EZG reviews Brace of Pistols & 101 Not so Random Urban Encounters

Hej everybody,

today I'm going to take a look at the esteemed Lou Agresta's new sourcebook all about flintlocks,

SGG presents: Brace of Pistols

This pdf is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 13 pages of content, so let's check it out!

After an aptly-written piece of in-character prose, we are introduced to a bried historic introduction of flintlock muskets and pistols, including an artwork as well as a step-by-step description on how they actually work - don't fret, though: While interesting to read, the pdf loses no time to introduce us to a series of new early firearms: From 4-to 8-barreled Duckfoot-pistols (spreading out shots) to derringers, Jezails (long-barreled muskets with a curved stock that can be tucked under the shoulder) and short-barreled muskets (called musketoons), we get a neat selection of them - coolest among them, at least in my humble opinion, being the boarding gun - massive, made to be used as a stationary weapon, it takes a lot of time to reload and when not braced against a solid wall or something like that, damages the wielder with its massive recoil - the damage and spread, though, make this usually stationary weapon an interesting choice for adventurers nevertheless.

After introducing these new types of flintlocks, we are introduced to a selection of new firearm options: If you wanted to have a cane, a codpiece or a similar inconspicuous pistol concealed in a regular piece of clothing or jewelry, rejoice, for now rules are provided to do so. Creating gun traps for doors, chests etc. as well as adding spring-loaded bayonets and even axes/maces and all other kinds of melee weapons to flintlocks is also covered in this section, as is the option to add a second trigger (for sniping). My favorite, though, would be the mortar cup, which enables one to shoot bombs and similar alchemical items - very cool!

Of course, flintlocks are not only weapons and modifications - they also cover supplemental equipment: 3 new types of holster and belts that hold lead balls and prepared shots are covered, as well as silk patches and slow matches (which burn longer and can be woven into one's beard for a bonus to intimidate) as well as cleaning kits. Cleaning kits? Yes, for two optional rules I personally enjoy are part of the deal: Catching fire with flintlocks as well as the influence of bad weather, dirt etc. - the upkeep of a flintlock, cleaning it etc. after all was a significant factor in their effectiveness and thus, these rules make for a cool, albeit wholly optional addition to one's game. Speaking of additional rules: Another optional one is the one to allow rogues and similar characters to perform ranged disable device checks to shoot open locks.

And then there are 4 new feats: "Pistols at Dawn" makes you a master of formal dueling, "Get the Drop" enables you to get a bonus to initiative and make a single attack against an opponent instead of your regular  actions and then there is "Powder Burns" and its "Improved" variant and damn are these two cool: If you shoot an opponent, you may make  a secondary attack against an adjacent opponent, dealing fire damage and temporary blinding said foe. Cool tactical options that come with interesting rules and feel balanced. There are also two new spells, "Imbue shot" (lvl 5) and "Greater Imbue Shot" (lvl 7) that enable you to imbue spells into bullets and in the greater version, even have your shots deal no damage, instead delivering beneficial effects to the person hit. The tactical options these spells provide are rather interesting indeed. The pdf also contains two new magic weapon properties: Auto-loading, you guessed it,  eliminates the reloading action, enabling you to make full attacks, while the Everdry-enchantment keeps powder-weapons, again, you guessed it, dry.

That's a lot of cool crunch, but there's also stellar fluff to go with it: The pirate game of Mahga-mahga, a brutal game of intimidation, torture and potentially death that involves a captive, a chandelier, a lot of grog, a cabin boy/girl, a charcoal stick, a lazy susan, rope, dice and an optional cleric. I'll give you a hint: The captive gets some marks that indicate areas that are hard to hit and assign point values to them. The chandelier will be spinning. Powder burns and greedy grabbing for gold are also expected, as is the wanton consumption of grog. Better yet, the game utilizes the new powder burn feats to maximum capabilities and comes with rock-solid rules to handle this sadistic pastime in-game. Want to know how it works? Buy this pdf. ;)

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I noticed two minor typos. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and provides nice full-color illustrations of most of the new weapons and pieces of equipment to further illustrate them. The pdf is fully bookmarked, which is a big plus in my book.  First of all: Yes, I'm a sucker for firearms and deeply entrenched in the pro-gunslinger camp. However, if you take a look at e.g. my review of NNW's take on the Gunslinger, you'll realize that I'm anything but forgiving when it comes to faulty rules.

"A Brace of Pistols" is an interesting pdf - in just a couple of pages it gives a concise presentations on how the weapons worked, adds a slew of new ones to the mix (including rather innovative rules) and delivers stellar customization options for your gunslingers and scurvy pirates. It is said customization options that are, on my opinion, the star of this pdf - don't get me wrong, I enjoy the optional rules as well, leaning more to a simulationalist style of gaming myself, but they can be easily ignored if you don't like them. The spells are neat and especially the powder burn feats are awesome as well, but along the cool game, it is the option to finally have a codpiece (or even eye-patch)-pistol that made me grin like a shark. Louis Agresta has created an awesome little pdf that could just as well be used to depict steamwork-crossbows and steampunkish weaponry and succeeds in delivering a variety of new tactics that are guaranteed to enhance your enjoyment of flintlocks in your game. For fans of the gunslinger this is a must-buy and for everyone remotely into swashbuckling and some of its not yet covered aspects, this pdf is gold as well. If what I told you about even remotely intrigues you, take a look. My final verdict for this humble, yet incredibly useful little pdf will be 5 Rudii.

But that's not all I've got for you today! By now I'm a rather jaded individual and am hard to impress by most publications. However, Rite's latest installment of the 101-series has managed to do it!

101 Not so Random Urban Encounters

This installment of Rite Publishing's 101-series is different and that becomes readily apparent by taking a look at the page-count - 51 pages, 1 devoted to front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving a  whopping total of 47 (!!!) pages of content devoted to new encounters, so let's check them out!

If you're a patron of Questhaven (Rite Publishing's upcoming city-setting), you'll be familiar with the basic premise of this pdf, if not, I'd suggest especially players to jump to the conclusion. Just let it be said, that the basic premise is awesome and that this pdf takes a completely different approach to encounters than e.g. one can see in Raging Swan's excellent "Caves & Caverns". Instead, the creatures indeed are distinctly "Not so" random.  This pdf is dedicated to me (thank you, Steve!) for reviews good and bad - so in which category does this one fall?
SPOILERS follow.

You have been warned. Still here? All right! In the magical renaissance of Questhaven, there is an organization called "The Fold", essentially an organization of organized monsters - think "The Godfather" with monsters. Worse, all the individual monsters can thus combine their powers, making the Fold a formidable force indeed. Spawned from the rich background currently being developed in the Questhaven-project, this installment of the "101-series" provides us a plethora of NPCs that are tied together by this frame-organization. It should be noted, however, that the individual entries can be taken and used by their own - in no way are you restricted by the narratives to use the beings herein as part of the Fold.

It should also be known that most of the creatures herein have more than one use, one CR respectively and can not only be considered foes to kill, but actually intriguing characters to interact with. Need an example? What about the Rakshasa maharaja who awaits the natural death of his powerful wife to reincarnate her as one of his own people. Oh, and she's an advanced exemplar harridan lamia. (With full stat block!) Said rakshasa also gets his own, modified war juggernaut. Even better, while not every NPC herein gets a full statblock, where applicable, quick modifications provided in the entries can be applied to the basic statblocks.

Not only  are there multiple instances for interesting (and often rarely used) beasts that have been made true characters, including a whole network of relationships entwining the different component parts of this cell of the Fold, the characters also can be considered beyond all doubt iconic: Take Jack Straw, for example: A pale stranger that has lost all ties with mankind and usually appears disguised as a scarecrow! Undead, gunslinging scarecrows? Yes, please! Or take lonely Skanda of the thousand whispers: A collective of thousands of mandragora plants, the creature comes with both a single,  swarm and collective form and takes up three of the entries - and its roots are, truly, everywhere - keeping a secret from this spymaster should provide to be a rather significant challenge. Hunting-falcon style domesticated stirges?  Medusa apothecaries? Or what about an enforcer who is actually a dream-spectre and known as the "Romantic Nightmare" due to its disturbing courtship habits?

In the end, the pdf provides tables by party levels for the creatures to roll, if you're so inclined.
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, they were few and far in-between and did not impede my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to RiP's two-column standard and the artworks are ok. The pdf comes with bookmarks for every 10 NPCs - Cr-information for the respective beings would have helped. I'll come right out and say it: This pdf is not perfect in its formal criteria - there could be more bookmarks and there are minor glitches. Usually, that would deter from my enjoyment of the pdf enough to warrant a downgrade in the final rating. However: This pdf is awesome. Steven D. Russell is an expert writer and I'm a  huge fan of his fluff. Enjoyable to the extreme, this pdf is one of the rare pdfs that immediately make you come up not with a hook, not with an adventure-idea, but with a whole array of possibilities, enough to spark a  whole campaign in fact. It is rare these days that a pdf can truly surprise me with its imaginative potential. Rarer even is the pdf that has me smile at the coolness of the idea and indeed, this pdf had me smile -  a lot.

Colorful enough to be the cast of a novel (or a whole series of them)  the beings herein a so different from what one usually expects that I can wholeheartedly say that NONE of the beings herein can be considered filler. Add to that the intricate web of connections and social relationships and you not only get a vast variety of interesting creatures, but also a portray of a complex crime family that has a staggering array of options and strategies at their disposal, challenging your PCs when trying to outwit the Fold. The writing and imaginative potential contained in these pages is superior and frankly, the characters in most novels are less colorful.

This is one of the installments of the "101 series" that BELONGS into any well-stocked GM-library - and if you're e.g. planning an urban campaign, this is essentially a must. Even better, if your own campaign has become stale, take this pdf and make the creatures herein perform a  hostile takeover of a local underworld or even a kingdom and watch your players struggle. The potential is vast and thus, in spite of my minor gripes, I'll settle for a full verdict of 5 Rudii + endzeitgeist seal of approval.


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

Endzeitgeist out.

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