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Why are mythic creatures great for DMs in non-mythic campaigns? Because they're any easy way to make challenging bosses for players bored by default difficulty (like mine - they consider most parts of Rappan Athuk none too hard...); Because they allow you to create easy distinctions between a regular being of a species and a mook - and because they allow you to set up bosses with elaborate back stories, whose legends the PCs can unearth to stand a fighting chance.
I'm honestly surprised not more modules have been using them - so far, only 4 Dollar Dungeon's superb Journey to Cathreay is the only one I could mention from the top of my head....
(And if anyone want my advice for Mythic bosses in non-mythic campaigns, feel free to drop me a line via my site.)
This installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So what is the Verse Arcanum? In one sentence, I'd describe it as "ye old fantasy setting" - elves, dwarves, magic galore, curses, prophecies and adventurers - fey and miles-long wyrms (true dragons in the most lethal, city-leveling sense...) and just about all other things and creatures you know from these settings can be found in this UNIVERSE (not just world!). Rainbow bridges? Check. Nasty Umbra-worshipping subterranean dwarves that specialize in unmaking magic? Check. Dual-natured elves that are at once light and dark elves? Yup.
Now of course, in the context of Lords of Gossamer and Shadows, the Verse Arcanum works differently - each Lord (or Lady) may erect one tower and said tower acts as his/her domain - no total control to be gained here. The influence of the tower and the respective ruler is felt via the demesne, or domain of said tower, in which the respective ruler controls the land. Now logically, this is not something most locals are keen on - and adventurers questing to take down the wizard's tower, annoyingly self-righteous paladins...here's the chance to hurl all those characters back at the players...
Beyond world trees containing whole worlds and civilizations, wizard academies and the like, the Verse Arcanum offers potential galore for a more meta approach to fantasy gaming.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's full-color two-column standard for LoGaS-supplements and the pdf comes with glorious, thematically fitting original pieces of artwork. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked, which is nice to see, even at such a short length!
Matt Banach's Verse Arcanum is at once very conservative and one might argue, not as unique as some of his other creations. On the other hand, it could be seen as creative by its trope-inversion, by its essentially post-fantasy-gaming perspective on traditional fantasy tropes and as such, has quite some merit. Now one thing that personally didn't wholyl gel with me would be the focus of this Gossamer World - it's a universe, I get it. But why not devote a larger source book to it? The wyrms, for example, being the awesome beasts that they are, could have used some stats in the context of LoGaS and the dualistic nature of elves, dwarves etc. almost begs for an array of unique cantrips, spells etc. to learn. The tower defense angle is also rather awesome, but more concise effects on the demesne et al would have been awesome.
Don't get me wrong, this is a great book, but it also is essentially a teaser-level pdf that can only go into so much detail for an idea that is slightly too much for the constraints of the pdf. Unlike other Gossamer Worlds, this is more about the twists on fantasy in the context of LoGaS, not about playing grounds, and it just doesn't follow up on the ideas with proper effects.
Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to the low price point and awesome production values.
Oathbound 7 advanced the timeline. The setting's fluff is glorious and Eclipse is a superb setting book. Their bestiary is also great. HOWEVER: Oathbound's crunch is BROKEN and unbalanced - with regard to core-races: Understandable. However, balancing among oathbound races is just as horrid... And there are more issues.
And I hate being the bringer of bad news, but don't cross your fingers for more PFRPG-Oathbound. Epidemic Books unmistakenably posted that they'd stop supporting PFRPG on their Hp and would go with their own system...which was when I stopped looking, mainly since I have all the old stuff and don't want to get the stuff again and learn a new system for it.
Still, might have to bite the bullet sooner or later...Oathbound is such a cool setting...
Thanks for the kind words, Mark et al. - the Reveler indeed is awesome: When gaming unobtrusively manages to say something profound about the condicio humana while providing superb, imaginative crunch and combines that with great prose - well, then you have me hooked.
And yes, I think that the class is just that - a look in the mirror not only for me, but for everyone who uses it - whether consciously or subconsciously. Especially true in our digital age.
So yeah, we all have the potential to be revelers - the question simply is whether we are fey-touched enough to unleash it. ;)
I'll focus on "gothic" horror - i.e. psychological horror as opposed to "kill scary stuff".
-Bleak House. One of my all-time favorites. Downside: Works best if your players are in Ravenloft and familiar with the doctor.
-Hour of the Knife. Ravenloft Jack the Ripper. Nuff' said.
-Against the Cult of the Bat God
-Mockingbird (Richard Pett, in "It came from the Stars"; Coincidentally, also the other modules from that book.)
-Ship of Fools by TPK Games
-Dream Harvest by Matt Banach, in Adventure Quarterly #3
-Up from Darkness by Rite Publishing (set in Kaidan)
-To Walk the Dark Road by AAW Games
-End of Autumn by Murder of Crows Publishing may not be much regarding presentation, but it's a great Ravenloftmodule minus serial numbers.
-0onegames' The Bloody Fix - even as a stand-alone perhaps the best haunted house for D&D 3.X
-0onegames' A Pound of Flesh - great urban horror investigation
These were teh first that came to mind.
This FREE pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look at what this offers, shall we?
As you can see, this pdf is FREE and about PUZZLES. Yes, puzzles. Remember those? You know the type that, back in the days of 1st and 2nd edition, provided the awesome brain-teasers, the food for your grey matter beyond crunching combat-numbers? Yeah. There aren't many around anymore, which I consider rather a pity - so what are these about?
Essentially, the idea is relatively simple - you have crystals and rods to poke the crystals with. There are three types of rods - one red, one green, one blue.
Crystals can have up to 4 different colors - red, green, blue and clear. Each of the rods has a specific result when poking a crystal. Taking for example a blue rod to poke a crystal will have the following results:
-It makes a red or green crystal blue.
-It makes a blue crystal clear.
-It also affects all adjacent crystals (not those diagonally adjacent) to the crystal touched.
Each rod has a different array of such rules that make figuring the puzzles out rather fun - and easily expandable.
Each Puzzle herein has a base configuration of colored crystals and a goal configuration to reach and the difficulty ranges from child's play to challenging - the penultimate puzzle took my group about 30 minutes to get right and my guys are good at solving logical puzzles. If you as the DM can't be bothered to solve this, sample steps to solve the puzzles are provided, though it should be noted that these not always are the most efficient way to solve these.
Now if this looks rather underwhelming on paper, rest assured that it's actually fun if your players enjoy actually thinking and flexing their mental muscles. I know my players enjoyed it enough to to make me make puzzles like these the basic technology of hotwiring the creations of one particular ancient civilization in my game.
While primarily intended as a mini-game while waiting for the one guy who's late, the 5 sample puzzles provided can easily be expanded by an enterprising DM to include many, many more. A total of 4 pages of dot-cut-outs to represent crystals is provided as well, if your players need a visual cue - for advanced groups, I'd suggest not providing these, since it makes the task slightly more complicated and is a nice memory-training exercise.
Now the pdf also offers some advanced tricks - If your players have too hard a time, provide a multi-colored rod that can change colors - especially nice if your PCs failed to find one of the rods. If you're sadistic (or to reflect botched UMD-checks, there is a variant which changes a random crystal's color every 5 moves. This should NOT be used for the more complex puzzles, though - your players won't be happy about it. Finally, there is a kind of template for a golem who can be tuned to a color, with different special attacks based on the crystal color they're attuned to.
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor non-standard rules-language in the end, that is not something problematic or grievous in a free product. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has rudimentary bookmarks.
Okay, I'll come right out and say it - I love this pdf. A) It's FREE. B) It inspired me - the possibilities of this deceptively simple system are endless - more complex patterns of crystals? Possible. A Ziggurat that needs to be solved, with crystals strewn throughout the dungeon, requiring exploration to get the pattern and then solve it? Possible. Creatures that have superb defensive powers (Vastly increased DR etc.) and need to be solved first, requiring attacks with the rods while they try to bash you to smithereens? Possible. The potential of this humble little book is staggering and it simply is FUN. Now granted, if your players don't enjoy logic puzzles, then this might not be for you - but come on, give it a try. Remember those days when gaming was a teaser for the intellect as well as the imagination, from the time to which we point when we tell ourselves that gamers are above average in intelligence. Unleash your nerd and dare to use some fun puzzles - you literally have nothing to lose with these - they're for FREE and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval - an awesome free product by Bradley Crouch.
You can get this awesome pdf for FREE. Follow the link on my home page.
Interjection Games also currently has a kickstarter running for "Strange Magic" - check it out if you're by now bored by Vancian casting and want to see a Tome of Magic-style book done right!
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS and Lou Agresta's RPGaggression.