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Skeleton

John Benbo's page

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8. RPG Superstar 2013 Dedicated Voter, 2014 Star Voter. Pathfinder Society Member. 1,325 posts. 15 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.



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Nice little adventure!

****( )

I've actually had this adventure for a little while now but finally sat down to read through it- so this review is based on a read-through, not an actual playtest.

Endzeitgeist gives an excellent synopsis in his review, so I won't repeat it and instead focus on what I liked and didn't like.

What I liked about the adventure is that while the main plot points are railroaded in, for the most part there is a sandbox nature to the locations and its up to the players how to proceed. For example, the sanitarium is detailed enough that the GM can easily react to a PC who decides to go off exploring. Another situation is that the PCs have a lot of latitude in approaching the fort in the swamp. These locations are detailed enough without any real constraints placed on the PCs actions.

The dungeon at the end is very atmospheric and cool, making excellent use of enemies and adding in some unique twists here and there to keep players on their toes. I was a bit reminded of the 1999 remake of The House on Haunted Hill reading this section (and I like that movie by the way, so it's a good thing!).

What could have been maybe better would have been to play up the sanitarium some more- maybe an investigation to discover the plot point that leads to the next part instead of the way it was done. The only downside to the final dungeon is it is very linear, one room to the next, without given the players options of where they want to go. Additionally, there is a lot of really cool and creepy back-story in regards to the denizens of the final dungeon but nothing that the PCs will ever learn which is disappointing because it's really good stuff.

Overall, this looked like it would be a fun module to play and I'm strongly considering incorporating it into a future Carrion Crown campaign. If I run it, I definitely want to give players a chance to learn more of the final dungeon's back-story.


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Excellent calendar worth the price

*****

The Kobold Press calendar features excellent artwork culled from the covers of their various products (I'm looking at the Kieran Yanner picture for January right now). Each month contains the birthdays of various industry professionals, plus other important figures in the fantasy,sci-fi, and horror genres (from George Lucas to Edgar Rice Burroughs). In fact, today, 01/09, is apparently James Jacob's (creative director at Paizo) birthday! As some reviewers have said it is slightly smaller than the typical calendar but not by much and when I bought it, it was ten bucks, so a fair price (and now it's only 8). It's smaller size actually makes it easier to fit into my cramped office at work. However, it is of an overall exceptional and professional quality so I definitely recommend it.


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*****

Introduction

I was not a Kickstarter backer on this book but instead ordered it through my local FLGS (Jetpack Comics). Over the last couple of years, I have been very impressed with Kobold Press’s Midgard campaign setting books and own the setting book plus some of the supplemental books. If I had to describe the Midgard setting, it would be like if Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith met the Brothers Grimm and conceived a world that echoed our real world myths. It is a dark, gritty world that at once feels familiar yet its sword and sorcery influence makes everything fresh and new.

Midgard Tales collects 13 adventures set in the Midgard campaign world, ranging from levels 1-11. The adventures are not interconnected, covering a wide expanse of Midgard’s geography, however, each comes with enough hooks so that a GM can easily create a reason why the PCs are in that locale. Some of the adventures utilize creatures from the Midgard Bestiary- so if you don’t own that book, you may have to substitute some of the monsters out. I do not consider this a negative- in fact it makes sense (and sales!) as this book is designed to be used with Kobold Press’s Midgard products.

So What Got Me Excited?

1. Diversity of Adventures- Out of 13 adventures, no two felt like they were alike. Each adventure had its own unique voice that set it apart from the others, and not just because of its location, but the way the adventure unfolded.

2. Excellent mix of roleplay and combat opportunities- Not only where each adventures unique from each other, but within each adventure there was a great mix of diversity between opportunities for roleplaying and combat. My group and I prefer about a 50/50 split so these are definitely adventures that fit our play style. Obviously some fall more on one side than the other, but nothing is a “grind.”

3. Excellent writing- I felt the quality of writing was excellent and consistent amongst the adventures. Each was able to tell its own story in a tight, concise manner that was a pleasure to read. As an aspiring adventure writing, I like to not only read adventures to learn, but also for enjoyment. Additionally, I want to add that many of the adventures have a darker, more mature tone than many other Pathfinder adventures I have read. Even if the good guys win, sometimes the results are still not pretty. I like this.

4. Portability- While these adventures are set in Midgard and ooze Midgard flavor, a GM would be able to drop the adventure in any typical fantasy type campaign world. For example, I ran the adventure “Sorrow” as part of my Kingmaker campaign and set the adventure in Mivon, across the border from my PCs’ kingdom (and I didn’t even have to change the eel references). The two adventures set in the Wasted West might be the trickiest, as that is such a unique feature of Midgard. If using Golarion, however, those adventures could be set in the Mana Waste- instead of Old Ones, maybe the colossal creatures are giant Mana mutants nearly frozen by the wild magic in the area.

5. Layout and art design- This book is beautiful! The page background is the same parchment type background from the Midgard Campaign Book which creates a nice cohesive feel to the product line. The black and white style artwork feels more at home in this product than color would have and is excellently drawn. For me, this creates an atmosphere to the product that ties into the sometimes dark nature of the Midgard campaign world. It also invokes to me the look and feel of some of my favorite 2e Forgotten Realms products that utilized black and white art with a parchment type of background. The maps are well drawn and detailed and the layout is superb. I have to say, I really like the matte finish of the cover and pages versus a glossy look.

So what were some of my actual favorite adventures and why? While I enjoyed reading each of the adventures and think their respective authors did a fantastic job on them- I want to quickly highlight a few that really piqued my interest. In order that they appear-

1. Atop the Warring Blasphemies- is such a high energy adventure- running across two giant creatures with a battle going on around you! The PCs are on the constant move in this, a trick rarely used in adventure design.
2. The Dawnsong Tragedy- a sandbox type of hex crawl all inside a magical yurt! I would have liked to have seen a random encounter table for this adventure to spice up some of the empty hexes. Excellent story that integrates a hex crawl well with plenty of roleplaying opportunities.
3. To Resurrect the Steigenadler- a very unique adventure revolving around repairing your downed airship. In such a short adventure, it contains a cool subsystem involving making the repairs and protecting your camp of survivors at the same time.
4. Sorrow- I ran this one for my players and they had a blast! The feast at the beginning of the adventure is the best part, involving a lot of roleplaying if your players get into it. Then, the 2nd half, they can get their combat on.
5. Among the Red Monoliths- I picked this adventure because I really like how there were numerous ways to accomplish the different scenarios. It made me think of Assassin Creed in that way- either go all in with combat (and probably die) or using the environment to get the job done.
6. The Stacks Between- a mysterious library that suddenly appears? Reminds me fondly a bit of the Castlevania games. I like that this on a timer and the number of encounters means that players will have to manage their resources wisely and realize that not every fight needs to end in violence.

Ok, So What Didn’t I Like

My dislikes don’t have to do with the actual adventures themselves, as I have no complaints in those regards. I’m only bringing these up, because I’m reviewing the book as a whole and not just the adventures. So with that said-

1. Format/editing errors- Actual misspellings of words and similar editing errors are not that frequent but some do exist. What is more noticeable are some of the format errors- for example some of the shorthand monster statblocks might miss the CR listed or the XP. There is another weird format error where sometimes if a word contains an ability score abbreviation in it, that part of the word gets bolded. For example- Intmidate. Finally, halfway through Five Trials of Pharos, the adventure name which appears on the lefthand page abruptly changes over to To Resurrect the Steigenadler. Now, none of these errors impedes running any of the adventures. I mention them only because the adventures are so good and the book is so beautiful that I hate see to them. I know a lot of work has gone into creating this, so I want to encourage Kobold Press to be even more vigilant when it comes to proofreading to squash these mistakes so the book can be the best it can be.

2. Map errors- grammar/format aside, the one type of error that can impede play is map errors and there are some, unfortunately. With careful reading, you can deduce what is correct, but some of the errors did require me to go back and forth a few times and will take extra careful reading.
-On the Fourth Day, We Kill Them All- the first ice tower has rooms listed 1-5 in the adventure text, but the map is labeled “a,b,c.” 1-3 correspond to a,b,c but that still leaves 4,5 missing.
-Sorrow- in the adventure, it talks about patches of violent fungus being found at areas labeled “P” on the hex crawl map. There are no such areas, that I see, on the map.
-Between the Stacks- Areas 11 and 2 are swapped on the map and there are two rooms labeled 24.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a great buy. Not only do I recommend the adventures to those running Midgard campaigns, but I also heartily recommend these adventures to any GM as I think each one has something unique to offer and is highly portable. The books itself looks amazing from the art to the layout and the design of the maps, marred only by some format and editing issues. This, I wouldn’t even waste much time mentioning except additionally there are some map errors, which did require some work for me to decipher. Finally, books like this demonstrates the extensive support that Kobold Press is doing for Midgard in player and GM friendly material. I dislike buying a campaign setting that gets little to no follow up material. Not so in the case of Midgard with its wide range of adventures, campaign setting material, and player guides. All in all, I think the stellar quality of the adventures more than makes up for some editing errors, making it 5 stars in my book.


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Impressed

*****

I used to love comics as a kid in the early 90s but eventually stopped reading them. I'll pick one up now and then but I'm usually disappointed. For example, the fantasy CrossGen comics from the early 2000s were nice, but for the price, you didn't get much story. So, I wasn't really expecting much when I picked this up today at the local game store (and it was the Dave Dorman cover I grabbed). However, I was wrong and found myself actually enjoying reading it. It had a very cinematic feel to the way the story was set up and the way the characters were introduced. Plus you got a write-up of Sandpoint, a small encounter map (with details of the encounter in the issue), and some info on NPCs (which you can use if you're running Rise of the Runelords or early in Jade Regent). All that for only $4 bucks is a really great value. The art style, I admit, isn't my favorite, but the story and the other extras more than made up for it.


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Indispensable!

*****

When I decided to start up my Kingmaker campaign, I knew I had to have this book from the reviews I've read and it hasn't let me down. My group is still slogging away through book 2 but they have already gone through 4 and half years of kingdom builing. The players have enjoyed the extra buildings and, as the GM, I've really enjoyed the expanded random encounter section. Additionally, being available in print makes it more convenient to flip through at the table. What also impressed me was the community support of this product by creating an excel spreadsheet that incorporated the extra material in this book. This has made the kingdom building aspect a breeze to keep track of.


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