.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level; on a formal level, the pdf has a couple more typo-level glitches than usual for the series. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-standard of the series, and we get a couple of solid b/w-artworks. The cartography is b/w and solid, and the existence of a side-view map of part I of the module is a plus. Due to the presence of the PCs-do-cartography-angle, I won’t complain about the lack of player-friendly maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joseph Browning delivers pure old-school goodness in this module. Stonesky delve feels fantastic and plausible, evocative and dangerous, and remains, in spite of its harsh challenges, FAIR. This adventure rewards skillful players over good rolls of the bones, presents a great blend of strange flora and fauna and truly fantastic, hazard-laden caverns. The presence of consequences left and right, the constant rewarding of clever play, and the smart diversity of challenges faced all blend together to make the first part of this module downright amazing. Part II of the module falls a bit short of the fantastic wonder evoked by the first half on the adventure. The presentation of the helpful pregens is not exactly perfect, though. Still, as a whole, this most assuredly makes for one of the best adventures in the series – at least among those that I’ve covered so far. The first part is fantastic and warrants getting this adventure on its own; the second part, while not as strong, is still a good adventure. As a whole, one can consider this to be a great old-school module, well worth checking out, and as such, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #15: Stonesky Delve
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Advanced Adventures #38: White Dragon Run II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/15/2018 11:32:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first 7.5 pages of this supplement depict the region of the Skathernes and the village of White Dragon Run – and yes, this section is identical to what we got back in the first Advanced Adventures-booklet, leaving us with 9.5 pages of new material. The suggested levels have been raised to 2 – 5 for this return to the Skathernes to account for the challenges presented by the new environments. Now, as always for the series, we have OSRIC as the default old-school rule-set, and as always for the series, we deviate from the conventions and have magic weapons not italicized, but bolded, and similarly, spells are not italicized either, but bolded – most of the time. I did notice instances where they’re italicized instead. A smart and well-rounded group is definitely recommended, and PCs and players should know when to run. The pdf does not offer read-aloud text for its environments.

If you hoped that this would be a true sequel, and adventure that would build on the events and areas featured in the first White Dragon Run, well, then I’ll have to disappoint you.

In case you haven’t read my review of White Dragon Run, here is the breakdown of the wilderness region and how it operates. If you have read my review of White Dragon Run #1, skip ahead.

----------Begin of Hexcrawl/wilderness-discussion-----------

“White Dragon Run” is a departure from what we’ve seen so far in the series, in that it is essentially a hex-crawl wilderness sandbox. In case you don’t know what that is – the adventurers basically travel through the wilderness, encountering beasts and finding unique areas, dungeons, etc. – it’s basically a form of free exploration through a region, somewhat akin to an open-world game. The respective regions surrounding the village of White Dragon Run show that it’s a borderlands type of village, in that it’s pretty much the last stop before the wilds. In the Southwest, Lathergrave (or Lathargrave – depending on whether you believe text or map) Forest can be food; North of the village would be the Mimir Woods, East to South-West of it the Auranas Woods. Between these, the rivers have cut into plains, and beyond the latter forest, there would be the hills known as “The Skaths” that grant the region its name: The Skathernes. In the West, beyond these hills, the majestic Mountains of Xur arise.

Auranas and Mimir Woods share a table of random encounters, with a mix of humanoids and minor fey taking up the majority of the entries, with a few zombies and the obligatory wolves sprinkled in. These forests are dangerous indeed, and stand in sharp contrast to the significantly less lethal La/ethergrave Forest, where the most outré encounter would be giant blowflies. Ew! The first two forests also get their own table of random encounters for the night time, where you won’t encounter fey, but where some of the more dangerous predators and humanoids roam in larger numbers.

That is not to say that the vicinity of the eponymous river that provided the name for the village is safe – quite the contrary! Crocodiles, giant poisonous frogs and large packs of wolves render the area beyond 1 mile of the village very dangerous…but the Skaths are actually even tougher: Here, pretty significant raiding parties can be found, and at night (the Skaths also get separate daytime and nighttime tables), the undead roam in dangerous quantities. The wilderness section also comes with a mini-generator of sorts that lets you sprinkle in dead bodies, random camps and ruins throughout the landscape. It should be noted that PCs should think twice before exploring ruins – they are either occupied or haunted 50% of the time, and both translate to some seriously tough challenges. 1d3 wights or a poltergeist can and will TPK a group of careless adventurers.

While these tables may not look like much, they do play better than they read and facilitate emergent storytelling – encountering 2-16 wolves at night can result in a TPK if the PCs aren’t smart and you roll up a lot of wolves; similarly, stumbling into multiple quicklings in the Mimir Woods can be a rather humbling experience…and when 2nd level adventurers encounter a band of 8 worgs in the Skaths, they’d better have a plan B ready…or replacement characters. So yes, these encounter-tables paint a picture of a harsh environment, and do so rather well.

The village of White Dragon Run itself is fully mapped (no player-friendly, unlabeled map included), and comes with a total of 20 rumors. The village is defended by a garrison (and you get a list of HP so you can track who falls) that keeps the dangers of the wilderness at bay, led by Sir Kallan, who is also the de facto leader of the Triune that governs the village: In his absence, the Triune can’t meet. The other members would be Landan, a paladin, and Janra, the village’s cleric – these two do have appointed replacements, should they not be able to attend a Triune meeting. Cool, btw.: Janra has the Wide Book of Genth, a valuable tome, and the back of the module does contain an appendix with some fully-presented excerpts from it! Nice one! The village also has its resident magician, who is commonly known as “Smoke”, and the village does have its jeweler, a retired soldier, a shop – you get the idea. Nice here: percentile chances for having things in stock are provided.

I also really enjoyed that every single building in town actually gets notes for how it’s constructed, the condition it’s in, the number of occupants and occupations of the folks that live there. It may be a small thing, but it can really aid the GM to bring the village to life.

One building is fully mapped, and that, no surprises there, would be the one that is most crucial for most adventurers: The tavern. The “Twelve Toes Inn and Tavern” (so named because the proprietor indeed has twelve toes!) is the pulsing heart of sorts of the settlement, and it does note the chances of meeting a given NPC with a percentile value for daytime and nighttime as well.

As a whole, while White Dragon Run certainly may not be the most extraordinary village out there, it manages to feel plausible, with the percentile charts, random encounter tables for the wilderness and details provided rendering this part of the supplement a success. It’s not a genre-changer or the like, but it is a well-presented execution of a classic environment.

----------End of Hexcrawl/wilderness-discussion-----------

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS – from here on out, I will proceed to discuss the new set-piece environments found within this supplement. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this adventure states that it has 4 new encounter-areas. To quote the description:

“White Dragon Run II contains four new locations in the Skathernes: The Sane Hermit, The Rainbow In The Dark, the rare and unusual Ambulatory Tower, and the deadly Temple of the Snake God.”

That is simply incorrect. The first one is a non-hostile ex-adventurer half-elf druid. You can meet him. That’s it. That’s not a full locale or encounter-area, that’s an NPC.

Yes, this really pissed me off.

That being said, this NPC can tie in with the first of the new locales, the so-called “Ambulatory Tower.” This tower sports a really cool idea: Basically, it’s part of a planes-spanning structure that is kinda-alive; a type of feeding tube that is a heat sink of sorts for the quasi-alive structure – the presence of undead in the area is thus explained rather well, and an influx of zombies can make for a neat hook to get the PCs involved. The creatures encountered within are consequently not quite right, representing an immune response of sorts of the entity: First, they will be grotesque and less potent, but with each subsequent sojourn into the tower, its guardians will improve, losing penalties and gaining bonuses. A wandering monster table is provided, and each room has a leitmotif of sorts that the GM can use as guidance for potentially changed challenges and the like. This makes the tower an interesting place to explore – but I wished that this was also represented by the dungeon itself: Prohibitively short, it only spans 8 rooms and is super-linear. There is but one way, and while terrain-use and themes are strong, the same can’t necessarily be said for the overall structure. The facsimile of the dragon as a final boss here is certainly deadly. On the plus-side, the “heart” of this tower may indeed be destroyed by clever PCs, even without the high-level options it’d usually take, though chances are good that they may need to stock up…and return. Which, of course, means facing new and tougher foes! Even if the tower is vanquished, escape is interesting: The players have to, with closed eyes, describe their way out! Even though it is this linear, I found myself enjoying this small dungeon much more than I expected to. It’s fun, challenging and interesting.

The second new mini-dungeon presented within would be the “Rainbow in the Dark”, a cavern with 4 keyed locations that is currently inhabited by a tribe of rather potent bugbears (and a currently hibernating cave-fisher, for an extra chaos infusion) – inside, there is a magical quartz that, once per day, is hit by a beam of light, creating magical light that can grant permanent boons! Pretty cool! As an aside, I do think that this amazing premise could have carried more, but I digress.

The third mini-dungeon is the longest one: 17 keyed locations can be found, which once more are thoroughly linear. Utterly baffling: The random encounter chart for the Mountains of Xur is included here, in the back, instead of where it belongs, in the front, next to the others. As an aside – the table is, even for the White Dragon Run-wilderness, a deadly challenge, and should be handled with care. I’d suggest level 5, and even then, things can go haywire pretty badly. Then again, at this point, the PCs have had some experience with deadly wilderness encounters. This third mini-dungeon is called “Temple of the Snake God” and features two “new” monsters – serpent-people called “Serpentians” (distinguished as lowblood, high blood and chosen) and shadow weirds, a snake like life-form from the plane of shadow that attempts to paralyze targets and rag them into shadow pools. The dungeon has two easy riddles I’ve seen before, a fountain that changes color (Why? Because, I guess.), snakes, and new magic item-wise, there is a spell-in-a-can ring (boring) and arrows that cause additional damage via poison and that turn into harmless snakes upon being fired. You may well call me hipster, but I’ve seen the snake-men angle done so many times, it’s hard to impress me with it – and I’ve seen it done better rather often. In the absence of Sword & Sorcery themes around White Dragon Run, you may appreciate it if you’re more of a genre-fan than I am (And I love me some Sword & Sorcery…), but personally, I did not feel like it fit into the area particularly well. It feels like a foreign object to me, and not in a good way. It’s a challenging dungeon, I’ll give it that much, but it’s less interesting and atmospheric than the other mini-dungeons herein or the Gray Temple from module #1.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-standard of the series, and the b/w-artworks are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is solid and b/w, but no player-friendly versions are provided.

James C. Boney, Joseph Browning and Joseph A. Mohr returning to White Dragon Run could have been so much more. This could have expanded and further developed the themes in the first module, it could have been a true sequel. Instead, it feels like a parallel version. The Mountains of Xur random encounters being in the entry for a mini-dungeon did annoy me to an extent; similarly, I think the module’s advertisement is false, as there are only 3 true encounter-areas/complexes – adding a single NPC camping in the wilds does not for a new location make. Encountering a pretty generic retired-adventurer-druid in his camp is not a “location”, particularly if there is no map, no adventuring, no interaction points to be had. It’s basically a random encounter. Heck, the module suggests using him as such.

That being said, 2 of the three new locales are really interesting, cool and sport potent challenges and unique visuals. I wish I could say the same about the third, which feels like it just jams a pretty unremarkable execution of a classic Sword & Sorcery trope I usually enjoy into a region, where it doesn’t necessarily fit. I sincerely wished that the first two locations had received the page-count spent on this one instead. I should also note that the absence of an easier dungeon, with all 3 of the new ones being tougher, de facto renders this suitable for level 4 – 5 characters, for the most part. The only content suitable for lower level characters would be running into critters in the wild. Not sure if that qualifies for you or not.

How to rate this, then? Honestly, if you already have White Dragon Run, you may want to think twice before getting this. The two cool mini-dungeons that I really enjoyed span a grand total of 4 pages plus one paragraph; the rest is reused content from the first White Dragon Run, and the underwhelming final mini-dungeon. Honestly, I’m kinda sad for the 2 cool locations – had they been in #1, or had the Gray Temple been featured herein, we’d be looking at a much stronger offering all-around. As written, I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this one – I paid full price for this, and beyond the advertisement being patently false, I also consider the suggested level range problematic. Dear authors of the ambulatory tower and the rainbow in the dark – I liked what you brought to the table! Consider your parts of this module to be good and worthwhile.

That being said, if you already have White Dragon Run #1, you’ll probably want to skip this. If you don’t own #1, then you may want to get it – provided you have some ideas/modules that can bring the PCs to levels 4 – 5, as White Dragon Run II has nothing but reprinted wilderness encounters to offer for levels 2 – 3.

How should I rate this? Well, ultimately, I’d usually rate this akin to its predecessor: The inspired locations, put together, almost reach the same keyed encounter count as the rather lackluster final one, offsetting that one somewhat. However, the challenges posed are more on the higher level range and offer less for lower level PCs than in the first module, so I’d detract half a star for a 3-star rating.

That’s what I’d usually do. But this module falsely advertised that it offered 4 new locations. I can stomach almost half of the module being a reprint from #1, no problem. I really HATE it when a supplement’s advertisement and description blatantly lies to the customer. Hence, this loses another star for a final verdict of 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #38: White Dragon Run II
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Advanced Adventures #13: White Dragon Run
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2018 10:23:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Advanced Adventure-installment clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Now, as always for the series, we have OSRIC as the default old-school rule-set, and as always for the series, we deviate from the conventions and have magic weapons not italicized, but bolded, and similarly, spells are not italicized either, but bolded. The adventure is intended for level 2 – 4 characters, and a smart and well-rounded group is definitely recommended. The pdf does not offer read-aloud text for its environments.

That being said, “White Dragon Run” is a departure from what we’ve seen so far in the series, in that it is essentially a hex-crawl wilderness sandbox. In case you don’t know what that is – the adventurers basically travel through the wilderness, encountering beasts and finding unique areas, dungeons, etc. – it’s basically a form of free exploration through a region, somewhat akin to an open-world game. The respective regions surrounding the village of White Dragon Run show that it’s a borderlands type of village, in that it’s pretty much the last stop before the wilds. In the Southwest, Lathergrave (or Lathargrave – depending on whether you believe text or map) Forest can be food; North of the village would be the Mimir Woods, East to South-West of it the Auranas Woods. Between these, the rivers have cut into plains, and beyond the latter forest, there would be the hills known as “The Skaths” that grant the region its name: The Skathernes. In the West, beyond these hills, the majestic Mountains of Xur arise.

Auranas and Mimir Woods share a table of random encounters, with a mix of humanoids and minor fey taking up the majority of the entries, with a few zombies and the obligatory wolves sprinkled in. These forests are dangerous indeed, and stand in sharp contrast to the significantly less lethal La/ethergrave Forest, where the most outré encounter would be giant blowflies. Ew! The first two forests also get their own table of random encounters for the night time, where you won’t encounter fey, but where some of the more dangerous predators and humanoids roam in larger numbers.

That is not to say that the vicinity of the eponymous river that provided the name for the village is safe – quite the contrary! Crocodiles, giant poisonous frogs and large packs of wolves render the area beyond 1 mile of the village very dangerous…but the Skaths are actually even tougher: Here, pretty significant raiding parties can be found, and at night (the Skaths also get separate daytime and nighttime tables), the undead roam in dangerous quantities. The wilderness section also comes with a mini-generator of sorts that lets you sprinkle in dead bodies, random camps and ruins throughout the landscape. No random encounters table is provided for the Mountains of Xur, and it should be noted that PCs should think twice before exploring ruins – they are either occupied or haunted 50% of the time, and both translate to some seriously tough challenges. 1d3 wights or a poltergeist can and will TPK a group of careless adventurers.

While these tables may not look like much, they do play better than they read and facilitate emergent storytelling – encountering 2-16 wolves at night can result in a TPK if the PCs aren’t smart and you roll up a lot of wolves; similarly, stumbling into multiple quicklings in the Mimir Woods can be a rather humbling experience…and when 2nd level adventurers encounter a band of 8 worgs in the Skaths, they’d better have a plan B ready…or replacement characters. So yes, these encounter-tables paint a picture of a harsh environment, and do so rather well.

The village of White Dragon Run itself is fully mapped (no player-friendly, unlabeled map included), and comes with a total of 20 rumors. The village is defended by a garrison (and you get a list of HP so you can track who falls) that keeps the dangers of the wilderness at bay, led by Sir Kallan, who is also the de facto leader of the Triune that governs the village: In his absence, the Triune can’t meet. The other members would be Landan, a paladin, and Janra, the village’s cleric – these two do have appointed replacements, should they not be able to attend a Triune meeting. Cool, btw.: Janra has the Wide Book of Genth, a valuable tome, and the back of the module does contain an appendix with some fully-presented excerpts from it! Nice one! The village also has its resident magician, who is commonly known as “Smoke”, and the village does have its jeweler, a retired soldier, a shop – you get the idea. Nice here: percentile chances for having things in stock are provided.

I also really enjoyed that every single building in town actually gets notes for how it’s constructed, the condition it’s in, the number of occupants and occupations of the folks that live there. It may be a small thing, but it can really aid the GM to bring the village to life.

One building is fully mapped, and that, no surprises there, would be the one that is most crucial for most adventurers: The tavern. The “Twelve Toes Inn and Tavern” (so named because the proprietor indeed has twelve toes!) is the pulsing heart of sorts of the settlement, and it does note the chances of meeting a given NPC with a percentile value for daytime and nighttime as well.

As a whole, while White Dragon Run certainly may not be the most extraordinary village out there, it manages to feel plausible, with the percentile charts, random encounter tables for the wilderness and details provided rendering this part of the supplement a success. It’s not a genre-changer or the like, but it is a well-presented execution of a classic environment.

The last 5.5 pages of the module, then, do present two more detailed locations – small dungeons, if you will.

In order to discuss these, I need to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should hjump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The first of these would be the “Gray Temple”, and abandoned edifice to the evil god Gaevud, a ruin of a granite structure somewhere in the Skaths. Today, vermin nest there, and this is represented by the random encounter table provided, which features giant lizards, giant rats, huge spiders and giant ticks, as well as a couple of humanoids. Indeed, the outer chapel, pretty much the first encounter-area of the temple, already has the potential to have the PCs surprised by no less than 8 giant spiders. If you haven’t learned to be careful via the dangerous wilds, this will drive it home. All in all, this is basically an exploration of an old ruin – though there are plenty of mundane pieces of equipment to still be scavenged herein – which is great for the notoriously-broke low-level adventurer…oh, and particularly perceptive PCs may well find a hidden room that hasn’t yet been looted and found…though, alas, the undead occupants may well object to it being looted… I liked the sense of dilapidation that this complex sported – it is something we don’t get to see that often. At the same time, I do feel that this would have benefited a bit more from some details regarding the long-vanished religion; more details for the iconography etc. to be spliced into the ever-present ruin….but that may have been intentional here.

The second complex presented would be The Forgotten Outpost – an underground complex that once served as a waystation for the Count’s men. A decade ago, it was overrun and sacked by humanoids, and today, it acts as a haven for a particularly vicious band of brigands. Clearing them from the outpost to potentially make it usable once more could really help the PCs getting Sir Kallan’s favor. Bandit HP are provided in a way that makes it easy to check them off, and the complex itself is a straight-forward extermination mission, unburdened by much in the way of hazards or the like…for the first 12 rooms, that is. A slight criticism would be that the bandits remain comparably pale – they don’t really have a proper response strategy or the like – compared to Advanced Adventures: The Curse of the Witch Head”, that aspect is weaker than I hoped it’d be. The interesting aspect of this complex is one that the PCs can potentially miss – there are quite a few rooms that haven’t been found by bandits, hidden by secret doors. Here, a forgotten, undead menace looms, and a room that is haunted can make for a rather creepy experience. I did like this (and the option to find a significant weapon cache) here, but as a whole, the complex still is basically something most GMs could improvise.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-level, with the by now almost traditional formatting deviations. Layout adheres to the old-school, two-column b/w-standards of the series that evoke a proper, old-school flair. The artworks within are b/w and rather nice indeed, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is solid and b/w, but no player-friendly versions are provided.

James C. Boney’s “White Dragon Run” is a challenging little hexcrawl that can provide a surprising amount of game sessions. Courtesy of the danger of the wilderness, there are quite a lot of stories that will simply happen organically. And chances aren’t bad, particularly if you tackle this at 2nd level, that one or more PCs…or groups of PCs, will find their grisly ends in the Skathernes. The challenge is a central part of the appeal here, and indeed, the village is also well-presented. While I would have enjoyed a bit more conflict-potential to be baked into the settlement, as presented it makes for a point of light, for a fragile haven, and fills its role in that regard nicely. The hex-crawling section of this module, in short, should be considered to be a success, particularly for those among us that enjoy a down to earth and somewhat gritty aesthetic. I like that not everything is cluttered with magical things here – it grounds the experience and makes encountering the fantastic more remarkable.

That being said, the two mini-dungeons provided in the back of the book fall a bit short of what I have seen the author produce so far. The first dungeon does succeed at its goal, and while it’s not the most remarkable of places, it turned out to be enjoyable. In direct comparison, the second mini-dungeon feels like the less inspired, low level lite-version of his really enjoyable and cool “Curse of the Witch Head.” With a defense strategy for the adversaries, and perhaps a slightly more meaningful impact for finding the less obvious parts of it, this could have been a much more compelling expedition. So yeah, in direct comparison, the two brief dungeons did not exactly blow me away.

How to rate this, then? See, here things get a bit tricky. While I did enjoy the settlement and rather deadly wilderness, the two mini-dungeons included are simply less exciting. And when compared to other adventures that have received 4 stars from yours truly, this simply isn’t wholly there – it needed that little bit, that extra oomph in the dungeons, perhaps a couple of mini-quests in village and wilderness, to truly shine. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform – a solid release on the positive side of things.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #13: White Dragon Run
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Advanced Adventures #12: The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/18/2018 12:09:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front and back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

My reviews of this series were requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

This adventure, like all in the series, uses the OSRIC rule-set, but can easily be converted to other old-school rules. It should be a given by now that there are a few formatting peculiarities that are still consistent in their application, so boil down to a matter of aesthetics. The cartography is functional, as always, but we don’t get a player-friendly version. This adventure is intended for level 5 – 7 characters and a well-rounded party is very much recommended. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we have an artifact that plays a part in the story (would have been nice to get a means of destruction, but that may just be me) and an evil magical weapon, a mace that evil clerics will adore. The pdf also includes a new monster with its own illustration, the barrow golem, a being that can encapsulate PCs…pretty nasty one!

All right, that’s as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! ähem “The Clans are marching ‘gainst the law/bagpipers play the tunes of war/death or glory I will find/rebellion on my mind!” Richard Dirkloch has rallied the clans of a moor-like Highland region to march against the good King Oldavin, whose men have burned Dirkloch’s beloved for the witch she admittedly were; the battle was fierce, but in the end, the good King did triumph…but Richard Dirkloch is not yet vanquished and found. Having retreated to his barrow fortress, built atop the ruins of castle Grimspire, it’ll be up to the PCs to bring Dirkloch in and squash his plans for sedition, which actually turn out to be darker than anticipated!

The PCs begin their adventure on the field of battle, with several means of getting them there provided. The gravemoor as a region comes with an appropriately creepy array of different possible random encounters that make sense and don’t devolve into the too fantastic…and when they reach the Gravemoor barrow mound pool, they’re in for a surprise: Richard Dirkloch assaults them as a wight with unique properties – this establishes the antagonist early and allows the GM to roleplay the dichotomy between sadist and romantic lord. Sooner or later, he’ll retreat to the ice-cold and murky depths of the pool, leaving the PCs to explore the grave moor barrow mound, which is a combination of maze and regular dungeon – and it is littered with secret doors.

The winding tunnels and non-linear-structure of the barrow hill make for a surprisingly, considering the brevity, nonlinear experience here. Secret doors galore conspire with the dungeon’s global effects to generate a sense of claustrophobia I did not expect. Even better, this is also enforced by global rules applied to the dungeon, penalizing attacks with anything but small weapons, and the curved structure means that ranged weapons are less effective as well – an excellent example on how a dungeon’s design and map can help emphasize the theme and generate atmosphere. Two thumbs up!

This intelligent notion also extends to the keyed encounters in this massive mound – while there are only 7, these do have in common that they provide twists on classics and feature evocative adversaries. Strategies for Ach na Creig the gleistig, half woman, half goat, are provided, and manage to make her a credible threat. This all-killer, no-filler attention also extends to the terrain features like magical pools, a lobratory – there is player-agenda here, and e.g. cleaning a saint’s statue may net a potent boon. Hidden below the barrow level, there is the second level of the dungeon. Smaller and more compact, it represents a respite from the horrors of the claustrophobic barrow and doubles as the base of Dirkloch, where his undead steed and personal quarters await – and where he will orchestrate his masterplan, unless stopped: Courtesy of the midnight opal, he seeks to animate the untold fallen soldiers and lead an undead army against the king – preferably with his bride returned to his side…and only the PCs stand between him and the fulfillment of his ambition…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column, classic old-school style, right down to the font. The artworks are b/w and solid, and the cartography is functional, but we do not get player maps. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Hind delivers big time here. The plot and dungeon scenario are both classics, and executing these well, in a matter that does not feel stale or bland, is an achievement indeed. The concise writing not only produces a very atmospheric dungeon, it also manages to make the adversary plausible, the struggle against him more personal and thus, engrossing. This is, at least for me, the best of the early Advanced Adventures – it manages to evoke more atmosphere than many modules of thrice that size, leaving me just with the lack of player-friendly maps as a serious criticism. This time, though, I do feel that mapping is such a crucial part of the experience, even in VTT-scenarios, that the module doesn’t suffer from their omission. While this may be brief, it is better than many longer adventures - quality over quantity.

As such, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #12: The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor
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Advanced Adventures #11: The Conqueror Worm
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2018 05:00:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

As always for this series, the default rules-system is OSRIC, and the presentation is perfectly in line with the nostalgic 1e style, down to the font. This is an old-school adventure, and as such, you should not expect much read-aloud text beyond the introduction. The cartography included within is functional, but does not include player-friendly maps. Cartography is serviceable. This module is, nominally, intended for 60 levels of PCs, so for PCs level 10 – 14. Officially. Unfortunately, much like the author’s last offering, this very much showcases that this module has not been playtested. This is an adventure more suitable for characters nearing or already at the apex of their power, and even then it is a meat-grinder with a boss that will make some of the deities as statted up in the classics weep.

Thematically, this goes as similar route as “The Lost pyramid of Imhotep”, and while I personally could derive some joy from said super-deadly meat-grinder of a module, this one does lack the angle of precise research acting as a contextualization.

But to discuss this further, I need to go into SPOILER territory. Players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great, so the White Worm is basically spreading winter from its icy fortress, the PCs should slay it, and on the way there, there’s a tomb where they can find a sword that will help with this endeavor. The premise is simple and offers some interesting angles; for example, the tomb that contains the legendary sword is the tomb/testing ground of one Harald Hardada[sic!], echoing obviously King Harald III of Norway, Harald Hardrada. In the iteration presented within, said mythical being was actually a frost giant, with all that entails. Indeed, while PAINFULLY linear, I can suspend my agenda for the purpose of the testing ground angle that the cairn of said being, and first, completely optional, dungeon operates under.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The trek towards the fortress of the white worm is handled with a mini-hexcrawl, and the longer the PCs take, the more spellcasting prowess their already super-potent enemy will have accumulated. The random encounters provided for the short trip are solid, if not particularly remarkable – yetis, winterwolves, frost giants, white dragons. Pretty much classic ice monsters. Without magic aid, the frigid cold will cause HP loss, which is a nice angle. The PCs will have to fight their way through a gated pass, and hopefully, they will check out the optional dungeon.

Why? Because Harald Hardada[sic!]'s dungeon is one where the author plays to his strengths: There is a logic to the challenges, deadly though they may be, and making a mythic hero a literal giant is a creative tweak that allows for some interesting changes to the logic of riddles and the like. When these work, then they do so with the same enjoyable effects as in e.g. “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep”; when they don’t, however, then they come off as deliberate and nasty screwjobs. This is not only a super-linear dungeon in the way in which the rooms are aligned, it is also super-linear regarding solutions. Open the false door (no clues available) and you’ll be prismatic spray’d. In one room, failure to have a fire-based spell ready prevents getting further. All of these traps and the like are per se creative and interesting, if a bit sadistic. However, here’s the issue: There is pretty much no way for even mythologically-versed players to navigate these. Player skill does not really matter that much, and since the angle combines the myth of Harald (which does not help navigating the dungeon, fyi), Norse lore and frost giants, players are reduced to educated guesses in quite a few of these instances. I never thought I’d write this, but “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” feels positively fair in comparison.

And then there would be the main dungeon, a citadel carved into an iceberg, where the white worm lairs. Amazing set-up, right? Well, alas, it kinda lacks a distinct identity. Fire and ice, one could say, due to e.g. hell hounds, red dragons and the ice monsters you’d anticipate, but that’s about it. There are demons. The obligatory and tired mirror of life-trapping. The room where no less than 6 magic users wait to unload on the group. The traps and general sense of identity here feel distinctly magical, but not in the most interesting sense, and, as mentioned before, the final boss is basically on a deity’s level: AC -2, 6d8 damage (plus paralysis), breath weapon, constriction and both cleric and magic-user spell array. And over 200 hp. If there has ever been a boss where even killer-GM ole’ me has said “That’s overkill”, this would be it. If someone, ANYONE out there has killed this thing sans GM-fiat or ridiculous custom damage magic items that deal a crapton of bonus damage, let me know. Unless, by some miraculous event, my math skills have taken a serious nosedive, the chance to defeat this thing, even f the PCs and players do everything right, are next to nil. And before you ask: That super-sword, the dungeon of which probably has cost at least one or two PCs their lies? It’s actually pretty underwhelming regarding its abilities to best this monstrosity.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the cartography is functional, but does not include player-friendly versions.

Alphonso Warden’s modules so far have been a mixed bag for me; on the one hand, there is a definite fascination that “The Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” managed to evoke, and I do like some of the creative traps. However, this does not change that, this module, alas, more so than the last, is frickin’ unfair in a bad way. Player agenda and skill do not matter that much, and the linearity of how this is supposed to work and solved, while not as pronounced as in previous adventures, lacks, much like the traps, a context that at least makes it possible for the players to deduce how this is supposed to be solved. More often than not, this comes down to luck and the roll of the dice, not to being clever.

And then there is the horribly out of whack difficulty. I’m not a GM who wants “level-appropriate challenges”; I throw dragons at 1st level PCs and expect them to run like crazy, grovel, etc. I have no problem TPKing my groups. But that type of thing must be EARNED and not subject to Gm fiat, to an adventure allowing only the author’s logic to persist. Unlike the lost pyramid, this lacks the mythology as a guiding principle, as an extensive, externalized hint-catalogue, and thus becomes, much as it pains me to say, an exercise in frustration. I so hope that the author would bring the same level of expertise and creativity regarding puzzles etc. to Norse myth in this one; instead, we unfortunately get a woefully unfair adventure that I would not inflict on any group. It’s not as bad as the atrociously-boring “The Prison of Meneptah”, but it’s close. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #11: The Conqueror Worm
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Advanced Adventures #10: The Lost Keys of Solitude
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/09/2018 04:26:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

This adventure is intended for characters level 6 – 10, and in this case, the level-range is well-supported by the actual playing experience; you see, this module very much champions the old-school aesthetics of risk-reward-ratio; it is possible to experience this module as relatively easy, or as truly brutal, with player-greed very much dictating the difficulty and potential fallout stemming from exploring the complex depicted within. A well-rounded group is very much recommended to successfully tackle this one.

Now, it should be noted that the text on the back cover can make for a kind of introductory read-aloud text for the adventure, with the means of the PCs getting the eponymous keys otherwise not specified. As always in the series, we do not get read-aloud text or the like, the rules-system in question would be OSRIC, and internal formatting of rules-relevant information does not always adhere to the standards. The maps are b/w and functional, though the brief overland wilderness trek map provided lacks both scale and grid, which makes calculating traveling distances a tad bit annoying. While I’m on the subject of maps: The module sports the complex dubbed “Solitude” and the tunnels beneath it and has a clever means to prompt the PCs to explore, but more on that later in the SPOILER-section. In a really unfortunate decision, the module uses straight numbers for the rooms above and areas below the surface – thus, the short table that is supposed to help the GM track the whereabouts of the missing keys is less useful than it should be. The key is in room 14? Okay, which of the two? It’s a small thing that could have been rectified with simply adding letters to prevent mix ups and constitutes an unfortunate comfort-detriment. It’s not something that wrecks the adventure, mind you, but it’s so obvious, I wondered why it hadn’t been implemented. Instead, the subterranean complex uses letters to designate rooms that belong to humanoid territories, which makes the whole numbering/lettering convention feel a bit unfocused. There are no player-friendly maps included.

The adventure, though longer than usual for the series, spans 17 pages, with the rest devoted to supplemental material, in particular to a smattering of new creatures. 2 spells are provided: Champion of the Tome enchants a book to have a fighter-version of the caster appear to defend it, while Phineus’ Writhing Tentacles is a cool and dangerous spell to call forth the class mass of tentacles, which also gets a blinding effect, but makes up for that by blindly flailing at any target in range. The module also includes 5 magic items, which are per se solid, though the army of tireless tin soldiers is missing its XP-value. EDIT: I believe in owning up to my mistakes, so tehre goes: I misread this item to not be an artifact, when it clearly is. Mea culpa! Now, as far as the monsters are concerned, I’ll cover those in the GM-section below.

The module is in so far interesting in that it captures in an expert fashion the feeling of a very classic D&D-esque fantasy; from the random encounters in the wilderness to the constellations of adversaries faced, the adventure successfully evokes the fantastic vibe of old-school gaming with a slightly subdued, gonzo angle; you know, the feeling you had when you first encountered druids acting as rust monster shepherds? There is a sense of a very classic fantasy vibe that does not cross over into the weird or totally gonzo. If you enjoyed the old AD&D-classics like Desert of Desolation, then you’ll know what I mean.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs, after having encountered a weird hermit, have received some plaques depicting animals, which seem to interact when brought together, and which seem to provide a map through a mountain pass towards an unknown destination called “Solitude.” The wilderness trek, which does come with random encounters, is wholly linear in its fashion, as the terrain of the pass does not offer for opportunities to deviate from it. While the adversaries faced contain vermin and similar critters, there also is a valley where quite a few quickgrasses sprout´, and a fool’s dragon pair (think weaker, dumber dragon-like lizards) also waits in the way.

But what lies at the end of the journey? Well, Solitude is actually a monastery – or at least it looks like it. A slain T-rex, with plenty of meat cut from its flanks is a great example for the “(A)D&D-ishness” of the module: You see, while Solitude had lain abandoned for a long time, its gates have been since breached by spriggan siblings that lead a small army of gnolls. In the aftermath of inadvertently setting free the T-rex, one of the spriggans died, triggering a schism between the remaining siblings, who each have since taken their (rather well-equipped!) surviving gnolls, those that the dinosaur didn’t eat, that is, and started plotting the downfall of their brethren. An enterprising GM and smart players can observe these latent hostilities and exploit them, for the PCs will have to explore both monastery and the caverns below to truly find everything here – and encounter the strange creatures below.

The bestiary includes a predator that eats jellies and oozes and can spit them at targets; spiders that have developed a symbiotic relationship with deadly fungi; pixies degenerated into stirge-like beings – the pdf, in its best moments, feels like a celebration of the old-school vibe we all know and love. Not all critters are this creative, though: A deadly ambulatory fungus, a race of small degenerate humanoids and a magic-eating slime aren’t exactly super exciting. The bone-sovereign depicted on the cover, however, is surprisingly cool, and there is a fungal ring that can act as a safe haven for good folks…but will try to digest evil-doers and all nearby! Really neat! The pdf also includes stats for an elemental prince of water and a unique and horrid undead, ritually created via starvation (not as easy as it sounds, as the grueling ritual is described) – and the latter two should provide a clue to what Solitude actually is.

Some readers may have already come to the right conclusion, but let me spell it out nonetheless. Solitude, at one point, was a kind of artifact-level magical prison, and the tablets, the keys, are literally that – they open the cells of the inhabitants of Solitude, the inmates if you will. The erstwhile wardens have fallen prey to corruption and died, but the prisoners remain and include a dragon who has managed to tie her lifeforce to a volcano – slaying her may cause an eruption and untold suffering! Some other cells just hold treasure, though – so, once the PCs realize what this complex is, will they gamble? The T-rex freed by the spriggans provides ample warning for greedy PCs, so they can’t claim to not have been warned…

However, if the PCs are to collect all keys, they will also have to interact with the two sentient rodent species below the complex: On one hand, the Mus Maximus, smart mouse-people, make for unique and good folks that can be a boon; on the other hand, the groundlings, sentient groundhogs that are invisible to the undead make for a far less pleasant company…I was surprised to note that I did enjoy these two micro-societies and their depiction. All in all, this module has a lot of what I want in an adventure, and it executes its premise and flavor well; however, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like the premise of the module could have carried much more. Ultimately, the keys only grant access to rooms and that’s it. There is no sequence to the exploration, there are no ways for clever PCs to e.g. lock down parts of the complex with the keys and potentially make hostile forces take each other out after being caged. The evocative visuals and magical natures of the keys would have lent themselves superbly to making this a module where smart PCs could use the terrain to triumph against overwhelming odds, to quarantine evils inadvertently unleashed with foes, slowly whittling down enemy strengths. In short, the premise of the adventure is far stronger than the somewhat disappointingly mundane execution of the artifact-prison angle. Don’t get me wrong – I like this module. But I began reading this as super-excited and couldn’t help but feel somewhat blasé about the actual implementation of the concept. With a few less pages devoted to monsters, and a more clever dungeon, this could have been one classic for the ages.

Similarly, a timeline for the factions and the like, some clearly stated goals and agendas and subquests would have taken up not much real estate, but would have added to the sense of the complex being alive.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, bordering on very good, with formatting, as noted before, being somewhat inconsistent. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice, old-school b/w-artworks. Not all monsters get art, but quite a few do. Cartography is serviceable, though the numbering/lettering conventions are somewhat unfortunately chosen. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The team of Joseph Browning and Suzi Yee delivers a module that truly breathes the spirit of old-school (A)D&D; it feels right, and that tone is harder to hit than one would imagine. The adversaries faced are clever and brought me back to the time when I devoured the descriptions of ecologies of odd beings and monsters back in the day. I’m not a nostalgic man, but this hits the tone admirably well. That being said, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like this module could have made the step towards masterpiece simply by making full use of its amazing premise, which, at least to me, ultimately it did not end up realizing to its full potential. All in all, I consider this to be an adventure worth checking out if you’re looking for a neat old-school module. This is not the most convenient adventure out there, and its central concept for the complex could have been realized in an infinitely more rewarding manner, but as a whole, I do believe that this is worth a final verdict of 3.5 stars. For me as a person, I will round down. However, as a reviewer, I have an in dubio pro reo policy and thus will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #10: The Lost Keys of Solitude
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Advanced Adventures #9: The Lost Pyramid of Imhoptep
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2018 05:14:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, leaving us with 10.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

As always for the series, we have OSRIC as the default old-school system employed, and there are a few formatting deviations. Adaption to other old-school systems is pretty simple.

So, let me preface this review by stating one thing: The complex depicted herein is an inverted, subterranean pyramid, and this module has been penned by the same author as the utterly atrocious “Prison of Meneptah” – without the request by my patreons, I would not have bothered reviewing this, as I derive no satisfaction from trashing other people’s work. I am, as a whole, happy that this was requested, for while this can be construed to be a “bad” module in some regards, it can be rather intriguing for the right groups.

Now, the first thing you need to know, is that this hasn’t seen playtest – that much is pretty evident. The level-range noted, level 4 – 7, is ridiculous. Even at level 7, this adventure is exceedingly difficult and lethal. At the same time, however, much of this difficulty is derived from the demands the adventure has on the PLAYERS.

The angle is pretty simple: The PCs are hired to dig down at a hypostyle in a quasi-Egyptian environment. Now, the pdf does note that PCs won’t necessarily understand hieroglyphs they find; either they are locales, or they have a scholar on call that can slowly translate these. The adventure is probably not something the PCs can clear up in one go. There is a good chance the PCs and players will ram their heads against the solid brick wall of difficulty this adventure constitutes. Now, the “quasi” prefix of “quasi-Egyptian” is one potential weakness of the adventure that may well disqualify the module for your game: You see, being “close” to Egyptian does not suffice – the modules REQUIRES a VERY close analogue to real world Egyptian mythology and customs. It also requires that the players know a lot about the subject matter – and I mean A LOT. As such, if your group tends to differentiate sharply between character and player knowledge, you may consider this adventure to be problematic, to say the least.

As far as the dungeon is concerned, we do not have a lot of combat going on, which is a good thing here, as this is where the rules tend to falter badly; instead, we have a distinct focus on cultural puzzles and set-pieces. While the adventure is EXCEEDINGLY linear, the complex does not suffers from the sucky “Door closes, save or die” and “can’t use your tools” asinine design decisions of Meneptah’s prison. There is a stringent, internal logic to this adventure.

That being said, I consider this to be top tier difficulty and only an adventure that should be attempted by roleplaying game veterans, and only by groups that have at least one member that has PhD-levels of knowledge regarding Egyptian culture/archaeology/anthropology. I am NOT kidding, but in order to elaborate upon this fact, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around?

So, as the name implies, legendary Imhotep constructed this pyramid. Think of the fellow as a wrld-weary demigod-level magical architect, and that is EXACTLY how he designed this complex. This is steeped in myth and as deadly as you’d expect. In the first proper room, we see locust-like flying devices, which would allow for the spanning of a vast pit. An inscription tells the PCs to become like Apshai and do aerial battle – and indeed, enter the 2-seater locust constructs initiates an aerial battle with analogue constructs attacking from the opposite side of the vast pit. While we are told about ammunition, how you tilt the joysticks to move them, etc., and ramming notes, neither ammunition, nor ramming damage are codified regarding the damage they inflict. While you can theoretically try to extrapolate the damage from the stats of the flying constructs, these have 3 attacks, with one dealing much more damage…which I assume is supposed to be the collision damage. Then again, the shots + collision will usually not be triggered in the same round, so ultimately, I was left utterly puzzled by how these are supposed to work. It’s not hard to improvise rules here, but yeah. Bad crunch design. Neither does the pdf note how many piece of ammo they can fire, their worth when removed, etc. Oh, and since the PCs aren’t accustomed to using these, they take a -5 (!!!) penalty to attack rolls. WTF. The smartest choice here is to activate the hostile constructs, hang back and shoot the incoming constructs out of the air. There is nothing that RAW prevents this, in spite of the note.

Room 2 has a statue that requires in-depth knowledge regarding Egyptian mythology and beliefs. 4 questions must be answered to pass, and here, all groups that don’t have this IRL-knowledge will probably be annoyed. “Who records the judgment of Osiris?” “In man, where does the seat of wisdom reside?” Those are two of the 4 questions, and if you’re not really into the nit and grit of ancient mythologies and the like, there is a big chance that this may grind the game to a halt. This is, as the ardent scholar may know, based on the Book of the Dead, and indeed, I strongly recommend a copy on hand when running this adventure.

As the PCs venture further, they will have to place vanquished undead within the mouth of Ammit, Eater of the Dead, as one further example of a relatively…”simple” task. It is in these that the module manages to evoke a concise atmosphere, manages to feel like it indeed is a proving ground made for the aeons. That being said, when the more mundane aspects are concerned, the adventure is less inspired – for example, a prismatic spray trap in a chest? At this level? That’s just nasty.

There is another “insect-vehicle”-battle scenario herein, where the PCs pilot basically a scarab tank, which alas, suffers from pretty much the same issues as the previous locust-encounter, but which should definitely be won: The scarab tank is the only means to reliably navigate a vacuum corridor, though thankfully, if destroyed, the PCs can still brave it – though that, indeed, is a save or die. The complex includes a Ra-themed mirror puzzle, a game of senet (yep, rules provided), rope-pulling with Set to balance the forces of good and evil, and PCs will have to bake sacred mefekezet bread to proceed. And no, if they have no idea what to do…well, bad luck. As noted before, this is not a forgiving module and requires extensive knowledge on part of the players.

Oh, and know what’s really sadistic? That mirror puzzle? Well, you need the sacred Benben stone to activate it. That stone, though? Slightly radioactive. Scratch that. Frickin’ radioactive. 1d4 damage every TURN. In a radius. No, the PCs are not told where that comes from. The stone’s on level 1. And while the levels are brief, it’s used on level 3 and the puzzle-heavy nature of the scenario will result in delays. This is just sadistic and requires very methodical players to solve. Clever deduction can zero in on the source, sure…but ouch.

The Pcs will also need to extract a bulb from the serpents of wisdom and survive battle with them…and if they don’t learn from the stone and don’t take the bulb along, they may be screwed. You see, there is an intricate, undetectable trap called “birthing of cosmic eggs” that will grind them to a pulp. It also seals the PCs in the area, and if they don’t have the bulb…well, tough luck. This trap is conceptually really interesting, but try as I might, perhaps due to the map, I couldn’t envision it – having a visual representation of the room would have been really helpful here – I kinda suspect a miscommunication regarding cartography here.

Ultimately, the PCs have to bypass multiple elemental walls (note that excess oxygen can poison you…) and make their way to the top of the inverted pyramid, which hangs from the ceiling in a vast flooded cavern: With the bulb, they can activate the barge towards Imhotep’s true resting place – provided they’re not eaten by giant crocodiles. Imhotep himself still awaits the worthy and rewards the PCs with something that is indeed in line with the challenge: Immortality.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, we have several pretty nasty issues crop up. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks provided are solid, if perhaps chosen for the wrong components. Cartography is a no-frills b/w and functional, though, as noted, one map is a bit weird, to say the least. There are no player-friendly versions of the maps included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, to spell that out loud and clearly: This is not a well-designed module. The rules are problematic, the challenges uneven and deadly, and without out-game information or a scholar on call, the PCs have next to no chance to solve this with in-game logic. This is brutal, linear and harsh and fulfills pretty much all aspects of game-design that I’d consider to be bad.

Here’s the thing: For a VERY specific target demographic, this is frickin’ amazing. And, alas, I am part of that target demographic. I once created a puzzle where the PCs had to assign a gigantic astrolabe to duplicate the constellations of a specific event that required a thorough understanding of the respective mythology. And my players like that kind of cerebral, lore-heavy problem solving. This adventure is extremely well-researched in pretty much every way; it often feels a bit like a point and click adventure and is horribly linear, yes. It is also horribly lethal. In fact, most folks should probably consider this to be a 2 star adventure at the maximum. Most groups will absolutely LOATHE this and should steer clear.

That being said: If you and your groups enjoy clever puzzles AND you are well-versed in mythology and culture AND your players are roleplaying games veterans that enjoy a brutal challenge AND they are the type that can approach a dungeon methodically AND you’re willing to improve on the flawed rules, then this can be AMAZING. I all of these components hold true for you and yours, then this can be a truly unique and captivating experience that will go down in the group’s annals.

Alphonso Warden’s “Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” is, in a way, like a really inaccessible cult movie or book that was written for a very niche audience. A niche audience I happen to know very well.

How to rate this?

Let me state that clearly once more: You should NOT get this module if all of the above doesn’t appeal to you, if you want mechanical perfection, etc. This is, when examined for its virtues of game-design, structure, etc., not a good module.

However, if you do love your mythology; if your players like challenges and are well-versed in ancient cultures or would enjoy you handing them the Book of the Dead as a kind of “research-handout”, if that type of thing sounds cool to you, then chances are that you’ll enjoy this far more than you should. As a person, I had a blast with this module! I really did! I am very cognizant of its copious flaws, of its massive issues, but it’s creative, smart and deadly – and if this sounds like it’d tickle the fancy of your group as well, then check this out. For you, this may even be as high as a 4 or 4.5 star-adventure.

Now, as a reviewer, I can’t bring myself to rate this down as much as I probably should; after all, there is a very specific appeal in these pages. I can’t rate this twice. Hence, my official verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down – though I strongly suggest you instead consider this to have the verdicts I mentioned above, depending on your proclivities. For the very niche number of groups that this appeals to, it will do so in a thoroughly compelling manner.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #9: The Lost Pyramid of Imhoptep
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Advanced Adventures #8: The Seven Shrines of Nav'k-Qar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/31/2018 03:59:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, as always for the series, the default rules employed within are OSRIC, and similarly, it’s easy to convert this to your preferred old-school gaming system. As always for the series, we have some formatting deviations from the standard. The module sports functional b/w-artworks, but these come without a player-friendly version.

As far as supplemental material is concerned, the pdf comes with two different magic items, one of which, oddly has lower XP values than the other, in spite of being worth more GP – some might object to that, though I did not mind.

The book also comes with new monsters: A generic tentacle thing, and a 12-feet tall stone beast with a horn can knock back/stun targets. Both left me unimpressed. Worse: A whole page is devoted to umbra smoke beasts. 8 boring shadow-smoke-y monsters that look like, for example, spiders. Or draconic creatures. Yay. Worse here: Their rules suck: “An arachnid can inflict its opponent with a venom that will cause the victim to slowly fade into shadow.” Okay. Rules? There are none. Save? No idea. That’s not the only error in these beasts on the page – and the sucky smoke beasts take up a whole page of an already brief adventure. Also weird: The eye-picking raptor RAW plucks out an eye with every attack…or it targets the throat. Effects of being struck on the throat? No idea. This is the most potent of these beasts regarding its effects, and it grants the least XP. The monster-section is a failure and uncharacteristically weak for both series and author.

As always, a well-rounded party is very much required. The pdf does note what can be gleaned via legend lore, and 10 rumors are provided. The pdf does note random encounters outside the dungeon, which includes three special ones with slightly more details. These are unspectacular, though. Cool: The pdf does note a variety of strange and haunt-like effects that can be used by the GM to retain the creepy atmosphere of the dungeon. Nominally, this module is for characters level 8 – 12, but considering how deadly it is, I consider 12 to be closer to what you probably want.

Now, in order to discuss the two-level dungeon contained herein, I need to get into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great, so Nav’k-Qar is basically a Tsathoggua-style Frog Demon God-stand-in who has fallen into obscurity; if you’re a fan of Frog God Games’ Lost Lands, integrating this module should not provide issues – make Nav’k-Qar a lieutenant etc. and be done with it. The dungeon’s floors are littered with a vast amount of toad bones, making navigation of the complex tricky –being required to “move quickly” means 40% chance of falling, -5% per Dex above 13. I assume that “moving quickly” means moving more than half movement rate, but this could have been more precise.

The first room is probably one of the best in the whole dungeon, with strange mists and mirrors establishing a really cool theme of deception, one that the dungeon, alas, fails to maintain. While the first level does branch and sports a really deadly false stairs deathtrap (which may seal in all PCs…), a lying golem, almost-instant-death crossbow-bolt trap (that fails to specify whether it requires an attack or save)…the traps are pretty deadly and generally interesting, but ultimately make the module feel basically like a convention-style meat-grinder. Compared to James C. Boney’s usual adventures, these traps feel less refined.

The module, alas, takes a further nosedive on the second level. We get 3 antechambers; from each antechamber, two of the eponymous 7 shrines can be accessed. The PCs will have to visit both shrines accessible to progress to the next antechamber. No means to bypass them, no rewards for smart players. The PCs have to “defeat” the shrine. What constitutes “defeating” it? No idea. It’s simple enough for the shrines that conjure monsters, but not for the trap-based ones. The trap-shrines are per se clever, but also fail – each shrine comes with a dread proclamation from Nav’k-Qar’s doctrine, which are in no real way related to the challenge. Smart PCs can perhaps avoid some of the more deadly effects.

Oh, and if the PCs miss one trap, they may end up buried, which has excellent chances of further cave-ins killing them. The final treasures sport a save-or-die poison needle, where the pdf notes “and it would be a shame to come this far and be taken out by a needle” – that’s just dickish. Then again, after this module, failing to check for traps would be a gross oversight.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. On a rules-language level, the adventure isn’t half as tight as usual for the series or the author. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard with solid b/w-artworks and functional b/w-maps. There are no player-friendly maps, which is a comfort detriment. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience.

Odd. James C. Boney’s adventures are usually better. This feels like a pretty uninspired convention-game meat-grinder, one that sports several rules-inconsistencies, is needlessly lethal without really earning it, and the bonus critters are uninspired. I can, from the top of my head, name more than 10 (!!) frog demon god-themed adventures that mop the floor with these shrines. The adventure has some great ideas in a couple of rooms, with perception-mind-games, but these remain an afterthought. All in all, this module suffers from its brevity and leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of missed potential. I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars on this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #8: The Seven Shrines of Nav'k-Qar
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