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[Playground Adventures] EZG reviews After School Adventures: Adventures in Wonderland #2 - Down the Rabbit Hole (5e)
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The second module in the Wonderland-inspired series of mini-modules for the youngest gamers clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Young 'uns - sneaking a peek here can spoil your fun - don't do it, okay?
All right, so the PCs have chased the white rabbit through the forest in #1 and this module begins as the players fall down the rabbit hole...wait, no, they are not...they basically are floating, with no means of propulsion and the sides of the tunnel too far away to reach. As the PCs ponder their predicament, a blue dictionary will float over...you know, it's hungry and wants to be fed with words from A - Z. This little vocab test, including an Intelligence or Wisdom check to help them for the more difficult words, is a fun start. Then, things get more difficult with the letter "I": The next array of words needs to have the letter AND two syllables. Once the PCs reach "R", they will have to work backwards from Z to S. Oh, and the read-aloud text of the dictionary is intended to be sung to "Pop goes the Weasel" and rhymes appropriately. And yes, I had to look the tune up. XD
As the party finally floats down, they will reach a table with a drink and a cake...and we all know what these do, right? But there's a twist: A) If the PCs are itching for a fight, the table will happily oblige. And B), the doors open to show the peek-a-boo - a unique monster that has the proper key to pass...and it teleports to other doors when the PCs try to take it from its mouth. Here, multiple strategies help: Making the creature laugh, guarding doors, using logic, making it cry - oh, and the module does use this chance to teach the players about using attribute checks to determine information about creatures - which, however, sports a minor hiccup - it refers to Intelligence (Lore), which should probably be (History) or (Nature) instead.
Bypassing the friendly creature in this game concludes the adventure for now and should see the PCs reach level 2.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues apart from aforementioned little hiccup. Layout adheres to Playground Adventures' beautiful two-column full-color standard with Cheshire Cat on top and all. The pdf's art is sparse, but similarly child-friendly. Spells etc. are hyperlinked to the PRD for your convenience. In spite of the module's brevity, it features bookmarks - nice. This time around, the module has no cartography, but it doesn't really need maps for the encounters herein.
J Gray's second Adventures in Wonderland-module is more rewarding than the first: Where the first module focused its efforts via a boardgame-like playing field on teaching the very basics of roleplaying, this one focuses a bit more on the actual roleplaying aspect and problem-solving skills of the kids that play it. This renders the module more palatable for older kids as well. The content herein is btw. appropriate for kids ages 4 and up (with my suggestion being that players ages 8+ will probably start having less fun with this due to its cute tone) and even the most scaredycat, sensitive child will not be frightened by this one; this is pretty much the definition of wholesome and harmless, with literally each encounter focusing on unobtrusive engagement of the mental faculties of kids rather than just rolling the dice and defeating foes. Even the optional combat is not something anyone would consider problematic.
So yes, this very much achieves its goal; it has versatile challenges, nice visuals and is a fun romp. My one complaint would be that a hard-mode version for the challenges would have been nice for particularly smart kids, but then again, one can easily improvise the like on the fly, based on the material that is provided here. (The syllable angle can be easily expanded; I had them actually spell the words...but only do that if the kids are already reading a lot and capable of spelling...you know your audience best, GM!)
So, how to rate this? As mentioned, I consider this to be better than the first module and while older kids won't have as much fun with this as the young ones, for the target demographic, this is awesome indeed. The unobtrusive educational angle's here and the locations are unique. The small hiccup and the fact that the conversion of the creatures is a bit more conservative than I like is all that costs this version the seal of approval, leaving me with still a final verdict of 5 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.
In all brevity, since I'm currently on vacation:
Darakhul: Perfect fit for Geb, Ustalav, as a subterranean empire just about anywhere (particularly if you can get your hands on the patron-only Empire of Ghouls module!).
Dragonkin: Either make them Hermean Übermenschen (dawn of a new age!) or go for the flying cities route; Hyperborean, isolated society might work as well. Or have the whole empire come from across the sea - after all, so far we don't know all of Golarion!
Gearforged are great fits for the Manawaste, obviously. Alternatively, you could make them the fruits of labor by Kalistrade's prophets (immortality through money!) or some new scheme by Razmiran's faux clerics. Or just make them a new way for Taldan nobility to continue their decadence and further strangle their empire.
Jinnborn are perfect fits for both Qadira and Jalmeray; as elemental-themed beings, they could work well for liaisons of the Ruby Prince's throne.
Shadow Fey fit perfectly with Nidal and basically can be a great expansion to Zon-Kuthonite druids and nature clerics and the whole darker nature aspect.
Tosculi: Southern Garund sounds fitting; other than that, they may be allied with the Red Mantis (they are in my game!) and use their enclaves as a kind of strange Zerg-like base to transport/teleport large contingents of Red Mantis killers via the living hive-city-hearts.
Trollkin: Obvious Lamashtan experiments! Wherever there are Lamashtans, these guys may prosper. Similarly, the depravity of ogres could breed them anywhere. As an alternate theme/fluff, making them the representation of the giant-blooded trope of northern mythology works well in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings and similar places.
Werelions, to me, could go LOTS of places; Vudra and Qadira/Osirion being obvious choices; among the shoanti (or kellids - think white, blue-eyes snow lions...), they could also prosper. Basically any nomadic culture could easily cover them.
If you require more need, feel free to directly ask me or post here; once I get back, I'll be able to answer the question in more detail, should you require it!!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This massive expansion-book for the sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 72 pages of content, so let's take a look!
All right, before we dive in: This is designated as Mature Content. It is the expansion book for a rules-light RPG that reproduces the aesthetics of scifi-porn-satires, so if you have a problem with sexuality, dick/vagina/boob-jokes and gender stereotyping for men and women, this may not be for you. While the males and females I played this with considered it hilarious, that must not necessarily hold true for you or your game. Artwork-wise, this book's artwork contains full-frontal drawn nudity and also features artworks of orgies that involve tentacle-aliens that look like gricks - the artwork is significantly more explicit than in Alpha Blue - where Alpha Blue was softcore, this one's artwork is hardcore.
And the artwork and content includes...vagina sandwhales. That says it all right there. This book is not for people who take themselves too seriously and can't take a dirty joke. If your impulse to such behavior is "unbecoming" or "puerile", this may not be for you.
All right, this out of the way, we begin with the author's signature array of extensive tables to provide dressing and random features, beginning with general scifi-aesthetics, a total of 30 unique alien features...and then things become interesting: Relative experience in space with 6 entries actually has significant influence regarding mechanics, netting you unique benefits. 8 alternative careers are also included. Finally, there would be Zedi - yep, Jedi-parody. Their abilities are usually rolled with 2d6, but when a character only very rarely uses his powers, it's 4d6, which is a nice idea. However, the respective powers are severely lacking in precision. Stopping an energy weapon in mid air is cool...but can it affect ship weapons? What range does it have? What does "Boosts a zedi's luck in games of chance." actually do? No idea. This is basically not functional and requires copious amounts of GM-fiat. And no, just because it's supposed to be rules-light, this does not get a pass for this one. Not good. Also problematic: The dark templar's death curse, while a cool idea, nets a target only a 2 in 6 chance of survival, which pretty much begs to be abused, but can at least not be spammed or the like.
A total of 30 archetypes (basically tropes sans mechanical repercussions) can help customize the character and the book contains a hilarious "And now for something completely different Monty Python"-event table. A table to determine what happens to PCs between games is neat and we also get a table for sexual vibes and a massive 5 column, 20 row weird sexual fantasies and fetish creator: You could end up with " Pineapple, pom-poms, ferns, mazes and severed toes" - yeah, not kidding about weirdness. Reactions of females to unsolicited advances, random clothing articles, hair and body, physical beauty, profession and names, 100 peculiarities of women (and 20 of men - hey, we're simple critters!) an random "O"-face-generator, a random table to determine orgasms, Stockholm Syndrome, random pawn shop items, and a hangover "What the f*+$ did I do last night?" table add a lot of weirdness to the game.
Sample Alpha Blue NPCs, Noir-ish sample characters, small talk topics, using Spaghetti Western Tropes in space (*cough* Firefly */cough*), blaster duel rules, technology glitches, planet generators, ship to ship combat (that actually runs smooth and is pretty deadly) and additional fuel sources are included.
Okay, but this also contains adventures - or rather, adventure-set-ups. Basically, the pdf walks you through the process pretty well, but do not expect read-aloud texts galore, cartography of the locations and the like - however, even more of the copious tables are included in the book's modules.
Note: The following takes a look at the module section, so potential players should jump to the conclusion to avoid SPOILERS.
All right, still here?
The first module is basically a parody of a combination of Blade Runner and a twist on the exploitation classic; hence the module is all about Ilsa of the SS - basically a Slut Series sex-replicant that has lived too long and developed sentience. By means of contracting a bio-engineered STD, the PCs are press-ganged into hunting her down, but not all is as it seems. And yes, the hunt for her will lead the PCs to a planet that contains aforementioned vagina-whale sandworms as well as washed up legend Bubba Fatt. Oh, and killer sex-bot moves.
The second module treats the PCs after the Ilsa-incident as basically loose ends and involves the PCs in a political set-up between a power-struggle in another planet's monarchy/an escort mission with a princess in disguise. Can you picture how that'll go. Yep. Similarly, winning the lottery may see a whole galaxy snuffed out. There is also the plot of amazonian slavers, a sex-enhancing drug...and then there would be the titanic colony ship, captained by Black Helmet, aka Moranis...or the space-sheikh's harem...or the escape from the penal planet destructo...and have I mentioned the outline that is an homage of the genius Life of Brian? Saving a space-cheerleader from a slaver is also a pretty nice one.
The book concludes with excellent maps - the Barstar D and no less than three ships (one with strange tentacle-studded organic components, all in full-color and spanning two maps, provided testament of cartographer Glynn Seal's talent.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-level, the book oscillates between great and some instances where it is lacking. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks throughout are glorious. The pdf contains the glyph-font that you can translate to lewd sentences. The cartography is stellar and the pdf is fully bookmarked. I do not have the print version, so I can't comment on that aspect.
One of the issues I had with Alpha Blue as a base book was that it didn't go the whole way - to use an appropriate terminology, it got stuck in the heavy-petting phase. This one goes all out - so kudos for that! For the most part, this book contains an excellent array of awesomeness regarding the supplemental material for Alpha Blue, but there are some serious hiccups in here as well: The non-functional Zedi are disappointing and regarding the "modules"...I don't know. Less would have been more here. Don't get me wrong, the two long "modules" here are pretty cool, fun and evocative.
The other encounters/module-set-ups, in contrast, feel like afterthoughts and usually have this one cool idea, but don't do too much with it. It may be just me, but I really would have preferred a more precise take on the big modules, more fodder, more details, maps or the like over these sketches. Why am I using quotation marks for "modules" here? Well...apart from the longer two, the others are basically what you'd read in an adventure-synopsis. They need you to fill in all the details and while I don't mind too much, I still feel that their respective cool concepts could have been boiled down to a paragraph and replaced with more detailed material for the big ones - which are similarly a bit sketchy. This, as a whole, is pretty weird, for Venger As'Nas Satanis has shown that he can write more precise modules. On the plus-side, what is here tends to put a smile on your face and inspire, even if it does require some work on the Space DM's side.
In the end, this is a good expansion, but one that falls a bit short of what it could have been. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.
Always glad to help! It's weird - while I'm not the biggest fan of hunting, I come from a family of hunters and hence know how it works, so the "elk spotted, runs away"-thing felt pretty normal to me.
If you want a more action-centric and less realistic take on hunting elk, I'd set the encounter distance to 2d6 x 10'.
Cheers and all the best!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 44 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Knowledge is power. This sentence has become a bit of a cliché. Okay, it *IS* a huge cliché. It is true nonetheless. From Latin to runes, language as a means of transporting knowledge in a written form is exceedingly powerful and ideas, ultimately, are the most powerful weapons of all.
As has become the tradition with the Call to Arms-series, we thus begin the pdf with a complex array of ruminations on the nature of text, its functions and components, not shirking e.g. the issues of copying and translation. (And anyone who has ever compare e.g. Shakespeare, Baudelaire or Goethe translations with the original will certainly attest a cringe-worthy quality that can result here...) In a fantastic context, the concept is similarly important, if not even more so: The pdf does mention Chambers' classic The King in Yellow, which may well have provided an initial spark for Lovecraft and others...as often, the idea cuts deep.
One of my central gripes with Pathfinder as a system has always been the fact that tomes basically suffer from a rather niche existence; when compared to e.g. the Witcher games, where knowledge is the most valuable good you can have in combat with the weird creatures of the earth, it is significantly less important in our games and has less mechanical repercussions...and this one tries to fix that. The pdf collates, collects and expands the mundane tomes released so far, introducing arcane school reference books, chronicles etc. - rules-wise, these generally grant bonuses to associated checks when referencing the book or studying it. 3 new types of spellbooks (and two classics) can be found within these pages as well. The pdf also features two spellbooks with preparation rituals. (one for magus and one for the investigator.)
Beyond that, the pdf also collects all types of intriguing books herein - from the golem manuals to the summoning extenders and manuals that increase your attributes, grant combat feats. Very cool for sorcerors: Pages of Spell Knowledge. These pages contain a single spell; prepared casters may expend a spell slot of the appropriate spell slot to cast the spell on the page. A writ allows for instant atonement benefits, but requires longer hours of studying to maintain the benefits. As always in the series, we get a cursed tome and an intelligent item: The latter being A Young Person's Phantasmagorical Primer, which contains fairy tales and allows persons featuring only NPC classes to gain the training required for PC classes and the book's illusory realms are interesting, to say the least. Beyond that, we also get a total of 3 mythic books, one of which enhances a character's capabilities when dealing with extraplanar creatures and another nets cruel jokes. Finally, another book allows for reincarnate. The book also contains 3 artifacts - the classic book of infinite spells, the codex of the lower planes and a take on the mother of all evil books, the intelligent necronomicon, including an advanced soul eater that may come for you. (CR 15, just fyi.) And yes, the book is cursed.
The pdf does contain two different spells, one that translates a book perfectly into ancient dwarven and one that animates a quill to copy writing. As always, though, we do receive a couple of variant rules, the first of which would be modifications for Linguistics to account for time-related changes in dialects, handwriting, translation qualities, if applicable, etc.
More importantly, the pdf does feature rules for forbidden knowledge - studiyng texts like this may result in corruption and the more thorough you study the texts, the harder it will be to resist the nasty effects of the respective tomes. Certain actions will trigger corruption saves and on a failure, the character gains a corruption point - all pretty simple. Here's the cool thing, though: Tehse points can be used as either mythic power, hero points, as sanity...or a combination of them all, depending simply on your own tae on the subject matter, with proper synergy with the much-anticipated new Shadows over Vathak campaign setting book. A total of 3 such tainted tomes end this installment of Call to Arms on a high note.
Editing and formatting are good; while I noticed a couple of typo level glitches and would have loved slightly modified wording here and there, as a whole, the rules-language remains sufficiently precise to not result in any issues. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Richard D. Bennett's revised take on Tomes of Power is a fun offering, with in particular the variant rules herein being an inspired array of modifications. The book, as a whole, is a fun offering and delivers what it promises. In contrast to some of the other Call to Arms-books, though, it does feel a tad bit less evocative: A lot of the options here in the book are pretty conservative in the items represented - the more powerful items, for example, are either classic in concepts or, in the case of the mythic books, pretty weak. Apart from the evocative intelligent book and the awesome forbidden tomes, I simply wasn't as blown away here, since I already knew a lot of the concepts here. This does not make the pdf bad, mind you, but it does deprive it of a place amid the best of these books. In the end, this is a good book - and well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine, posted here, on OBS, etc.
@Donkey Shot: The regular elks aren't the "meat" here - it's the megaloceros that actually moves towards the PCs when nearby. What you're missing regarding the normal elk is that they can only be considered to have escaped after they have had their turn. Much like in a real life hunt, the critters are fast and once they spot you, you have about 1 or 2 chances, tops, to take them down. Additionally, the default set-up has no surprise round, yes; but if a PC *does* have eagle eyes due to magic (or floating, invisible eyes to scout ahead) they suddenly have a very real chance.
So, if PCs can act before the elk, they can shoot it, obviously. Similarly, good riders can potentially make the melee distance.
Also, there is the Stealth component: The "no surprise round" pertains regular marching through the woods, so Stealth and related magic is very much an option.
Finally, the hunting strategy of the PCs can use a bit of frustration here - in my game, the PCs failed (Elk shows up 600' away, PCs see it, shoot once, it runs away.) quite a bit and then realized that they need another strategy and split into two group to hunt with pincer movements, which would put the elk between PCs groups and potentially allow for a the like. My players also started laying traps in hexes.
Anyways, pretty much all of this elk-hunting mini-game is just a backdrop set-up for the boss fight, but my players enjoyed the component. Hope that helps! :)
Hej Bardess! As someone with 3 talented barbs (one with pact magic homebrewed in, one insane MPD gladiator and a stonewarden/dwarf hyrbid tank - my players really like the engine) in one of his current games in may perhaps help...
Re the totem question:
It says explicitly that a barbarian with the edge cannot have skinwalker or any rage (or as rage counting, which includes rage) edge until he has reached 5th level. So no totems at 2nd level, as far as I'm reading it.
As far as the revelations question is concerned, I think it's supposed to be talents. Owen's reply above did address a different issue. Otherwise, the edge would unlock *A LOT* of easily accessible revelations, which would be pretty powerful and something that, balance-wise, I'd eye rather wearily unless used in a very high-powered game.
Just my 2 cents and I may be wrong, but I'm pretty confident I'm right. ;)
[Purple Duck Games] EZG reviews Dispatches from the Raven Crowking Vol. 1 - Choices, Context, and Consequence (DCC)
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The first of the Dispatches from the Raven Crowking collection of blogposts, miscellanea, new material and the like for DCC clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let's take a look!
We begin this book with an essay that discusses roleplaying games under the criteria of the eponymous three Cs, but not before making clear that, what follows, is not intended as a cure-all or as a universal truth - it's been a while since I've seen a subjectivity clause in a GM advice section and I won't lie - I consider its inclusion refreshing and professional. Anyways, the following essay can be pictured as a concise and pointed breakdown of the three Cs, so let us begin: Ultimately, more so than in our daily lives, roleplaying games are exercises in free will and choices; much like our reality and social structure imposes a certain degree of rules upon us, so does a given roleplaying system. Once you realize the importance of choice, it becomes pretty apparent why both highly codified games like PFRPG and those that feature a minimum of rules enjoy their popularity: Either by means of simply providing a huge and fine-grained array of diverse options or by requiring none of them, choice is facilitated. However, this is only the system; the practice of roleplaying similarly is informed by choices and this extends to fudging - or not fudging, dice, a theme covered in a separate essay, but one that I feel ties directly into the 3 Cs.
The pdf makes a pretty vehement stand (unsurprisingly) in favor of letting the dice fall as they may and point a single fact out: If you roll the dice and disregard the result, why roll at all? At first glance, this may generate some anger or seem infuriating, but there is an intriguing meta-point here: If the module/system/engine you utilize features a choice and you decide via the dice, what does it say about the game when the results are ignored in favor of an optimum narrative? The pdf does take a stab at the design philosophy of 3.X here and, to a certain degree, I concur: As soon as you do not emphasize challenge, but rather a fixed and relatively likely success and then proceed to streamline deviations from said behavior away, you eliminate not only your own choice, but that of the players as well. More importantly: If a module or given supplement's options feature a lot of information that is bound (and assumed) to be ignored in favor of an ideal scenario, what does that say about the design? The problem here directly taps into the consequences of actions and the impact and severity they ought to have.
At the same time, I think the argumentation does undervalue the aspect of context - herein, context is defined as the world and the game itself; i.e. the environment in which the respective rolls are made. A context depicts the framework in which choices are made and making no choice is a choice in itself - to use the tired old quote "Sometimes the only way to win is not to play." - Replace "win" with "choice" and you have the paradox, for not choosing is a choice.
Here, the pdf imho could be a bit clearer: It identifies a crucial, immersion-hampering issue with quite a few roleplaying games, but fails to draw a truly helpful conclusion from it, instead opting for an enumeration of virtues of DCC and a more hardcore gaming aesthetic. A distinct issue that more codified roleplaying games have featured time and again lies in a sense of entitlement that has crept into the respective systems: Players demanding certain results; XP after this many encounters, levels after Y more, an availability of certain options because they are "official" (never mind how sucky many of 3.X's official WotC-splatbooks were...) and at the same time discouraging 3pp material. The second paradox in this development is, ultimately, that the people demanding such design-philosophy deprive themselves of the option to be surprised in favor of a streamlined experience; similarly this idealized streamlined experience needs to be reflected in "official" modules and supplements. This necessarily implies an ideal structure and sequence and as such, the fudging of dice to not deviate from this scenario suddenly becomes significantly more appealing.
What do I mean by this? Well, I have nothing but the highest respect for Paizo's module catalogue as a whole. There is a significant array of creative and downright brutal modules out there for Pathfinder that, if you do the math, will grind PCs, even minmaxed ones, when played properly. To have the industry leader put there out is a refutation of the premise that the adventure design philosophy is solely to blame. Instead, think carefully whether and how you fudged dice to spare a player making yet another character with complex rules, not wreck your metaplot, etc. It is, at least upon closer examination, not the module's fault or the fault of a design philosophy, at least not alone - it is a mindset, a capitulation before an internalized entitlement by both players and GMs that drains away subtly the achievement of having bested some of the more lethal modules. And I know, that even though I pride myself on being a killer-GM, am tempted to fudge the dice once in a while. But the clumsy lich, the TPK, the multi-criting halfling monk...perhaps the weirdness and uncommon quirks of fate that arise by virtue of the dice, deserve to be heard, deserve not to be fudged over. Perhaps GMs, just like players, have become a bit lazy and don't want to go off the rails anymore.
And I understand - unlike the text, my personal observation pertaining the issue stems from a deep love of both OSR-gaming, PFRPG, GUMSHOE, 13th Age and a ton of games more and in some of them, character generation is significantly more work than rolling 3d6 6 times and be done with it. Fudging is not bad per se. So let me propose an experiment: Get CoC or a similar rules-light system...and play a module with the distinct, purist mindset that everyone will die or become insane or worse. Play it. Let the dice fall. If you're doing it right, your players will have fun. Then return to your regularly scheduled game and play...and when next time the context is right and you're tempted...don't ignore that die roll. It doesn't have to be the infamous deck of many things...but still. Let the BBEG die ingloriously as the rogue backstabs him with a lucky crit; let the paladin be eaten by that gelatinous cube. If anything, there is fun to be had in failure and chaos as well.
And yes, this may have deviated quite a bit from the thesis of this pdf, but I considered it important to convey, for these observations and their clarity ultimately resulted from me reading the book and finding myself both agreeing and disagreeing - and this type of thought-provoking dialog, in lack of a better term, is exactly what I expect from such a book.
Another essay herein pertains the epic endgame - and the considerations you should make when planning the like: Why has no one else attempted it? The risks involved, etc. - think of it, both from a player and villain perspective: Every Bond-villain ever? Thwarted in the endgame. Throwing the One Ring in Mt. Doom? Endgame. By thinking about the scope and implications, one can lend a better sense of the stakes and gravitas involved to the proceedings. Beyond this, there is also an expansive Appendix N-section, which talks about Edgar Rice Burroghs, Sterling E. Lanier's Hiero's Journey and the impact both can have on a given campaign.
There is more than game theory to be found herein, though: If you are looking for an intriguing environment, you will find one with Shanthopal and the background provided for the Golden City, breathing the spirit of the fantastical blended with sword & sorcery, breathing an evocative spirit that only made me wish to hear more. Kudos!
On the utility-section, DCC judges will be happy to realize that the advice articles herein are useful indeed: Both regarding 0-level funnels and the transition to 1st level and the use of patrons within the game (and the modifications/expansions the author has brought to the concept) are discussed alongside relatively extensive lists of books to consult and check out, both released by Goodman games and 3pps. Similarly and more importantly, the emphasis to end the "generic orc/haf-dragon/etc."-syndrome, how to capture the weird and fantastic and slowly generate a DCC world and aesthetic are covered in quick, precise and well-reasoned terms, showing the author's understanding of the themes of DCC.
Alternate rules-wise, spontaneous spell learning with a significant risk factor is provided, though personally, I'm not the biggest fan of that one...however, that may be due to aesthetics. To me, in particularly in DCC, magic needs deliberation and study or help; unlocking, even a risky spontaneity in that regard makes it feel cheaper to me and thus, less magical. Your mileage may vary, obviously.
The pdf also features several creatures - namely statblocks for ammonites for DCC: Swarms in three sizes and single, larger ones from Small to Huge size can be found in the book. Additionally, we are introduced to R'yalas, lord of the drowned one, a powerful ammonite wizard and thus closes the pdf with an adversary worthy of our good ole' Cimmerian friend.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly b/w one-column A5 format (6'' by 9'') and the pdf features some solid b/w-artworks. I'd suggest getting this in print, since the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment for the use of the electronic version.
Daniel J. Bishop's first collection of dispatches is an intriguing little GM-handbook, in particular for the weird fantasy and the sword & sorcery aesthetic, both of which I really like. His writing is precise and while I cringed HARD when reading Mother Theresa listed alongside people you'd consider heroes in examples for epic endgames and their achievement, that does not take away from the fact that I took something away from this pdf.
The writing herein is certainly opinionated, but it deserves being replied to in as far as its content manages to elucidate several not necessarily apparent conventions and structures pertaining our games. As a person, I think the WotC-bashing component is not always justified and the prospective buyer should be aware that this is very much written from a DCC-perspective; the more complex tasks more rules-intense systems demand make the subject matter more complex than the book manages to depict or even acknowledge. This remains the crucial one flaw of this book's formal essays: While it extends its reach beyond the confines of DCC and provides a valid opinion piece that certainly is thought-provoking, it does exhibit a certain ignorance, whether willful or not remains irrelevant, regarding the different requirements and dynamics of systems with a higher degree of complexity and the ramifications that result from these complexities.
It should be noted that this does NOT mean that this is a bad pdf - far from it; it just means that it oversimplifies a rather complex topic when reaching beyond the primary comfort and application zone of DCC and OSR gaming. Within the chosen paradigm and primary target audience, this should resonate; beyond these confines, it can improve the game, but requires some deliberate and thoughtful consideration of the theses and their consequences.
Or you just don't care about all of that and just are a DCC judge who wants some nice essays, monsters, ideas and GMing advice for your favorite game. In that case as well as in the above instances, I'd recommend this booklet, for you'll certainly find some nice inspiration and intriguing thoughts herein. In the end, considering target audience, scope and quality, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let's take a look!
So, what do we get here? In short, we get abilities you can add to specific NPCs to grant them a more unique flavor, some tricks to set them apart, if you will. Distracting Allure, for example, lets you add your Charisma modifier to Dexterity (sleight of hand) checks. As a minor nitpick, rules-language, while functional, is not 100% according to the standards. Additionally, it does imply attraction and lacks a caveat to represent other critters - RAW, it would apply to creatures not attracted to the character like sentient oozes or worse.
Also problematic: Fearful Insinuation allows the character to deliver threats without seeming threatening. If successfully intimidated, the creatures suffers disadvantage on the next attack roll or saving throw...which implies combat use...and no action to activate is given. The ability also lacks a tie to the intimidating character or the mechanics to notice the intimidation while observing it. Another ability nets a reputation so stellar, it requires a hard task, a DC 20 Charisma (persuasion) check to make any creature believe bad things about the target - which is cool...but why is the DC fixed here, when usually DCs of character abilities scale? Where's the scaling?
Making an ally ignore the frightened condition for Charisma modifier rounds is cool - but where's the activation action? Does it require one? How many allies can be affected at a given time? being a local celebrity has its perks - but what constitutes a "city" for the purpose of the ability? Similarly, I love the ability that lets a creature move with a grace that renders targets incapacitated on a failed save...I really enjoyed that in the Tangible Tavern from which it's taken...but as a general ability, it lacks a save. And in the context, it works - the ability was featured by the waitress/maître d' and makes sense in the context...but can it be used in combat? The ability as presented here does imply the like. Also: No save scaling? There are nice ones here as well, including the means to thwart persuasion. Weird: provoking Words does have a scaling saving throw, making that component of the pdf inconsistent...but hey, I'll take it. On the downside, once again, I am not sure regarding activation action - sure, a regular action can be assumed, since reactions are their own category here, but some abilities feel like they could/should be bonus actions.
Speaking of reactions: 4 are provided. They lack the "use your reaction"-wording-component. One ability lacks a "to"; getting a Charisma save versus frightened or stunned at a fixed DC ( as opposed to the original DC) feels wonky to me. There is also a short rest healing ability that lacks a range and does not interact with maximum healing based on HD or spells, making it clunky and breaking the hard cap imposed on healing.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are nice, but on a rules-level, we have some serious issues. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Press' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has neither artworks nor bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Kelly & Ken Pawlik's second collection of advantageous abilities suffers unfortunately from the same issues as the first: These abilities are NPC-only, so don't expect balance-guidance or the like herein. The rules-language employed unfortunately also leaves something to be desired: While the fixed DCs in monster statblocks make sense for the general monster, as soon as you start applying them broadly via generic abilities, there should be differences here. The abilities are intended for mostly humanoid, civilized NPCs, which makes this somewhat odder still. In short - the pdf is less flexible than it should be.
Here's another issue: The pdf does not really distinguish between passive abilities and those that require actions to use, making how precisely the abilities work, particularly in combat scenarios, opaque. Whether you get anything out of this pdf depends highly on how you want to use its content: As window-dressing-abilities for the GM, this delivers, but I question the value of it as such; the draw of many of these did stem from the characters to which they were assigned and the social context from which they originated. In that context, they make sense. In a general pdf, divorced from their context, their rules fall apart and render this significantly less useful than I hoped it would be.
My gripes for the first pdf in the series persist here and, if anything, are exacerbated by the relatively loose framework of combat/social interaction of 5e; particularly in such contexts, it is important to know when an ability can be used and how, drawing clean and concise lines in the proverbial sand of rules-language. As written, in spite of the low price, I cannot go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down for this one.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/foreword, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let's take a look!
Dire Rugrat Publishing's 5e-conversions are a joy to behold in that they add unique abilities to the respective NPCs. A total of 14 such abilities are included herein for your convenience. Barroom Brawler lets you ignore difficult terrain generated by bars. Below the Belt nets advantage on attacks versus foes that suffer from a variety of negative conditions...and it is here things get a bit weird - you see, the ability explicitly works for incapacitated, restrained and stunned targets...and those conditions already net advantage. Beyond that, even the argument of just listing the conditions for convenience's sake is moot, since paralyzed and petrified are missing...so yeah. Wonky.
Close-quarters melee shooting is very strong, allowing for shots in melee-range sans disadvantage. Using verbal jabs to dishearten foes is nice...but oddly, the save does not scale and remains fixed at DC 13 - no proficiency bonus scaling, no Charisma mod, nothing. Yes, I know that monsters adhere to this formula...but we're talking about general plug-and-play NPC-abilities here! Same DCs for vampire queens and hunchbacks? Weird... Rerolling 1s with fire damage is a cool idea and delivering spells through nearby familiars should help in particular with some conversion issues GMs may encounter....but why doesn't that work for eldritch invocations as well? They are technically not spells and thus RAW can't be delivered, when they probably should offer synergy. Motivating minions, the drawback of a peg-leg...nice.
Not so nice: The poisoner ability, which nets an infinite amount of weak poison the character can add to weapons. Weak, yes...but still. Infinite. Speedy reload as bonus action and chandelier swinging are cool. The pdf also features two reactions, both particularly suitable for BBEGs - swapping places with minions to let them take the hit and a reflexive teleport both make sense. The pdf offers nice designer's commentary on a couple of these abilities.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no formal glitches that would gall me. Rules language is a different matter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no artwork or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Kelly & Ken Pawlik's collection of advantageous abilities for 5e-NPCs is interesting in concept, if flawed in execution. While I would have loved some notes on use for players, it is pretty evident from the get-go that the majority of these should not get into player-hands: They work well as special abilities and guidelines, but aren't that carefully balanced. Generally, this is a pity, considering the fact that drawbacks and boons would allow for an easy point-based customization: Nasty drawback? -1 (-2 for a class that will encounter it often, +0 for a class that isn't really hampered by it). Solid boon? +1. The framework isn't hard to set up and would add a whole different dimension to the pdf.
Challenge-adjustments for using these cannot be found, should you be looking for that. The abilities generally make sense and add color and flavor to the NPCs, but some of them are lacking in precision and could use some clearer boundaries/definitions. This isn't that important when used only to supplement a given NPC, but as soon as you make the abilities the main meat of the offering, you'll be looking at an issue. Basically, by divorcing the abilities from their context, NPCs and situations you need to offer significantly more precision than this pdf offers. The oversight of not properly distinguishing between passive abilities and those requiring an action is a huge issue that pretty much sinks this pdf for me - we need to know whether and how these abilities work in combat, get concise refresh-info and potentially ranges, if applicable.
Similarly, if you're looking for abilities specifically designed for orcs, goblins, gnolls - the races one most commonly associates with "humanoids", you won't find those in here. The pdf technically is correct, since the abilities apply to characters, but the emphasis here is humanoid, not the implicitly implied savage humanoid most of us associate with the term in a roleplaying context. That being said, this particular gripe will not influence the final verdict, but is still something to be aware of.
So yeah, while I do like some of the options and still consider them extremely flavorful and while the pdf is inexpensive indeed, the brevity does also make the flaws weigh harder upon this than usual. The lack of context for these greatly diminishes their value and makes their issues pertaining opacity, somewhat alleviated by context, stand out like a green hat with an orange bill. While the passive abilities work well, the NPC flavor-tricks were not translated well into the hard, cold world of crunchy abilities in this pdf. I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Ashford, so let's take a look!
Ashford may once have been a place brimming with the quiet, simple life of small towns - but no longer. Reduced to a shadow of its former state, Ashford is ravaged by the bubonic plague and the empty shells of houses stand among sad remnants that are inhabited by survivors of the plague - people with broken spirits and no hope, waiting solemnly to join their deceased friends and family in an early grave - or drowning their sorrows in alcohol. Visitors risk exposure on a daily basis.
The village priest has failed to contain the plague and so hatred, rage and despair abound, as plague pits filled with the corpses of the fallen litter the landscape and the local ruler ignores his citizen's plight. The local wizard met the interruption of her studies with a fireball into the enraged mob and no help is coming on that front either. Worse, one of the village's priests not only succumbed to the plague, but hasn't been interred in the chapel, thrown instead into plague pits and now has risen from the grave, seeking revenge as a ghoulish priest. Events in the village center on enhancing this sense of desolation and collapsing buildings and feral dogs paint in thick strokes an image of anguish and end-times-like circumstances.
Sidebars depicting abandoned and burnt-out houses (10 entries each) and whispers and rumors as well as lore should help render the trip to Ashford...well. Interesting. That being said, regarding teh 5-conversion, I honestly believe that we could have used game effects. Unlike Pathfinder, 5e has, at least to my knowledge, no mechanics for it yet and I found myself wishing that they were include. While symptoms and the like are part of the pdf, the actual game-mechanics are left out. As always, I believe that certain classes, backgrounds etc. should have an easier time unearthing lore information...but by now, you're probably tired of hearing that old spiel.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard with neat b/w-art and as always, the high-res map is available to supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon. The cartography of the village is top-notch and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.
Mastermind of Raging Swan press Creighton Broadhurst is a master of depicting dreary, gritty, grimy locales with concise writing and vivid prose - and this pdf is no different. Indeed, if anything, it is a prime example of what can be done with a scant few words - supplemented by a glorious map in b/w, Ashford is a town you want to include into your campaign, evoking a sense of ending that doesn't need a scream, but comes with an oh so much more powerful whisper - there's no villain to be fought, no monster to be defeated to make all well - this is an exercise in combating human nature, a chance for the PCs to make a point that the "g" in their alignment is not about killing things with "e" in their alignment - here's a chance to rekindle hope against all odds, combat despair and try to save not lives, but a town's very soul. We need more supplements like this and while reading it, I was constantly wishing for a true plague-outbreak module or even better, an AP in that vein. I have always loved Ashford and considered it to be one of my favorite village backdrops of all time; but alas, in spite of this, the fact remains: Ashford is DEFINED by the plague. It's literally the point of the village...and it has no effects contained herein. The pdf had the chance to make the bubonic plague for 5e, and instead opted for fluff-only, depriving the village of its mechanical heart, if you will. This renders Ashford's 5e-iteration, unfortunately, somewhat inferior to PFRPG's take on it. My final verdict, in spite of loving its writing to bits, will hence, "only" clock in at 4 stars.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Coldwater, so let's take a look!
Coldwater is perched upon an inhospitable, mud-drenched coast, with one access by land, its harbor is in the delta of a miserably stream that empties its contents into the sea - and if that does not reflect a place you'd like to visit, then that's pretty much a representation of how most folks see this place. Nearby caverns sport strange stair-like features that only rarely become visible and the inhabitants of the village are just as sullen and unfriendly as the weather suggests. Both village lore and demographics reflect the relative hostility and rugged nature of the village rather well, while a Finnish-inspired nomenclature emphasizes an association with the colder climes.
Indeed, the rustic and eccentric locals e.g. sport a man named Holg, who has a well-stacked ware-house, but lets no one in - you have to tell the old man what you're looking for and mysteriously, more often than not, he procures the object from within the depths of his dubious "locker." Indeed, one cannot really fault the locals for their sullen outlook on life: As the events and the subtle wrongness in the tides underline, there is something wrong here and quite a few of the villagers suffer from tell-tale deformities. It should be noted that magic items and a local deity's brief write-up that can be found here have been properly updated to 5e's conventions and that, much like the other village backdrops, there are no statblocks herein.
On a nitpicky note: The deformity and the sense of wrongness - I do believe that the lore section of the village or the rumors would have warranted a modification away from the pure Charisma or Intelligence check to respectively unearth information.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Creighton Broadhurst has skill - and this one shows it pretty well. The mastermind of Raging Swan Press delivers what I'd like to call a wide open sandbox: We are faced with problems and the respective NPCs mentioned can be used to exacerbate it, change it...all depending on your whims. Basically, this is one of the village backdrops that is so compelling, it can make PCs pretty much write their own tale: Throw them in and watch what happens. It sports local color that made me think of the slight surreal elements that made Twin Peaks so compelling, at least for me -from the dwindling fortunes of one family to female, hard-working and drinking half-orc, there is a lot of quirkiness, a lot of unique bits and pieces here; enough, to make this thoroughly compelling and well worth 5 stars. My one gripe with it is that 5e so far has no Innsmouth-look style background tables, diseases or the like - a bit of crunch here would have been nice.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches or typos. Layout adheres to 4 Dollar Dungeon's two-column standard with a mix of original b/w and full-color artwork. The cartography and numerous handouts contained are absolutely awesome and the high-res maps and player-friendly versions leave nothing to be desired. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the US letterpack paper standard and one for the European A4-standard - kudos!!
Richard Develyn is a living, breathing one-man-refutation of the notion that mainstream RPGs like Pathfinder cannot be creative, cannot be art. If anything, this module truly cements his status as an artist and auteur; as someone who brings a whole new level to the game and steps up what to expect. With the exception of his first module, which is "only" good, every subsequent module he releases has made the Top Ten of the respective year. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Every single module does something truly unique; something creative and smart; he switches styles like a chameleon, writing horror with the same ease as sword and sorcery-esque fantasy, southern gothic or a thoroughly fresh take on the tired, but beloved Ravenloft-aesthetic. Beyond switching genres with ease, a subtle and profound distinctly English humor suffuses his works, making them an actual joy to read. Oh, and there would be the fact that his craft, nay, art, cannot be mistaken for that of another author - there is a distinct voice; a levity tinted slightly by the macabre that is utterly unique. Oh, and the modules leave nothing to be desired regarding running them. I have never, very wished for better organization in them, never had an issue running them from paper after the obligatory first reading.
And he does that not for the bucks. 4 friggin' dollars is a huge steal for such a module. I can rattle of more than 100 modules that cost at least 5 times as much and feel like the phoned-in paint-by-numbers designs of amateur hacks in comparison.
Why am I talking so much about the totality of his work so far? Because even in this extremely impressive canon of works, Seven Sinful tales stands out. What would be an array of bland sidequests in the hands of a lesser author has more heart and soul in the introduction or one of its mini-adventures than most 100-plus-page epics ever achieve. This module has comedy, tragedy, investigation, wilderness survival, smart puzzles, a ton of social challenges and roleplaiyng opportunities, gorgeous adversaries, interesting terrain. It has, in short, everything.
That alone would make it already a must buy module. It's more than that.
I mentioned this before, but this module's subject matter pertaining no-good parents and their very mortal shortcomings can hit close to home for some of us; but the depictions are not mean-spirited. This is not grimdark and neither is it a feel-good fairy-tale, though it can be tweaked in either way. This is an allegory. There is a saying that the parents are gods to the kids and that sooner or later, their mortal shortcomings will result in disappointment, disillusion, rage...and so on. I can relate. I've been there. The problems the kids face herein are significant and every person who wished for superheroes to take them away, to resolve the issues they face will relate to this module's stories at one point or another. The ultimate moral here, is that external persons can help resolve issues and that asking for help in dire circumstances may be required...but also that even a successful intervention does not necessarily fix everything. If your players are good roleplayers, this module can actually provide a catharsis for those of us who suffered from less than perfect parents; it can help mitigate the issues kids can have with their parents and their shortcomings, for even in the most comedic of the stories, the respective parent is not beyond redemption, the future not necessarily bleak, even in the case of the kid left orphaned. There is always light. The world always goes on.
I played this module twice and the envy and lust stories may need to be toned down a bit for kids; otherwise, depending on sensitivity, from ages 8 or 10 upwards, this works rather well when used with younger players. (Though they should have some experience with the system - this is not a cakewalk of a module!) Kids in puberty may actually eat this one up. That being said, if you want to emphasize this component, I'd suggest a slightly more somber end: Return the PCs sans a parade of happily ever after families. Then ask the players what *they* think happened thereafter. What the parents and kids have learned, what the consequences of the PC's actions are and how things will turn out. Engage in dialogue. When handled properly, this module can actually defuse issues.
Well, or you can just run this as one awesome blend of all the virtues of old-school and new-school gaming: Internally consistent, with a great and creative story, memorable NPCs, a diverse variety of challenges and all of that sans railroading. To make that abundantly clear: I consider this to be the 4$D-module that had me slightly choke a bit while reading, yes; frankly, it resonated. At the same time, it is, and that should NOT be understated, FUN, as it should be. This is not l'art pour l'art - this may be the first time I've seen a module fully cognizant in its design as a means to teach about our very human shortcomings as both parents and kids within the medium of gaming; all sans a raised finger and jamming morality down our throats; it shows and doesn't tell; it teaches by experience, not by reading a text.
I'm rambling, I know, but I need to drive this home: This module, when taken only on its merits as a module, as nothing more, nothing less, is excellent. But it transcends what I have seen any author do with the medium. It can leave people better persons for having played it. It can actually deliver the eureka effect usually reserved to novels, philosophy and the most inspiring of movies. This is not rated by my scale, it pushes it. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I was pretty skeptical about the premise. It worked out. Perfectly. This module has just raised my expectations, what I thought possible within the means of our medium. This may well be the first module I have read that truly deserves being called valuable from a humanist point of view and in the hands of the right GM, this can resonate more than all the earth-shattering apocalypses and demon-hordes you can possibly dream of.
My one regret here is that I have to operate within the very tight space of the usual rating system, so bear with me for a second: Picture seeing the star-shaped rating section of the online RPG-vendor of your choice. Now picture me teleporting in, slamming a post-it with one extra star right next to the 5 on the screen and vanishing. Every time you look at this module, mysteriously, the damn post-it phases in and tells you that this module is a one-of-a-kind experience that can make you laugh, make you cry, make you love more and become a better person...or just have a really great time. For 4 bucks. THAT is my rating. Post-it-teleport-in-level of ridiculously good and valuable; not only as a module, but for gaming in general. Since the teleport-thing, alas, only works in one's mind and the artifacts of our civilization demand such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval...oh, and this is a very hot contender for my number 1 spot of my Top ten of 2016.
Okay, you've read me gush and rave about this for more than 3500 words...so please...go ahead and buy this. We need authors that take chances, that are not content with games as only mindless entertainment, when they could be entertainment that also improves us in the very strictest sense of the philosophical concept of Bildung.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, etc.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This module for 13th Age clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The first thing you need to know pertaining this module is the structure: Wade Rockett's excellent icons (first introduced on the Kobold Press blog and in the 13th Age Deep Magic book) have a hand in the action going on in this module - they determine the approach to the item the players are after. And it should be noted that the items actually come with suggested abilities. The module can be played in a 4-hour slot, but can be hastened to a 2-hour high-intensity action-romp, with proper guidelines provided - I actually tried it out and it works!
This being a review of an adventurer-tier module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should steer clear and skip ahead to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Great! Okay, so I already mentioned that the module obviously has a significantly modular structure, right? Well, the module is all about recovering the aforementioned item of power from a dwarven airship that has crashed in the desolation of the tainted Wasted West, which is now inhabited by the deadly, undead former crew. Depending on the icons the GM chooses, you may choose a rival faction of adversaries - a total of no less than 5 such teams are provided: From Mharoti explorers to shadow fey and minotaurs or derros, the teams come all on their own, handy cheat sheets, including notes on their size depending on PC group-size. Beyond that, befitting of the horribly-mutating nature of the wasted west, the module provides suggestions for reskins of the creatures herein. As a whole, the set-up provided for the GM allows for a significant replay value and the option to easily add in more groups if the players have too easy a time when dealing with the adversaries.
The module's actions begin with the ramshackle town of "Small Comfort", ominously named and the fully mapped, and it is here a portal with blow open and potentially render the small and desolate place a full-blown battle-field between the adventurers and the rival team. Pressing forward and potentially leaving ruins behind, the PCs will descend into the deathless defile, where a village of the notorious ghost goblins rests and allows for either diplomatic or lethal problem-solving. Beyond these, PCs will have a chance to eliminate another group of rivals and, when finally reaching the eponymous, crashed Volund's Glory, the PCs will have to eliminate the dread undead that once were the crew to claim their due.
The copious appendices also include an array of neat adventurer-tier magic items and yes, we get brief icon sketches, enough to run it.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The cover artwork is also represented in this book in a gorgeous full-color page.
Wade Rockett's "Wreck of Volund's Glory" is perfect for quick, fast-paced no-frills convention play; think of this as a kind of highly modular, fast-paced action romp through a kind of post-apocalyptic environment. With speed, evocative backdrops and a high-paced set-up, this module is all about presenting some of the highlights of the evocative Wasted West. The module itself is pretty simple, but, like a good action movie, it works exceedingly well...and turns out different in every time you play it, which is pretty cool indeed. Ultimately, this renders the book a fun, fast-paced action-module well worth of a final verdict of 5 stars.
Part II of my review:
So, if you're looking for OSR-rules, through a shade darkly, then this book will deliver in spades. The weirdness, though, stems mainly from what you (and LotFP's cadre of authors) do with the framework presented by these rules; there are glimpses and hints of the things to come, there are small tweaks in the system here and there that already show some of what's to expect - but as a stand-alone book, this simply is a retro-D&D-system with dark fantasy/horror-conductive tweaks and great production values. Even if you are not interested in the system or the art, scavenging the concise and simple encumbrance system or some of the other modifications is done easily enough - even for use in a regular fantasy setting/with other OSR-rules. The transparency is there and the operations simple.
How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, this is one of my two favorite OSR rulesets. In my own OSR-games, I mashed this one and S&W together until they became a horrifically gibbering monstrosity. If you eliminate all the controversy and the focus on the excellent art, this book remains a more than solid rulebook - and one whose merits you can ascertain for free if said controversy-inducing art doesn't interest you anyways. For the low price point of the pdf, the art we do get is exceedingly impressive (if you like dark and gory artwork) and the quality and merits of the rule set are pretty evident. You can complain about the aesthetics, they are a matter of taste; but I can't see any true faults with the rules presented herein. Making the specialist not suck and customable is awesome and I love what was done with the spells and the encumbrance system is genius.
So yeah, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, I will cover more of the darker OSR-material now that I've covered LotFP's basic rule book.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, rpg.net etc.