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Frog God Games. Goblin Squad Member. Organized Play Member. 302 posts (1,404 including aliases). 55 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 1 Organized Play character. 3 aliases.



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the ultimate spell book

5/5

I don't have time to wax episodic over the usefulness of this book for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Even if you only use 10% of the material within, that is still a hundred uses!

All I can really do is ask the question, why hasn't every Pathfinder gamer purchased this book yet?

...Other than the fact it is sold out. I am sure that will change. :-)

Congratulations Steve and the folks at Rite!


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Frozen Fear for Free!

5/5

Overall Comments: This is a great single-evening adventure with a horror-centered plot, suitable for Halloween, a winter-horror themed event or whenever you want to scare your players. Yes, there are zombies, frozen creepy ones and much, much worse. It can be inserted into any oriental themed campaign; and is in fact specially designed to fit into any Kaidan-based campaign, per the trilogy of adventures from Rite Publishing.

I am not going into the details of this adventure to avoid spoiling this one for players. There are three acts and a sufficient quantity of different encounters to occupy any gaming group once the general feel of the adventure is realized. The adventure is run through the use of event-based acts, but is otherwise fairly sandboxy, at least inside the confines of the monastery. The GM might want to place a restriction upon PC's leaving without first solving the mystery of this place to avoid that problem. The weather limitations may not deter some groups; though a harsh GM dealing out frostbite to recalcitrant PC’s might do the trick.

Spoilers for my players: My own sense of hilarity wants to add humor to horror. So any delay by PC’s after killing a zombie or two would cause ones they just killed to reanimate and attack again. If they wise up and start to dismember the bodies, the arms, hands or bodies with legs would animate and probably be more scary (and/or laughable) than dangerous. Any player genius enough to try to burn a corpse would succeed in ending the reanimation. Obviously other GMs might not want to do this as it would definitely delay the game.

Complaints: The existence of several typos, spelling errors and errors of usage indicate this product would have benefitted from another editing pass. But they don’t detract from the flow of the adventure and are barely even noticeable, unless you are like me. Plus this is free, a couple of typos can’t detract from the overall quality of this adventure, for free!

Cool Bonus stuff: For the players, there is a set of 6 pregenerated characters. For the GM there is a nicely illustrated appendix of adventure specific new monsters as well as several gamemaster aids; a temperature chart that helps the GM track the affects upon and times for saving throws, a countdown track to help the GM keep track of the time limit involved, and a score chart for those GMs who wish to reward the players.

Production values: As is typical of Rite Publishing and Kaidan materials, the appearance is standard and includes nicely drawn maps, original art, and some free domain art from old Japanese sources. Amazingly for a free product this is nearly all in color.

Did I mention this is free? Why haven’t you got it already? You will not be disappointed.
I give this 4.5 stars due to minor editing gaffs, rounded up to five because it’s free!


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Gotta have Faith

5/5

Badges of Faith are magical amulets worn from a necklace enhanced with divine magic geared towards increasing the number of devotees of the faith. They provide benefits to the wearer which are mild, at first, but can be increased depending on the type of the badge and the activities of the person in possession of it. In order to increase the abilities of the badge, the wearer must perform tasks which are deemed appropriate by the deity sponsoring the badge. In this way the deities gain more followers and the followers gain access to more of the deity’s power. The way this is accomplished involves both the desire to do so on the part of the wearer and access to a temple devoted to the deity in question. The person is never tricked into it, though if they accept the quest assigned, they are geased to complete it.

I really love this concept of using a magic item for more than mere reward or fulfilling a certain level -recommended quotient of magic items. These Badges of Faith are more than mere magical trinkets. They are whole campaigns awaiting an adventurer. These badges are not specifically worn only by the divine class characters, though they are restricted to only being able to be created by a divine class having a particular domain or subdomain, see the list that follows:
• Aligned – Alignment domain required: chaos, law, evil, or good
• Caprice – Luck domain; or the curse or fate subdomains
• Destruction – Destruction; catastrophe, or rage subdomains
• Claw, Fang, Feather, and Fur – Animal domain; or feather or fur subdomains
• Gibbering and Wailing – Madness domain; or insanity or nightmare subdomains
• Glory – Glory domain: or heroism or honor subdomains
• Hearth and Home – Community domain; or family or home subdomains
• Industriousness – Artifact domain; or construct or toil subdomains
• Insight – Knowledge domain; or memory or thought subdomains
• Midnight – Darkness domain; or loss or night subdomains
• Relief – Healing domain; or restoration or resurrection subdomains
• Swirling Winds – Air domain; or cloud or winds subdomains
• Blessed Dawn – Sun domain; or day or light subdomains
• Bull – Strength domain; or ferocity or resolve subdomains
• Conflagration – Fire domain; or ash or smoke subdomains
• Crossed Blades – War domain; or blood or tactics subdomains
• Enchantress – Charm domain; or love or lust subdomains
• Green – Plant domain; decay or growth subdomain
• Shackle Breaker – Liberation domain; or freedom or revolution subdomain
• Skull – Death domain; or the murder or undead subdomains
• Wave – Water domain; or the ice or oceans subdomains
• Imbued – Magic domain; or the arcane or divine subdomains
• Inscribed – Rune domain; or the language or wards subdomain
• Liar’s – Trickery domain; or the deception or thievery subdomains
• Passport – Travel domain; or the exploration or trade subdomains
• Restful – Repose domain; or the ancestors or souls subdomains
• Royal – Nobility domain; or the leadership or martyr subdomains
• Stalwart’s – Protection domain; or the defense or purity subdomains
• Stone – Earth domain; or the caves or metal subdomains
• Tempest’s – Weather domain; or seasons or storms subdomains

What I like the most about the Badges represented is that in order to activate the abilities of the badge, certain tasks must be performed by the PC. The successful accomplishment of holy quests needed to add to the powers of the badge offer up some really interesting possibilities for role play. I like it when I can tie a player of a priestly class into his character’s chosen god in this way. It becomes more than merely a power build option. For me, anything which pulls the game away from pure metagame and into roleplay is ideal.

I love the Badges of Faith. This is an amazing concept which can be expanded upon into a full-blown campaign. It gives me some ideas of how to add to the badge’s power. I can turn it into a customizable unique lesser artifact through the actions and faith of the possessor and into a deity-inspired high level campaign. Well done Michael Welham and the folks at Rite Publishing.


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The Call of Chaos

5/5

This is exactly the type of Cthulhu campaign that I remember and cherish from years gone by. From the detail in this entire book, serious research was done to maintain a high level of verisimilitude necessary to make a Cthullhu campaign come to life. Multiple time periods and locations are used as settings. Historically accurate details are fleshed out in each of the five settings. From art, to maps, to source material and literature, to depictions, and translations of the multiple languages the investigators would need to know, everything is either an excellent replication or an outright true place, item, or event taken straight from the annals of history.

An example of this is in the first part. This is set on an island just off the British coastline. The level of detail of the map of the island and the monastery are accurate enough to fool anyone. And in fact if you were to look up the Holy Island and Lindisfarne in Northumbria, you would note that it is a real place with a real temple to St. Cuthbert and the ruins of the ancient church can be seen via satellite. Granted the island is in fact much bigger than the one presented in the adventure. But still – wow – the level of factual detail is amazing. This is the kind of thing I used to love to do for my own Call of Cthulhu campaigns. It speaks to the ancient historian, storyteller, and the amateur archaeologist in me.

Now for a very minor quibble, the maps used in the later parts of this campaign, while clear and useful, do not have the same sort of authentic feel to them. Instead, they clearly have a computer generated look. Normally this would not be a problem, but with the utterly awesome authentic feel of the maps in the first parts of this campaign, they seem out of place. The challenge level represented by the encounters in this book and the adventure as written hearkens back to the true feel of a Call of Cthulhu campaign in which death was the least of an investigator’s worries.

In addition to the maps and content of the adventures, a multitude of player handouts for each of the parts as well as extremely useful and in fact necessary player character pregens are included. For the Keeper, full NPC information, motivations, and stats as well as useful note on how to run the different parts and finally timelines of events. In short, everything a Keeper needs to run this campaign is present, except for the rules.

This is an epic campaign and plays to the heart of what a truly amazing Call of Cthulhu campaign should be. However many stars or other award handed out to game materials and supplements, this one has earned as many as I could give it. If there was one higher category of awesome, I’d give Red Eye of Azathoth that as well. “That which is dead shall refuse to lie” is true of Call of Cthulhu too.


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All about skill

5/5

Skills are a very useful feature of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, one that is often overlooked for splashier spells and feats. While not all of these 101 new skill uses will be useful for my own campaign and some of them I have already conceived on my own, I find many that hadn’t occurred to me. Many are useful as suggestions on how to extend the core skills further. Players are always trying to do more with the skills anyway, at least mine are. This book gives the game master many really good ideas. I already found one in the free sample that I already copied and sent to one of my players. It was perfect for his PC. I am certain that more will appear equally useful for my other players. These new skills offer a great deal of potential for many styles of gaming.

As with most of these suggestions, I recommend adding minimum ranks a PC must have in a particular skill prior to being able to perform the specific actions listed. That is really the only thing I see missing in this otherwise excellent supplement. I am not going to judge balance issues with each new skill use, that is subjective for the most part and easily resolved by setting prerequisite minimum ranks in a particular skill prior to allowing the PC to attempt it. I had considered dinging my rating for this lack. But then I realized something, this is very personal for each game master and the style of their campaign differs greatly. How much or how little the GM in question wants to emphasis pre-requisites in skill level is a decision best left to them.

This supplement was an interesting read and gave me some ideas for skill usages I intend to use as certain NPC antics. It is also fully bookmarked per skill, which is extremely useful despite the smallish size of this pdf. There is a wealth of excellent ideas and added support for game masters when players attempt crazy maneuvers. I can’t recommend this supplement enough. For the price you will gain many useful ideas for your own campaign and players, even if you don’t use them all. This is worth four and a half five stars which I am rounding up to a full five for excellent layout typical of Rite Publishing’s products.


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Surprises my players need to keep them on their toes

5/5

First off, I absolutely love the picture of Pandora opening the box on the cover. It is an excellent bit of art and sets the tone for the remainder of the product. Once again, this newest addition to the #30 series has all those little touches which delight the reader, whether the contents are ever used in a campaign or not. I do recommend, though, that you find a way to add these haunts in your game. Just as with the Haunts for Ships and Shores, I intend to find a way to include some of these in my game, though I will have to include a side-trek adventure to do so.

As has become tradition, this addition to the Haunts series includes an in character discussion which is entertaining for the game master. In this is a note, which could be provided to players whole or in pieces as a prop for an adventure. What follows is a brief set of notes on types of haunts in this booklet, the most interesting one being the Gaze-Triggered haunts, which add to the types of haunts listed in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: GameMastery Guide. This type of trigger makes it more difficult for cautious PCs to avoid and thus more interesting to me as a GM.

What follows are a series of 27 Haunts of varying difficulties from CR 1 to CR 9, some of which are associated with one another. I need to find a way to add “The Cruel Crop” and “The Determined Device” as well as a number of others which are not really very dangerous for my players, but will add some fun to otherwise ordinary encounters. “The Fascinating Flute” is another one that I want to include, if only because flutes have become somewhat of an in-joke amongst my players. Any chance I get to personalize adventures for my players I will take. Short of actually designing adventures around them (something I have limited time to do), using things like these haunts is the next best method.

There is a series of associated haunts which go specifically with the letter hand out at the beginning of this booklet. The Temple of the Worm God is in fact a mini-adventure and could be used to spice up an otherwise boring over-land trek through farming communities from one adventure site to another. This includes short background story and 4 haunts of CR 10 to CR 11. I love to surprise my players with something they were not expecting and the Temple of the Worm God does this well.

As in the rest of the #30 series by Rite Publishing, Trevor’s prose is fun to read. These haunts for objects do an excellent job of making an otherwise mundane scene more interesting for both GMs and players alike. I can see my players becoming wary of any object they might come across as a result of this book. Only a few such instances of a haunted object and months, perhaps years, of cautious behavior and entertainment for all could result. I can’t wait to spring these on my players.

Excellent layout, interesting art and wonderfully well-written and designed haunts receive 5 of 5 stars.


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Altar mini

3/5

The Fold-and-Go series is an interesting concept and definitely somewhat cheaper than purchase of a metal or resin miniature item of similar type. Unfortunately, I am disappointed in the lack of content in the Altar, for the price. While you don’t need paint, you do need ink and cardstock paper, neither of which are cheap. The only additional thing of interest is the layers which allow you to alter the color of the optional cloth piece that can be placed atop the altar. Although advertised as not requiring glue, the candelabra optional piece absolutely requires it. This isn’t a huge problem, particularly if you don’t want the optional pieces. However, if you just want the bare altar you are paying a rather hefty price for just that tiny bit. A pair of black dice used as a prop would work as well. I am not overly impressed with this Fold-and-Go product. It works well enough for what it is, but isn’t really worth the price.

I assigned this 3 stars, though I wanted to assign it only 2 when I first reviewed the piece. I increased my rating due to the fact that the fold and go series is an interesting concept. The only thing I can suggest is more content for the price.


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Unique magical properties for armor and shields

4/5

101 unique properties to apply to magical armor or shields comprise the entirety of this book with the exception of some very nice interior art. This book begins with a table listing each property with its price modifier, either in gp or in equivalent magical bonus (utilizing the costs for such in the Core Rules). I like the ability to pick from this chart some nice armor properties to make my home campaign rewards be unique. This book is pure gold for those wanting to add a unique property rather than the old, overused, and rather boring +1 (or higher) AC.

One huge negative for me was the complete lack of some explanation of how or why each property works the way it does. For example: the first property described is the Absorbent Resistance. This is a property added to a shield that allows the shield to completely block a single melee attack using the combat maneuver rules. If the CMB succeeds the attack is negated and the opponent’s turn is ended, (in addition to other features). What I want to know is what about this magic shield causes this to occur? Is there a magical force field that extends outward from the shield to engulf the opponent, at least temporarily? It is made of some special sovereign-like glue that impedes the opponent’s actions? Why does it work this way? I know for my own games I do not and cannot simply hand wave things. The “it works because it’s magic” explanation doesn’t work on them. I’ve tried that in the past and it was met with scorn and indignation on the part of my players who (bless their greedy souls) want reasons for things. Some call that fluff or something similar as if to downgrade its importance. I consider these to be more important than any mechanic or rule. Now, I can make up my own reasons, but I might not have the time to do that. I realize that this would add to the book and potentially make it impossible to do 101 of them, thus negating the reason for assigning it to the 101 series. So I suspect that I will have to be content. And add content as I pick and choose the properties to apply to the rewards I hand out to my players.

I do realize that not everyone plays with my types of players. Most are content with the cool factor of what the property does and won’t ask why. For the GMs of those kinds of players this supplement is worth every bit of 5 stars. The artwork inside is nice and makes me want to print, cut out, and post to 3x5 cards, write the armor descriptions, make up a few names for them, and hand them out to my players as they find them. I am really not a big fan of the cover art however. It looks a bit too World of Warcrafty in the impossibly huge armor pieces. So not a fan of that piece of art.

Given my reservations, but taking into account the nice array of properties nicely presented, I am giving this 4 stars.


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Lessons from the Masters

5/5

Every burgeoning game designer believes he or she can create games better than many that are for sale at many a local toy and game store. But how does a new game designer hopeful create games that will become house-hold names? One answer: Ask those whose games developed a following of their own and set the standard for truly excellent games. Enter the Kobold’s Guide to Game Design. Essays within this book include reams of advice by names well known in the world of games, from Richard Garfield a designer of the trading card game, Magic: The Gathering to Steve Jackson, the creator of a few of my favorite games once upon a time, such as Car Wars and Iluminati (the original non-collectible version). The narrator and organizer of this array of talent is Mike Selinker, who recently created Loan Shark Games and previously worked as a creative director for Wizards of the Coast. These essays include every element of board game design, from concept to implementation. And before you ask why you should read their advice, answer yourself by remembering why these games are played world-wide. They draw the game player in and make them want to play again and again, purchasing upgrades, expansions, or additions to these games as well. Why are they successful? They know their audiences.

The essays in this book take a prospective board game designer from concept, through creation, development, and finally to the presentation of the final product. These elements are essential to any game design, from roleplaying games to board and card games. In fact you see a more complex but similar format in the scientific method. I suspect this is a tried and true method for any creative activity, from new technology to new consumer products. I don’t want to say which aspect of board game design is the most important, they all are. Without hitting the bullseye dead on in all aspects of design, from concept to publication and marketing, you will not achieve what every board game designer wishes, a game that sells as well as Settlers of Catan.

Yeah, my friends and I played lots of the games mentioned in these essays, as have all of you. I am sure like us you have modified or combined games to suit your play style, most gamers do. You may think the changes you made turn these games into something different and more fun than the original. Perhaps you have it in you to become a game designer. In seeking out pointers on how to break into the game business, you may have gone to conventions in the hopes of meeting the movers and shakers in the business. Now, of course, you can wait in long lines to attend seminars with the very people who wrote the advice held within these pages, or just purchase this book. This is by far the most comprehensive and cost effective resource for prospective game designers. And truthfully, wouldn’t you want a game publisher’s first exposure to your work be a game ready for publication? Ideas are cheap. Everyone has ideas. Part of selling your work is selling yourself. The advice in this book will help you do that.

This book is worth the purchase and read for the anecdotal notes by top game designers alone. If you are at all inclined to try to get into the board game or any closely related business, you owe it to yourself to get this book. I can’t help but rate this at 5 stars of 5.


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The Shapshifters of the Orient

5/5

Here again as with the supplement In the Company of Tengu by Rite Publishing, we have a fully-fleshed society of beings for the use of both players and game masters. Rather than being a single identifiable anthropomorphic creature, as with the Raven-like Tengu, the Henge are a collection of beings. They are spirits and legends from ancient Japan outfitted for use in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The Henge exist in clans divided by their association with and resemblance to certain animals. These clans (Batsu), the Dog (Inu), Badger (Mujina), Cat (Neko), Rat (Nezumi), Monkey (Saru), and Raccoon-Dog (Tanuki), all form the greater society of Hengeyokai. This book gives a full, in-character dissertation on the ways and beliefs of the Henge. The descriptive prose felt like the voice of one of the Henge actually speaking to me. It had a believable resonance. It reminded me of the Hopi elder I once heard speak on the Hopi Mesas of Arizona. This is the kind of material any good GM wants to have at his or her disposal, something that adds depth and verisimilitude to the campaign.

In addition to detailing each of the different clans, this supplement also details relationships with other races, alignment, religion, and languages. Next follows a description of the Hengeyokai who might become adventurers, the types who either become PCs or encounter them. Full notes on how to create Hengeyokai characters along with ability adjustments, racial traits, alternate traits, notes on age, height and weight, and a comprehensive set of notes on the different classes and whether or not they would be appropriate as Henge, and other important details.

It is important to note that Henge are a race of shape shifters. This is a curious aspect and it is absolutely not considered to be a curse, unlike the were-creatures of Western tradition. Henge can take three forms. Their true form is that of a humanoid with the face of an animal. A Henge may also appear as a human or in the natural shape of the animal of his or her clan.

Favored Class options are provided as well as class archetypes for the Barbarian, the Druid and the Ranger. As with the Tengu, the Henge have a Racial Paragon class, which I found most useful in the book on Tengu for creation of the NPC leader or other important individual. There is a full, class write-up for the Mushakemono, the Henge Warrior Racial Paragon. At the end a list of feats provides interesting possibilities for a Henge character.

Whether you are a GM who wants something unique to use in your campaign or you are a player in a campaign that allows or encourages different and interesting character options, you will want to take a look at the Henge. If you intend to run an oriental-based campaign, you will need this book. Even if you are just interested in different character books or like reading about different societies, there is something in here for you. Like the others of the Kaidan series, typical bamboo borders and neat two-column layout is sprinkled with appropriate art, some of which is obviously taken from ancient Japanese open domain sources, and some in color as well. I find this book to meet the high standards set in the other Kaidan supplements and well worth the price. I rate this at 5 of 5 stars.


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Femme Fatale of the Tarnished Souk

5/5

There is something inherently intriguing about the femme fatale. She is a figure difficult to render as a believable character yet most satisfying when accomplished well. Poignant and free-willed, Belladonna is a character that will provide players much enjoyment and their PCs much frustration in the Tarnished Souk. Belladonna has a secret, more than one, and not all her own. She earned these secrets like the scars across her soul and heart over the many years she dwelled in this place. She began her stay in the Coliseum Morpheuon as a slave. Now, she is a power in the Tarnished Souk. As the hostess of the Souk’s most popular tavern, she knows everything about anyone that is worth knowing. It is a certainty she will immediately seek to find out all she can about anyone new, like the PC’s. Yet her greatest power is not her knowledge of the secrets of the Souk, it is the nightmare itself. For some, Belladonna is their worst nightmare.

As with all of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk, Belladonna has three builds at different levels. They include shapechanging and other abilities related to the Taskshaper class. Note: the Taskshaper class is found in a separate supplement by Rite Publishing, but it is not absolutely necessary to run Belladonna. All the needed information to run her is found in her stat blocks. Also included are special feats, such as the essential seduction feat that she uses to affect the reactions of those around her. She comes with her own set of magical items.

In addition, and this is worth the price of admission all on its own, a fascinating array of magical libations fulfill the exotic desires of the denizens of the Tarnished Souk; from Ambrosia, nectar of the gods, to Roggut Whisky, to the official beer of the Coliseum Morpheuon: The Wise and Eternal Khan’s Chimeric Beverage of Ten Thousand Enlightened Victories. In all, there are eleven magical beverages for your use or manipulation to fit within your own campaign.

As has also become typical of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk, there are new templates, the Nightmare Creature and the Nymph Child. What is not included is the NPC mentioned as having a close personal relationship to Belladona, Le Loup Solitaire. This NPC is found in his own edition of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk. He isn’t absolutely necessary, but his presence does fill out a bit of her background and story. I heartily recommend if you purchase this supplement, you get the other one as well. As a pair, their story is that much more meaningful and has an important part to play in the landscape of the Tarnished Souk.

I have come to expect the typical high standards for character concepts, builds, interesting new feats, spells, templates and the like, out of Matt Banach, Justin Sluder, and Rite Publishing in their Faces of the Tarnished Souk series. Though there are a couple of minor editing errors, none detract from Belladonna’s usefulness and fascinating story. With highly appropriate art sprinkled throughout, Belladonna does not disappoint. She earns a 4.5 of 5 stars from me, rounding up to the full five for a fascinating character concept full of roleplay potential.


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Stone Soul

5/5

Spoilers below:

A supreme gladiator and owner of his own gladiatorial school, Magnus Thrax can be used in a number of ways depending on the play style of any group and the needs of the Game Master. His role in the Coliseum or gladiatorial campaign is fluid. He reacts to PC actions. He does not directly oppose them unless they give him a reason. Woe to the PC who opposes him or the Khan. For good-aligned PC’s he provides an essential obstacle, because the members of his stable of gladiators are not free. They are slaves, some forced against their will to fight at the whim and profit of Magnus. Neutral characters may see him as a useful albeit cagey fight promoter and supplier of gladiators for a price. Magnus possesses marvelous special abilities he uses to crush his opponents on the arena and maintains a firm commitment to the Coliseum and the Khan. Magnus may be used to field opponents from his ludus (gladiatorial school) to fight against PCs and remain in the background as an enigmatic figure. If the players wish, he provides support as a trainer or a promoter. And if the PCs determine it necessary to eliminate the Khan of Nightmares or if they directly oppose his ruthless use of slaves in the Coliseum, he becomes an implacable enemy. To Magnus, there is no greater feat than winning at whatever cost, with no remorse or recrimination. Included in this supplement is a full character background for Magnus, complete with dreamburning notes, Lore notes and suggestions on how to use this highly flexible NPC in your campaign.

As with the other the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series, a full high level stat block lays in wait for any overconfident PC. Magnus’s stat block contains new feats, traits, magical equipment, and special abilities. For those who wish to add clockwork components, particularly prostheses, this supplement contains rules for such builds. Magnus’s own prostheses have magical properties and their own backstory to boot. In addition to the now typical complete stat block, this supplement contains lower level builds that may either be younger versions of Magnus or one or more of his underlings and gladiators. In addition, a boxed note on Magnus’s school, The Ludus Thraxus give GMs ideas how to use this as either (or both) an ally and tool or an opposing force. Finally, for both players and GMs there is a new Fighter Archetype, the Trick Fighter. For GM’s who like to step up the difficulty in their own game, this comes with two templates, the Dreadnaught and the Element-Infused creature.

I love flexible NPCs that allow for multiple roles depending on how the players react. For roleplayers this guy is a gold mine of possibilities. For action-oriented players he is an extremely tough opponent that may not necessarily be directly fatal, depending upon the circumstances of the encounter. Perhaps he is a behind-the-scenes manipulator for lower level parties attempting to make a name for themselves as gladiators in the arena, where he fields one after another of opposing fighters. Perhaps he is the slave master from which the PCs will seek to free themselves. He can be the tough-as-nails, remorseless trainer for wanna-be gladiators. Of course the GM may just make use of the builds present here. An extremely tough melee character is not always easy to build and the combination of special templates and abilities make Magnus a challenge in the arena or outside of it, should the PC’s give him cause.

Magnus is another NPC essential both inside and outside of the Coliseum Morpheuon and greatly contributes to making the Tarnished Souk a vibrant and exciting place to adventure. Magnus Thrax gets a full 5 of 5 stars from me. Good work Matt Banach, Justin Sluder and the folks at Rite Publishing!


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Breaking the Ice

5/5

First impressions: the layout and art is absolutely gorgeous. Little touches like frost on the top of every page give the impression that Jack Frost caressed it. The dragon head and wings, clearly intended to be the Oracle of Forstor Nagar, is a nice addition at the top of each page. The blood-red flags obviously intended to be banners of the Hungering Legion bracket the text at the bottom of each page. Absolutely gorgeous maps make it very clear and easy to run the important scenes of the adventure. Maptool users will love that it is fully supported in terms of map files for GM use, including player handouts, and map tokens as well as maps. There is even a pdf on how to use the Maptool elements, very handy for a GM who is new to that format.

Encounters are staged events with full map and Maptool support and as such not terribly flexible. However options offered for various PC actions give the GM additional support, such as suggestions for the GM when the players attempt certain “out of the box” thinking. One example of this is during the first encounter while the PCs are approaching the city and see the ship in the tunnel through the glacier. Unfortunately there is really no support given to a GM whose players my utterly refuse to approach the city via the main approach. It is assumed that they will all have chosen to go one route and the beginning descriptions at the start only support this choice. For some groups this works out quite well. Most love to hop right into the action.

I know my own players would be seeking an alternative way inside the city than the obvious approach. Personally I’d not presume they go the route provided in the first encounter but simply describe the horde on the surface of the glacier, perhaps bombarding the city using siege engines guarded by hundreds of legionnaires. Then if the players look around for alternatives, in passing mention the ship tunnel at water level and the fully loaded fire ship entering the tunnel and let them make the choice to go the route that leads to the first encounter. If you have players like I do, it is often best to let them “discover” the way you want them to go and act as if you are bummed that they thought of a clever solution.

I am not going to delve into analysis of each and every encounter. Suffice it to say that they are fully detailed and provide the essential information the GM needs to run each one. There are also notes on how to scale the adventure for a different level of difficulty. I personally like all the suggestions for the GM on what to do if the players choose B over A, move invisibly or aerially, or delay acting. Three different end game scenarios are offered depending on what choices the GM and PCs make in the course of the adventure. The appendix provides information on new magic items, the Hungering Creature template as well as pregenerated characters for player use.

Conclusion: Ben McFarland and Jonathan Roberts make a fantastic combination of skilled adventure designers, clear and descriptive prose writers and crafters of clear, colorful and excellently supported maps. Combined with the gorgeous layout and nice little graphic element touches, such as tokens for cardstock whether for Maptool or not, make this a must-buy adventure. This well-crafted adventure scores a full 5 of 5 stars.


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Crossroads with a Crossing Guard

4/5

Alert! Spoilers follow: unless you are a GM looking for cool ideas on a crossroad locale, skip to the conclusion to not ruin surprises.

Frequently mentioned in literature, the fact that certain crossroads have some mysterious power associated with them hasn’t been delved into much in RPGs. The question of where the power comes from and why a particular Crossroads has a vague power which keeps people from wanting to use it or even think about it is dealt with in this latest addition to the Evocative City. A knot or tangled confluence of ley lines is an interesting concept, though I wish there was more information on what ley lines are. I have a vague idea from the descriptions of the nexus detailed in this supplement.

Detailed within are a pair of interesting NPCs. Grandmother Lytokus is the divine guardian of the nexus. Clifort Ray, the creepy insane earthbound dwarven resident, is a murderer with a, “the voices made me do it” vibe. As well as complete stat blocks for both, there are extras such as Grandmother Lytokus’s candles. Interesting concept of a Divine Guardian, with a template that can be used to apply to any being a GM should need. Oo! A Divine Guardian dragon would be extremely useful.

Conclusion:
Visual elements such as layout are typical for the Evocative City series. The Crossroads has okay maps, not eye-poppingly gorgeous but clear, easy to read and serviceable. There is decent art, some of which is Public Domain. I like art and I don’t personally mind Public Domain sources. In addition to the NPCs mentioned above, the write-up includes a nice detail of an encounter at the Crossroads and possible missions to send the PC’s to this locale. Writing is effective though there are a few awkward sentences here and there. There are no real errors or glitches in layout until you come to the advertisements at the end of the document. One page looks like half of it, the half that includes who and what essentials, is missing. Edit and correction: The aforementioned half page is a screen shot of Forstor Nagar using MapTools, which is a free program, and pretty cool.

All in all, this is a useful tool for GM’s. It isn’t perfect but it sure does give me some good ideas to use for my own campaign. Good work Rob Manning and the folks at Rite Publishing. I rate this at 4 of 5 stars.


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Watchfires and cliffs

4/5

A gorgeous map of an infrequently detailed location, Watchfire Keep provides a useful tool for Game Masters. As is typical of the Fantastic Maps series, this pack contains full size color maps and black and white printer-saver versions of the same maps. Also there are files for maptool use as well as A4 files for folks with European printers. The only thing extra this pack comes with is an additional stack of wood to be placed where the GM likes. This map works directly and specifically for a 4th edition D&D adventure in Kobold Quarterly #18, “Who Watches the Watchfires?”

The map artistically shows the keep from a bird’s eye view. The only thing that I can complain about is the lack of detail showing the height of the surface. It would be nice to know how steep the hill is. Either a small cross section view or isolines showing 5 or 10 foot vertical contours would help a great deal in determining the height of the hill on which the keep rests. The adventure in Kobold Quarterly tells how high the walls and towers are. But if a person just purchased this map pack and not KQ #18, he or she would not have access to this information. I know for myself, I would probably print out the whole thing and tape the pages together. Then I would draw out the contours myself using the obvious artistically rendered cliffs and slopes as guides. Mapping and cartography is second nature to me. This isn’t the case with everyone. Most GMs have players who will ask them how high the hill, walls and towers are.

Gorgeous map with handy full size sheets to print for use with miniatures and tools for computer map sharing make this product a good one to have. I am assigning Watchfires a 4 of 5 due to some desired but lacking information of the vertical height of the hill, walls and towers.


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50 monsters for the AGE system

5/5

Well, Mr. Jeff Tidball of Green Ronin, you do not know me at all but I am quite sure you got inside my brain to read my mind. Thank you for validating my opinion on the milieu of role playing games in your introduction to Open Design’s Midgard Bestiary. I have always believed that the “fluff” versus “crunch” debate was both poorly worded and misleading. To me fluff is why I play the game, why I run games, why I enjoy reading game materials. Fluff isn’t fluff, it is THE STORY. In the immersive act of pretending we are heroes or villains, not bystanders. We are improvisational actors in a play of our own devising. THAT is the fun of role playing games for me. The mechanics are just the means by which we all agree upon within our own cadre of friends and associates to implement the acts we wish our characters to perform.

Open Design’s Midgard AGE supplements, this Bestiary included, prove that point. Now I have played with the AGE system before, in fact even ran a part of a beginning campaign using the Dragon Age Roleplaying Game. So I know a little bit about this system. But I am not going to talk about the system. No. I am simply going to cheer on Josh Jarman and Open Design to have the courage to put out a supplement for their campaign world of Midgard that uses a system NOT created by one of the other big RPG companies. Not that Green Ronin is small. It has a rather expansive product line which includes several different game systems. The AGE system is only one of these.

The monsters in this book are designed to be used in Midgard, but I can see right off that anyone who uses the AGE system would want this book to supplement their game. With a little bit of time and number crunching it wouldn’t be too hard to convert the monsters to Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, D&D 4th edition, or even a retro-clone, such as Swords and Wizardry. The book is full of gorgeous art and interesting descriptions of monsters. In fact, I believe if you love monsters, regardless of game system you play, you need to consider this book. Oh and before I forget to mention this, there are 50 monsters detailed herein. Enjoy!


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Conclusion of Curse of the Golden Spear

5/5

I am updating my review of Dark Path to show that the repeated text was removed from the pdf, the layout redone and the space replaced with art. While not new art, it was highly appropriate to the surrounding text and doesn't detract too much from the appearance of the whole.

-- My original review is below.--

First off, I have to state the bad before talking about the good. There is a troubling layout/editing gaff in this last part of the Kaidan series. It will downgrade my score because it is large and annoying enough to make me want to point it out to purchasers. Hopefully no vital text is missing, but a section of the second column of page 5 of the pdf is repeated on the second column of page 6 below the grey box text on Kaidan: A Land of Oriental Horror. The same text is repeated again on page 7 second column. Since quite a bit of text was duplicated twice I am now wondering if anything was accidentally left out. It doesn’t appear obvious that there should be more to the introductory sections than there is. So perhaps no content was lost. I am, however, disappointed in the lack of layout review done on this third part of an excellent campaign trilogy.

As with the first two parts of this series, Dark Path is well-written. Since it is rather plot driven, there is an element of railroading. However there are plenty of options if players refuse to take the expected route and some thought given to what the likely results are for a number of alternative actions. It is more necessary that the players have played through at least the second part of this series. What drives the PCs is a result of occurrences in the second part.

Part one of the Dark Path assumes the PCs either want to or must (due to circumstances in Dim Spirit) either sneak or fight their way into the daimyo’s treasury. If events at the end of Dim Spirit occurred per script then the PCs have access to allies who can help. Otherwise the PCs are on their own. Although I wouldn’t stop PCs from attempting a frontal assault, with sufficient preparation on the part of the GM, it should become obvious this tactic is too dangerous. Certainly any allies would refuse a frontal assault as they would see it as suicide. Negotiations and discussions with the potential allies on how to break into the treasury provide ample opportunity for role play.

The second portion of the Dark Path assumes the PCs are eager to get away with their prize, should they linger there are numerous encounters suggestions to convince them it is a bad idea. Again it is assumed that the PCs will choose to take the Dark Path. Once the PCs have their prize from the treasury it is just as difficult to get out of the place as it was to get into it. It could be even more harrowing if an alarm has been sounded. I appreciate the notes for the DM on how to proceed if the PC’s choose not to head straight for the route advised by their allies, the Dark Path for which this adventure was named. And suggested encounters the PCs will encounter should they choose any other method of returning back to Gaijinoshima and a ship to take them away from Kaidan (assuming this is where they wish to go). Again there is a grey box of text detailing weather conditions and a wandering encounter table, useful whether the GM is running the particular adventure detailed within or one of his or her own devising in Kaidan. This last part of the adventure seems fairly flexible. The GM could order the encounters in any way as long as the PCs meet suitable resistance and encounter those who are eager to take the prize from them. The Dark Path being essentially a series of lava tubes, the branches of the path could pop out anywhere along the PCs chosen path back (or wherever) if they do not choose to travel the direct route.

The final conclusion of this adventure occurs back at Gaijinoshima and the ship the PCs used to travel to Kaidan. It seems the PCs enemies are not interested in allowing them to leave Kaidan.

Several appendices include a note on PC reincarnation in Kaidan. There are two new monsters. Next are notes on the Danmatsumabatsu, a group of specialized assassins, who attack the PCs in the treasury and after as well as a grey box text on the necrotic warrior class abililties. Also there is a set of pregenerated characters should the players loose a PC due to the fact that raise dead and resurrection do not work in Kaidan. Alternatively they may be used if new players join or as NPCs for the GM’s use. Finally there is the glossary of words, names and a pronunciation guide.

As is typical throughout this series the art gives a good feel for the setting and the maps are fantastic. There is even a map of one encounter scaled at 1 inch = 5 feet for use with miniatures should the GM wish to print it out in color for such use.

Once the error mentioned above is removed, the pdf of this product is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to run adventures in this well and lovingly researched Japanese Horror story style campaign. And despite the errors, they don’t detract from the excellent story. When fixed I will happily upgrade my score accordingly. But for now, this gets a 4 out of 5 stars from me.

--My updated rating is 5 of 5 stars.--

Dark Path makes a thrilling conclusion to the Curse of the Golden Spear as well as providing new information for those who wish to run their own campaigns set in Kaidan.


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For GM eyes only!

5/5

If you are a Game Master who wants to include traps that are different from the typical ones in the Pathfinder Core Rules and are like me and simply don’t have the time to come up with clever ones, this is your book. Although this book clearly emphasizes tombs, treasure and the attempt to keep said treasure out of the hands of opportunistic thieves. There are enough ideas within to use for other settings. A GM can never have too many traps to throw at the players. Using the same old traps again and again gives the players too many chances to recognize the signs and use the appropriate skills to remove or circumvent them.

The element of tongue-in-cheek celebration of popular “geek” culture within Rite’s books always gets a chuckle out of me. The cover page has a quote from Renee Belloq of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Next is a highly appropriate quote from the real Howard Carter when he first entered King Tut’s Tomb from The Tomb of Tutankhamen. Trevor’s artful in-character letter to Owain Northway, a fictional character well-known to those who read Rite Publishing’s products; and his use of clear descriptions sprinkled with advice for GMs on how to use the traps is fun to read. It is little extras like these which help to make the 30’s series of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game supplements worthwhile purchases.

The supplement gives a useful setting for those who don’t already have something in mind, Rafikabeer a necropolis encounter location. The story behind Rafikabeer is an interesting one and leaves questions to be answered by the individual GM in a manner that best fits his or her campaign. Tantalizing hints of something darker at work in the city prior to its existence as a necropolis are wonderful tools for the GM to fuel the imagination. This is not an adventure, yet with a few additions of encounters, characters and plot it could easily become one.

Whether you use the background material or not, the traps described herein can be used by any GM who needs to provide a not-to-pleasant surprise for players. Some traps are interconnected. These give players fits when they think they have discovered the trap and proceed only to get caught by the next trap. A whole range of magical and mechanical traps, hazards, haunts, and monsters (via summon monster spells) fill this supplement. As mentioned above the descriptions of traps, there are far more than 30 traps. Many work in conjunction with other and frequently different types of traps.

Combined with Trevor’s clear entertaining prose, this is a must have for any GM who wishes to include extra spice to his or her adventure. The only complaint I have is that some of the maps would be brutal on my ink supply in my printer to reproduce for game use. That is insufficient reason to downgrade my score. I could simply describe the location and allow my players to draw it as they choose and see what happens, sort of old school style. That could quickly teach them the value of asking the right questions and taking initiative to draw things properly themselves, hmm… Now there’s a thought. Anyway, I digress, five stars out of five from me. Thank you Rite Publishing for providing yet another excellent resource to beleaguered GMs.


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Abandoned Manor Houses Never Are

4/5

This is a perfect location to have on hand if your PCs decide to take a sudden left turn in your adventure, explore a house or area that is not a part of your campaign or decide to surprise the Game Master by spending the night in an abandoned manor that you know you didn’t have detailed. I love the duality of this location. No matter where the players may decide to investigate or sleep through the night, there is something waiting for them. I love the haunts in particular. But anyone tough enough to take on the bandit gang would likely not find them very challenging. Conversely, anyone finding the haunts to be challenging would be hard pressed to survive an encounter with the full gang of thieves. Knowing this ahead of time is the key to deciding how difficult you wish this encounter location to be. You may decide your players need to encounter something just a little bit too difficult for them, inculcating in them the value of running away when the situation calls for it. Of course the flexibility of an encounter site that is not tied to any adventure plot means that what the PCs discover here is up to the GM.

Art is clearly taken from Public Domain sources and this is clearly stated in the cover page. The maps spaced in the text of the house descriptions and encounters were in full color. If I had to guess, I’d say they were hand drawn. But that doesn’t detract from the adventure at all. In fact I rather like this. The maps show the manor house and environs very simply and without fluff, yet are very easy to read. I like the black and white printable full size additional maps for use with miniatures or just for showing the players. The maps also come in the A4 sized pdfs as well.

I love flexible locations with encounters or NPCs I can yank to use for other things if I need them or to surprise players who thought to surprise me by taking an unplanned siesta or turn left when they were really supposed to turn right. Eiffelmacher Estates provides this for me. Icing on the cake is the nice bundle of printable maps set at an appropriate scale for miniature use. This is a nice supplement. The only quibble some might have about the encounters described herein is the slight imbalance of difficulty between the haunts in the house and the Spotty Bottle gang’s leader. I don’t mind this for my own players, though. A little challenge is a good thing, a lot can make for the most harrowing and best remembered gaming experiences. I do wish that there had been some description and encounter suggestions for the greenhouse, for completeness. The lack of details on the interesting-looking greenhouse keeps this from being a full five stars, four out of five.


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Ashes to Ashes

5/5

Questions of morality versus ethics, good and evil, right and wrong, about when to sacrifice one for the others, about the end justifying the means to achieve a goal, about striving for personal power for oneself above even one’s own family, perhaps even about the true meaning of family and loyalty pervade this 5th installment of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path. Just how evil is evil enough to cause a person devoted to the cause of good to sacrifice the goals of the group he or she is bound to protect? These are difficult questions for any good-oriented party, whether they include a paladin or no, to deal with as they try to uncover the cause behind the murders of those who are seen to be deeply heinously evil by the standards of most good oriented gods. Some may think that this adventure would test the vow of a paladin too severely. Once the paladin chooses to help the unabashedly evil vampires is he or she on the slippery slope to damnation?

I love adventures which force players to play their characters making real choices and have real (within the game) consequences. Paladins have great rewards of power for the cause of good but also carry a heavy burden. Should the Game Master make light of this burden or should he force the player to really think about the meaning of running such a character? I would say this really depends on the GM and his or her players. My own players are all old grognards for the most part and have dealt with such questions on more than one occasion. I know they would love the role play opportunities this adventure provides.

But some groups are not able to handle such ethical and moral decisions. This is where a good GM has to know his players. Some groups are all for the mechanical aspects of the game and care little for role playing. Rather than tell them they are not playing the game right, which is at best subjective and at worst elitist and condescending, I would say to them, ignore the questions and let your players hack and slash or work with the vampires as they decide. Of course I am of the opinion that it is never the GM’s job to tell the players how to play their characters or play through an adventure. You defiantly have to gage the maturity level of your players. In the hands of a good GM, this adventure can become a pivotal and memorable one for the players whether or not you are running the Carrion Crown AP as a whole or just want to dip into the vampiric underbelly of Caliphas.

It would be relatively easy to alter this adventure to stand alone. Simply remove references to the Whispering Way and alter the ending such that it ends when the PC’s find out who is murdering the vampires and dealt with them and perhaps the vampires too, if they so choose. Though I would expect some retribution of the part of the leader of this clan, who may or may not be at home depending on the individual GM. Alternatively the GM can use this adventure to start the PC’s on the path of the Whispering Way at a later level than the path assumes, particularly if other adventures in the vicinity have been run which are located fairly nearby and not directly related. What this means is that this adventure is highly portable with some minor work and of even greater value to GMs who, like me, run their own campaigns rather than the strict Adventure Paths.

To Neil in particular, I think you did a masterful job of creating an adventure that delves into these questions spoken above without forcing any particular group or GM to HAVE to play a certain way.

As for the remainder of this AP, there is an always helpful article on a location in Golarion, in this case the city of Caliphas, which is directly relevant to the adventure and includes some interesting personalities the PCs may encounter in the city. Next is a continuation of the deity articles, this time the featured deity is Urgathoa. Then there are the standard AP articles, the fiction piece and the Bestiary with some useful and some strange monsters. Now the bestiary also includes an odd page, a short piece on PCs as vampires and a town stat block with a paragraph on travel TO Caliphas as well as an encounter table for the slums and sewers of Caliphas. This might have been better placed elsewhere, at the head of the AP perhaps, so it could be noticed by the GM easier while he or she is preparing for this adventure. Given the constraints of the placement of text in the introduction and Part One of the adventure I can see why this wasn’t placed there. I am very glad it wasn’t simply left out, though I do question its placement at the head of the Bestiary.

In short then, I believe this installment of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path does everything it set out to accomplish and more, thanks to the skill of the author in particular. I have trouble giving this a perfect score due to the strange additions to the Bestiary. But the main adventure was so masterfully done that I have to award this five stars as well.


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I love Cthulhu!

5/5

When you put James Jacobs and Greg Vaughan together and toss in some Cthulhu Mythos for spice you come out with the most sanity-bending awesome tools any H. P. Lovecraft loving GM can use, nay, MUST have. Now Wake of the Watcher is the fourth installment of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, but I can’t talk about the adventure's place in the path, how this fits in with the rest, or how it flows with them. I can say that the adventure within these pages is easily the most portable of the adventures in the paths I have observed in a while. All a GM needs to do is place Illmarsh in the path of players on the way to someplace else, take out any direct references to following Whispering Way operatives and, Whammo! Adventure.

Taken alone the adventure is useful for a GM seeking to fit in to his own campaign, whether you run the Adventure Path as a whole or not. Combined with the support articles, you have pure Cthulhu-esque gold. Now what I hoped for, and happy enough to recieve, was a conversion of ALL of my personal favorite Cthulhu monsters. (Color Out of Space!!) But Mr. James Jacobs went and converted all of my old favorite Outer Gods and Old Ones to Pathfinder godhood status. Not only can I use these to terrify my players, but they can’t even touch them because they are treated as gods. Pardon me while I giggle to myself a little bit.

I realize I haven’t spoken of F. Wesley Schneider’s contribution. This is because I haven’t read it (yet). When I have additional funds I will make every effort to purchase the first three contributions to this adventure path and catch up on what I missed.

Gold, Messrs. Jacobs and Vaughan, Wake of the Watcher is pure gold for Lovecraft lovers. This gem scores a full five elder signs from me.


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The Kobold King of Quarterlies

5/5

Kobold Quarterly keeps getting better and better. It has something for everyone, whether you are a game master or player, or run adventures using the 4th Edition of D&D, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or the AGE system. Even if you only run games in a single rules system, the others are chalk full of ideas the resourceful GM can snag. Add to this gorgeous art and maps and KQ’s standard articles and you have a magazine that fills the need for a multi-system periodical. From the Pathfinder compatible articles on new classes, class options and adventures to the 4th Edition compatible articles and AGE system compatible articles as well as system neutral articles this is a treasure trove of ideas.

An article written my Monte Cook, “Explaining the Inexplicable”, stands out as worthy advice with regards to creating verisimilitude within the context of the fantasy or other genre game a particular game master wishes to run. It is also worthy advice to some players who like to bicker with their game masters on such topics.

My hands-down favorite article is “10 Reasons Why Your Characters Should Be in Jail” by Russell Jones. This is a set of helpful suggestions for a Game Master that is entirely rules-free. You can apply the ideas within regardless of what system, time setting or other game specific genre you play. For the historically-minded, there is a paragraph on the divisions of Roman law, from which medieval law was based. It is interesting and encourages culture fanatics such as myself to research more on this topic. While traditional campaigns tend to mimic medieval settings, some might want more variation. I am hoping that future articles of KQ will delve into various systems of law throughout history and perhaps extrapolate beyond this for fantastical settings, Midgard particularly.

I also like how you can make use of a particular article whether or not you use the particular system it may be written to serve. For example, “The Heroic Flaw” by Philippe-Antoine Menard has relatively rules-light suggestions for character flaws and traits that could be used for players to refine their role playing ability more so than simply a Trait Point rules mechanic.

My favorite Pathfinder rules supplement specific article is “Synergistic Magic: combining Spells for Twice the Power” by Phillip Larwood. This article includes so-called Synergistic Feats, one of which is a teamwork feat and is also compatible with the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide as well as the Core rules. These feats utilize the fairly standard but easy to achieve prerequisites that are common for most of the Pathfinder Metamagic Feats. I may quibble with the level at which these may be gained for my own home campaign, but the ideas are solid and provide players and game masters ways to individualize spell caster abilities. In addition to the feats are a series of very useful examples of spells created with these feats.

Whether you want articles for use in your own campaigns or to simply read the latest article written by your favorite author, KQ is a nice supplement to have. The number of articles is stunning and the quality of such is always high. And every time I look, it grows in size. I have to admit I don’t have every copy, only a few select magazines that contained articles I really wanted to read. So I can say that this magazine started out good and continues to get better.

I can't rate this at less than 5 stars. This periodical does everything it sets out to accomplish with panache and artistry.


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Do You Want to Live Forever?

4/5

I really have high hopes for the Shining Valkyrie. I have a soft spot for strong female characters. They appeal most strongly to my innate desire to want to be a hero. This is the reason I role play, not just for good tales and good times with friends. Spoilers below, you have been warned.

------------------------

So, she’s a healer and doesn’t like cheaters, but won’t stand up to the Khan or help those in need until a fight is done, but only is interested in the Coliseum Morpheon and has little interest in the folk of the Tarnished Souk. Hmm, I already want to change her motivations and personality. The stat block is the most useful part of this for me. She is just a heal-bot, and not a very interesting one though evidently easy on the eyes. Still, she’s not my idea of a strong female character. Stating her up as an Oracle per Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide is useful to me. The added bit on the Aellar (winged elves) is also quite useful. Still she’s an NPC not a PC so she shouldn’t be the hero of the story, that is the players’ jobs. I can live with the weak character motivations. It also gives the party some role play possibilities.

Just like the other Tarnished Souk NPC supplements, this one includes a couple of different lower level stats for the same character. In fact, if I use her as she is written up, I prefer to keep her at a lower level. This way it makes more sense that she hasn’t tried to buck the system. This goes to show just how much the multiple stat blocks that appear in all the Tarnished Souk materials shine. The flexibility of being able to use the same character at multiple levels for many needs makes this a great product. Along with the various stat blocks there are also a couple of templates that have been applied to her including notes on how to become a Mithral-Clad creature.

This is where the format of the Tarnished Souk NPC creations demonstrates its usefulness. I can make use of this character even though I dislike the write up of the NPC as written, for the CR 20 version. The lower level stat blocks allow me to keep this same vision of the character’s personality and not have to modify to suit my own view of how a powerful healer like the Valkyrie behaves. I still can do that, but it gives me some flexibility to utilize her as a flawed individual at a lower level who has room for growth, and can be affected by the PCs in either a positive or negative manner.

I am still not going to give this one a full 5 stars, the female heal-bot beauty trope is an old and tired one in my opinion. So I am giving this supplement 4 out of 5 stars.


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A Sequel that is better than the first

5/5

This is the second part of the Curse of the Golden Spear adventure trilogy set in the Kaidan campaign setting. First off, like the previous adventure, the art and layout are very good. I frankly love that some of the art is taken from public domain sources and is traditional Japanese. This does an excellent job at setting the scenery and mood of this adventure, just as in the first part. Of course the maps are all stunning. I love good maps.

The adventure continues at the Diamyo’s palace. Here we get to meet this creepy guy and the foreign adventurers should now have their hackles raised after meeting him. He is more than a little creepy, though perhaps the PCs won’t identify just exactly how or in what way, yet. At any rate, it seems half their job is done. All that remains is to escort their employer back to Gaijinoshima. This should be fairly easy, except there are a few obstacles along the way, a few detours, and the rest of the adventure.

There is a certain element of railroading that the GM must perform to get the PCs to the second encounter location. I do love the fact that the author has taken this into account that some parties will not be forced to remain with their employer as he deviates from the obvious path back. As an experienced GM I love the fact that some consideration is given for the recalcitrant party so I don’t have to come up with situations to steer the PCs back onto the path. Even so, you may have to allow a few PCs to die if they refuse. I love the fact that the method used to keep PCs from going off on their own and out of the adventure isn’t a contrivance but that it fits very nicely into the plot as a whole. This isn’t called the Curse of the Golden Spear for no reason.

The scene at the Garden Shrine and the encounters associated with are optional in the sense that the party may choose not to go this way with their employer. If they don’t there are serious consequences and a missed opportunity to earn a very nice magic item. But I would let this play out. There have to be consequences for not following through and at least making an effort to keep their employer safe.

Then there are a few encounters designed to help motivate the PCs onwards to the conclusion of this adventure. Some may balk at the herding, but it is entirely in keeping with the plot and the Diamyo’s decisions on what to do with this group of gaijin. There are a few encounters in the forest and some notes on the weather that are both useful for this adventure and useful for one’s own campaign set in Kaidan.

Part three of this adventure has some ties to the first adventure. There are consequences, good or bad, for how the PCs dealt with the situation in the village of Agoya. Consequences are key elements to help immerse PCs into a particular world and show them that their actions matter. Located in the rural forest village of Kitsumura, the PCs are introduced to the villagers and if they played their cards right in the first adventure should have no trouble locating where to go next to cure their curse. Of course it is never that simple and there is adventure to be found here as well.

What follows is an amazing set of appendices that the GM can use either for this adventure alone or for an extended campaign set in Kaidan. Appendix 1 is on PC reincarnation in Kaidan, important whether you are just going to run this adventure trilogy or an entire campaign in Kaidan. Appendix 2 includes the new monsters found in this adventure as well as a few monster templates. Appendix three details the new class of the samurai ranger called Yojimbo. Appendix four explains samurai honor for those who are not students of Japanese culture, very important if you intend to run a campaign set in Kaidan, or any other Japanese-like setting. Appendix five includes five pregenerated characters, useful for those who loose PCs or for other use, even use as NPCs by the GM. Lastly is a glossary of words and names which comes in handy for the GM.

Dim Spirit is perhaps even better than its predecessor at getting the characters to know the campaign world of Kaidan as they begin to discover just how different this place is. There is such depth in culture, setting details, characterization, plot, as well as the visual elements of maps and pictures that you really do feel the authors' familiarity and appreciation for this pseudo-Japanese style campaign. There is no fake American media drivel here, this is honest and so well researched that one can’t help but feel immersed in the culture. Granted this is a fantasy adventure and there are things here that really don’t exist, but we know this and expect it. The fantasy elements all belong here, none are incongruous. A Japanese Ghost story indeed, to the folks at Rite Publishing, Jonathan McAnulty and Michael Tumey, well done; this is well worth a five star rating.


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Alleys Are Even Darker and More Wicked

4/5

As this is a compilation of work created by several persons, I will attempt a short review of each element in the Alleys of Zobeck. Please note that this material is really meant to be used specifically with Streets of Zobeck and while some elements can stand alone or be pulled out to fit in some other setting, others cannot.
• Nothing to Declare – an introductory adventure to introduce the players to Zobeck. This assumes the PCs have never been to Zobeck before. For those who grew up here obviously this little short bit isn’t needed. It provides an adventure hook to other adventures and NPCs within the city.
• Alternate Lust Domain – a domain specific to a deity in the Midgard Campaign setting. It works well with the adventure “Flesh Fails,” but is easily modified to similar deities in any campaign setting.
• Vralgor Szarn’s Territory – featuring an encounter with Barghest gang members of Vralgor Szarn, an NPC from Streets of Zobeck from the adventure “The Fish and The Rose”. There is no stat block provided here for this pair of Barghests and a GM must have access to the Pathfinder Bestiary that contains it.
• Clockwork Abomination – a CR5 new creature for use with the adventure “The First Lab”. This evil fiendish construct is an easily portable monster and can be inserted into any campaign the GM wishes.
• Template: Infernally Possessed Creature – This monster template is for the adventure “Ripper” in Streets of Zobeck. A partial stat block is also provided for something called an Ice Devil (Gelugon) Spirit. It isn’t clear if a gelugon-possessed creature is the same thing as an infernally-possessed creature.
• Goldscale – Male kobold paladin. This full stat block includes not only background, motivations & goals and schemes & plots notes, but also Goldscale’s bonded mount – a dire weasel and includes stats for adding dire weasel as an animal companion.
• The Gutter Prophet – the cleric benefactor of the streets of Zobeck. This includes his full stat block along with notes for background, motivations & goals and schemes & plots.
• Sam Nesclem – NPC stat block for use with Streets of Zobeck. A low level NPC with full stat block and an interesting connection to the river traffic around Zobeck.
• New Feats – 5 feats: Cheap Shot, Eye Gouge, Graft Clockwork, Low Blow, and Underhanded Strike. Except for the item creation feat, Graft Clockwork, the other feats listed all require the first, Cheap Shot as a prerequisite.
• New Traits – 4 regional traits and 3 religion traits that are specific to Open Design’s Midgard setting.
• New Magic Item – The Clockwork Hand is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a handy item. This and the magical and mundane items in the New Gear section fit well with the setting.
• Small Treasures – An extremely useful table of random treasures, just perfect for the enterprising sneak thief or pick-pocket.
Locations – What follows next are a few locations detailed for GM use in the city complete with descriptions and maps.
• The Rampant Roach – A seedy inn with local color in the form of personalities, locals and some scenarios to use.
• Ulmar’s Rare Books – A book store run by a dwarf who is also detailed with stat block and a few scenarios. What is missing is a nice randomized list of books available for purchase.
• Other Location Scenarios – a couple of scenarios for use in the locations described in the Streets of Zobeck supplement.
• Finally, not so much a location as a way to travel between them, Blackeye’s Carriage is a useful and occasionally informative way to see the streets of Zobeck. This section includes background material and a stat block for Blackeye the kobold coachman.

Like Streets of Zobeck, I am rating this at 4 of 5 stars as the material within is strongly tied to the City of Zobeck and works closely with the Streets of Zobeck supplement. If you are running a campaign set in Zobeck, or have purchased Streets of Zobeck to pull out some useful personalities, adventures or settings, then you should consider this one as well.


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