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Lots of GM Work

***( )( )

Where should I start with this module? I’ll start where the ad venture starts in the town of Rybalka. The PCs arrive in town 5 days before a winter festival where the men of the town try to court the young ladies by giving them the most extravagant gift. The PCs are approached by 3 different men to go on quests to retrieve valuable items to give to the same woman. The catch is the PCs only have 5 days before the festival to do the quests. From the map provide it is clear at most the PCs can do 2 quests unless they have flying mounts or strong magic at level 4.
Now this is the start of what I didn’t like, although the PCs are approached by 3 different men 2 of them are scum bag creepers. So if they are a party of good characters they really only have 1 option. My PCs did not like getting railroaded like this. This wasn’t the only issue the one quest for the only decent man is the most deadly and offers the smallest rewards.

The mission itself had no meat to it. There was 1 encounter with a harpy and 3 skill checks for environment challenges. One harpy is a joke for a party of 4 PC decently geared. The checks were a little better but it seemed like the author wanted TPKs which if the group is smart and cleaver isn’t very likely based on the challenges. I flushed out the mountains a little more by having Yetis attack while the PCs were camping for the night and had the NPC accompanying them tell them that if they did not damage the fur he would make them yeti cloaks when they got back to town. When the party reaches the mountain they are supposed to climb to retrieve the “Winter Flower” the worst part of the mission begins.

The PCs have to climb 300 ft. up a rock and ice cliff DC climb 25 or 30. WTF this took forever. The NPC accompanying them only had a climb skill of +6 and 9 yes 9hp. How the hell he was supposed to climb that high without dying I have no idea. Fortunately I gave him 4 potions of cure light wounds. I’m a lucky roller and had the NPC tie off to a piton ever 10 ft. but failing a climb check by 5 means falling and even 10 ft. is a d6 which adds up fast because he only has 9hp! I don’t think the writer took into account hauling up PCs that aren’t very good at climbing by ropes either.

Once the PCs climb about 3 hundred feet the NPC wants to climb the last 100 feet to the winter flower by himself. Again I had the same climbing issues as before and the NPC barley made it. Once there a Roc circles and PCs have a free round to ready actions. I had a few problems with this encounter. First a Roc is a CR9 and these are level 4 characters. The Roc strategy in the mod was to grab the NPC and fly off. The Roc also has a 30% chance to just circle because it is more curious than anything else. Before even playing the encounter I saw a problem with the Roc being paralyzed/ stunned and falling to its death. Of course this is exactly what happened. I’m good at saves but I think I had to make 3 and failed the second 1 for the roc. So there goes the exciting encounter, the fight with the harpy was more dramatic.

So it took the PCs 3 days to do this leg of the mission which didn’t leave time for any others. When the NPC gives the flower to the love of his life she informs him that she already has a date to the festival with a man with nothing to offer but love. This made my PCs very mad and one of my female PCs offered to take him.

On a finale note I had my PCs make deal with another of the gentlemen that had a map to a half sunken ship just for profit. While more profitable and exciting this quest still needed lots of GM work, it was more of an outline than anything else. The ship was filled with undead but there are no stats for a captain! Come on you have to have a captain.

There were a few good things. First the art work of the Roc was good and I made a cool paper mini out of it. Second the environmental settings were cool. This mod should be used as an outline and would be very hard to play without a GM fleshing out the environment and encounters before hand.


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Good time

****( )

The fourth installment in the AAW games Basic series is a fun holiday themed romp. The PC’s find themselves on a train protecting various supplies from marauding fey called Kramps. The module comes with a scoring guide that rates the PC’s performance to further their prestige at Exallizar Prep. It also comes with 4 pre-generated characters that have been raised to level 4. I would not suggest using these characters and instead have your PC’s use ones they made themselves.

The first encounter takes place on a train that is going around 100 mph. This is a very cool setting for a battle and smart PCs can make a perception check to hear the Kramps scurrying on the roof. If your PC’s are like mine, they won’t wait around for whatever is scurrying on the roof to attack. If the PC’s choose to go to the roof to investigate they must make an acrobatic check or be blown from the roof of the train. There is a problem here with the module in that, although it tells the DC for the check it does not go into detail about what happens if a character is blown off. I did some research and came with the conclusion that if a PC was blown off they would take 3d6 of damage or 2d6 if they made a tumble check. Then based on the number of rounds it took for the other PC to defeat the other Kramps I would figure out how far behind they were.

Once the PC’s defeat the Kramps on the train they find out the train is broken and the fire elemental that was harnessed to power the train tells them of a cave that will provide them with a short cut to the village they were travelling to. At this point, one of my PCs felt railroaded because this was the only option they had. I’m not sure what he expected but maybe a backup in case the PCs wanted to wait in the warm train would have helped.

Once inside the cave the Kramps were hyped up in the module to be a hard challenge. However, my PCs made short work of the whole village using little to no tactics. This made me a little disappointed because I was hoping they would deliver a little humility to my PC’s. I think the problem with the Kramps was they did not do very much damage. They used either a switch to hit the PCs or coal, and although funny and fitting either one did much damage.

The only other hard challenge came in the form of 2 nutcracker golems. Depending on the parties’ rolls this can be a pretty hard encounter and my PCs did not role well. The party then gets a chance to use an object they find to defeat a trap, I really liked this. Then the PCs get an opportunity to use diplomacy/bluff/intimidate on a white dragon. My players and I really liked this role playing encounter and the party gets a chance to make a friend with a white dragon. The final encounter against a trio of steam mephits proved no problem for my party. After all, they are in an ice cave but it does provide multiple ways to handle the encounter.

Overall, everyone really enjoyed this scenario and it offered many unique encounters that even in pathfinder are not encountered on a regular basis. Although there were a few minor issues it was nothing that a half way decent GM could not overcome. Plus, it comes with 4 unique magic items that although my PC’s sold 2 of them they are all still very cool and interesting.


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Not bad but not great

***( )( )

When I read the other review for this third installment into the BASIC series I almost skipped this one. After reading the other review I decided to alter the quest to address reviewer Endzeitgeist major complaint about the PVP in the beginning of the mission. I had my players face off against the pre generated characters provided in the module. Of course this would not be an option if the players running this were using the pregens but if they have made their own characters this is a great solution. Plus it introduced my players to their rival classmates that I plan on giving a reoccurring part whenever a rival band is called for in a mission.

I do have a few complaints from the GM perspective. First, the main Gnoll boss, Ringdocus, was set up for a coupe de grass. The party rogue easily snuck in and instead of stealing the cursed mask from him while he was a sleep on his thrown delivered a near fatal blow. One more point of damage and he would have missed his save and been instantly killed. Then the rouge could have done the same thing to his sleeping mate and escaped undetected! Even though he survived the coupe de grass he was killed when he tried to stand up from the resulting attack of opportunity. This was a letdown to me because he had a tone of gear and abilities that were never used. The second complaint I had from the GM point of view was that the finale battle where the characters fight the Turdurken was anticlimactically. After a tough battle with the Gnolls this battle was a cake walk for the team. The Turdurken had some cool abilities and attacks but had only 35 hp. The players easily killed it in 5 round and he only got to use his special call 2 times. Looking back I wish I would have included 2 of these creatures instead of the 1 that the module calls for. Finale complaint that I had was I did not see how the players had enough encounters for a level up. Even accounting for the extra xp the players got from the previous mission the module only includes 1500 in xp for each character. The gnoll leader was only listed as 8 xp I assumed that this was a typo and counted it as 800. Even with this I still had to be very liberal in xp for the role playing scenes to make up the 1000 xp per character shortfall.
My players only had one complaint that I felt was relevant. The Gnolls can go into rage and deal 1d12+9 damage. This is a lot of damage even for third level characters to take.

There were quite few things that I liked about the mission. One of the coolest things about the mission was players got to come up with their own solution on how to handle the gnoll fort. The second thing that I enjoyed was the magical items that came directly from the previous mission. This aspect made it fell like what the players had done in the past was important. Finally I really did like the Turdurken and its’ special abilities although it was lacking some much needed hp. All together not a bad mission.


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Great family fun!

*****

This is the second adventure in the BASIC series and did not disappoint. Building on the experience from the first quest the player characters are sent to the town of Hazelwood for their first real assignment. Here the players get a chance to engage in some open ended role playing experience in the form of exploring the town and interacting with the locals. I play with my wife, children and older friend and they all had fun exploring the village and trying to figure out what the disgruntled elf they were hired to protect the town from was up to.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON: The set up for the town and the interactions was great. It provided enough guidance for me to get the feel for the different NPC characters personalities without being overbearing in forcing interactions to advance the plot. Once the action kicks off the sand box style of play is well structured again by providing the right amount of guidance without being to overbearing. It leaves the combat tactics in the hands of the players while at the same time providing the GM with the information to provide a fun and intense encounter.
I only had a few minor gripes with this adventure. First, there is still quite a bit of work for the GM to do. While the module does describe the buildings interiors it does not come with a map of them. The players have several choices about where they can make a stand against the swarming pumpkin monsters so the GM has to map out five locations in case the players choose to use one of them. Not that big of a deal to me but could be a issue to other GMs if they are very detailed orientated. Second, there is a semi big plot hole in the form of the demon bees that caused the pumpkin monsters. The location of the remaining bees is unexplained to include the queen and the rest of the hive. It is explained that the bees are from the lower planes and the players can uncover this fact during their investigation of the town. So my most experienced player was convinced that a portal to the lower planes had been opened and that they had to find and destroy the nest and shut the portal. The plot hole is that the rest of the bees are not covered and the reasoning for finding and destroying the rest of the nest would be sound. The players find dead demon bees so they had to be from a portal and not summoned. It took a lot of strong hints for my players to stop looking for the nest and had them grumbling wanting to know what happened to the rest of the bees. That aside everything else ran very smoothly and provided lots of fun tension and excitement. It also had a grading system to let players know how well they did on the mission.


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Only 7 differnt Gnolls!!!!

**( )( )( )

While the artwork on these minis is great I have 1 complaint, it only comes with 8 different Gnolls !!!! Not even 8 because 1 of them is just a hyena. For $3.99 I would at least expect 10 different images if not more. For 1 dollar more I bought the sandy point miniature pack that came with 70 different minis. I honestly wish I could have returned this product. There are a lot of great tools on this web site for a better price. I will give 2 stars for the art work but that is the only thing that was satisfactory about this product.


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