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squamous PDF of great valueCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
I received a comp PDF of this product to review.
When I’m designing adventures, I find the statistics take the most time: NPC stats and any new magic I want to throw at my players. I can come up with a scenario and I have plenty of maps. But the mechanical stuff takes a lot of time.
So when I had the chance to check out Troglodytes I jumped at the chance. Here is a nice handy PDF filled with statted monsters, new magic items, and a few other new mechanical bits, all connected with decent story bits. Tying the fantasy amphibians and reptiles together is Lovecraft horror, a delightful squamous mix. In fact, Troglodytes came across like a focused issue of Dragon from the old print days which to me is a great thing.
Of the twenty pages, four and a half are title pages, intro info, and OGL. There are two half pages of decent art. The rest is rules and roleplaying bits along with a table of contents. Included in those two and a half pages are some useful tables of the new mechanics as well as a descriptive paragraph and a poem. Anything well written that includes the word gibbous always grabs my attention: “Emerging on fog‐shrouded nights when a sullen, gibbous moon hangs low in the sky the troglodytes raise their croaking voices to the ebon heavens in terrible, half‐forgotten rites of veneration to unknown, elder beings.” Yeah, that’s cool.
The troglodytes get two pages of ecology including religion and tribal body art. They also get a new demonic god complete with a holy text called the Amoninomicon. These troglodytes are bloodthirsty violent savages.
Next up is a page of battle feats unique to the tribe which help with moving through difficult terrain in caverns, getting some spell-like dark powers, and killing people even more violently with claws. All the feats fit the theme of the savage tribe. Two alternative class features help turn the fighter into a tunnel fighter and the barbarian into an unarmored savage. My PDF had a typo that had me scratching my head for a moment: the feat reads when armored instead of when unarmored but I figured it out.
Following feats is a page of spells. Weight of ages is a nice use of aging rules that otherwise might not see much use. I liked these spells and could see the troglodytes using them to wither their foes.
Two potent intelligent magic items follow, both of use really only to the tribe. Destroying these foul weapons could be an adventure in itself. Both weapons are named and have personalities and backgrounds of their own.
A random encounter chart lists four different possible encounters with the Ebon Lake tribe. ELs start at 4 and end at 10.
The description of each encounter includes a way to modify the EL up or down one. This info gives twelve possible encounters. A description explains what the creatures are up to, which is a great guide for the GM.
Eleven fully statted creatures follow, including warriors, chieftain, shamans, and the unnatural leader of the trogs. A template is included as well. The stat blocks are well organized and easy to follow.
In addition to stat blocks, many of the creatures have backgrounds and tactics listed as well to aid in roleplaying the villains in and out of combat. As would be expected, the warriors are not subtle combatants and are crazed killers fighting to the death in most cases. They eat fallen human foes.
The template creates a degenerate creature. The example is a degenerate troglodyte possessed of savage brutality. It inflicts increased damage with natural weapons used in melee.
A handy stat block for regular trogs ends the PDF. Included are notes on adding to base stats when adding class levels. A handy reminder.
This PDF delivers exactly what a time-pressed GM needs. Eleven plus bloodthirsty Ebon Lake tribe-troglodytes and their slimy leader armed with dark magic and possessed of terrible bloodlust and violence. If you want to save several hours of statting up a tribe of trogs, get this PDF. The information provided could be reused easily, so a campaign featuring many trogs could get a lot of mileage out of this PDF. The descriptions are also inspiring and add quite a bit to how I pictured the Ebon Lake Tribe in my mind’s eye.
excellent work, unique monstersCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
Provided a copy to review.
Excellent product and I highly recommend it even if you don’t play Pathfinder (any GM could use the roleplaying parts). I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of these creatures appear in a Paizo product in the future.
I was surprised and thrilled by the cover. Classy and colorful and a good start to a great product.
The book starts with a description of the Faerie Realm. The realm is flavorful but grounded in the planar rules that Pathfinder utilizes as well as common myth. For example, time passes haphazardly in the Faerie Realm and can cause a visiting mortal a lot of problems when he or she returns to the Material Plane. The Faerie Realm is divided up into dominions but the product doesn’t go into the specifics of any individual dominions.
The Nowhere Dimension is a creepy place that causes travelers there to disappear and slowly be erased from reality. No rules are given for this event; it is GM driven. Thin man assassins are fey partially touched by this terrifying realm.
However, fey can be filled with fear by indicating they are going nowhere. The fear result is handled by a Will saving throw and uses the standard Pathfinder rules for handling fear. This touch is great as is the consequence for using it too often: thin man assassins will come after those who use these words and learn too much about the Nowhere Dimension.
Next up are the fey themselves. The stat blocks follow the standard Pathfinder layout. I didn’t do a large amount of math checking, but the numbers look correct from a quick overview. One teeny tiny error is that one time the GM is referred to as the DM which is a word that belongs more properly to D&D.
The faerie seer is a diviner who can see into the future in exchange for a unique price. Nice and simple creature that fills a unique roll and can be used as both an ally or a foe (some faerie seers are driven made by their visions).
Harvest haunts are tiny fey that use crops to continue their life cycle. This method of reproduction will bring the fey into direct conflict with farmers. Great roleplaying and problem solving would result from introducing harvest haunts into a campaign.
The spindler is a fey that creates magical clothing. Nobles might have a spindler creating clothes for them. If an unfortunate adventurer slighted the clothing produced, the adventurer might be forced to wear a shirt of frolicking kittens complete with a curse for everyone who views it. Great flavor here and the social convention of trades at major festivals and The Great Swap for mating is a wonderful touch.
Thin men are the assassins of the fey world. Existing in only two dimensions, thin men have potent defenses and providing a natural attack in the form of arm blades. The details on society and habitat as well as ecology give a well designed monster a frightening reason to pursue murder.
The art is decent as well with only the harvest haunt and thin man having an almost cartoon like quality. However, even those two pieces are above average and manage to still capture the essence of the depicted fey.
Shouldn’t be too hard on printers except for the cover. Pages have just a splash of color, no border, and some nice looking gears surrounding page numbers. It is bookmarked.
These fey are not just spell-casting or fighting monsters. Each fey has a reason to exist, a society of sorts that are alien by normal standards, and a variety of defenses and attack that accurately reflect their origins. The creator had an obvious grasp of the Pathfinder system as well as real-world knowledge of myths about fey and faeries.
years of high fantasy gaming in one bookCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
The Pathfinder Core Rulebook was extensively playtested openly with both and Alpha and a Beta version. Multiple successful adventure paths and modules provide examples that the system works and works well.
Even so, how does the Pathfinder Core Rulebook work for a brand new group, half of who are brand new to RPGs? What is it like for the GM and players? Here’s what the Core Rulebook promises:
“The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a tabletop fantasy game in which the players take on the roles of heroes who form a group (or party) to set out on dangerous adventures. Helping them tell this story is the Game Master (or GM), who decides what threats the player characters (or PCs) face and what sorts of rewards they earn for succeeding at their quest. Think of it as a cooperative storytelling game, where the players play the protagonists and the Game Master acts as the narrator, controlling the rest of the world.”
Does the Core Rulebook deliver on this promise? Do players, especially those recruited specifically to experience RPGs for the first time, feel like they are in a shared fantasy story enjoying directing the exploits of daring heroes they create and play?
Without a doubt, yes. The class based system gives a new player a hook on which to grab to get started and provides experienced players a familiar starting point. The classes are single names which do a good job of conjuring up what the player will have his character doing—a fighter fights for example and a wizard casts spells. New players grasp these concepts with no problems.
Character creation not only gives a new player a great start with a class, but it gets them thinking outside of combat when skills are chosen. Skills are easy to pick, with each character class getting a set number (set by class plus a bonus number for a high Intelligence). A character who takes one of the listed class skills gets a +3 bonus. Easy to grasp and gives each player an idea of the larger scope of abilities his or her character has and whether he or she trained mainly in class or pursued broader knowledge but at the expense of greater skill.
Race also goes beyond simple combat and game abilities. Each race has a half page of explanation and story ideas and a half page of rules. A player can get a good handle on how an average member of a race plays without getting buried in detail.
For the Game Master, chapters 12-15 provide everything needed to build worlds and adventures except for monsters. Campaign building advice, helpful rules for determining the challenge of an encounter and the right rewards, guidelines for creating NPCs, and detailed descriptions of magic items will be used over and over again by a GM.
This book is a toolbox containing all the key elements a player and a GM need to build characters, go on adventures, and enjoy a long campaign. While additional books like the Advanced Player’s Guide and the GameMastery Guide enhance and build on this material, they aren’t needed to play. A player only needs this book and the GM only needs it and the Bestiary to play in high fantasy campaigns for years.
The Core Rulebook does not provide a sample adventure or setting, it simply provides the guidelines for a GM to create their own works. A GM who wants to do less world and adventure building has many sourcebooks and modules to choose from but won’t find a premade world or adventure in this book.
The editing is tight, the layout is easy to follow, the art is great, and the story vignettes paint a picture of dangerous adventure undertaken by brave heroes.
If you need to start a new group or recruit new players, this book will help you start a new campaign and keep it going. If you want a decade or more of high fantasy gaming in a campaign built by you and your players with the option to add more material as you see fit, this book fits the bill.
As a bonus, you get high production values, extensively playtested rules, and a proven track record of adventures and worlds successfully built using these rules.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone (Carrion Crown 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $13.99
Print Edition Out of print
Pathfinder style, traditonal horror themeCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
Wow. Just wow. An amazing start to the Carrion Crown adventure path.
Inbred rapist cannibal necrophilia-practicing ogres chased me away from Adventure Paths years ago and I couldn’t be lured back until Carrion Crown beckoned with promises of a more traditional horror approach. While Carrion Crown has its own disturbing story and images, this first chapter just dips one mangled toe slightly into the torture-porn type of horror and no more (for which I’m profoundly grateful).
Lots of spoilers to follow.
Carrion Crown enticed me with the promise old-school horror. It went well beyond just delivering a fearful story, it also presented a Pathfinder adventure in which the PCs are still heroes and can save the day. It even includes a likable damsel in distress in need of rescue.
This first part of the Carrion Crown adventure path succeeds on many levels. The PCs are drawn in as possible pallbearers in a funeral and beneficiaries of a will. They are likely to stay for a variety of reasons: to help the town, protect the lady in distress—Kendra Lorrimor, or for the promise of future reward. And they will find a peaceful stay with their patron, Kendra, and find that peace threatened by the nearby haunted prison. The patron could even become a love interest if a PC is interested (and can woo her).
The adventure itself starts out with a confrontation with ugly locals. The PCs get to choose whether to talk things out or start busting heads. This theme of choosing to either think and talk through problems or go right to smash and burn continues throughout the entire adventure. Smart play is rewarded with trust being built with the locals (as a new game mechanic) which in turn makes the PCs job of unraveling what is going on that much easier.
From that point on, the PCs have plenty of encouragement to investigate what is going on in the haunted town. Some groups may want to charge right into the burned prison, but friendly warnings from their patron and promises of finding some ghost-busting equipment first may stay their hand (and maybe save their lives).
The prison itself is haunted, truly haunted, by unique spirits sure to give the PCs nightmares. The place is not just creepy or horrible it is on all levels and in all ways cursed and plagued by the spirits of the restless dead through the use of uniquely developed haunts.
Some very nice touches of horror in the adventure include but aren’t limited to the opening scene with PCs as possible pallbearers, the dead professor showing up as undead on his daughter’s doorstep (a classic), and a Golarin specific Ouija board that can contact spirits but also includes the danger of possession (another classic). A twisted combo of the ghosts of serial killers and sociopaths gives a tip of the hat to more modern horror.
I don’t usually notice artwork unless it is really bad, but I noticed the artwork here because it is really, really good. My favorites are the iconics carrying the casket, the Headless Horseman, and the animated jack-o’-lantern.
This adventure path chapter and the Player’s Guide do not have a map of Ustalav. Following along with the adventure path outline may be difficult unless the reader picks up a map.
My only small quibbles are that I found a couple of places where the adventure doesn’t tie in directly with the Player’s Guide for the adventure. Professor Lorrimor says that the villagers may think ill of him, considering him a demonologist or witch. The guide though states that Ustalav accepts witches. I’d rather he’d referred to oracles and summoners in this case to keep the idea that in this kingdom, witches are accepted.
I also couldn’t find game information on using the Harrow card the Uprising with the new rules from the guide. I expected to see something about using that card with the rules for Harrow Points.
Edit on the above two points: Paizo stated that the Player's Guide wasn't finalized when the adventure was. So the above two points aren't really a problem and the Harrow card will show up in the next chapter of the AP.
The other piece I didn’t like was the mention that PCs who find the mysterious words appearing on a memorial likely wouldn’t know they are under a time limit (if the entire name is spelled out, Bad Things Happen). This information is important for the PCs to know and in fact later in the adventure they can discover the truth about the words. I was surprised in an adventure so laden with solving mysteries that this one mystery was dismissed as not being solvable (only to allow the mystery to be solved later which is a better choice).
Beyond the adventure, the advice on what music to use to enhance the game was an interesting idea. I’d have preferred list of stories players might read to get into the game, but the music idea was fine. In fact, I used the fiction included in the AP to hand out to my players to read, so that worked out well.
I enjoyed the new fiction and the town write-up. The town and NPCs are crucial to the first third of the adventure which involves the PCs poking around and asking questions in true Scooby Doo style (the original Scooby Doo is classic horror for kids).
The expanded information on haunts is great on two levels—it really allows a GM to tie the story of the campaign right into encounters and it expands the existing options for haunts found in the GameMastery Guide.
I liked that in addition to new monsters, the bestiary expanded existing monster rules and added new animated objects. I also like seeing a new race option for PCs; I know Paizo hasn’t wanted too many new races added to the game, but I think changelings really fit well into this adventure path. The race is different from standard races with a natural weapon and natural armor which plays up their monstrous heritage nicely.
I don’t miss the stats for iconic PCs. I liked them, but I like everything else that was kept even more and I’m glad the extra two pages were used in another way.
Finally, I like the bits of background included on the inside of the front and back covers. A haunted house, a ghost, burial rituals, and whippoorwills all add great depth to Ustalav and the unfolding AP. I plan to hand one of each of these four background pieces out to the PCs along with the art of the iconics being pallbearers.
This AP delivers what I want: old-school horror with atmosphere and unwholesome mysteries combined with the heroism and excitement of the Pathfinder game.
get ready to cast wish in an adventure....Charles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
This review is going to be one big spoiler, so if you're planning to play it, don't read on.
Still here? I haven't gotten to playtest this adventure yet but if my group survives, I will. So how easily is it usable by a 17th-level party?
First, the quest here is to retrieve a minor artifact. Very groovy for this level.
There are two evil factions after the artifact, Queen Elvanna and the demon lord Kostchtchie. The PCs could work for either one or be in a race against both of them.
So this adventure would work for evil, neutral, or good PCs if they want to gain a minor artifact. If they want to destroy it at the end, that would be an even bigger adventure.
There are 21 numbered encounters here plus 1 that happens with ethereal movement and 1 at the end. Entering the location is only possible physically (no cold damage) or with planar travel (with cold damage inflicted). Other magical movement is blocked.
The map to the dungeon is complex and spread throughout the module, but I could follow it through. A DM will have some flipping to do unless he has copies of the maps compiled. Also, due to the size of the monsters in the module, the scale is one square is 10 feet which makes sense and makes the Veil much bigger than the maps seem to show.
Encounters include both traps and monsters. Depending on whom the PCs choose to negotiate and/or ally with they may have to fight everyone or may bypass some encounters or even add some allies. Many monsters are drawn from OGL sources and several have interesting twists including templates, curses, and class levels. I really liked the various monsters and how they all fit the theme of the adventure.
There is an option for how to add a wendigo to the adventure and what might happen if the PCs keep the artifact (or turn it in).
The adventure has a new artifact, a new monster, a new template, a settlement of frost giants, and four PCs (no wizard so no wish spell).
From my read through, this adventure is excellent for high level PCs. It covers how divinations and magical travel function and how various NPCs and factions will react. Woven throughout the adventure is the history of both Irrisen and Baba Yaga.
While Baba Yaga does not appear in the adventure directly, one dangling plot hook could lead the PCs to look for her after the adventure ends.
Chronicles of Future EarthCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
I wrote a longer review which should be appearing soon on rpg.net. Here's most of it without the chapter by chapter breakdown at end:
Buy it today, play it tonight. This wondrous world of lost tech and psionics paired with swords and sorcery is a campaign ready to start in one book.
In the far future, Earth in known as Urth. Ancient and little understood tech and mind-bending psionics are used alongside sorcery and divine magic. Chaos incursions threaten the land, banditry is on the rise, and the ugly specter of a possible second civil war looms large. The book zooms in on the city of Korudav, part of the Venerable Autocracy of Sakara, a great empire run by a divinely appointed Avatar.
I’m completely new to Basic Roleplaying (BRP). Even though I enjoy the stories of HP Lovecraft I’ve never played Call of Cthulthu (CoC). While I was searching for fantasy options to compare to Pathfinder, I found the Chronicles of Future Earth and I was immediately sold not only on the setting itself but also on the BRP rules it utilizes.
If you’re looking at this setting and ruleset from a D20 background read on. If you’re looking at it from a BRP, RuneQuest, or CoC background skip to The Book’s Layout to go right into details of the book.
If You Play Pathfinder or D&D
This world has much in common with Eberron with a splash of Dark Sun and Gamma World. While BRP doesn’t have classes, the professions of psion, thief, war priest, and glorious paladin will be familiar to D20 players. BRP broadens the field of fantasy archetypes to over forty including assassins, beggars, nobles, and even lawyers.
There are two big differences between D20 and BRP. The first is that the majority of BRP characters will remain vulnerable to a really well placed sword strike or spell for their entire adventuring career. Combat is much less abstract than in D20 and players will see each slash, parry, dodge, and riposte and respond each moment to desperate moment.
The second is that the player of a BRP character has much more control over the abilities of his character. Whatever skills the character uses in the actual game are the skills that might improve. Whatever the player has the character focus on also becomes the focus of character improvement.
I ordered this book directly from Chaosium because no store in my area carries it. Chaosium shipped it the same day and included two nice bookmarks and two postcards relating to Cthulthu free with my order. It was sturdily wrapped in cardboard and sealed with tape and the book was shrink-wrapped. It arrived with no creases, bends, or other damage.
The Book’s Layout
One of the pages is an ad. Three include a title page and dedications. Two are repeated tables of gear. Four are reprints of the included map. One page has a quarter page of text and the rest white space. And two are a well detailed combination of table of contents and index. The table of contents is found in the back with the index which makes it harder to find, but saves on space.
That still leaves 99.25 pages of actual world information. The book was originally scheduled to be 96 pages so the page count seems fair even with the repeated gear and maps.
The cover art completely captures the setting: a trader leads a “trunkless” elephant-like reptile (the beast of burden in the setting) into a large city that I assume is Korudav. Another well done piece similar to the cover is on page 4.
Chapter numbers run down the edge of the page. Whichever chapter you’re in has the number darkened. Background art is also behind the names of chapters.
The majority of the art is decent to great. I particularly like the picture of the Virikki (a humanoid race) looking out over a city on page 10. The maps for the adventure are well rendered, have a square overlay, are easy to read, and are nicely detailed. City streets as well as building interiors are depicted.
Chapter by Chapter
I consider this a great strength of the book. If you bought this book in a game store on a Saturday afternoon you could read it over and play the adventure in the back that night. Everything (except the core BRP rules) needed to create characters, ground them in the setting, and kick off a brand new science-fantasy BRP campaign are there including excellent maps and an interesting adventure.
Dredan—Realm of Metal & Myth Campaign Setting (PFRPG+T20) PDFMetal & Myth
Our Price: $9.99Add to Cart
great sci-fi Pathfinder; GM has to do rule conversionsCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
I received my copy free to review.
My goal in using this product would be to mine it for my home campaign. I used ironborn and firearms and other tech so the description interested me.
You need Traveller D20 as well as Pathfinder. Since I’m mining ideas I’m okay with the need for another rulebook.
The good: Dredan is a sprawling, sci-fi Pathfinder world. There is no padding here; from the races to the spells to the star chart everything fits the theme of sci-fi Pathfinder powered by Jusay crystals. Very tight design focus and one I appreciate.
The challenge: The difficulty in merging two different systems means any GM will have some converting to do. For instance, races suffer multi-class penalties and have level adjustments, both of which Pathfinder does not use.
The races are interesting and complex. Included are a robot like race, positive and negative energy races (one is a prestige race of sorts), the Traveller races, and Pathfinder races.
Jusay crystals are the tech power that makes the world of Dredan go. The table for positive crystals versus dark (negative energy) crystals is easy to understand. The crystals can be added as power to tech items or to give additional abilties to magic items.
Sytenetics are basically cybernetics designed specifically for Dredan and made using Jusay crystals. Even spell-like and supernatural effects can be manipulated using sytenetics.
Tech is next, with weapons and mech like walkers that use Jusay crystals.
Starships follow, again using Jusay crystals. They go FTL using jumps just like in Traveller and follow the design rules from D20 Traveller.
A star chart of Dredan follows, again using the rules of D20 Traveller. Maps of the planets in a system are a nice touch in addition to a star map of Dredan itself.
No creatures except the base races are included. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a follow up aliens product for Dredan.
If you want sci-fi Pathfinder and are willing to do some converting, this product is for you. If the conversions between Pathfinder and D20 Traveller had been done for the GM, the product would earn five stars.
updated reviewCharles Dunwoody (RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32) —
Update: The layout to this PDF was changed to incorporate more changes from 3.5 to Pathfinder. I redid my review based on the new layout.
Ironborn is a good attempt to update this great race to the Pathfinder rules. However, it suffers from the subtle changes between 3.5 and Pathfinder as pointed out ironically enough by Monte Cook when he discussed 3.0 going to 3.5.
A good point for this PDF is that is not just a reprint of the OGL version of the ironborn. Many new rules and options have been added along with an all new background and culture. The new rules really take some options in PF like sorcerer bloodlines and run with them.
A bad point, as mentioned, is the frequent slips back into 3.5 rules. Here are some examples. The Centurion Armored Body Ability Package provides a +8 armor bonus to AC which should have increased to +9 in PF. The Artisan Builder and Legacy Knowledgeable Ability Packages provide 4 bonus skill ranks at 1st level and 1 bonus skill rank at every other level while Pathfinder characters no longer increase skill ranks at 1st level by 4. Divine Mark Divine Vengeance gives a +2 bonus to turning checks while in Pathfinder turning now requires a Will save.
Despite the 3.5 creeping in, the new rules and backgrounds outweigh the rules edition snares. The author really makes the ironborn come alive and the new PF rules he adds greatly increase your value even if you already have the Book of Iron Might.