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Ringtail's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 2,455 posts (3,492 including aliases). 21 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 16 aliases.



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The Pathfinder Tale not to miss!

*****

Death’s Heretic is easily the best in the Pathfinder Tales library thus far. Upon reading the summary I was afraid I’d stumbled into a boring mystery slog with a gimmick that followed a grim and two-dimensional main character, but was pleasantly surprised.

In Death’s Heretic we ride along with Salim, a rather serious protagonist by all accounts but with enough depth and the occasional show of mirth to keep him from being a caricature and a drag. Though born an atheist of Rahadoum, Salim has worked for the church of the goddess Pharasma for quite a while, hunting down those who would fate by spurning death itself. He is contacted to travel to Thuvia, where an influential merchant has been murdered and had his soul stolen from the afterlife to be held hostage. Accompanying Salim in his task is the daughter of the aforementioned merchant, the strong-willed Niela, who regularly butts heads with the inquisitor. Over the span of but a few short days the duo wander off on a delightful plane-hopping adventure of action and intrigue.

It is difficult to give more information without spoiling the plot.

Overall the story was well written and flowed smoothly. It was a great reading the experience to see the characters develop and adapt, and one of the few in the Pathfinder Tales line that could keep me up for hours into the night turning “just one more page before bed”. The story had a few predictable moments, but I noticed no major plot holes and would like to read more of Mr. Sutter’s work.

The first Pathfinder Tale I’ve given 5 stars. Keep up the good work; this one will be hard to top!


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Excellent addition, but poor physical quality makes it hard to recommend

***( )( )

Master of Devils by Dave Gross continues the story of Count Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard, Radovan in a fantastic tale of East meeting West. This time their travels take them to the far East (obviously) where the two get separated one again and become strangers in a strange land. Both enter martial tutelage, one at a monastery, the other alone under the strict eye of a master seeking vengeance through his newest pupil. The book is a quick read, containing quite a bit dialogue, that captures the oriental flavor of the setting well and translates it equally well to the reader. Normally my brain tends to shut down while reading combat scenes, but the descriptions of the battles contained within are amusingly reminiscent of the wire fighting martial arts movies that I love so very much. The narrative is written in first person and switches between three perspectives; Jeggare, Radovan, and their faithful hound, all with distinct personalities and styles. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, perhaps the most out of what has been written thus far, but I do have a notable complaint: There are several pages near the center of my copy where the ink is so light (perhaps the printers needed a change?) it was impossible to read a thing and I ended up missing some of the story and having to skip ahead to a legible portion of the book. Thankfully these pages were few and I was able to piece together what I missed. But, unfortunately, this necessitates that I drop my rating from good to merely average. I look forward to reading more from the author.


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Cookie Dough

*****

After having reviewed Making Craft Work as a rare 5 star product I decided to browse over more Spes Magna Games PDFs. 5 Adventures, 25 Rooms caught my eye because of Adventure 3: Bird Flu of the Damned, which sounded like it would be good for a laugh. And I must say, for about $1 I'm quite pleased. While each quest in 5 Adventures, 25 Rooms can be run all by its lonesome, it really is a handful of purposely half-finished adventures. Why would anyone want to purchase a half-finished product? I would; I'm officially referring to this product as cookie dough and here's why:

Say you want cookies. Cookies are delicious- everyone likes cookies. However if you want to bake cookies you need cookie dough. Cookie dough takes quite a few ingredients and can be time consuming to mix properly (not to mention the time needed to clean my kitchen afterward). If you go to the store and buy a box of cookies (or a game module) for you and your friends, then congratulations you have cookies that you and your friends will likely enjoy. However, if you buy a tube of cookie dough you will need to spend a few minutes baking your cookies. It is hardly any extra work, but you end up with delicious, gooey cookies hot from the oven, arguably a better product for the same cost, or often less (in the case of 5 Adventures, 25 rooms, the latter), which is a delightful middle ground between making your won cookies and purchasing already finished cookies. In addition to getting to enjoy warm, fresh cookies with your friends, you then get the credit for making the cookies, along with the level appreciation that goes along with that, even though all you really did was toss them in the oven and let them do their thing for a few minutes. This product design has served Pillsbury and Nestle well over the decades, why not module design as well? This is an excellent innovation for GMs like me who enjoy being able to run games of our own design, but lack the free time to fully flesh out an adventure from scratch every week, providing a few good springboards to jump off of.

The review:

Presentation
No maps are included, presumably because these are just short adventures and seeds that can be worked in just about anywhere. There are only a few graphics, which make the PDF rather printer friendly. There is an easy to read table of contents, and plenty of sidebars that discuss how to scale each adventure. 5/5

Adventure 1: Guard Duty
An interesting twist on an old cliche and a great jumping off point for something grander, presenting villains for later use that are on a more personal level with the PCs. This adventure can fit well in most low level games regardless of genre designation. 5/5

Adventure 2: Shelter from the Storm
I noticed a typo during this adventure. At one point a character is named Yeranc while later in the same paragraph the NPC is referred to as Yerang. I find this to be the least impressive of the presented quests; it makes some assumptions as to the actions of the PCs (notably room 2), which can cause the adventure to break down if not followed. For a mystery, even just a short one, the cast seems a bit small. 3/5

Adventure 3: Bird Flu of the Damned
I literally purchased this PDF because of this adventure. Sometimes the phrase "zombie emus" is all you need to get a sale. All in all, this quest is a solid, if a bit basic, fight against fanatical goblin cultists, but the undead provide some novelty for an evening's enjoyment. And it does open up some interesting ideas for continence. 4/5

Adventure 4: Lost Love
This adventure has some wonderful, romantic backstory, but seems to require PCs to be a bit more emotionally invested and motivated than what is common without extensive setup. Not a quest I would recommend for every group, but for those that appreciate games that offer a chance at some rather deep roleplay, it'll be hard to find a better seed. 4/5

Adventure 5: I'm so Cold
I'm so Cold is my favorite adventure out of the bunch (probably tied with guard Duty). It well written and thoroughly enjoyable, if a bit depressing. It has a decent mix of action and mystery set in somewhat of a drab (though immersive) background. My only complaint is that the fight in room 4 feels a bit contrived, so I'd alter the time and place of the encounter, which is hauntingly beautiful in itself. 5/5

Everything Else
After the adventure there is the Unseelie template, the statistic block of one of the villains, and the rules for emus (regular, zombie, and my players' favorite: animal companion). The template is handy to have, and the emus are fun and well built. The statistics for the villain feel unnecessary, but it is convenient that it was provided. 5/5

Total
31/35 = 4.4/5, rounded up; the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The innovation behind this product's design is more than enough to push it up that last star.


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A strong start to some fun times (albeit in need of fine tuning)

****( )

To date I've run 6 separate groups through Rise of the Runelords, the most recent starting this past June (having made it to the end of the second book after 8 sessions thus far), so I am very familiar with the adventure path. Rise of the Runelords is a very entertaining campaign, and Burnt Offerings starts it off strongly. Warning: here there be spoilers!

The PCs find themselves in Sandpoint, a sleepy coastal community in Varisia, at the start of Autumn where the Swallowtail Festival is in full swing. The book jumps right into the action by having a band of goblin raiders assault the town. Personally I wish more emphasis was put on the festival itself, giving players a chance to mingle with the townsfolk and enjoy games of skill and/or chance while listening to some speeches by noteworthy personalities. However, I understand that in published adventurers there is only so much space to work with, and it is easy for a GM to magic some fun up (or steal a few thing from a very entertaining thread on the message-boards). In Sandpoint the PCs will involve themselves in 3 battles against groups of goblins, while there silly antics set a chaotic scene. These battles felt a bit repetitive, so I made sure to add a unique element to each fight and changed the locations of each battle from what was written (saving th Rusty Dragon from being burnt down is an excellent way to introduce Ameiko Kaijitsu).

Once matters calm down and in the raid is under control the PCs learn of a disturbance at the cemetery, where some of the town's beloved deceased have been dug up, their remains missing. I recommend taking the opportunity here to introduce some red herrings. In the days following the festival, the PCs are regarded as local heroes, and the book gives a few good examples of side quests to take place, though I felt the need to add a little bit more to stretch the duration of levels, otherwise RotRL will have players zipping to the upper teens in no time.

It isn't long before something foul is again afoot in Sandpoint. Goblins, under the command of a disgruntled former citizen have kidnapped poor Ameiko and taken control of the local glass-works. Here we hit my first major problem with Burnt Offerings. The map of the glass-works dungeon is tilted diagonally, making it awkward to copy onto a battle-mat, even more awkward (to the point of needing to create a new map to suit your needs) if you are like me and prefer using hexes to squares whenever possible. The party should discover and old smuggler's tunnel in the basement of the factory which connects to some recently disturbed ancient ruins. This is an optional dungeon, the villain of which is incredibly annoying. She isn't particularly dangerous as written, but it'll take forever to defeat her unless you have the savyiest of players (most groups I've run through the adventure have spent hours of real time locked in battle with her in a most unsatisfying session).

Whether the group decides to delve into the Catacombs of Wrath (the optional dungeon above) or not, they should learn of a greater threat to the town; the goblins of normally feuding tribes are massing to mount an attack that dwarfs their last. They must then head to Thistletop and protect the village in the absence of the law. Thistletop is a rather large dungeon in multiple parts. First, you have the Nettlewood, the forest outside, with a mix of interesting and mundane encounters. Next you have the goblin fortress itself, which holds quite a few humorous asides for the GM, and finally you have the ruins below, which will eventually culminate in a crescendo battle against an aasimar warrior-priestess of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters.

Overall I was rather pleased with Burnt Offerings. Though it felt more a skeleton than an adventure. It needed more side quests and better pacing, though it provides many opportunities for the GM to flex his or her creativity and add their own material and spin. The motivations feel a bit forced and contrived, which is recurring throughout the path, but for kick in the door groups this poses hardly any trouble at all and it is easily altered for role-play heavy groups. The encounters run the spectrum from ridiculously easy to insanely frustratingly difficult with no rhyme or reason. Saving a town from a montrous horde is a bit cliche, but allows for major parts of the adventure path to be set up, and if it isn't broke...well, you get the picture. With the wealth of player and GM resources available to enhance RotRL on the Paizo message boards alone, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not play or run this adventure path from start to finish (after some fine tuning, of course).


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Ah, yes, the obligatory furry supplement

***( )( )

So what can be said about Fursona? Let’s take a look at how the PDF is set up first. It is 105 pages, so you get plenty of meat for your $10. The entire book is designed to allow players and GMs to customize their very own anthropomorphic races. You start off with a type of animal, gaining some racial adjustments. From there you are allotted a handful of build points to personalize your character. These can be used on relatively minor abilities such as improving ones senses or in grander ways, like becoming venomous. There are disadvantages as well, which by taking you can increase your build points. There are many choices for all of the above, so it is highly unlikely that any two races will be identical. The book not only covers furries, but lovecraftian horrors and clockworks as well, so there is a bit of something for everybody.

In the “pro” column I’d like to point out that the system is highly modular and customizable, which is something I’m personally very fond of. The creators seem to know their audience well, allowing players to create races anywhere from highly feral and natural to highly human in both appearance and ability. The creation system seemed very clear and easy to grasp to me, and I didn’t notice any major grammar or spelling errors.

As far as “cons” go, there are a few that I should mention. There is a handful of mature content in this book. To some extent that goes along with knowing their market, as stated above, but some of it seems to be put in merely to tap that market. Not everyone is comfortable with a game that contains highly sexual themes, but this is a minor issue as groups can choose to avoid these abilities amongst themselves, but because of the content I wouldn’t recommend this book for groups containing young or immature players. While I love a modular system, the ability to take disadvantages to stack on some very strong combinations of powers with build points has the potential to be abused by min-maxing players, so if your group is a mixed bag as far as how much your player’s optimize, this can create a big disparity in power levels- a GM will need to keep a close eye on their player’s personalized races.

Overall I enjoy this book, and would recommend it to any who would like to spice up their game with anthropomorphic races, and have recently purchased it as a gift for a friend. However since it fills such a specific niche, I can’t otherwise say it is a great investment. It is excellent at what it sets out to do, but certainly isn’t for everyone. If you have a handful of furry friends and can get a group together though, I suggest you purchase it and you won’t be disappointed.


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