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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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PATHMASTER: To Walk the Dark Road
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2013 13:09:58
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.

To Walk the Dark Road is a 41 page pdf Pathfinder RPG adventure for characters of level 7. The adventure is written by Michael Allen. Layout and presentation are very good, with excellent artwork and clear and legible maps. The pdf has quite dark backgrounds for pages and text boxes, so this is most definitely not a printer friendly product. One or two editing errors slipped through, but for the most part it's excellently written, with clear descriptions, vivid details and lots of atmospheric writing. One part of the layout I particularly like, is the attention to detail on what constitutes a combat encounter, some explanatory text, or read-aloud text. These are all colour-coded, and allow one to quickly find the details of what you're looking for without having to search intensely for it.

The adventure takes place in the Lost Lands, a barren and hostile land cursed by the gods and roaming with dark and dangerous creatures. The atmosphere is definitely one of horror, and in places it can be quite creepy. Just getting through the adventure start where a certain artifact needs to be attached to one of the PCs' bodies is quite horrific. The adventure maintains this theme throughout, with horror, fear, gore and misdirection playing parts of this adventure. As a whole these elements combine together nicely to create an adventure with excellent atmosphere, where the PCs will constantly feel like the world around them is watching them. It's definitely not an adventure for the faint-hearted, and certainly not one for younger audiences.

The PCs are tasked with uncovering the mystery behind an ancient druidic conclave that once controlled a great treasure. The PCs must wander into the Lost Lands, travel the road once built by an ancient army that came before them, and eventually reach the island where the fruits of their journey will be plucked. Along the way they must uncover more clues to guide them on the path, fight creatures most foul, deal with the environment and its challenges, and constantly face a cursed land where nothing is safe, not even sleep. A number of plot hooks are provided should the DM need them to get the PCs started.

Encounters in To Walk the Dark Road are very well detailed and exciting. I liked the varying nature of the encounters, and the fact that some of them take place over the entire length of the adventure. While parts of this can feel like just another encounter on the road, I think the background and encounters work together to form a coherent whole where the journey has a sense of purpose and mystery. This makes each encounter more than a wandering encounter, but rather something that must be solved for the remainder of the adventure to make sense. I certainly enjoyed the structure of the game, the choice of challenges and the atmosphere that the adventure creates. The ending is fairly satisfying as well.

Overall, this is a good adventure, with elements of fear and horror that play out excellently throughout the adventure. Challenges are appropriately set, different and exciting, and I really enjoyed the role that terrain and environment play in the encounters but also the theme of the adventure as a whole. Very good adventure.

As far as to how this adventure compares to the other adventures, it's certainly the one that has the most atmosphere and is designed to play a bit like a horror movie. Therein lies its strengths, something which the other adventures aren't that strong in. However, while it has lots of atmosphere, and good encounters, it's not that dynamic. The Timeless Fort and Ironwall Gap Must Hold are far more dynamic adventures, and ones where the actions and decisions of the PCs are more important. It's better than Twilight Falling in terms of its atmosphere, and offers a different style of adventure to the fairly standard fare of Twilight Falling. Lastly, Cutting Silver Pass is such a different adventure that it's hard to compare the two. I still think the atmosphere, sense of purpose, environment and exciting encounters allow it to win out over Cutting Silver Pass, which is a bit hit and miss in places. At the end of the line, I've rated this adventure 3rd in my list of adventures in the PATHMASTER contest.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: To Walk the Dark Road
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PATHMASTER: Twilight Falling
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2013 13:09:55
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.

Twilight Falling is a Pathfinder RPG adventure for characters of levels 5 to 7. This 39 page pdf product was written by Michael Holland. The product is neatly and professionally presented, and the artwork, maps and general layout are all very good. I particularly liked the fact that the layout is colour-coded in parts, allowing you to quickly see which sections of the adventure you need for read-aloud text, combat details, etc. Layout backgrounds are quite dark, meaning that this product might not be suitable for home printing. Writing is good, with some vivid descriptions, and some good imagery, and I particularly liked the detailed adventure synopses and background information. These little things make running an adventure much easier than trying to pick up the gist of the adventure on the fly.

Twilight Falling is the zombie adventure of the PATHMASTER contest. In this adventure the PCs travel to the town of Crepus (an amalgamation of Creepy?) which is plagued by an outbreak of zombies. The town is in disarray, as is the ruling council, particularly as the undead are considered part of the honored dead, and many of them cannot therefore be destroyed. The PCs will need to assist the town guard in dealing with the plague zombies, find and agree a plan of action with the town leaders, and then discover the machinations responsible for unleashing this plague on the town. In doing so, they will come face to face with the strange political nature of the town and its allies, and deal with some of the unusual laws that this town holds. The adventure is based largely in the town of Crepus, although parts of the adventure take place in the surrounding areas of the town. By and large, though, this is a location-based adventure, where the PCs investigate the matter and finally deal with the culprits.

This adventure is a good romp through a zombie-invested town. The town itself is quite a unique place, governed by a unique council with odd laws. The players will have plenty of opportunity to deal with waves of zombies, but also plenty of roleplaying and investigation as they try to uncover any clue as to who or what is behind the zombie infestation. The adventure sets a good atmosphere and keeps the action going at a reasonable pace. The first part of the adventure is largely spent dealing with zombies while investigating, while the second part is devoted to tracking down the culprits and dealing with them. There are probably a few ethical dilemmas involved along the way as well, though it's not up to the PCs to deal with the exact nature of the town and its council.

The PCs will have a good number of varied encounters despite the zombie theme, and as mentioned, not all zombie encounters are aimed at destroying the critters. The adventures uses some good locations for the main encounters of the town, and there are plenty of interesting villains that reveal themselves as the background story unfolds. There is some sense of urgency about the business of the zombies, although I wish this could have been played out a little more. At times it feels like the town guard are on top of things and the PCs just help occasionally, whereas full-scale panic would've created a greater sense of urgency and made for a better atmosphere and memorable adventure. I really enjoyed the overall mixture of combat, investigation and roleplaying, as it balances these nicely without introducing a massive zombie-killing fest.

Overall, this is a good and compelling adventure, though moving along fairly standard lines of theme and organisation. The adventure maintains good atmosphere, and the pace is decent, though in both cases I think things could have been better. I liked the varied encounters and locations of the adventure, although a greater sense of panic would've been better than the somewhat complacent approach to the zombie plague. Very good adventure, with interesting town and background, and an unique location perhaps worth visiting again.

Twilight Falling is perhaps the adventure of the bunch that doesn't break as much ground as the others. Timeless Fort deals with time-travelling, Cutting Silver Pass with grand projects, for example, while Twilight Falling is perhaps too familiar in its theme of zombie plague. The action is good, and dynamic, though not in the same league as Timeless Fort or Ironwall Gap Must Hold. The aforementioned sense of critical timescales would've made this faster paced and more intense. It maintains very good atmosphere - not on par with To Walk the Dark Road, but better than the others with the themes of zombies, necromancy and all things dark and dangerous. Overall, I think this adventure takes elements that make the other adventures good and combines them to a lesser degree to create a good adventure but perhaps one that doesn't stand out too much. I think it presents the more interesting location of the bunch, where To Walk the Dark Road has the better wilderness encounters. In the end, a solid and entertaining adventure that I've rated as 4th in my list of adventures for the PATHMASTER contest.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Twilight Falling
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PATHMASTER: Cutting Silver Pass
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2013 13:09:52
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.

Cutting Silver Pass, written by Scott Janke, is Pathfinder RPG adventure for 7th level characters. This 37 page pdf has a neat and professional layout, with excellent art, maps and general presentation. The pdf uses colour coding to good effect, allowing one to differentiate between different elements of the adventure on a quick glance. Like others in the series, the backgrounds are heavy in colour, so this is not a particularly print-friendly product for home printing. Writing is good, though the clarity of the adventure outline is a bit lacking in places, and it's often not quite clear where the adventure is going or what the expected course of action is in a particular scenario.

This adventure takes place in the remote regions of the land in a rich mining colony run by several influential and important silver barons. Traditionally, silver mined in the area is carted around the mountain to more civilized areas, but a recent discovery by the local mining wizard has indicated that there is a path through the mountains that would substantially improve on mining operations. The PCs get involved when the mining wizard disappears with his secret plans for the new mountain pass/underpass and the silver barons enlist their aid in finishing the wizard's project. This adventure takes place in a variety of different locations, from the mining town, to the underground areas of the adventure, and eventually on to the other side of the mountain and civilized lands. Parts of the adventure are event-based, but for the most part the PCs will be location based as they execute the plans to complete each stage of cutting the pass.

Cutting Silver Pass is a varied adventure that has a lot of different opportunities for players and their characters. The adventure starts with an investigation into the mining wizard's disappearance, followed by some trickery (and a lot of luck) in finding the initial stages of the pass. There the PCs will have to overcome obstacles and clear dangers as the mining folk build the pass from the wizard's plans. The encounters are varied, particularly those that directly involve the PCs. There are a number of event based encounters that affect the mining operations themselves, slowing down progress or enabling the PCs to speed things up. There's plenty of opportunity for roleplaying, particularly in negotiation, where the PCs need to negotiate moving the pass through the lands occupied by others.

This is not an adventure that takes a few days of game time, but rather something that will involve the PCs for months. While these long timescales can quickly be glossed over, parts of the adventure really involve the PCs acting like project managers rather than adventurers. This might be fine for some, but I think the large time scales and the involvement of the mining projects actually hinder the smooth progress of the adventure. Essentially it boils down to the PCs overcoming some obstacles on a stage of the plan, and then having to wait weeks to complete the part until the next obstacles come around. These weeks are filled with events that hinder building progress, which don't always involve the PCs. The parts of the adventure that involve the PCs are good, particularly the negotiations on the other side of the mountain and the white-water rafting challenge, but the building operations are something I'd definitely skim over as it's just not that exciting.

Overall this is a good adventure. There're lots of interesting combat encounters, good roleplaying encounters, and a number of other scenarios that players and PCs will find enjoyable to indulge in. I think the long timescales are not for me, and it's a pity parts of the adventure were geared towards it rather than just keeping the building operations in the background. Still, lots of fun to be had in this good adventure.

As far as the other adventures in the contest are concerned, I think Cutting Silver Pass offers a unique experience in getting involved in a grand project, but the execution might not be for some. There's a lot of downtime that can be glossed over, but in doing so the movement from one part of the building plan to another seems forced. This slows down the pace and action of the game, and makes it feel a bit like a trawl. It's still a good adventure, though, but I think the dynamic approach of Timeless Fort and Ironwall Gap Must Hold is much more exciting, while the atmosphere of To Walk the Dark Road makes it much more fun to play through. Twilight Falling is also quite fast paced, even though it shares elements of investigative work with this adventure. Cutting Silver Pass is certainly different and explores the boundaries in adventure design by offering a unique experience that most PCs will not frequently get involved in. Still, I just don't think it holds up as well on the excitement and fast-paced action scales as the other adventures, and, as such, despite it's good offering, I've rated this adventure as 5th on my list of adventures in the PATHMASTER contest.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Cutting Silver Pass
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PATHMASTER: Cutting Silver Pass
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2013 03:07:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Full disclosure:

I was one of the judges of the contest that determined which pitches were chosen for the Pathmaster contest. I did not receive any compensation and thus do not consider my verdict compromised. The very presence of these modules means that I like the premise of all Pathmaster-modules, but can their execution stand up?



This module is 37 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover and 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



All right, still here? The town of Imarlap is blessed by abundant silver, but also is quite far off the trodden paths, requiring expensive magic to properly get the goods to civilization. All that changed when the local dwarven wizard miscast a spell and stumbled across a huge cavern complex - a plan thus formed to cut a pass through the mountains and deliver the silver via these caverns and the rivers coursing through them. Unfortunately, the wizard was secretive and neither he, nor his apprentice have been seen for more than a month - enter the PCs!



Hired by the town's silver barons, the PCs will first have to find the missing wizard's hidden tower - by piecing together evidence from survivors of a mining accident - all of which could be more cooperative. Navigating the mining tunnels, the PCs find the tower and means of access and have to acknowledge that the dwarf's paranoia was well-founded: Assassinated by his apprentice, he now is a specter and one first obstacle on the PC's way. And with his plans, the true meat of the adventure begins: Developing Silver Pass. Yes, you heard me right -via crews and engineering, the PCs will have the task of developing a pass - with all the consequences that entails:



From realizing how and what areas to develop to exterminating puddings and similar dangerous vermin to dealing with raiding xorns, trolls and negotiating with the were-bear cave druid (who unfortunately stands in the way of progress - a nice moral dilemma) to the Stoneraven Giant Tribe, which may be more than the PCs can handle via brute force. Speaking of brute force: A local Silver Dragon, Scrilmeiis, may also challenge PCs for honorable fights and, when treated fairly, might make for a great champion for the exploited miners and political counter-weight to the silver barons - if the PCs can win him over via chivalrous conduct and smart thinking. As a final challenge, the PCs can deal with the Whitewater Orc Tribe - probably by navigating canoes down the rapids and fighting off the green-skins in a truly cool and iconic mini-game style encounter that actually comes with a table that makes running it rather easy..



We also get all the maps in player-friendly versions.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, original 2-column standard and is one of my favorites among the unique styles used for Pathmaster-modules. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography is neat, as we've come to expect from AaW.



All right, let's get one thing out of the way right now - Scott Janke has created a UNIQUE module here - there are not that many "Developing" modules available - beyond Kingmaker and "Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale" and some of AaW's offerings (Like "Forest for the Trees"), there simply aren't enough modules out there that breathe the spirit of conquering/exploring/developing the wilderness and this is one: Suffused by the spirit of frontiersmen, of can-do, of bringing civilization, this sandbox offers ways for PCs to actually influence a settlement, of doing something significant and while it works well in its context, it left me hungering for more - I'd be all game for a Fitzcarraldo-style AP or any further expansions and similar modules - this offering feels that fresh, that new, that uncommon - marrying details and believable, at times tragic characters with the unconventional premise, we have a great module on our hands - final verdict? 5 stars +seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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PATHMASTER: Ironwall Gap Must Hold
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2013 03:03:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Full disclosure:

I was one of the judges of the contest that determined which pitches were chosen for the Pathmaster contest. I did not receive any compensation and thus do not consider my verdict compromised. The very presence of these modules means that I like the premise of all Pathmaster-modules, but can their execution stand up?





This module is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 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 adventure starts innocently enough - the player characters stumble across some soldiers in the process of being killed by Perytons. Saving the hapless guys, they are recipients of dire news - Ironwall Gap, a fortress blocking a pass in the north with its massive 30-foot iron wall, is under siege. For the first time since ages, the orcs have spilled forth and seek to wreck the fortress. The PCs, hopefully also trying to prevent a flood of marauding orcs, set off towards Ironwall Gap.



Upon arrival at the rather complex and detailed fortress, though, things look even more grim than anticipated: - in the wake of the just discovered deaths of the senior officers (fallen to an assassination by the orcs), the men are quarrelling who's in charge: Just short of coming to blows, the local garrison and the roving cavaliers need to have their dispute settled - fast, for the war drums are pounding.

Whether the PCs take charge or weigh in favor of one commander, the results will have an impact on the fighting prowess of the defenders....and then the first battle is upon the PCs. While thankfully, the orcs expect an easy picking, the PCs and garrison will still be pressed by this first massive encounter. Speaking of mass: Yes, this module is in line with Adventureaweek.com's tradition of innovation: "Ironwall Gap must hold" is to my knowledge the first module by a 3pp to support the mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign! Two thumbs up for that!



Now after initially repelling the orcs, the PCs will have a truly commendable sandbox at their disposal - whether by improving doors via adamantine nails, uncovering the truth of why an officer was absent from the assassination attempt - but handling the affair publicly may prove to be rather damaging to morale - hopefully, the PCs are tactful. Have I mentioned the fresh haunt that now makes access to the war room problematic? The PCs have some time to fix issues, get accustomed to the fortress - but not too long: Sooner or later, the orc horde will be upon the defenders - who are severely outclassed. Repelling the initial assault, the siege is on.



The warleader of the orcs asks for immediate parlay, citing "doom coming" from the north as reason for the attack and acknowledging being responsible for the deaths of the commanding officers via a Ghostwalker assassin. Likely, the offer to just flee will be no option for the PCs and thus, parlay for now is over and the brutal siege begins in earnest: Ghostwalker Targg will continue his attempts at sabotage and assassination, orc sappers will try to enter the fortress via summoned thoqqas burying tunnels for army ant swarms. Worse, on day 3, the leader of the cavalry snaps and decides to go out in a blaze of glory - hopefully, the PCs can talk him out of it - if not, their army will suffer even further...



And they'll need any help they can get - the final encounter isn't call "And the wall comes tumbling down..." for nothing: The flying orc witch mother Hagna attack alongside the colossal Throcka, a new creature that looks somewhat akin to a massive cross between an armadillo and a mammoth, with huge and deadly tusks, ignoring 10 points of hardness and crashing through...well, just about everything. Taking down this superior foe will prove to be the last straw to disperse the horde, but a monumental task to accomplish - worthy of the epic end of this module.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a unique, full-color 2-column standard with nice cartography and artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and all maps also come in player-friendly PC-versions.



All right - this one's simple: Hold the line. It does not require a complex storyline, smart enemy placing etc. - but it could have gotten monotonous. It doesn't. Instead, "Ironwall Gap must hold" not only offers support for the Ultimate Campaign-rules, but also implements various consequences for the PC's actions and breathes the flair of the "300"-movie without resorting to the movie's plump othering of adversaries - in fact, the orcish warlord is rather honorable in his actions - as far as orcs in war go, that is.



Offering a thrilling ride, using mass combat rules and delivering a concise, cool scenario that is perfectly suited for its page-count, sans filler and without leaving me feeling it would have worked better in another format, this is a stellar example of adventure-design - author Jacob W. Michaels has created a true winner, one I can't nitpick apart - Verdict for this excellent module breathing the spirit of desperate struggles versus overwhelming odds? 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Ironwall Gap Must Hold
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PATHMASTER: To Walk the Dark Road
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2013 03:02:13
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Full disclosure:

I was one of the judges of the contest that determined which pitches were chosen for the Pathmaster contest. I did not receive any compensation and thus do not consider my verdict compromised. The very presence of these modules means that I like the premise of all Pathmaster-modules, but can their execution stand up?



This pdf is 41 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Still here? All right! Right from the get-go, we see an adventure timeline as part of the ToC -and for good reason, but more on that later. Once, the power of a significant order of druids came from an island, more precisely from the so-called "Tear of the Mother". Capturing one druid (called Brathadair) of significant stature whom he tortured to lead him there, warlord Sueton Paal led a vile campaign versus the druid's wilderness home, now known as the lost lands. Disgusted by the brutality of the massacres he started, the gods made the fallen rise as undead, though the lost lands never recovered from the tragedy. Now the PCs are hired and get a grisly item - (the kidnapper's bane, crafted from the eyeball of Brathadair), which will meld with the ye of a PC to provide a guide. And yes, this procedure is as disturbing as it sounds...



And then, we start off on an OVERLAND TREK adventure - the eyeball pointing the PCs towards other parts of the dismembered Brathadair, allowing them to retrace their steps throughout the cursed lands ravaged by war and now home to deadly threats. Worse, an animated ream will haunt the PCs, filling their dreams with dreadful nightmares as they trace the steps of the campaign and follow in the footsteps of the vile campaign of Sueton Paal, gathering the grisly, preserved remnants of Brathadair. Braving their own fears, redcaps, ice trolls and similar threats (with glorious maps), the PCs collect these macabre remnants and assemble a way to lead them to the island long lost to the world.



At the beach of the island, a lavishly-illustrated chaos beast, as well as a confrontation with a deathweb and allips (again, with a rather cool artwork) as well as the remnants of the walking dead left by the massacre to finally find a way to end the darkened haze that suffuses the lands by surviving a night-long vigil and defeating the dreams, thus ending the torment of Brathadair, turning his remains into no less than 3 unique magical items.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though I did notice a couple of minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the full color artworks provided are drop-dead-gorgeous, as are the 5 (3 pages) maps for encounters. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



This is perhaps the most risky of the pitches that made the transition to module: First of all would be the genre of overland travel, which is often extremely railroady. The module offsets this via a smart set-up and iconic imagery - essentially, the PCs are not only progressing towards their goal, they are also diving deeper into the past, slowly unearthing the background story of the module and delving deeper into the dream-like logic behind the journey. That being said, there also are some minor things I can complain about: While this module can be read of as a journey into a nightmare, it sometimes could have used a closer tie to the dream-like, unreal atmosphere of the journey - using surreal symbolism and providing some random encounter-tables to spice up the journey could have made this legendary indeed.

The cursed nature of the lands, the nightmare-aspects of the PC's nights remains a tad bit too subdued, a bit too lucid for my tastes. While advice on generating paranoia and mystery are plenty As written, the overland journey remains interesting and is to be applauded in its handling of one of the most difficult genres of adventure writing, but slightly falls short of its vast narrative potential. Blurring the lines between reality and dream could have further enriched the already cool, terrain-rich (also in the repercussions for combat!) and iconic encounters the PCs face throughout this module.



When all is said and done "To Walk the Dark Road" turned out to be a well-crafted, atmospheric dark fantasy module with some macabre imagery that provides some spotlight for the often neglected genre of overland travels. Not realizing its full potential may seem like a pity, but it ultimately does not cripple the module, offering still ways for enterprising DMs to enhance it. When all is said and done, I consider it a good module on the brink of greatness and hence my verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: To Walk the Dark Road
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PATHMASTER: Timeless Fort
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2013 03:01:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Full disclosure:

I was one of the judges of the contest that determined which pitches were chosen for the Pathmaster contest. I did not receive any compensation and thus do not consider my verdict compromised. The very presence of these modules means that I like the premise of all Pathmaster-modules, but can their execution stand up?



This Pathmaster-module is 51 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page author-bio/developer's note,1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 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.



When a crystal shard fell to earth centuries ago in an age of peace at the border of three kingdoms, its power prompted obsession on part of the three monarchs and led to disaster - sheltered away by guardians, the kingdoms whittled themselves down in trying to claim the shard, finally tracking it and its guardians, the Order of the Shard down to Fort Jamora, where they annihilated their last forces in a desperate claim for the shard. When the shard sundered in the chaos, it sent the fort and its assailants into a Grounghog Day-style time loop.



Now the fort is depicted i rather extensive detail and constitutes basically the groundframe for the PCs to work from - the PCs start with 7 Fort Points and add 3 per assault day. A true sandbox, the PCs have only a scarce amount of soldiers and reinforcements to make to the fort to withstand the challenges and assailants that would otherwise be beyond their power to surpass. In order to break the timehole, the PCs will have to guard the shard from the assault of an orcish warlord, a priest-king and an elven lord and finally a combined move by all of the monarchs-all three kings and their desperate gambit need to be vanquished in their attempts to gain control of the shard. Now the respective assaults of the king's and their henchmen (which include elementals, thieves and treants) are detailed herein, but more interesting for the PCs, they actually get to experience the creation of new buildings etc. in fast-forward and reap the benefits of actually knowing what will happen after experiencing it. Only if they manage to prevent the shard's shattering may they break the resetting of the timeline of the fort.



The PCs may use aforementioned FP as resources to defend the fortress during the final assault and overall, there are quite a few consequences and details on both fortress and occupants confound in making the loop an interesting concept to experience. The assaults per se are also cool and oftentimes rather imaginative - being catapulted into the fortress's courtyard and surviving the fall via feather fall, just to give you an example, would be one of the assault-techniques employed by the PC's opposition.



As with most AaW-modules, we also get player-friendly versions of the full color maps of the locales featured, though the maps this time around are not as mind-bogglingly beautiful as in some other AaW-modules.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, with only a few minor glitches creeping into the pages. Layout adheres to an original drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full color standard with thematically-fitting full-color artworks. Cartography adheres to a full-color standard as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Luis Loza has created a cool, uncommon adventure-premise/sandbox in this module - ambitious in scope, detailed and challenging, PCs can and probably will require the resetting of the fort's properties. The consequences of their performance make for more cool variety and a sense of empowerment for the PCs. That being said, this sandbox does waste one extremely cool opportunity: With consequences for the fort and fast-forwarding due to the unstable timeframe, this pdf could have utilized Ultimate Campaign's downtime-rules to exceedingly awesome effect. While the Fort Points mechanic works well within the frame of this module, actually using the donwtime-rules would have provided for a glorious, more diverse variety of consequences and player-choices. Handing them an amount of capital and making them earn capital for acing encounters could have made this even cooler in my book and fit in more seamlessly within an overall context. This would have also expanded the PC's option by oh so many options...



Now whether you consider this a blemish or don't mind, I still consider this the one and crucial missed chance of an otherwise cool, uncommon module with a nice premise that is executed with surprising panache. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform and I look forward to reading more from author Luis Loza!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
PATHMASTER: Timeless Fort
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