Necromancer Revenant: The Slumbering Tsar Saga

As many of you know, I've a vested interest in Slumbering Tsar, Greg Vaughan's half-million word mega-adventure on the rise of Orcus. After all, it was an interview on this very blog that helped re-invigorate interest in this magnum opus. Well, I'm happy to say it's finally here -- happy even if Vaughan's adventures have slain more of my characters than any other authors'. For real. It's also no longer news that Necromancer games has risen from the grave as Frog God Games -- insert big cheer! -- or that they're publishing Slumbering Tsar. Finally, my fellow RPGAggression reviewer, Endzeitgeist, has a full and detailed review of Tsar planned. He's less biased than me and more thorough, so I'm going to leave that review to him. Instead, let's take a moment to talk about how Frog God circumvented the challenge of publishing a 500,000 word adventure -- a challenge that daunted even the publishing might of Paizo and the old Necromancer Games combined.

The short answer is: subscription model + installments. Frog God offers the Slumbering Tsar saga in 14 installments.  You can buy installments for a few dollars each PDF, or you can subscribe to the whole thing and receive a hard cover  at the end of your subscription - a deeply discounted hardcover. Actually, Frog God offers us at least three different options: Premium (Subscription + discounted Hardcover), PDF only subscription, and PDFs + Hardcover, no Subscription.

It's a great little publishing model, in my opinion, filled with options. The most attractive option (Premium) offers the publisher the security and benefits of pre-orders without denying the customer (us!) an immediate product for our hard earned dollars.

I'm off to order now. I am so going to make Greg Vaughan sign my hardcover at least once for every character of mine his adventures have killed.

I hope his book is long enough.

Look for a full review of Slumbering Tsar at RPG Aggression from master-reviewer Endzeitgeist!


Endzeitgeist's start a campaign for free Part II

In my last installment of "Start a campaign for free", I have marveled at the question whether it would be possible to start a new campaign without paying a single buck and introduced you to The Lonely Coast by Raging Swan Press as a free default mini-setting. Now, after you had enough time to digest the cozy piece of land, I'll venture on to look for a free adventure to spring upon your players. My requirements for the adventure were as follows:

- It has to be easily adaptable to a new setting/be generic enough. Thus no campaign-setting specific adventures.

- It has to be long enough to cover multiple sessions of gaming.

- It has to be free. (D'uh.)

- It has to fit in the mini-setting established in the previous installment, both in atmosphere, technology and the magic-level. 

That seem to be quite harsh criteria, however, I was able to unearth one adventure that fit them all:

Horror at Dagger Rock by Sagaworks Studios.

For those of you unfamiliar with my review of the adventure, I'll repost it here:

This pdf is 74 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page OGL, 1 page credits that leaves 70 pages of chock-full with adventure.

The module features 6 adventure hooks and several maps for almost every location in the adventure:
5 small maps of houses in the adventure, 1 player's map of the town Relford without any annoying letters or revealed secrets. Very nice. Furthermore, we also get 2 pages of DM-maps.

The adventure per se, a dark tale about a cult with a nod towards Lovecraft county, is highly detailed and can be described as a sandbox-style free-form investigation followed by a hardcore dungeon crawl that is very atmospheric and expects players to use both their brain and their common sense to defeat the obstacles they'll face.

The investigation works fine, due to the excruciating attention to detail that has been given to the NPCs - even wives and children have their own names, every entry features DCs to glean information in addition to the massive 1 page rumor table.

The adventure also features MASSIVE handouts for players (at least for such an "indy" production): A 4 page journal, 2 One-page letters, 1 One-page missive and 1 One-page crude map. This should be standard.

We also get 2 new monsters, one of which is a template.

The quality of the prose is high and the atmosphere evoked makes the adventure a nice read.
The writing is very concise and offers the DM the tools to pace the investigation and modify the difficulty/pace. Make no mistake: This adventure cannot be run spontaneously and should be carefully read and prepared, it's too densely packed with information and fluff to be glanced over.

My only criticism is the lack of interior art, which would cost one Rudi.

As mentioned above, I'd normally detract one Rudi due to the lack of interior art. However, the adventure is tightly and intelligently written and: It's for free! It's a large, high-quality adventure and it's for free. If you are somewhat into old-school gaming or like horror, check it out. My final verdict, taking into consideration that this adventure is free,  would the be 5 Rudii. 

All right. Now we have a mini-setting, a first level adventure and what do we still need? Bingo! Additional goodies! Next time at "Start a campaign for free" I'll look for some free supplemental material. I'll also soon post some reviews of other stuff, so stay tuned! 

Thank you for your patience and good gaming to you and yours,

Endzeitgeist out.


Endzeitgeist reviews "The Great City's Player's Guide"

Hello everybody! With the recent ennies, a certain guide has garnered some publicity and that's why yours truly will grace the pdf with his longest review yet. I really hope that you enjoy reading it and that it is helpful with deciding whether to check the guide out or not. The short answer is: Check it out. :)

The (very) long answer follows:

The Great City Player’s Guide

The pdf is 111 pages long. 1 page Front cover, 1 page blank (inside the front cover), 1 page credits, 1 page table of contents,1 page OGL, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover. There are extensive bookmarks and the editing is mostly good, but there still are some minor glitches and one PrC had been hit hard by a spell-level typo.

That leaves us with 104 pages of content, starting off with 1 page Foreword by Tim Hitchcock about what to expect.


Chapter 1:Races is 8 pages long:  We get 2 human ethnicities, Azindralean and Kortezians (both with new racial traits, 1 for the Azindraleans and 6 for the clans of the Kortezians) and the Gur, goblin-half-bloods with three different sets of abilities: One for Half-Bugbear, one for Half-Hobgoblin and one for Goblin-blooded Gur. We also get the Half-Giant race updated to PFRPG, complete with fluff and either psionics or a non-psionic variant. Nice. The final new race are the Roachkin. Who thinks of a cheesy cockroach-race will be either relieved or disappointed: Roachkin are actually degenerate humans that have evolved into something similar, yet slightly different. After that each of the core races gets some paragraphs on how and where they fit into the Great City, as well as one new racial trait per core race.

None of the races of the chapter and none of the racial traits seemed to be too powerful or unbalanced. I enjoyed the flavor-text for the core-races and think that both the Roachkin and the Half-Giants are well-implemented. I like psionics, so I’m glad that they get a bit of love. As a reviewer, I’m glad for all the people disliking psionics that there is a non-psionic alternative. Personally, I was abit disappointed that the new races didn’t get a fluff-introduction on how they fit in the Great City, as I was intrigued by both the Half-Giants and the Roachkin (I don’t like the name, though) and thought that the Gur could have used something like that. As written, I wouldn’t want to play a Gur, but that’s just me.

Moving on to new classes (26 pages):

-Cultkiller (Fighter-type, 2+Int skills, d10, 2 good saves) is an interesting class that does exactly what the name suggests it will: Annihilate cults and cultists, breaking their conviction, routing them out, etc. The abilities are a nice blend of some social skills, tracking, investigation and a tiny sprinkling of supernatural abilities. Somehow, the class reminded me of Robert E. Howards Solomon Kane as a character concept.  The cultkiller is neatly balanced and not over-the-top and could be used in d20 settings that happen on our earth without looking out of place. Nothing to complain. Nice work!

-Ghostblade (Fighter-type, 4+Int skills, d10, 1 good save) is another new fighter type. This one is centered on the idea of an ancestral blade that can be upgraded via the abilities of other magical items and bound ancestral specters he can use for rather potentially creepy supernatural abilities. I really liked the concept of the class and have but one gripe with it: One of the Spirit powers obtainable for the Ghostblade, Read Past, has the potential to break many investigations: On a successful strike, he learns the past, secrets etc. of persons when they fail a Will save. You can, of course disallow this one ability, as I plan to do. Or fudge the die-roll. Or build your investigations around this feature. However, I wanted to warn that this one ability has the potential to be abused. Players should ask their DM about this one.

-Guttermage (Bard-type, 6+Int skills, d8, 2 good saves) is a medium caster, has access to a limited spell-list up to 6th level spells and gets the ability to fling debris in a lethal way at his opponents, with the ability getting better at higher levels. Mechanically, it’s a ranged touch attack that begins with 1d6 and does up to 10d6 slashing, bludgeoning and piercing damage on 19th level. It can be used at will, but needs debris for the attack to be possible. He also gets so-called Jinxs, abilities that help making him the stereotypical beggar/crazy-man with supernatural abilities like calling vermin, scrying windows, fooling enemies, creating hidden stashes and the like. I found all of the possible jinxs to choose from interesting and they WILL see some use in my games. We also get the complete Guttermage spell-list. There is one downside to the Guttermage, though: He casts with CHA. While I realize that spontaneous casters usually cast with CHA, in the case of the Guttermage, I just don’t like that decision. CHA includes both personality and looks and I’ll change that to INT as his casting attribute.

-Neopagan (Caster-type, 4+Int skills, d8, 2 good saves) is essentially an anti-caster divine spell caster, with WIS as the central attribute, spontaneous casting and a spell point system, not unlike that used by psionics. However, she can ready an action to counter enemy spells and add the level of the countered spell to her essence points (the points she uses to cast), but only up to her maximum essence points. The class also gets its own, rather limited, but interesting spell-list. It is clear that the Neopagan is designed to be a nemesis to caster and that’s where I have my problem with the class: It hits one of my personal pet peeves. Unlimited counterspells will never, ever find a way into any of my games. One could argue that the limited spell-list is big enough an offset to negate the benefit of the unlimited counterspells and I can see the class working for other people. It doesn’ t work for me, though.

-Urbanist (Gadget-type, 4+Int skills, d8, 1 good save) is a tinkerer/gadget-type class. Using a fuel he can build himself (without cost), he powers his tools. He can craft and learns to substitute a select number of spells for purposes of crafting. He also gets an Automaton, an improving, mechanical familiar creature that is somewhat customizable. The alchemical fuel can also be used to make weapons magic or give them magic qualities for a select amount of time. He also has an injector, enabling him to consume potions faster than usual and even combine them at higher levels. His most distinguishing feature are his trinkets & gadgets, though. They are powered by his limited amount of alchemical fuel and are plain AWESOME. Seriously, I’ve been looking for a class like this for quite some time and the Urbanist actually does work (in contrast to any gadgeteer-class I’ve seen so far), does not require too much crafting-math and is just plain cool. There is something to nitpick here, too, though: I want more gadgets and trinkets! Especially for the high-level inventions, we don’t get too much variety. I’d instantly buy more pdfs to support the Urbanist. My favorite class of the bunch.

Then, we get 2 pages of new feats. Some help the Urbanist, some are more general. They are ok, not overpowered and I didn’t consider any of them flawed. I didn’t consider any of them brilliant either, though.

The next chapter is called Professions and is three pages long. And something that should have been done long ago: It contains rudimentary rules for PCs who also have PC-appropriate professions in addition to their adventuring careers. Be it Zealot, Sherriff or bounty hunter. The section also includes a new NPC class that my PCs will need sooner or later: The Barrister. Very nice chapter, and extremely concisely presented.

After that, we get 17 pages of Prestige Classes:

-Crossroad Guardian (d8, 4+Int skills, 1 medium save, 5 levels): Luck-based gang-class that gets abilities from the classes he came from, i.e. spells, sneak attack or combat feats. It also has a sidebar offering advice on roleplaying luck. It’s an ok class and possibly very fun to play.

-Insurrectionist (d10, 4+Int skills, 1 medium save, 10 levels): The insurrectionist has buff-abilities for his allies, can find hide-outs and is a great story-driven class if you want to start a revolution/insurrection. He also makes a great leader. That being said, the class is a niche class and not for every campaign, but if your campaign goes that direction, the insurrectionist makes an awesome leader and prime candidate for the new order after the rebellion. Recommend for any PCs who go in that direction.

-Moon Warrior (d10, 4+Int skills, 2 good saves, 10 levels): The first thing I saw was that the class can cast spells of 2nd til 6th level and figured, that would be a typo. The text explains that the spells are drawn from the moon domain. OK. However, the text says, the Moon Warrior may learn new spells and lists the requirements to cast them. There are no first level spell-slots in the class as presented.  There seems to be something wrong here:  Either the 1st level spell list is just not here and the wording of the spellcasting ability is kind of ambiguous, or the class should have the standard spell array from first level till fifth of casting warrior classes. In conclusion: A holy warrior class with moon abilities and focus on spiked chains and not becoming a lycanthrope whose spell-casting paragraphs are confusing.

-Numismatist (d8, 6+Int skills, 2 medium saves, 5 levels): A mage/bard-class that focuses on commerce, fast divination by coin-toss, swift thefts, coin-traps and the flow of money, makes for an interesting and innovative idea. I like the class.

-Rooftop Runner (d8, 8+Int skills, 1 medium save, 10 levels): The class is a cat-burglar class that gets all the hide and movement benefits you might expect, mage hands, invisibility, squeezing through tight spots and on higher levels even helps other character with infiltrating and granting severe skill-bonuses to the allies. A nice specialist class for rogues who are drawn to a rather glamorous trope of their occupation.

-Sewer Runner (d8, 6+Int skills, 2 medium saves, 10 levels): The Sewer Runner is a hardy expert of surviving in the filthy environment of the sewers, including resistances against negative conditions, wall-skittering, dire rat companions and the like. It’s an ok underdweller class.

-Shadow Mage of the Gray Consortium (d6, 2+Int skills,1 medium save, 7 levels): The SMotGC is a shadow mage that focuses on shadow, light and darkness-spells, shadow concealment, better shadow metamagic and the like. While not a bad class per se, I liked the Shadow Mage incarnation from Tome of Magic (I expanded the number of mysteries known and tweaked the class a lot) and some Shar-worshipping 3.5.-PrCs better. The abilities of this class almost feel balnd in comparison to the new base-classes and some other PrCs.

After this chapter, one central question remains for me: Will we get PrCs for the NEW races and especially the new base classes in this book? I would have preferred PrCs for the new base classes to some of the generic PrCs here. (Shadow Mage & Moon Warrior, I’m looking at you – Why is the Moon Warrior not a Neopagan-PrC? I think that would have worked nicely…)

The next chapter on Organizations is 8 pages long and introduces more than 20 (22 to be precise) new organization-based traits for several organizations in the Great City and also introduces two new organizations, The Auctioneers (including 2 new traits and a side bar with rules for auctions) and The Marad, the organization behind the new Rooftop Runner PrC, complete with 3 new traits. I like this chapter, as every organization sparked at least one concept for a new character concept and/or an adventure.

Tongs is 7 pages long and all about small conspiracies and parties. The idea is, that Tongs provide characters with simple one-on-one mission for instances, when he whole group can’t meet and provide benefits in exchange. An awesome idea! The execution is also great:  We get 5 Tongs, each with 10 sample hooks for missions and a special ability granted for completing a set amount of missions. Great story-telling devices and cool fluff. I would have loved to see more of the tongs, perhaps we’ll get some complete missions in a future installment of the Great City line? Perhaps in small, cheap pdfs?

Then we get the 4 pages of new Equipment:  From trick bolts and arrows to hidden compartments, stilettos and the like and also offers advice on Gaslight influences in fantasy like in the Great City. 4 very concise pages that will see use in my games.

The chapter on Magic items is 5 pages long consists of 17 new magic items, 1 new minor artifact as is all killer, no filler. All of the items have a distinct flair and flavor. I’m frankly too lazy to do the math for every item, but I didn’t notice any obvious blunders.

The section on Property is 4 pages long and once again, presents very concise rules for the cost of property and the upkeep costs in regions of The Great City. There is also a table on mishaps that can happen to your property and even some quick rules to avoid taxes are provided – A fun read, as I think adventurers too often get around in-game economics.

Then, we get a short 5 page-treatise on Astrology and Religion, portraying the months and star signs of the great city, another new trait, 5 deities and 3 new domains. Ok, I guess and I liked the domains. They were not as generic as I half expected them to be, but still, this chapter is winning no innovation price. The constellations are nice, though, and I think, I’ll use them.

The inevitable chapter containing New Spells begins with 3 pages of lists of the new spells, followed by 7 pages of spells for a total of 10 pages. I have to admit that I did not expect too much. I was wrong: The spells contained herein are all intelligent, cool and distinctively urban in nature and will be useful and satisfying for anyone running a campaign in an urban setting. For anyone else, too, I guess. Spells like Flicker, which grants a temporal respite every day/hour/year/etc. from a negative condition are adventure hook- and tactics-gold. Thus, the regular part of the Great City’s Player’s Guide closes with a bang.

Finally, we also get a short 2-page Appendix of conversion advice to convert the file from PFRPG to D&D 3.5. A nice bonus for anyone who has not yet switched to PFRPG.


This is a big pdf chock-full of information and you’ll definitely find some useful bits and pieces within these pages, even if you’re not using The Great City –there are just so many good ideas herein that it’s actually a little overwhelming. I like the new base classes, but was a bit disappointed by the PrCs – while the base classes are all somewhat iconic, the PrCs mostly fell short of that quality. There are some exceptions, but they just didn’t grip me as much (Insurrectionist, Sewer Runner and Numismatist being the exceptions to this rule).  The new races were mostly “meh” for me. Although I’m a sucker for psionic races, I cannot help but only feel a certain pang of annoyance when reading yet another half-breed race (RP’s Wyrd being the exception to the rule) and the Gur (three-in-one) and Half-Giant unfortunately fit that bill. The space they took up could have been used to better flesh out the Roachlings, but that is just my opinion. The best parts for me are definitely the small chapters on property, professions, organizations, tongs, equipment (mundane and magical) and the spells.

The B/w artwork is nice and the sheer amount of information makes this book a worthwhile buy for any DM planning to run a campaign in an urban environment. Players wishing to add an edge to their character are also more or less guaranteed to enjoy this book, although Munchkins and hardcore Powergamers might be disappointed: Nothing really too unbalancing within these pages for you, sorry. There are some blemishes, though: Some of the information (e.g. the tongs or sidebar on the Shadow Mages) should have rather been put in a GM’s Guide and I frankly think that fewer PrCs and more equipment, gadgets for the Urbanist and items for the new base classes would have been great.

Plus: There are unfortunately some editing glitches that make some of the parts a bit harder to understand than they should be. Although some of the content is top-notch and very much appeals to my sensibilities, my final verdict is 4 stars for what it is as an urban sourcebook: Great bits and pieces, but has some flaws, to be precise some of the PrCs and races and the editing glitches. Add half a star if you’re playing in the Great City. 

On the Rudii-scale, I'll give it 4.5 Rudii! 

Ok. Still reading? I applaud your curiosity and patience, ladies and gentlemen and thank you for your precious time. Until next time I remain your faithful servant,

Endzeitgeist out.



Conflict Role-Playing: Agresta vs. Ling Gencon 2010 Grudge Match

Great little blog post on my grudge match with fellow writer and Ennie winner John Ling. Fun and blood were had by all.


Gencon 2010 Day -- WTF? It's Saturday already?!

Wow.  What a Con.  Now I love me some Gencon, and I've attended since 2005, but this Gencon may be taking the cake.  Let's start with Thursday: I LARPed for the first time. Live Action Role-Playing: I admit I sneered at it.  I admit I felt relieved I could say to myself, "Ha! There's always a bigger geek." Then I thought about it and realized how wrong such a posture is to take, and I thought I should at least TRY something before I bash it.  How immature to do anything else.  Thus was born Gencon 2010's plan: my events this year are almost (almost) exclusively LARPs. Thursday was my first ever, brought to me by the good folks at BYOV, and I guess I'm growing up because I LOVED it.  Absolutely LOVED it.  I'm...I'm...oh my god... I'm a LARPer.  Yes!  Intrigue in the Court of Versailles under Marie Antoinette, complete with the fey as a competing power in Europe.  I played a Captain of the Royal Guard -- sworn servant of Prince D'Artois -- crass, a rake and dedicated to swaying the ladies.  Well I won't bore you with the story details -- or the spoilers -- but a fine time was had by all, and yours truly walked home with the MVP prize: my own beer mug.

Thursday night I hosted an event called The Annual Werecabbage Werewolf Dinner. Here a number of publishers have a chance to kick back and relax with their freelancers, lynch each other, talk smack and generally relax.  In attendance this year: Paizo Publishing, Super Genius Games and Rite Publishing.  One of my favorite lines came from Stan! who, in explaining his role in our little Werewolf haunted village, said "I'm the village idiot. I'm the werewolf..." (or words to that effect).  Having so many creative, funny, theatrical big personalities in one room, all persuading each other to hang anyone but themselves, is a sheer overwhelming joy to experience.  Special thanks to Werecabbage David Hall for MC'ing our Werewolf game.  Special hate goes out to Tim Hitchcock.  Why you ask?  Well, I normally MC this game as I have for the past few years.  This time I decided to play -- and woke up dead the first victim on the first night, care of Hitchcock. I'll get you, you Ennie winning bastard! 

Next year.


Gencon Morning Day 1.5

Good Morning from Indianapolis!  It's day one, and we spent Wednesday night (.5) meeting and greeting, eating and fete-ing. A host of authors headed over to Bucca di Peppo for our annual Werecabbage Freelancer Guild dinner.  After that, the Paizo kick-off party, all winding down with late night drinks at the Canterbury hotel.

This is the time of the con where old friends take a moment to gather and laugh, drink and remember why they are such good friends. Since we 'see' each other only online, but intensely - especially when collaborating - this is a con ritual of great importance.  To finally be able to hug, slap backs, crack jokes, watch smiles brings a moment when a years worth of black-and-white text memories suddenly vortex through the mind and coalesce in the body of person slapping their knee across the table from you, solidifying them. Virtual friendships made real. Like your best buddy suddenly stepping out from the TV, into your living room.

Stepping off now is what I need to do, to the shower and then to my first event: D&D for Cash.  Wish me luck. Could pay for this whole trip!