Chaleb Sazomal

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Demolished and Rebuilt PCs

5/5

Let’s get into the review of The Demolished Ones by Brian Engard.

The first thing, and always great in importance, is the front cover. We have a suicide, in between the heads of two investigators, male and female (good to see equal representation, top marks there), a backdrop of cultists, one sporting a billy club and a grim top-hat man looming over them. This has my attention; the details are crisp and the woman, judging by her expressive eye, seems sorrowful. The blood from the next of the hanged victim/suicide cuts through the browns and greys on the cover. It is a good start, and yes, I am impressed (always a good early sign).

Inside we find the publishing info, but also a charming dedication of Brian to his wife. Great partners assist their partner in expression.

The Table of contents presents five chapters, a map, five handouts and another copy of the character sheet. Checking over the handouts first, I love the care that has gone into them. Pen and paper gaming has long put a lot of past effort into these little tidbits for the players to hold, and it is good to see this practice continuing after being quiet for a number of years.

Page 1 and 2 sets up the situation the player is in as the game starts. It does this by posing a series of questions to draw players in, and immediately there is a mystery to solve and questions to be asked.
Chapter 1 gets into the rule system. It seems easy to grasp, it is not a terribly complex system (which works, since mystery games should be about the mystery, story, interviewing and investigation, and not complex rules systems). I like the shifting ladder of success for making checks, and it reminds me of Fudge (don’t know the fudge and systems like them until you have tried it).

The breakdown of the four core actions was really logical, and I think new players would benefit from this clear presentation of what is possible—overcome, create or discover advantage, attack and defend.
Chapter 2, character creation. The game doesn’t have hp, it has health and composure. Everyone loves a variant sanity system, and damage leads to “taking consequences”. Where is my healer? That sounds scary.

Moving on we arrive at the skill list, and they are well named. It is good to see some new names for various types of skills, like rapport, but alas “stealth” finds its way in and something more original is not chosen.

Skills are introduced in an interesting way, in that the skills are chosen but awakening with no memory, they are steadily unlocked through scenes. I like this as an introductory mechanic. It can allow someone to grow into the character that starts without memories, and they build what they want from the ground up, but won’t be able to do everything.
From skills there are also some supernatural abilities, but I am not going to ruin those, suffice to say I think they can be well-used to move along scenes or get an advantage.

Chapter 3 is on the setting, the story, the map, scenes and acts. It is extremely clear. I like encountering good writing that won’t trip up players or the gm.

There is exploration, the chance to fight police, the mysterious Jacks, and sanity checks (as a Cthulhu player I like to see those, ha ha!).
I don’t want to reveal too much more of what is in the adventure, but it gets grim, creepy and a bit twisted.

The third act is also left open-ended and up to the players. Top marks for avoiding railroad and giving the space and story to set something up for each game group, but for the players to make the call on where to go for act 3.

Chapter 4 adds more info on key characters, their abilities, broad factions and locations.

Chapter 5 talks about the setting of the Victorian world and noir-ness. Of course this story is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and it discusses the meanings behind the story. Nicely cerebral, without going overboard. I sense strong editing.

The fillable character sheet of the demolished ones (fillable on your pdf reader that is, paper sheets are usually fillable) was compact, a little creepy in fitting with the setting and perfectly does the job. I also like it when the character sheet of a system indicates this will not take ten hours of book study to understand. It looks simple, even welcoming. There are not twenty boxes.

I truly like this product, I look forward to running it, I couldn’t identify any major flaws (even the art is good) as it is clear, creepy and intriguing. I’m giving it a max score, as some products do deserve this, and saying it is worth the coin (and it doesn't even cost much).


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Raining Griffons and Good Material

4/5

I generally review truly excellent products, or terrible tomes that should not be. This, is most certainly the former. There is a lot in the 226 pages of The Secrets of Adventuring, and I will try to cover a lot of it.

The material inside, the plentiful archetypes and options, is intended for the Pathfinder system. The nine chapters first involve the divine channeling, luckbringer and the taskshaper chapters. From this follow the tactical archetypes, then four chapters on the gunslinger, inquisitor, magus and oracle and a final chapter on combat maneuvers, a difficult topic and one discouraged by the PF system.

The channeling chapter opens with a short story, and it is weighty and long chapter with plenty of options. It is mainly about clerics and divine magic, and right off the bat adds a new base class: the divine channeler. It is a risky choice to open a text with a variant cleric class, as clerics aren’t considered the most exciting of classes, but the channeler looks to be able to fill their role quite well. Some new feats are provided for this class and other divine channeling classes. Then we arrive at domain channeling, and the offensive combat, charm and out of combat options for a channeller. I was intrigued, and the special abilities have a lot of flavor, like Sun’s Kiss, and Song of Confusion and It’s a trap to weaken enemies with paranoia. This shows that through the options of this book, it isn’t all about DPS, which I heartily approve of as a DM and player.

As I continue through and into the various concepts and class variants, I can’t help but notice the number of new feats in this tome. There are plentiful, and I think most would be worthy in a game. Some might be difficult to use or get a lot of use out of, as in the feat Family man. This gives a bonus to interacting with children, but I think it should also grant a bonus to interacting with mothers of a community, in that you are known as a good sort, trusted, and a decent person in the community. Any of these fluff feats could be altered to fit with a game.

To the luckbringer, and this reminds me of the 3.5 Scoundrel book. Here it is a class all on its own, and quite new. It seems a sort of rogue variant, but it has a range of special abilities, good saves and a nice skill list. The special abilities are where the luckbringer shines, allowing a player to mess with a roll for their advantage and to be able to make a roll to avoid a crit. These are just a sample, and a lot of thought has gone into the luckbringer. Rather than provide a range of luck feats as per 3.5, this makes a lucky character that is simple to use (and simply lucky), you don’t have to use feats to unlock special abilities (although there are luck feats added, and archetypes). Being able to cause dead griffons to fall from the sky and cause damage to enemies is a fantastic special ability. Top marks for the luckbringer! May Griffons rain from the skies.

This book also has a number of neat magic items hidden amongst its pages. I do like the auspicious sword, which could be a perfect quest item for low level adventurers, or as a part of a larger campaign set piece (find the Eight Luck Swords of Legend). There is a lot of items and spells waiting to be thrown into games here.

The taskshaper is not what I expected. It is a body warping class, which is all about the beast shape change shape, moving around abilities and mimicry. Quite an interesting class, and the feats take this class into the heavy and powerful role. Growing in size or causing deformity with a touch. I haven’t tested this class, so I am not sure if it is OP, but it looks exciting. Like the luckbringer, a lot of work went into this, but it is also acknowledged the taskshaper has a lot of bookkeeping.

This review is already lengthy, but I will say that the number of archetype variants in here is astounding. The peltast provides a good variant fighter focused on throwing weapons, the pious sentinel is a variant cleric that mixed with bardic abilities. The war scholar presents a monk that is better at attacking and combat maneuvers than the standard monk, they can even temporarily get a damage bonus. Just what the monk needs. PF has needed a book like this for a long time.

I also liked the new options in the secrets of combat maneuvers, and it is good to see garrotting make a return. Tiring options and dirty tricks are good ideas to include if a game has a lot of combat between humanoids.

With all these merits, it makes the mediocre background art of the cover a strange inclusion. The half-lizardfolk harpy is pretty good, with a mixed look of coy and murderous, but the adventurers behind that look cheap and computer produced. With the cover being so important for any text, it is a bit odd to see a lack of polish there.

In the interior, there are a range of pictured used by varied artists, including the use of historical art pieces. It generally fits together well, and the black and white or blue and white pictures give the text an old AD&D feel. Some will dislike this, those that are used to newer art, but I found it charming, appropriate, and pleasantly quaint.

I give this product 4/5, on account of excellent class variant and new class material, a lot of options, plenty of depth for settings, new magic items and spells, but a discouraging cover.


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Blood dip, dark folk are here!

4/5

We reach the dark Folk, the last of the series.

It starts with the origin of magic for humans, the first light spell cast by druids and then darkness, perverted and developed by a devil.

The story is quite grim and inky in tone, which I like, with sacrificed adventurers thrown into the blood of a slumbering devil lord and a new monster race born.

From this, the growing threat of dark stalkers, creepers and keepers is explained. The good can be sacrificed to increase their numbers, and they have a purpose--to release the ancient devil via four very specific items (hence why the dark folk are so interested and focused upon identifying and seizing magic items).

Also covered are tactics to use against them; the dark keeper is added as a new monster (I like their very useful staff), and the Darkling language is also mentioned and the difficulty in speaking it for non Darklings.

The folk make some good low level opponents, I'd pair them with devils and traps (damaged magic items ready to explode?) to really give some adventurers a hard time. Alas the terror turkey and other monsters from tricky owlbear must come first before I bring in the dark folk as dm.

Worth the price, for sure. 4 stars.


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Mold men

4/5

I didn't really like vegepygmies much, or really use them with any frequency. This product changes that a bit.

We have a great little low cr enemy with some dr and not many weaknesses (plants). There is a story on their origins featuring for once kobolds, variant rules for vegepygmies becoming stronger in sunlight, a new mold bomb item, and topping it off the vegegyant, a huge monster that protects large vegepygmy nomadic settlements. The Gyant is pretty strong with some fine special attacks involving blasting and trapping.

The only flaws I can see are that russet mold's stats are not provided here for ease of reference, and the mentioned chieftain pygmy is not here either. Both are in Tome of Horrors Revised edition.

In summary, I enjoyed it and give it four stars. Since my players are underground and in a damn area, a vegepygmy settlement with lots of russet mold just opened up ahead of them.


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Roped-in

5/5

A worthwhile pdf for those (old?) dms that like ropers, and for those that want to get new more deadly variants to the standard roper, on the cheap.

It opens with a story about protecting a community and rallying slaves against the roper menace. With alien gnawing horror, magical travel to places of despair and monsters plotting to expand and enslave peoples across space and time, it certainly had a Lovecraftian feel which I appreciated.

The stats for a roper are provided, and the best that this offers for our games are the six variant ropers. Some of which are very deadly and all have a tricky concept behind the variant. The puppet and mind masters are my favourites.

We also have three magic items that can be crafted from dead ropers. They are fine ideas, but the strength draining whip has a very low dc, and should run closer to the ropers actual dc since it is only usable for a short time.

Ropers are dangerous to parties that would venture underground, thus they and these new variants can be used for many games. Four stars!


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Origins, Variants and Ambush Lair

4/5

This time we have a sample lair attached on to the end of the pdf. This provides a good locale by which a low level party can skirmish a gargoyle, or be attacked while checking out a seemingly deserted ruin. Given this is a solo battle and a low challenge rating for beginner adventurers, this could really work for a horror game session when the players are still green (I’d suggest level 2 all round).

The origin story really shines in this book, tying the beginnings of Gargoyles to an attempt to magically reform criminals, which explains their chaotic evil cruel behaviour and love of ambush. After finishing, I wanted to add Thyrentia to a setting, perhaps set it just prior to the fall. For those who love apocalypse settings and robot uprisings, a great turning of the gargoyle soldiers of a country could provide a fine gaming experience. The gargoyles DR/magic means that heroes will be needed to truly take them down if they are harassing a land in the hundreds.

This time we don’t have a new monster exactly, but we are provided with two variant gargoyles. One of which is an elven gargoyle skilled and dangerous at forest fighting, and very hostile to non-elven visitors.

A great pdf, close to a max 5, I will give it a 4 out of 5.


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Bones for breaking

4/5

It is hard to make the skeleton interesting. They are mooks in tombs and dungeons, worrying in numbers at low level, but mostly unexciting except for their nice dex. The skeleton needs more.

This book adds a little to the skeleton, we have a story and possible campaign hook about an undead warrior smitten by love. We have the flesh stealer skeleton to make skeletons a bit more threatening up close, and we have a new alchemical item to allow players to do bludgeoning damage against skeletons on the cheap.

Not bad at all.


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Down Deep, Salty and Blind

4/5

This I liked, unlike many of the other reviewers.

What I was looking for was a small dungeon, with some hard encounters, without much size to it. This is it and that is why I am so positive about it. The end boss is good, the stone monsters allow the medusa to fight on a more even footing the pcs. I liked the grimlock barb rogues.

Some have said it is too hard, I'm actually going to have to make it harder for the pcs, and add more in so they don't go through without a struggle. So I'll be putting in more grimlocks, xorns and xerans and allowing more statues to be animated.

A tight, small dungeon is not necessarily a bad thing. Not everything has to be the greatest and largest quest, or a gigantic story. For old-style D&D!

Thanks Robert Brown.


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Gobble of Terror

5/5

This is fantastic.
So it is a Thanksgiving monster. It is the deadly sharp quilled terror turkey with its sonic gobble. I like this monster so much, I am distraught that I will have to wait a session to bring it in. The Xeran coming just before the terror turkey will feature.

We have the tale of the terror turkey, a history if you will that explains its presence and inner viciousness. What struck me most from this, is how easy it would be to turn the terror turkey origin story into an adventure for low level pcs.

The pcs could first hear about the regional turkeys by getting bargain rates on turkey meat from a travelling caravan, and shortly after, the region starts to get weird, and all manner of twisted turkeys start to attack out of the forests. With the pcs later encountering flocks of terror turkeys and losing an npc they know to the turkeys.

A few other things. The CR of the terror turkey is a bit too high at 5 (it does only have four hit die), although they do have some fine special abilities like the before-mentioned sonic gobble, their damage isn’t great. To make this turkey a real CR 5, I’d give it one hit die, a point of bab etc, and take the DR either to 3/--, or DR 5 against only piercing. Making trying to shoot the turkey a bad idea.
The turkey could also easily be made a stronger ranged opponent, by making the sonic gobble stronger and effect a greater range.

Treasure should also not read as “none”, but should instead be: “one fat turkey”.

Useful outside of game, this pdf also comes with some turkey cooking recipes.

5/5! No doubt.


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The Barghests of Gehenna

4/5

This pdf is a little different to the previous ones. It follows the same format, but comes with a magic item and a feat, but not a new monster. The feat is a very strong defensive feat that has to be taken at level 1. It is quite suited to a celestial or good vs. evil campaign.

Most of this pdf is filled with the history of the Barghes; with a complicated story crafted this time. I enjoyed reading it, and this twisted god of Barghests and goblins would fit into any Tolkien-like campaign or standard fantasy setting. The stats of figures such as Aerinthalan or Orm Twinhearts, even simply in brief, could help a game by being included. Because the stories are so good, it would be even better to have the npc stats so that they can be brought into a game easily. A good story sites with two adventure ideas ready-made. Perhaps the adventurers could follow in the footsteps of Orm searching for him and his companions, or investigate the mysterious blue goblins seen around more frequently.

The picture of the Barghest is very good and quite twisted-looking, so there is plenty to recommend this little pdf.


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Bulette, maglettes and a very useful spell

4/5

We begin with a history of the Bulette provided. Dodgy elves are again the creators of monsters that devour pcs and the common folk alike. When will they answer for their magic crimes?!

The tale of the aquatic elf that made the Bulette is amusing, and Gajar would make a fine villain for a campaign. He could easily fit into the Second Darkness module especially.

How to counter the landshark? Well this pdf has some ideas. Suggestions are put forward to counter the bulette and their tremorsense and burrowing abilities, and clearly a bit of thought has been put into this. Many bards died for this information.

The bulette spell is a good one, and very useful for any skirmishing spellcaster or bard, wizard or sorcerer interested in escaping in an unusual fashion. It is only level 3, and I would with dm approval, give it to any spellcasting character I ran that could cast third level spells. Potentially it is especially useful for fighter/wizards or bard/rogues.

The additional monster is good fun, this is what Tricky Owlbear does best. It is a small vicious swarm of low CR, that can really hassle low level adventurers or spellcasters. These maglettes are paired to bulettes as following scavengers. Meaning the heroes when they fight bulettes may additional have to defeat small piranha scavengers, with tiny limbs, crawling and biting over any source of food. Mmmm excellent.

This I liked, but so far some of the others Behind the Monsters are a tad better.


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Xorns in the Walls

5/5

I’ll admit the Xorn is not my favourite monster, I haven’t used them in game since early this year; but this book also introduces the Xeran and that is what I like the most.

This is a fine foe for low level adventurers in any type of underground or dungeon locale. The Xeran is a natural skirmisher like the Xorn, but also comes with a very hot magma breath weapon (mmm magma) with a good range for tight dungeons. A smart dm can use these Xerans to provide a tough challenge if they are using earth glide in difficult terrain with the the ranged attack, or glide and close to use their good strength and many attacks on forward scouts or rear spellcasters, departing before they can be really hurt in turn. Basically, I am sold on the Xeran.

A few other comments: I would put the CR of the Xeran a little bit lower. They are a bit fragile for a CR 7, and would be much better as a CR 6 for parties of around level 5, not up to two attacks and +6 bab. The Xeran could even be a very effective horror monster if used properly, and if its twisted Lovecraftian form was not seen totally. Whether this foe really challenges players will ultimately depend on the terrain and DM’s skill at skirmishing.

This pdf also comes with a great cloak magic item that would be immensely helpful for high level spelunkers. A brief history of the Xorn in which their emergence on the prime material is tied to desperate Drow and the conflict with the Duergar. I found this almost as good as the Owlbear intro but with a bit more to it. This story also provides a reason for mithral-heavy parties to be attacked by more Xorn, which could add flavour to a campaign, and a cost to using that metal. Mithral is great for adventurers and often taken or sought after, but the Xorn want it even more. There is also a section on their willingness to ambush and seize loot—making them not so different to adventurers really.

The Xorn and Xeran will be coming for my poor players.


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Protector of the Granny

4/5

This pdf adds something I have never heard of in years of D&D, dragons guarding and lengthening the life of village grannies. Why? For companionship and baked goods, and perhaps because of a nice old lady long long ago.

It is a good idea and adds something to old female npcs of a setting and the usually dangerous and unintelligent drakes of the forest. It gives grannies one more secret, and explains their long lives. Adventurers may come and go, but the granny remains.


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Tiny but Comedic

5/5

This really brought a smile and a laugh. It is easily an idea for a campaign, a pc or npc the disgruntled zombie has many uses. Hilarious dialogue included and party games. Disgruntled zombies are all apparently alcoholic pacifists.

The spells to frustrate necromancers with self aware disgruntled zombies is a great idea, what strategy. The power of apathy spreads!

It is fine and fun Benjamin Gerber, thanks.


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Oddly titled, but a good foe

4/5

By troll hunter I expected something on hunting trolls, what I got instead was a strong CR 11 opponent that will be a great foe for human adventurers. The owl companion fits, although a part troll regenerating vulture would be even better.

The troll hunter, or troll that hunts humans will be used in my games soon.


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Quality without Quantity

5/5

This is a fine little pdf, adding a bit more to the lore of owlbears. The history story is interesting and there is a new added item, but what truly won me over was the bearowl. The disruptive aura is good, and could be improved by some extra special abilities for owlbear/bearowl variants.

I have thrown bearowls at my players and they have loved it. Thanks Bret Boyd and Rick Hershey.


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Stairway of trogs

5/5

Threw the players into this recently. It went really well, they were mostly experienced players. A lot of opportunity for close-quarters stairway fighting with limited movement. Trogs are the enemies here, there are a few things assisting them also locked away in this tower. The art is also very fine and possessing a sense of being animated, the maps are clear.

As the players reacted to what was going on, the clearing of this tower actually took quite some time, despite its small size. See, a dm shouldn't just restrict the sentient opponents to one area, they should move and react to the players actions. As a dm I made this harder, so two tries were required to clear it, and although challenging, no party member died, although there were some incapacitations.

Some changes that were made, which made it harder and more exciting:

1) More spiders less dogs.
2) Use full troglodytes, not young trogs.
3) The no 2. trog has a great crossbow and moves around to use it (sniper in the tower). This makes entering or exiting quite exciting, but not overwhelming (as it would be with six archer trogs on the balcony).
4) The crocodile is put to good effect in the stairway, and limits the potential for players to really flank and get around it.
5) Have the loot be quite variable in the armourer, potentially with some nice pieces the trogs haven't used yet (due to a lack of proficiencies).
6) If required, change the hostage to a ranger, so the players can heroically fight their way out if they barricade themselves inside the guard room.
7) Make getting into and around the tower easier.

As a free pdf, as an introductory or low level adventure, I was very impressed with this product. A DM makes a dungeon interesting, this is not dull by default (look at that exciting cover art).


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Save the village

2/5

I can't praise this as highly as other reviewers. This is a save-the-village adventure, fairly orthodox where goblins, their champions, and other influences are your enemies. The goblins are given character and do spice up the adventure, but goblins as early opponents is more than a tad formulaic. A corrupted tribe of Shoanti would have made for some more interesting opponents, although the scenes do use the goblins pretty well. For running it, I recommend adding in other low cr monsters. The goblin base is located and off the adventurers go.

Well there are a lot of goblins, and they have champions, not all of which are goblins so low level character can certainly get in over their heads (this path saw a tpk save 1, and then another tpk later). If the goblins coalesce it can signal real trouble, so stealth can really be advised for this one. Wizards, will run out of spells, and resting in a giant goblin warren is not the easiest thing to pull off. So its a dungeon hack and worth playing, but very hard unless a dm rolls back some encounters.

Now for some of the issues. The village is well fleshed-out as they say, but a dm should not forget to go through the various scenes that can draw the players in and make them feel like they are saving worthwhile people. The village is a little odd and cosmopolitan for a far northern village (a glass-works here?).

The sheriff probably should do more, perhaps team up with the pcs, and not necessarily leave them to do everything. This can cause resentment.

The idea of attacking the goblins is actually a bit ridiculous (yes smash yourself against their defences) and a strong defence from the town, using militas and quickly erected pallisade walls, would involve much less threat to the pcs. Spread around the damage, hurt the goblins coming in, and put less stress on the players. A railroad dm who ran this for me and others, refused to allow this option. Yet Sandpoint does have a militia, some good men and hardy women, whom one assumes would protect their homes and help cover the backs of the pcs if Sandpoint was under attack. If you leave the town and go in, you are alone. So an LOTR heroic defence makes a little more sense than what is suggested as the adventure course (if you face a numerically superior foe, shouldn't you defend not attack?).

Having voiced my criticisms, I do plan to run this soon, with some tailoring and more diverse monsters and more human adversaries as well. This adventure path has led to many memories and recounted stories in my gaming group. Most aren't good, but we laugh at them anyway. Play it with a good and relaxed dm, or it can lead to player slaughter.


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Barbarian Holmes

2/5

This one can be very difficult and may be better run as a separate, short game. I say this because the last adventure, the first in the path, was heavy in combat and infiltration. Chopping your way through goblins and their champions, trying to save Sandpoint through might of arms or spells. Then they want you to play investigator.

The party I was in, after two tpks in the first book, were optimised to fight. Now there is fighting, but this is a mix of murder investigation, haunted house exploring and combat. If you are poor at investigating, if the party have not gone that way, then you will have to be spoon-fed if the dice don't allow you to pass some very high dcs. My fighter/barb/berserker was quite inept at being Sherlock Holmes, and the others didn't do much better. The party ranger failed his track checks and other contributions he could make. It also doesn't quite fit, that the mercs hired to protect the village from goblins, should suddenly do the Sheriff's job for him in a series of murder investigations (it pushed against verisimilitude, and so did our ineptitude at the task).

Some other points, the skinsaw murderer is ridiculously overpowered. Given what they were, suddenly they have jumped in cr, combat effectiveness, and their stats are just odd and far too high. Secondly you might have a character that comes in, and whom is very suited to investigation (I made an investigative fighter for a new player) and then they just die off in the very difficult combat. This adventure path is the beginning of Paizo's demands for very optimised parties. Bards and investigative rogues or fighters will pass the investigation, and then really may die at the hands of the adversaries once uncovered.


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Gremlins, so many gremlins

3/5

I liked this first book quite a bit. The ruin exploration was pretty fun, the npcs got my interest. The many types of gremlins are a good addition, and they sure can be troubling to take down in the adventure. Some of the dodgy npcs were a bit obvious though, and an alert and careful npc can determine a few things at a glance. The setting feels good and different.

The point on non-optimised parties has been made and is valid, but this is a problem for many paizo adventure paths, they are made to challenge power gamers. If a dm just runs it straight, and some players are new, team work is a bit off, expect casualties (and gnoll laughter).


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The Gorilla King says...

1/5

So I was thinking of running this adventure path as an extension of my Sargavan game. the first two seemed interesting, but then I got to three and four. Three has been strongly criticised and does have its serious weaknesses, but four takes the failure cake for me. I will explain why.

In this book, the players have secured a bit of space for themselves, battling many of the factions of the hidden city and emerging victorious. A king of the gorillas arrives before you can venture below the city and things start to go pear-shaped if you accept his forceful hospitality. There is awful food which can sicken the party and he imposes challenges which the players must complete before he will allow them to venture forth. Yes, this outsider will come in, block the adventure proceeding, impose tests and if the players win, he will move on and accept their authority (how quaint).

To the tests, a DC 25 strength check, which many players in games I've run or been in, would fail. Even a barb may not be able to pull it off if he isn't a typical massive strength build.

Next an oratory or similar check of DC 35. You are meant to impress the court, that is nice, but 35 isn't impressive, it is magnificent. Also many parties I know couldn't get 35 at around 11th level. Even a bard would fail on a low roll.

The last is combat. One party member against the king. He is a fourteenth level fighter and dire ape. He could be taken, but it would be rather hard.

If you fail two, you lose, the king blocks the tunnels that go deeper. If you win, he threatens the party and implies he will murder them in the jungle. Well that is just swell and honourable isn't it?

So I told a friend and dnd player why I wouldn't be running this adventure path and told him of the above scene. He said, the players should say fine, leave the ridiculous tests and tell the dm well the adventure path is a failure since we now can't proceed. If you refuse the very hard quests then the gorilla king becomes angry, offers them one more time (oh how generous) and may attack with his small army. A mid level party would have very little chance against this small army of ape-variants and nasty combatants.

There are some good monsters, but the necromancer hunt was stale years ago and the gorilla king encounter begins the book. It is worse than the imposed Shoanti quests in The Crimson throne, and they seemed out of place and very demanding then.


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Sargavaaaa!

3/5

The art which opens this text isn’t very good, the intro which sets the scene is. This is why I run a game in and around Sargava, one of the most exciting regions in Golarion, too long neglected in Paizo’s early days. On page 6, claiming the fighter is suited to the dangers of Sargava is not actually true.

Wearing any armour lowers fort saves against heat and fatigue, and Sargava is a very hot climate. The typical fighter can be stuck on too many penalties if he adopts heavy armour and shield, and wear out swiftly without multiple great forts. Smartly it does suggest less armour and not to take great reductions to mobility. As a DM who has run games in Sargava for many months prior to this adventure path, a fighter without diplomacy, a common fate, can also get into more fights than they can handle. The players I ran an adventure game for were a little too combat focused with not enough skills or even moderate charisma to keep them socially afloat. Sargava and the Mwangi expanse are dangerous, but it is not pit fighting day-in, day-out, and a great fort and diplomacy can do wonders for survival. Oh and don’t forget to take survival and nature, that can’t be emphasised enough.

The campaign traits add great flair and a reason for a character to be in-bound for Sargava.

I give the small book a three, almost a four, for doing what it sets out to do well.


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Beware of wrought and make your perception checks

2/5

And we arrive at core. I personally have more experience with beta through heavy play testing. I’m giving this book a 2 specifically because it brings plenty of good ideas over from beta, e.g. what was done to skills, the tailoring choice of barbarian rage powers, the art, the presentation, the mixing of the players and dm into one book. However, balance has been abandoned. The monk and paladin class get far too much, compare them to the bard and the old stable, balanced fighter. Paladin has taken abilities from the healer class, an entire other class, while retaining its old abilities in the mix. The monk is frankly ridiculous, with ki, with bonus feats, with all the old monk gamut, but an increased progression on ac (yes I noticed). The penalties of flurry are also lessened, monk level and wisdom bonus added to combat manoeuvres so that they can be as proficient as what is the fighter’s specialty.

Few other things, the hit die change is just stupid. Upping the ranger’s hit die to the fighter level is a mistake. The ranger already gets more skills and a better selection. Why should he equal the highly drilled fighter when he already has points on him? Where is the balance? Wizards on a d6 is a laugh, an attempt to escape their old weakness. Rogues on a d8 is too much. The fighter in beta differs to the fighter in core. I far prefer the small steady bonuses in beta over the stolen 3.5 knight abilities in core.

I borrow a little from pathfinder in my 3.5 games, but what was done to the combat manoeuvres was just dreadful. A line to cross and beat isn’t as exciting as an opposed roll, although it does speed up play. CMD also gets dreadfully high far too quickly and easily. Defensive combat training (as in core, not in beta) is completely wroughty. Sure, the wizard adds his level to counter-disarms, why not? Seems plausible yes? Free and limitless cantrips, the wizard is not a warlock. Cantrips from a prohibited school (p. 79) also makes me think the wizard creators forgot what prohibited means.

Really close to a 1 with all the wrought and unbalance.


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Great choices

5/5

This book re-presents some of the weirdest monsters to come out of dnd over the years. I eagerly read this book and wanted to use everything inside. In the Sargava game I’ve been running prior to all the new material to aid games set there, I wanted to populate the southern continent with new and unusual monsters. I trawled through manuals grabbing monsters from other systems, other d20 products and fringe material. I actually added in a region well-populated by the flail snails, which the party travelled to, so it is amusing to see them added to golarion. What made me chuckle was the point that they can be found on all levels of the darklands (more encounters ahead delvers) and that they are actually intelligent and Zen Buddhist like in their philosophy. When the party of my game ran into them, spells re-bounded, hit allies, someone got set on fire, causing quite the fuss. It was really very funny. They are a counter to warlocks or invokers. Note: do not use the base reflection rules, use the d100 table provided, it adds a lot more possibilities. Moar flail snails!

The other monsters can be quite the added treat. I’ll throw in the adherer although I already did something similar by taking your average Osirion mummy, give him some fighter levels and the weapon locking feat. The various lurking rays are perfect to turn a bit of spelunking into a horror game, cornbys could be added as fringe tribes in unexplored regions, disenchanters could follow wizards around who have all their body slots filled (although I prefer nishruus), and the wolf-in-sheep’s clothing could get quite a chuckle, but a savvy adventurer will know to stay back from what is cute and fuzzy in nature.

Enjoyed it too much not to give it five stars.


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Welcome to Leng

4/5

The art is almost all high quality (not unusual for Paizo) and this book is already well-used in my game. There are some boring additions, monsters seen before like the aranea, the athach, the grey render, but also plenty of variant elementals, humanoids, aberrations and swarms of monkeys.

What pleases me the most, apart from using the very difficult and challenging viper vine, are the aberrations. The Cthulhu mythos has been drawn in here heavily, something paizo has been doing for a while now (old ones and old cults). This is only a positive, the Leng spider, the Denizen of Leng the Hound of Tindalos and its unusual means of movement are all good resources for a dm. I’ve used them well thus far and it spices up games. The mongrelman makes an appearance, but unfortunately has no special ability to sicken or horrify on the stats. A dm can change this (see the hideous giants the thawns in kingmaker), or put the effect on the players themselves by describing their appearance at length, and hinting at their ancestry, especially if it starts to get… weird.

The Krenshar alas looks terrible, use other available pics for that if thrown into a game.


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