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What I would really -love- would be Hero Lab data files for all the SGG stuff I can get my hands on. Especially with how much VTT I've been getting into these days playing with d20pro and numerous players, it'd be so very excellent to be able to more easily incorporate 3PP goodies in that regard.
That said, I'd personally love an SGG release that tackles building communities, bases, fortresses, strongholds, that sort of thing--a crunchy workshop for players and GMs to play with whether constructing a nifty wizard tower, booby-trapping a keep, rebuilding a redoubt or outfitting an outpost.
Something like a lean and efficient Stronghold Builder's Guidebook focusing on the baseline for adaptable systems and seeds for things. :)
This has been an incredible read so far and much kudos to Gary and the fire mountain crew; I can't help but wince throughout, some of the turns are just so -vicious-. Personally, I would desperately love to have Hero Lab and d20pro supplemental materials eventually become available for the AP, as I would quite like to roll through it with my VTT group; as much as I dabbled with putting the maps through the software, not having player versions has slowed it down and made it fairly difficult.
Count me in as excited for what FMG works on next! :)
I'm inclined to agree, and my take away had been that Step Up and Following Step were intended with that stipulation to make sure that a character was using the opportunity to pursue a foe instead of position themselves elsewhere. I figure as long as a character is moving in good faith to chase whatever monster is Big Stepping around, they're liable to still be in the clear to use their feats.
Thanks for the quick reply!
Now when is SGG going to start releasing Hero Lab data-sets for all these goodies? ;)
Question: how would Big Step interact with an adversary who possesses Step Up and Following Step, etc? Is the Big Step still considered a five foot step for the purposes of triggering those feats? Does it nullify the ability to use them if the character in question cannot satisfy the 'must end up adjacent to foe' portion of those feats with the movement they gain from such? Inquiring minds want to know. :)
Let's keep this rolling, Rappan Athuk + Slumbering Tsar + Tome of Horrors, we can begin to construct a veritable tower of babel out of big books. ;)
Also, perhaps of interest to folks: KickTraq projects this Kickstarter could exceed $300k at the current pace!
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
It was veeeerrry interesting; one of the garthiss popped in out of nowhere in the midst of some very dire circumstances and when they were about to engage one of the players--to everyone's surprised, he (the player) immediately tried to engage her in dialogue instead and spur of the moment managed to convince the timestream arrival to strike an arrangement instead.
Later on, once the dust had settled and there was much very cryptic dialogue from the garthiss (during the interim to which all six PCs at the table concurred unanimously that it made perfect sense that dinosaurs would be the ones to be running amok among timestreams,) their peculiar new 'ally' informed them that their interactions would doubtlessly meet certain ramifications--namely, other denizens of the timestream entering their lives.
It was then that the player who struck the bargain was told very loosely about the Nasr--and when I showed him a picture of the creature, his eyes got wide and he yelled "No! Nooo! Nooooooooooooooo!" at the table.
Ravagers of Time: worth every penny. ;)
Nice review End--you got me thinking, though; I'm kicking myself that I can't remember which it was now, but there was a second edition module back in the day that kicked off with the entire party being reduced down to a diminutive size and then going from there. Well, ok, there were several (including the underwater 'kingdom' with the 'giant' turtle) but it's going to drive me nuts trying to remember one in particular. Bah! At any rate, this book rocks. :)
Quite frankly, it is very feasible for a party to bury the needle -past- level 20 by the end of Tsar if they're trucking through all the content. There's just so -much- to explore and duke it out with that it really boggles! CR 16 - 20 encounters become fairly regular in the later chapters.
Well part of the premise is that Tsar works in tandem with Rappan Athuk insomuch that a large part of the armies of good and evil have 'left the field' so to speak. I don't want to spoil anything in the latter material, but I can say that there are inclusions both story-wise and mechanically to address the party drawing attention to themselves and there -are- situations where a group just trucking along will bring the house down on themselves if they're not careful.
This is definitely not just a room-by-room battle march--there really is a huge variety of environments and styles of encounter to be found. There's tons of exploration and if anything, variety is one of the Tsar saga's biggest strong points. Even insofar as getting -into- the temple city there's multiple divergent paths depending on a party's approach which could potentially eschew a 'dungeon' altogether.
As far as play, the first three chapters can be very sandbox-style hex-crawl if someone is inclined to run them that way (and there are some very good maps available for this as well.) There's four 'areas' in the Desolation and between the lot of them there's something in the neighborhood of thirty or forty 'sites of interest'--some of which are effectively mini-dungeons. Navigating the environment itself can be pretty challenging sometimes for parties as well.
The Camp, which is the respite in the Desolation for any endeavoring adventurers, has a good number of NPCs going for it--but the nature of the place suits itself very well for the inclusion of additional characters as well. If you run a 1 - 7 campaign leading up to Tsar, you can introduce a lot of extra story and character elements and work them into the Tsar run pretty smoothly.
There are also fairly frequent NPCs baked into the various environs which can be scooped up (and may potentially serve as replacement PCs as well, depending on how your group handles the campaign.) I think it's fairly safe to say that each group who runs the gamut of the full saga is apt to have different experiences (and I'd like to read how those of others go, so share them if you've got them! :)
If absolutely nothing else, I can definitely say that a full run of the Tsar Saga will get you more than your money's worth in raw game time. Our group convenes for what are generally 10 hour long sessions to play this campaign and after seven sessions since we entered the Desolation we're maybe halfway done with the temple-city's approach. Obviously different groups will vary a lot in their pace, but this is a campaign with a -lot- of staying power and plenty of challenges.
@Gnorr: I've reviewed the first 12 installments of ST, so if you're interested on how it runs, check them out!
Read End's reviews, they're what got me on board and pumped up to run the campaign and I've not regretted it. :)
Liz Courts wrote:
...D'oh. Fixing...Why did I ever think Greg would write a low-level adventure... I didn't see anything calling out a PC level specifically, but you *could* conceivably start out at first level. Though as you pointed out Gozuja, that would mean racking up Greg's character kill count some more...
It's mentioned in the introduction in book one--it is suggested that you bring a party of four to six 7th-level characters who should hit roughly 11th level by the end of the Desolation. Then again, it's also suggested that you not bring characters you're particularly attached to given the lethality of the module. ;)
I've been working with a group of seven players making their way through the Slumbering Tsar Saga. We're on week seventeen of our Tsar campaign as of tomorrow's session--but I ran the Price of Immortality trilogy to get the gang up to 7th level for Tsar. I'll say that Greg's encounters are very good at handling large parties--and that even just exploring the Desolation in the first three books has been a riot.
I would absolutely recommend the saga though for anyone who wants to play an epic adventure. So far, it's definitely been some of the most fun I've had working with a campaign--so I've been keeping a blog with session recaps and whatnot and some of the players have been keeping character journals alongside it. If you're keen on taking a peek, it's over here.
Can't wait to get the physical copy of the book--between it and the Tome of Horrors Complete I'll be able to duel-wield terrifying bludgeons!
The blog post says "this is the campaign where Good takes the battle to Evil, and will take you from an adventurer jumping at the shadows to a battle-hardened veteran—1st through 20th!" but Tsar starts around 7th level. I suppose you -could- roll up with four first level characters but you'd get run down pretty quickly! Nevertheless, glad to see this finally hit hardcover.
Very excited that this is finally out, it has been an incredible journey from the outset of it all. Though our campaign still has yet to finish the Desolation, this really is an incredibly epic run. Now I just need to segue an adventure after this ahead of time, as I suspect the gang will be hungry for more! Come on out with a 20+ campaign Frog God--and let's get some Epic Pathfinder rules, yeah? ;)
Purple Duck Games wrote:
A few quick potential examples:
A Rod of Wonder embodying chaotic magic at its finest, perhaps with progressively more elaborate options alongside the ability to focus it for random permutations of its wielder.
An Apparatus of the Crab which begins more simply at lower levels and gradually grows into its full complexity and beyond.
A storied magician's Bag of Tricks converted into a Hat of Tricks, perhaps doubling as a miniature portable hole, mini-dimension door or other side nuances.
A Decanter of Endless water which can issue forth a variety of other liquids or delve into varying water elementals / deviations of such.
An Efficient Quiver which produces a variety of specialty ammunition for different situations.
I'd also be quite keen on legendary armor entries or perhaps even a legendary weapon supplement which consisted primarily of a toolbox of creating new legendary goodies or establishing them through play (different take on the legacy system and whatnot.)
It is pretty unsurprising that this ended up being too long to fit into the regular review section, so here's my take on the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands:
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands opens up with several pages dedicated to briefing a prospective GM on how to read and run the material within; from the anatomy of an encounter to the identification of treasure, these segments provide a concise crunchy rundown--and could well serve as cheat sheets for future reference, if one were so inclined. Along with the table of stat blocks organized by challenge rating is also included a rather keen bit of poetry in reference to the Shadowed Keep itself--a nice bit of extra fluff for the adventure!
Once past the mechanical introductions, we're off to the background behind the adventure at hand--describing the rise and fall of former adventurer Valentin Ironwolf and his efforts to form a fortress to serve as hearth and home. During the pursuit of securing the safety of such for his family and holdings, Valentin's campaign ultimately led to his downfall as retribution roused among his enemies was visited at last. This development lends to the presence of the Blood Moon goblins still lingering about the fortress to this day--as well as other bits of intrigue to come.
Following the background is a footnote suggesting how a GM might incorporated the Shadowed Keep into their own campaign, among which is put forth what is probably my favorite part of the module's potential: once the party has cleared the keep, they might endeavor to claim and rebuild it themselves. Given the thorough detail and flavor of the environs throughout the module itself, I love this prospective aspect and feel that it could serve as the foundation for a campaign in and of itself.
An opportunity for a freshly formed party of adventurers to acquire a fortress of their own early in their careers is a rather cool one--and acquiring the necessary networks and resources to truly bring the keep into full swing could easily provide the foundation for many forays and adventures. To this same vein, a GM might also incorporate any number of product from among the Raging Swan stable for tribes, random encounters and the like to yield plenty of fun, flavorful adventure material for more of a sandbox-styled campaign. Excellent!
Information comes up next--both for running the module in a general sense and for providing hooks for a prospective party's allure. Lore checks for the keep are present, as are rumors to be gleaned from gather information attempts--both welcome elements. Among the reasons for their direction to the keep, I found the most interesting premise to be the pursuit of a pair of maps located somewhere within the fortress which might lead adventurers to the dwarven hold of Hadramkath. Said maps are also included as very cool player handouts, a nice bonus!
Next we find a ready reference for the wilderness territory surrounding the keep, including random encounters and terrain considerations to utilize throughout the woodlands. Stat blocks are presented for the encounters herein--while the premise also lends itself handsomely to the Random Woodland Encounters from Raging Swan as well if one is so inclined (though these would better serve after the completion of the keep if you'd rather not make adjustments to the encounters within. )
A brief overview of the keep follows, describing the different areas which serve in turn as the sections of the adventure ahead; much like the Moathouse to which the Shadowed Keep pays homage, each of these areas of the keep holds its own theme of sorts--with a different variety of encounters, obstacles and flavor to be discovered by the adventurers. A nice evocative piece of artwork is provided here to set the tone as well, along with a player handout which displays an overview of the keep's surface layout (available both with and without labels!)
Finally, the last segment before we enter the meat of the adventure itself offers suggestions for further adventures upon its conclusion. Here, the claiming of the keep is presented as one possible option (one which I am quite fond of, at that) as well as delving of the myriad caverns deep below the fortress, pursuit of the previously mentioned dwarven hold and an eerie chasm found within the under-crypts that might also be plumed.
With these segments drawn to a conclusion, we're off to the heart of the matter--the adventure itself. Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is comprised of the Watchtower of the Bandit Queen, Donjon of Ruin, Realm of the Blood Moon and the Undercrypt--and each of these sections provides a nice variation of challenges and encounters to present to an exploring party.
During his writings regarding the creative process of the module, author Creighton Broadhurst noted one of his goals being to present segments for every flavor of character to have a chance to excel at--and this is something which certainly shines through as you traverse the environs herein! Let's take a look at each of these areas and see just what they have in store. SPOILERS AHEAD: If you're a player apt to play this module, I suggest skipping from here to the conclusion of this review!
In the first stroke, the Watchtower is where you'll find a group of (mostly human) bandits holed up in their pitched struggle with the other denizens of the keep for control of the fortress. Running the gamut of the tower proves tight and quick, with small encounters which can quickly chain into their neighbors--calling upon reinforcements or falling back to their fellows depending on how battle pans out.
Gaining entry to the tower can be accomplished in a variety of fashions and beyond simply bashing one's way in through the front door and raising the alarm, a party might elect to try and scale the tower's exterior or even attempt to bluff or strike a more diplomatic entrance into the bandits' midst. Presented in the module are suggestions for how these approaches might pan out, along with appropriate DCs and reactions--a very welcome touch for easy reference.
One of the things I liked about the bandits on the whole is that they are offered with a variety of tactics and approaches to each area in which they fight. Rather than simply slugging it out with the PCs and fighting to the death, the bandits will topple tables and other furniture for impromptu cover and attempt to impede prospective 'invaders' while rallying with their fellows; if things turn ugly, many will vie to get out with their lives and lend a nicely organic feel which pervades throughout many of the encounters in the Shadowed Keep.
Each area of the tower includes a detailed breakdown of elements in the room and how they might be utilized either in or out of combat; as an example, the tables might be used for cover if hid behind or a higher ground advantage if leapt upon. Within the tower the party may also discover a pair of prisoners from whom further information, a replacement party member or additional support in assaulting later areas might be plied.
Firean Maiethil is the so-named 'Bandit Queen' of the watchtower, a half-elven fighter/cleric presented with some interesting flavor; I'd have personally liked to see her 'built' a bit differently as far as feat selection and the like, as some of the picks for her abilities in my opinion leave her a bit wanting as the 'boss' of the watchtower. These tweaks are easily affected to suit your particular style, however--and like all the encounters in the module, there are options presented to raise or lower the difficulty she presents on the fly.
After the Watchtower we have the Donjon of Ruin, a sizable structure which turns from bandits to a variety of vermin inhabitants (the largest of which being a mated pair of web-spinning spiders). The Donjon also boasts traps and even the haunting presence of Valentin's now ghostly son--presenting a rather sad scene to come upon and an opportunity for evocative roleplay. Deep within the Donjon is The Demonic Door, a fairly cool trap, before a fight with a necrophidius--potentially quite nasty for a low level party!
On the whole, the Donjon really oozes a lot of flavor throughout its environs; the evidence of what once was is found in every room and helps to paint the image of Valentin's rise and fall within. While much of the area is spent on exploration rather than encounters, there is much flavor to be found as a party proceeds. Einar's ghost presents a very compelling quest for the party to recover and lay to rest the bones of the Ironwolf family once and for all.
One of my favorite things about the Donjon is the hall in which the giant spiders are fought: since said spiders are up in the rafters, players are presented with a bit of a challenge to reach them--but might do so by climbing the tapestries or lifting one another via the chandeliers, a fun little extra element. I also enjoyed the atypical traps presented here, as most low-level modules stick with the standard pit fare; in particular, the booby-trapped door at the entrance is apt to be a surprise. The necrophidius certainly serves as a 'boss' for the Donjon and as said, might be rough!
Next we delve into the Realm of the Blood Moon, a tribe of goblins one might recognize from other Raging Swan product; I'll start off by saying that this section of the keep has an especially cool layout, map and environmental element to it which really help it to shine during exploration. To add to this, the section's opening even includes a table for random 'dungeon dressing' to further flavor areas as they are explored. Cool!
As the Blood Moon tribe has had an ongoing feud with the bandits above, they are well-used to skirmishes and defending what they feel to be their territory; tactically this means that once a party of adventurers begins to engage the goblins, they will quickly begin to make attempts to rally with their brethren--as well as to alert Ruknar, their fiendish ogre warrior chieftain, in order to rebuke the incursion on their realm.
Once again there are interesting tactics and methods to the encounters presented here; rather than a fight-to-the-death slog-fest as so often plagues early fights in a campaign, the goblins attempt to mire adventurers with tanglefoot bags and other elements, target obvious spellcasters and defensively retreat and regroup to better face their invading foes. Players will need to be swift, decisive and very careful with tackling the Blood Moon tribe or else they can very quickly find themselves in over their heads.
Among the encounters presented in the cellars of the fortress beyond the goblins you'll also find a pair of gnolls (on a mission from the Bleached Skull clan, a potential future adversary for a party), bugbears, and even the infamous gelatinous cube makes an appearance. There are also some unexpected hazards, such as an unstable well--as well as an interesting twist by way of the goblin Sar who would like nothing more than to overthrow Ruknar and may seek to enlist the PCs in achieving such an end.
Ruknar, his son Razogen and the pair's entourage are a fierce fighting force together and sure to provide a stout challenge for most low-level parties; as the 'boss' of the Realm of the Blood Moon segment, Ruknar is a beastly brute of a fellow who utilizes the unbreakable fighter archetype and a large falchion to devastating effect. Be prepared for an extremely tough fight with Ruknar, especially if the other Blood Moon goblins are able to rouse him into reinforcing them in an earlier battle during the tour of the cellars! Ruknar is a brutal boss--and a good one.
Finally, the last part of our round through the Shadowed Keep is the Undercrypt--and as one can imagine, here is where the flavor turns an eye towards the undead. As with the Realm of the Blood Moon, there are additional dressings one can roll at the beginning for extra spice to the areas ahead--while the undercrypt itself is comprised of broader chambers in comparison to the tighter confines of the floors above.
Right from the entrance we establish that this section is full of surprises--a long pit with murky water hiding a pair of fast zombies to assail anyone unfortunate enough to end up at the bottom. Further on, a caryatid is discovered in a columned hall which will doubtlessly startle most adventurers--and if that weren't hazard enough, the ceiling might collapse in said hall as well. This latter hazard is presented nicely with details from round to round on how it can progress making for another fun bonus in play.
Once the PCs have made their way past pit, sludge, column and collapse they're into the crypt itself which is presented with one of my favorite pieces of art in the module, depicting a cleric whirling a swinging censer about as if it were a meteor hammer against skeletons as vapors trail. But wait--it isn't just artwork: herein is a chained silver battle aspergillum, filled with holy water and ready for use. How often does this implement ordinarily get to see play? Awesome!
Here the party will fight skeletons, among which are a Grave Chill variety--a re-flavoring of the burning skeleton template presented herein and fitting perfectly with the presentation of the scene. If the players emerge victorious, there are some nice bits of flavored treasure to find. Beyond, the last remaining area of the crypts joins both halves--the chasm of ebon depths.
From the chasm a fight with a shadow can be found, somewhat of a 'boss' to the crypts--but the real challenge here is the corruption within the chasm itself and the eerie black waters therein. The exact execution of the necrotic corruption is left up to the GM, with several suggestions presented here--but resolving the source of such is apt to bear the party rewards and doubtless be a desirable measure if they have designs to call the keep home!
With that, we've covered the areas of the keep and found a variety of encounters, obstacles and challenges within. Each offers up the potential hooks to additional adventures to spiral off from the Shadowed Keep environs--whether the party elects to claim the fortress as their own and seek to rebuild it or simply to pursue the mysteries and threats discovered branching from within its walls.
We're not done with content yet however: following the Shadowed Keep is a collection of nine pre-generated characters which each boast a quality portrait. A cleric, fighter, rogue, illusionist, oracle, witch, ranger, a second fighter and even a magus are included and ready to play. After this are player handouts and finally a section with the artwork throughout the module collected together closes out the remainder of the book.
Overall: Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is a whopper of a module and comes packed with illustrations, maps, player handouts and reference materials. With the final copy I'm also happy to see that everything is nice and smooth on the editing front as well--a good amount of time went into such a big production! Formatting is great and there is a remarkable amount of sheer information to work with throughout the adventure; I can't stress enough that this would be a fine foundation for an entire campaign.
I'll take an aside to say that Creighton was nice enough to provide me with a review copy of Shadowed Keep a fair while back to give it proper runs--and my endeavor to do so culminated into a pair of games, one at the table, and one via VTT; it was interesting to me to find the divergences in each group's approach to tackling the keep's differing segments, their order of direction and so on--but in both cases, the two different parties had a blast and as a GM it left me keen to utilize the material as a springboard for a grander campaign.
Finally, the point I'd like to leave in the forefront is this: Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is a fine example of an adventure which is a labor of love and the flavor and style to be found shows this well. Beyond these reviews, you can check out Creighton's development journals and session recaps; this is a grand, fun adventure and deserves high marks and recommendations alike.
It likely comes as no surprise, but I definitely give the Shadowed Keep five stars and feel any group's apt to have a good time with it, be they long-time veterans at the table or players new to such adventures. Now start working on that stronghold supplement!
Thanks for the good times Creighton and I am encouraged to see that the pitched in elbow grease on editing helped! You're obligated to work on that stronghold supplement now though--going to need at least a ninety page product from you to renovate and run the newly acquired keep on the borderlands. ;)
Thanks End, and RE: Purple--it is indeed awesome, someone needs to fix the cover image! ;)
On an aside, please release another Legendary Items supplement--either for armor of the wondrous variety again--there's only so many weapon-wielding characters even in my large groups but I crave more goodies that everyone can go after! :)
Review posted--I've got to say, this is one of my favorite supplements I've yet purchased and was a lot of fun to read. I am anxious to utilize pretty much everything included here--there are tons of fantastic goodies and the minimimic was especially awesome!
Something weird happened with the cover image on the site though--in the product itself, it is the standard Purple Duck purple.
As far as the venom harvesting rules, my suggested fix is to just have critical hits increase the amount removed by 50% so that the minimum dosage removed becomes 2, 2, 3, 6, 12 etc. You still have fifty-fifty odds of no poison being available while not having it be utterly impossible in the event of a crit.
We've been using these in our Slumbering Tsar campaign and generally they've been going fairly smoothly--for the most part it is a matter of players remembering that the options are available to them. We have had a bit of a conundrum in regards to the Harvest Venom subset of Survival.
Specifically, so far as we've been able to tell in practice, it's very difficult to actually get any doses of poison and outright impossible if the critter suffered a critical hit. The available doses starts at 1 for Tiny and then doubles each size category up-- so 2 for Small, 4 for Medium, 8 for Large, et cetera.
But then a seriously injured / slain creature has potential doses reduced by 1d2--and then this number -also- doubles with each size category up past Small. Presuming you're just doubling off of 1-2 from the 1d2 roll and not doubling how many dice you're rolling, still within the realm of possibility.
However, then a critical hit doubles the removed dosage again--and it is at that point that it becomes physically impossible to ever have any doses remaining as written. Minimum removed doses before a crit are 1, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 out of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32--but once a critical hit is there, the minimum removed doses become 2, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32.
If this is intended, it should probably just read 'if a creature has suffered a critical hit it can no longer have its poison harvested'--it took us three different encounters of failed harvesting due to critical hits to really begin pondering the possibility to do so.
Further clarification would be greatly appreciated!
Great review End!
I also wanted to chime in and say that this is a cool product; I've got a review on the way, but suffice to say if you like barbarians this is a really awesome supplement!
I'd love to see Steven turn an eye towards 'Complete' style products for the classes--this one really packs more than 'just' feats for character options, you could really make an entire party of barbarians using it.
Just wanted to check in and say that I ran a small party through this dungeon recently with a mix of old school players and players brand new to the genre and they had a lot of fun. The reactions of the veterans when they recognized the worm-that-walks at the end were especially fantastic.
Minor snag: we became a bit mired and confused at the table when it came time to try and heal the throach-injected prisoners e.g. how many eggs, how many heal checks, et cetera. It didn't detract from the experience overall, but it did give us pause.
Nevertheless, fun was had and we will be looking forward to future floors of this dungeon for the gang to revisit later!