Staunton Vhane

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Good concept but weak in the details.


This adventure is full of great ideas, but ultimately there's no real story. Nothing really goes anywhere. It's 18 rooms full of some fairly interesting stuff, but none of it really lives up to its potential. It's pretty disappointing

Castanamir the Mad seems like a really cool character--sort of a magical Mark Twain, deeply talented but also cynical and disillusioned with the world. Unfortunately you never get to even meet the guy. Lots of setup and interest built up to a big letdown. Too bad.

Some of the NPCs and encounters are likewise really interesting--like the picture on the cover, a naranzim rising from the pool in the center of an underground chapel. Unfortunately the encounter as written ends up being pretty lame. A lot of the NPCs you run into, desparate castaways just like you, also trapped in the complex and looking to escape, could have given the module a cool Lost/Silent Hill feel, but instead most of them end up being either straight combat encounters, or sort of pointless social encounters where the NPCs are scripted to more or less do whatever possible to avoid being helpful--including attacking the party.

Ultimately the adventure could be really fun and cool if you took the core concepts and played those, dispensing almost entirely with the adventure as written. Certainly some of the ideas really are pretty interesting. That said, the actual module as sold is a pretty dry romp with some silly, dated characters and inscrutable, inconsistant events, and ultimately no resolution as to what just happened. It cries out for a good DM to salvage it.

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So where's the rest of it?


Well I just got mine yesterday and spent the evening flipping through it. Love the art. Love that some of my favorite creatures from the latter monster manuals made it in. Love that creature backstories have been tied into the assumed setting rather than the usual handwaving of "may have been created by failed magical experimentation". Everything at least has a place in the setting.

That said...where's my book? The promise I read was that this book was going to be written with an eye toward ecology and background, with every creature getting between 1-3 pages of text about what it is and how it fits into the world. Maybe those pages must have fallen out or something. Instead got a book with 2-3 statblocks, some really lame tactics blurbs, and two or three sentences on WHAT they are. The knowledge roll based backgrounds gave somewhat more, but not much. Pretty frustrating.

That and, remember all that stuff about a sweet spot that runs through the game? Great. So why is it that until you get to level 10 you still can't fight anything? It's back to goblins, orcs and dire rats. It seems like the first ten levels are going to be pretty desolate after all. I was really hoping for a smattering of evocative cool low level badguys--guys for "heroic" characters to throw themselves up against. Certainly the new system lends itself toward a more level playing field, right? You get none of that here.

Anyway, the art is great, and as a primer on what monsters are going to be in 4e, what they look like, and a hint as to their place in the new setting, the book works fine. For those looking to really sink their teeth into the new game though, the book really kind of stinks.

An Adventure on Index Cards?


With much eagerness I opened the envelope that came in the mail, eager to see what one of these Compleat Encounters was all about. I dumped out a bunch of peices of paper and quite literally opened up the cardboard envelope to see if I'd missed something.

Yeah. Not an inspiring start. No wrapper even, just a pile of unattached 5x8 cards--like recipe cards. A small pile. Four of these notecards constitute the adventure (not counting the "front cover" and "back cover" bits) Another card features a magic item, sort of--it's a cursed torture rack, not really a treasure type thing. The last two are NPC writeups.

The rest of the cards are light cardstock maps--not bad really, each with a chunk of nice happy temple on one side and a bloodstained evil temple on the other. Hard to imagine a lot of other uses for them--but maybe. Trouble is I don't see how half the cards would even get used if you play the module either. But they do look nice.

The adventure itself, not suprisingly, is pretty brief, but that's not necessarily a terrible thing. It's just that the setup is a little weak and a tad trite. There's not much space, so you have to make each word ring with awesomeness--and it really didn't ring. Planes-roaming serial-killer is a great hook, but it just turns into this story about a banished, self-loathing ex-cleric who tortures people and his half-orc "Igor".

That said, the write-ups for the characters are wonderfully done. Big full art page on one side to show characters with stats and writeup on the back. It's just the characters are a little blah.

No big Golarion spoilers either for those interested. A namedrop for a yet-unheard-of god, but it's pretty clearly a core Pathfinder god with a retconned name--so really not much new there.

The needless retcons are a little disappointing and could have easily been fixed early on. It just would have been nice if this could have been an added peice to their puzzle.

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Darkest, Bleakest Post-Apocalypse EVER!


Some people think a rusted schoolbus riveted with scrapmetal and a driver in spray painted hockey gear with a mohawk is gritty post-apocalypse. Okay, so did I...until I read this.

This is a thing of beauty, the most unrepentantly awful, bleak portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world I have ever seen.

What's better--this guy knows his stuff. It's smart science fiction, spot on and totally believable (even though it deals with some weird weird stuff) from the total annihilation caused by a breed of nanotech run amok, called "Eaters", to the neolithic tribal societies that have immerged from the ruins, surviving only because of their own defensive nanotech and by mastering the only technology left in the world--the kind formed from one's own flesh.

This setting is great. It's fresh and intriguing and just horribly oppressive and grim. You know I love that!

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Overload of Cool Setting Material!


Great adventure, with a feel that's like what you'd get if you crossed The Mummy, Stargate, and Tomb of Horrors.

There's stuff in there that's swashbuckling high heroism--and there's stuff that's just not fair, in a good way.

But beyond the adventure, for Golarion junkies like myself there's stuff you just really can't get anywhere else. You know about the Red and Green planets? Well now there's a third one! Acturn. Sweet huh? Think of it as Planet Stargate.

You get a background (not a lavish one unfortunately--it's still an adventure first and foremost) of the lands of Osirion, of the annual battles between rival clans of elementals that result in massive sandstorms.

You get the city of Sothis, built into and around the shining green-black exoskeleton of a giant scarab beetle, as well as all it's leaders and a snapshot of its districts.

You get a pack of rival NPC adventurers from the empire of Cheliax--Her Magestrix's Expeditionary with a fat paragraph on each member. These guys could become as big a deal as the signature party from pathfinder.

You also get a ton of new magic items--including wand rifles and ancient Osirion craft.

Good good stuff.

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Knocked Dead by Awesome New World of Darkness!


This isn't just what the new World of Darkness should have been--it's what Urban Arcana and Shadowrun should have been too.

The Backstory: A year ago, a supernatural backlash ripped a hole in our reality over a hundred miles wide leaving haunted cities and alien landscapes in its wake as nightmare horrors began to seep into the world.

What this massive book contains is an entire treatment of a complete and original World of Darkness. All the flavor text, backdrop and powers for Vampires, Werewolves, Mages, Demons and Awakened (aka. Hunters) with a delightful new spin that gets rid of all the stuffy pretention and adds tons fresh ideas that are genuinely exciting.

Werewolves are creatures from a savage moon-ruled otherworld, engines of destruction, their bestial forms vaguely canine but more bear-sized hellhound than wolf. Finally they feel like real monsters--not ecoterrorists.

Vampires are twin-souled beings: one half normal human victim their body killed in the act of possession, other half malevolent dead soul from some bygone era.

Demons are creatures of pure seething corruption that warp the inert elements of the world into puppet-like bodies, forced to split their time between various appealing shapes and a return to their horrific unnatural forms.

Mages are those humans who have learned through arcane practice, how to draw upon the flexable nature of the new reality--with an elegant and flexible new magic system good enough to port into any game.

Awakened that finally feel like hunters--their primary power coming from numerous bonus feats (fighter-style) rather than psychic numina or strange virtue based superpowers. They feel nicely and suprisingly human, without feeling weak and useless.

The book's a must buy. I'm a leathery old World of Darkness fan from way back, so the idea of a D20 World of Darkness had me a little nervous--but its won me over and now has a place of honor in my gaming library.