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A quick review

*****

Warning: this review contains minor spoilers.

This book, like the Player's and Campaign Guides before it, is simply beautiful. The full color page design makes it pleasant to read, the illustrations do a great job of bringing the unique world to life, and the maps are detailed, clear, and interesting. I'm a huge fan of having so many maps on so many different scales. We've got the World Map, a map of the titular Island, several City-level maps, and a panoply of tactical level battle maps. The battle maps are particularly well thought out, with helpful annotations for elevation that make it much easier to understand where things are relative to each other.

The handouts, particularly the NPC handouts for the PCs are a stroke of genius. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into this campaign from the very beginning. Having a simple way to keep track of the cast for both the players and the DM is a tremendous time-saver, and will spare me a lot of frustration when I have to remind the PCs for the third time who they're talking to.

This first adventure was a real pleasure to read for me too, on a DMing level. Each scene is tagged with various descriptors that make it obvious how it should be approached like "social", "tactical", "real time", or "montage". Again, it's clear that a lot of thought went into making each encounter and challenge both interesting and unique. Of particular note, just looking at Act I, we have a minor investigation that makes use of a very nicely designed extended skill check with a hard time limit, and a set-piece battle with a plethora of modifiers, counter-modifiers, environmental hazards, unique items, and a ticking clock. These are the kind of well thought out encounters that make running a game like this fun. That a series of possible outcomes and alternate solutions, complete with real repercussions, were also detailed makes my life that much easier, and deserves a huge thanks.

Length-wise, I think this adventure looks about right. That is, I think that my playing group should wrap it up just in time for the second one to be released. Or about 3 months time playing 4 or so hours a week (with, no doubt, several weeks off in there). Only time will tell! I sure hope so, because my players are excited about this game in a way that they haven't been for months or years. There's just something about a steampunk D&D world set in Central America with strong philosophical overtones that they find compelling.

My only real complaint is that the battle maps are pretty low-res when I try to pull them out of the PDF to print. It'd be nice if nice big JPGs of these maps were available.

On the whole, this adventure is everything I was hoping for and, honestly, a good bit that I didn't know to hope for (but will now find sorely lacking in other products). Bravo to the entire team for putting together a really top-notch product. Game on!



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