12.29.2011

New and Exciting #14: Coming Down the Pike

Sensica V
(look for theblood stains)
Hey all!

It's been a busy year, and I've been out of touch for far too long. I'm way overdue for updating y'all, and some interesting projects loom in the future. So without further ado...


What I've Been Up To
Last Adventure
Those of you who follow my work, probably know about the last published adventure, Citadel of Pain. Feedback from fans has been marvelous and Erik the publisher over at Gaming Paper, told me he was happy with sales. So, thank you all!

New Blog Site
I'm writing a novel. There, I said it. I own it, and I've decided to blog it as I learn the form and craft. Putting the decision into action, I built and launched this website: www.bootstrapfiction.com  I cooked down multiple learn-to-write-novels/teach-yourself-to-write from the books on my shelf into one A-Z course, centered around Michael Stackpole's 21 Days to a Novel. Now I'm taking the course I designed as I write my first book. Take a peek and maybe join me for the ride.


What I'm Currently Up To
Sinister Stuff 
I've been in discussions with Nick Logue and took a hard look at some of the work I did for his (now defunct) Sinister Adventures. Two things have come out of that so far: Fire as She Bears and The Known Universe Gazetteer (the KUG).

1. Rite Publishing has agreed to launch a patronage project for Fire as She Bears. For those of you not following the saga, Fire as She Bears was a contest I conceived and launched under the Sinister banner looking for the best rules to handle d20/Pathfinder ship-to-ship combat. I want Age of Sail full broadsides in a Master and Commander mode that fits seamlessly into any d20/Pathfinder game -- and I want every player doing something awesome every turn. No one should ever sit twiddling thumbs while cannons blast and boarding parties rage! I'm very excited about this. My next job is to get Steve the manuscript, and I'm working on converting the draft to a final now. The interested should check back in for more blog posts and updates on the project.

2. Nick turned the entirety of the Known Universe Gazetteer over to me. Lock stock and barrel, including rights to all the art he bought (see example at the top of this post) -- most of it downright awesome -- and I plan to publish the book myself. The KUG is a space setting written for d20 modern. I'm looking into Pathfinder and Traveler conversion -- let me know if there are any other systems that interest you. This book of aliens, monsters, polities, hooks, deadly planets, colorful characters, hooks, and assorted bizarre and macabre space nastiness was written by the Werecabbages, most of them Paizo fan favorites, and I think its pretty awesome. No timetable just yet, but I'm doing it. I'm also talking to my cousin Tiara (Smallville, Leverage) about layout (http://tiararocks.com/); so, we may wind up with some pretty awesome design. Finally, I'm changing the name -- suggestions welcome -- as "the Known Universe" is a working title with no connection to other intellectual properties of the same name.

Now, here's the bad news: Sinister had no plans to release the product, and I'm not meeting any of Nick's preorder obligations on it. Sorry. I just cannot afford to do so. Nick owed you that money. He still owes you that money.


Here's the good news: I'm not going to make any money off of this. It's a labor of love, driven by loyalty to the authors who worked so hard on it and my craving for creative closure. As a result, I plan to give the PDF for free to anyone who can show they pre-ordered from Nick. After which he still owes you your money. I also plan to offer the print-on-demand version at cost to everyone. I don't want to make a dime for myself, and I'm cool with that. More details as this firms up. Timetables and such when I can commit to them, but not before! :)

What I'm Getting Up To
A New Adventure
A ways back Nick and I wrote an adventure for the Dungeon Magazine. They accepted it and planned to release it, just before our beloved magazine died. It was titled "Scorned" and it saddened me, immensely, that this very fun piece never saw print. It was also the last adventure Nick every worked on for Dungeon. Recently, Nick released all the rights to me. It's been Pathfinderized, and I've turned it over to Greg Vaughan at Frog God Games. Word is he's going to publish it; I'm just not sure when. Keep yer eyes pealed if it interests you, and I'll update you whenever I know more.


A New Piece on Flintlocks
For Sinister Adventures, I wrote a mechanics piece -- intended as a companion to Shackleton's wonderful Art of the Duel -- on flintlocks. It never saw the light of day, but its been Pathfinderized by John Ling, and I found another publisher for it. A great 3PP I respect and admire. Don't want to say who until I hear about a publication date, but it should be coming out for Pathfinder in (hopefully) early-mid 2012. Very happy to see this come to closure as well. Again, as I hear more I'll post here.

That's about all for now. Thanks, dear reader, for hanging in there! More words soon.

12.21.2011

EZG goes to Slumbering Tsar- into the Hidden Citadel

Hej everybody,

I'm sure you expected to see the finale of the Road to revolution by now, but I figured that for diversity's sake, I'd make a detour to dread Tsar in this season of cheer and joy to bring the tears back to the faces of your PCs. Thus, without further ado, let's check out

The Hidden Citadel I - At the Feet of Orcus


This pdf is 68 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 62 pages of content, so let's check out the latest installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar saga!

This being the first review of the final section of the Slumbering Tsar-saga, this review not only contains SPOILERS for this particular installment, but for the whole saga. Potential players might want to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid the massive SPOILERS.

Still here? All right!

The end of the epic exploration of the deadly temple-city of Orcus has the PCs use the legendary statues called disciples to call back Orcus' Hidden Citadel, a statue of the demon-lord of undeath as tall as a mountain and this adventure quite literally takes place at (and in!) the feet of Orcus, as the PCCs journey into the true palace of the dread demon-lord of Undeath. The adventure recaps what has gone before as well as the myth behind the demon lord and comes with adventure hooks for the saga. The pdf also includes an extensive set of rumors regarding the citadel and its factions as well as a recap of the effects on the dread aura of corruption infusing the fortress, the pall of Tsar.

As with many of the Tsar-installments, this one also features a series of ready-to-drop-in encounters that happen when a specific story-goal is reached (which often allude to future installments) - these ones especially emphasize the epic proportions of the saga - from the ultimate fate of a celestial spy, the truth behind the midnight peddler and the possible redemption of an artifact, the themes featured herein are sufficiently epic for the higher levels. In case you wondered, the way to defeat the pall is also included in these pages. However, if you're out there to scavenge these encounters, you should be aware that they are rather high-CR and deadly, in fact harder than this particular installment of ST, as they allude to things that happen over the course of the whole exploration of the Hidden Citadel.

The feet of Orcus can roughly be separated into two areas, the great temple and the Death Chambers. It should also be noted that a one-page table fills us in about the ultimate fate of the 51 knights, most of which have been assimilated into the cult of Orcus and converted into undead (and other!) monstrosities. The temple makes for a challenging environment, even for high-level PCs.

The Death Chambers are deadly. The huge, advanced gibbering mouther (predecessor of the things to come - see one of the creatures from the encounters - Bell, the gibbering lich...) as well as the dread silid goblioids who adhere to the Deathbringer order make for deadly foes - their witch queen being an especially smart foe.
The pdf also has a monster appendix featuring the CR 16 Flayed Angel and the CR 2 Toxic Mudman.
The Deathbringer Cult gets its own special weapon quality and a certain artifact gets a haul-over, as its true power is unleashed. Even better, we get 4 pages of player hand-outs and 4 pages of maps.

Conclusion:
 Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. layout adheres to the 2-column, printer-friendly b/w-standard we've come to expect from FGG. The maps are brown/grey and the artworks are neat. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. This is a part of the ST-saga that is rather hard to rate - on the one hand, the adventure is great, the dungeon deadly and the foes iconic. However, while the pdf is good, it also did not have this extreme iconicity I observed with other ST-installments. On the other hand, a lot of disjointed narratives and subplots come together and in rather interesting ways, especially in the metaplot encounters. However, this is also where the format of the serial pdfs somewhat falls short - the mega-dungeon that is the citadel is an organic environment and as such it somewhat suffers from being cut into pieces and, more so than previous ST-installments, this one points towards as of yet unreleased pdfs, which makes running the installment a bit harder. Since the dungeons form itself is very iconic and atmospheric, I'm also not sure whether the adventure would profit from being used to scavenge parts, though the two areas and themes do lend themselves to this endeavor. When all's said and done, this is an awesome installment for everyone following the ST-saga. For everyone else, though, there are better ST-parts out there. Don't let that fool you, though: Greg A. Vaughan delivers and this is once again an excellent pdf - my final verdict will be 4.5 Rudii.









The Hidden Citadel II - Echoes of Despair


This pdf is 50 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving 45 pages for this installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar series.

This being a review of a part of the final section of Slumbering Tsar, this review contains SPOILERS and I'll encourage any potential players to skip to the conclusion. You don't want to spoil this one.

...Still here?

All right!
This installment has the PCs enter the Shanks of Orcus, where Deathhands and overseers, demonic servants and dread creatures await the PCs. Amidst living quarters, demonic kitchens and mega-swarms of all-devouring rats, the PCs will start to encounter... N'gathau! To those of you not familiar with them - think Hellraiser's Cenobites in even more twisted. But not all is dread and despair in this area, as the PCs may actually find and rescue and as of yet uncorrupted hound archon of the original army of light within these halls. (Who also makes for a neat replacement character - after all, the huge gelatinous cube may have consumed more than one PC..)

That's not all that can be found, though: We also venture into the Templar's Garrison, where deadly black skeletons remain as guards and dread Wight-lord Vai maintains his strict regiment over his section of the fortress's grounds.

Any religion like Orcus needs a steady supply of slaves and thus, the slave quarters of the fortress are also covered in this installment and offer a chance for the PCs to save a legendary paladin from his predicament. They may also clash with a monitor demon (and his 5 new spells), a dread char-goblin lich aand finally, the creations of the Magitect: A unique transmuter-turned construct who has, among others, created a dragon-like construct called "Caustic Purger", Troll-flesh Golems and similar monstrosities.

We get 4 pages of new monsters, 2 new specific weapons and 1 specific weapon quality, 1 page player handout and 5 pages of maps, one of which is a nice, key-less overview map that you can cut up and hand to your PCs - nice!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I've come to expect from Frog God Games. Layout adheres to a classic two-column b/w-standard and the pieces of b/w-artworks are mostly STUNNING. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks to ease navigation.

Surprisingly, the excursion through halls laden with despair provided to be fun and, dare I say it? Amazing. The "Boss"-foes once again are at the top of their respective games and especially the Magitect and his creatures make for challenging, cool foes. the amount of detailed maps also made this installment of ST rather intriguing. More importantly, I think that for people who want to scavenge from the final dungeon of the epic, this installment holds more ready and is not as focused on meta-plot as its predecessor. While it would take some work, I can see the content of this module easily work on its own. Seeing that content-wise there is more desolate, unique imagery than in its predecessor and that I enjoyed this installment, I do have some gripe with it. It is deadly, it is grand - but as of yet, the Citadel of Orcus just doesn't feel as grandiose, as dark, as deadly as the temple-city to me when it should ooze urgency, antiquity and raw evil. While this may yet be remedied in future installments, for now my final verdict will be 4.5 Rudii.









The Hidden Citadel III - The Throne of the Demon Prince



This pdf is 64 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD and 1 page blank, leaving 58 pages of content for the third section of Orcus hidden citadel, so let's check it out, shall we?

This installment of the citadel, as all the others, details a part of the finale of Slumbering Tsar, thus my review will contain massive SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.

...
Still here?
All right!

This installment details the Lap of the gigantic Orcus-statue that makes up the citadel - in concordance with the life-giving associations of the lap, it is here that once the huddled, fearful mortal servitors toiled for their undead and demonic masters.
In the artisan's quarters, the PCs can not only enjoy a decay-riddled vista over Tsar, but here, in a once-posh restaurant, they will find wolf-spiders to fight and even a queen of the magical beasts to kill. If you're like me and your players once stood against Miska and successfully defeated the Wolf-Spider against all odds, any encounter with these magical beasts feels like a blast from the past. From Potters, to chandlers to all the other craftsmen needed in such a huge citadel, the quarter adds a whole new, almost simulationalist perspective to the citadel and makes the dungeon feel more organic, albeit in a decaying, undead, shambling way. Special mention should be given to the Jeweler and moneylender: The first offers a valuable piece of treasure and nice information on the ultimate fate of one of the most elusive rogues in history, while the other is haunted by dread, deadly time flayers. We should also mentioned the aerial cavalry-animals, spider-eaters and their queen - dread hornet-like creatures with the ability to implant their young.

The entertainment district is overrun by megaswarms of dretches and still boosts some of the decadent pleasures once available to Orcus mortal followers - from the arena to the rather lethal sadist's club (led by a succubus dominatrix), the PCs will have plenty of obstacles to overcome. Not the least will be the bathhouse, featuring not only a witch tree of the vilest kind, but also some elite nagas and their mortal servants. And don't forget Lady Slaeth, the Marilith sorceress mistress of the local brothel: She can be considered the "boss" of this area and her entourage. Information on one layer of the Abyss is also provided in this section, as there is a gateway and it's permanent.

Oh, have I mentioned the game of Kerouz, an abyssal kind of dice-game, in which the PCs can participate against a table of deadly, bored players including a rakshasa, imps, an ifrit... you get the idea. And of course, not only is the game deadly, your very soul is at stake when playing...
And never mind the deadly, abyssal minotaur cleric of Baphomet prowling the corridors...
The appendices deal with the new dretch megaswarm (including a new artwork), 4 new magic items (3 of which get awesome b/w artworks), 1 page handout and 4 pages of maps, one of which is an overview of the whole area, sans keys and thus suitable to be printed out, cut into pieces and handed to your PCs while they are exploring. I might be the minority, I'm not sure there,  but I really enjoy these overview-maps.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the classic b/w-2-column standard by FGG and the b/w-artworks are stunning and mostly (when not taken from the ToH) at the top of the beauty-scale. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks.

This installment is curious in that it delivers some relief from the undead/demon-heavy installments by showcasing some depravities of the mortal and more relatable Orcus-worshippers still seep through the decay of the citadel, the PCs will be challenged by the lethal adversaries herein. Much to my enjoyment, the now derelict stores make the dungeon feel more organic, real and believable - you can almost taste the levels of decadence within these halls. On the other hand, I felt that mood-setting information, visions etc. would have gone along way to make this particular part of the dungeon even more memorable. As for its stand-alone qualities - if you're looking for a kind of abyssal dungeon city of depravity, you might want to check this installment of Slumbering Tsar out. My final verdict for this installment will be 4.5 Rudii due to this nagging feeling that some of the potential of this area remains untapped - in particular, I would have liked to see a demonic drug den, more depraved remains of the practices of the servants of Orcus etc - something to emphasize this area's blending of the urges of Eros and Thanatos in the most depraved ways possible.









All right, that's it for now, folks! Next time I'm going to conclude the Road To Revolution! See you then! And in case I don't get to write before then: Happy holidays!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,
Endzeitgeist out.

12.13.2011

EZG reviews The Usurpers

Hej everybody, it's been some time!
Without further ado:

Road to Revolution V - The Usurpers


This adventure is 67 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 60 pages of content, so let's check this out!

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

Still here? All right!


With the potential of the prior two adventures ending cataclysmic and the PCs hard-pressed to explain their recurring hand in these conspirations, they are summoned to the castle to attend a meeting of the Blood Senate. Any PCs venturing through the Great City immediately should recognize how grievous the situation is. Arriving at the castle, they will have to contend with a lot of pawns of their mysterious enemy - From one person with a semi-legitimate claim to the throne, a lich, the drunken revolutionaries Hardy Brutes, Ariana Blackwell and just about all movers and shakers of the Great City. Among the people present are corrupt guards, elite assassins, a doppelganger and foes from previous adventures of the Arc - if they survived, that is! The castle is detailed in extensive detail over 5 pages of maps and the e.g. a page of scullery maids and similar NPC-encounters are provided to keep the adventure dynamic.

The opposition of the status-quo wants to spring their claim for the throne and assassinate Lord Erasmus and thus, once the usurpers move, the whole castle erupts in a glorious, messy chaos of shifting allegiances, attacks by Lich Thralls and a complete shut-down - it's up to the PCs to either support the new order, their benefactors from previous books or keep Erasmus alive - each of the movers has his/her/its own agenda and the whole adventure, from the point where the meeting escalates, becomes a sandbox. Generally, the uprising takes place over 3 Phases at the end of which we'll know whether the pawns of the BBeG triumph or not - however the adventure ends, the PCs will have seen the advent of change, as the leaders are occupied in the castle and the BBeG tries to waltz into the city to establish HIS new order, which conveniently diverges from the one of his respective pawns.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are ok, while I did notice some glitches, there were not too many there and they did not impede my overall enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks rock. The cartography of the castle is awesome as well.

I can only pull my hat off to author Tim Hitchcock for what can only be considered a task most daunting - providing an escalation to the last two adventures as well as a complex, believable scenario for the coup d'├ętat that has been in the making since 4 adventures. Even worse, the sheer amount of variables leading up to this adventure make me wonder how exceedingly difficult it must have been to write this adventure. Being smart, the adventure is written in sandbox-style, guided by 3 general phases and thus making running it as versatile an experience as possible. The detailed plans for the major NPCs and amount to detail provided for the castle makes running the Usurpers manageable. HOWEVER: This adventure is still HARD on the DM - given the scope, this is not surprising, but extensive preparation on parts of the DM is a requirement for running this sandbox, and it still can be daunting and is definitely a challenge to even experienced DMs. It is an immensely  rewarding experience for any DM to run, but also a challenge that separates the wheat from the chaff. A matrix of the respective rooms and phases would go a long way to make this adventure easier to run and also facilitate determining the final outcome of the module - as written, a lot of checking who holds which room etc. might be in order. That being said, this adventure is a one-of-a-kind insurrection, a hard-to-run, extremely complex sandbox with severe repercussions and more outcomes than most campaign finales. For experienced DMs, especially people who have run the several adventures in the Great City or a similar urban environment, this module offers a challenge that should be answered with preparation, skill and patience. The result is an epic adventure. However, novice DMs will be severely pushed to the limits by running the Usurpers. Thus, my final verdict will be two scores: For novice DMs, this module means A LOT of work and 4 Rudii. For experienced DMs, though, this is a 5-Rudii module of the intriguing kind. 








As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,
Endzeitgeist out.