EZG reviews the Midgard Bestiary

Hej everybody!

With the Midgard adventure anthology pumping forward, I figured I might as well check out the bestiary released for Open Design's much anticipated Midgard campaign Setting! Thus, without further ado:

Midgard Bestiary

This pdf is 109 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 103 pages of content, so let's check this out!

If you're like me, the new Open Design is a must and an integral and compulsory drain on my campaign budget and thus, I grew to be more than a fan of the stellar community-driven projects that came out of Open design ever since I stumbled upon it. Thus, this bestiary was essentially a no-brainer I HAD to get. After reading Adam Daigle's (now of Paizo fame, but known to just about everyone, I gather) introduction and thanks, we jump right into the content with two creatures from "Tales of the Old Margreve" - the disturbing Ala and the woodland Alseids greet me once again from the pages, before we get the first critter that should set a precedent for the imaginative potential herein: The CR 14 Andrenjinyi, direct descendants of the Rainbow Serpent, make for deadly combatants that feature the ability to travel via rainbows. Even cooler, they can swallow foes, baleful polymorph them and regurgitate them after wards. And then, we get one of my favorite entries herein: Baba Yaga's 3 horsemen Bright Day, Red Sun and Black Night come with a sample statblock as well as one of the best templates I've seen in quite a while - have I mentioned their abilities to age you or be banished via just the right spells?

Less epic, but still interesting is the Bagiennik, a strange race of aberration that can heal via their oily secretions and make for unpredictable allies/foes. Fans of Nick Logue's writing and the stellar OD "Blood of the Gorgon" in particular may rejoice at the conversion of the Blood Hag to PFRPG and the disturbing new artwork provided. Among my personal favorites, the Oculo Swarm is a  tangle of acid-squirting, eye-extracting things, while the evil sandmen seek to close your PC's eyes ...forever. The Urochar, also known as strangling watcher, is perhaps one of the most disturbing  aberrations I've seen in quite a while and at CR 17 is definitely no pushover.

The CR 11 Bone Collective was one of my favorite critters in "Empire of Ghouls" and the subsequent partial reprint in the "Imperial Gazetteer" - for those not in the know: Imagine a humanoid undead that is actually an almost indestructible swarm of bones with a hive-mind. The leaping Bone Crabs are another old acquaintance I enjoyed seeing here.

The CR 2 Broodiken is supremely creepy: Looking like a small babe of the species with a fanged, old face these constructs have to be birthed by their creators. Disturbing indeed! The sonic-blasting Bukavac can be considered a neat alternative for the Destrachan, while the anthropomorphic Burrowlings, who resemble prairie dogs might prove to be  interesting allies with a superior grasp on certain teamwork abilities. The beasts of burden of the drakhul-empire and many an underdark civilization are also part of the deal with the Carrion Beetles and the potentially lethal Cavelight Moss also makes a beautiful, but deadly appearance. With the Darakhul and their empire being a part of the canon, we also get stats for these high ghouls, imperial ghouls, iron ghouls and the legendary  bonepowder ghouls - one of the creatures that I personally consider awesome. The allied Deathcap myconids also feature in this book
The spellslot siphoning Chelicerae-spider-creatures and the iconic children of the briar (the latter also known from TotOM) provide more earthly foes, while the devilish chorts make for deadly deal-makers at a CR of 15 and their CR 17 Orobas brethren offer infernal advice. Ink Devils, servants to Titivillus, the scribe of hell, also get their revision and the gilded devils in service to Mammon (which you might also recall from a specific KQ/OD...) also see a return. . Part of one of the ODs I have missed (probably Steam & Brass or new, I'm not sure), is the disturbing Automata Devil, which is essentially a hellish clockwork taskmaster.

Very in touch with the folk-background and sense of ancient traditions, the Cikavak is a magical bird that can be called via a ritual detailed in its entry. A bane of the fey, the plant-construct Feyward Tree makes for a truly unique change to the plant+fey-trope with its flaying leaves, while the firebird can be considered to a mortal version of the phoenix. Northlands patrons will recall the Thursir Giants and Valkyries.  Goblin sharks and the dust goblins also feature herein, as do the Lich hounds which just may rip your guts out!.

But honestly: What do you think when hearing Zobeck? Bingo, Clockworks! And thus clockwork beetles and swarms, haunts, huntsmen and myrmidons feature just as prominently in these pages. The castoff failures of the gearforged, the Fellforged, also get their own entry, as do the weaving, mechanical spiders of the honorable order of weavers.  If you're going for a more fey-like approach, the Death butterfly Swarm might make for some iconic and disturbing encounters - remember the Fringe-episode "Dreamscape"? Yeah, well these are worse. You can't even run from these things and once they have you, they may hold you while cutting you to shreds! No less disturbing, possibly even more so, is the Derro Fetal Savant, a prematurely born, mad fetus in an enchanted cage that can exchange souls with potential host bodies. I think this one was part of "Halls of the Mountain King" and it's great to see this particularly disturbing bugger be converted to PFRPG. More on the cute, but deadly side is the dire weasel and the dogmole. While the latter is so ugly it's cute again, the derro-created mutation of the Dogmole Juggernaut will send many an adventurer fleeing for their life.

And then there's one of the coolest critters I've seen in quite a while: The Doppelrat resorts to arcane mitosis when stressed out  and  for 4 rounds when stressed, the number of live doppelrats quadruple up to a maximum of 20 per doppelrat. This critter is pure, iconic GENIUS. If you can't see the vast multitude of cool ways to freak out players, create seeds etc. with this and create truly disturbing scenarios (Mouse-King of Zobeck, looking at you!), I don't know which critter can do so.

Fans of dragons and drakes also get their due with the cave (I think that one was also Empire of Ghouls) and mithral dragons and the coral (See Sunken Empires) and the massively powerful CR 15 star drakes, which are to my knowledge, new. Disturbing and rather smart, the Dragonleaf tree are plant-sentinels loyal to their draconic masters. Oh. And the artwork rocks hard!

On the disturbing side, the eel hound, a deep one's best friend, is included in the book and drowned maidens also feature herein. Will-o'-wisp-like witchlights and sparks are also here to thwart your PCs - e.g. by possessing them!

Golemcrafters also get 3 new creatures, each of which brimming with iconicity - Salt-, Eye-, and Steam golems. All of them featuring more than one signature abilities - great! The disturbing Horakh is a dread version of a cave cricket - the beasts suck the eyes out of their opponents and implant eggs into their victims.  Boreas' Ice maidens, half-merfolk and the Isonade from "Sunken Empires" can be considered among the cooler and more iconic beings from OD-projects.

The Kot Bayun, a magical cat that can cure conditions via their tales and put foes to sleep is another prime example for a creature that can work as an iconic adversary or ally. Devious house-spirits, the horned, crone-like Kikimoras and the Lorelei make for smart fey, while the Leshy, Sap Demon, Suturefly and Zmey (many-headed dragon, btw.)  from TotOM complete  a selection of stellar creatures with ties to nature. The Shadow Fey also get their write-up here, as does the vulture-like Gypsosphinx.

The hunting Stuhac, a powerful leaper, has the ability to telekinetically hamstring his foes and some neat vermin are included in the book, as are the wharflings - fur-less, ratlike, swarming creatures. My personal favorite little creature at low CRs, btw., would be the Treacle: A shapeshifting, charming ooze that takes on the appearance of e.g. kittens or infants, only to drain your blood while you're charmed by the cute little bugger.

The pdf also provides lists of monsters by type, by CR, by terrain, by monster-roles, almost two pages of reskinned monsters and closes with 2 pages of encounter tables.

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I didn't notice any obvious glitches. Layout adheres t a 2 column full-color standard and the pdf is BEAUTIFUL. The artwork provided show that they belong to different projects with some being b/w while others are full color, but overall they have in common their top-tier quality. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. I can't comment on the print version yet, though I've ordered it - as soon as I get my hands on it, I'll let you know. Adam Daigle + Monsters. If that does not make you twitch with anticipatory glee, the you probably haven't read one of his books. Even better, many of the creatures from the no longer available Open Design projects that were 3.5 have now finally been updated to the PFRPG system and what an update - signature abilities abound and in fact not ONE of the creatures herein feels like filler. Not one. From the expertly done conversions (by Adam Daigle, Chris Harris, Michael Kortes, James McKenzie, Rob manning, Ben McFarland, Carlos Ovalle, Jan Rodewald, Adam Roy, Christina Stiles, James Thomas and Mike Welham) to the great and smooth graphic design by Marc Radle and the neat artworks, this bestiary feel like a true premium work.

While I endeavored to tell you about some of the creatures herein, I quickly started to realize that I liked all of them. And no, I haven't mentioned every creature herein, I have e.g. not mentioned the leech vomiting putrid haunt... Well, now I have.

If I have to criticize anything about this pdf, it would be the format: While I applaud the update of as of yet unconverted beasts to PFRPG from ODs that have been unavailable to the general public, I would have loved for ALL of the creatures to be updated - the "Mother of Gorgons" for example, is absent from this book. The monsters reprinted from the Imperial Gazetteer, Sunken Empires, Northlands, TotOM and other sources that already are PFRPG also feel rather unnecessary - after all, these books can still be bought, are up to the current rules and are rather affordable. If the aim was to collect all monsters in one book, I would have understood the reprints, but there are quite a bunch of beasts missing, including the iconic Ljósálfar and the Nightgarms, just to name two. While I guess they can still be included in the second Midgard Bestiary, I would have loved either all of the creatures to feature or at least have e.g. all creatures from e.g. the closed ODs to feature herein.

 One can't have everything, I guess, but complaining about this should give you an inkling of how good this bestiary is - I lack any reasons to complain apart from the recycling of PFRPG-monsters from other OD-books and seeing the amount of unavailable 3.5 project-creatures and original monsters herein, even that is not enough to tarnish the bestiary. Being a stellar monster-book, my final verdict will be 5 Rudii, but I'll omit my seal because with all the OD-books I already have, I would have preferred more original monsters or a complete collection.

All right, that's it for now! As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG revies Your Whispering Homunculus

Hej everybody,

today I'm going to take a look at the compilation of Richard Pett's excellent articles!

Your Whispering Homunculus

This pdf is 169 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 162 pages of content, so let's check this out!

"Your whispering Homunculus", or YWH, for convenience's sake, is a column in KQ written by Richard Pett, one of the undisputed masters of creepy adventures and perhaps one of the greatest adventure writers of our current generation. But what exactly do these columns cover? Details. Any DM worth his salt is aware that details go a LONG way to making a given setting immersive and believable and YWH provides exactly that, in spades. Being a collection of articles with added new material, the articles herein run the gamut of crunchy to being primarily fluff-concerned and cover quite an interesting breadth of topics - and interesting may mean hazardous and at the same time amusing: the first article features 20 dumb bets - which include swallowing coals, balancing axes handle down on your chin or eating raw potatoes. If you ever needed to drive home that the commoners around here aren't the brightest lights in the sky, this will be a godsend. Of course, once the PCs have succeeded in besting a local, their gathering information endeavors may be thwarted by something different - like 50 topics of conversation that may be used as hooks to create your own adventures, red herrings, or just spicy fluff. Later in the book, we also get a neat little local-topic-of-conversation generator.

Horror is hard to pull off, as are weird moments and thus, 30 weird moments are provided for your convenience that range from creepy singing children to strange occurrences and mass hysteria, which could be easily tied to the 20 new village legends.
Of course, not only occurrences can serve as fluff - 50 characters passing by and 50 weird circus/freak-show-style performances are also included in this book. Of course, the PC may also spend their coin in 100 strange new shops and emporiums and potentially purchase 100 new pointless objects that may very well serve as either red herrings or adventure hooks at your discretion or one of 50 strange treasures (which come with GP-values). If the PCs buy one of the magic items for sale, they should beware - while not cursed, there are 20 malfunctioning magic items which add a bit of spice and unpredictability to the world and magic - which is always good. Predictable magic disenchants me.
After having had a magical mishap, the PCs may want to dine and  50 local delicacies can add a certain twist to the local menus, perhaps being available only on one of the new 20 local holy days also contained herein. Perhaps they are trying to sell one of the 20 humanoid treasures or even forget about one of the 27 strange things they could encounter in the sewers. And should they go out at night, they might e.g. meet Tarb Rustwind, who is convinced the PCs are haunted by an invisible demonic pig named Sabdyne - and he's only one of 20 strange fellows!

Friends of our often neglected d12 will rejoice, for there are a lot of neat "dozen" tables - from barkeeps to insides of pit traps, weather changes, starting disposition modifiers in conversations, minor afflictions, battle-scars on monsters, watch captains, goblin chiefs, unusual rooms (e.g. a sludgery...) and village squares provide quite some food for our poor d12 to be used.  Oh, and if your PCs are in the city, be sure to make sure of the new 12 consequences of bad rain and 10 instances of bad snow in the city! And if afore-mentioned goblin chiefs need some servants - there are 100 goblin features make them distinctive!
If you want the PCs to go to the horse fair (perhaps due to owning 4WFG'S "Phantasia Zoologica" or NNW's "Steeds and Stallions", a sample one, including a race, is provided, as is an article on (un-)common breeds of dogs and advice on how to freak out players and play to their sense when their PCs are alone, but they obviously aren't.

There is also an article that uses the troll-touched template to introduce us to a variation on the concept of adaption/degeneration. More on the appetizing side is the new feat and 20 sample ales that add magical effects to dwarven ale.

I already mentioned monster scars, but in this book, we also get mechanical rules for monsters that have actually been mangled - from disfigured nymphs to hydra-stumps to an extremely cool mini-bestiary on one of my favorite critters Ankhegs! I'm not sure whether it should be worrying, but this section contains content I have also used in my campaign with variants prior to reading this. Pett is in my mind! AHHHHHH.....Oo The Bestiaries also have a section on variant Basilisks and the trog-kin template.
A short article explains a subschool of malignant magic, variants of regular spells that impose a toll on their casters but are also more effective than their regular versions - I would pay for a malignant treatment of ALL spells in the Core/APG/UM/UC, as they make for a great take on magic that is inherently...taxing and potentially corrupt.

Random encounters and adventure seeds also get the patented Pett-advice on increasing their details and potential creepiness-factor. And have I mentioned the stats for the master, his homunculus and the homunculus's familiar stirge?

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the standard-paperback one-column standard and artworks, where applicable, are stock. While the print version is nice, there is something jarring in the pdf:  Pages 31, 35, 41, 51, 63, 77, 81, 87, 93, 111, 115, 121, 129, 151, 157, 163 are empty in the pdf. While I get that you want new chapters to start on the left when holding a physical copy, I found the blank pages to be irritating in the pdf - if you print out the book, you'll have a lot of blank pages. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. What can I say about a book that compiles perhaps one of my favorite series of articles from one of my favorite authors? The content is top-notch. Unfortunately, the organization of the content is not flawless - why e.g. not put the variant monster-entries back to back, the templates back to back, the random weather entries back to back etc.? Organizing the book according to themes would have made it much more user-friendly. Instead, the book opts to present the articles as they've been written. While ok, this makes the feeling of the overall book rather disjointed and potentially harder to navigate than necessary. Don't get me wrong, I think ANY GM can benefit greatly from the lecture of this book - it's a smart, cool set of tools to enrich your game with details, details, details and even some cool rules here and there.  However, I also think that the organizational decision and lacking structure hurt the book and that the blank pages in the pdf are unnecessary at best and potentially very irritating at worst. Thus, while I want to give this book the full blown 5 Rudii plus seal of approval, I just can't. Instead, I'll settle for a verdict of 4.5 Rudii for the print version (in which the blank pages make sense) and a verdict of 4 Rudii for the pdf due to them making no sense there and the lack of organization of the articles. Still: Go ahead and check this out! Chances are you'll gibber with glee!

All right, that's it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Fane of the Fallen

Hej everybody!

Today I'm going to take a closer look at one of Frog God Games' first publications that was NOT Slumbering Tsar, but which is only slightly less epic in scope, the

Fane of the Fallen

This epic adventure is 172 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 164 pages of content, so let's check this out!

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

Still here? Righty right! This adventure kicks off with a raid on the city of Brookmere, where the PCs are researching some information or another in the city's famous library. It's said library that is surprisingly the focus of the raid of an elite-army of goblinoids. The PCs will try to stop the invaders and probably just fall short of stopping a mysterious woman from stealing an obscure tome. After this raid and the excitement in the burning (fully mapped) library has subsided, the PCs will have to bear the white flag to the local clan of Orcs to find out whether the green-skins have violated the treaty with Brookmere.

Once the PCs have reached the Orcs, they will have to prove their worth by battling a zombie-dragon - after all, their insinuations have insulted the orcish sense of honor. Once they have somehow passed the challenge, the chieftain is willing to help them if they kill some rather deadly troll renegades. Once these creatures, now living in an abandoned barrow, have been cleared out, the treaty between the goblinoids and Brookmere is considered renewed and the PCs might even score some loot - if they messed up, war with the horde might be impending!

The trail of the attackers leads towards a small community called Sylvanus. On the road there, the PCs will encounter a deadly medusa's statue garden and her lair, in which the smart fighting creature will provide for a dread challenge. At the foot of Mount Bloodstone, a commoner asks for the PCs help as another side-trek: In order to save her daughter, the PCs will have to scale the mountain, brave fully detailed yeti and stone giant caves (not necessarily to fight them, btw.!) and save the girl from the Roc-mama who has adopted the girl. Said daughter is also fond of the roc chicks and the mother-bird, making a non-violent solution again preferable.

After these sidetreks and tribulations, the PCs will reach Sylvanus, or rather what's left of it: The town has been deserted by all but some huddled, frightened survivors and is now haunted by a pair of deadly vampires. To make matters worse, the true culprits start becoming apparent: Elves. Lilith-worshipping, demonic, fallen elves that would make drow blush not only with modesty, but also due to their vile practices. Their extremely beautiful, insanity-inducing fallen harpies (failed priestesses of the succubus-queen) and a rear-guard of the invading force is still around, making this the first encounter with this adventure's main antagonists. In order to save the villagers and unravel the mysterious plot of the elves, the PCs will have to track them into primal and eerie Harwood Forest.

Once in the depths of the forest, they will encounter a vast array of villagers and foes, turned to wood by a xenophobic druid and his wood-elemental Gertrude. In order to reverse the transformation of these innocents, the PCs must successfully scale the Druid's Tree lair and deal with his challenges, convince him to let the villagers go...only to find out that the artifact he could use to revert the transformation has run out of juice. Only one could help: BABA YAGA.

Yep. The Crone is in here. With full stats. CR 29. Don't screw with her or her artifacts. The presentation of her hut, though slightly less compelling than in "Tales of the Old Margreve", is AWESOME. In order to coax the necessary information from her, the PCs will have to hitch a ride with Charon in the Land of the Dead. To Circe's Island. To steal an egg from a phoenix and make the noble creature cry. Twisted, iconic, stellar...and potentially an aspect the PCs could skip all together. Just like a sojourn into a cursed barrow, where an entombed lich awaits. As soon as the crone has been satisfied a race against time begins: Lilith's chosen Medb, a succubus of extreme power confined to an artifact axe of the vilest power is the fallen elves' true goal - the villagers will be sacrificed according to a rite in the book stolen from the Brookmere-library. Thankfully, the axe is still confined in the temple inside the meteor-crater of Tunguska. After exploring the now-corrupted and extremely well-secured temple, an elite-squad of fallen elves will try to wrest the axe from the PCs - hopefully in vain.

Only one thing left to do: After saving a paladin in a sacrificial ceremony, the PCs will have to jump into the dragon's maw: In order to stop the machinations of the Fallen Elves, the PCs not only have to infiltrate their hidden city of Nowgorod, they will also have to get into the castle, eliminate the vile race's leaders and save a whole village from the depths of a multi-level castle that constitutes the power-base of the whole nation of vile, decadent demon-worshipping elves. Inside await a vast majority of high-level NPCs, arch-wizards, golems and soldiers - of all the high-level modules, the castle possibly makes for one of the deadliest challenges I've read for PFRPG. I only have one minor gripe in this section: While the castle is highly detailed and includes information on alert-responses etc., I found the lack of details and handwaving of the infiltration of the city unfortunate: With all the exquisitely-detailed side-treks, I couldn't help but feel like one side-trek less and more information on city Nowgorod and its customs would have improved the central story-line of the adventure. The queen, perhaps a legendary succubus-champion, several CR 16+ wizards and a whole city of fallen elves...and then there's the potential problem of escorting a whole village of prisoners out of the succubus-like elves' corrupt town.

The pdf also contains appendices with wandering monster tables, compiled stats of fallen elf strike squads (very useful for these complex high-level encounters), new monsters, new magic items,4 player's handouts.


Editing and formatting are excellent: I only noticed 3 glitches on this many pages and all were minor punctuation errors. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks ROCK. There are a lot of them, too and we get maps for even the tiniest side-trek. Awesome! Even better, the city-maps are player-friendly and don't include annoying numbers. One downside of the book is quite eminent: I'm glad I managed to get a dead-tree version - the pdf doesn't have bookmarks. At 164 pages, bookmarks are a NECESSITY, not an option. The lack of bookmarks forces you to print out the adventure, in spite of the compiled stats of the elite enemies, to have any chance of running it efficiently. On the fluff-side, "Fane of the Fallen" is on the one hand pervaded with stellar old-world fluff and a true sense of epicness. On the other hand, several of the side-treks cut be skipped by the PCs and the central plotline has a minor weak spot near the end. And then there's the lack of bookmarks in the pdf-version, which at this length, is unacceptable. Content-wise, I'd settle for a 5-star Rudii, but the lack of bookmarks and story-hick-up instead make me settle for a 4-Rudii-verdict along a recommendation for everyone who's looking for an epic, old-school challenge.

All right, that's it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

 Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Adventure Quarterly #1

Hej everybody!

If you're like me, you came to know Paizo via Dungeon and Dragon and while I LOVE Pathfinder and the books they put out, the whole format in fact, I also think that Kobold Quarterly and its success proves that there's a market for magazine like Dragon. Well, now, Rite Publishing steps up to provide us with a magazine containing adventures in the vein of the Dungeon magazine, so let's take a look!

Adventure Quarterly #1

This new magazine is 76, one page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving a whopping 70 pages of content, so what exactly is this new magazine?

Well, first of all, it is a collection of 3 adventures by ADAM DAIGLE, TIM CONNORS and TIM HITCHCOCK. Yep. If those names don't ring any bells, I probably can't help you - they are stellar authors. Secondly, we get short supplemental articles. Sound familiar? The closest analogy I could think of is the following: If KQ is the spiritual successor of Dragon magazine, Adventure Quarterly could be considered the heir to Dungeon magazine and the very first module by Adam Daigle could have been released in that form in Dungeon, but before I go into that, be aware that from here on

SPOILERS reign. Potential players read on at their own risk and to the detriment of their fun! I'll clearly denote the end of the SPOILERS before the conclusion.

Still here? All right! Adam Daigle's "Too many Cooks" is a delightfully quirky short scenario for low-level characters that can easily be placed in just about any larger town/city/metropolis. In this scenario, a megalomaniacal cook has stroke a deal with some mites to provide psychotropic berries. In order to get rid of his competition, he essentially is abducting and drugging them. Whether you intersperse the module throughout another adventure or run it straight, the PCs investigation will slowly piece together what's going on and potentially be drugged themselves, at least temporarily. Once they have braved tengu-raiders, massive rat infestations and done their research, they're going to be in for a truly awesome showdown in a large kitchen, including a table of improvised weapons, complex potential hazards and the possibility to get hook-impaled and then dropped into a meat-grinder! For extra fun, add Adamant's "Cooking with lass" and you're in for an unconventional scenario with a fun tweak and some potential for memorable and hilarious scenes - develop the psychotropic hallucinations for extra fun. It should also be noted that the module comes with one page containing dundjinni-created maps of all the locations in the module with supreme details and in full color.

The second adventure is by Tim Connors and called the "Book of Promises" and has a basic premise that is most interesting - souls are at stake. A cabal of devil-worshipping never-do-wells has a deal with the great A to collect souls and all their infernal contracts are stored in the "Book of Promises", which is stored in a vault - the PC's task will be to reclaim the book and prevent thus the souls from going to hell. Add the recent torrential deluge that has resulted in massive floods in the city and everything just got complicated.  even worse, the vault in which the book is stored is protected by an extremely potent magical defense that prohibits access - unless the supplicant has a special kind of permission. Which the PCs might obtain from their quest-giver in a midnight game of poker/cards that can be a frame or an actual game. Unfortunately for the PCs, they are not the only party sent to retrieve something from the vault - apart from the devil-worshipping, shapeshifting members of the forked legion, they'll have to contend (or even ally) with a duo of araneas and a coven of witches, which, in a nice twist, might offer the means to determine how to destroy the infamous book. The delve into the vault turns out to be a rather interesting one that takes the water and location into account and culminates in a final, epic free-for-all brawl between the different factions the PCs encounter during their heist. And then there's an option for a truly heroic sacrifice to end the threat of the artifact once and for all...

The final new adventure by Tim Hitchcock, at least to me, takes the awesome-cake. Set after a war that has just ended, the PCs are presumed to be the disillusioned survivors of grand war that now has them return to a backwater swampy area under the command of an immortal godking Xilomac VIII - megalomaniacal and ancient, the godking's spire rests on muddy ground, ensuring that each year numerous of his subjects are worked to death to prevent his own personal take on the tower of babel-trope falling to ruin. It is after a hunt for an insurgent that the PCs arrive in the eponymous festerbog, where, they meet a long-lost brother of one of the PCs, who has been cornered by the elite-assassins of the god-king. With his dying breath or thankful for his life, the insurgent imparts crucial information: The constant rebuilding of the spire  has left a cistern sunken and unused, but still - a valid way into the otherwise impenetrable fortress of the tyrant. With the keys now in their hand, it is up to the PCs to brave the sludge and muck and defeat the strangely mishappen creatures below, the degenerate kin.

The revelation of where they come from, pronounced by the godking's now unbodied and forever cursed ancestors (which turn out to be floating brains and spines), sends the PCs on the right track - into the complex system and up to the top-most-levels of the mad king's ziggurat, where they will not only marvel at the beauty, but also find a more than deadly foe in the godking. The adventure ends not with his defeat, though: An artifact, the soul siphon, which has enabled him to live and created the despicable kin, must still be destroyed, lest it fall into other hands. In order to do so, though, the PCs will have to brave the deepest recesses of the ziggurat's system and finally find "A Thing called Us" - an advanced, extremely potent meld (those of you who read Hyperconscious know what I'm talking about), updated to PFRPG (and by the way - the thing on the cover) awaits the PCs. In order to destroy the artifact, the meld has to consume it and a PC must hold it. Wrestling free the brave one before he is absorbed should be quite a challenge, especially with the being spawning foul flesh salves. Worse yet, the thing starts to mutate once the PCs have fed it and the escape through the system before the rapidly growing beast dies in a terrible shockwave. This escape is not only expertly presented in cinematic quality, but also timed IRL, making not only the PCs, but also the players sweat. It should be noted that this adventure comes with 4 sample 12th-level characters with extensive backgrounds that are intertwined with certain aspects of the module. If you want to run your own PCs through it, some setting the stage and planning is required. 

Oh, and what I've forgotten to mention: This adventure is wholly compatible with Psionics Unleashed and not only makes for a stellar example of Sword & Sorcery-style adventure design with a sense of bronze-age-antiquity, but also for one of the finest psionic adventures I have yet read. You can definitely see that Tim Hitchcock has been influenced by Nicolas Logue and his stellar adventure-writing - the imagery, sense of dread secrets best left undiscovered, a general feeling of decline and decay, nomenclature and the expertly-created psionic foes make for a truly compelling scenario, whether with the pregens or your own group. If you like psionics, this alone justifies the fair asking price. if you're on the fence on whether you and your players enjoy them, however, this is definitely an awesome example on how to use them in your game. Tim Hitchcock not only proves that he is a stellar author of dark scenarios, but also gets the rules. Two thumbs up!

The pdf closes with a write-up of the secret society from the second adventure as well as a contribution by Raging Swan mastermind Creighton Broadhurst: The random tribal name generator! In 3 easy steps and over 4 pages, we get descriptor and words that can add a sense of wonder to even the most basic humanoids you fight as well as identity and detail to your world. Great little toolkit!

Editing and formatting are very good, as I've come to expect from RiP. I only noticed 3 minor glitches over the whole issue. Layout adheres to RiP's 2-column full-color standard and the artworks are mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a MASSIVE map-pack that contains high-res versions of the maps as well as tifs, pngs and collated versions of the maps with legends etc. to print out. Unfortunately numbers and secret door indicators are included in them, but still: The beautifully-detailed dundjinni-made full-color maps for each adventure are a massive plus in my book. I've said it in the beginning of this review and I'll say it again: If KQ is the successor to Dragon, then AQ is the successor to Dungeon. Especially for a first issue (remember the humble beginnings), this magazine is VERY impressive. With the quality authors and their excellent modules, there is simply no reason not to get this - each adventure in itself has at least one or more original, unique ideas going for it and Creighton's generator is a neat bonus indeed. Psionic fans HAVE to get this anyway, but even if you're a die-hard hater of them, the other two adventures still justify the low asking-price. And reading "Soul Siphon" might actually change your mind. Ok, that was a bad pun. Before I start to ramble on, I'll give you my final verdict: 5 Rudii + Endzeitgeist seal of approval. These adventures rock!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews the finale of Slumbering Tsar

Hey everyone!

Today marks the end of an era. When I was still getting into the whole reviewing thing, when I wasn't half as active  on the boards as I am today, there was an interview on this very blog. An interview which contributed greatly and yes, perhaps even sparked the whole drive to putting the epic Slumbering Tsar-saga out there. Without this place, there probably would be no Frog God Games today and frankly, I don't know whether I'd be here today, reviewing this for. Thus, it is my honor and pleasure, loyal readers, to bring to you the final 3 reviews of the epic saga. Enjoy!

The Hidden Citadel IV - In the Belly of the Beast

This installment of the Slumbering Tsar-saga is 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements and 3 pages of SRD, leaving 51 pages of content for the fourth installment of the finale of saga, so let's take a closer look, shall we?

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

Still here? All right, this time, we're in the literal belly of the dreaded citadel - here the Pcs can solve some minor puzzles (altar activates doors), battle gigantic cathedral beetles, encounter the mysterious oathstone, where thousands have bartered away their souls and potentially scavenge the remains of one of Orcus' finest disciples. Oh, then there is the horn that both the disciples and PCs may blow. It has a 1%-chance of summoning... ORCUS! Well, an avatar of the demon lord, but still - CR 35. Suffer, you wretches, suffer! Also contains in these halls are the citadel's scriptorium (including Dark Custodians), tallow-works (including tallow golems) and the mausoleum can also be found here.

Now if Orcus + Mausoleum does not ring a bell, then let me phrase it out for you: Deadly, deadly undead and failed champions of good riding nessian hellhounds ahead...and an undead cyclone that spawns the living dead! Hell yeah! Have I mentioned a dread living disease, a legendary behemoth gorilla vampire (including stunning artwork) and the possibility to encounter the very first Grand Cornu of the Citadel, now turned Demi-lich?

Of course, the citadel also includes a depiction of Orcus' wand and in this installment, the PCs may finally explore it and find the Belfry, the home-base of the dreaded, practically indestructible Bell, one of the bosses of the dungeon. (More on this one in my Hidden Citadel I-review.)

The second area covered in this installment is the bosom of Orcus, where the dread wizards of the college of Glazerel once studied and played their pranks on one another. It is also here, the PCs will have to battle one of the Lich instructors. It should also be noted that some of the more creative traps can be found in this part of the fortress. Where things really get interesting, though, is in the laboratories, where proto-creatures and abandoned weapon-experiments lurk. It is here taht PCs can e.g. save a legendary unicorn-cleric of old and test their mettle against the legendary protean keeper - if they are not irreversibly transformed by proto-matter, that is (a 3d12-table provides some sample mutations).

In the appendices, we are introduced to the Dark Custodians, Living Diseases, Proto-creatures, 2 artifacts (all with artworks) and  maps: We get an overview map (very helpful) and 7 pages of maps for the respective areas. Even better, key-less maps will feature in the final product!

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. layout adheres to the elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks are neat, especially, the original/new pieces. The pdf is fully bookmarked and comes with extensive map-support. I immensely enjoyed this installment of the Slumbering Star saga, as I do just about every piece of it, but as with the other installments depicting the Hidden Citadel, your ability to scavenge individual parts might be impeded - The Citadel is ONE dungeon with a lot of ties to other levels, meta-quests to succeed in etc. and while I did have no complaints about this installment and enjoyed most of the dungeon immensely, I did somewhat feel like this could be even better - if your PCs battle a certain lich and try to get rid of the smartly defended phylactery, you'll know what I mean. Nevertheless, I would have preferred more information on the respective areas, what once happened there/still does etc. Mind you, there is a lot of information - I just would have loved more to make the sub-section of the dungeon more distinct. Thus, my final verdict will be 4.5 Rudii.

The Hidden Citadel V - The Mind of Chaos

This pdf is 60 pages long,  1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 55 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Thus, I encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion of the review.

Still here? All right! This time, we're going up to the topmost levels of Orcus legendary sanctuary - in ths installment, the PCs will have to brave not only the upmost levels of Orcus' citadel, but also their inhabitants and oh boy, they are HARDCORE. Even the regular guardians consist of modified creatures and e.g. Gray Render-zombies. The creature "Soulless" would for example be a glabrezu juj-zombie - but that's not all - home to the most corrupting rites and chambers of the elite of Orcus' host. Gibbering mouther fast zombies, mirror fiends, the most depraved of fey and a slew of high-level vampires await the PCs, seeking to end the incursion of these meddling mortals.

Have I mentioned that Soul Reapers prowl these halls? Crucifixion spirits and fallen angels stand ready to end your groups and end them they might - the senshal, major domo (btw.: cleric/disciple of orcus/fighter mummy) and other major players in the hierarchy await to truly challenge the mettle of the group. Corrupted planetars and legendary champions of good remain, now tarnished by Orcus' pall in these halls and a sense of extreme, deepest bowels of the abyss-level evil and despair pervades these halls and offers the PCs a glimpse into the vast corrupting power of Orcus - n'gathau, legendary demons, balors, broken spirits - rarely, if ever, has a module featured such an array of extremely deadly foes, such a who's who of complex rogue-gallery-style legends and, if foreshadowed correctly (something DMs of the campaigns should definitely do), meeting these legends and what they've become should prove to be a jarring, potentially extremely disturbing experience indeed.

The true climax of this part of the module, though, lies not in fighting the foes herein, but in finally reaching the Crown of Orcus, where the knowledge of the PCs will be tested in a contest of riddles (YES!) that are based on whether the PCs have found out about the background story and can correctly interpret what has happened here. Rewarding thusly clever rpging and investment in the epic, this section is truly my favorite part of the dungeon so far, as the story of Tsar and piecing together what has happened here finally reaps rewards. And pieced together it has to be - the saga does not offer the details on a silver platter, but perseverance is rewarded - if the PCs manage to defeat the now corrupted legendary hero Lord Bishu, one of the CR 21 bosses of this module.

The appendices contain the stats for the dretch megaswarm-monster, 1 page containing a new magic item and a property, the disciple of Orcus PrC, two handouts (one being the Grand Cornu's testament) and 10 pages of maps, leaving only the very last part of Tsar for the PCs to explore - after these challenges, though, they will probably dread the things to come - and hopefully rightly so!


Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. The pdf adheres to FGG's b/w-two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The handouts and maps are of the quality we've come to expect from the series and I look forward to the player-friendly versions of the maps in the final, epic tome. The foes in this installment finally do it: They're smart. They're dastardly evil. They can be considered true bosses. They're deadly with a capital "D" and they pull no punches. This installment finally feels like the PCs have entered one of the deadliest, vilest places to blight the planet and perhaps the multiverse and in order to triumph, they will be challenged in all regards. This is epic. This is brilliant. This unfortunately does not work half as well if you haven't read the whole saga. But who cares - this is, indeed, a fitting climax and several of the foes herein would make for valid campaign end-bosses. But they're not. The true masterminds are still waiting in the wings. The climax is coming. After reading this, I expect a challenge of epic proportions, a finale of truly epic and dreadful revelations and challenges. I loved this installment - Rudii + Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

The Hidden Citadel VI - Caverns of the Barrier

This pdf is 56 pages long and introduces us to the grand finale of perhaps the most epic adventure ever published, the finale to the Slumbering Stars saga and it clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement and 2 pages of SRD, leaving 49 pages of content, so let's check out whether the finale of ST can top the stellar penultimate module!

This being an adventure review and one for the finale of the series to boot, this review contains SPOILERS for the FINALE. Players, you know the drill and believe me, you want to skip to the conclusion.

All right! Still here? Last Chance...

Ok, here reign the SPOILERS. The PCs by now have completed the exploration of the Hidden Citadel and have to brave the very depths to uncover and thwart Orcus' final gambit by climbing down St. Haru's Well and right from the start, the utter sense of ancient evil permeates every word as you read it. After essentially butchering their way through the elite cadre of Orcus' clergy and his corrupted adversaries, the PCs are in for a change. A PUZZLE! A complex, smart PUZZLE! YES! In order to proceed, the PCs will have to brave an ancient problem (which can be solved via skill checks, but where's the fun in that?) and then cross a huge chasm - animated arms are stuck in the ceiling and  thus PCs can cross the deadly chasm by swinging from grasping hand to grasping hand - if they manage to avoid (another minor puzzle) the trap among the hands. If you're stunned by the iconicity of this, just wait until the PCs meet the disfigured giant ferryman who, via his huge, deformed fist, might ferry them to the caverns in the shell of a dead albino dragon turtle across demon-infested waters.

Once the crossing into what can be considered an original tribute to underworld mythology has been braved, the PCs won't have a respite and essentially face an army of Orcus' chosen black orogs (some of which come with extremely deadly bristles) on their home territory and we're indeed talking about the very worst of a strike force anyone could muster - a DM worth his salt can give the PCs truly a run for their money and a vast, epic battle/infiltration etc. is all in the realm of possibility. Several CR 20+ elite champions, ettin  strikers and Orcus right hand, the demon lord Sonechard await the PCs. Yes. Sonechard. The demon lord. Is part of the opposition. As is an elemental earth dragon. And these are not the final bosses! Throughout the vast complex, insight on this isolationalist society are conveyed via exploration and the sequential battles and responses to the PCs incursion and your players as well as PCs are going to be challenged to their utmost abilities if they not only want to breach the territory of the orogs, but actually stamp out the vile breed and find the truth - in fact, the PCs may actually experience a vision that not only explains the genesis of the goddess Hel, but also that of Orcus!

And then, there's the utterly epic final battle and it's not against Orcus, but against the ultimate perversion of a draconic being - a sleeping golden dragon, infused and tarnished by Orcus foul will has been transformed  and corrupted and is supposed to one day become Orcus' chosen receptacle. An epic, final showdown against an ancient draconic being thus serves as the ultimate showdown of the epic Slumbering Tsar-saga and may actually result in the rebirth of a belief that has been forgotten as well as providing a fitting conclusion to this truly even now legendary saga. And rest assured that I have not mentioned all this conclusion has going for it.

The pdf also includes an appendix with the Disciple of Orcus-PrC, two pages detailing the hierarchy of Tsar's military and church and 9 pages of maps.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column standards and the b/w-artworks are neat. The pdf comes with full bookmarks. I was rather hoping for this saga to end on a high note and with all the quality ideas and sense of ancient evil permeating the saga, I was sincerely dreading the Mass Effect 3-effect. I'm happy, extremely happy in fact, to report that this finale represents a brilliant and fitting conclusion of epic proportions to all the suffering, sweat and pain of the PCs. The descent, the final battle, the dread force, the lost truth the PCs can uncover. The Puzzle, the challenge. Any group of PCs who considers themselves at the top of their game - this saga is a challenge to your experience, your ability to persevere and defeat the worst the dread Demon Lord of Undead has to throw at you. Tsar is Abyss on earth, perhaps even worse. And it is this sense of epic threats, of an almost undefeatable evil that brings out the best and worst in PCs as they brave dangers beyond the ken of just about any module out there. Take up the weapons, memorize your spells and look at this challenge - a wasteland, a huge city, an iconic dungeon. Your PCs are standing against the ultimate taint and perhaps the doom of your very world. Gear up, pray to your gods, enter the desolation and brave the dangers. This conclusion to the saga is a worthy finale indeed. My verdict? 5 Rudii + Endzeitgeist seal of approval. 

All right, that's it! I'll write again about the exclusive chapter from the hardcover as soon as I have it! As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.