|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
@Luthorne: Thanks for seeing the salacious glitch - that one actually escaped me. Seeing how comparable items work, I'd say that +1 is the correct bonus.
Dear Fellow Paizonians!
(An apology to the patreons and readers of endzeitgeist.com who will see a variation of this message in their patreon-feed!)
As some of you will know, my financial situation isn't the best - quite frankly, without my patreon, I couldn't do any reviews at all. As in: "I'm working all day to scrape by." The patreon literally keeps the lights on right now.
While my trip to Copenhagen and job application there and at other places (as some of you may know, I've been pretty busy in that regard) *may* remedy that situation, for now, my resources are incredibly stretched; they have been so for quite some time and I'm working hard to change that fact. I don't really talk much about it or advertise much of that aspect of my life since frankly, I'm ashamed of being poor in spite of my qualifications.
Anyways, I am working hard to change that reality, but this post is about something awesome - something that can benefit you:
There's a colossal bundle of AWESOME books gathered together by publishers, authors and friends with one goal: To make it possible for me to actually attend Gencon. The flight is far beyond my capabilities to afford; same goes for the other components associated with attending. It's a long shot, but guess what? You have nothing to lose and the bundle contains some of the most glorious books out there!
AAW Games' "For Rent, Lease & Conquest"; Fro God Games' legendary "Cyclopean Deeps"-saga; Rite Publishing's "Breaking of Forstor Nagar" & "Secrets of the Masquerade Reveler"; Kobold Press' "Courts of the Shadow Fey"; Everyman Gaming's legendary "Ultimate Charisma"; Legendary Games' glorious grimoires and must-own "Mythic Solutions"; Rogue Genius Games' classic make-Bravery-suck-no-more "Bravery Feats" and "Hellfire Magic"; the glorious "Pixies on Parade" by Playground Adventures; LPJ Design's awesome Ultronesque Cyrix - and that's not even close to everything in the bundle! Notice something? These are pretty much crème-de-la-crème of files, the top-tier-OMG-must-have-books.
And yes, when I got back from my trip and saw this, I actually teared up!
So take a look at those gems and the HUGE discounted bundle of awesome material here.
If you just want to get me to Gencon and don't care about those awesome books (or already have them), you can actually donate here on OBS via Pay what you want - so yeah, if this works out, I may actually be able to *finally* meet some of you awesome folks in person and roll the bones with you! Finally, if you dislike OBS, you can also directly donate here on paypal!
I'd certainly love to talk shop with you all and talk to you fine folks in person!
Thank you for reading this. And to all the publishers that contributed to the bundle and everything -I'm absolutely blown away. Words fail to properly encapsulate what I'm feeling right now. Roleplayers are simply stellar people. Thank you.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
And now for something *completely* different - this book clocks in at 92 pages. While I do own the electronic versions, I'd suggest getting the print version if you can - mainly since I'm old-school and have based this review on the print copy.
This book was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book in exchange for a critical, unbiased review.
Okay, so what is this? It is, at least to me as a German, a piece of gaming arcana: Back in the 3.X days of old, there was a Living campaign of organized play called Living Greyhawk, shaping the classic world, with different regions sporting different adventures. During the impressive 8-year run of Living Greyhawk, the region Bandit Kingdoms produced more than 130 unique modules. These modules, to my knowledge, have never been published in a concise form, which renders a part of this region's turbulent history...opaque.
Well, no longer. The bandit kingdoms in their diversity are laid open in this book's summaries and depictions. Okay, but why should you care? Well, let me elaborate for a second my own personal stance towards Greyhawk. I know this is tantamount to blasphemy, but here goes: I was never the biggest fan of the setting. Sure, I was pretty excited to get to know the place Mordenkainen called home, where Vecna and Kas feuded...but ultimately, the 3 settings I truly loved from the classic TSR/WotC-IPs will always be Ravenloft, Planescape and Dark Sun. Perhaps it's my own predilection for darker fantasy and horror and the weird fiction in general, perhaps it's just a resonance of the disillusion that accompanied many a book and gaming-supplement for 3.X's FRs and the mounting feeling that this world needed no heroes. I'm not sure. But at the end of the 3.X era, I had the feeling that the realms had devolved into a mess, where every hamlet had a level 16 blacksmith. It's subjective. I still like the realms...but from afar. It should hence come as no surprise that I never went truly deep inside the Greyhawk's canon's evolution during these times.
Turns out that that was a colossal mistake. The flair and old-school vibe of a world close to the brink, with mature shades of grey mentalities and ideologies, the sense of threats I enjoy in offerings by Raging Swan Press, Frog God Games or TPK Games can be found within these pages - as the introduction aptly puts it "I had to save the bad guys from the other PCs." In the Iuz-dominated and war-torn bandit kingdoms, royals are forged by tourneys of madness, taking the crown may spell your doom and heroism has still its place, although it's tinted with a healthy dose of survivalism and realpolitik. From 591 - 598, this book chronicles the adventures that were undertaken by countless players, shaping the destiny of the bandit kingdoms in struggles that deviate from the tired challenge-rating-appropriate-formula in quite a few instances, breathing a sense of old-school danger that has been absent in far too many publications. A handy index sums up the respective scenarios by year for your convenience and we also get a glimpse behind the screen, wherein author Casey Brown, one of the meta-organization coordinators, discusses the respective issues with scenario designs and encounter design problems that resulted from some...well, let's say less than well-conceived design decisions that were imposed on the respective authors.
Now here is the interesting component - this massive book provides a comprehensive list of extensive summaries for all those aforementioned modules. The respective modules come with their own designation, the name of the author and list the AP they are associated with - with AP here denoting the sequence of modules that form a cohesive story, not the "whole campaign"-meaning the term has lately taken as its primary meaning. Each of the respective modules comes with a synopsis of the plot as well as a commentary.
Here would be as good a place as any to talk about Casey Brown's obvious experience in academia: From informative and properly placed footnotes to an easy to read, compelling style, what should by all accounts have been a pretty dry read actually became rather engrossing and kept me awake at night while digesting all the information contained herein - also from a mechanical standpoint, for e.g. calling out the Spell compendium (still hurts to type that book's very name). And yes, these tangents are brief, but their very existence is something I truly appreciate. Additionally, if that sound tiring or bland to you, the respective entries often feature extensive commentary that satisfy another craving of the conditio humana we experience: The human element. When e.g. a knight has won a crown as part of his retirement and steps down in favor of his competitor, only to have said competitor be soultrapped by the vile opposition, you can practically see the tables upon tables of players staring in utter disbelief. When an arrogant player's letter results in him becoming part of the metaplot, when a dwarf's famous last stand becomes a symbol for heroism in a region known for cut-throat politics, betrayal and dishonor - then the knowing roleplaying veteran nods and realizes that there are some stories that are only written in our medium, at least in the extent and impact they have on lives and collective ideologies shifting.
The compelling and intelligently-crafted political landscape of the bandit kingdoms, slowly unraveling before my eyes, complete with a powerful (almost) undefeated dragon, a kind of elder evil and Iuz' nigh-unstoppable forces ultimately provides a truly compelling insight into a whole campaign's worth of material, with a massive list of adventures by associated AP and a timeline that chronicles the events by year from CY 576 onward, this book offers a fascinating insight into the rich landscape of this region.
Beyond that, the pdf also offers intriguing miscellanea: Including favorite quotes...and they are hilarious: "You say medusa, I say artist." DM: "You hear a bloodcurdling scream from down the hallway." Player of a rogue: " I Take 10 searching the square in front of me." "We have two kinds of heroes: dead ones and...we have one kind of hero, actually." This book ends with a list of those who served as triad and Iuz circle members.
Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no glitches of hiccups. The book's layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. One thing that may annoy you is the tendency to have a blank page at the end of a chapter, but that's about it regarding complaints in formal criteria. The electronic version comes in three formats: Pdf, EPUB and MOBI and the print and the classic cover style, with the book sporting the 8 x 02 x 10 inch-dimensions. The pdf, in a minor complaint, is not bookmarked, which is a bit jarring. The paper used in the print does its job regarding its thickness and consistency.
Okay, so why should you care about a by now non-existent, discontinued living campaign? The obvious reason would be nostalgia on part of the participants...but that alone does not do the job. More important, for me as a reviewer is that this book made me actually want to participate in organized play. Pretty much for the first time. I'm not a fan of formulaic or necessarily "Balanced" or "fair" modules - I want a compelling, evolving world and this is a truly astounding glimpse right into such a world. I am neither a big fan of Arcanis, nor of the Pathfinder Society or Greyhawk, as a setting for that matter. But damn, I want to play this. Had I lived in Texas and Oklahoma during this campaign's run, I probably wouldn't have missed a single adventure. The picture painted vividly in this chronicle is that of a campaign that is mature, compelling and dynamic. Beyond the knowledge on the formal aspects conveyed herein, this can be considered to be one of the most compelling takes on roleplaying history I have ever read - and it is an inspiring book. I put this book down and started scribbling scenario-ideas and campaign seeds right of the bat - so even if you are not at all interested in Greyhawk, bandit kingdoms or anything like that, you still get a lot of mileage out of this book.
Casey Brown, Britt Frey and Austin "Theo" Judd have crafted a thoroughly unique document that has its special place of honor on my bookshelf - whether for the Lost Lands, the anarchic regions of Golarion or any other campaign setting, really - this book has a ton to offer for people who don't care about Greyhawk at all. An inspired chronicle that got me excited, a book that is testament to the fact that major story-changes by players can and should happen in living campaigns, a book that does show that there is fun to be had in darker settings and dangerous challenges - what more can you want? This is an inexpensive, awesome book and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and amazon.com.
Oh, one thing: Before anyone flags this as in wrong forum: This very much works with PFRPG, being mostly about the ideas and the structure, hence why I posted this here as opposed to the "Other RPG"s-section.
@Mosaic: Same thing happened to me; but unlike Throne of Night, they at least were open about everything and explained it. *AND* the KS was intended, from the get-go to keep them in business, not grab products, so at least for my part, I'm glad the ultimate goal there succeeded. I won'T lie, I was somewhat annoyed as well, but in the end, the qualitatively high follow-up books made it worthwhile for me.
Aye, but you *can* do that potentially; as mentioned, in my test, the PCs considered them a threat ("You're not colonizing ANY planet!"), but the ally angle works as well. I was particularly interested how the module begins intentionally as "generic adventurer sidequest xyz" and then completely flips the expectations. So yeah, this played rather well. And, as always, thanks for the kind words, Eric! :D
Wraithguard, for what it's worth Cerulean Seas is an EZG Essential book; that means I consider it a must-have in all of my campaign for the inevitable underseas adventuring. I haven't regretted having a single book from the product line. They're worth their normal price (and owning them in print); at the reduced price, they are a steal.
Aye, the review will hit Paizo et al tomorrow. :)
And thanks for the kind words, Tom!
Eric: I'm currently knee-deep in a big 5e-conversion job, a big PFRPG-dev-job with lots of complex statblocks and obviously I strive to maintain reviewing at my usual frequency I also had the most important assessment center test of my life on Tuesday (keep your fingers crossed for me!) and...then there's real life concerns. So yeah, crazy busy, but not necessarily in a bad way.
LG does not own AAW Games; The chief of LG is Jason Nelson, the master of AAW is Jonathan G. Nelson, same last name, but completely different people. As far as I know, adventures are just as expensive and generally have thinner profit margins than e.g. crunch-options. That being said, I hope Alluria can continue producing material - I supported their last KS and would love to see some modules in Cerulean Seas.
Yeah, basically all the things my fellow reviewer Malwing said, plus unbalanced archetypes, plus option for infinite healing, etc....I *really* want to like this class and enjoy its idea and mechanics, but it needs serious work. I wanted to like it...really hard...and it may work for some tables...but even though I *really* wanted to rate it higher, I couldn't. In fact, I probably should have been harsher on it...but oh well.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The second installment of the Astonishing Races-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving su with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!
As in the installment on gripplis, we begin this supplement with an extensive amount of fluff that properly sets up the race - and yes, this basic set-up divorces kobolds from the dragon-angle, so if that is what you've been looking for, it's a nice alternative. Takes on alignment, nomenclature etc. are covered.
Racial stat-wise, dog-faced kobolds get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, are Small goblinoids witha base speed of 30 ft. and gain darkvision 60 ft., scent and the swarming ability, meaning that two can occupy the same square. They also get +1 to Stealth and Survival and may use said skills sans penalty while moving 20 ft. Overall, this makes them a pretty solid race on par with core and not a penalized issue like the default 5-RP-kobold. (though playing such a character has its charm!) Age, height and weight tables are included and do not deviate from those of the standard kobolds.
The pdf also includes a significant array of alternate racial traits for your perusal - hatred versus gnomes, Beast Trainer, a 1d3 bite (As a cosmetic complaint: This one's not noting damage type, but gets, and that's more important, primary/secondary classification right!), a rash-inducing skin, better initiative or tripping...some cool customizations here. Similarly, better darkvision at the cost of being automatically dazzled in bright light can be found. And no, I did not list all of those.
"Wait", you'll be asking, "where's the dog-faced aspect coming in?" Well, that would be via the racial heritages. These basically constitute alternate racial feature-packages: Golden Champions get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int and +1 to AC and Ref versus larger foes instead of swarming. Flat-faced kobolds get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int and +2 to select skill as well as Craft (traps) and Stealth as class skills instead of ambusher. Seaborne kobolds get Str and Wis +2, Int -2 and a reduced speed of 20 ft, but +1 Profession (Sailor) and 10 ft. swim speed instead of ambusher. The house kobold, finally, gets Dex and Int +2 and Wis -2 as well as proficiency with snare poles and nets instead of swarming. These packages universally are balanced, solid and I see no issues with them.
The pdf, as the first one, also contains a TON of favored class options: And unlike in most publications, you actually want to read them for more than the mechanical benefits, as they have some nice fluff that grounds the class in the context of the race. The favored class options, just fyi, are VERY extensive and cover the ACG and Occult Adventures classes as well as the classics. Mechanics-wise, there also are some uncommon choices: More channel damage to creatures caught sans Dex-mod, for example. Interesting and fitting. Slightly weird, though: The format is slightly inconsistent: Usually in these Astonishing Races-books, you get the flavor in plain text, the mechanical benefits in italics. The bard lacks the italicization and Shaman and Slayer lack the flavor-text, which is something that should probably have been caught - their absence is apparent at a single glance, the rules-text there, obviously, not italicized. I'm not complaining hard here, mind you - just stating that this inconsistency wasn't necessary.
The pdf also provides racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Guerrilla Leader (Brawler), who gets proficiency with simple weapons and thrown weapon fighter group weapons and light armors. They may use Brawler's Flurry with spears and thrown weapons, but not monk weapons or those from the close group. This ability does NOT grant Quick Draw (erroneously called "Quickdraw" here), which means that, for full functionality, we have a feat tax in the ability. It should be noted that pretty much all follow-up abilities of the archetype build on the concept of swarming, so that racial trait is locked in as well. The unique shtick of the archetype, just fyi, is entering the space of a creature as a quasi-combat maneuver, thus causing both the brawler and the creature to receive the entangled condition. Later, they can drag allies into the same space, which is pretty funny in my mind. This is kinda cool in theory, but in practice less useful, considering the archetype pay for the scaling improvement with maneuver training and the awesome blow abilities. Additionally, it leaves me with the question whether e.g. single-target effects that move one target in the square now move all three or not - since moving through squares occupied by hostiles is problematic. Basically, this is a cool idea, but needs some clarification - as written, it is a can of worms waiting to be opened. Using martial flexibility for teamwork feats is interesting, though.
The second archetype, the trapster rogue, is, you guessed it, a trap specialist - relatively nice: The archetype has a couple of rogue talents with which he can steal portable traps and even add the effects of select rogue talents to traps and add additional triggers. Not bad, but neither too novel - and some sample weights for traps that are carried around would have been useful for the GM.
The pdf also sports a selection of mundane items - from bird netting and feed to territory markers in 2 variants, trapped cages and whistle traps, the selection here is solid.
The pdf also sports 5 racial feats: Expert Trainer allows for the quicker training of animals (and is named like a Paizo feat that does something completely different), False Trail lets you put down, you guessed it, a false trail. Hidden Ambusher is a sniping feat for moving from concealment to concealment, while Swarming Expert and Swarming Sacrifice provide means to exempt kobolds from AoOs of foes and 1/day force a foe to roll twice, take the lower result and hit your ally. The feats range from useful to should have been a feat-use to, in the latter case, should scale regarding daily uses - 1/day reroll when having a kobold share a square with you may be cool...but on its own, it's not worth a feat.
The pdf also sports 4 magic items: Scepters of Subject Summoning allow you to whisper into them to have minions, cohorts or followers hear your message. Pricey, but an item that, due to lack of range limitations, can be very useful...or at least flavorful for the villain. Incense of Creature Location lets you determine the distance and direction of creatures or subtypes. Swarm Collars net animal companions the swarming ability and allow them and their master to be considered flanking when attacking the same foe from the same square. Wild Growth Grit can make difficult terrain...or even impassable terrain; it can also be thrown to ineffectively entangle targets. As a nitpick: Imho there should be a work-intense way of clearing impassable terrain - I can't see overgrowth withstanding a meteor swarm and retaining its impassable nature...then again, at 10 K and with only 10 applications, this is a costly means of delaying pursuers and one mostly appropriate for campaigns with a somewhat fairy tale style bent.
The pdf closes with a massive dressing table of 50 random dog-faced kobold features: From loving the moon and sometimes howling at it to considering oneself to be a miniature worg, hiding from everyone...or worshiping the squirrel lord, this table had me smile, drips with humor and roleplaying potential and ends the pdf on a high note.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - there are some hiccups among the finer rules-interactions and, as mentioned above, some minor formatting inconsistencies and typos - not much, mind you. But they can be found. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for this series and the pdf comes with bookmarks. Artworks are nice and full color, as we've come to expect from master Hershey's company.
Taylor Hubler's dog-faced kobolds are a nice alternative for the default kobold-PC-race: While generally, one could conceivably blend the two and not lose too much, it's nice to see a 10+ RP variant of the kobold. The alternate racial traits are varied and fun and the subtypes similarly make sense, with none being overpowering -the base race material herein is suitable for even low fantasy campaigns - which is a good thing in my book. As in the first Astonishing Race-pdf I reviewed, I was positively surprised by the favored class options in this book.
A more mixed bag would be the archetypes and feats - both vary in potency a bit and while I like the swarming-trick as such, it also opens up a couple of issues in the math and rules-interactions: Special size modifiers, really big foes, interaction with movement forcing effects...While these instances are rare and the rules that are here are concise, I still consider that component problematic. On a plus-side, the alchemical and mundane items are flavorful and the dressing table at the end is gold.
How to rate this, then? That depends - if you're in it for the feats and archetypes, you probably will be a bit disappointed. Similarly, if you wanted a more thorough emphasis on the dog-aspect or more variety there, you may end up wanting more diverse heritages and/or more "doggy" traits and tricks. This pdf will also not blow you away with crunch innovation...but that isn't its goal in the first place.
If you were looking for a balanced take on the kobold on par with core races and a slightly different, generic, yet sufficiently distinct fluff that still feels "koboldy", then this may well be for you. All in all, I can see purchasers either considering this a 3 star or 4 star-file, depending on what they're looking for and how one weighs components. Since I really can't decide, I will settle on a verdict in the middle - 3.5 stars...and will round up due to my policy of in dubio pro reo. I can see people enjoying this book and considering it good, even though, personally, the crunch didn't blow me away.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are top-notch - I only noticed a handful of glitches in a book of this impressive size, making this one of the most refined books you can find. Layout adheres to Pelgrane Press' superb 3-column full-color standard for Night's Black Agents and the book is chockfull with awesome full-color artwork - if there is an NPC, he or she will have a great artwork. Add to that great establishing shots and a high art-density in general and we have a gorgeous book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, while the print copy (which you *should* get) is a high-quality hardcover with glossy, thick paper - a book made to last. My copy also featured a gorgeous cardboard 1-page-sized rendition of the glorious artwork of a potential castle of Dracula.
Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, with support from Heather Albano, Paul Baldowski, Kennon Bauman, Walt Ciechenowski, Justin Farquhar, Elsa S. Henry, Carol Johnson, Marissa Kelly, Shoshana Kessock, Shawn Merwin, James Palmer, Nathan Paoletta, Will Plant, Wes Schneider, Christopher Sniezak and Paul Veccione have created a book that can only be described as a master-piece...and then, it still doesn't doe the experience of the Dracula Dossier justice.
If you read my reviews of Esoterrorists, Eyes of the Stone Thief or similar books, you'll notice a tendency: Pelgrane Press is actually becoming rapidly one of my favorite publishers. Much like these absolutely superb tomes, the Dracula Dossier can be considered to be a book that pushes the envelope by means of its depth, customization options and the vast, ridiculous array of unique options herein. Suffused by truly unique ideas and historic accuracy, a humbling amount of unique details and more material than you can shake a stick at, the Dracula Dossier as a whole is an experience that not only ranks among my favorites in my whole reviewer-career, it is also simply superb in just about every way. Its careful research and level of detail, its interaction with Dracula Unredacted - both conspire to basically render this book a nigh unprecedented experience: The fact that Dracula Unredacted generates a real-world experience supported by research undertaken by players enhances the immersion in unprecedented ways. Better yet, this colossal tome's genius organization renders actually running the campaign a feasible task, even for directors that are new to the GUMSHOE-rules-set: The tie-ins with the Zalozhniy Quartet allow for easier, more structured beginnings to get used to the themes of the game, while also planting the seeds for the highly modular campaign-smörgåsbord contained within these pages.
This book cannot only be considered to be excellence in game-design, it is also educational and pretty much the pinnacle of careful, deliberate and capable research. I honestly sat down with my own copy of Dracula and compared texts. I did research...and ended up being more impressed rather than less by the attention to detail and care that went into this book. Note that most texts, whether academic or otherwise, tend to elicit the opposite response from me.
This is, pretty much, a system-seller experience unlike any other you may have encountered during your experiences with investigative RPGs. It's, in one sentence, a milestone for our hobby as a whole. Obviously, my rating cannot be anything but a full 5 stars + seal of approval for this masterpiece. And yes, this is obviously a candidate for my Top Ten of this year; in fact, it is a hot contender for the number 1 spot! Seriously - even if you aren't interested in Night's Black Agent's - at least get the Dracula Unredacted book...though, if my prediction holds up, that book will make you get this Director's Handbook as well. They are simply too good to pass up. And yes, I hope I'll be able to review more of these absolutely superb GUMSHOE-books in the future!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.cm, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, rpg.net and amazon.com.
Part II of my review:
Which brings me full circle to this book - this is literature, yes. This is the original Dracula...but it is more. The premise of this book is deceptively simple: Dracula is real, there was a conspiracy, things went horribly wrong. Now the original file has fallen into your hands - with annotations by no less than three generations of agents fighting the vampiric conspiracy...or are they? Dracula has always existed in the fringes, in the haze; the demarcation line between light and day, passion and control, norms and rebellion - and now, once again, his narrative is put into the context of a new age, a new medium that is, much like Dracula, at the same time an old medium: This is a gaming supplement and it is literature. It is a fusion of the old and new, of nostalgia framed by no less than 3 meta-narratives - whose intrusion into the text is handled surprisingly smart. In color-coded hand-written notes and annotations, they tend to ultimately crop up in the filler-scenes, remark upon small, seemingly unremarkable details...and add whole new meaning and ultimately, terror to the book. When one can see the inevitable happy end approaching, one knows that it's, in fact, not the end - and we get to know why.
One of the achievements of the annotations and new content is that they take the small bits and pieces and point them out to the readers; Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan did their research: Did you know that the first, Icelandic edition (Makt Myrkranna - Sagan af Drakúla greifa) of this book has a preface that mentions Jack the Ripper? Well, I did, but only because I studied both Icelandic and English literature extensively. Well, this book is full of such interesting tidbits...and the sheer fact that the original Dracula and his behaviors have become alien to our sensibilities, that he, indeed at this point is different from our expectations of what Dracula is, makes reading this book intriguing to say the least. But what about the clash of narrative voices? I actually indulged in a little experiment and handed this book to a friend of mine who had not read the original Dracula - and guess what? She was flabbergasted when she realized that this was not all penned by Mr. Stoker - Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have mastered the peculiarities of Stoker's style and vocabulary to the dot and, as a whole, this rendered "re-reading" Dracula actually a fulfilling experience, in spite of my excellent memory..
How good is my memory? Well, unless I have to look up a particular wording, I do not read any books twice. I can still recall the plots of movies, books, comics...the whole shebang I have consumed. My memory, at least for the purpose of retaining this type of information, seems to be quite pronounced. This means I basically remembered the whole original book. I still had more than just a bit of fun - the 3 meta-narratives and their epochs that are reflected in verbiage and in how they interact, lend a whole new dimension to an already inspired, intriguing book and the new bits and pieces integrate so seamlessly into the overarcing structure, they actually enhance the plot rather than just stretching it - this is, in fact, a better piece of literature than the original.
We are gamers. We are roleplayers. This is literature and, at the same time, the most massive hand-out I have ever held in my hands. So go out there, get this book, preferably in print - and when your investigators or agents or simply bibliophile players find a strange unredacted file, just hand them this book. It's perhaps the most awesome set-up for a campaign you can wish for, a huge, immersive facilitator of play, a book that they can analyze, engage and pick apart - this is a gaming supplement, exceedingly educational for players and GMs alike and a glorious supplement beyond the confines of Night's Black Agents, though, obviously playing The Dracula Dossier will amplify the experience beyond belief. By the way - those strange notes spread throughout the text? Those numbers? They are here for a reason, but since that reason is relevant to the gaming aspect and not necessarily required for the enjoyment of this book, I'll cover them in the second part of this review - the one on the game mechanics book, the Director's Handbook.
For now, let me express my gratitude for reading my rambling analysis of this wonderful supplement...and then go. Get this.
I'm old-school, I'd suggest the bound hardcover I used when writing this. But the pdf has also its glorious charm: Why? Because it's a glorious handout as well - you can *tease* this book...perhaps the PCs find some pages with one annotation type...and others that have another: You see, the pdf is layered and allows you to turn on and off the annotations of the respective agents and even the text. Hand them a white paper with only some cryptic annotations and watch agents trying to find the obscure means of making the text reappear. Yes - this is awesome from both an in-game and out-game point of view, exceedingly ambitious and a sheer joy to read and digest - a Dracula for our age. Now go ahead and weave your story with this, read a tale both old and new, literature that is a game in its experience and in its nature as a supplement. You won't regret it.
My final verdict, obviously, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and though this was released last year, I only managed to read an analyze it now - hence it is nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Get this and read Dracula like you've never read or experienced the yarn before.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek, GMS magazine and rpg.net and posted here and on OBS.