This adventure is 96 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and one page back cover.
That leaves 90 pages of adventure – not a bad bang-for-buck-ratio, so let’s dive in.
Ah well, one more thing you have to know: I love Goblins. In German, there is a saying that goes “Alte Liebe rostet nicht” (=literally “Old love doesn’t rust”) and this is true for me and goblins. I loved them in e.g. the classic “Axe of the Dwarvish Lords” and that was affection toward the creepy little buggers was rekindled by Paizo’s brilliant re-imagination of the critters. That being said, I may be a bit biased with regards to whether the Goblins are cool, but I try to review as neutral as possible.
This being an adventure review, it naturally contains A LOT of spoilers, so potential players beware – you have been warned.
The first 4 pages detail the background, adventure synopsis and three combinable adventure hooks to get the PCs to Springdale, the town in peril.
Chapter 1, the first part of the adventure, details Springdale, a nice little trade-town. The meeting with the authorities that sets up the adventure for the PCs is described in excruciating and concise details, somewhat reminiscent of the details of the modules of old. The chapter also features a (thankfully!) key-less player-friendly map of the town for the PCs. The chapter details Springdale in gazetteer-style detail and the write-ups of the temples, manors, bars and shops include several adventure hooks. The chapter also features 6 encounters (all with minor maps on the pages if you’re playing with miniatures), among them fiendish-scorpion-riding goblins and an attack by a war-chariot.
Apart from the final encounters, this section (28 pages) is very free-form and sandboxy, which I do like. While the investigation per se is not that interesting and does not really deliver complex information, the sheer level of detail of the town makes it work. Probably also because there are 23 pages of stats for all the mentioned NPCs of the city, from the café-owner to the lord-govenor. The write-ups feature roleplaying advice, often, but not always quotes and the like. A rarely seen level of detail for so many minor NPCs.
Chapter 2 details the second section of the adventure, an infiltration/assault on a keep that doubles as the entrance to the final dungeon crawl. It features 9 encounters, again with little maps to show the creature set-up. (19 pages) The set-up is quite free-form as far as setups like that are concerned and there is a DM’s map. I would have loved to see some alternative entries to the overall area, as I know my PCs will try to infiltrate it and no climb-DCs for the outer walls etc. are given.
Chapter 3 details the dungeon-crawl part of the adventure, including one page DM’s map. This final area, including one nice final battle, consists of 16 pages of areas and encounters, rounding up the adventure.
With the low price, we don’t get any artwork apart from the maps, but due to the length of the adventure, it’s ok. Editing is top-notch, I didn’t notice any relics or typos, formatting could be slightly better, though: Some of the encounters are spread over 3 pages and feature some blank-spcae on the third page. While the parchment-like layout is nice, a printer-friendly version would have improved the file. The plan of the antagonists is ok, however, the final seemed a bit anticlimactic. The best part of the adventure is the town – it’s detailed, lovingly crafted, features interesting interactions with the NPCs and is alone worth the very low price. One word of warning, though: The word “War” in the title might evoke a false expectation – there is not much warfare going on in this adventure. While there is an armed assault and the first part of the adventure could be considered a minor skirmish, the word “war” doesn’t really seem too appropriate. That being said, the adventure IS fun and, while I would have loved more player maps and the like, I still recommend this adventure, e.g. as a tie-in after the third Rise of the Rune Lords Adventure.
My final verdict, due to the lack of artwork and the fact that the two later chapters didn’t live up to the excellent town write-up, I’ll give this file 3.5 Rudii, rounded up to 4 for the people who'd rather focus on the low price and the excellent town, which would have made a nice product on its own.
Advanced Arcana Volume I
This pdf is 59 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover.
That leaves 53 pages of new arcane, not a bad bang-to-buck-ratio, so let’s dive in.
The pdf starts with one page of in-character introduction to the book in the form of a letter as well as 3 pages of introduction that explain the new concepts introduced in this book. The explanation is an awesome read, using foot-notes and a nice pseudo-academic tone I always associate with mages.
After that, we get 2 pages that explain the new concepts of segmented spells (spells that take up more than one spell-slot, but are more powerful), which is one of the most elegant solutions for e.g. cooperative ritualistic casting I’ve seen so far and quite frankly, I’m astonished why no one has had the idea to do so until now. There are also quick spells, spells that can either be cast fast or as a regular spell. We also get spells that refresh spell-slots for the casters. Another side-bar on the page has some optional rules to handle spells from non-core books like this – the ideas are nice and work fine: I’ll be using them for all 3pp products in the future!
After that, we get 5 pages of spell-lists and after that, we get the 65 new spells.
I’m going to list the number of spells that are added to each class:
-Alchemist: 2 spells
-Bard: 19 spells
-Cleric: 25 spells
-Druid: 18 spells
-Inquisitor: 4 spells
-Paladin: 2 spells
-Ranger: 3 spells
- Sorceror/Wizard: 57 spells
-Summoner: 4 spells
-Witch: 10 spells
The description of the spells take up 24 pages and are quite interesting. Apart from one orison, none of the spells felt boring, unimaginative etc. – They are quite frankly almost all killer, no filler. I’m usually not a friend of spell-sourcebooks, but these spells, especially the segmented ones, fill a niche that has went unattended for too long. None of the spells felt too powerful or useless and none duplicate lame effects and have their niche.
The first Appendix is 8 pages long and depicts a cool in-character description on how the book was compiled – being an enjoyable read, this section also doubles as a nice set of adventure hooks for further research of the spell-concepts packed into this book.
Appendix 2 features 8 new cleric domains. (3 pages)
Appendix 3 details 4 Djinni-related Sorceror Bloodlines: Dao, Efreet, Djinn and Marid. (3 pages)
Appendix 4 introduces 8 focused schools for wizard specialists.
Appendix 5 features 8 new familiars, the animated object, the hedhehog, the newt, the poisonous frog, the rabbit, the skeleton, the turtle and the bonsai tree! Yep, the bonsai tree familiar. Awesome idea!
The editing, layout and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any typos or glitches. The book is full-color and parchment-style and features artwork that ranges from fair to beautiful. I haven’t seen the artwork before and really liked most of it.
I did not expect much of this book, to be honest. I was expecting another moderately-inspired compilation of spells. What I got was something completely different: The writing, both fluff and crunch are inspired, segmented spells are an elegant, easy way to implement rituals, quickened spells are useful and I like the concept of spells that let you regenerate minor spell-slots. The appendices add to the overall appeal and feature some nice ideas. For 5 bucks you get an EXCELLENT book on the arcane that is truly “advanced”. The only true gripe I have with this book is, that there is no printer-friendly version included. Advanced Arcana I gets the Endzeitgeist-seal-of-approval nevertheless – I rate it 5 Rudii. Detract one if you want a printer-friendly version. If you want some cool, fresh edges for your casters, check this out.
Next time, I'm going to take a look at...monsters! As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,