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Macabre Pantomime

3/5

This book comes across to me as pantomime taken to a macabre level. There is witty banter amongst the protagonists. There is slapstick comedy and farcical fight scenes where the heroes defy the odds and win as the bad guys step on metaphorical banana skins. There are melodramatic moments of doubt. The heroes swagger. The villains are sadistic and have a cunning plan for domination of their little slice of the world - which is remarkably ineffectual in the face of the heroes' even more cunning counter-plan (which goes off without a hitch). The only significant casualties at the end of the day are the bad guys and a couple of bit-part characters whose demises are there to emphasise how horribly sadistic the bad guys actually are; everyone else goes home to their respective rewards and with the world safe yet again.
Give or take the odd editing howler in the first edition, it came across to me as solidly written, but I would caution that it might annoy readers looking for something 'serious' and/or unprepared to put aside suspension of disbelief for several hours.


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Good; just don't point out on the boards that a caravan isn't necessary...

4/5

If you pay attention to the details of the adventure, and ignore the posters who insist that there is 'only one true way to run this module!' this module is actually quite good, with a lot of built-in flexibility which allows for customisation by GMs.
It's sufficiently open-ended, in fact, that even if you're not running the Jade Regent path, you could probably use this module as a stand-alone adventure around any or all of 'hunt the magic item'/'rescue the prisoner'/'destroy the evil guild' themes it offers, and it comes with a brief overview of the city where some of the action is scheduled to take place.

There are also an examination of the goddess Shelyn and her faithful plus the usual Pathfinder fiction and a short bestiary...


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What??? They're giving this pdf away free???

5/5

Someone at Paizo has apparently gone insane. Besides tips on how characters might (or might not) fit in with the Jade Regent path, and the usual Campaign traits, James Jacobs and his crew have designed a set of rules for travelling caravans (in the sense in this case of overland merchant wanderers with wagons) and included them in this Jade Regent player's guide. And that means they're giving them away free when it comes to the pdf version...
This guide also establishes the framework for a friendship/rivalry system with regard to prominent NPCs (although the mechanics are left to be explained in actuall installments of the path), and sets up the possibility (if a group wants to dabble in such) for romances with NPCs.
Surely this one has to be up there as at least a possible future Ennie 'Honourable Mention'?


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Cautiously recommended

4/5

I find some of the artwork choices dubious and some of the stat-blocks clearly don't hold up under close examination.
Also only about a third of the creature content is of current use/interest to me.

BUT, all that said, in a book this size at this price that third of content is the right side of value for money for me, and there's enough variety here in the creatures that I don't personally have much time for that I'm certain most of them will appeal to a fair portion of the audience amongst other readers. This is a follow-up bestiary - and like most such works it faces the challenge that most of the decent staples of fantasy have already been covered in an earlier work, inviting the editors to try and diversify to give everyone a bit of what they might want...

Warts and all this is a pretty spiffing book, and I would cautiously recommend it.
I give it a rating of four stars.


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Excellent artwork, missed opportunity

1/5

(version 4.0 of this review)
The artwork in this book is gorgeous. The cover and the preview blog art of Alaznist duelling Karzoug are good examples of what this book has to offer in this department.

Sadly this is where I run out of nice things I can find to say about this book. As the large quantity of errata and FAQs either dealt with or still awaiting attention suggest the text of this book is in places highly muddled and/or confusing, besides lacking in clarity.

I have nicknamed my hardcover copy of this book The Necronomicon: The Bulmahn Edition and archived it somewhere deep and dark.


Some bad, some good


So far I have only bought and gone over the 'Heavenly Inferno' deck. However, as a preconstructed deck (even by the standards of 'Commander' (a variant of Elder Dragon Highlander)) it's a likely quick trip to being first out of any multiplayer game. It's a triple colour deck with limited dual-land/mana-artifact support, which due to a shortage of low cost creatures is effectively wide open for the first half-dozen turns whilst it struggles to reach four points of power and (if they actually match the cards in hand- there are a disturbing number of double-pointer cards in the CMC 4 bracket for a three colour deck) the possibility of doing something. Some of the deck's own creature removal is of the 'does two or three mass damage' variety, which of course includes in the target range its own few early starters and the 'recommended' commander. And a deck with a main strategy which relies on a commander with toughness of only 2 surviving long enough to attack is somewhat haphazard in functioning at best... Especially when it has shortage of card drawing, too.
I cannot recommend this deck 'as is' except for the possible break-up value. There is a strong angel theme (including some cards as of June 2011 unique to the deck) plus the odd rare demon or dragon so in theory there are cards here you cannot get anywhere else at present. If you're on a tight budget you have a choice between buying it before it sells out and risking no future reprints. These preconstructed decks are (due to the cards not seen anywhere else, I suspect) currently going fast.

Update:
I've now seen a few of the other decks, and whilst it's a bit weak against fliers, the 'Mirror Mastery' deck offers a halfway decent mana-ramp/big creatures theme. Not convinced by Riku as a commander, but Animar's not bad.


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Fellnight Queen sneak-attacked by page count?

3/5

(edited, tidied up)
I guess that this module, developed from a rather ambitious Superstar proposal, was badly squeezed in the latter stages by the tyrannies of page count.
Part one opens promisingly with nuptials that soon develop a sinister twist, and part two sees the PCs pursuing investigations in a nearby forest, discovering further evidence of foul deeds afoot and some very confused potential allies.
The third and final part is apparently founded on the premise that the main enemy has been acting for simple meta-story reasons, rather than with any kind of complex, word consuming, in-game rationale, with a net result of making things relatively easy for the PCs. There is a final encounter with the by now tragic lead villain of the first two parts and an interesting location to explore which is perhaps a little understaffed. The main villain relies on basic tactics combined with AC & Saves that 8th level characters ought to have little problem dealing with. Once the PCs kill the main villain, however, there is a recommendation made that one of those cheesiest of plot devices, a villain who comes back even after you kill them, be utilised to punish PCs who step off the assumed plot railroad of the module of reinstating the magical fence. :(
My impression of the first two parts is that they rate a full five stars each. Sadly the third part only rates two stars, in my opinion, due to the contrived feel I get of what is going on, and the main villain only three stars principally on the basis of the excellent (and evocative) artwork. (Where, oh where, was Gulga Cench? Now *he* would have been a solid villain.)
My overall rating for the module is three stars. If I were looking at it from the perspective of someone whose principle concern is cinematic action sequences I would certainly rate it as at least four stars overall.


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Ohhh, shiny.

5/5

I hope Paizo ordered an extra large print run of Kingmaker, because if the Player's Guide is anything to go by this path may otherwise sell out.


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Initial impressions

4/5

I purchased a copy of this yesterday at my FLGS, and I am still going through it in detail, but my initial impression is of a pair of larger-than-life protagonists snared in a web of complex political intrigue. It feels that it shouldn't work as a story, but the writing is sufficiently good that so far it does anyway.

This review will be updated later, but four stars for now.

Update (Tuesday, 20th April, 2010):
It gets a bit wordy at times, with at least one rather long piece of description of what a castle looks like as the two main characters enter it (there are several castles for them to be described entering, by various means), and some rather convoluted conversations. Nevertheless the two main protagonists do by and large carry the story successfully, there is the political intrigue mystery going on, and an engaging villainess who sort of disappears from the screen in a slightly disappointing manner; maybe she was originally intended to be back in a later book, but sadly that is unlikely to be coming now...
Some rough edges, but definitely worth four stars.


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Paizo at the top of their game

5/5

With a main adventure written to engage both GM and players, with interesting situations, colourful villains and other NPCs, and detailed locations, Howl of the Carrion King is written by a man (Erik Mona) who has mastered his craft; and a superb support article by Eric Haddock on the Brazen Peak gnoll tribes and a 'Set Piece' adventure by James MacKenzie (Sir Wulf of the Paizo messageboards) combine with a bestiary and fiction by Elaine Cunningham that show Paizo confident and at the top of their game. Even the end-covers are filled with interest featuring short fables from the setting.
Whether you intend to run the Legacy of Fire path, or are just looking for something for a group of low-level PCs, I would strongly recommend this product.


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What went wrong?

3/5

Despite some neat ideas throughout the adventure, I find this Pathfinder disappointing in terms of presentation, with apparently rushed work and incomplete/missing information. I can only assume that 'What Lies in Dust' was flanked & repeatedly sneak-attack during production by the twin monsters of GenCon 2009 and an office move.
Whilst this might represent average or even good work for another games company, it seems to me to be well below Paizo's usual high standards. :(


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Pathfinder RPG – an exercise in frustration

4/5

So after some searching (and a half hour train trip to Burton on Trent after the shops in Birmingham (UK) proved to be having supply difficulties) I tracked down an elusive first edition dead tree copy of the PFRPG Core Rulebook… And my initial impression is a mixture of excitement and frustration.
So many more ‘core rules’ options for many of the basic classes (EG feat trees for fighters, rage powers for barbarians, ki pools for monks) as compared to the game’s third edition D&D forerunners and further areas of rules cleaned up (EG combat maneuvers), but so much more which could have been done but which was not. The goal of ‘backwards compatability’ may have been responsible for the reining in of some of the changes which were aired during the public Beta playtest that I had personally found to be exciting.
However an improvement in my opinion in many areas of 3.5 D&D and the author and his design team show promise I believe – well worth watching for the future.
Four stars.


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Three stars for latest incarnation of classic fantasy boardgame

3/5

In terms of components (board, pieces, tokens, etc) this is the usual quality FFG production. The rulebook is a little rough around the edges, but does include a flowchart to help deal with what happens when you land on a new location.
The playing time listed on the box of 90 minutes is likely hopelessly off if you have anywhere approaching the given maximum of six players, and some characters seem so much better than others that it's worth dogpiling anyone using them early on to prevent them from otherwise dominating the game. (Arguably such dogpiling is part of the fun of the game.)

I don't know if my judgement is influenced by unfair comparison with my warm fuzzy memories of playing the original game with school friends, but only three stars for this version. Still this could be worth getting for your gaming group, as it is the latest incarnation of a little piece of fantasy game history.


It's Back!

5/5

This hardcover collects all the rules of the simple yet elegant system of the 1980's British paperbacks, and covers the part of Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson's world based on medieval Europe and its neighbours. Although GMs should invest in the Bestiary, too, all other information needed to play is in this one book.
This is a game you can pick up and master the basics of in probably less than an hour, and I can strongly recommend it.


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Difficult choice for hard times

4/5

Gods and Magic:
(initial impression- review may be edited upon in-depth acquaintance)
First and most importantly, 40 of the 64 pages are committed to the twenty ‘major’ deities- that’s a double page spread for each, which conveys more information than the campaign setting, but much less than the deity by deity articles in the Pathfinder Adventure Paths (also written by Sean K Reynolds).
Of the remaining pages, they are mostly split between giving dozens of minor ‘regional’ and ‘racial’ deities a paragraph each, and ten pages worth of interesting magical items (which have additional benefits to those who worship the deity a particular item is associated with).
There are also a couple of general pages, by way of an introduction, about Golarion’s deities, and a useful chart on the front inside cover summarising alignment, concerns, portfolio, and favourite weapon information for Golarion’s various deities.
The book is probably most useful as a source of information to those running homebrew campaigns set in Golarion, and whose other sources of information are restricted to the gazetteer and/or campaign setting.
I hesitate to recommend this book to those not running such homebrew campaigns, unless money is not a concern or a favourable exchange rate against the dollar (or other discount) is available.

Only 4 stars.


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Luxury Campaign Setting

5/5

The Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting is in the region of 250 pages long, has chapters headed ‘Characters’, ‘The Inner sea’, ‘Religion’, ‘Organizations’, and ‘The World’- plus a brief forward, appendices, and an index besides. It features a colour map of a sizeable portion of one continent, colour illustrations on many of the pages (some illustrations such as the human racial subtypes ‘iconics’ are recognisable as being shared with its partner product, the Gazetteer), and is printed on high quality paper. Whilst being easy on the eye it contains a good deal of general information, leaving specifics (and dozens of ideas which invite development) for DMs to fill in to suit their own purposes/campaigns. True, the (first) edition available at the time of this review (August 2008) features occasional typing errors and some rather humorous 'map lines moved' mistakes, but the overall standard of the work is otherwise very high.
The price is steep, but the quality of the work is good; this is a luxury item for DMs, with a price-tag to match…
Five stars.


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Madness & Mayhem in Arkham

4/5

The Arkham Horror is a game that plays on several levels; for the Cthulhu mythos fans, there are eight different ‘Ancient One’ threats from outside and minions that include the hounds of Tindalos, the mi-go, the ubiquitous cultists of the Cthulhu mythos (whose combat abilities vary, according to precisely which ancient one threatens Arkham in any particular game) and one of the terrifying dholes; for those who like to try to plan their games, there are resource options to manage and decisions to make which threats to go after- and how soon; and for those who just like weird things happening there are a selection of random encounters for each of the locations in Arkham, or for other worlds.
Confrontations with the ancient ones, their minions, or other challenges are usually resolved through a system of rolling six sided dice, in an effort to score sufficient successes to better the opposition. Various items, spells, allies, or skill training can raise the number of dice that an investigator rolls for a check, as can the expenditure of valuable clue tokens. And for those investigators for whom the horrors prove too much, there remain options such as the local hospital or asylum to recuperate.
With other worlds to explore, monsters to fight, gates to shut, and (if everything goes badly wrong) a final confrontation with an Ancient One in a last ditch effort to try to 'save the day', The Arkham Horror represents a 4-star slice of Mythos flavoured fun in this reviewer’s opinion; there are several excellent expansions also currently available, which increase the variety of options open and the threats faced, making a good board game great.


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Umm...

2/5

Humorous, but rather too brief; whole categories of lava (with names and/or properties which I think the designers could have had a field day with) appear to have been omitted from the download.