today I'm going to check out a great adventure by Headless Hydra Games,
This adventure is 27 pages long, 1 page front/back cover, half a page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 24.5 pages of adventure, so let's check it out!
The pdf adheres to the two-column formatting standard. Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches or typos. The only strange decision of the formatting is that the front and back cover are on the same page, which is a pity as the cover image is nice. There are also some enumeration-dots missing on the last page. Once you check the file out, you notice something immediately: The layout is GORGEOUS. Apart from Green Ronin, I've seldom seen such an appealing, awesome layout: K. Axel Carlson did an outstanding job. The same goes for the ncie pieces of b/w-artwork - they are nice and professional, especially nice is the b/w-artwork of the academy one can show to the PCs. The 3 maps of the academy are also nice - the cartographer Butch Curry did a good job. The adventure is designed for 4 to 5 characters level 5-6 and includes information to scale it to 3rd or 7th level. While it is set in Headless Hydra's Mor Aldenn-setting, it can easily be transferred to just about any city that could house an elite boarding school.
That's about all I can say sans spoilers, so potential players beware and jump to the conclusion.
This adventure is INTELLIGENT and detailed: The basic plotline is that one of the instructors of an elite-boarding school for noble children to be trained as fighters wants to stage a hostile take-over of the school. He does that via the help of a sorceress who is in fact, without his knowledge, a hag with her own agenda. Armed with the arcane knowledge, he digs up the remains of the one instructor that died in an accident (which has been hushed over and is more or less forgotten) and forces the spirit to haunt the academy to scare the pupils away, ruin the reputation of the school and open his own school. Note that he is not evil, though, and wishes for no-one to get hurt. The hag (part of a coven) has her own agenda and want to eat the children. The hauntings have already driven away several pupils when the PCs are approached by the headmaster.
After a cool, challenging and detailed investigation, the instructor fakes his death and the PCs hopefully find the missing remains of the instructor before facing a challenge like I've never seen before in an adventure: Going on a field-trip with a bunch of children. That's right, the PCs will have to look after a lot of children, defend them against a hill giant and, of course, thwart the plan of the hags, who will try to lure the children to their doom via illusions.
This is where the adventure COULD take a very dark turn indeed, although the adventure specifically advises against this, I wanted to mention that the imagery of the hag-encounter is worthy of authors like e.g. Richard Pett.
The adventure concludes with the PCs returning to the school and the final confrontation depending on the amount of information they unearthed.
The adventure features the instructors and 19 sample pupils with their own personalities and social dynamics.
I really like good investigation adventures. Unfortunately, they tend to be few and far-between and this adventure is actually a prime example of a GOOD investigation adventure. There are several clues to unearth, more than one path towards victory, massive roleplaying encounters and a fine plethora of personalities. More interestingly, though, is the fact that I haven't ever read an adventure like this. Set in a boarding school, not mean-spirited at all but with this almost dream-like quality to transform into a nightmare. This adventure can be as mature or as funny as you wish and the author Ron Lundeen has done a terrific job of capturing a unique flair that has not been done thousands of times before. I highly recommend this adventure to any DM who wants to master an interesting investigation that he doesn't have to artificially complicate for the players to be a challenge. I recommend this to the hard-core ROLE-players out there. It's a great purchase and my only criticism is with the minor formatting glitches, resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 Rudii. Excellent job!
While we're at it, why not check out intelligent magic items?
This pdf is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 16 pages for the 30 intelligent magic items, so let's check them out!
The pdf kicks off with an aptly-written IC-introduction , information on intelligent items. The items include stats, senses, paragraphs on appearance, history, personality, powers, construction requirements and where applicable, special purposes and greater powers.
The items are:
- Altairvat, Seeker of the Dark: A crystalball containing the mind of a diviner driven insane by entities from beyond the stars.
- Astijhen: A full-plate mail for horses with some fear and curse-related powers.
- Atham the Blacktongued: Pan pipes that can send people into nightmare-ridden slumbers and speak with the dead.
- Bahijja the Flatterer: Paranoid scrying mirror that encourages owner to hold grudges.
- Bassa of Masad: Heavy shield that can bite and summon nature's ally.
- Gathib's Teeth: Set of hyena teeth to be worn in mouth grants bite attacks.
- Ghorev the Unlooked-For: Shrunken bird's head can change into a crow.
- Ha-Min's Circlet: Charitable headband of intellect.
- Ha-Min's Trinket (Artifact): Take and protect kappakin.
- Jaril-Junaid: Raging duelist's scimitar with a sense of honor.
- Javar Javarah the Comforter: Greatsword with divine abilities.
- Jealous Jaden: Shatterspike weapon that hates other magical weapons.
- Kassantera the Deceiver: Wooden harp with abilities to confuse and deceive others, can even modify memories.
- Karkinos: Sealed Iron barrel is actually a lobster-like plane-travelling apparatus.
- Ma-Oot-Mah-Zoor: Crystal skull mask grants necromantic abilities.
- Marrija: Clone-creating mirror.
- Marav Azab: Ornate, enchanted walking stick with several travelling abilities.
- Nasirdil: Bloodline-associated ring with summon abilities.
- Navishan: Amulet that improves negative energy channeling.
- Nukramajin's Hand: Skeletal hand held together with wires enables you to speak with dead and raise them.
- Parzamon: Cloak that makes user more persuasive and can dimension door wearer away.
- Ranklikor: Full-plate for horses, can cast haste, overland flight and daylight.
- Red Najaddi: Free-spirited flying carpet.
- Sageseeker: Metal headband devoted to destroying abberations.
- Salchuk Carpet: Flying carpet with druid-like minor defense abilities.
- Stormshaper: Forgiving and nice hide armor with cload giant-related abilities.
- Tam: Mummified gnome hand with helping abilities.
- Tannarik: Assassin's crossbow that tries to dispose of tyrants.
- Tchottochtum: Spear of Orcish warlords.
- The Bat Queen's Cloak: A cloak with bat-like powers used to impersonate a witch queen.
Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any typos or glitches. Formatting adheres to the two-column standard. The pdf is full-color and follows the stunning, cool layout you already know from the free Pathways e-zine and thus stunningly beautiful. The items are rock-solid mechanics-wise, but where the pdf truly shines is when it comes to the stories, histories and background information. Their powers are also nice and they have an awesome, kind of exotic feeling somewhat reminiscent of Arabian nights mythologies without necessarily limiting the items to them. More importantly, it is absolutely stunning to see how much information the T.H. Gulliver managed to cram into the scarce few sentences available. The artwork provided for some items is beautiful and nice. For the low price, I'll settle for a hearty recommendation of 5 Rudii.
All right, that's it for now from me, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,