EZG reviews Tales of the Old Margreve (Finally!)

Hey everybody,

today I'm going to take a look at Open Design's splendid forest anthology!

Tales of the Old Margreve

This adventure anthology/sourcebook is 113 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 107 pages of content, so let's take a look at it!

The anthology sets the mood immediately via a two-page short fable about fey and beer and offers thus a great lead-in to the gazetteer-section on the Margreve, the ancient forest of Midgard, where both the wonder, strangeness, creepiness and awe of the forest come back to live and intermingle with the cruel Germanic and Slavic folktales. Both attitudes of the folk, their old ways and rites and customs and the global powers of the forest are detailed in a prime example of concise and flavorful writing. The culmination of this section is both the advice on how to play the "character" Margreve, different takes on it and a plethora of adventure hooks of the highest caliber for your perusal. The detailed subsections of the forest, ranging from creepy shadowfeyish to creepy dream-like and creepy primeval offer a vast plethora of potential ideas for DMs especially and even players on a minor scale. I guarantee that you'll find inspiration in these pages if your creativity hasn't completely dried up. Have I mentioned that e.g. Baba Yaga is a firm and unique part of Margrevian mythology?

On a rules-perspective, we also get a whole section on how magic works in the Margreve (subtly different, including visual clues) and mechanically different for those not versed in the Old Ways. We also get the obligatory part on new magic and, while this section more often than not, elicits yawns from me, let me assure you that each and every one of the 6 spells herein is pure killer and rocks - hard. Even better, for people like me who enjoy the primeval and dangerous flair of incantations, we get three new ones - Awesome!

Next up is the bestiary and in the fine tradition of Open Design, all of them, I repeat, all of them, are killer, no filler. From the Ala storm-witches, the supremely creepy children of the briar, the noble deer-centaurs, green hussars, undead mylings and rusalka brides, the extremely disturbing sap demons up to the majestic and lustful zmey, each and every critter herein has several unique abilities. Almost all of them feature their own unique artworks and concluding the oomphteenth time I read this section, I'm still all up in arms about the quality. If all bestiaries were of this quality, I could put my virtual reviewer's pen down.

All right, that's as far as I can go without spoilers, as now begins the adventure section of the book. Potential players, please stop reading NOW, SPOILERS abound!


Still here?


All right, the first adventure, "Hollow" by one of the masters of horror, Richard Pett, pits the 1st-level PCs and a tiny hamlet under their command against both mad animals and the dread harvester of the singing tree, the hollow man. The Scythe-wielding CR 5 Hollow Man makes for a very disturbing enemy, as PCs of their level don't truly stand a chance against it: While it is harvesting the heads of townsfolk and not interested in the PCs per se, they have a strict timeline in which they can try to stop the deadly enemy and finally confront and destroy the tree adorned with decapitated heads, which coincidentally sings unperceivable through the skulls and thus drives the animals of the forest insane. An awesome, smart and creepy introductory adventure!

Next up is "The Honey Queen", a completely different fare: Dreamlike and somewhat reminiscent of the Alice-novels, Jonathan McAnulty weaves a yarn of excellent narrative quality: The PCs are hired to acquire a special kind of honey that supposedly prolongs your life. Problem is, though, that the awakened queen bee lairs around hallucinogenic flowers (necessary for the honey) and that she does trade exclusively with the scáthsidhe, the shadow fey. As spokesperson and foe to the PCs on their way through the awesome, creepy hive is the adopted stepdaughter of the queen, a girl in temporal stasis who has developed the power to use bee-swarms as surrogate bodies. The PCs have to act smart to bring the girl back to life, get the honey and brave the bee-hive-dungeon. This adventure also rewards non-lethal problem-solving and can end on a plethora of notes, depending on the PC's actions.

"Challenge of the Fang" by Dan Voyce has two excellent adventures to follow up on and succeeds - Challenge of the Fang can have severe repercussions for the PCs if they fail: Every 3 generations, the battle between wolf and man is fought again, in a dread ritual that will determine whether wolf or man reigns supreme and earns the favor of the Margreve. How is the outcome determined? Well, think "Little Red Ridin' Hood" with the PCs and the wolves trying to get to the red-cape-wearing girl first, including a very fairy-tale like, cool series of tests, portents that come true etc. It's hard to capture the mood of a fairy-tale in an adventure and Dan Voyce succeeded with grace - One of the best takes on the material I've seen - sufficiently close for the players to get it and far enough and creatively different to make it challenging and surprising.

"The Griffon Hatchling Heist" by Michael Furlanetto is a nice change of pace, from the grim and fantastic to an adventure that could very well have your players smile: When they are being approached by a housecat, they may very well have one of the most unlikely quest-givers ever - the housecat turns out to be the polymorphed griffon-leader Lesharrkk, who wants the PCs to infiltrate a tower where she and her brethren once nested and which is now the base of a huge amount of bugbears led by ogres and a cyclops. The PCs should get in, take the eggs and get them out before they hatch - of course, just as the PCs reclaim the griffon's offspring they begin to hatch and getting them out without any one of them being perceived by the critters - after all, PCs probably don't want to raise griffons...or do they? Depending on the amount of griffons saved, whether they consider the PCs their mother, Lesharrkk might make for a cool ally in future adventures. All in all, a great change of pace and one that made me smile!

After the rather light-hearted heist, we get a disturbing race against time in Tim Connor's "Gall of the Spider Crone". When the PCs enter a tavern featuring a lot of Kariv, they quickly realize that the gypsies have something to hide: Just prior to the PCs arrival, one of the legendary spider-crones has stumbled into the inn and, while morally dubious, suffers from a huge gall that, in a disturbing perversion of pregnancy, is eating up the crone from within - operation seems to be not an option and the desperate crone offers the PCs the same rewards as the Kariv to embark on a race against time to procure the means to save her from one of her sisters. What she does not mention is, that temporary possession is a part of the cure... As the PCs embark on a stormy hunt through the trails of the forest, they are hounded by various complications before finally arriving at a spider-legged home clinging to a huge vine across a canyon. In order to return in time, the PCs will have to use the spider-legged house to navigate the Margreve back to the inn, save the crone and kill the ala that will burst from the gall. The iconic usage of the spider-house to travel back to the inn alone is worth playing the adventure - another winner!

I always considered mobile plants and fungi to be supremely creepy and a morbid fascination has forever tinged my approach to botanic foes in roleplaying games - Dan Voyce delivers another prime example why plants should be feared in "Blood and Thorns" - The children of the briar are on the prowl and thorns and briars encroach throughout the Margreve, powered by dread forces. On the way to investigate the reason for the thorny aggression, the PCs will have to visit the Spider Crone whose house they high-jacked in the last adventure and brave a supremely cool, honorable LG Spider-duellant construct called Snicker-snack while avoiding the numerous webs. Hopefully succeeding in their diplomatic mission with the Crone, the PCs will then have to follow a ghost-thread to the thorny base of the thorn-king, where they'll hopefully settle for an infiltration (e.g. pretending to be possessed by sap demons) and end the alchemical, vampire-blood powered rituals and dispose of the king of briars before he not only becomes a major threat throughout the Margreve, but also for Morgau and Doresh...

Ben McFarland introduces us to one of the true major players of the Margreve in the touching adventure "Grandmother's Fire" - no fire burns in the Margreve and the reason is that legendary Baba Yaga is angered - her hearth's fire has been stolen and until it is reclaimed, the Margreve will feel the chill of the witches hearth. In order to restore the fire to the forest and to prevent a deadly winter indeed, the PCs will have to find the man (who turns out to be a werewolf), who stole the fire to set his love free. Said girl tried to procure a cure for lycanthropy from a vodyanoi and ended up one of his rusalka brides. To add insult to injury, the poor werewolf is actually a natural lycanthrope - there is no cure for him. After hopefully defeating the vodyanoi, the two lovers can finally be rejoined in either death or transcendence, we cannot be sure. Returning the fire to dread Baba Yaga, the PCs may have made a deadly, yet insanely powerful connection.

In the final adventure, Steven Robert's "The Lustful Dragon", the PCs might want to cash in favors earned during their exploits in the Margreve as it opens with a bang: A Zmey, one of the dread multi-headed dragons attacks the village and the PCs will have to venture off on a quest to save a dragonmarked maid - a poor girl born with a birthmark that makes the zmey lust for her and doom her to be its mate and die giving birth to a terrible abomination. Via a hermaphrodite seer, the PCs can find the girl in the "tender" care of a spider crone. In order to stand a chance against the dread dragon, the PCs will have to procure the ingredients for a powerful incantation: A dragonmarked girl, a creeping vine of tremendous age, 1 lb of salt and the heart of a woman scorned (literally or figuratively) - once they have assembled the ingredients, they will have to work the incantation by piercing into the power of one of the Margreve's hearts, battle the dread zmey and escape the wrath of the roused Margreve if they are to live - a stunning, cool conclusion to the anthology and one that has left me wanting for more.


Formatting is top-notch and while I noticed some editing glitches, there were less than 5 on 113 pages - not enough to detract a star. The pdf is extensively bookmarked. The two-column layout and the pieces of artwork are beautiful (though the pdf has a grey background, making it a bit harder on the printer than it should be), as is the cartography. If you couldn't tell from my recap of the adventures or the gazetteer-section, the writing of this book is just excellent, ranking among the very best of anthologies and adventures I've read for any incarnation of any fantasy roleplaying game. Each and every one of the adventures has its very own distinct flair, while still tying the overarching pieces and flair together, resulting in a supremely cool series of adventures that each has its unique wonder, its components of wonder and awe you won't see in most other publications. The authors have created a tapestry of surpassing quality, a blast between grim and light-hearted fairy-tale and a kind of fantasy you won't find anywhere else - if you by some strange coincidence haven't checked this out, do so now - I guarantee you won't regret it. My final verdict is 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation

This web-enhancement is 14 pages long, half a page of which is devoted to SRD and credits, leaving 13.5 pages of content, quite a bunch!

The pdf kicks off by providing 20 short NPC write-upss for use with the Margreve or any other ancient forest really: Each one provides at least some idea for the beleaguered DM to craft an adventure around. Combined with "Tales of the Old Margreve" (TotOM), they add a lot of details and depth to the adventures.

Next up are 25 reskinned monsters and 15 spells and boy: They alone, even if you don't plan to use TotOM, are worth the price - the idea is essentially to use the stats of a familiar creature with a new exterior and boy, boy, boy: They ROCK! Need an example? What about petrified treants for caryatid columns? Or what about animated, acidic spew-launching logs as a new take on Ankhegs? A spell that works as whispering wind, but carves the message into a nearby tree? (Can you see the horror-potential there?) - Pure awesomeness!

The Margreve bloodline with minor access to hexes and shapechanging is nice as well and incantation-fans like yours truly get another new one - yes!

The new magic items also scream: Brilliant! What about cursed or beneficial Matryoshka dolls? A wine-drinking quilt that may work as a solid bridge if sated?

Finally, we get 12 new traits to customize your Margreve (or forest-dwelling) PC and a new trick you can learn your animals to accept the presence of undead - why this one has not been done until now remains a mystery to me - simple, elegant and closes a hole in the rules.


The pdf features full-color, flavorful stock-art, layout adheres to the 3-column standard and editing is top-notch - I didn't notice any glitches. While there are no bookmarks, the pdf doesn't specifically need them at this length. The amount of ideas contained in this extremely concisely-written pdf is staggering and you get more value for your bucks than in almost all other publications in this price-range. People who own Tales of the Old Margreve practically have to own this. Anyone else who want to get an impression of the quality should go for it - the content is easily adapted to just about any forest setting and at this price-range you have NO reason not to check it out. My final verdict in the face of this quality at this price-range is, of course, 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

All right, that's it for now! I'll have more for you soon!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


The Road to Revolution: Tides of Blood by 0one Games

The Road to Revolution: Tides of Blood by 0one Games

This product is 43 pages long. It starts with a cover, ToC, and credits. (4 pages)

Introduction (2 pages)
This is a urban based 7-9th level adventure. This section has a history, plot summery, how the adventure begins and a side bar. The side bar has information on how to link this with the previous adventure in the series depending on how the last one ended.

Chapter 1: Blood in the Gutters (1 page)
The opening encounter that gets the whole adventure going. I can't give away much since this is a adventure based on a mystery. I will say the PC's get attacked unexpectedly which starts the adventure, namely the PC's trying to figure out who had them attacked and why.

Chapter 2: The Set Up (2 ½ pages)
This section takes place in the Dockward, after the first encounter this is the direction the PC's will end up taking. There is a single encounter, some room for RPing and perhaps some unexpected help.

Chapter 3: Meeting with Royalty (2 ½ pages)
This section will likely be a RP only section, though there could be combat depending on what the PC's do exactly. It is interesting and really sets up other parts of the adventure and ties other parts of the city together. It helps make the city feel like a living breathing city.

Chapter 4: Dinner with … (1 ½ pages)
Here the PC's meet another NPC to gather information. While there could be combat just like the last chapter, it should just be a heavy RP scene that sets up further things. I left the full name of the chapter blank so as not to spoil the things.

Chapter 5: Lost their Mittens (1 page)
This is another RP scene that leads directly to the next chapter.

Chapter 6: Church of the Damned (6 ½ pages)
This part is a mini dungeon crawl. There is 4 likely encounters in this section the PC's are likely to face.

Chapter 7: The Recovered.... (½ page)
This section is a RP scene that follows the last chapter once the PC's have recovered what they went looking for and are sent directly to the next chapter.

Chapter 8: On the Trail of... (11 ½ pages)
This chapter is another mini dungeon but much larger than the first one. There is some possible RP to be had but it is more leaning towards a dungeon crawl. There is 22 keyed locations and a possible 17 encounters, including traps.

Chapter 9: The Finale (2 ½ pages)
Here the PC's race against time to stop the final act in the adventure. There is 2 rather large encounters in this section. It ends with a section on wrapping the adventure up.

Appendix( 4 ½ pages)
This section talks about people that live beneath the streets of the city, a new PrC the Sewer Runner, which I believe is in their Players Guide to the great city. There is also a sample stat block for the PrC and a new monster, the Siluri with a full stat block.

It ends with a OGL, back cover, and ad (3 pages)

Closing thoughts. The artwork is black and white and averages from fair to decent. The maps are solid and pretty good, they get the job done. Layout and editing where good, I didn't notice any major errors. The adventure takes place with in The Great City campaign setting, all with in the Docks Ward section of the city. It would be fairly easy though would take some work to drop it into another city of the GM's choosing.

The adventure has a nice mix of RPing, mystery solving, dungeon crawling and thrilling heroics. There is a little something for just about any player to get excited about and times for any PC to shine. I really liked this adventure, but to be fair adventures with a nice mix of elements always appeal to me. So what's my rating? Well I really couldn't find any real flaws and the adventure is well written. So I am going to give it a 5 star review.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.


EZG reviews Kaidan II, In the Company of Tengu and 30 Traps for Tombs

Hey everybody!

While I'm waiting for my next surgery I had plenty of time and subsequently, here are some awesome files that hopefully bring a (twisted) smile to your face - I know I felt twitches of gleeful malice in my black heart while reading them!

First among my reviews for today is the second part of the dark oriental saga:

Kaidan II - Dim Spirit

The second part of the three-part Japanese horror saga set in Kaidan, "Dim Spirit" clocks in at a whopping 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page list of contributors, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 6 pages of advertisement and 2 pages SRD, leaving 51 pages for the second part of the epic, so let's check out whether it stands up to the excellent quality we had in the first part!

First of all you’ll notice the, once again, excellent quality of the layout: The Bamboo-lined pages and the artworks serve greatly to enhance the overall, unique feel that made me appreciate the first Kaidan-adventure so much. The adventure is also bookmarked extensively for your convenience. After being introduced to the new country and its rules and subjected to some of the dark things lurking in the shadows of this place, the plotline now evolves: From a journey into the night and towards ever more sordid revelations of Kaidan I, the pace now changes into another direction and the fighting-spirit of both your PCs and players will be tested by this second part and its bleak, sorrowful narrative. Unfortunately, that’s as far as I can go on about this adventure without spoiling anything, so potential players beware, from here on reign the


That could destroy an experience you would hate to see…well…spoiled.


Still here? All right! We left the PC’s trail when they entered Tsue-Jo to finally deliver Marl’s “Gift” and free his daughter from the clutches of the daimyo. Subsequently, the first act of the PCs will be to explore the town and settle in a Gaijin-friendly Inn the daimyo provides for unwelcome (or rather unimportant) visitors. Not all is expected to go well by the enigmatic merchant, though, as he sends the PCs to buy horses (they will smell the necessary fast getaway) and more importantly, to let them spread gifts among the populace – red silken handkerchiefs. For what purpose, though, only becomes evident later. It is here that I want to comment on something that is unfortunately rather rarely seen in adventures – social encounters. Both the handkerchief-dispersing and the horse-shopping (quite difficult with the xenophobic populace) as well as the resulting scene in the daimyo’s palace can be seen as prime examples for good “normal” encounters, which make the resurgence of the horrific aspects later all the more important. Even the visit at the daimyo’s palace, while disturbing, goes quite well and Marl can reclaim his daughter and even get a present. Nothing is as it seems in Kaidan, though, and I refrain from spelling out exactly what happens, but after the scene at the palace and the PC’s departure from there, they are marked and their escape will prove to be one laden with a severe handicap that will continue to be both problem and motivation for the PCs. Extensive advice for the Dm to deal with some of the potential problems is also offered in this section – nice!

The first station on the way is an abandoned village including a garden shrine, where a terrible tragedy of star-crossed lovers (yes, it’s the kill by accident trope, but with a twist) occurred, but before you start to yawn and move on, let me tell you that both the location are iconic, detailed and creepy, that the people in question are interesting and that, most importantly, they serve as a side-quest, a backdrop to a rather personal tragedy the PCs will have to face. If successfully united, though, the PCs might claim a katana that greatly improves similar to the wielder’s honor – a great concept and mechanic, one step beyond RiP’s excellent take on legacy items and one I hope to see expanded upon in future releases!

Again, this is a massive SPOILER, please players, jump to the conclusion.

Marl’s daughter, who seemed all fine, albeit traumatized, seems to recover from her ordeal at the hands of the daimyo, only to turn out to have been changed into an essentially hapless and tragic form of undead that can’t remember her deeds by day and reforms if slain – another burden, though one the PCs might, via a good DM, grow very fond of her and even pity her to the extent that they’ll try to find salvation for her. Presuming the PCs draw the right conclusions, that is. Otherwise one of them will be in for a nasty surprise indeed! Add to that Marl coming clear and telling the PCs about his handkerchief-scheme, which enraged the daimyo and they’re in for fun.

Bereft of the guide that acted as a mediator for the PCs until now, they are now hunted by a powerful force in this foreign land, handicapped by a growing weakness and a deadly killer that makes sleeping a gamble and encourages competent and creative problem-solving. Remember me telling you about despair? There you go, a perilous journey is ahead of them and let’s hope the PCs will be smart and stick to the bushes to evade the enemies hot on their heels!

Now, if you’re thinking about the wilds being the place for random encounters, you’d of course be right, but the encounters provided go beyond what you’d expect from individual short monster-bouts, being less random and rather exciting, from bakeneko to shadow stalkers and giant dragonflies, the PC will hope for solace at their destination. If your DM-alarm-bells are ringing again, don’t fret, once again extensive information is provided to ensure you’ll keep the plot going in spite of potential player-detours to the story.

Kitsumura, once again with a beautiful map, is a rather interesting place to visit – after all, it’s a hengeyokai village! (Look forward to the ITC-installment!) In the village, the PCs can find some kind of help if they play their cards right with the non-humans, i.e. by the PCs helping the henge in their troubles – their water-supply has been compromised and to add insult to injury, Snow-falling-on-the-blood, the mastermind behind one of the most disturbing encounters in Kaidan I, is now in the village, albeit disguised. While the PCs hopefully can put the beast to justice, they’ll also have to deal with a supernatural death squad as well as the now corrupted spring that has been tainted by a dread oni, its kami enraged and mad and probably a dread foe the PCs can overcome by being smart. The main antagonist of part I makes a return from the dead after that and it’s time to conclude this installment with the PCs learning (at the latest now), the way to end their undead companion as well as finally know what prompted their sickness – the PCs will want to get the source of their ailment. Which is, of course, in the lion’s den - the daimyo’s place. However, now the PCs have made friends with the hengeyokai and thus have a connection with their Tengu allies.

After that, we’ll get to the appendices, the first dealing with reincarnation, or rather KAidan’s twisted version of it. The second offers us new beasties, two great templates and some critters, all of which have some unique, cool fluff and some of which, once again are rendered in stunningly beautiful b/w-images, though not all. Rangers also get a new archetype, and a rather complex one at that as the yojimbo is spanning two pages – it is balanced, nice and makes for an interesting choice for eastern rangers. In another appendix, the concept of samurai honor is explained and its mechanics are expanded upon via two new feats. The pdf concludes with 4 pregens as well as an extensive-two-page glossary to help the DM run the saga and enhance the fluff.


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed one minor editing glitch and two minor formatting glitches – at this length not enough to rate this adventure down. The adventure is concisely written, exciting and feels like the natural, logical change of both mood and setting to evolve the drama of the saga, evolving rather than ripping part 2 off and setting the stage for the conclusion of this dark tale. Tragedy, roleplaying, honor, weird creatures and a nice blend of events, a small investigation, wilderness and social skills are presented and while this is surely not the easiest adventures out there to run, it offers enough help to any GM to run the complex stages and boy, they are worth it. If properly evoked, a good DM can conjure a bleak tale from these pages, a yarn of death and sorrow that the PCs might yet twist to at least include some light in its umbral tapestry. However, you have to take into account that this installment, while putting PCs on the edge, hunting them and drawing them into the story-arc, I don’t think it would work too well as a stand-alone and that the horror here stems from the feeling of being hunted as well as from the foes the PCs have to face – the haunted, rather gothic horror and “get-out-alive”-scenarios have been replaced with a more in-your-face dread-and-despair-approach if you don’t use some creatures in the best/suggested ways. Usually, I’d detract a star due to the assumptions on the PCs course of action/travel route, but its logic is sound and enough information is provided to get stray groups back on track. Thus, I don’t have anything to truly complain about, in fact, while I slightly prefer the first part, it’s once again a haunting, beautiful journey into Kaidan, one that might shore up enough grudges for the PCs to swear revenge. Even better, the set-up at the beginning serves as one of the best transitions and the ideas are VERY cool and have been intentionally not mentioned anywhere in the review. I also liked the village the PCs find and the things to do there. In contrast to the first part, though, we don’t get that many encounter maps, but more supplemental rules material. All in all, I have to, once again, recommend this excellent addition to the Kaidan-saga – check the adventures out if you haven’t – they’re unique both in setting and style. My final verdict will be 5 out of 5 Rudii – awesome job!

Now that you hunger is roused, what about some awesome supplemental material?

In the Company of Tengu

This (now revised) pdf is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 5 pages advertisement, 1 page back cover and 2 pages SRD, leaving 20 pages for the Tengu, so let's check them out!

In tradition with the series, the pdf kicks off with three tales that illustrate the mindset via 3 tales - I really enjoyed the read and the minor editing glitches of V1 have been taken care of. After that, we get the concisely-written and compelling IC-narrated origin myth of the Tengu race as well as a great introduction to the unique, enlightenment-seeking nature of the race as well as its concept of honor. The Tengu society and their relationships with other races (including the Kappa, Hengeyokai and Korobokkuru) and we also get discussions on alignment and religion, languages (including their love of poetry), discussion of their adventurers and nomenclature. It should be noted that the IC-narrative is consistent and consequently used and thus makes this a very enjoyable read.

After that, we get the racial traits of the Tengu: They get +2 Dex, -2 Con, +2 Wis, low-light vision, a natural bite attack, get two additional skills as class skills, +2 to Stealth and Perception (here is a blank line too much in the block), +4 to linguistics and learn more languages and proficiency in swords. Alternate racial traits are also provided, in case you want your Tengu to use axes or spears instead of swords, a tengu proficient with riding and handling animals, Tengu born in forests or mountains, especially gifted poets or brown especially fierce Kite Tengu. We also get an Age, Height & Weight table and an extensive discussion (including the Japanese terms) of the Tengu's take on all classes. Following RiP's excessively detailed and customizable standard, we get 9 favored class options covering the base classes as well as one for the summoner and one for the cavalier - nice!

Speaking of the cavalier: The Tengu get new archetypes and the cavalier gets one of the most kick-ass takes on the class imaginable.. I've got 4 words for you.

Dire-boar Tengu cavalry. HOW AWESOME IS THAT???

I'm a jaded cynic, but this just blew my mind!

And the mechanical execution rocks, too, providing you with mount stats and an extensively detailed order. Believe me, this one ROCKS! The next archetype is less awesome, but still nice, offering a valid take on a dexterous fighter. Their very own paladin-archetype, focusing on interaction with nature and kami and awakening the spirit within one's blade is nice.

Magus-friends rejoice, for RiP has added the archetype of Tengukensei, an awesome and very iconic take on our favorite arcane fighter in the revised pdf – this quite frankly goes above and beyond what almost any company out there does and once agin proves RiP’s commitment to offeing the very best to its fans as well as heeding the criticism they receive. Awesome!

After these, we get the Hishoken, the 20-level Tengu racial paragon class. The class gets full BAB, good fort and ref-saves, 4+Int skills per level and d10, being a fighting class focusing on agile attacks, lightning fast strikes and finally can become weightless (standing on e.g. thin branches) and even getting limited flight and the ability to temporarily transform into elementals.

After this rather cool class, we get a short discussion on the Daitengu, the legendary Tengu-sages of their respective mountains. The pdf closes with 10 new, Tengu-related feats, centering on improving their flight and swordsmanship. Mechanically, I didn't have a problem with any of the feats, all seemed balanced and like reasonable picks.


Editing is top-notch, I noticed no more glitches, all the old ones have been taken care of. Layout is full-color and adheres to the beautiful, bamboo-lined Kaidan-standard. The artworks are mostly ok, but the b/w-artwork depicting the Tengu simply kicks ass - kudos to Mark Hyzer, I love this piece! The pdf is extensively book-marked and I'll come right out and say it: It's my favorite book of the "In the Company"-series to this date. I have no complaints regarding the racial class and the archetypes rock hard. I love the mindset of the Tengu and where "In the Company of Kappa" sometimes felt a bit confused with regards to IC-narrative/crunch, this book, like the wind and the mountains that gave birth to the Tengu, creates a concise and serenely beautiful work that makes for a great read while providing you with the tools to use the Tengu. Even better, V.2.0 offers more content (Magus-archetype), features no glitches and quite frankly is one of the most kick-ass reads for a asian-themed race/class. It offers an excellent bang-for-buck-ratio and you quite frankly have no reason not to pick this up. The new and improved “In the Company of Tengu” gets my highest verdict of 5 Rudii with the Endzeitgeist-seal of approval.

Want even more, perhaps some traps? There you go!

#30 Traps for Tombs

This pdf is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 14 pages of content, so let’s check the latest installment of the #30-series out!

As we’re used to by now, the pdf kicks off with an aptly-written IC-introduction to the matter at hand and sets the traps located herein at the optional backdrop of Rakifabeer, the main necropolis of the land of tombs and manages to actually sketch an interesting civilization and backdrop in a single page - a commendable example of concise writing! Moreover, the designer’s short commentary informs us that we actually get 55 traps instead of 30 – more than our poor PCs bargained for. Even better, though, several are combined into trap encounters, making a case for the complex traps I love so much. But onwards to the traps – will they stand up to the excellent “Art of Traps” by Necromancers of the Northwest?

The first thing you’ll notice when delving into the traps is, that they are not simply an assortment of traps (though they can be used as such), but actually work as a kind of gazetteer of the necropolis, including details like victims of polymorph traps etc., which subsequently evokes a rather gazetteer-like feeling that goes far beyond a dry crunch-book and is even reminiscent of a sketch for a trap-focused adventure – Neat! This flair is further enhanced by providing e.g. a simple, grid-map for the “Tombs of Tamar”, including A LOT of information to give the PCs hints of what to expect via linguistics and smart thinking. The traps linked to a Tamar king’s tomb are especially devious, well-placed and cool and come with another map.

But don’t be concerned, even the regular traps we get, are imaginative: Picture a room with a floor that tilts into the corner where the most weight lies, add two swinging deadly scythes to separate the room into quarters and you get a nice example of an easy to implement trap, that is just plain cool in its rather simple, yet iconic deviousness. Of course, the indy-trap, aka the rolling boulder had to get its representation, too and I actually prefer this one to NWN’s take on the trap, probably also due to there being a nice side-view of the traps make-up and the nice stumble-traps. No, that’s actually not it, rather it’s the addition of a reverse gravity for maximum pain n the PC’s part. And the alternative of a rolling ball of water. Water? Yep, and no the PCs are not supposed to drown. After all, there are those cute shocker lizards…

That’s what I’m talking about, it’s this kind of inventiveness that makes the distinction between good and awesome. Speaking of drowning: Combine magnets and water for a happy drowning and if that’s not enough, add one of the party-separation traps for even more fun. If you’re sadistically inclined (like I am), there’s also a downright cruel and evil trap that made me chuckle with glee: Teleport into a sarcophagus and transformation into a mummy – scream, PCs, scream! *Muahahaha* That are the small and “simple” traps. Yep. I was wide-eyed when I read that, too. The Necromancer’s chessboard (again, with a schematic depiction), makes for a cool idea and the pit-traps that conclude the pdf make for a nice addition to the file. While at first I wasn’t too excited about them, due to their proximity in the file, I realized that they could easily be stacked for deadly effects and the “Ahhh-owww-ahhh-ow-ahhh-owwww-etc.”-factor.


The pdf is extensively bookmarked and I noticed no editing or formatting glitches bar one: In the designer’s commentary, the pdf is referred to by its work-in-progress title “tricky traps”. That’s it and definitely nothing that could be considered a justification for detracting a star. Layout adheres to the new two-column-RiP-standard and artwork is b/w stock-art, but beautiful and very flavorful one. Indeed, I can’t bring myself to saying anything negative about this file – it’s a joy to read (in contrast to most crunch-heavy books), is easily integrated into any setting/dungeon, could stand alone as an adventure-locale/mini-gazetteer and would e.g. make for a great expansion of modules like “Pact-stone Pyramid” or the legendary “Necropolis” by Gary Gygax (R.I.P.), one of my favorite adventures of all time.

A crunch-heavy book full of imaginative traps, a practically complete trap-based adventure-sketch, an iconic flair and traps that truly deserve the moniker “imaginative” – Could one want for more? Yes, I missed one thing and have to admit that, while NNW’s “Art of Traps” has to admit defeat on all other levels, there is no complex puzzle-trap in here that necessitates the players thinking outside the box/logical and the complex traps from NNW’s book are just a joy to behold. In all other regards, though, #30 Traps for Tombs is just stellar and offers more content than promised – a lot more. It was not necessarily the additional crunch, but the stellar, captivating presentation and fluff that made this book a true blast to read and sparked off some truly insidious ideas in the twisted mind of yours truly –With all the praise I’ve heaped on this book, you might imagine what my final verdict will be: 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist-seal of approval. If you even have the slightest soft spot for traps, go check this out – the low price nearly forces your hand to do so. In fact, check it out even if you don’t like traps or trap-books: It might sway you!

All right, that's it for now, next time I'll change my location again.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

P.S.: If any of you fine folk would be interested in designing a little graphic representation of my dread seal of approval, I'd appreciate it!


EZG reviews Kaidan, Advanced Feats and NNW's Traps

Hey everybody!

First of all: Sorry for the silence on my part - due to a provider-change, my place is currently not connected and I only today had the opportunity to initiate the process of remedying this unfortunate circumstance. Why, you ask? Well, I had an unfortunate martial arts accident that resulted in a prolonged stay in a hospital. I hope I won't have to get surgery, so if no new reviews pop up next week, don't be alarmed. But enough from yours truly,

Without further ado,

Kaidan I - The Gift

This adventure/setting-introduction is 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 2 pages back cover, leaving 55 pages for the first part of the Kaidan-trilogy, so let's check it out!

Disclaimer: I'm a gold patron for Kaidan, but I didn't participate that much in the design process due to real life.

First of all, one cannot help but notice the beautiful full-color layout featuring bamboo at the page-borders (similar to In the Company of Kappa) and the stunning cover artwork - rest assured that the rest of the book is just as visually pleasing.

This being an adventure, I will have to go into some mayor SPOILERS later. I'll start off with what Kaidan is in the beginning, which one could consider minor spoilers, so beware. I'll explicitly add another warning prior to going into the adventure details.

There are a LOT of Asian settings out there, and good ones at that, so what exactly makes Kaidan unique? First of all: Its focus. Kaidan is a horror-themed setting inspired by Japan and Japanese mythology. Not L5R-style, not Chinese WuXia (like in the quite cool HotJO-setting), but by Japanese horror-stories. Being a bit of a fan of Japanese horror-games like Fatal Frame (aka Project Zero in Europe) or Forbidden Siren, I can attest to there being a plethora of almost unknown tropes of awesome and disturbing narratives that have largely been untapped by western pop culture and even rpgs. Kaidan seeks to at least partially remedy that, but does it deliver?

SPOILERS abound now, players please don't continue reading, you have been warned!

The adventure kicks off with a beautiful, full-color map of the land of Kaidan and an introduction to the basic concept of Kaidan: Shrouded and isolated in a perpetual cloud that only recently has been partially lifted, the place immediately evokes positive reminiscences of the best of Ravenloft's concepts, but goes further: Kaidan is essentially the idea of reincarnation going horribly wrong - the dead don't go to the afterlife and rather roam the land, become haunts and creatures or even trying to force others from their bodies, essentially killing living people and being reborn in the cruelest, most twisted take on reincarnation I've ever seen. Even worse for the poor people of this beautiful, yet haunted land, even this endless circle provides no true escape from the rigid and merciless caste-system.

So, what's the story? Marl Tyro, a merchant plans to kill an undead daimyo, who has taken the merchant's daughter hostage to force Marl to bring him a loyalty-enforcing, cursed golden spear. Marl, plotting vengeance, has condensed jewels of positive energy set to provide a nasty surprise for the daimyo and the PCs accompany him to the dread lands of Kaidan as Gaijin (longnoses), thus facilitating the introduction to the customs of this rather xenophobic land. The welcome the PCs will receive is a rather frosty one - the first ambush has already been prepared for them as soon as they get off the ship in Gaijinoshima, the gateway to Kaidan- Yakuza-thugs stand ready to confront and kill the PCs in the name of a mysterious woman. A full-color map is provided for the dock and the encounter, which is always a plus. Assuming the PCs survive, they'll encounter the rather uncooperative officials, who'll refuse them landing on mainland Kaidan until the proper papers have been obtained. The PCs are thus stranded in the town and can explore - as long as they carry the heavy chest containing marl's gift around, that is. The harbor-town also gets its own full-color map. After encountering a damsel in distress and rescuing her from an ogre-assault, she tries to recruit the PCs to accompany her to the cemetery, to ostensibly find gold her late husband has stolen from the oni-lords. This, of course, is a ruse, but more on that later. After all, the Yakuza seek restitution for the defeat of the welcoming commando and the PCs might be forced into a duel with one of their more powerful members or another full-blown fight. After being introduced to mind fever ( a sickness that precedes a replacement of souls), the PCs have an opportunity to dine with a Yakuza-lord, wrestle for his enjoyment (once again, the lair has its own beautiful map) and thus might secure the necessary friends in the right places to get the paperwork for their journey finally done. What about the damsel, though? She tries to lead the PCs into the clutches of a jikininki, a terrible, shapechanging, ghoulish creature the PCs will have to defeat. Once they PCs have survived this trap, they are free to finally set foot on mainland Kaidan. Well, relatively free, that is.

After all, they're still Gaijin and subsequently will be accompanied by 17 Kaidanese, there to make sure that the longnoses don't stray too far from their allowed trail. The first station along the way is a cursed way station inhabited by both a plethora of deadly haunts, flesh-eating ghouls, a ghost and featuring both tainted food and terrible nightmares for your PCs and, once again, a beautiful full-color map. This encounters alone might be worth the price if you're looking for some genuinely creepy encounter.

Once the PCs reach the highlands, the PCs will encounter bandits, a tamashinaki as well as an encounter at a bridge (again with a map) and another mapped, very creepy encounter with a well full of undead children and subsequently their dread killer. Further on their journey, the PCs can help defend the town Agoya against a coordinated bandit rush/siege, having consequences in the sequel as well as during their brief stay in the village. On the road to the next settlement, Tsuje-Te, the PCs will have another encounter (again, with a grided, full color map) with some mischievous Kappa and some additional random encounters before being assaulted by the damsel in distress from Gaijinoshima and her minion - an ogre-brute like the one they fought, only this time, the damsel drops her cover and, as a hebi-no-onna, attacks as well, serving as a nice and challenging climax to the adventure that ends with the PCs reaching the town of Tsue-Jo.

There are some appendices to take a look at, though: The first deals with PC reincarnation, as resurrection etc. don't work in Kaidan and reformation as a malevolent spirit (yurei), a tamashinaki or even inflict a Kaidanese with mind fever, supplanting him/her. This process also may entail foreign memories and the appendix also features a great mechanic for tracking karma and rebirth. We also get 2 new monsters and of course, full stats for the two featured tamashinaki, 4 pre-gens and a two page glossary/pronunciation guide to help a GM properly display the culture of Kaidan.


Layout adheres to the beautiful full-color, bamboo-lined standard we already know from "In the Company of Kappa" and goes a long way to convey the unique atmosphere of Kaidan. Editing and formatting are very good - I only noticed one minor editing glitch and one minor formatting relic. When I started reading the sections on Gaijinoshima, I was rather underwhelmed with regards to the horror-aspect of the setting, but don't be fooled - this part of the adventure serves to accustom the PCs with Kaidan and the subsequent horror-encounters are demented, dark and deadly and rank among the finest I've read in quite a while - Kaidan manages to walk the tight rope between horror and fantasy with a deceptive ease and furthermore accomplishes the feat of being unique and captivating as both a setting and an adventure.

Fans of Ravenloft HAVE to check this out. Fans of Gothic Horror should check this out. Fans of the darker aspects of Japanese folklore and mythology have to check this out. Have I mentioned that I love the extensive map support and the stunning, awesome b/w-artworks that rank among the best I've seen in 3pp books? Can you guess my final verdict? Yup, I award full 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - Jonathan McAnulty, Michael K. Tumey and the crew at RiP has done an awesome job of going out of their way to provide a premium quality horror-adventure of the highest caliber. I can't wait for part II and will now get back to reading the bonus convention 29 and 30-page scenarios patrons of Kaidan got for free.

Oh, wait. I've got more! I finally got around to finishing my series of reviews of Advanced Feats, thus:

Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge

This installment of the advanced feats series is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 12 pages for the inquisitor, so let's check it out!

This installment of the advanced series begins, as is tradition by now, with a comprehensive discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the class to be examined before delving into the new feats. This discussion, while not strictly necessary, makes for a compelling read nevertheless - both for novices and experienced gamers.

The crunch of the product, though, are the 30 new feats for the inquisitor, all of which come with designer's commentaries, which serves as illuminating additional pieces of information. While I absolutely love this, on the down-side we don't get fluff-texts for the respective feats like in e.g. RiP's "101 Monster Feats", but I guess you can't have everything, can you?

In contrast to my older reviews, I'm not going to offer a list of the content, but rather will mention when a feat stands out, be it positive or negative. I'll start with the first, "Cautious Trip", which is a trip insurance - if you fail an attempt by 10 or more, you no longer risk being tripped yourself. While a great idea that can be applied to other combat maneuvers, I find it odd that it does not have any prerequisites - while I don't necessarily ask for "Improved Trip", I think that at least Int 13 would have been appropriate - after all "Improved Trip" has "Combat Expertise" as a prerequisite.

"Coordinated Fire" is an awesome feat: A teamwork feat that makes it easier for allies to hit an enemy you yourself hit with a ranged weapon. Can you see the deadly sniper squads? I can!

I didn't care for the mechanics of "Defensive Disarm" and "Defensive/Offensive Insight", as all three feats grant you bonuses (a free disarm after a missed attack of opportunity and Ac-bonus/bonus to attack after a foe's missed attack) after being missed - the first feat can be powerful, but is very, very specific and the second ones have a meta-gaming problem: They grants you the Ac-bonus/attack bonus to all enemies using the same statblock, something the players will remind the DM often enough, each and every time breaking the illusion of individual enemies I seek to perpetuate in my games. Offensive insight, strangely, does not have the "all enemies of statblock xyz-mechanic". And yes, I often add little details, different weapons etc. So yeah, I won't detract a star for them, but personally, I don't care for them.

"Ducking Shot", the little brother of "Point Blank Mastery" is a feat that rocks - +4 Ac against AaOs due to making ranged attacks with easier prerequisites, offering a non-weapon-specialization alternative that does not make the other feat obsolete and avoids power-creep. Two thumbs up!

In some other installments of this series, I grumbled about some feats feeling too non-specific and while with some restrictions this of course is due to the nature of feats, e.g. the Oracle-book oozed flair and fluff. "Eschew Divine Focus" is just such a feat, allowing an inquisitor to infiltrate hostile organizations thanks not having to carry around his focus to cast. I'm not entirely sure how many groups out there make the divine focus a central part of their campaigns, but in my campaigns, it tends to be an integral factor, thus: Kudos for a simple, elegant and cool feat that should see a lot of use. "Fast Track" offers the chance to better cover your tracks and hunt your enemies faster. Elegant, simple, nice.

A teamwork feat that made me chuckle as my players will love it, is "Friend and Foe" - play good cop/bad cop with your enemies! Excellent and fun! "Gotcha" is another candidate for an elegant feat - it lets you catch falling adjacent allies via a DC 10 str- or dex-check if you have a free hand. "Magical Insight" is another such elegant feat - if an opponent fails a save against a spell you cast, he or she suffers a penalty to future saves against your magic in this combat. The restriction to one battle makes this feat not only palpable, but straight-out cool for me.

"Misdirected Strike" is another keeper - a feat that makes a valid rules-definition to making your opponents hit his allies instead of you in battle, while being hard enough to get thanks to strict feat-requirements. "Subdue" is the final feat is really liked, disposing of the penalty for dealing non-lethal damage.

Finally, we get 3 sample character builds, the bloodhound (a bounty hunter), the Wolf-in-sheep's clothing ( no not the stump with the tentacles and the squirrel, but rather an evil, but oh-so-nice inquisitor) and the detective.


The full--color layout is nice and the one piece of artwork is also cool. Formatting is good, but the file could have used another pass at editing - I noticed 5+ minor typos, from double letters to superfluous punctuation and while they did not impede my enjoyment of the file, at this length they could have been avoided. I did like a lot of the feats, but there were some metagamey ones among them and especially some of the combat-centric feats did not impress me that much. On the other hand, I did not notice any feats that had me explode in nerd-rage or shake my head. When seen in comparison to the other installments of the series, I did prefer the Oracle-installment over this one, but it's still a good buy. Thus, my final verdict is 3.5 Rudii.

Do you like complex traps? Well then, go and check out:

A Necromancer Grimoire: The Art of Traps

This book is 43 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 39 pages for the traps, so let's examine them!

Arts per se are an interesting love/hate concept - after all, they can put a grinding halt to the action and result in the rogue searching every square and rolling the one disable device check that determines whether the trap goes off or not. On the other hand, they make for a fun diversion and, when handled correctly, can provide fun for the whole party. Traps can be very creative, but if you're carried away, you get the more ridiculous examples of the now classic (and mostly awesome) Grimtooth-series. One approach that worked very well was 4th Dimension games' "Skill Challenges: Traps"-book, which will serve a s a kind of benchmark for me in this review.

The first thing you'll notice is that the fellows over at Necromancers of the Northwest finally included printer-friendly versions of their books, making printing out the full-color book easier. While the printer-friendly version is not b/w, it still makes for a nice b/w-print-out. The pdf is also extensively bookmarked, making navigation to the respective traps easy.

The book kicks off with a nice 2-page short story and 1 page of introduction to the matters at hand before jumping right into the traps, though not literally. The traps range from humble CR to devastating CR 20. Better, though, is that each trap gets a nice, quite extensive description to read to your rogue if he/she spots it as well as some advice on implementing the respective traps in your campaign - that's the additional kind of oomph I like in a book.

The traps themselves range from classics like boulders, moving floors etc. up to more devious ones like an exploding pendulum. Mechanically, there is nothing wrong with them and they often take e.g. tending the fire of a furnace and similar maintenance costs into account, which is nice. Even better, some ideas to combine and place the traps are included to make the creative juices flow.

The true stars of this book, though, are the 4 elaborate traps at the end of this book: Each serves as a complete encounter. The first of these traps, the endless hall, is a nice minor puzzle to escape a teleportation loop, complete with extensive details on the surroundings and a schematic map. Oh yeah, schematic maps are provided for all the elaborate maps. The next puzzle is plain awesome: a ring-maze of rotating hexagons set with traps and various configurations - that one is plain awesome! Speaking of plain awesome, the next one is the bone bridge, a complex and potentially deadly bridge that should make for a great necromancer's lair - if you're going for master necromancer, this trap should find a cherished and deadly place in his/her lair. The final trap is rather straight-forward, a room full of fire walls, deadly heat etc. - while not as awesome as the other 3 traps/puzzles, this one is just deadly and fills an iconic niche that may yet offer some things to do for all the players.

The pdf closes with 6 new poisons featured in the traps.


Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches on the 43 pages, quite a feat. Formatting could be a bit better: Some of the trap-texts feature 2 words of its final sentence on the next page, making reading sometimes slightly harder than it could be, though not enough to truly impede your enjoyment of the pdf. The maps of the elaborate traps are cgi-style and while I don't particularly care for the artwork, I love the content. The poisons are a nice bonus and while their green headers don't make for the most beautiful layout decision, they are a nice bonus.

Which gets me to the content: While I did like the regular traps, they did not kindle my imagination - there is nothing wrong with them and they go quite a way, but all in all, for this section I'd settle for 3.5 to 4 stars. However, the 4 elaborate traps ROCK hard and surpass even 4th Dimensions deadly traps. They are fun, easy to insert, intelligent - I don't have any gripes with them and would settle for a final verdict of 5 Rudii on this section, resulting in an overall verdict of 4.5 Rudii, due to the VERY low price for the quality we get. If you need or like traps, check this out!

All right, gotta get back to resting! I hope I'll be able to provide some additional reviews for you fine folks soon!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.