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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,503 posts (5,800 including aliases). 511 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

This work is a collection of additional enhancements for those using Streets of Zobeck (or indeed the Zobeck Gazetteer) in their campaign. It opens with a short scenario 'Nothing to Declare' which should be run the first time that the party arrives in the Free City of Zobek, an adventure that sets the scene and flavour of the place ready for whatever you have planned for later. It's a neat introduction to a place which runs on favours and reeks of corruption, and provides a lead-in to whichever of the adventures from Streets of Zobeck you intend to run.

This escapade is followed by a selection of rules material, each keyed to one of the Streets of Zobeck adventures but of potential use in their own right whether or not you are going to run the adventure in question. Clerics may appreciate the Lust domain - whichever deity they worship does NOT require celibacy of devotees! There are creatures, templates, the odd encounter... plenty to spice up whatever adventure you are running in Zobeck or, for that matter, any equivalent city. Or perhaps you'd like to introduce Goldscale the kobold and his dire weasel mount...

There are other NPCs too, new feats (including some dirty fighting moves!) and traits, magic and mundane items that might come in handy, and more. There's a rather odd incantation called the Incantation of Memories Lost which quite frankly baffles me. It's not clear what the purpose is, the benefit of casting it. Better are some tables for generation the sort of odds and ends the party may find in the pockets of the next body they find in the gutter. If it's fine dining you are after, the Rampant Roach (a kobold-run resturant) is best avoided, but there's a description and floor-plan for those unwise enough to go in. Ulmar's Rare Books may be worth a visit, and there are adventure ideas both for these places and for some of those mentioned in other Zobeck books. Finally if the party finds the city confusing, they might want to engage the services of another kobold called Blackeye who has a carriage for hire, taxi-style. He makes a good ally - provided you are happy with the army of cousins he recommends and the never-ending chatter about Zobeck and its inhabitants.

Overall, a nice addition to the other two Zobeck books, but of less use if you are not using them.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

If you like adventures grim and gritty, enjoy the odd heist, and are not too particular as to which side of the law your characters might be on, this collection of adventures set in the Free City of Zobeck may be just up your street. Set in the underbelly of the city, the characters will need to be cunning, tricky, ruthless and smart to survive... but if they do, who knows, they may end up rich!

This is more than a collection of adventures, however. It starts with some beautifully-detailed and colourful characters and fascinating locations for use both in these adventures and ones of your own. Each NPC comes with notes on their motivations and goals, their long-term activities, and on 'schemes and plots' - ideas for how they might be incorporated into or even spawn an adventure here and now. The location entries also have adventure ideas as well as floorplans and notes on the folk that you might find hanging around. Standout here is the Silk Scabbard, a fight club/brothel... the entry even has suggestions for the party taking over and running it. There's also a collection of feats, traits, spells and gear that might come in handy for adventurers in Zobeck or indeed those who enjoy city adventuring in general.

Then we get to the adventures themselves, a full seven of them, catering to characters of levels 1 to 10. Run them as a loose sequence, pick an appropriate one when the party comes to town, mix in your own adventures in Zobeck or the surrounding area, the choice is yours. The characters will be caught up in the dark underbelly of Zobeck from the outset, with memorable encounters with people who may prove a help or a hindrance in the future (assuming they survive the encounter, that is). It's a fascinating exercise in how to embed adventures in the very fabric of the setting, creating an harmonious whole that gives the impression of a city buzzing with life never mind what the party gets up to, yet enabling them to become movers and shakers in their own right if that's what they desire.

Each adventure stands on its own as an exciting series of events, taking the party around the city as they seek to complete a mission or find something out. The first is 'Everyone Lies' by Ben McFarland, which sets the characters to look for a local thief's missing girlfriend. Naturally all is not as it seems and a massive web of deceit underlies this seemingly simple task... oh, and they are not the only people looking for the young lady in question... and this is the adventure for 1st-3rd level characters!

Next is 'Rust' by Richard Pett. This 4th-5th level adventure sees the party asked to deal with a plague of demented animated metallic creatures that prowl by night. Who made them, where, and why? Finding the answers may give clues as to why competing merchants are taking an interest. This is followed by an adventure from Christina Stiles called 'The Fish and the Rose', billed as suitable for 5th-level characters. The title is the name of a painting, coveted by many but one thinks she knows where it is - and is willing to hire the party to acquire it on her behalf... an ideal adventure for those who dream of pulling off an epic heist. Then comes 'The First Lab', written by Mike Franke, which is for 7th-level adventurers and delves into the very origins of the gearforged as they are hired to retrieve a diary stolen from a senior professor at the Arcane Collegium.

Matthew Stinson is author of the next adventure called 'Rebuilding a Good Man' and appropriate for 9th-level characters. Someone has acquired (read: stolen) a gearforged body for rather dubious purposes, but perhaps if it was stolen back it could be put to better use... there's an exercise in morality as well as one for the swordarm here. Next, Mike Franke is back with 'Ripper' for a 10th-level party who rapidly get embroiled in the search for a serial killer whether they are interested or not. Finally, there's 'Flesh Fails' from Christina Stiles. Also for 10th-level characters, well it's billed as 9th-11th actually, it involves dark goings-on at the Arcane Collegium and murky dealings amongst the political elite of the city. Successful characters could even use this adventure, if concluded successfully, as a stepping-stone to political power for themselves.

If the Free City of Zobeck features in your game, this book is well worth a look... and if you don't, reading it will make you want to run a campaign set in and around Zobeck forthwith.


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

Pirates have always had a fascination for role-players, so it's pretty much inevitable that some were going to turn up... The Introduction, however, takes a historical tack, starting with Viking raiders and going on to consider Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean as well as the Caribbean ones most often thought of when considering pirates for a fantasy role-playing game. It also introduces the historical concept of the privateer, a pirate licensed by his own government to wage proxy war on the ships of opposing nations. This provides a wide canvas, a range of suggestions beyond the norm on which to introduce pirates into your game.

We start in Chapter 1: Lords of the Seas with copious details (including full stat blocks) of five notorious pirates encountered in the Western Ocean of the Midgard Campaign Setting. (If your game is set elsewhere, just tweak names and details to fit your needs.) This is followed by Chapter 2: Faces of the Western Ocean, which presents other NPCs who ply the sea lanes of the Western Ocean whom you can use as enemies or allies, chance encounters or just a passing rumour heard in a tavern. Ideas for how to incorporate them into your plots are included as well as standard details of stat block, background, combat information and portraits. One stand-out is Czakthorash, a green dragon who was the runt of his litter and devised a cunning plan: outclassed by his siblings in regular dragon methods of amassing a hoard, he's established himself as a 'cargo-cult' deity providing trinkets to primitive islanders in return for adulation... and plenty gems and gold as well!

Next up is Palau Kelaparan, Home of Mechuiti and the Behtu. This presents an entire island located in a remote corner of the Western Ocean (or someplace suitable in your campaign world), the residence of Mechuiti (who is a demon) and his cohorts as well as the natives: the pygmy Behtu, who have some unpleasant habits. Explore the place if you dare, defeat the inhabitants if you can... This section includes some ideas for ways of getting your party to go there in the first place. Then comes Umbrasca, another island with a long and dark history. Again the geography is outlined, with locations to explore, and notable inhabitants to meet, along with plot suggestions for how to incorporate it into your game.

If neither of these appeal, the next section presents several Lesser Ports of Call which a ship-borne party may care to visit during their travels... and if they are getting too complacent, call upon the inhabitants of the following section Pirate Bands to provide some opposition. These are provided in outline only, you'll have to put in some work before they are ready for a brawl on the high seas.

We then move on to a Bestiary of the Waves, containing cannibal pygmies and rum gremlins, and notes on rules pertaining to being adrift at sea deigned to enable you to generate an encounter with someone cast adrift at short notice. Next is a section on Ships and Cargo, which provides loads of detail such as ship templates to aid in devising the ships your party sails in or encounters... but despite the heading, nothing much about cargo.

This is followed by Mariner Magic and Culture. Here we find some new spells with a nautical flavour... and others, including some rather cunning temporal ones. There are also some magic items and mariner traits, for characters who spend plenty of time afloat.

Finally, there are some Secrets of the Western Ocean... dark secrets for the GM to know and craft plots around ready to ensnare unwary parties and give them the thrill of discovery as they unravel the mysteries. These are based around aboleths and sea titans, who both once held sway in the depths but whose influence has waned, although it has not faded away completely. At the end there's a map of the Western Ocean, a rather disappointing one as it doesn't show any of the places mentioned in the text!

There's plenty to spark the imagination if you want to bring pirates into your game - particularly if they will be attacking your party rather than the characters actually taking to a life of swashing their buckles pirate-style themselves. It could have done with more maps, the single one provided is virtually useless, but there are some good ideas here, although most will need further work before they are ready to be included in your game.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

The Introduction opens with a key question: What is Zobeck? Seems a good place to start, and the text explains how Zobeck is one of the few places in Midgard not to have a feudal overlord since a revolt some 80 years ago kicked out the ruling family... not to mention that it's a trade hub and by all accounts a vibrant and exciting place to live in or visit. If you don't happen to use the Midgard campaign setting, a helpful sidebar explains, it will not take too much adaptation to locate Zobeck in your own game world instead. It's a town with a dark side, a teeming underbelly. It conducts trade primarily by river, and there's a deep, dark forest nearby. Inspiration includes middle Europe, a rich source widely ignored by fantasy game authors.

Chapter 1: A History explains the genesis and growth of this city-state and how its main inhabitants - humans, dwarves, gearforged and kobolds - developed the relationships that they have today. First there were the Fey, who were tricked into a pact that resulted in them becoming the Shadow Fey but gave them so much power that they don't seem to have resisted much. Then kobolds turned up to exploit the wealth they found underground. This annoyed the Shadow Fey who formed an alliance with a human lordling called Stross, who conquered the area and established his own rule... and thus the seeds were laid for what is found today. Interestingly, all the history recounted here is information that any interested character might find out, while it's probably common knowledge to the locals.

Next is Chapter 2: The Free City of Zobeck. This is a survey of the districts that make up the city and the people who live in them. Everyday life, customs, languages, trade... it's all here, vital information for would-be visitors. There are also ideas for adventure scattered throughout, which can be picked up and developed by interested GMs. This chapter ends with notes on the city's neighbours.

Then comes Chapter 3: The Kobold Ghetto which goes into extensive detail about this fascinating district of the city. It may be a tough place to live, but compared to what kobolds have endured in the past it at least provides some security if not much in the way of creature comforts. There's plenty of information and a detailed map to facilitate visits - although non-kobolds do stand out and often get picked upon. Indeed, the ghetto is so alien a place that visitors actually are dazed (as in the condition) for several rounds on entering! There's plenty to see for those willing to brave it, however, and numerous ideas for adventure are provided.

Moving on, Chapter 4: Districts & Locations surveys the most prominent ones, with a 2-page map depicting the entire city and a wealth of notes and details about what is to be found there. There are places to visit, shops to browse in and fascinating individuals to meet... and of course several good taverns to drink (and brawl) in. Scene set, the next chapter - Chapter 5: Gangs, Guilds and Guardians - gets down to explaining the elaborate guild organisations that (at least in their own eyes) control the city as well as the numerous gangs which also lay claim to do so, certainly where the underworld is concerned. You can also find out about the local courtesans, including their habit of getting rival lovers to duel over them. Whilst the city is no longer subject to noble rule, 'society' and courtiers still flourish and those who wish to mix at such rarified levels (or in some way profit from them) will find the details that they need.

This is followed by Chapter 6: Gods, Cults and Relics of Zobeck which sets the religious scene for the city. It's important to know about them even if the party is not particularly religious, as the local deities enjoy meddling and interfering in the lives of mortals. The notes are quite intormative, but those seeking more will find it in the Midgard Campaign Setting. As well as the deities, there are numerous cults and even a group of 'crab diviners' who believe that crabs whisper the truth to them...

Next, Chapter 7: Denizens of Zobeck provides full stat blocks and details of several notable NPCs dwelling in the city, all ready to be woven into your game. Finally, Chapter 8: Magic of Zobeck takes a look at magic as it is practised here. Dominated by the Arcane Collegium, there are some interesting paths of magic and they are explained here: the clockwork school and the Gear domain, along with star and shadow magic which both fall under the school of illumination magic and are held to be unique to the city. For those interested, there are quite a few new spells to study as well as a magic shop to visit and some magical items to keep an eye out for during your stay in the city.

There are a few annoying typos (although you can make out what was intended) and a few references to the Streets of Zobeck supplement: it's probably best to pick up a copy if you want to make best use of this book. Whilst much of the information, especially in the first couple of chapters, covers things that a character might discover through inquiry or research, later material is probably best kept for the GM's eyes only, even where characters born and bred in the city are concerned. Overall, though, it is well-presented and brings a fascinating city to vivid life - the party will remember their visit for a long time to come!


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What part do giants play in your game? If you'd like them to be distinctive personalities rather than 'ordinary' humanoids that just happen to be bigger than anyone else, this might be worth a look.

There's no introduction or preamble, it just dives straight in to the first section. The book is made up of sections about the different types of giant - thursir, hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, and cloud and storm giants - but each section contains a wealth of information that can be used to make them come alive in your game, with details about their history, social organisation and even religious beliefs as well as their relationships with other races and the things they do that are likely to impact on their neighbours. There are hidden gems throughout - for example, thursir like (and excel at) metalwork and feasting, yet they loathe dwarves (who like and excel at metalwork and feasting) with a vengeance. It's not just jealousy either, there's a historical (legendary, really) reason behind the emnity. It's things like that which make them come to life as a people with their own ideas and motivations rather than a mark on a map and a stat block in your notes.

However, it's not all stories and legends, there are solid game mechanics here as well. Racial feats - treating each different giant type as a separate race (which, biologically speaking, they are) - distinctive items of equipment and even magic are provided, along with fully-developed sample NPCs and ideas for adventure using each giant race.

Of course, the different races come over rather stereotyped. Thursir work wonders in the forge, provided they haven't been overindulging themselves with food and drink. Hill giants are stupid and a bit thuggish. Stone giants, on the other hand, are quite gentle and peaceful... and delight in their children, something many giants find quite difficult. Frost giants like hunting intelligent prey and will travel great distances to find someone worth hunting. Everyone else is regarded as slave material (or lunch). And so on. Whilst this makes it easy to categorise them, if you want to make them into real societies rather than groups of monsters, remember that the generalisations refer to the race as a whole and individuals may buck the trend... and indeed, there are hints and suggestions as to how not all giants of a given race are exactly the same. To go back to the thursir, while they detest dwarves and stomp on them at any opportunity, some female thursir are so enamoured of the freedoms female dwarves enjoy that they seek out magic to shrink them to dwarf size to mingle with them in secret!

Giants by their very nature do not live within mainstream humanoid civilisation, but they do interact with it. Using this book, you will be able to make giant communities come to life, whether your plot calls for the party to visit or encounter them, or for giants for some reason (probably warlike) to come a-visiting. Make them into something far more than large-scale humanoids to fight, giants can be people too! However, this is very much a book for giants as monsters/NPCs, albeit well-developed ones, if youm want to actually play a giant you will need more than is here although it may provide useful background.


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