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Rise of the Drow
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2014 02:56:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome of a module is 494 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page designer signatures, 1 blank page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages ToC,2 pages of SRD, 2 pages of backer-lists, 12 pages of advertisements (all in the back), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 469 pages of content...that's A LOT, so I'll better get going!



First, let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I reviewed the original Rise of the Drow-trilogy back in the day, and it already was a very good array of modules then. When this kickstarter happened, I was asked to be a stretch-goal and I agreed. I did receive compensation for my contribution to this book, small as said contribution may have been - an ecology (I'll point out in the review) was penned by me, but I had no influence over any other part of this book. I do not consider my judgment in any way compromised and if you've been following me, you'll have noticed that I'm just as adept at criticizing my own work, so yeah - this book, if anything does not get an easier standing with me. Still, full disclosure in regards like this is a necessity to maintain my integrity. If you are still in doubt, feel free to check my original reviews for the trilogy, posted quite some time before even the announcement of the kickstarter that made this book to verify this.



Next up, since this is an adventure-review, here's the warning - the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right!



If you're familiar with "Descent into the Underworld", Part I of the original Rise of the Drow trilogy, then you'll realize one thing from the get go - you get your money's worth in this tome. The AAW crew has NOT skimped on the art budget, quite the contrary - from a one-page panorama of the starting village of Rybalka to the copious amounts of artworks in lavish detail (and color!), this is more than the sum of its constituent parts - take the keep the PCs are to investigate in the beginning - its whole surrounding area has now been properly mapped and expanded to include some gruesome remnants of the ancient fields of battle - including a couple of rather deadly creatures stalking the place...Have I mentioned that chaotic remnants of magic infusing the area (in case screaming skulls and diseased, mad treants did not drive home the point that this is unpleasantville...) or the rather problematic new residents of the keep?



From a panicked "prisoner" (you'll see...) to the exploration of the creepy place, the PCs have a neat array of threats ahead of them - and intelligence to gather. Rather nice here would be the module actually taking into account that the PCs probably will (and should!) regroup at the village sooner or later - if only to do some legwork. The exploration of the dungeon beneath the keep has also been upgraded with a much needed (and useful!) place - a kind of teleport nexus (hard to use, but players probably will find a way...) of a cabal of drow/undead, the so-called ossuary collaborative. Here, people knowing the original trilogy will look a bit puzzled: Yes, Yul, the nasty drow mhorg can still the "boss" of this dungeon - but the AAW-crew took one of my gripes with the original trilogy, the relative weak tie-in of the first module with the rest, and slew two brutes with one stone - the PCs receive powerful gifts from a mysterious drow female as they explore the complex - the lady Makinnga seems to be looking for an alliance and her extremely powerful items indeed are nothing to scoff at...plus, this alliance may be a shadow of the things to come for your players.



Exploring successfully the dungeon beneath the keep, the PCs are next off to a trip into the bowels of the earth, the wondrous realm called underdark. Or rather, in AAW Games' setting Aventyr (Norwegian for adventure, btw.), the world called underworld - and no, you won't (yet!) find Lethe or the like, but seriously - this is a world in itself. One of my grand disappointments with most 2nd and 3rd edition underdark/world-supplements of our game and, to a lesser extent, Pathfinder, is the lack of claustrophobia, of wonder, of strange horizons unconquered. The good ole' Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, one of the best resources I've ever read, is a rare exception to this - and the second module of the series garnered high praise from me initially, trumping the whole Second Darkness AP in one fell swoop. So AAW could have just left that alone. They didn't - they vastly expanded the whole section. Not only do we get tables of underworld hazards the players will have to adapt to, random and special encounters to face while the explore the vast network of tunnels - this time, they get to save a dwarven caravan from drow raiders and then, explore the vastly expanded dwarven city of Embla. Studded with crystalline Gonjolas, fully mapped and vastly expanded to provide a vast political panoply for exploration, interaction etc. - all while maintaining believability. What do I mean by that? Fungus farms, trade routes - the city feels alive, realistic and still thoroughly fantastic. Embla was great before, but ultimately only a grandiose backdrop - now, it's a vast sandbox to expand, develop and play in - complete with a creation myth, prices for beard-jewelry and trimming (YES!!! Now if that ain't dwarven, what is?), notable NPCs, different stores, taverns, banks and even a recipe for dwarven bread. Now, if your players don't bite, you can guide them through the story-threads rather easily here, but I literally, for my life can't imagine a group of players who wouldn't at least be intrigued by this strange place.



Beyond Embla, a short primer of some interest for the city of Stoneholm (tangential to the module - just there if your players want to check it out - now that's detail!) also can be found herein. While in Embla, the PCs will have to thwart an assassination attempt on the ruling council of the mercantile dwarves (after they've been thoroughly introduces into the intricacies of dwarven hospitality) and then, follow one of three paths to pursue in the aftermath of the drow's cowardly attempt at destroying the back-bone of the dwarves. Or at least, 3 paths are assumed and depicted - overall, the whole chapter is mostly written as a sandbox and thus offers quite an array of tough choices - two of which, though, have dire consequences: Returning to Rybalka to warn the village will see Embla fall to the drow and the PCs consequently will have to navigate either the ruins of the gorgeous city or avoid it altogether - sample encounters and the like are provided. A direct assault on the city is also possible, especially if your players are all about kicking the door in, murder-hobo style - and the battle indeed will be epic. The most detailed of the 3 paths, though, and the one the players should imho choose for maximum enjoyment, would be the one to Holoth's back entrance.

This choice will also change the final adventure in the trilogy, mind you. But back to the exploration trip through the wilderness. This trip, in the original, constituted the very best in underworld wilderness I've seen in ANY Pathfinder module. That was before the addition of the dreadful underworld dragon Nidh-Cthon and his demesne Jorumgard. And before the addition of Venthin's Hold, a truly despicable, extremely dangerous city hidden in the bowels of the earth, where no appetite, no matter how depraved, may be satisfied or the caves of the bat-like humanoids, the ahool. This would also be a good time to mention that the settlements get full settlement statblocks. And then, a gorgeous one-page illustration of a fungus jungle starts with what can be considered a herbarium of giant fungi of the underdark - what for example about a giant fungus that makes perception checks easier when adjacent due to its funnel-like shape? What about moonlight-like-radiance emitting mushrooms that imbue powers to e.g. reverse gravity to those drinking parts of the shrooms in alcohol. Especially impressive here - all fungi and molds herein get their very own full-color artworks (most including a humanoid figure as a frame of reference) and beyond these plants and wondrous hazards, mycelosuits are also introduced. These suits can essentially give you a mushroom suit that coats most of your body, rendering you weird, but also providing some very cool bonuses.

Plus: Seriously, how awesome is walking around covered in a weird suit of fungal fibre? Especially if the fungal suit constantly ejects tendrils and he like to propel you forward in e.g. forested environments? Oh, and then there would be the mushroom domain - one of my favorite domains currently available for Pathfinder. Why? Because you learn to generate explosive caps and kill your foes with force damage dealing mushroom caps. Not cool enough yet? What about entering shrooms and exiting through the same species? Or about the array of exclusive spells introduced? What spells? Well, what about fusing your legs with a mushroom and ride it? No, really. There's a spell here that fusing a hopping shroom to your feet, making you ignore difficult terrain and nigh invincible against most combat maneuvers, but also providing a severe hindrance to your spellcasting? Yes, picture it. Glorious. Especially if you evoke carnivorous shrooms erupting from the floor to eat foes?



What about special weather conditions like fungi sweat and spore storms? Yeah - and then there would be the new, superb map of the fungal jungle and the already by now (at least in my game) cult mushroom harvesting mini-game, with a cool makeover. Oh, and the jungle itself has MUCH more going on inside as well... This section of the module was great before - it's stellar now. Here is also a good place to note one of the smartest layout decisions I've seen in a while: Each of the 3 parts has its own, distinct, unique and gorgeous layout in full color. And I'm not saying the following due to Joshua Gullion (also known as fellow reviewer KTFish7 and a true friend) being responsible: The layout in this book is friggin' Paizo-level, depending on personal preferences even beyond that. Each of the various styles used just is stunning, complements well the full color illustrations and is just downright gorgeous. My girl-friend is professionally involved in layout and LOVES what he's done here - even though she usually has only complaints regarding my RPG-books. Better yet - the herbarium gets its own distinct layout - and in the context of this vast tome, that means if you just want to use the fungal jungle rules, you can immediately see where the section starts - flip it open, done. The same holds true for the 3 modules etc. - rendering this tome rather user-friendly. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that the layouts used here are among the most beautiful I've ever seen.



That out of the way - I know what you want to hear about - the vast drow city of Holoth and what is going on there. Well, let's start with a cohesive and concise gazetteer to the city - including detailed houses, power-structure, produce etc., allowing a DM to portray a very vivid depiction of the place. Each noble house (including two shadow houses)gets a full write up to inspire DMs further/expand the place, while each member of the main antagonist-house of Gullion actually gets a massive, full background story - making them come alive and potentially offering smart PCs way to use/trick/defeat the opposition. Speaking of which - roleplaying opportunities to strike deals with demons or devils, staging a slave revolt against dinosaur-riding drow taskmasters.



Chaos reigns in the city of Holoth, as the drow and the vidre wage war around the central fortress containing the dread artifact Vidrefacte - and to stop the threat once and for all, they will have to navigate the spider-shaped temple of the drow and enter via the temple Tolgrith tower. Here, the level of detail has once again been upped significantly - what about a 1-page table of quasi-magical herbs, all with different effects for one or 3 doses? Favorites like the mosaic tile golem or the book golem also make a triumphant return to form here. And the PCs better hurry, for each effect of the vidrefacte demands the power of souls to fuel it - and life is cheap in the underdark. Literally every day the PCs dawdle costs between 200 and 500 HD of creatures their lives...Yes, these drow are capital "N" Nasty genocidal megalomaniacs... If the PCs are smart, though, they'll return to an alliance with the undead-affine Makinnga that, via her magic and items might have helped them time and again (and is a great way to keep players on track): She proposes an alliance to destroy the vidrefacte: If the PCs can get 3 personal items from each family member, Makinnga can use her talents to distract that family member...and delay the collapse of the tower upon destruction of the artifact. The PCs have to essentially create their own ticking clock in the end and are responsible for what happens - greed for magical items versus survival instinct - brilliant. And the PCs better damn well heed this advice and alliance, unless they're buffed up and maxed out to the brim. Why? Because the tower and its foes are BRUTAL. We're talking Frog God Games level, mixed with TPK Games-style boss battles. What do I mean by that? Navigating the tower is brutal in itself - but in order to stop Matron Mother Maelora, the PCs will also have to escape the friggin' demplane of venom (now fully depicted and containing one of the most iconic boss battles I've seen in ages!) and final defeat the mastermind of the genocidal drow in a massive, chaotic free-for-all that lets them reap the benefits of their deeds and puts them in direct confrontation not only with the matron mother, but also her strongest allies and the dread vidre in a deadly free-for-all of epic proportions. A round-to-round breakdown helps the DM track all the complex interactions here and then, the collapse of the tower makes for a truly deadly escape - and, as for magic and the like - unlike most high-level modules, this one actually takes teleportations, flying and similar escape tricks into account and provides sensible explanations why the PCs should better damn well run on their own two legs...



Escaping from a city in chaos, the PCs will probably never, ever forget how deadly those damn drow are...and if even my players did so with PCs either fallen or severely battered and bruised, they still talk about the original module in reverent tones. This one is even better. So go figure! Different results, different end-game scenarios...all provided here...though, if you're like me, you want to go for the high-level epilogue module next!



Beyond the epic modules (at this point, we're on page 394 of the book!), we get the ecology of the enigmatic vidre, written by yours truly. I'm, of course, biased as to how this turned out, so feel free to tell me whether you liked it and why/why not! (And yes, I managed to point towards Rogue Genius Games great research rules in this one as an optional rule...) and also have a strange affliction and power components (inspired by Rite Publishing's 101 Special Material and Power Components) in here, though you need neither book to (hopefully!) enjoy the article.



Now not all is great in here - I'm e.g. no fan of the new drow domain - I consider its crunch somewhat flawed - gaining sight-based powers for negative energy damage falls apart with undead casters immediately and the other spells provided here didn't blow me away either - so this one is a definite "pass" for me. Then again, there is the gloriously whacky (or disturbing, depends on how you play it!) mushroom domain, so one flop, one top evens out for me. We also get a handy page of general drow traits for both 3.5 and PFRPG for the DM and then are off to the crunchy bits, i.e. the statblocks of the creatures and NPCs herein, provided for both Pathfinder and 3.5, each with its own index for convenience's sake and easy navigation - nice!

.



Here, let me go on a slight tangent: AAW's modules provide statblocks for two systems that are related, but distinct and different - and both have in common, that their details eat up space. 60 pages of 3.5 stats, 64 PFRPG-stats. This means that you probably won't use the stats of the other system, right? Well...it actually depends. Personally, for example, I HATE how PFRPG weakened the Demilich. I'm taking the 3.5 statblock of that one over the PFRPG-equivalent and make a conversion of it - and having the statblock already done helps here. Perhaps that's just me, but I actually like how this results in alternative builds available for a minimum of work. Plus: Take a look at the page-count. Even sans using the statblocks of one system, this tome still clocks in at a massive 400+ pages. That's a lot of material.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - while any book of this size will sport a lonely glitch here and there, the overall book is surprisingly error-free. Now I've already gushed about the drop-dead gorgeous, superb layout. I'll do so again - It adheres to beautiful, stunning two-column standards and each of the different styles used is beautiful in its own right. Then there would be the artwork. I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this is one of the most art-intense 3pp-books I#ve seen so far, with quite an impressive array of "show, don't tell" full-color pieces that are simply stunning and, at one glance, help immerse the players in the epic. The pdf comes with a vast array of bookmarks, indexes for statblocks and the different layout styles further help with navigation. Kudos! Now, as you know if you've ever purchased an AAW-module, the cartography by Todd Gamble and Jonathan Nelson, quite extensive and improved from the already great original pieces, is simply stunning. As per the writing of this review, I don't yet have the hardcover in my hands, so commenting on the quality of the binding, paper etc. is not yet possible. HOWEVER, I do own quite a bunch of AAW-print modules and they have in common that they use high-quality paper, glossy covers etc. - production values of a top-notch level beyond what I usually get when purchasing print.



When I reviewed the original trilogy and when the kickstarter was announced, Jonathan Nelson and the whole AAW-crew told me, they'd make this book a full-blown 5-star + seal of approval beast. Big promises indeed and, to be honest, I was somewhat skeptical - the original trilogy worked well and had its glorious moments, but it also had some severe weaknesses regarding tying the modules together and some minor logic bugs. These are gone. Now you may not realize this in the beginning, with the start being rather slow and relatively linear, but this is not only a huge, sandboxy module, this is the most expansive underworld/underdark-sourcebook I've read in ages.



The second half of the "Second Darkness" AP, back in the day, felt somewhat soulless to me - yes, the underdark depicted there was strange, had deadly creatures and cool hazards and the finale rocked. But it, at least to me, felt like a big kind-of-dungeon. It didn't feel like a cohesive, huge world, with its own rules, culture, flora, politics. Yes, it was a HUGE step up from 3.5's exceedingly boring slugfest "City of the Spider-Queen", but still - to me, it fell short: Of the level of detail I expected, of actual believability. Perhaps that's just the scholar in me, but there are many components to making fantastical settings work and the underworld should elicit wonder, this slack-jawed awe, this feeling you're not in Kansas anymore and have entered a world governed by strange rules and convention different from the surface world.

Rise of the Drow manages to pull this off. The AAW-crew has an uncanny knack for crafting believable, unique cultures, social norms and the like and the places and their inhabitants depicted herein adhere triumphantly to this tradition, with the guest-authors Brian Berg, Christina Stiles, Jason Stoffa, Joshua Gullion, Kevin Mickelson, Mike Myler, Owen K.C. Stephens, Will Myers, Chris Bayes, Curtis Baum, Justin Andrew Mason, Michale Allen, Rory Thomas, Todd Gamble and Steven Helt (and yours truly, at least I hope so!) bringing their A-game to the table and add their talents to the basic frame crafted by Stephen Yeardley and Jonathan Nelson. Most surpisingly here - the narrative cohesiveness of the voices of the narrative and the book - too many authors ften result in disjointed prose, something thankfully absent here. Oh, and take a look at this list - notice something? Yeah, that's pretty close to a veritable who's who of great game-designers, with several publishers among them.



As a vast module, Rise of the Drow manages to weave a vision of drow as efficient, deadly adversaries to be feared indeed, with so much going on, so much additional material and level of detail, that I can almost guarantee that no two groups will play this vast module in the same way. Want to go linear, run this like an AP? No problem. Want your players to explore and truly get into the meat (or rather: rhizome!) of the underworld and go full-blown sandbox? No problem either. Your players start experimenting with magical spices? There you go, full blown table of unique effects. In fact, the only module that came close to this in structure (but not in detail) would be the legendary, unavailable closed patron project "Empire of Ghouls" by Kobold Press, then Open Design, which reigned supreme since I managed to get my hands on it as my all-time favorite underworld module. Where I'm getting at is: I can't, with all the modules I've read, for the life of me, mention a single underworld-module in any iteration of a d20-based system that would be on par with this beauty. Mind you, that from someone who is actually rather sick of the drow as adversaries.



Now don't get me wrong, this book surely isn't perfect. here and there, certain magic items or effects could have used a slight streamlining and not all supernatural effects the PCs will encounter have the crunch detail to e.g. dispel them...but personally, as much as you'll be stunned to hear his...I like this decision. Why? Because thinking of 2nd ad 1st edition, there were so many cool terrains, weird magical effects, strange phenomena - all not codified with caster levels and the like. And honestly, in some cases I think the game is better off that way. Magic, when pressed in too tight a corset, ceases to be magic and becomes a science, something you can study and predict. Now, before prospective adventure authors start grinning: No, I have not lowered my standards, for where it is necessary, where it is feasible (i.e. in the vast majority of cases), the module actually uses spells, effects etc. and provides all of this information. And personally, I don't think I need harvesting DCs or a check to but mushroom fragments into a bottle of alcohol and dissolve it. This beast of a sourcebook/module is exceedingly detailed, but in a matter that makes sense. It leaves room for the strange to be strange. And overall, the crunch felt more refined than e.g. the at times problematic supplemental crunch used in e.g. Razor Coast.



It also offers a cornucopia of uncommon ideas, one of the best final fights (and penultimate bosses), a glorious mini-game, takes the capabilities of the high-level PCs into account, offers freedom sans losing its track. And while I probably won't run the saga again now, I will do one thing - scavenge the hell out of this book. The impressive amount of improved and new content makes this a great purchase even for those that own the original trilogy. I'm going so far as to suggest this being a truly worthwhile purchase even as a kind of regional sourcebook to plug and play in your game- you won't find an underworld-sourcebook of this quality anywhere else.



I already went into the pricing (this book is not cheap), but honestly, one look at the page-count (even minus the statblocks of the system you won't use) shows you why I still consider this great: To give you a relation - Razor Coast, another massive premium content sandbox, has a rather ill-fated, ineffective "build-your-own-AP"-chapter that confused me and almost ruined the whole experience for me. Said chapter of Razor Coast took up 100 of the 500+ pages and some less-than-perfect crunch ate more pages from the otherwise superb tale of colonialism and dark fantasy pirate-mega-module. What I actually used in both Rise of the Drow and Razor Coast is approximately on par, with Rise of the Drow even winning by a margin. So yeah, in relation to one another, I think the price for this massive, full-color premium book is damn justified.



So let's sum up my ramblings: This is the best currently available underdark sourcebook to scavenge ideas from, a glorious sandbox, an epic module with a furious climax and extremely high production values in the layout, art and cartography-departments to boot that fuses the sense of old-school underworld-exploration wonder and level of detail with a pressing, action-paced new-school approach and manages to please both my old-school sensibilities and my craving for cinematic, epic new-school scenery. This is a massive accomplishment and the measure by which all future underdark/underworld modules will be judged. It also is a no-brainer 5-star+seal of approval-book and a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014 - no matter whether you run this or just scavenge its pieces: This verdict holds true even if you never want to run this and just take components for your own game. Once the print copy arrives, it will get an honored place next to my copies of Slumbering Tsar, Rappan Athuk, my Midgard Campaign Setting and Coliseum Morpheuon as one of the books that defined Pathfinder modules for me. Have I mentioned I really, really don't like drow anymore?

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow
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Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2014 02:53:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The ultimate finale of Rise of the Drow clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement (in the monster statblock sections - annoying if you print them out), 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here?

The war against teh drow is over, matron mother Maelora defeated. Oh those villains...so high level, yet so stupid...Or not. Sometimes, evil mastermind have something called "backup plan", as befitting of their mental attributes. So does the Matron of House Gullion. In order to defeat her, the PCs will have to track her down in her deity's home turf, the demiplane of venom. The module kicks off with an interesting little puzzle to recreate the portal before the module kicks off - and it will strike the PCs as weird - PCs just won't die. They stabilize at -9 hp. If they die and are lft behind, they return mysteriously, find strange healing draughts...but this all part of the master plan and is tracked by the DM via a specific table. More on that later.



The first arrival area is still relatively straight-forward, with a relatively simple puzzle to escape the section - which becomes a very interesting beast indeed, as Maelora escapes through a cube-like teleport maze full of deadly adversaries and no respite - to vanquish this extremely deadly place, its vast array of new creatures (which include btw. venom demons, colossal advanced spider zombies with more than 700 Hp and the dread spite spitters and venomwights...) and sheer endless onslaught of deadly foes, the only way for the players is to use their brains in a rather unique piece of abstract thinking - which personally, I love. Have I mentioned the fact that the venomous water slowly sears and saps away the PC's strength alongside the war of attrition of the adversaries. It shoudl also be noted that the planar labyrinth, which remains rather complex, gets individual maps for quite an array of the rooms to follow - why? Because these areas are complex, as are their challenges - titan bards with bad poetry, cannon golems, Despairs (the remnants of powerful adventurers defeated on a plane foreign to their alignment - and potentially the fate of the PCs...), a mighty drow malefactor (see TPK Games' great class, all necessary information included)/ warped-weaver in 3.5 and finally, vanquish Maelora, transformed into a spider-like dark angel hyper-monstrosity of no less than CR friggin' 23. Worst stat: 20. Yeah, ouch. Rather awesome - mind-blowing bad-ass one-page handout-style artwork of the mistress.



The encounters have their own index and just about all new creatures get their own full color artworks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the module come with copious pieces of great original full-color artwork as well a a ton of cool cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Stephen Yeardley and Joshua Gullion's "Commander of Malice", is a slug-fest (and no, I don't mean that in a derogatory way) and an epic war of attrition - all those artifacts, items, wands, potions your PCs have - they better start hoarding them, for even with suggested WBL and smart planning, the module can whittle down the considerate resources of high level PCs. That being said, the module, by design, will evoke hate from your players. The relentless onslaught of powerful foes, the strange terrain, the slowly creeping realization that something is fundamentally wrong. The sadistic requirements to the thinking faculties of your players...this is a module that carries bragging rights for beating and is one of the most difficult modules I've seen in ages. The sense of accomplishment in the end will be vast indeed and elicit cheers and high-fives. Still, by its very design, this module walks a very fine path, namely the one that your players, even with the catch that should prevent premature death, should be frustration-resistant and have joy while slogging through (literally!) endless waves of foes. If they don't have a healthy resistance to frustration, a mindset that they have to work for their triumph, then this is not for them. If they do, though, they'll have a truly unique experience.



Now one thing you should be aware of beyond that - this module's text is short - the statblocks, as is the wont with high-level modules, take up a lot of space and that's not something to complain about. Still, minus the creatures etc., the module is "only" 27 pages long - which looks insultingly short. And I won't kid - personally, I would have preferred more details, less war of attrition. That being said, you DO get your money's worth here - the mazes are damn complex and actually *running* this beast as opposed to just reading it, takes A LOT of time. It took me longer than the Prologue and the first Part of RotD combined. So yeah - this beast is definitely not for everyone, though if you're an aficionado of high level foes and builds and require foes to pit against the PCs but don't want to make them yourself - even as a statblock collection and only to scavenge, this has something going for it.



Now that out of the way - I do have to say, I still consider it the weakest part of Rise of the Drow, not due to being bad, but due to having a much narrower appeal than Prologue and main book - this module is a challenge to be beaten and should make the old-school crowd and fans of truly brutal modules exceedingly happy, but if the regular RotD already tested your group to their breaking point, then be cautious - this is for pros indeed. I won't hold it accountable for its brevity or its design choice, for it succeeds well at what it does, but I still think that a tad bit more versatility would have improved this beast. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
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AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2014 11:05:24
Making good use of the creativity displayed on the AAW blog and collecting thematic material neatly together in one place, this is the first of a series talking about NaeraCull: the Hungering Jungle, part of the 'house' campaign world of Aventyr.

Extensively hyperlinked to the blog (and indeed the rest of their website), this first issue includes monsters, a magic item, a neat piece of gear, a haunt and some legends... all with a piratical theme. Worth a look if you make use of pirates and other such sea-dogs, wherever the seas they terrorise might happen to be!

The magical item - a seadog's eyepatch - is interesting and not overpowered, while the piece of equipment is quite innovative - called a triggersling, it hurls rocks when tripped and makes a neat mechanical trap. It may have been invented by pirates, but once word gets out all manner of folks will be wanting to use it.

This is a nice concept, if only that delving through blog posts can be tedious, especially as they get displaced by newer ones and you only half-remember an older one which you now want to use.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
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Rise of the Drow Prologue: The Darkness Arrives
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2014 05:22:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

So this is the prologue for AaW Games' massive mega-adventure Rise of the Drow...let's take a look! Page-count wise, this module clocks in at 129 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 122 (!!) pages of content, the first page of which would be an introduction by the authors before the first part, Jonathan G. Nelson and Stephen Yeardley's section of the module begins.



I won't waste much words here, so here's the obligatory SPOILER-warning. From here on out, players should jump to the conclusion. Got that? Great!



Only DMs here? All right! We start our scene at the lavishly detailed frontier's town of Rybalka, studded in AAW Games by now trademark blend of unique cultures, in what can be considered the equivalent of a longest night/Lucia-style folklore ritual, when fellow adventurers barge in and the ceremony must be maintained - against hunters acting obviously under some sort of compulsion, trying to extinguish the light - or rather, set fire upon the cathedral (and quite possibly, themselves) - thus requiring non-lethal means to subdue them. This is a great way to introduce local color and characters, while under the threat of the opaque, shambling beings outside and hinting at the shape of greater things to come - a full-blown assault by elemental spirits, turned archons, ghoulish goblins and all manner of other weird creatures - thankfully, the DM isn't left alone with this chaos, as the PCs try to keep the cathedral intact, calm people and prevent the theft of the mysterious moonshard - alas, even if the PCs can end the chaos in the cathedral, even if mysterious warnings by as of yet not fully corrupted vampire spawns are heeded - after that, the chase is still on - against drow hunting parties heading off for the Dark Wood, with quite a bunch of Rybalka's congregation in tow. With help from the fellow adventuring party and by now, tested to their breaking point by engaging the drow, the PCs have completed the first part of this module with a furious bang.



After the singularly most disturbing full-page drider artwork I've EVER seen (yes, better than any WotC or Paizo-rendition), part 2 (written by Steven T. Helt) begins with the PCs on the hunt for the drow in teh Dark Wood - and, push coming to shove, things get eerie....fast. The eclipse Naraneus Shadow, which swallows starlight, moonlight, sunlight - everything, is upon them and thus, the already creepy forest more than deserves its moniker...and worse, the eclipse JUST DOESN'T END. The PCs are on for a trek through one of the most feared forests, while no light permeates the gloom in a dread and surreal overland chase/tracking game - and believe me, the wilderness and its inhabitants (including btw. a glorious map of the area) are not to be taken lightly in the slightest - the challenges are quite profound and a skilful Dm can evoke a rare sense of dread via the smartly chosen adversaries here -even before the furious finale (including a battle-map style map).



In the ruined castle Adrik's Folly, the commanders of the drow await - and the final part of the module can be considered a MASSIVE infiltration scenario: Schedules, castel population, short fluffy descriptions to keep even characters with the same statblock apart, a massive map, several suggested means of accomplishing their goals - Michael McCarthy, author of this final section, in no way rests on the laurel of his co-authors. The infiltration is detailed, fair, difficult, organic - including, thankfully, even a harrowing escape with the enslaved townsfolk and a last stand at a country manor are distinct possibilities - let's hope the PCs were smart enough 8and wilderess-savvy9 and kept the populace from eating those funny, cramp-inducing, slowing berries...



We also get concise lists of drow traits and even an encounter index.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous, very easy to read two-column full color standard on a purplish-dark background, which translates relatively well to grey-scale in my experiment, but in the end, I'd still go full color - mainly for the great maps and at times simply glorious and copious full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and provides full stats for all creatures in 3.5 and PFRPG.



I was skeptic about the separation of authors/parts, to be honest - it's easy to lose the thread of a cohesive, narrative voice and assume different things. Thankfully, the team of authors has done a great job that caters to their strengths - we got the knack for tradition and ritual, the uncanny grasp of what makes a society distinct and believable from AAW's core author-team, expanded by Steven T. Helt's sense for one eerie, cool wilderness trek and finally, Michael McCarthy's strength for cool, organic complexes (as showcased before in e.g. Incandium's Eruption) for a module that is greater than the sum of its parts.



This module does an awesome job at establishing the Drow as a cool, competent and damn frightening force of foes (the implication that they can DARKEN THE SUN, when driven home right by the DM, should make the PCs VERY afraid...) and the module offers infiltration, defense, wilderness - over all, an eclectic mix of challenges that should ensure that no PC is left bored. That being said, this module is something I'd recommend to experienced DMs. Here and there, suggested resting/leveling places, precise overland movement charts and the like would have made this module a bit easier on the DM - as written, while not VERY hard to run, it does require some preparation and competence to not get swamped in it. Don't get me wrong, this *is* a stellar module still, but it definitely is aimed at competent players and DMs - novices might require extensive help by the second adventuring group as DM-proxies to make it through this alive. Then again, that sort of is the point - the opposition is numerous, smart and lethal and beating them should be an accomplishment. As a final piece of advice- I'd suggest establishing Rybalka via one of the other A-series modules before this one - it makes the local color and emotional impact more effective. Still, one furious tour-de-force and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow Prologue: The Darkness Arrives
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Rise of the Drow: Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2014 05:17:26
An Endzeitgeist.com

This supplement is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



All right, we kick this off with a discussion of AAW Games' two major human ethnicities in this part of the Aventyr setting, the Klavekian colonists and the native Vikmordere - both coming btw. with basic skill-based modifications of the standard human standard racial traits that are applied in addition to the regular traits, with the Vikmordere getting to chose between 3 sets even. Now if you expect a Tulita/Colonists-dichotomy à la Razor Coast, rest assured that this one takes a more balanced approach - neither are glorified. What are the Vikmordere? Well...think Native Americans crossed with Vikings. Yeah. Awesome. One of Aventyr's dwarven ethnicities, the Dweorg, is also depicted in detail, including once again a bit of minor crunch-modification - and yes, the races come with nomenclature, take on religion etc.



A short primer on underworld races is also included here, including a pointer towards the upcoming Underworld Races-books by AAW-games. The same goes btw. for the Underworld Classes-book that is referenced hereafter - essentially, the following nets players a break-down of some of the odd classes they will potentially encounter (from the latter book) and whets their palate for them - without giving away their respective crunch and nasty tricks. Or at least, the pdf makes it seem like this is what's going to happen. Unfortunately, that's not what happens. The Player's Guide already is rather short. The classes and races noted (with minor exceptions race-wise) here do not feature among the opposition faced in Rise of the Drow's antagonist builds. Players, upon reading these short, fluff-only lists, will expect to be able to use these classes or at least kill NPCs using them. That does not happen. This may be harsh, but what this is, is essentially a form of advertisement - nothing bad there, but it's also false information since the classes don't feature in Rise of the Drow. Why not instead provide some advice what characters should be able to do, which concepts would work well etc.? You know, PROPER player-advice? What about some legends about the underdark the PCs have heard during their stay in Rybalka? Wasted space and wasted pages here. Why not hint at the things to come, with legends helping PCs à la "There are rare mushrooms down there, glowing like the moon herself - I've heard you can do fabulous things and travel to the moon when imbibing them with alcohol under the starry sky." (Partially true, btw. - you'll see when you read RotD...)



Next would be a short player-friendly gazetteer on the town of Rybalka, with not only a neat one-page map, but also a stunning 1-page full color illustration of the place as well as an in-character prose piece that expounds the blacksmith's take on the subterranean city of Embla, which will feature in Rise of the Drow.. It should also be noted that the section contains rumors and whispers galore and a list of basic underworld exploration equipment, complete with gp-prices and weight. The pdf also offers a primer that explains types of caverns and phenomena in the underworld as a means of immersion.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a two column standard and the pdf comes with quite an array of beautiful full color artworks - the maps and art combined with the layout make this pdf truly beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The AAW-crew Stephen Yeardley, Mike Myler and Jonathan G. Nelson have created a per se neat pdf here - a mostly spoiler-free resource that introduces players to the dynamics of the mega-module and its setting, all without spoiling significant portions of the things to come - in that regard, it can be considered an accomplishment. It should be noted that, if you expect a player's guide to deliver new mechanics or offer advice on how to create a character that perfectly fits (e.g. favored enemy/terrain advice etc.), this pdf does not deliver that, instead opting for a mostly fluffy introduction to the things to come in RotD. As a reviewer, I also feel obliged to mention that the list of underwold classes/archetypes might be considered minor SPOILERS for DMs or teasing/advertisement, so be aware of that.



If you don't mind that, though, you'll get awesome prose, a concise introduction for players and generally, top-notch production values here. The disappointed expectations regarding the classes and races teased here might prove frustrating though, and personally, for me sours the deal significantly. All in all, this player's guide is nice, if not 100% required or for everyone, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, whether rounded up to 4 due to the low price and high production values or down to 3 due to essentially providing quite a bit of advertisement (for class/race books to come), ultimately depends on the reader and what one expects from such a book. If you're looking for a crunchy type of player's guide, this won't deliver. For me, the fact that the teaser may result in expectations of fighting certain classes not being fulfilled weighs heavy and could more than annoy some customers, hence I will round this down to 3.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow: Player's Guide
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A23: Twin Crossings
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/03/2014 12:28:03
An isolated township eagerly awaiting the annual supply/trading ship which doesn't arrive owing to an unfortunate encounter with a sea monster, two trading houses eager to capitalise on the high prices to be commanded by what items do make it over a difficult mountain pass and a chance for the party to make some money as well as a name for themselves by pioneering the mountain crossing... what more could you ask for in an adventure that embeds the characters in the everyday lives and excitement of the setting?

The action starts with the party arriving in the isolated township and getting swept up into the forthcoming celebrations. There's plenty of detail provided to get them embroiled quickly so that they, along with the townspeople, will really feel the loss of the expected ship when the news arrives. Along with a sidebar concerning likely effects of over-celebrating the festivities.

A neat idea is several 'adventure flowcharts' - this is a very freeflowing adventure and it will help you keep track of not only what the party is up to but what others involved are doing as well. There's a lot going on and it all adds to the flavour, but it does have the potential to get quite confusing. The party can get confused, but it is best if the GM does not! Speed is of the essence here, and there are some neat mechanics to help you assess how well the party - and their rivals - are doing. Lots of details are provided to help you run an adventure where the journey itself is the adventure, rather than something to get you to the adventure. Hang on to them, they'll make running future journeys easier yet more exciting as well.

During the mountain crossing there are all manner of hazards: natural ones, the local wildlife and deliberate attempts to slow down the party or prevent them making the crossing altogether. Then they'll have to round up a caravan of goods and make the return trip... whoever said the life of the adventurer was an easy one?

A good thing about this adventure is that it brings the world of commerce to vivid and exciting life in a way rare for fantasy games. Even if the party is not bitten by the trading bug, they will get a real feel for what is going on in the world of trade whilst they're off killing monsters and looting their stuff - something that increases the reality of this alternate reality that you and the players share. Recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A23: Twin Crossings
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Underworld Races: Ahool
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/28/2014 12:15:30
In a few pages great sweeps of cosmology and background myth are presented, the current understanding of what is going on in the underworld of the Aventyr campaign setting, rewriting concepts of plate tectonics and establishing how the various subterranean races came to be in four massive events driven by the very gods themselves. There are many different races, and a summary chart is presented showing their ages, heights and weights... but the real focus is on the Ahool.

The Ahool are the primeval beastmen of the endless caves of the underworld. Here we learn of their history, background and society, along with physical descriptions and the details necessary to create Ahool characters to play or as NPCs. There are racial archetypes (aquatic and terrestial forms) and new equipment and feats for them. Naturally they have their own magical items and spells available to them.

In appearance they are a bit like humanoid bats, although they do not fly nearly as well. They do have a vicious bite, however, and live on blood... giving rise to some obvious if erroneous comparisons. A racial class and a prestige class are provided, ahool can also take a regular character class if preferred.

The explanation of how the underworld races came to be is fascinating, and the ahool themselves a novel race to introduce into subterranean realms.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Ahool
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B17: Death & Taxes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/03/2014 02:31:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 46 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC (plus settlement statblock), 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This being a review of an adventure module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right! The city of Hordenheim is a dangerous place - situated at crossroads, everything from nasty humanoids to power-mad wizards and pillaging armies makes its way through the area. Maintaining a careful neutrality, the city has been plagued for some time by its often violent guests - oh well, at least the location means the town is profitable - that does account for something, doesn't it? Pollard Varice, burgomaster of Hordenheim has a shrewd sense of business and made an...interesting move. He appointed known upstanding citizen and practicing necromancer Findle Stirr the high sheriff. Now tax season is approaching and the PCs are hired to act as tax collectors since three particular problems have haunted the besieged burgomaster - first of all, whole neighborhoods are in open revolt. Secondly, counterfeit coins have appeared and thirdly, members of the tax assessor's guard tend to turn up dead with a disturbing frequency.



In the streets, the PCs will encounter rats here and there as they investigate the thieves guild - which is easy to find...and innocent, at least regarding the recent crimes. In case you don't want to put the PCs in medias res, an encounter with a necromancer and his zombie guardsmen should also serve as an apt introduction to the uncommon police-force of Hordenheim: Speaking of which - the city comes with a surprising amount of local color - from smoke shops with fine cigars (and potentially pot) to the guild of sweeps, we get some exceedingly awesome ideas here. What is the guild of sweeps you ask? It's a guild of people who have prods with alchemical salts that use these prods to herd slimes and oozes through the streets, thus cleaning them fast and efficiently. Is that awesome or what? But back to the module - the burgomaster deputizes thus the PCs and sends them off with the obviously xenophobic, nasty necromancer-sheriff to the Trots - a blue color neighborhood, where hard-working centaurs, satyrs and even minotaurs await the PCs - their rebellion can be ended by navigating the urban labyrinth and finding the ringleader - hopefully taking the minotaur alive or using their social skills to convince him to come along. The second task, ending the counterfeit ring, has the PCs interrogate an illiterate mute (have fun!) and then investigate the temple of wealth, where, after some snooping, they'll find a group of leprechauns - including the high priest, as culprits of the counterfeiting.



The final issue has the sheriff accompany them to the high assessor - a prissy half-orc with an aururumvorax kit as pet. The man's guard has been decimated at night and hence, guard duty is up next to apprehend the assassin - which turns out to be harder than anticipated. Via red herrings, the help of a pseudo-hag and an uncommon elixir (which should get a range limitation or not be featured beyond the confines of this module), the PCs can track the culprit - which turns out to be the kit#s mother. Whether they return her child or slay the golden-furred creature - the threat is ended. Celebrations are in order!

...

On the next day, the PCs won't be paid. The tax-bloated treasury has been cleared. Completely. In order to get paid, the PCs will have to find the thief - the thing is, who or whatever was the culprit, he/she/it is long gone and was careful - no obvious leads. Just as the PCs start to get frustrated, they'll get a letter from aforementioned Pseudo-hag, who implores them to visit her. Turns out, that the city's rats have been all but exterminated - they are afraid and have just one bastion left. Hopefully, the PCs smell that something's fishy here and investigate - that way, they can defend rats against swarms of undead rats. If the rioting populace doesn't get them first, that is. The swarms of undead rats were created via a ritual that ahs them all point back towards the ritual's origin and astute players should realize that an army of undead rats makes for excellent thieves - thus explaining the complaints of the poorer folk that the thieves went over quota.



The trail leads to the station house, where deputy necromancer properly park their zombies and similar fun hijinxs ensue as the PCs confront the sheriff, who is smelting the gold into his own golden undead monstrosity, designed to purge the non-human inhabitants of Hordenheim once and for all. Defeating him and his beast ends the module, which btw. also includes the simple gold-leafed template that allows you to fortify undead, constructs and outsiders with gold at CR+1.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW's nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artworks are partially full-color stock and partially original, but fit style-wise well together. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with player-friendly versions of the two full-color maps.



Colin Stricklin weaves a yarn that is thoroughly exciting - slightly tongue in cheek, though never to the extent that it would break immersion, full of fun oddities, local color and great ideas, the city of Hordenheim comes to life in these scarce few pages in an extent that speaks of the author's mastery in concise writing. Unique characters abound, non-lethal problem-solving, interesting terrain - this reminded me of the best instances of 0onegames' Great City or Kaer Maga, to the point where I definitely wouldn't object to a massive, full-blown city sourcebook. Yes, that intriguing. The module's prime achievement would then be that it manages to cram the city information AND a compelling, sandboxy investigation into its page-count without losing its appeal. This is a glorious module that has me wanting more of Colin Stricklin's offerings. If you like aforementioned city-settings or have a soft spot for uncommon locales, then don't let this one slip by.



Final verdict? 5 stars +seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B17: Death & Taxes
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Pumpkin Golem
by Christian B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/03/2014 07:09:42
Another Golem Variation. Whats special about this golem is, that it also counts as a plant being. Sure there might be more fitting plant types than pumpkins for a plant type golem, however this specific golem seems to work and might be suitable for special occasions (such as Halloween gaming sessions).

Layout is nice. Drawing is awesome. Monster is well explained and ready to use in your adventure.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pumpkin Golem
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B17: Death & Taxes
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:31:48
They say that only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. In this intriguing city-based adventure, the party are hired on as tax collectors in a township that is even more than most unwilling to pay their dues. There is a coherent backstory explaining what's been going on before they arrive and causing the three challenges they have to face: open revolt, taxpayers paying with counterfeit coin and town guardsmen turning up dead...

Various hooks are supplied to get things rolling... for hiring on as tax collectors is not the first thing most parties want to do. Still, a fat purse for the job may seal the deal even if the concept of civic responsibility is a bit foreign to them. Oh, a nice shiny badge of office (with certain interesting properties...) and free accommodation go along with the job as well.

Once settled in, amidst the usual inter-department rivalry with the town's Sheriff, events soon pile on thick and fast. There's plenty for the party to investigate and resolve, as well as the odd fight to be had. The backstory weaves through all events giving a coherent and exciting story of civic corruption and double-dealing as well as external plots to contend with. The action will take them all over town and even down into the sewers - even there, not all the rats have four legs!

And should they prove successful they will find themselves in a unique position: tax collectors who are popular with those from whom they collect tax!

Everything is laid out clearly, with details to hand just when you need them, and both Pathfinder RPG and Dungeons & Dragons 3e statblocks for everyone and thing the characters will meet and may have to fight. Oh, and there's an otyugh. Any adventure with an otyugh in it is fun!

So if you want an adventure that's a little bit different, try this one for size.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B17: Death & Taxes
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B16: The Damned Souls of Fenleist
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 04:21:48
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 54 pages of adventure, so let's take a look, shall we?



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? The town of Fenleist is characterized by two things - on the one hand its booming lumber industry and on the other a propensity for weird occurrences: Said occurrences have baffled church hunters and worse, have steadily grown - from mild annoyances to actual undead threats stalking the streets at night. A hefty reward should help entice players into checking out Fenleist...but what exactly is going on? Well, the story here is a rather complex one to say the least: The first apex of the strange occurrences saw bodies dug up and flayed - this had been taken care of by the intervention of one undead hunter named Doroi Tavskern - who has been busy since with the undead roaming the street. Hereafter, no less than three adventuring groups "The Intrepid Trio", "The Devout Protectors" and "The Wayward Swords" have failed to put an end to the slowly escalating undead threats. As so often, the riddle's solution lies within the past of the settlement: When the founder of the village located Rassdradden Ruins below the town, he went there with a group of adventurers. Only one survived, one wizard named Tarryndorn - tainted by the planar conjunction of the necrotic nexus buried below the town, the mad wizard now plans to shatter the very boundaries of the planes for an insane chance of an apotheosis. Now Doroi is not suffering from incompetent NPC-syndrome - the poor inquisitor has been tricked by Tarryndorn and via a charmed amulet, turn unwitting spy of the wizard. Worse, the scheming arcanist also has turned a survivor of the failed adventuring groups into a well-concealed undead spy among the ranks of Fenleist's citizenry...



The city of Fenleist is lavishly mapped, but the pdf makes a weird turn on the page of the map - it is depicted much like a landscape-style 2-pahe spread, which yields slightly unpleasant results when printing this particular page out. The PCs arrive in the glorious town of Fenleist, known for its huge landmark crane, on noon - and action: Immediately, the pastoral idyll is shattered by an eclectic array of deadly creatures from all across the planes (which is not made easier by the strange impediment of souls not being able to pass on to the afterlife!)! Here, a particularly interesting feature should show up - the pdf actually not only offers variants of the creatures in 3.5 and PFRPG, the encounters actually differ: First of all, the creatures and NPCs are more complex than you'd expect. Secondly, even the read-aloud texts reflect these variations -kudos for stepping up the dual-rules format in here! Upon dealing with at least the immediate threats, the PCs are briefed by Constable Vandersmythe. The detail here is really neat - e.g. the swarms among the foes can be optionally handled by AoE-challenged via helpful NPCs and even via utilizing the crane to squash the swarm via the especially valuable and hard timber here in Fenleist.



The following investigation is rather complex - and sooner or later Tarryndorn's agent tries to sell cursed items to them that allow the wizard to spy on them and squeeze them for what they have unearthed so far while feeding them half-truths and banal pieces of information. Worse, the rather uncooperative inquisitor is fed suggestions by Tarryndorn - if the PCs try to follow the suspicious hunter, they'll run right into a vast squad of undead and will have to contend with the inquisitor to boot - hopefully without killing him. Should he survive, alas, he'll not be more of a help - he has just lost a decade worth of memories.... Upon the return to the town from the cemetery, the PCs may be hailed as heroes... but they'll also witness a magical wave that they can triangulate towards its origin, an old oak (which is actually a stone-replica of a tree!) that hides the entry to aforementioned ancient ruins. Now old-school legwork searching may also yield the entry to the place, as does entering the rather lethal magical subterranean machinery of Fenleist's landmark crane (though the latter is situated in the beginning of the module and would have been imho better placed here, but that's a personal preference and hence nothing that will influence my verdict) - both come with their very own challenges. In order to gain entry, though, the PCs will have to brave Rassdradden Reach, a vast chasm 500 ft. over an underground lake - and while balancing across the narrow pathway spanning it, of course a deadly adversary attacks - a sorceror in 3.5, a neat summoner-build in PFRPG: The second creature, by the way, that comes with a mini racial variant in 3.5!



Rassdradden Ruins is a terrifying complex - patrolled by mhorgs and crysmals, though beyond the grisly remains, that is not all - take an ifrit monk with exponential shurikens that double after travelling for ten feet, for example - or what about former adventurers turned into undead guardians of the wizard (and we all know how dastardly well adventuring groups can screw you over!) and finally defeat the crazed elven wizard...that's not where the module ends, though - in order to find the missing "Wayward Swords" and end the threat of the conjunction, the PCs have to deal with one of the coolest puzzles I've seen in this generation of adventure modules - an origami-glyph-puzzle supplemented by 3 puzzle-sheets! And yes, you may just skip this part with a roll if that's your preference, but oh boy would you miss out! Two thumbs up for this cool, creative puzzle! Opening a planar rift, the players can jump into the rift to come out on a miniature planet, where the missing adventurers...as well as Fizzlewick, the legendary creator of the crane and founder of the town are imprisoned! Saving these guys should add even further adventure hooks and indeed, mark the beginning of a new era for the town!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the double-page spread and some very minor glitches, I did not encounter any that impeded my understanding of the module. Layout is beautiful indeed - taking a cue from the vastly improved layout in the Pathmaster-modules, this book's parchment backgrounds and full color artworks are joys to behold indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with 2 player-friendly versions of the maps (the town here is in portrait format, so in doubt, just print that one) and the puzzle-sheets are also rather cool to see in such a supplement.



Author Mike Myler has created something ambitious - a free-form, complex investigation with an intelligent antagonist and intriguing builds as well as iconic places and challenges await. Now mind you, this is no module for inexperienced DMs - why? Because the act of investigating the respective happenings and the transitions from scene to scene need some fleshing out by DMs to make the adventure properly work - that does not mean that it is too sparse in its information, just that...well - let's not mince words here: This is hard to run. Primarily not because it is confusing, but rather because it feels unorganized. DMs are expected to carefully sift through the text and deduce what the PCs are supposed to uncover - essentially, this module gets a bit lost in its own sandboxyness.



Partially that's due to e.g. the crane's exploration being introduced at the beginning (when it's essentially a potential penultimate locale), partially it's due to a relative lack of straightforward clues - e.g. the magical wave, while a great idea, feels a bit clunky here. Making that one a near-constant phenomenon and then offering more complex means of triangulating its origin (ones that the PCs can slowly unearth) would have probably made the module feel a bit less disjointed. The locales and story-threads and even how they're interwoven - all that is rather intriguing and indeed worthy of 5 stars +seal of approval, but their connections to one another feels overall rather flimsy. A tighter synopsis and a more structured event-flow would have catapulted this module up to the highest honors. As provided, it offers awesome locations, cool adversaries and a complex mystery, but also requires significant work from DMs to make the events flow naturally. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 with an express recommendation for experienced DMs to try their hand at this one - I know my players will be all over this module! Author Mike Myler has improved at a rapid rate and if this module is any indicator, one should definitely look forward to his future offerings and keep an eye on his rising star!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
B16: The Damned Souls of Fenleist
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A02: Devil of Dark Wood
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/08/2013 04:30:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This pdf is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 29 pages of content, so let's check this out!



This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right! Set on the Rybalkan peninsula of the setting, a place somewhat influenced by a clash of cultures between standard medieval people and the Viking-like Vikmoderes, the adventure presumes the following: A clan of devils has been stranded on the prime material plane and adapted to the place. Unable to return to the hells, they adapted and bred with humans too often, it seems - essentially, they degenerated and grew into their own secretive sub-race, sans e.g. the power to call reinforcements and with some individuals even leaning towards human behavior. A young devil fascinated with humans named Bakinqa managed to learn their tongue and some of their skills and tried to communicate with them, only to have his father shot in front of his very eyes by a bolt of devil slaying, as the devil (obviously carrying the taint of human weakness) sacrificed himself to save his son. The young devil subsequently plotted vengeance and schemed for years. When he first witnessed a lycanthropic transformation, he knew that a potent tool had fallen in his hands - especially with the rituals depicted in a dread tome of lycanthrope control that enables one to control lycanthropes via fetish dolls and even share senses with them. Unfortunately for the devil, he has yet to find the name and whereabouts of his father's slayer and thus has resorted to stealing a book containing the immigration records by proxy.

Brooks Balinger, a shepherd who has lost a sheep to the lycanthropes, couldn't find his usual, now deceased hunters to take care of his problems (they've been killed as well) and thus hired another hunter named Woln - unfortunately for the hunter, he's been captured by the devil and now serves as the infernal creature's guinea pig in creating a new devil-werewolf hybrid.



The PCs, after having a tour of the village (including many paragraphs of well-written flavor-text and a fully mapped tavern that includes even a price-list) are hired to find the missing hunter Woln and additionally, the local sage Yuri Statel wants them to recover his stolen books. The investigation soon yields a piece of pelt and thankfully provides some red herrings with named villagers who also wear pelts. After some minor investigation, the PCs find a victim of the curse, who may be almost insane, but also a possible way to reach the cavern of the true master. Otherwise the PCs are in for a fight with a were-wolf. The ice-cold rain also conspires to make their sojourn rather unpleasant and thus, the cabin of Cual Beartooth, skilled herbalist, is a welcome place to rest. Very cool: The herbalist can craft 3 types of special salves, but also expects the PCs to help improve the fully mapped cabin/do chores - which they actually can! Even better, the salves all come with ingredients, lending a sense of fluff and consistency to them. Unfortunately, no craft-DCs or information on how to replicate them like market price etc. is given. In order to earn their stay in Cual's refuge, they may have to do some chores, though - a nice diversion here!



After their stay at the hunter/hermit, the PCs finally reach the ominously-shaped Devil's Cave, where their adversary, a were-wolf slave and his hybrid - a true climax, and one easily adjustable by having one or more of the were-creatures change sides. The primary antagonist, the devilish alchemist, has access to extracts, bombs and mutagens, which is rather nice, even though I think the creature should have alchemist levels instead of getting the abilities of the class for free just "by having studied" it. As written, the statblock specifies no alchemist-levels. The finale per se is rather interesting and provides ways to adjust the challenge to your tastes. Even better, there's a "it's not over yet"-moment - the devil actually had a fourth fetish doll and thus, a fourth werewolf remains! Two sample ideas for continuing the adventure are given before introducing us to the dread tome that contains the knowledge to create the lycanthrope-controlling fetishes.



What still irks me, even though the origin story of Bakinqa has been vastly improved: The statblock does not use the correct devil-subtype-traits: Devils not only get a range-limited darkvision, they also see perfect in even deeper darkness. They are immune to fire and poison and don't have a paltry resistance of 5 to fire. They have a resistance to acid and cold 10, not just cold 5. Per default, they don't get a spell-resistance. Even if you take the cop-out and argue that this devil has degenerated, the modifications have made the subtype unrecognizable - I get that it's a species of its own. But it should not have the devil subtype. outsider? Evil? Okay, but rules-wise, this is no longer a devil - it shares almost no traits with the devil subtype. I also don't understand why the build does not specifically grant alchemist class levels to the adversary - all the class features are there, why not simply make him a base-race + alchemist-levels build?



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are good, I noticed some glitches à la homophone errors (bare/bear), though, as well as inconsistencies regarding a statblock which may or may not be intentional.

Layout adheres to Adventureaweek's two-column parchment-style standard and has been vastly cleared up - this is so much better and crisper looking than its previous iteration.

The artworks are nice and the cartography is stellar. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and herolab-support and comes with hyperlinks to respective areas of Rybalka, Items etc. on the AaW-page. Nice to look more information up if you're a subscriber! It should be noted that said links are optional only and all required information (and plenty of it) is contained herein.

All in all, the writing here is much more consistent than in "Crypt of the Sun Lord" and adheres to a mostly captivating and well-written prose. I particularly liked how herbs and ingredients are mentioned in some salves and the way in which the PCs may use their skills to improve a cabin as well as the sheer amount of detail provided for the village. The overall investigation, while easy to pull off, is well-presented and the environmental complications are neat. I also applaud the use of alchemist-rules. What I don't applaud is the lack of information regarding the rules for the salves introduced. The worst problem of this module was in its prior iteration an accumulation of terrible logic bugs and some clunky supplemental pieces of information, which have thankfully been purged. Indeed, as presented, A2 now actually makes sense and comes with a presentation that further improves it beyond its less than stellar first version to a point where I consider running it a fun endeavor. It is only rarely that one sees a publisher go back and improve a product to this extent and AaW's crew has my utmost respect for revisiting and improving this one. However, aforementioned subtype-hick-up, the weird antagonist build and the minor editing glitches here and there remain. Still, in this, its vastly revised edition, I can wholeheartedly recommend this module as a nice wilderness/investigation scenario with fluff galore for low levels that more than deserves a final verdict of 4 stars. Kudos!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A02: Devil of Dark Wood
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Rule of Law, Clash of the Constructs (1 of 3)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/21/2013 07:35:47
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is a whopping 143 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 135 pages of content - so let's take a look, shall we?



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential player should jump to the conclusion. All right, still here?

As you can glean from diverse rants I've written throughout my illustrious reviewing "career" so far, I'm a stickler for immersions and, among others, non-lethal damage: PCs should not get away with unsanctioned killings within a city's boundaries, especially not if they're supposed to uphold the law. Well, it almost seems like this module was made to address a similar concern: Set in the Arcane Quarter of Mohkba, the capital city of the Klavek kingdom (the vast human empire of AaW's world), the PCs are, via a plethora of hooks, in for a truly uncommon assignment. Some years ago, a naive wizard named Kosto Hajika was conned out of his tone golem by the noble house Loihtia: Feigning an attack by the golem, the house has managed to use the law of the capital to claim control over the golem for the transgression and has repeated similar cons over the years, gaining powerful tools indeed.



Now, hardened by years of adventuring, Kosto is back with a new stone golem, and while he was naive once, years of adventuring have bred a significant shrewdness and he's here to claim what was his. Going through the official channels and contacting other wizards (perhaps allies of the PCs or even one of them!), he has gathered testimonials that qualify for "Riitava Epaily" - sufficient suspicion and proceeds from court to gather evidence in the house of Loihtia, guarded by clerics of the law - and potentially the PCs.



In the meanwhile, influential and crown-loyal Loihita has had spells go off and is forewarned: Much like in e.g. the Þing of old folklore, the law requires to be backed by sufficient force in order to be upheld and thus, the ordered search for information is limited: Kosto and his allies only have one hour to gather proof of house Loihita's deviousness - without killing anyone, of course - sub-dual damage (or at least healing foes) is of tantamount importance, whereas destroying constructs, of course, is viable - if something that may be followed up with repercussions. And this is where the module starts becoming something different, something seldom, if ever seen: Variable. and excessively so. If the list if items required to find certain clues etc. is no hint by now, the mansion per se is excessively guarded by magic: Illusions and traps and a vast amount of details make sure that the PCs will have a lot on their hands when exploring the mansion - even beyond its significant gaurdians. In order to perceive certain hints and pieces of evidence, magical tattoos need to be acquired and between excessively detailed libraries, 3 new balanced spells, chock-full storage rooms full of potions and a subtle puzzle (that is both clever and simple once the PCs have realized how it works), there is a LOT going on here. Have I mentioned that without smart actions, the PCs are looking at a DC 100 check to find evidence in one locale? Yes, they better know what they're doing - or should prepare to expend A LOT of resources to find what they are looking for...



Have I mentioned the rather well-hidden sub-basement or the outsider guardians and alignment-themed rooms? I guess I haven't, but the PCs will have all hands full - no matter which side they choose.



Wait.

What? Yep. This may be a good high-level investigation (something exceedingly rare indeed), but that's not its only selling point: Instead, it allows you to pick sides. Just as the PCs might wish to conduct the investigation, so may they be allies of house Loihtia! Whereas the attackers have golems at their beck and call, so do the defenders a variety of different creatures - and have a similar goal: Prevent the intruders from gleaning the truth! Defenders may place traps and creatures throughout the house - and actually get a completely different playing experience as well as their own chapter - essentially, the house is depicted in two versions, one for the attackers and one for the defenders, with this being thus essentially two modules in one. Also, defending the compound versus a high-level mage, a couple of golems and an NPC-party may be quite a challenge and a welcome change of pace - oh, and of course, non-lethal damage should also be used. After all, killing those pesky investigators could result in ugly stains on the floor.



As you can probably glean from this rather innovative set-up, this module could easily be run as one epic convention-module, where two competing teams of PCs meet each other in a clash of brains and brawn - which is one way to make this work. Another interesting option the special structure of this module allows and which I feel obliged to mention, would be the following: If your PCs have a group of rivals (perhaps from paizo's guide, Coliseum Morpheuon or some other resource), this might make for a cool change of pace: Get the character sheets ready and hand out the rivals, sans comment, to the players and make them devise the defenses. Cloak the attackers in illusions (to offer anonymity - should be within the power of the court) and have them fight the law enforcers - only to reveal after the module that they've been fighting their own PCs! Also a great way to use party tactics against them for once. Mind you, that is just ONE of the possible ideas this scenario spawned in my mind.



The pdf also comes with 6 player-friendly maps of the mansion's different floors, which while serviceable, are not as mind-boggling as most AaW-maps, but oh well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I noticed only a scarce few minor glitches and they were universally ones that could be easily ignored. Layout is BEAUTIFUL - with a gray-background reminiscent of marble and copper lines with serpentine designs, the two-column layout serves to evoke a distinct visual identity that sets the module (and the series) apart. The full-color artworks, while partially stock, also feature original pieces which I haven't seen before and is serviceable.

The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Oh boy. Stephen Yeardley and Will Myers have created quite a complex module that is innovative to say the least -where most PvP-scenarios are barebone battles, this one, when used in conjunction with e.g. Conflict, makes for a great STORY-relevant backdrop for such a conflict. Better yet, the module manages to do this without neglecting regular playing experiences. And it offers the freedom to choose the side. And unique conditions to claim victory - as well as fodder for the brain and the REQUIREMENT for the PCs to use all their nifty high-level tools in order to successfully complete their investigation in the extremely narrow time-frame. High-level investigations are exceedingly hard to do - and this one manages to pull it off. Add to that the two paths, options for convention play, puzzles, unique story-angle and we have one superb example of the art of adventure-craft. And the best is: This is only Part I! And yes, unlike many parts of larger arcs, this one can EASILY stand on its own and does not require sequels.



But while we're talking about other modules: Do you know which module this will replace for me? The disappointing finale of the 0onegames' otherwise superb urban investigation AP "Road to Revolution" - and if you've read my reviews of that one, you know how much I adore it. With some cosmetic reskins, this fits PERFECTLY into the finale and it and its sequels may be THE way to expand said AP to 20th level.



Steeped in magic, taking the peculiarities of high level gaming into account and offering something for both brains and brawns, this module is one definite winner and most certainly an excellent start for the arc that has me clamoring for more. This module sets the bar of what to expect from its sequels high indeed - at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rule of Law, Clash of the Constructs (1 of 3)
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PATHMASTER: Timeless Fort
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2013 13:10:03
The PATHMASTER products are part of an adventure writing and design competition from Adventureaweek.com. Five finalists from loads of initial entries were chosen to write an adventure each, and the winning adventure of the five gets to move onward and upward in the RPG writing industry. This review is a review of one of the adventures from the five finalists. I've reviewed each of the five final adventure submissions, culminating in me choosing my own personal winning entry for PATHMASTER. Each review has been concluded with a few comments on the adventure relative to the others, and some justification as to its position in the winning stakes. All five reviews have been posted at the same time, so if you're reading this, you can read the other 4 review entries as well. With that in mind, on with the review.

The Timeless Fort is a 51 page Pathfinder RPG adventure written by Luis Loza for 3rd level characters. The product presentation is neat and professional, with excellent maps, art and use of colour-coded layout to allow GMs to quickly find what they need. The product has a rather heavy background on each page and for the text boxes, so won't be suitable for all when it comes to printing. Writing is good, with good attention to detail, and good descriptive text that allows the imagination to run wild.

The Timeless Fort takes elements of the film 'Groundhog Day' and combines that into a compelling story with a hint of time-travelling madness. An ancient fort, host to a powerful artifact, is stuck in a time-loop, and the PCs, upon entering the fort, are cast into a world of kings and foes battling for control of the power of the artifact. The PCs are required to protect the fort as much as they can, while at the same time unraveling the mysteries of the time loop and so bringing an end to an ancient tale. While doing so, they are capable of being 'reset' in the time loop experiencing the same events again, as they struggle to make sense of events around them. The adventure is entirely location based in the fort, though the action, barring initial exploration, is largely event based with the PCs responding to swarms of events happening around them and the soldiers of the fort.

This is an exciting and dynamic adventure that will see the PCs rushed off their feet as they dash from one place to the next, facing foes from all sides while trying to deal with a potentially unreal situation and the many soldiers of the fort. It's a fast-paced action adventure, which looks like it will be a blast to run. While the time-travelling aspects might not be for everyone, I think these can (and probably should if I were to play it) be glossed over. I think incorporating the time-travelling is an interesting idea, but I think the execution was a little unclear in places, as to what consequences there were between time loops. I'm not sure players will really enjoy going through the motions to repeat something they've done before. For me, this adventure just doesn't need the time-travelling - it's a distraction to an otherwise strong adventure that is just fine on its own.

There are several things I love about this adventure. Firstly, there are a lot of factions involved, meaning the action is varied, and you're not bashing heads against the same old creatures all the time. Motivations for the factions are different, and it means that one moment you could be facing one monster crawling up from underground, and the next another monster trying to breach the fort walls. This makes it interesting both for the DM and the players. Secondly, there are a lot of things happening and a lot of events to play with. These make the action dynamic and fast, and similar events can easily be incorporated to change or add to the adventure. All the little parts of the adventure make for interesting scenes. I really liked the fact that several events could happen at once, and that while the PCs were dealing with one, other events could take place in their absence.

This is an excellent adventure that's full of action and fun. The encounters are interesting and action-packed, the story is good, and the event-driven nature means that the PCs will feel themselves being rushed as things happen fast and quick even when they're not around. While it's not an 'against all odds' kind of scenario, it can create a sense of panic as the PCs deal with too many things happening at once, and need to decide how to handle and best deal with the situations. Compelling narrative, great action, excellent dynamics, and a lot of fun. Excellent adventure.

As mentioned in my other reviews, Timeless Fort and Ironwall Gap Must Hold are very similar style adventures. Both are dynamic and action packed, with events happening around them, although I think the air of the mystical and the pace of the events in Timeless Fort is better. I really liked the pacing and number/type of events of Timeless Fort compared to Ironwall Gap Must Hold, but at the same time the time-travelling is a bit of a distraction. While To Walk the Dark Road has oodles of atmosphere, the dynamic and frantic action of Timeless Fort still give the adventure a unique feel. Cutting Silver Pass is really slow on the action front compared to Timeless Fort, while the more 'standard' adventure in Twilight Falling, while it comes with a good mix of atmosphere and action, doesn't quite match this on the excitement front. In the end, for me, it was a toss-up between Ironwall Gap Must Hold and Timeless Fort, and despite my feelings on time-travelling as a distraction, I think Timeless Fort wins out by a smidgen. I've rated this adventure as 1st in my list of adventures for the PATHMASTER contest.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Timeless Fort
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PATHMASTER: Ironwall Gap Must Hold
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2013 13:10:00
The PATHMASTER products are part of an adventure writing and design competition from Adventureaweek.com. Five finalists from loads of initial entries were chosen to write an adventure each, and the winning adventure of the five gets to move onward and upward in the RPG writing industry. This review is a review of one of the adventures from the five finalists. I've reviewed each of the five final adventure submissions, culminating in me choosing my own personal winning entry for PATHMASTER. Each review has been concluded with a few comments on the adventure relative to the others, and some justification as to its position in the winning stakes. All five reviews have been posted at the same time, so if you're reading this, you can read the other 4 review entries as well. With that in mind, on with the review.

Ironwall Gap Must Hold is a 40 page pdf Pathfinder adventure, written by Jacob Michaels, for 7th level characters. The pdf is very neatly presented, much like the others in the series, with good art, maps and layout, the latter in particular helping to find things in the module through colour-coding. Like other products in the series, this is not a printer-friendly product, so not something one would want to print at home. Writing is good, and the overall presentation is coherent and guides one well through the adventure and the suggested course of action. I've a big fan of adventures that contain clear descriptions of the adventure through a detailed overview, and this product does not disappoint there.

Ironwall Gap Must Hold is a location-based adventure that takes place in an isolated border fort. The PCs stumble upon the action right from the start, and soon find themselves defending a large fort and its garrison of soldiers from an invading orc army. This is an event-based adventure, where certain events happen periodically throughout the adventure, but for the most part the PCs are left to their own devices in how they spend their time (presumably by improving defenses or fortifying the fort). I really like this format of adventure, as it allows PCs to strongly affect the outcome of things directly through their own actions. It also allows room for lots of creativity, and the adventure fort has enough of interest in it that players can really get stuck into how to make the best use of the available resources. This adventure will likely suit pro-active players more, as they'll need to plan and prepare if they want to hold off an orc army that outnumbers them substantially.

The action is fairly fast-paced, and the PCs will need to deal both with assaults from inside the fort and those from outside the fort. On the latter front the events allow for different types of challenges, ensuring that each event isn't just rinse, lather and repeat. There's a lot happening inside the fort, so PCs get a chance to explore while at the same time dealing with attacks and handling the garrison. The adventure uses the mass combat rules for Pathfinder, and familiarity with this will help a lot in making things run smoother. I enjoyed the way in which the battles were put together, and how the PCs can affect the outcome of events based on actions before the event.

Overall, this adventure has a lot going for it. Fast-paced action, interesting story, room for discovery, roleplaying and creativity, and some epic battles. This is really adventure that's well written and well constructed, and one that will appeal to many who enjoy seeing PCs use creativity and planning to get themselves out of a sticky situation. Excellent adventure.

With regard to the other adventures, this one has more in common with Timeless Fort that the other three. Where I think Timeless Fort does better is in the nature of the events and the types of action that take place, and to a certain extent with the number of factions that it introduces. Facing one large orc army with a smaller number of large events isn't quite the same as facing multiple factions that are encountered through numerous small events. In a perfect world, I'd have probably picked some of the material from Timeless Fort to dump into this adventure or the other way around, as it makes the action a bit more varying and interesting. It's a different kind of adventure to the other three, but I like the dynamics involved here, and the scope for players to be creative and make something interesting happen. It's not as linear as the other adventures in terms of PCs' actions. I do think that the flavour and atmosphere of the other three, in particular To Walk the Dark Road, would do wonders to add an elements of magic and the mystical, which is not something this adventure excels at. Overall, it was really a toss-up between Timeless Fort and Ironwall Gap Must Hold for my 1st place, and I think Ironwall Gap Must Hold just doesn't quite make it. I've rated this adventure 2nd in my list of adventures for the PATHMASTER contest.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Ironwall Gap Must Hold
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