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Hala

Turin the Mad's page

RPG Superstar 2013 Dedicated Voter. FullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 7,865 posts (8,454 including aliases). 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 2 Pathfinder Society characters. 13 aliases.



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Two Words: MUST. HAVE.

*****

This is hands down the single best Pathfinder RPG Adventure Path chapter published to date (as of the time of this post).

Without spoiling anything, if you think you know what is coming ... you don't. The oracle mystery is rock solid. The support articles are delicious, scrumptious icing on the cake.

Most importantly, the adventure will make players cry for their parental units.

Get this and brutalize your players' characters in ways they have never seen before.


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Kill Zem, Kill Zem All

*****

Gentlecritters,

Unlike the FAR better known Endzeitgeist who primarly reviews 3pp stuff, my collection centers more on what wierdness catches my interests.

As such Reign of Winter's first chapter latched on like a bloodthirsty paragon weasel on a one-critter blood drive. Guess what, my DMPC is the targeted critter and oh boy is his sorry rear end in for a WORLD of pain.

The usual blatherings about page counts, talking about the fiction stuff, blah de blah de blah ... meh, who cares.

What I really care about is two-fold

  • does the Chapter's adventure have the potential to make an itenerant old coot care about saving the sorry NPCs from horrible fates that he is possibly able to thwart - aka "can a long term player of the game since 1982 get hooked" on the adventure/module in question; and
  • (b) is there some really cool 'mess my old coot up' stuff in the adventure/module?

The answer is a resounding YES. When I'm seriously considering an AP or module to run as a GM I do a "dry run" with a fairly tough gestalt solo character to get a feel for how the AP will run. Over time this gestalt DMPC (such as it is) is refined based on (a) what is thematically appropriate to the AP based on the players' guide; and (b) what doesn't bork over the gestalt. Short version, I used a 13/13/15/16/13/13 human gestalt Fighter (viking)/Alchemist (crypt breaker grenadier) to "solo test" the first chapter of Reign of Winter.

This has been, in one form or another, an ongoing process for most of the AP Chapters since Rise of the Runelords more than 10 years ago (excepting Skull-n-Shackles). This is the FIRST EVER CHAPTER where the test guy was almost killed in the first part of the first chapter. AWESOME!!

This Chapter will test your characters' mettle right out of the gate. To quote/paraphrase HackMaster: "This adventure is not for the wuss of heart." The artwork fits the AP oh so sweet, the baddies are viciously nasty and there's plenty of wiggle room for the over-head-count GMs to toss in a plethora of level-appropriate baddies without skipping a beat.

Neil Spicer delivers an absolutely OUTSTANDING first chapter, one that doesn't involve the cliches of so many previous AP first chapters. If you as a player examine the previous AP first chapters to garner a clue as to what to expect in this chapter ... your character will probably die, horribly, crying for his mommy. And then you can try again with a better PC for this campaign. >:)

There is a lot of basis to ad-lib roleplaying expansions in the base writing without giving away anything of the metaplot. And when things get nasty, they don't play around. Fitting for a "winter" themed campaign.

If the rest of Reign of Winter sticks to the pacing I picked up from the "vibe" of this the first chapter of Reign of Winter, expect a roller coaster ride with barely enough time to gather your breath and pick up 'off the shelf' stuff for those players obsessed with custom items before you go up the next hill and down the next slope into a brutal blizzard of carnage, foolishness, mayhem and violence!

If you are a GM looking for a low level AP chapter to thoroughly challenge your players - in combination with the free PLAYER'S GUIDE - or you're a player that believes that you're all that, a bag of chips and a "dice lord" to boot, this first chapter of an AP will 'bring it'.

The Snows of Summer gets three - yes, THREE - knives up. All clean, gleaming and glistening with oil of magic evisceration. Enjoy!


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YMMV

***( )( )

The book starts from the basic exploration, kingdom/city building and mass combat rules as presented in the Kingmaker AP Chapters 1, 2 and 5.

As written it's quite useable and has a few interesting changes as noted in previous reviews, such as the change in the square miles of the area a hex encompasses. Trivial point: the area of Washington D.C. is a bit under 70 square miles, so you can fit more than 5 of them in a single hex.

The kingdom building chapter adds in a substantial expansion on "farmlands" from the original rules, changing this to "open spaces development". This is the best part of the entire book, one I am adding in toto for my own campaign. This gives a reason to remember where your various landmarks are at on your kingdom map, as you can do something with most of them.

The revisions in this book for building cities and the changes in the actions by size of kingdom in my opinion are unnecessary.

There are a few new buildings, some of which are "odd". The majority of the new buildings are underpriced variants of the tradesman building in the regular rules that don't require houses be adjacent. The Keep is a variant of the Barracks that costs too much. The additions to Castles are nice, although the moat is badly explained and the 'wards' one is either overkill or far too easily bypassed by other means. Best to remove it from availability.

Mills are incorrectly assumed to only be used as a lumber mill and require substantial water access. More mills are likely built and used to grind grain than mill lumber and can be build on a much smaller river or stream than can a pier. As these rules stand, you have to have a carpenter for quite a few important items - which means in order to build various stuffs you will want every city built on a water border to build the mill that the carpenter requires. This doesn't really work well... Some of these discrepencies derive from the original material.

The militarily-required buildings are generally unecessary as well, although they are tied into the mass combat section of this book.

The mass combat system is a nice attempt at changing the admittedly basic one presented in Chapter 5 of the Kingmaker AP. The consumption costs are generally far too high, especially on a weekly basis. The training system works well enough, although using it as-is might not be so satisfactory for some.

There is a new tactic for victorious armies to learn and 4 new resources to upgrade armies with. These are also good additions and ones I plan to integrate in toto. I suggest that the poison resource inflict damage to the army using it as well unless that army is comprised of creatures with the poison use class feature or that are immune to poison.

There are several special abilities added - only Mercenaries is worthwhile. 'Bleed' is best left as originally presented in Kingmaker as part of the 'poison' special ability, while 'Crusader' is too subjective. Everyone will argue that all of their armies are crusaders to shave those consumption costs down.

Vassal armies I think are a good concept that in the book that is not well executed.

The army construction rules present an interesting concept: limiting maximum army size by 'method of conscription' - based on whether the army in question is conventionally recruited and trained (marshal), divinely acquired (planar allies?) or 'arcane' (which covers all the rest of them).

There are several new feats presented, most pertaining to govorning your kingdom or leading your armies. They are good enough to use, although Sickening Strike I would remove. Dirty Trick is already able to do this and doesn't quite require the "feat taxes" to acquire the feat. The rest of them seem fine, although Mountain Strike I would caution against unless you are willing to have some of your bad guys get it too.

The mass combat spell section has some problems as well. I cannot recommend integrating it as-is. The summon army spells are - while written for entire armies of wizards/sorcerers/clerics/druids - an especially bad idea. The effects of summoned monsters on this scale are sufficiently covered by that army's "spellcasting" special ability.

The only two non-army spells of note (besides the two that deal with scent) are (a) magic wall - which omits the very important detail of how much it costs and what the minimum caster level should be to make it permanent; and (b) wall of tentacles.

My beef with this supplement's army building rules are identical to the original ones - purely RAW they are way too easy to abuse. Armies of hound archons are the same cost as an army of 5th level fighters - both are a base CR of 4 as a Medium army in this example.

The same complaint goes for armies of golems, pixies, rust monsters, great wyrm dragons ridden by 20th level wizards and so on. There should (in most campaigns) be a hard cap on what one can recruit and train in such numbers.

This supplement attempts to reign that in by the consumption cost / week of resources = same as the cost to purchase. This really doesn't work well, as it makes armies too expensive without addressing the core problems.

The magic items are largely fine - but I caution against the trio of statues. As they're written, a group could plant one of each in each city for pretty cheap and rachet the kingdom's bonuses up even further. In a nutshell, one park per city(6 BP, most often either 3 or 1 BP) 'unlocks' access to these statues. Presumably the PCs are able to craft them, so they cost half. The +1 statues are a bargain at 2.5 BP each - the reason? Each *city* can have one of each statue in their park. I recommend house-ruling the highest such bonus provided by these statues be applied to the entire kingdom as an enhancement bonus. Otherwise, one set of +3 statues - at a 'retail' cost of 135 BP - provides the same benefit as placing a set of +1 statues in each of 3 different cities at a 'retail' cost of 22.5 BP. For the same price as one set of +3 statues, you can acquire a +18 to Economy, Loyalty and Stability for the entire kingdom, provided you have 18 cities, which is not hard to do.


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Diamond Still in the Rough

**( )( )( )

Promising a Pathfinder-compatible campaign setting, Dredan posits an epic struggle between Good (Positive Energy) and Bad (Negative Energy) on at least a Galactic scale, complete with starships and planet-hopping galore. The VOID are the bad guys, undead infused with an entropic agenda that the positive-energy-infused good guys are equally bent on stomping out.

However, what would have had me scrambling back for a refund is the undeclared requirement that you have to also have something called "T20". I can only presume that this refers to a d20-compatible edition of Traveller.

The Dreden-specific races include androids (BLUs - Basic Life Units) that are able to load up on cybernetics swag, shapeshifting positive energy critters, a variant human race that is not a real improvement over the Core Rules human and the BBEG race (VOID).

The races are not PFPRG-compatible in execution, with restricted favored class selections - a Beta holdover perhaps? - and level adjustments. I give Dredan a "good thing" nod in attempting to make the VOID race playable. The flavor text accompanying them is fairly good - and makes it clear that they are an unpleasant prospect to actually play at the table.

Without the heavy use of magic or XPH psionics, the VOID are doomed to being overt bad guys. And in order to become one, the required prestige class hamstrings the casting level - and, by extension manifesting level although this is not explicitly addressed despite Dredan's premise of parity between magical, psionic and technological as a 'Rule of Three'. At 11th level (at best), a VOID PC has a caster level of 6th. I am unsure if this is intentional or not.

The Dredan-specific items section more often than not seems out of balance on produced magic item costs vs. cost-to-manufacture. Holy Water made 'at cost' by the Good Guys is one thing - but a near-artifact-priced item is hard to accept "at cost".

The 'mana engine' vehicular power plants are not clear in the benefit provided besides the energy that the regular reactor would produce. For an addition to Traveller, these things had best be staggeringly impressive - and did not deliver. These power plants should have been able to power everything the normal reactor does plus the jump drive since normal Traveller starships consume substantial quantities of liquid hydrogen to power interstellar travel plus a meson cannon strapped to the roof for the volume and cost multipliers involved.

The artwork within the book is of mixed quality, some showing much greater proficiency and skill than others. The layout / placement of the artwork is well done, clearly denoting or accompanying a relevant section of the text.

Mechanically the single biggest quibble is with the "drain rate" of temporary hit points gained from positive energy. Consistently referenced as "temporary hit points drain from a living creature of 1d20 minutes" is ... confusing. How many temporary hit points drain how fast? Do they all go away in 20 minutes or less? Why does the setting have such randomness associated with positive energy as compared to the rules for this in existing 3.5 Open Licensed material?

The walkers are strange, depicted as what I can only call the inbred love child of an AT-ST, a Destroid or Mecha and the Mechanoids. Combined with the (realistic) expense and that it requires a prestige class to use the things keeps them planted firmly on that strange spot.

The depicted fighter craft bears a suspicious resemblance to the Gallente Shuttle from EVE Online.

There are some written IP references (beholders are the first I saw, in the descriptive text of a staff) as well that are begging for some trouble from the legal eagles.

The "world setting" section is not bad, comprising an area of detail that, in Traveller, would be represented by a single sector. Not a bad starting point for a new campaign involving substantial space travel.

This really needed more polish to make it mechanically compatable with PFRPG.


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Excellent atmosphere, tough challenges!

*****

My home group enjoyed the atmosphere and flavor text, with several commenting "this would make an excellent set up for a movie!" We spent some time elaborating on the back story descriptions given. It really creeped out the players with the lunatic at the beginning somehow manipulating the spirits of the fallen bound to this accursed place before getting eaten alive by a trio of baddies as the party effectively dangled him out ahead like a tethered goat in a Tyrannosaur pen.

At tier 1-2 it proved to be a bit rough for 2 3rd and 2 1st level characters - one permanent death (1st level 1 XP shy of 2nd level) and one temporary death (3rd level 1 XP shy of 4th) salvaged only due to the surviving characters chipping in cash and throwing a caster level check. The final baddy was a rude surprise for the party...

Awesome! ^_^



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