An Endzeitgeist.com review
This Eventure clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
And no, that was no typo; an eventure is essentially an adventure-like set-piece that does not focus on combat, and instead emphasizes actual roleplaying. This one is intended for low to mid-level characters, with lower levels imho working a bit better.
Okay, so, this one deals with something you almost ever see in RPGs, and when one does, it’s usually executed badly: The auction. At this point, I’ve encountered that set-up less than 5 times in my reviewing career, and most of the time, these auctions only served as a cutscene-heavy backdrop without much actual player-choice involved. So, how does this supplement handle things?
Well, for one, there is great news right off the bat: The book actually comes with a fully player-friendly, detailed b/w map, and we’re speaking 4 floors + cellar. AWESOME. If you’re like me a great fan of the city of Languard and its associated Languard Locations-series, you’ll be happy to hear that Raisa’s is indeed situated in that city, though, for everyone else, it should be noted that it’s a 0-effort-required job to plug the auction house into pretty much any other fantasy city. Additionally, the pdf does suggest some handy dressing files from the #20-Things-series that you can employ to further enhance the experience, if you need some additional dressing.
Indeed, one advantage this one certain has over previous installments in the series would be the utility of the art-assets: We, for example, get a massive 1-page artwork of the eponymous Raisa, and the pdf actually does come with a one-page handout-flyer. AWESOME. This is how art budget should be used; so the players actually get to see it. Big kudos!
The supplement begins with a brief run-down of the notable NPCs working at Raisa’s—fluff only, as usual for Raging Swan Press; and as usual for the 5e-versions, we do get references to the standard NPCs, for all but one of the NPCs. This automatically renders running the auction easier. Why? Because you can have those Deception vs. Insight rolls, that Intimidation roll versus a NPC-bidder to step down. This makes gamifying the auction easier in the 5e-version than in all other iterations. (The one NPC sans reference statblock would have warranted values, though…) 3 hooks and 12 whispers and rumors are provided as means to lead into the eventure, and as usual for Raging Swan Press supplements, we also get this nifty list of minor events (12 rather detailed ones this time, taking up ½ of a page) that help an environment feel alive.
Now, design-wise, an auction represents an interesting conundrum: If you do plot out the auction in detail, you are essentially teeter-tottering around the risk of it devolving into a railroad, an extended cutscene, where the GM has to depict multiple NPCs, the party interacts with that, and everything becomes confusing or bereft of player agenda. This pdf does things in a smarter and more playable manner that sacrifices being something you can spontaneously pull off in favor of the auction actually mattering, an excellent decision as far as I’m concerned.
Beyond the aforementioned set-up regarding hooks, events, etc., the supplement handles its auction by giving the GM fluff-centric brief notes on NPCs (3 of which get a slightly more detailed take, including a paragraph of read-aloud text), and then presenting 8 curios that may or may not have actual rules-use…these can be items for the auction, sure. But the main star? That would be the 5 lots included. These are specific treasures, including a read-aloud description. They have main powers (usually core/standard magic items) and additional powers that can be useful/elaborated upon, if desired.
The section “Provenance” provides a story-context for the item, and with reserve price and notes on bidding and further development, the lots do a surprisingly good job at contextualizing items that would usually be considered to be less than interesting. How good a job? Well, there is the Ever-True Blade (in a formatting glitch, the “ever” isn’t properly set in italics), which is actually just a +1 weapon with a light effect; and yet, its story context and brief notes did make me actually interesting in an item that couldn’t be duller on a mechanics level if it tried. But the nice thing here is: The pdf seems to be cognizant of the limited direct allure of the items for some GMs and provides design notes for the items, providing some guidance for the GM, for example when it comes to Agananxer’s Wondrous Rod. Will I make the items more unique? You bet I will! Am I going to change the set-up/context? No need.
This is a clever way of handling an auction; sure, it requires a bit more GM mojo and prep-work than the previous eventures, but it certainly has its priorities straight and execution down. The prices of the items have been adjusted accordingly, and actually tends to gravitate to the lower end.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious glitches apart from very minor things like the aforementioned instance of italics partially missing. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artworks deserve special applause: I am a big fan of properly used art-budgets, and getting two handouts and a player-friendly, amazing b/w-map in such a small pdf? That’s fantastic indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for screen-use, and one intended for people like yours truly, who prefer to print out their pdfs.
Creighton Broadhurst’s take on roleplaying-centric auctions is precise, executed in a clever manner that prioritizes the right things, and as a whole, represents a supplement I really, really like. And in the 5e-version? That enhanced playability aspect, more or less coincidentally granted by the referenced default statblocks? It adds tremendously to the experience of running this fellow. And one NPC where one has to (perhaps) improvise a skill/ability score value? Not enough to penalize this supplement. In direct comparison, this is the strongest iteration, and gets 5 stars + seal of approval. Certainly, a pdf worth the low asking price.