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November 27, 2015, 08:01:00 am by DriveThruRPG
| Views: 10 | Comments: 0
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Omega: Dawn of a Thousand Wars (PFRPG)Publisher
: LPJ DesignRating
An Endzeitgeist.com review
The final adventure in the Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Campaign Serial clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
Now if you want to know what happens if the PCs did not play all the sidetrek and thus have not yet reached the required 4th level of this module...well, the book already hints at what to expect from "Crisis of the World-Eater," as a handy sidebox provides suggested fluff-only adversaries from diverse worlds to be inserted after the first encounter of the module: Whether drow from AAW Games' Aventyr, Puppeteer-ridden humanoids from Dreamscarred Press' Third Dawn, leather-clad ladies from Legendary Games' Hypercorps 2099, goblin firestarters from Rogue Genius Games' Veranthea or ghouls from LPJ Design's Obsidian Apocalypse - there is some serious diversity here regarding the suggested adversaries to bridge the XP-gap.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Great! Atlantis folly and hubris are well-documented in the myths we weave o earth - struck down by a cataclysm of deific proportions, the Atlanteans drew back from the worlds and their nexus gateways - until recently, when the Deltans, former colonists, re-established contact to save their home world from the forces of Entropy. Bringing Atlantean weapons to bear, the inexorable advance was slowed, but not stopped. Where Atlantis fell into fatalism, the vespans didn't - and thus, Sodan took control of the legendary city and sent forth legions to scour the worlds for something to save Delta. He found what he was looking for on NeoEoxdus, in the guise of the rather unpleasant animancer Pushae, whom the PCs hunted back in module alpha. Thanks to the work done in the previous sidetreks, the PCs and their mentor Large-Biter can finally narrow down the activity of the Vespan's to one particular gateway - and beyond that lies the answer to their questions - stepping through the portal with the nexus key (or not, if you want to reiterate the cool portal activation in "Speaking the Same Language", the PCs arrive in the buffer - where a Comozant Wyrd awaits - and after this line of defense, there lies Atlantis.
The beautifully mapped (player-friendly, btw.) city then constitutes the backdrop for the PC's further investigations - and if visitors from hundreds of worlds were not ample clue, then the Vespan patrols will be: They better be low key. Alas, unfortunately news travels fast, even in Atlantis - hence, the module tracks PC notoriety, with certain special encounters happening upon PCs crossing a certain threshold. It should be noted that multiple skills and degrees of success are featured here for a pretty fine-grained investigation, particularly for a module of this one's brevity - bravo! Indeed, finding Pushae may go both ways - with either the PCs finding the animancer or him coming after them - still, exploring the wondrous vista while laying low does have its appeal in either way. Sooner or later, the PCs will have to venture forth to Old Atlantis and the soul crucible there. And exploring the place does reveal some terrible truths: Beyond the scrupulous guards and assistants, traps and people stripped of their souls do not bode well as the PCs explore this fully mapped mini-dungeon (including a player-friendly version, just fyi!) - and finally, the PCs will be face to face with Pushae inside his Soul Crucible. Interesting here: Pushae is a powerful foe, but as a researcher convinced of the necessity of his work, he is thankfully underprepared for the PCs.
The module does not end here, though: As Pushae's own soul is consumed by his crucible, Sodan and his vespans enter the building, telepathically contact the PCs...and make clear that they just literally stuck their faces in the wasp's nest: From here on out, the PCs will be hard-pressed to run...fast...and hopefully, to the artillery range...to sink Atlantis! As legions of vespans assault the PCs, they'll have high-powered atlantean siege-weaponry at their disposal to mow down scores of attacking foes while the Obliteration cannon charges - 10 rounds. Believe me when I'm saying that 10 rounds can be a nail-biting experience. It should be noted that this encounter is not run as a siege-weapon combat, but rather as a mini-game - a welcome change of pace in this instance...and yes, notoriety also features in how quick Sodan can muster his troupes...
Soon after Atlantis' hull is breached, its final defense mechanism kicks in - and the city warps to NeoExodus, stranding on the planet! Let's hope that the PCs can escape in the chaos...but this is not yet the end of either the story of the pdf: 12 hook allow for further customization and the pdf ends with a brief gazetteer of Atlantis, fully depicted Atlantean siege engines (like miniguns and tesla lances) as well as magic items and stats for the no-longer fully human CR 6 Atlanteans and the powers - which includes a domination aura that does look a bit like Khaynite tricks to me...but we'll see.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches (apart from one instance mentioning "Hypernet 2099", which should be "Hypercorps 2099"...); the pdf's layout adheres to LPJ Design's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artworks are pretty gorgeous, as is the cartography. The book comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. had me curious, but ultimately skeptical regarding the end of the "Chronicle of the Gatekeepers"-serial - I wasn't sure whether the omega-adventure could live up to the hype and anticipation generated by the previous modules, particularly after the more down-to-earth sidetreks. Then I saw the page-count and my heart just dropped. I couldn't conceive the module living up to its ambitious premise and title in so few pages. Well, I'm glad to report that the omega adventure of "Chronicle of the Gatekeepers" is a fast-paced, exciting action-romp par excellence: Partway infiltration/espionage, partway full-blown action-movie escalation, this trip to the legendary city is not only well-structured, it is downright cinematic and bombastic in its concepts and settings - most AP-ending adventures do not manage to evoke such a palpable sense of high stakes. At the same time, the module does have one "flaw", if you will: Due to its brevity, the legendary city explored in this book does not get *that much* space to shine, when it, by concept alone, could have carried an epic 100+ page plot of a mega-adventure. Oh well, GMs can add to this unique location, so if you're like me and excited for this...well, there you go.
The furious finale, with its alteration and reveal of one damn cool addition to NeoExodus' metaplot made me conclude this module with a palpable sense of gravitas and foreboding, but also with a lot of excitement and anticipation for the world-spanning "Crisis of the World-Eater." Oh, and the unique finale's mini-game is, in the hands of a capable GM something players will keep talking about for years to come. Beyond being a very good module, this also constitutes, in my opinion, Michael McCarthy's best module so far and a worthy conclusion of a series that saw me skeptical and managed to win me over via the diverse, unique challenges offered - in short, a final module for the serial well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
Source: Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Omega: Dawn of a Thousand Wars (PFRPG)
November 27, 2015, 08:00:59 am by DriveThruRPG
| Views: 12 | Comments: 0
A Friend in NeedPublisher
: Playground AdventuresRating
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside back cover (which doubles as a picture you can color), 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving 20 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This review was moved forward on my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.
First of all, before I go into details: This module is intended for a younger audience - basically, this is intended to be a very kid-friendly module - to be more precise, for the age-range of about ~ 6 years. I ran the module in my playtest with a mixed group spanning the ages of 4 - 11 and the players that had most fun were those in the lower ages, so personally, I'd suggest this approximately for ages 4 - 8. The module does take into account the changed requirements of the target demographic - namely by calling out when a good time for a break would be, when to guide them by incorporating suggestions into your "What do you do?"-questions, when to explain the discrepancy between character and player-knowledge...the like. For parents not sure whether their kids can handle "killing" adversaries, an alternate wording is provided as well, with the defeated "returning home." The copious amounts of advice provided are generally not only welcome, they tend to be very sound.
I, for example, wholeheartedly endorse the notion of taking away nonlethal damage penalties in combat encounters and rewarding PCs for doing "what's right" and handing off defeated foes to the proper authorities. It is my experience that kids become pretty adamant about doing "what's right," particularly when bonus XP are on the line - this may sound stupid to adult readers, but it is my firm conviction that acting like this can help kids develop their moral compass. Even distribution of candy/gummibears used as monster-substitutes on the map also is a pretty sound advice, since it prevents instances of jealousy and kill steals, while still providing immediate gratification.
All right! Children/players, in case you're reading this, please jump to the conclusion. No one likes a cheater and I'm going to explain the adventure now. If you continue reading, you'll only make the adventure boring for yourselves and have an unfair advantage that will be noticed by your GM. Please do what's right and jump to the conclusion.
The monastery of the monks of the kneeling wind is a tribute to the elements and, visually inspired by Japanese aesthetics, well-represented by a truly beautiful full-color map. Alas, all things must end, and so did the time of the monks - and after they were gone, the crystal dragon Azhuryx chose this place to rear her precious wyrmling Kurisutaru. Alas, once again, trouble brewed and the mother dragon did not return from a hunt, leaving Kurisutaru terribly bored with the soulbound doll left for him, yet cautious of strangers. One day, Kurisutaru saw a child folding origami and was left overjoyed when he saw dragons among the figures crafted - he thus swooped down to talk with the magical prodigy Azumi, who, in a panic, conjured forth an origami crane (made possible via the new spell) and sent it forth - said crane is what jumpstarts the module in earnest, as the PCs happen to find the origami swan and read the cry for help on it.
In order to reach the monastery, the PCs have to start climbing the mountain (a great way to btw. use the hazard here to explain altitude sickness as they encounter it to the kids for a nice educational interlude) and on site, the exploration can commence - the PCs can for example brave the most huggable earth elemental I can imagine. A Wisteria tree whispers to the PCs that the key to Azumi's location is hidden in the koi pond and indeed, swimming in can yield it. Underwater, the PCs encounter a friendly, awakened koi who breathes bubbles on them and wants to talk to them: He'll give them the key, if they answer a simple riddle. Beyond the moon-viewing tower, there are animated dog statuettes that may attack (impotently) the PCs - less defense and more offense would have probably made this encounter slightly more enjoyable, but that may just be me.
The PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against the haunt-summoned non-evil undead weapon master of the monks in honorable combat. In the just as lavishly-rendered map of the complex beneath the monastery, a Sudoku-puzzle beckons alongside a friendly haunt testing the PCs whether they can distinguish reality from illusion, while another requires balancing on a rope to swing a bell...in an interesting twist, the spectral teachers of the monks may provide guidance in-game to stumped players. Combat-challenges include dealing with the dragon's overprotective soulbound doll and some animated objects.
When the PCs finally happen upon the dragon, they'll think they have a deadly fight on their hands...but Azumi intervenes and the PCs have a chance to make friends with the dragon, the positive modifiers of which btw. also entail playing a game of hide and seek with the dragon...and hopefully convey to him that kidnapping others, no matter how well-intentioned, is not a good way to make friends. In the end, though, capable PCs will probably leave on Azumi's origami riding cranes, with Kurisutaru's friendship bracelet for a fine, tasty dinner at Azumi's house - who now has a friend most unique.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a Japanese-looking, beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The book provides ample of child-friendly artwork from the pen by Jacob Blackmon -more so than in many modules of this size, rendering it a nice, visual treat. The unified and beautiful style also extends to the gorgeous cartography by Travis Hanson, which also features player-friendly versions that you can print out, cut up and hand out to them as they go! Extra kudos for that update!
Jenny Jarzabski and BJ Hensley have already proven that they can make good crunch; however, as it turns out, they can also write captivating modules. "A Friend in Need" is a great first module for the small ones, breathing a bit of the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki's movies and the innocence conveyed therein. It is not perfect, being a freshman offering, with minor hiccups like the somewhat tedious combat versus hardness 8 animated dog statues...but it is still a pretty impressive one. You see, the module does a lot things right: The flavor is child-friendly. Even the spirits of the monks, which may evoke a slight sense of creepiness (in a good way), still provide more aid than hindrance. The challenges are diverse and the inclusion of social encounters, riddles and puzzles make sure that the players actually are challenged in more than one way, which is a good thing in any module, particularly so in one intended for kids.
Now personally, I do believe that even small kids can handle a bit more threat and danger than this module featured (see e.g. the pretty serious themes of fear of loss and reorientation in "My Neighbor Totoro", for comparison), but I will not hold that against the pdf. It should be noted that I ran this with a 4-year-old among the players and the module proved fitting for children this young as well, while the kids in the age-range of 8 and beyond would have liked a bit more grit. Now the good thing here is that, should you not endeavor to cater to a crowd as diverse as I did in my playtest, you'll have no issue slightly increasing the creepy-factor of the benevolent monk-spirits - in my playtest, I added some minor creepy-dressing to them and thus managed to engage the kids even more - if you heed this advice, though, please make sure you know what your players are comfortable with - a tiny scare is okay, but not more.
How to rate this, then? Now that's the tricky part: You see, I very much believe that we need more modules like this. In fact, many more modules.
I have vastly benefited from my roleplaying in both terms of foreign languages, vocabulary, problem-solving and social skills and the sooner we can get such a positive development going, the better. At the same time, I am somewhat hesitant of awarding this per se very good module my highest accolades - it is my firm belief that a slightly more pronounced emphasis on morality (or a slightly more complex hide-and-seek-encounter) could have added that little je-ne-sais-quoi to this already very good module.
Ultimately, we are left with one well-crafted module for young children - hopefully, only the first of many more to come. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for this freshman offering, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform. Congratulations to the authors for an impressive first sojourn that certainly made the children ask for more.
Source: A Friend in Need
November 27, 2015, 05:00:01 am by GnomeStew News
| Views: 6 | Comments: 0
A Time of Family, Feasting, and Plague
Thanksgiving is tomorrow in the US, a time of plentiful food and good cheer for many. Unfortunately, fevers have broken out among my relatives, so we’re staying apart for at least a few days in hopes that we can prevent spreading disease to each other. We’ll have a day of turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and all the desserts a little later. Maybe Saturday will be our day of gluttony this year. A Day of Reflection, A Day away from Devices […]
Source: A Time of Family, Feasting, and Plague
November 26, 2015, 04:01:09 am by DriveThruRPG
| Views: 9 | Comments: 0
Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: Speaking the Same Language (PFRGP)Publisher
: LPJ DesignRating
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the chronicle of the gatekeepers campaign serial clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 5.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
Okay, only GMs around? There is something odd, about similarities between worlds when you think about it: From dominant races to linguistic similarities, there are parallels in spite of vastly diverging cultures. I mean, oddly, PCs had not much acclimation issues on NeoExodus, right? Well, Large-Biter needs the PCs to verify something - namely whether the activation of the Nexus Gateway that brought them here was a fluke - and hey, if they're stranded on the other side, at least they're home, right? Pretty neat: If the PCs have played In His Bad Books, they'll have an easier time activating the portal - which, btw., turns out to be a Stargate-esque task of activating different dials to properly calibrate the portal.
Calibration is a tricky business and actually a fun, old-school-ish puzzle that rewards PCs for thinking about how the device works...and yes, they may, for a brief second, open a gate to a sun and be slightly toasted by the experience (they should thank the creators of these gates for the failsafes...). Other failures like the void or other worlds may pit the PCs versus proteans or vespans, but at home, they will meet a local monk...and prymidian bards: These beings from NeoExodus are exceedingly gifted polyglots and have determined on the PC's home planet, that the similarities in languages and cultures are highly unlikely - so much so, that a common influence has to be assumed. Just as they're about to discuss this further, something emerges from the gateway - a creature that *WILL* require the assistance of the NPCs...or a quick escape, for a Hound of Tindalos has tracked the PCs here - and even with their allies, the PCs will be hard-pressed defeating this creature. That being said, escape back to NeoExodus is an option - though it might waste the portal, requiring another way home at some point...
Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to LPJ Design's elegant 2-column full-color standard for the series and the module comes fully bookmarked and in a second, slightly more printer and mobile phone-friendly version.
Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr.'s Speaking the Same Language is an inspiring sidetrek: Much like the previous installment, it has a unique, creative central premise, here the activation of the gateway. This premise of gate activation alone is imho worth the asking price and can easily be scavenged for similar planar portals and gateways. The emphasis on intelligence-gathering and some truly intriguing repercussions from the knowledge gained also render this brief module more fun that one would expect from its brevity. Finally, the extremely challenging final encounter is a nice reminder of the things that lurk out there and the fact that sometimes, escape may be the smartest move. All in all, a damn cool sidetrek and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Source: Chronicle of the Gatekeepers Sidetrek: Speaking the Same Language (PFRGP)
November 25, 2015, 10:00:10 pm by Paizo News
| Views: 13 | Comments: 0
Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–11: Ancients' Anguish (PFRPG) PDF ($3.99)
A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7-11.
When the Jeweled Sages, an ancient order of Osirian scholars, fled Qadiran invaders millennia ago, some perished, and others disappeared deep into territories once held by the pharaohs of old. With the help of the Jeweled Sages' long-abandoned tools, the eminent Tahonikepsu has discovered one of the sages' last known whereabouts in the wilds of Nex. What secrets lie within these inhospitable ruins that date back to the Age of Darkness, and what fate did the so-called Amethyst Sage meet within?
Content in "Ancients' Anguish" also contributes directly to the ongoing storyline of the Scarab Sages faction.
Written by Mikko Kallio.
Source: Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–11: Ancients' Anguish (PFRPG) PDF ($3.99)