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Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2021 06:28:46

I've run it twice, once in 1e, and once converting on the fly to 5e. It is an extremely well-constructed dungeon crawl, designed to be run bottom-up and top-down, depending on your needs. The monsters and traps and hazards are mostly unique, with a great creepy theme that PCs seem to really react well to. It strikes an excellent balance as far as danger to the PCs, also.

One thing to note is that the follow-on adventure, Down the Shadowvein, is more of a sandbox set of areas, and not written in the same style as this adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
by Ian W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2021 22:42:57

I had bought this hoping the authors had worked out how magic could be embedded into medieval society without it feeling like modern technology (i hav that problem with steam punk) and causing modern society. (downtrodden serfs, hapless villagers, starving townsfolk)

Instead the magic users are a guild, like tanners, alchemists. Sort of squeezed between the cracks of history, without making any changes. This is good if you want low-magic games that look and feel just like historical reality - play Harn Master? - though i find that too gritty.

I had wanted it to be more like a fourth estate, with its own power base, but not too powerful, held in check by the nobility's armies and the church's faith-based powers. But not everyone with a sword works for a lord, and i would expect rogue mages just like there are witches and mercenaries. So i would also expect magic-strong areas to have better food in the country, fewer famines (ourside cities and large towns), better roads and tracks, some medicines etc. And there may be a rub - out in the wilderness there are no such luxuries, you need to do it all yourself!



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
by William C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/15/2021 11:11:08

A simply fantastic book for background when running a medieval campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping
by Jordan C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/13/2021 12:16:48

Great little free product that should be included in any mapmakers library as a resource for reviewing their own creations. It overviews aspects of geography and occurances in nature that ought to influence our designs but are easily forgotten in the excitement once pen hits paper so to speak. Highly recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
by Zoltan N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2021 07:09:40

I have to say, i wasn't sure what exactly i was going to read, and was hoping it would help me define the contents of my fantasy world, as well as help me personally 'think' in a medieval way for DM'ing. I am so very impressed by this medieval guide! I wish i could articulate better in words my overall satisfaction. To the author, thank you so much for taking the time to pull this together, you are helping many DM's young and old master their worlds...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
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Advanced Adventures #3: The Curse of the Witch Head
by Jeremy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2020 15:00:57

This is one of my favorite OSR adventures. I absolutely love it! Its a great dungeon crawl with some great villians and awesome magic items.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #3: The Curse of the Witch Head
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Advanced Adventures #12: The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor
by Jeremy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/01/2020 14:38:23

This is one of my favorite OSR adventures. Defintely has that gritty vibe to it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #12: The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor
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Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
by Jeremy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/01/2020 12:09:40

This is a great adventure! The dungeon is quite extensive. The creatures are awesome. I love how dark and gritty and disturbing this adventure can be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/03/2020 17:48:08

I bought this as soon as it was available. I loved this from the first time I read through it. Now that I have poured over it for many hours in preparation for my new campaign, making hundreds of handouts, etc... All I can say is, WOW!

All the attention to the details for an 1,100 page product has blown my mind over and over again, from the different factions, their histories, the indvidual NPC histories, the histories of the new races, simply mind boggling all the thought and attention to detail that had to go into this. Even their approximately 200 write ups for books that you can find in Arden Vul adds depth to everything, the histories of The Halls, the history of Arden and Vul themselves, and so much more. Plus the nice boosts the players can gain from some of them, let alone finding additional clues relevant to the over all story that are The Halls.

Then there is the mapping. So many maps, with so many encounter areas! The system they have come up with seems simple, and effective, but even so, with so many locations, you still will need to get familiar with the abbreviations to navigate these with any speed. However, I have yet to find an error, I have used their system to find the locations of each of the many factions, and to get an idea of the areas they control, because many of them control areas on more than 1 level. I have found no mistakes yet.

So while I was intimidated with all the information contained in this, getting ready to run it, making the handouts, learning the material for the different factions and personalities, as well as the history for the world provided, I feel ready. I feel I will do all of this material justice. I by no mean have it all memorized, but I am now familiar enough with the content, that I feel I can find it when I need to. The book marked PDF helps a good bit with this too, but it is by no means done to the level of being an index, so further familiarity is definitely going to be of help to me, so presumably you as well.

I also bought the POD hard covers, all 5 volumes. As is par for the course for my POD order history from drivethru, for soft covers as well as hard covers like these are, they look just like the images, and are of good paper and binding quality, so I expect them to hold up as well as other books I have ordered 5+ years ago.

I know the price point on these is rather high, but it is great content, with obvious well thought out writing and design, and I in no way regret buying this. I have thought ever since my first read through, and now think even more strongly, that this is an instant classic. ERP did a great job on this, and deserve to be proud of it. I look forward to creating our own memories with my own group of 7 in these halls, starting in just a few hours.

Great job, ERP.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
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Advanced Adventures #28: Redtooth Ridge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/21/2020 04:48:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This module, as always for the series, was penned with the OSRIC-rules in mind; as always, we have some deviations from OSRIC’s formatting standards, though – there are no italics in the formatting for things traditionally formatted thus, instead using bolding indiscriminately for spells, creatures and items. As always, the adventure features no read-aloud text, and otherwise adheres very much to the classic standards and presentation, including fonts used, etc.

The adventure is designed for 6-10 characters of first to third level, and it is in many ways a module I’d consider suitable as an introductory adventure to old-school gaming for experienced players. While the adventure suggests packing a ranger, this is not required to solve the module. Difficulty-wise, this is a difficult beast, but it is fair in its challenges. If anything, one can picture this as a take on the vanilla-adventure done right.

…and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, there is this notion of the “vanilla” adventure; for me, that would be the generic standard dungeon, with goblins, orcs and perhaps a ghoul or two. As a boss, we have an ogre or a shadow, and if it’s a shadow, the entity can probably be beaten by turning off the magical light or using it in some way. I’ve read essentially this set-up so often it really pisses me off. Not because the concept is bad, but because almost every module using this set-up does so in a way that is incredibly redundant and bland, plagiarizing essentially a card-board cutout standard for first modules.

Redtooth Ridge does have a similar set-up, but executes it in a genuinely FRESH and EXCITING manner.

Let’s start with the set-up: Redtooth Ridge is a butte in a forest, but not any ole’ butte: Instead, it was once part of an area where the rich and powerful had their mansions, and it once contained a massive guest house. Regarding environment, we thus already have something infinitely more compelling than “hole/cave in the ground.”

And then we proceed: For once, while there is a goblin presence, it boils down to hunting/scouting parties. These are led by smart leaders, and behave in an organic manner…oh, and the ogre? He kicks off the module. In many ways, the first encounter is a trial by fire: An old cobbled road leads its winding way up the butte, and the ogre is currently having a break, consuming the disgusting equivalent of a snack there. The PCs, if they handle the situation well, can get the drop on the ogre (rewarding smart play), who btw. does not necessarily want to fight to the death (teaches the importance of morale). Moreover, the encounter can turn nasty, for the ogre is currently being observed by a goblin scouting party. Players waiting might well witness the party attacking the ogre and pick off the two parties, teaching that sometimes waiting is smart. Moreover, if they beat the ogre, their state is important – do they mop the floor with him? Bluster about? Or whine? The goblins are watching, and if they think they can kill the PCs, they’ll try to! If they observed less armored targets, or spellcasters in particular, that’s where they’ll concentrate fire on. In many ways, this encounter teaches basic tenets of old-school roleplaying, of player skill and adaptability to new situations in a formidable, if deadly manner. It’s the first encounter, so if this does TPK the group (a distinct likelihood for 1st level characters), a new group can come without having lost much progress.

This is a trial by fire encounter, but it is a genuinely well-executed one. It also makes the players aware of the importance of their actions – for example, the second hunting party will come; and if the PCs are careless, they’ll be tracked – and potentially face an ambush or minor siege-like scenario. Another teaching moment would be one of the random encounters that PCs can happen upon – as a whole, the table is pretty conservative and manageable – but there is also a giant slug here that has recently arrived in the area. It is obviously tougher than all other challenges here. The world is not scaled for the PCs. If they attack it, they’ll learn that the hard way.

In many ways, this is an important lesson, and enhances the overall plausibility of the region depicted here, and one that also is the foundation of the very adventure hooks: You see, the primary hook is about the PCs securing a wooden cup made from oak, stolen from a dryad by small, man-like creatures. The mites and pesties have NO CLUE about the importance of the object, and indeed, have no real bearing on the locations. They just happen to live here after losing their home. The angle is basic, but its implementation enhances the whole notion of a lived-in world.

The eponymous ridge holds two primary adventure locales – one being an old mausoleum, the other being the ruins of the former guest house. The mausoleum only sports 7 keyed locales, and is in many ways a “teach you to handle ghouls” scenario – it is very much optional, and houses 14 ghouls. Striding in with brandished weapons is a bad idea, but small groups can wage a pretty efficient war of attrition on them, as their numbers don’t replenish. Still, as a whole, the mausoleum is perhaps best considered to be a little bonus-dungeon.

You see, the guest mansion with its massive grounds, stables, and the like? It is awesome. The mansion still houses a guardian statue that keeps evil creatures at bay – and once the PCs realize that, they may use it to their advantage. The mansion’s ruins make sense in many ways – from a huge amount of rats ruining many of the books in the library tower, to its structure. Speaking of the library tower: Enterprising players can deal with the rats and then salvage quite a few books, all coming with notes on weight, title and value, conveniently spelled out for you; you’re not selling some book; you’re selling “The Laws of Manip.” It’s small flourishes like this that make me really enjoy a module; this type of thing shows that the designer CARED.

Speaking of which: This commitment to plausibility can be seen in all details of the mansion. For example, there is a corpse haunted by the spirit of a prim and proper lady infuriated by the incompetence of a servant. This erstwhile guest can possess PCs to make them attack the “servants” – who is by now unfortunately a zombie in the cellar. This is not a save or suck, but an encounter that rewards rolling with the punches, and one that also tells the players something about the mindset of the former inhabitants.

Beyond that, no traps are placed in stupid places; secret doors make sense, green slime is in the pantry, where it makes sense…and obviously, the somewhat scandalous magical properties of the place can be found in specific…öhem…pleasure rooms…in the cellar. Did I mention that clever PCs have a chance to free planatars from their vigil? My favorite would, however, be the secret treasure room: In most adventures, that’d be after the toughest encounter. Here, it is hidden in a thoroughly plausible and CLEVER way. The treasure is guarded by a creature that has a very good chance of killing the PCs…but once more, player skill is the name of the game. If the party was smart, they may well have found a ring that allows them to bypass the guardian, potentially absconding with a phenomenal haul of loot. And while the treasure is significant, I think it is genuinely well-earned here! If the party finds this place, they certainly deserve the loot!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series classic b/W-2-columnh standard, including old-school fonts. The adventure is lite on artwork, as usual. Cartography is functional, but no player-friendly maps are provided, which is the one thing the module kinda botches in my book.

Joseph Browning shows how you can execute not only a great, challenging adventure in a few pages, he also shows how you can execute a “vanilla” adventure without being boring. If I’d list the components on a sheet of paper, this’d at best elicit groans from me. As presented here, the adventure is exciting, challenging, fair, and frankly, one of my favorites in the entire series. It’s easier to write an outstanding module when you throw weird stuff everywhere – but executing the standards and wringing a captivating and concise identity from it? Now that is impressive. Now, sure – the mausoleum and lack of player-friendly maps are strikes against the module, but frankly, I genuinely didn’t mind as much here. This is a module that deserves a resounding recommendation. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #28: Redtooth Ridge
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Advanced Adventures #27: Bitteroot Briar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2020 05:37:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This module, as always for the series, was penned with the OSRIC-rules in mind; as always, we have some deviations from OSRIC’s formatting standards, though – there are no italics in the formatting for things traditionally formatted thus, instead using bolding indiscriminately for spells, creatures and items. This module is not always consistent when doing so, missing quite a few references – more than usual for the series. As always, the adventure features no read-aloud text, and otherwise adheres very much to the classic standards and presentation, including fonts used, etc.

The adventure is designed for 4-8 characters of levels 2nd to 4th, and the module suggests having a nature-themed character (you know, a druid or ranger) on board. I’d add one thing: If you run this RAW, you should not have evil PCs in the group, or modify the “good” end. The module’s locale has a unique feature that might warrant some GM-consideration, but otherwise is easily inserted into any forested area where once people warred, and now a humble village is nearby. Integration into ongoing campaigns is pretty simple. The module actually starts off in the tiny hamlet of Ipwich, and a proper rumor-table is included. As always for the series, no read-aloud text is provided. As far as difficulty is concerned, this is a tough, but fair adventure: Careless PCs may face annihilation, but the module emphasizes PLAYER-skill in just the right way.

It should be noted that I particularly consider this to be an adventure potentially worth converting to other rules-systems – why? Well…

…in order to discuss this, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? So, first of all, the kids of Ipwich are a bit creepy, and have a fully-fleshed out song they sing while playing; this song actually contains hints for surviving the trials of the eponymous Bitteroot Briar, so attentive PCs will have an edge. Love that bit of lore! Speaking of which: Ghostly whispers in the wind? Actually relevant, not just creepy window-dressing! The hamlet’s master is currently being poisoned by a dangerous individual (who might ingratiate themselves to the PCs, hereafter referred to as “the poisoner” to avoid spoiling the identity), and the only cure is inside the Bitteroot Briar.

There are a few issues, though: For once, the woods are not exactly safe; secondly, the eponymous briar is the result of an ancient war gone wrong, creating a circle of thorns around a grove – and said circle not only distorts time spent inside, it also shrinks those entering to 1 inch in size, and prevents exiting, save by shapeshifting magic. Some creatures are exempt from this, and the Ironwood’s denizens have learned…for example a nasty troll. At this level. Told you that this doesn’t play around! The module lists movement per round for the common values (60, 90 and 120 ft.), and normal-sized items miniaturize automatically when touched by a shrunk target; ceasing to hold onto an item has it slowly regain its size. This is an AMAZING angle. I ADORE it. I would have preferred that the module was more detailed in its use of this fantastic premise, though. We waste half a page on a needlessly complex background story regarding the ancient conflict, when the whole shrinking angle would have warranted some further notes. You see, unintelligent creatures like mudmen are exempt, and act as more of a cataclysmic hazard than an actually aggressive critter, but the pdf does not state how e.g. an attack from a shrunk target to a regular-sized one fares. This does not necessarily need to come up in play, but it’d have been nice to get at least some guidance. Same goes for the “dead trees” – you see, the trees of the grove often sport items embedded in them, due to being victims of the past, and the objects contain the souls of these unfortunates. Removing them from the grove frees the souls, which imho should have suggested rewards regarding experience, items, etc.

That being said, I’m super-tired of nitpicking what I otherwise consider a phenomenal adventure: The ancient magics unleashed have changed the combatants of yonder, and e.g. a company of soldiers is now living as essentially fascist bees; one of the villains has been, suitably, turned into a snake, and traumatized adventurers that have survived the predations of the shapechanging poisoner may well attack the PCs, mistaking them for allies of the dark. The pools include a man-turned-crayfish with a rivalry with a man-turned-frog; we have a sociopath turned gruesome spider-man hybrid, a giant ant mini-dungeon…and there is the island in the middle, surrounded by pools and streams.

Falling into the stream bisecting the thorn-wall-encased briar might put the drowning PCs in service of a pretty nice water weird, to note one example of how the module is tough, but fair. The BBEG, the guy turned into a nasty giant snake, wants to execute the Rite of the Reaper, and the poisoner is actually in league with him…with this dark rite, escape may be possible, but at a terrible price, including the willow at the heart of the briar filling with acid in a surprisingly cinematic final encounter! There is one complaint I have here on a meta-level – the giant ant mini-dungeon, while not bad, isn’t exactly required for the module; having the place where the finale takes place properly mapped would have imho been the wiser use of the map-budget.

However, the best thing about this module? The most important thing here is ROLEPLAYING. Those ghostly whispers and how the PCs behaved in the adventure while interacting with the other denizens? That influences the end! You see, the voice in the wind is actually that of a magical, sapient blade, and finding the pummel, rebutting the Reaper’s rite, acting in an upstanding manner? All of that and more influence whether the blade will awaken to its true power. This emphasis on player-skill, on rewarding ROLEPLAYING over rolling the dice, is one of the cornerstones of good adventure design in my book. Huge kudos.

In case you were wondering, by the way: If you want an adventure to give Everybody Games’ Microsized Adventures a spin in PFRPG, this is perfect – just add stats, et voilà! Same goes for other systems. This is worth converting.

Conclusion: Editing is good on a formal and rules-language level; the mechanical aspect, as noted, would have warranted more detail. Regarding formatting, the module has a few more deviations from the series’ standard than usual. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with few artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is b/w and functional – a table of travel times in the briar would have been nice to have, though.

I absolutely adore Lang Waters’ module. This is a prime example of how awesome a module you can write in a few pages. From the small touches to the fair challenges to the focus on player skill over just rolling high, this is a prime example of a great old-school module. If anything, the only true flaws of this module lie in it not fully capitalizing on its unique angle inside the briar; some GM-convenience like travel times, additional notes on interaction with the non-affected and the like, and this’d have been pretty much a true apex of the series. As provided, it is an adventure I love, but one that has a few minor blemishes that may render it harder to pull off for less experienced GMs. Most troublesome would be in that regard that the final encounter area isn’t mapped. As such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars. Usually, I’d round down, but this is the author’s first offering, and I traditionally am a bit more lenient on freshman offerings, which is why this review will round up. If anything, this author should get to write A LOT more adventures! As a person, this really excited me and is one of my highlights in the series so far, and hence, this also gets my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #27: Bitteroot Briar
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Advanced Adventures #26: The Witch Mounds
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2020 10:58:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This module, as always for the series, was penned with the OSRIC-rules in mind; as always, we have some deviations from OSRIC’s formatting standards, though – there are no italics in the formatting for things traditionally formatted thus, instead using bolding indiscriminately for spells, creatures and items. This module is not always consistent when doing so, missing a few references. The module, as always, features no read-aloud text, and otherwise adheres very much to the classic standards and presentation, including fonts used, etc.

The adventure is penned for 6-10 characters of 3rd to 6th levels, with the adventure suggesting a few fighters and a cleric at least; while not required per se, I’d argue that classes with anti-undead tricks in particular, will contribute to the party’s survival. The surface and dungeon levels feature their own random encounter tables, which also feature some instances for dressing. Themes featured are a more complex question, and in order to go into that, I have to discuss the details…Hence…

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, “The Witch Mounds” kicks off in a pretty exciting manner – we have an ancient Maerling burial site, eponymous mounds. What are Maerlings? Well, consider them to be essentially evil Vikings in aesthetics, which is also supplemented by the new monsters: We have the svart-alfar, which are basically the nasty dwarf-like figures of Norse myth, northern trolls petrified by light, and the haugbui, which are basically undead einherjar with berserker rages – not per se exciting, but thematically fitting, and the module plays this theme well – the great mound among the surface features sports the first of runic carvings written in the Maerlings’ Frost tongue, and these are certainly flavorful. Things get better, when the PCs inspect the massive ship inside the burrow: Proper interaction teleports the PCs into the dungeon proper, and initiates a cooldown, so for some time, the PCs will be down below.

At this point, I was genuinely on board with the whole thing – I mean, how cool is the dark twist on th familiar, Norse mythology? The grave ship teleport? That’s damn cool! And the dungeon per se, structurally, is non-linear, covers two levels, and almost 90 keyed locales, so plenty of space for cool stuff! There are two mazes, talking doors (with solid riddles!), and classic tricks like disorienting teleporters. There is an arena, where the foolhardy can test their mettle in duels versus potent monsters and gain a mighty, magical sword if they best the arena’s master…and that’s pretty much all the positive things I can say about this module.

You see, in the dungeon, the Norse theme established above falls pretty much apart and is relegated to window-dressing. The haugbui chief is called “Jormungandr” and has a winter wolf, who is dubbed…no, not Fenrir! Hate. The fellow is called “Hate.” There is an evil cleric called “Thursasprengir.” If that got a groan out of you, well, it did from me. The svart-alfar chieftain is called “Huldra.” Here’s the thing: A Huldra is a very distinct creature in folklore. It has nothing to do with svart-alfar. The dungeon btw. also features a medusa, minotaurs, etc. Oh, and in spite of the module sporting a new deity, there is a shrine of Loki that has deck of many things-lite-like effects. So, is it a new cosmology? Is it the one we’d associate with quasi-Norse cultures? No idea.

Beyond the ship teleport, the dungeon suddenly turned into a funhouse-type operation that seriously gave me whiplash. I don’t object to modules making use of all that D&D has to offer, but when you coat everything with a Norse layer, including appropriating names/nomenclature, why not go all the way? The whole Maerling culture presented, to me, feels like an ill-informed patchwork of someone who only has rudimentary ideas; it is an appropriation that doesn’t sport the attention to detail that’d make it come alive. This is in as far problematic, as information and logic pertaining stuff like that informs how we play.

As another example, let’s take the best of the new magic items, the barrel of endless mead, which ahs a good chance of forcing you to drink until you’re utterly wasted. That is reminiscent of Thor attempting to drink the oceans, right? It’s also potentially funny. So why is there nothing in the dungeon that rewards being drunk? Why are trolls and svart-alfar essentially kill-fodder? I can see the haugbui, kinda…but they are another wasted chance. Inverse einherjar? Cool! Drinking with the undead to not get slaughtered, appealing to twisted senses of bravery and honor – this concept has SO MUCH POTENTIAL.

To be 100% clear: This is not a bad dungeon, but it feels like the dungeon was attached to the surface, with all cultural references just added with a VERY thin coat of paint on it. After the evocative start, we get a pretty unfocused dungeon through which you murder-hobo. I haven’t seen a premise this strong wasted this thoroughly in a long, long while.

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level; formatting is less well-executed. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports b/w-artwork and serviceable b/w-maps. No player-friendly versions of the maps are provided. On the plus-side, the pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Keith Sloan’s “The Witch Mounds” started super-strong and genuinely had me PUMPED. The surface area and means of entering the dungeon? AMAZING.

Unfortunately, that’s when the module drops the ball big time; it is inconsistent when taken as a Norse-themed module; when arguing instead that it’s supposed to be its own culture, it’s too derivative without being interesting. It felt like the author had some cursory pop-culture familiarity with some Norse stuff, and then called it quits without elaborating/expanding. The base angle and pitch this must have had? I can see that working very well. The execution used here, though, is less than inspired, and frankly, annoyed me. Even the “unique” challenges are paint-by-the-numbers old-school design 101: Riddle-doors? Check. Arena? Check. Evil temple? Check. Random weirdness for great gains or losses for the group? Check.

This is not just a disappointing dungeon due to not being “authentic” – I don’t necessarily want that! It’s annoying and disappointing because it throws references at us, but does so in a way that feels just wrong…and then doesn’t contextualize these references in new and interesting ways. This is easily one of my least-favorite modules in the whole series, a tonally-inconsistent and unfocused crawl. I’d recommend most adventures in the series over this one. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #26: The Witch Mounds
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Advanced Adventures #25: The Heart of Empire
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2019 07:28:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 6 2/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This module is part of a series of reviews made possible by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience. Like all adventures in the series, this module is penned for the OSRIC-rules system (based on 1e), and like all adventures in the series, rules-language formatting deviates from the standards of OSRIC, but is pretty consistent, so functionality is not impeded. Spells and magic items are bolded. The adventure is intended for 6-10 adventurers of levels 1 – 3. Wait, doesn’t the cover say otherwise? Yep, but the editorial page has the correct level-range stated, and the module’s actual text also confirms this – level 1 -3 it is. At levels 3-5 as the cover suggests, the adventurers, even considering the lesser degree of power-gain of old-school editions, curbstomp the opposition. Considering that the adventure isn’t that difficult as far as old-school games are concerned, I’d strongly suggest using it up to 2nd level, at the very highest – unless you really want to play it safe. The plus-side here would be that conversions to systems that assume a very low power-level is pretty easy.

The module provides functional cartography for its two levels, and no read-aloud text is included. The supplement includes a level 1 magic-user spell that is pretty interesting – blood servant, a means for low-level characters to cast animate dead at essentially the cost of permanent damage while the servant exists. I like this. It imposes a serious toll to offset the power-gain.

As far as setting is concerned, this one does something pretty nifty: It assumes a kind of second renaissance of a decadent late-Roman empire style place, one that went through a period of conflict, which saw parts of it squashed and sunken beneath the ground in a magical cataclysm: Picture e.g. Calligula’s reign being ended by a magocracy, with Rome rebuilt atop the old ruins, and you have a good idea of the theme here. The background provided, this notion of the graveyard of empires, is something that resonates with me – and indeed, the module does reflect this type of flavor in both keyed and random encounters. The module covers two levels, but only one of them features a random encounters table, which is a bit of a pity.

Indeed, I wholeheartedly suggest that, if anything, you should use this module in the context of a quasi-Greco-Roman civilization, mainly because it is the main draw of the module, or at least, it was for me. I have played through this adventure with my group, which finished it in ~7 hours, and it is one of the adventures that plays better than it reads. Do note that my players are very fast, experienced, and efficient at clearing dungeons at this point – no surprise there.

Okay, this out of the way, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, bad news first: The first dungeon-level is actually a sewer-level. Moreover, it is a sewer-level without a distinct theme in multiple ways. The module offers several adventure hooks, which are not bad per se, and tie in with the various factions. In a way, the sewer-level consists of individual encounter-areas close to each other – the hidden base of the slaver, the failed necromancer’s laboratory, the exiled kobold tribe…these per se are not special, but they do mean that there are quite a bunch of things going on, including disgruntled gladiators. This is also where one of the new monsters, essentially a ball of tentacles with an (inefficient) mouth may be encountered – this monster was a better experience than it read, mainly by diverging from the expected “draw target to mouth”-angle. The sewer is, in essence, just a thoroughfare towards the second level, which is a decadent noble’s sunken villa, including a little arena.

Considering this, the sewers do a relatively neat job – but they, like many of the less successful sewer-levels, fail to capitalize on their environment. Where is the danger to contract diseases? How deep is the muck/waste if/when the PCs inevitably fall in? Is it a quick-flowing, pretty liquid stream? Is it more like quicksand? No idea. So yeah, as far as global terrain features influencing adventuring, the module doesn’t do a good job. (And never mind sewer gas or stuff like that…won’t find any of that here.)

The aforementioned second level is significantly more interesting, posing, among other things, an optional boss – an undead gladiator that needs to be solo’d to end his misery…and without honorable combat? Well, then the low-level group will learn the hard way that refusing the honorable duel will shore up its defenses. This dust centurion is certainly one of the toughest, perhaps the toughest encounter herein, but if the PCs triumph honorably, they will be rewarded duly. Ending the boredom of an undead senator? Also pretty interesting. These encounters are surprisingly compelling for the brief page-count, and they capitalize on the implied setting. They do lose some of their flavor if not run in the proper context, hence my recommendation above regarding the cultural backdrop. (I happen to be GMing currently in a quasi-late-Roman decadent city, so that worked rather well.) That being said, the module should have done a better job highlighting the height-differences between arena stands/lodge and arena, if any. It should be noted that it might make sense to use all adventure hooks, and not just one, for quite a few of them can actually be solved on the sewer level.

Anyhow, this notion of wrecked magical decadence is also reflected in e.g. an old garden, maintained by magic in the absence of light, which featured a variant of one of my favorite monsters of all time – the tri-flower-frond, which I used to almost TPK my very first group, traumatizing my players regarding plant monsters to this very day. Though, here, it’s an agave with similar abilities – the third new monster included here. I am aware that it is essentially a slight redesign and reskin, but it is one that perfectly hit one of the few mushy soft spots I have as a reviewer and GM. So yeah, that critter actually got a combination of dread and cheerful nostalgia at the table – something that very rarely happens.

IS there an overarching story? Not really. Instead, these are several disparate quests, tied together by proximity; and while none of them are truly remarkable, they gel together surprisingly well; better than they have any right to, considering the brevity of the adventure…or rather, encounter-selection, for that may be a better way of thinking about this module.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ no-frills b/w 2-column standard, and the pdf features no extra interior artwork beyond the one on the cover and the piece on the editorial page. Cartography is b/w and functional, though not exactly mind-blowing; much to my continued chagrin, no player-friendly versions are included. And yes, I will complain about the lack of player-friendly maps in every single module lacking them. On the plus-side, the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is Brenton Wilson’s freshman adventure (apologies to you, Sir, if your name is “Benton” instead; OBS has you listed thus, but I assumed the module to be correct here) as far as I could tell, and I seriously should hate it. For one, it’s a sewer-level, and it commits the deadly sin of not actually making its sewer feel, well, like a sewer. Its new monsters are anything but new, and rather fall more on the reskin side of things. It has no central leitmotif, and feels like a disjointed series of encounters, because that’s what it essentially is. It spends a third of a page of its sparse wordcount explaining the history of a city we don’t get to see or explore.

I should HATE this.

I really, really don’t. Not even remotely. Yes, it is a disjointed series of little stories and encounters, held together by being lumped into a small section of a vast setting’s sewers. Yes, the monsters are reskins and nothing to mechanically get excited about. But it is VERY evident that this WAS playtested by the author. The challenge is on par and fair; the little stories that are here all have this small edge that show that the author genuinely cared – whether by cultural components, by reskinning of familiar monsters, that make it feel and play much better than it has any right to. If anything, the module’s one downside is the very strict wordcount it indubitably had to operate with. These encounters, this backdrop, deserved more room to shine. Even considering its shortcomings, I can’t claim that this was not fun; I can’t claim that this was mediocre. It should, by all accounts, have been, but it’s not. It is surprisingly enjoyable, and I’d recommend it over the combined total of Alphonso Warden’s Advanced Adventures any day of the week – I had more fun with the slightly more than 6 pages here. I genuinely would like to see more on this setting from Brent Wilson’s pen.

That being said, much of this joy is mainly founded upon the implicit backdrop setting – if you seek an adventure for the context of a traditional, non Greco-Roman fantasy city, then this will lose much of its appeal; you could still run it, but it’d lose its soul. It’s also predicated on how much you enjoy having this living little sewer-section with its small quests; in a way, I wouldn’t recommend this as a stand-alone adventure; instead, I’d suggest using it as a supplement to your own city, as some small questlines you can introduce when your players ignore your carefully-woven plot for a brief stint in the sewers.

This leaves me in a tough spot as a reviewer. On one hand, I really don’t think this should be considered to be a module of its own; and yet, on the other hand, it works, like a dungeon-version of a mini-anthology of sidequests and surprisingly interesting places. Ultimately, whether or not this will be as fun to you as it was for me and my group, will depend on the cultural context of the setting: If you do have a quasi Greco-Roman backdrop that has seen at least one cataclysm that’d have made a villa sunken beneath the sewers plausible, then get this – I am pretty sure, you’ll enjoy it! If you’re instead playing in a more traditional medieval context, then this might be less compelling. I trust your discretion for rounding up or down; personally, since this seems to be the author’s first adventure, I’ll round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #25: The Heart of Empire
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Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
by José M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2019 21:22:57

Loved it! Played it in 5e when my group decided to ignore the goblins attacking the town. The cleric died trying to sneak past a monster to get at the treasure it was keeping. The party was nearly killed while camping in a corridor. They decided to focus on the goblins again after being ambushed by the creepy fungus men. Good stuff!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #1: The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom
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Advanced Adventures #24: The Mouth of the Shadowvein
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2019 05:10:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review is part of a series of requests undertaken at the request of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Okay, so, as always, this module is penned with the OSRIC rules in mind, but conversion to other OSR rulesets is relatively painless. As always, we don’t get read-aloud text herein, and there are a couple of formal differences from the formatting conventions that OSRIC employs, but these, for the most part, apply in a mostly consistent manner. Nominally intended for 6-10 characters of level 3- 5, the adventure is challenging, but mostly in a way that is contingent on how the PCs interact with the environments found and encountered. Attempting to murder-hobo through everything can and will get you killed here. While in the previous module, murder-hoboing PCs could still potentially get away with quite a few things, this stops here – dumb decisions can get PCs killed. Quickly. But similarly, smart PCs may actually be able to best foes far beyond their ability to defeat by force of arms alone. (More on that in the SPOILER-section.) In short: If your PCs is Lawful Stupid, they will die.

There is one more aspect you may need to be aware of: This module represents a taking up of a dangling thread from the very first Advanced Adventures-module, “The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom” and may be run as a direct sequel to said adventure; knowledge of the previous module is not required, and it is pretty easy to integrate this module into the context of any prolonged underworld campaign or exploration, whether they are mega-dungeon-based or subterranean sagas like AAW Games’ excellent Rise of the Drow campaign. This module also represents the second of two modules that expand the material based on the eponymous Shadowvein, which means that, unless you really don’t want to play the prequel, it’s recommend that you first play “Down the Shadowvein”. The Shadowvein, fyi, is a subterranean river, a black ribbon of water illuminated by purple and green lichen, with tendrils of almost snot-like strands hanging from them – colloquially known as “faerie sputum” to those traveling its length.

From a genre-perspective, we have, much like in its predecessor, a pretty free-form sandbox here – a subterranean hexcrawl, which cleverly uses the subterranean river Shadowvein as a kind of red thread that the PCs may or may not follow. The module does a pretty neat job at depicting the differences regarding the environment and sandbox style play: For one, we not only get different random encounter tables, they differentiate between passage types: You see, the overland hexcrawl map knows primary, secondary and tertiary passages, with different encounters suggested for each.

As a small digression: There are generally two aesthetic design paradigms regarding the underworld, two “genres” if you will: One would be the “civilized” underworld – a realm of vast dwarven fortresses and drow cities, where civilizations both alien and familiar thrive, and then there would be the “weird” underworld, where anything remotely resembling the civilized world vanishes, where strange and chthonian phenomena and creatures roam, where, depending on the setting, one might find entrances to the literal underworld, or even hell. This module, in a smart decision, provides a transition – the Shadowvein, as noted in my review of the predecessor module, very much starts as a trip through “civilized” underworld, while this module represents the PCs leaving these subterranean shores behind in favor of a stranger environments where few upperworlder soles have tread before. However, it does so without a hard cut into the strange, instead using the course of the river to slowly emphasize a transition towards these regions – and VERY FEW modules manage to achieve that; this is the primary reason I copped out and went with two final verdicts regarding my review of its predecessor. In a way, this module represents the payoff and continuation for the exploration of the first Shadowvein adventure.

Considering this, I do have to complain about something: Much to my chagrin and disappointment, the random encounter tables are the exact same as in the previous Shadowvein module (and no, some typo-level glitches haven’t been purged). The encounter tables focus primarily on humanoids, with very few other critters thrown in. This, to me, was somewhat galling, as the module starts transitioning between what one would dub the “civilized” regions of the underworld, and the region that starts to become truly alien and wondrous. As such, a change of pace regarding the tables would have been appreciated. I strongly suggest investing the time and making the random encounter tables more interesting, or rather, different, for this one.

Noja, undal and wyrdwolf stats have been included in this module as well, alongside 3 other creatures – since the exploration of the subterranean realms and the surprise they can elicit is part of the module’s charm, I’ll relegate my discussion of these to the SPOILER-section below.

As before, the player-map of the Shadowvein has been included with its intentional idiosyncrasies still representing one design decision I really enjoyed, and we do get 5 “zoomed-in”, fully mapped encounter areas. I minded the lack of player-friendly maps for them slightly less in most cases than I did for the previous adventure, though one in particular was just BEGGING for a player-friendly map: You see, there is a pretty massive hexcrawl region, with the map spanning two-pages – that one should have been included in a keyless, untagged version at least.

The module contains a couple of new magic items, which include the utilitarian svirfneblin forge stone, a rod that brings the undead back to horrid unlife, an amulet that enhances undead control, a chest that can store a spell to unleash upon intruders, and one item that would represent a SPOILER of sorts – just let it be known that there is a touch of science-fantasy included in the weird herein, with one of the “zoomed-in” adventure locations adhering to that aesthetic.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first complex featured herein is already more interesting than all in the previous module combined: The lair of Tyrhanidies the lich features his well-concealed subterranean abode, and the mighty spellcaster is using undead as a toll-collecting means. This would per se be unremarkable, were it not for a curious effect haunting the labyrinthine caverns hiding his belongings and lair: There are strange magical effects here, where gravity doesn’t work properly, and something about them makes those exploring these caves turn stark, raving mad: An innocuous slime causes these visions magically to affect all intelligent creatures (yep, RAW, including the undead!) and the lich has found a way to deal with this, employing the curious property to further shore up his seriously impressive defenses. Now, granted, the PCs may find themselves bypassing this region relatively painless, but we all know how undead spellcasters tend to enjoy press-ganging PCs into doing their bidding…and how PCs are bound to come into conflict with such entities. Cool: Smart and observant PCs either called and escorted to the lich’s abode may realize that there is one object with tremendous sentimental value for the mighty master of the living dead. This, obviously, represents an angle to really annoy the fellow – or to negotiate with a being far beyond the capabilities of the PCs at this level to actually destroy! This is a great area indeed, and its focus on atmosphere, global effects and various means in which you can run it made me really appreciate what was done here.

The second encounter area is pretty much…boring. A grimlock ambush. It exists, but it doesn’t contribute too much to the module’s appeal. After that, we have a svirfneblin outpost that can be construed to be the final waystation of civilization along the Shadowvein’s course, a last chance to rest in a safe environment before the massive, aforementioned hex-crawl sub-region: In a ginromous cavern, the overgrown ruins of a drow city lurk in basically the equivalent of a jungle-choked city of ruins. You see, at one time, the drow that used to reside here managed to capture and harness the godling known as the Pod-God with the help of a demonic patron. It is said entity that ultimately managed to destroy the city, including the artifact employed in imprisoning the entity – this actually did slay the pod-god, but fungi will find a way, and as such, the deity is gestating currently – there will be centuries before the potent deity can reform, but this creates a wondrous environment indeed, one suffused with magic, where stone giants from eastern realms (with an inconsistency in nomenclature), mongrelman and more loom; this region is clearly intended to be expanded, and much to my joy, there are 4 different random encounter tables for each sub-biome of the massive cavern. Oh, one more thing: The gestating pod-god actually wasn’t neutral or evil – it was actually a good entity, and thus, its puffball is guarded by a planetar! With a gate that emits screaming noise and similar, unique environments, this cavern oozes panache and flair galore. This is a great cavern, and would be one of the highlights of the adventure – even remotely capable GMs will have some seriously fun time running and expanding this inspiring environment.

The final encounter are would be unique as well: It depicts the “Green Death Isle” – setting foot upon this island used to see those that dared to do so evaporated, so the hunk of metal there remained unexplored. Well, guess what? That hunk of metal? It’s a actually a flying saucer, and since then, the reactor has run out of fuel, and the defensive disintegration ray? It no longer works. In the aftermath of the reactor’s radiation, a unique people has developed here, namely the terplip, a race of sentient, humanoid mantis-shrimp people! If you’re like me, you raised your hands in the old devil’s horn-gesture and went “Hell yeah!” I mean, come on – mantis-shrimp people? Awesome! We have two different random encounter tables for this region as well, and this becomes even cooler once you learn about the crustacean dragon and the remaining robots – smart PCs may actually be able to save the terplip from their servitude to the draconic creature. Did I mention the laser pistol?

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very good, on a formal and rules-language level – apart from a few minor inconsistencies and the like, I noticed nothing glaring. Layout adheres to the series’ classic two-column b/w-standard, with a few decent b/w-artworks thrown in. The cartography does its job, and I really enjoyed the inclusion of a player-friendly map for the Shadowvein’s environments. It would have been nice to get player-friendly maps for the trade/social encounter areas at least, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joseph Browning’s “The Mouth of the Shadowvein” delivers in spades – while two of the zoomed-in encounter areas provide pretty obvious functions and are here to facilitate play (the safe zone) or act as filler (the ambush), the other three regions are amazing. They require smart players and are more deadly than anything the PCs have found so far; there are implied quest-lines that may or may not be taken and used to motivate the players to interact with the factions, and the combination of unique vistas, as a whole, delivers on the promises slowly built up during the previous adventures, while taking up the leitmotif of the original adventure that spawned the notion of exploring the Shadowvein. In short: This is a great little adventure that does a nice job at depicting a region of the underworld that feels like it’s tip-toeing the line between the civilized and weird subterranean realms. It captures the best of early AD&D-aesthetics regarding these realms and molds them into a fun and rewarding expansion, one that ostensibly, like in the previous module, may be taken apart or expanded upon, should you choose to go that route. All in all, this is worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up since the lack of a player-friendly map for the sub-region hexcrawl does not warrant rounding down, and this also receives my seal of approval. Come on, the terplip are awesome!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #24: The Mouth of the Shadowvein
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