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Endzeitgeist's page

4,687 posts. 1,991 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.



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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This module clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

First things first - this is intended as an intro-adventure to psionics, so went in without expecting it to produce exceedingly complex or odd storylines. 2 pages providing a total of 4 sample pregens are provided for the convenience of players and DMs alike. This module can be used in conjunction with the Third Dawn-setting, but is not limited to it.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? The town of Jace's Stanchion has a colorful past - when settlers came, they befriended a race called hanoshafyr, a peaceful tribal people and subsequently discovered psionically-conductive phrenoric ore, which they mined to use in lieu of metal. Alas, as often, when one mines, one risks the danger of wakening something horrible and indeed, the evil that burst forth from a submerged complex proved to be formidable - only due to the massive power and sacrifice of Jace, the town's leader, could the tide be stemmed. Alas, as often, the wards are crumbling and require maintenance - in the form of psionically gifted individuals that now sacrifice themselves to keep the degrading containment functional. Worse, the rather nasty ruling family has started abducting outsiders, with the erstwhile peaceful hanoshafyr having been driven insane, but still maintaining a distance from psionically-endowed individuals.

This is important, for the PCs are assumed to be caravan guards and the very first encounter is a CR 6 monster - the hanoshafyr assault and slaughter the caravan's men, but only deal nonlethal damage to the psionic PCs - whether "saved" by the "good" folk of Jace Staunchion or escaped to the village out of their own strength, the PCs are stranded. From here on out, the short gazetteer provided for Jace's Staunchion and the rather detailed tables that reward legwork and investigation of town and creatures. It should be noted that the production values here are superb - not only do we get a glorious full-color map and village statblocks (and notable locations etc.), the notable NPCs herein ALL get their own full-color mugshots. This is definitely impressive.

Speaking of which - the town's dark secrets managed to elicit a sense of slowly creeping, palpable threat that hearkened, at least for me, back to slowly unearthing the rituals in the Fatal Frame/Project Zero-series of games, with ample and multiple skill-uses that can be used to glean information. Eventually, the PCs will want to investigate the local mine, where, should they pass the racist sibling guards and the alarm traps, they may start to piece together - they may free a still-living unfortunate from the pillar of phrenoric ore and witness the oblation, the strange wall of ectoplasm themselves while also linking the seeping nastiness with the madness of the hanoshafyr. Confronting the ruler about the lull-like memory modification in town and the strange things they witnessed in the mine, the PCs will have to defeat the powerful man - and decide where to go from here. The barrier, the customs, the powerful ruling house, the mad hanoshafyr - there are so many ways to spin this story, it should not be an issue to devise your own plots here.

The pdf also sports the monster-entry for the hanoshafyr and the psionic items used in this module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and sports a HUGE amount of glorious, original full-color artworks; more than I've seen in many a 60+-page module! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard. The cartography in full-color is also absolutely stunning, though I wished we got player-friendly versions of the maps sans those annoying numbers and legend. I hate having maps with "hotspots". The pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version - nice!

Okay, I did NOT expect this. I expected a bland little intro-adventure; you know the kind - kill a couple of orcs, slay the shadow/ogre-boss, done. The usual intro-adventure blandness that provides handholding and is just boring. This is the rebuke and anathema to all such modules.

Author Eric Hindley with Dave Harris, Jeff Lee, Josef Shindler and Paul Gazo has crammed into the few pages herein more local color, more diversity and more excitement that I've seen in quite a while. With dangerous combats, thrilling mysteries and a great combination of challenges, from combat to social, we receive a thoroughly compelling, inspiring mystery that practically DEMANDS sequels - it's that good. With the cool gazetteer and top-notch production values, the formal criteria are awesome, but they pale before the exciting narrative. While the module is challenging, it also is not overbearing or overcomplicated and, ultimately, is triumphantly psionic. It effortlessly manages to *feel* different in its execution, focus and leitmotifs. The Opened Mind blew mine; I did not expect this module to not be bland, much less expected it to actually captivate me and render me this excited! If this pdf did one thing, then it made me crave more mysteries and modules from Eric Hindley and this team - this is a stellar, inspiring psionic module and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars +seal of approval. Seriously, get this - it's pretty much a by-the-numbers example of how to craft an intro-module that is NOT boring.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com's shop and thus, absent from the pdf.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here?

All right!

The PCs have been contracted by a sect of local fanatics on the verge of eradicating weretigers, dangerous lycanthropes (coincidentally, those guys are mostly neutral, but never mind...) - arriving at the locale, the folk tell the PCs that the shrine's been closed for some time...which does not bode well. Exploring the complex, the PCs not only will have to find the various, hidden keys (which a handy table tracks!), they'll also quickly realize that NOT all is well here - information on the fanatics can be unearthed and what they find shows clearly that some kind of doom has befallen this place. Deadly traps and creatures room the halls and bespeak the revenge wrecked upon the incompetent clergy, visited upon them by Tiikeri, the rakshasa they brought into their midst, who, unsurprisingly, withstood the cleansing rituals and doubles as the big bad boss.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.

Stephen Yeardley does it again - this mini-dungeon is awesome and every DM worth his salt can expand this even further. It breathes the flair of the exotic, of pulp, offers even a tinge of moral conflict - this is awesome 5 stars + seal of approval, my favorite one so far!

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of Kobold Press' Demon Cults-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 11 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The fourth Demon Cult the series offers would be the Hand of Nakresh - who is Nakresh, you ask? He is the forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts - it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein - a kobold alchemist, a gnoll trapper, a derro sorceror, a tengu cleric and a roachling sanctified rogue make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party,a rival group, should you choose to. Beyond the basics, you should be aware that the members receive background stories and minor, loving tidbits - like the roachling's mutation, which nets him 4 hands. Small special features like this and the superb equipment (yes, influences CR) set a group apart. Well done!

As always, the pdf does sport a significant array of exceedingly detailed adventure hooks involving the cult, grouped by rough APLs and once again, the hooks go beyond the boring default, establishing some rather cool and inspired ideas and providing enough fodder for DMs to base multiple adventures around the cult. Midgard-aficionados will be glad to hear that we receive advice for using the cult in Midgard. There is a new spell herein, a variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move - I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain - do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier.

The magic items sport a demoralizing aklys and a magic monkey's paw for luck - and an artifact. This one is a beauty: The Ley-line absorber can tie in with the agendas of some members, aiming to steal magic and absorbing it for a vast power-gain of the operator - now that is a high-profile heist!

"But wait", you say - "I don't use the Midgard-setting or ley lines!" Perhaps you are wary of the ley line magic rules or perhaps it doesn't fit your concept. Well, the artifact comes with a second version, one for ley-line-less settings! Now *this* is care! Oh, and then there is the new vehicle provided herein. Nothing I could write would drive home the awesomeness of the concept better than the one line before the devices' stats: CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee's cabal of master thieves is awesome - whether as a rival party, as high-class thieves or as elite criminals, I really, really like this installment. The writing of the fluffy hooks retains the significant quality established in the series and the artifact is a cool plot-device. While the new spell did not wow me and while I wasn't too excited about the solid new items (though I love the minimalistic style of the pulpy monkey's paws!), there is this level of detail of the characters I enjoy. We have nice little tidbits, resources worthy of such an elite force...and we have a CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB. Say it with me: "CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB." Hell yeah!

Before I ramble on - there is nothing truly wrong with this pdf and while not all components blew me away, there is a lot that did incite my imagination to run with it. My final verdict will hence still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now excuse me, I need to get my villains a new ride...

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

The third part of the "Dire, Devilish Deeds"-saga clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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..

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Still here? All right! At this point, I do assume you are familiar with the premise of this series of modules - if not, please consult my review of the first 2 books. Now the second installment saw the PCs vanquish (hopefully) the first gauntlet of challenges and thus, if the inversion of the eponymous titles was not ample clue, this time around, we enter the second gauntlet. Now this warrants some explanation -this series could actually be considered a 2-part series in my book: Dire, Devilish Deeds I and II (collectively the Arcineum Devaneas-parts) covered the first gauntlet, III and IV (collectively the Devaneum Arcineas-parts) cover the second. Now, as before, the puzzles and challenges can definitely be scavenged from the books, should you choose to - but you could also easily run just one gauntlet - imho both halves can stand on their own without the second gauntlet. And indeed, the module does sport an introduction similar to the one sported in the first module of the series, thus allowing for the second gauntlet to stand alone - e.g. the tree of the worlds has been replaced by the cave of the worlds - we get essentially a kind of reskin of the intro..

The sorceror's gauntlet, which the PCs are about to enter, is obviously not a labyrinthine forest and instead takes the shape of a dungeon, which, of course, comes with a full-color map and a player-friendly version, though, as far as AAW Games-maps are concerned, this one is nothing special -it does its job, but do not expect something mind-boggling.

All right, so the premise is similar to the first gauntlet - each test herein provides first a puzzle with visual representations (including the solutions) before providing a combat challenge that can be likened to a puzzle itself, for the PCs are transformed stat-wise into creatures (apart from Intelligence and the option to communicate) - percentile HP are carried over between forms, which still require the somewhat clunky math to determine properly. Additionally, each of the combat challenges nets one letter that, collectively, makes up the final puzzle of the gauntlet.

The first puzzle already is pretty much different from the first two installments - we receive a grid with a blue and a red warrior on it, the blue representing water, the red fire. The players receive tokens that represent fire, water, earth and air-warriors - the goal, then, is to place as many warriors of non-identical elements on the board as possible - straight lines drawn through the warriors of the elements should yield no more than two warriors fighting one another, essentially avoiding a "flanking" position. Combat-wise, the PCs are transformed into celestial fire beetles that have to square off against dire rats, showing another difference - this time around, the PCs take the forms on magical creatures in their transformed shapes. If the puzzle above wasn't ample clue - in a subtle way, the puzzles of this second half of the series have a different style, working less via intuition and being based more on logic - nice to see such an example of indirect storytelling and differentiation.

Challenge number two also works this way, with an archway requiring the PCs to decipher a sentence, wheel of fortune-style (sans wheel) -perhaps it's the language-nerd, but yes, I considered this puzzle exceedingly easy. The combat challenge here would be an example wherein imho, the sorcerous creatures the PCs turn into aren't perfectly chosen - pitting celestial giant bees vs. dire bats does not feel that iconic as "arcane vs. natural" as I would have liked.

Okay, the third puzzle is kind of awesome - plates of a lot of strange combinations of arrows, plusses and the like need to be deciphered, with some symbol-combinations actually amounting to different letters. It's pretty much a nice glyph-deciphering puzzle here. The combat challenge, once again pits celestial animal PCs, here, dire badgers, against dire weasels. My previous criticism remains - celestial animals do not make interesting magical creatures for me, when there are so many intriguing options.

After this, we have a glorious puzzle - set within the earth, we can perceive a cross of massive emeralds - the task here is one of logical thinking and visual, geographic capacity - determine the amount of squares hidden in the shape of the emerald cross - neato! The combat challenge pits celestial lions versus dire boars.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is neat indeed and the map of the gauntlet is also provided as a player-friendly version. The puzzles and solutions come in handy full-color and can easily be printed out.

Okay, so this one has me somewhat torn regarding direct comparison to its predecessors - it obviously inherits the necessity to tackle Stephen Yeardley's saga on its own ground. So no change there. What I adore, though, would be the change in focus of the puzzles - somewhat away from intuition towards puzzles that are more logical and thus, feel more arcane, at least to me. The puzzles itself, universally, surpassed the predecessors for me - I really loved these. At the same time, though, the choices of which creatures the PCs transform into felt mind-boggling to me - with so many awesome magical, arcane creatures, which choose the blandest of the bland, celestial animals? Seriously, that's just not awesome. Why not use archons, outsiders, etc. and provide some more unique set-ups for puzzle-combats? Instead, the celestial animal vs. animal dichotomy, at least to me, felt blander than in the previous installments, which saw animals and elemental creatures challenge fiendish creatures and devils. To me, these pairings do fall woefully short of the premise of "arcane" vs. "nature", especially when compared to the first two installments. That being said, this is still a superb and innovative module, but one that falls behind the previous installments in combat diversity, while upping the ante regarding the execution of the puzzles.

How to rate this, then? Well, obviously, I love this saga - if you've read my first two reviews of the modules in this line, you know how much I adore the unique premise and challenges of this series. This same love extends to this pdf, but it is a love with more trepidation than before - while the puzzles render this installment in this regard my favorite one in the series, the combat challenges fall far behind regarding my enjoyment of them. In the end, this made this installment somewhat less superb for me. Also, as mentioned above, unless you only wish to scavenge content, you need Part IV, for this is only half of the gauntlet, though this, at least, will not influence my final verdict.

My final verdict will, in the end, clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 - still, if you like the premise and enjoy the saga's great puzzles, this should be considered a must-buy.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This map-pack clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving no less than 33 pages of content - so what's on the map?

Well, first of all, a couple of semi-transparent trees that allow for the easy placement of miniatures and determining line-f-sight. Secondly, we get Tommi Salama depicting drop-dead-gorgeous water that looks like you just want to take a dip. The map depicts a road leading past an isle in a body of water, with some irregular stones making for an eroded, makeshift bridge towards a small isle, on which five trees grow in a conspicuously pentagram-shaped pattern. While I enjoy small rocks near the solid land jutting forth from the waves, it is this subtle detail that provides a further level of a subtle, evocative visual element I truly enjoy.

Beyond the overview-style map featured on page 3, a total of 16 pages provide a blown-up version of the map for convenient use with miniatures for your perusal - and if you're price-conscious, the b/w-version provided thereafter should also suffice. Bookmarks render navigation to each easy. All versions of the map come with a grid.

Conclusion:

I've never made a fuss about my conviction that Tommi Salama is perhaps the heir of Jonathan Roberts - his maps are gorgeous - whether in this stunning full-color or in b/w (as can be seen in many a village backdrop by Raging Swan Press), his maps are a joy to look at. Now that alone may be nice - where things get great is when a map makes me ask questions and provides subtle hooks and unobtrusive nudges for storytelling like this one does. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval -a gorgeous, actually inspiring map for a fair price.

Endzeitgeist out.


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