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Monsters of Sin 1: Avarice (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2012 11:50:39
Whether or not you believe, you'll have heard of the concept of sin... going your own way, indulging in your own desires, rather than paying attention to the wishes of your deity. This is the first in a series of resources focussing on the so-called 'seven deadly sins' and providing ample material for GMs to lead characters astray...

Avarice - the desire to accumulate wealth and resources far beyond what you actually need - is a sin that probably besets most fantasy adventurers every so often. Here are presented three monsters whose theme is based around avarice, a template to enable you to bring out the worst in any monster or NPC and a creature that is the pure embodiment of avarice itself - fitting climax to an adventure based around this sin.

First up, the 'Avaricious Creature' template. These poor beasties are corrupted to such a level that they literally eat valuable items. Next come three monsters: the hoard golem, the map mimic, and the midasite. Each in some way typifies avarice - displaying it or goading those characters unfortunate enough to meet them into becoming avaricious themselves.

The hoard golem is, like all golems, a mindless construct, one made out of precious items. Said to have been the invention of a dragon so paranoid about his hoard that he found a way to make his hoard guard itself (rather than hire or enslave guards who might be tempted to help themselves!), they take the form of a shambling heap of treasure that can bedazzle characters with the sheer wealth involved, and conduct a whirlwind attack during which they purloin any valuable items that their target carries.

The map mimic is actually an infant mimic, appearing as a treasure map which shows the way not to loot but to its parent mimic! If it does not lead folks astray and into danger, it has a nasty attack of its own - it attempts to adhere to its victim's face, blinding and eventually suffocating them.

As for the midasite, it is a small insect-like creature whose touch can turn flesh to gold, a bit like a flesh to stone spell only with gold rather than stone as the result. It's a small fey, and wears gold armour itself. Some sneaky art collectors have been known to attempt to capture or befriend a midasite, and then have it create them gold statues on demand!

Finally, the Embodiment of Avarice is a CR20 colossal outsider. Impressive at first glance, it has rat-like features and a dirty furry hide wrapped in fine silks and adamantine full plate armour. Its malign influence can cause the unwary to pull out a valuable item and admire it, ignoring peril, whilst having the capacity to steal precious things and store them in its stomach. When an area contains enough avaricious people - or one who is spectacularly so - it turns up to steal their stuff...

Ending with a few notes on where to find avarice in Midgard, if you use that setting, this book provides some interesting ways to deal with those characters who want to gather far more wealth than they could possibly need, or to build adventures around the theme of avarice. Something to make characters think about what they are doing, and what their true motives are, perhaps... certainly with the potential to be entertaining.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Sin 1: Avarice (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Feats: The Witch's Brew (Pathfinder RPG)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/26/2012 13:32:54
Certainly one of the more interesting books for the new Pathfinder witch class. You will need the Advanced Player's Guide to get the most of of this book obviously.
We start off with a brief overview/analysis of the witch class. Not bad really, but nothing we can get from the APG.
On to the meat of the book, the 30 new feats.
They are a mixed bag, but for the most part they add a lot flavor to the witch. There are some familiar affecting feats which is nice, and commentary/sidebars on a few.

There are also 3 sample witch builds that you can use to make your own.

All this is a good product and worth the price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Feats: The Witch's Brew (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2012 04:11:19
This pdf is 109 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 103 pages of content, so let's check this out!

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
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New Paths: Expanded Spell-Less Ranger (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2012 04:09:20
This pdf is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 12 pages of content, so let's check this one out!

For those of you not in the know: In KQ #11, Marc Radle created an alternate version (meaning no multiclassing with the regular ranger-class) of the ranger-class that fits closer with irl mythology: The spell-less ranger replaces spells with a selection of neat ranger talents - a great approach that has been expanded in this pdf, but let me give you the run-down:

The spell-less ranger gets full BAB, d10, 6+Int skills per level, good fort- and ref-saves, up to 5 favored terrains, up to 4 favored terrains and additionally stealth attack (which is a terrain/favored enemy-based, weaker variant of sneak attack), combat styles, 4 special uses of the healing-skill when in favored terrain (including treating deadly wounds, poisons and diseases) and so-called ranger talents: A total of 25 are provided and run the whole gamut from additional animal companions, bonus feats, less fall damage, scent, the ability to negate concealment via hawk's eyes, trackless stride and improved swimming and climbing capabilities. High-level rangers also can look forward to quarry, improved quarry, hide in plain sight etc.

The result of the changes made to the class are evident - looking at the ranger talents it becomes rather clear that a regular fighter won't outshine a guerilla-style archer ranger, for example, defining the niche of the class more closely. 18 new feats help the ranger by providing further customization options that range from the rather simple "Additional favored terrain" to very interesting feats: "Coordinated Attack" gives your companion access to all your teamwork feats. Another interesting one would be "Defensive Shot", which FINALLY gives you the chance to use ranged weapon in melee with a penalty. A godsend for campaigns without divine magic (or groups without primary healers) is "Improved Nature's Healing", which significantly improves the amount of Hp you may heal by using that ability. Add to that the increased damage output via "Deadly Accuracy" and its improved version (which let you reroll 1s and 2s of ranged attack-damage-rolls) and we have a great class to simulate e.g. the deadly elven guerilla fighter. All in all, I considered the feats to be well-crafted and none of them to be overpowered or utterly boring. (I'd btw. suggest to add SGG's Knacks from their Ranger-book to the list of available ranger talents!)

This is not where the pdf stops, though: We also get two new archetypes for the ranger: The Dual-style ranger gets only one favorite enemy, but two combat styles. The companion-bound ranger is rather complex and can select from a druid's companion-list, enhance his companion, gain aforementioned coordinated companion etc., but at the cost of his favored terrain, camouflage etc.

The pdf also includes info on the 5 styles introduced in the APG and does something EXTREMELY useful: It provides us with a favored-enemy/terrain-char-sheet to add to your regular char-sheet - useful, well-constructed, awesome! Even better, we get yet another extra sheet for animal companions that could also be used for familiars etc. and makes for one of the most clearly arranged ones I've seen so far. Kudos for this great bonus!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, relatively printer-friendly 2-column standard. The pdf has a beautiful front cover, but no bookmarks, which is a bummer in this day and age. Due to being relatively short, I'm willing to let that one slip, though. The spell-less ranger is popular for a reason - Marc Radle has crafted an excellent alternate class and with the new expanded material herein, there are even more reasons to go spell-less than before. This alternate class is awesome, well-designed and the additional content lacks any feats, crunch, etc. I'd consider badly designed or unbalanced. In fact, I absolutely love this take on the ranger, as it makes the class feel more unique and less than a fighter/druid-hybrid. After SGG's stellar "Ranger's Options: Knacks of Nature", this is the second book in a short space that easily can be considered to be a stellar pick for any fans of the concept of the ranger, but not its core-execution. Even for the adherents of spellcasting this pdf is well worth the pick for the archetypes/feats and if you can spare the bucks, combine its talents with SGG's knacks (by e.g. adding the talents as knacks or vice versa) - I guarantee you won't find the result unbalancing. When all's said and done, a great start for the new line, Marc Radle did an awesome job and I look forward to seeing more! My final verdict? 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths: Expanded Spell-Less Ranger (Pathfinder RPG)
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Kobold Quarterly Magazine 21
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2012 17:55:24
As someone whose main role-playing outlet is DMing D&D 4e, I found Kobold Quarterly 21 to be a bit thin on good material. As someone whose day job is on a university’s religion faculty, I was fascinated by the varied treatments of divine magic in this issue and the varied ways of translating ideas about divine magic and faith into game mechanics.

Although “Daughters of Lilith: Ecology of the Succubus” is marked as a 4e article, it’s mostly free of game mechanics—and thus equally appropriate for any fantasy RPG that includes succubi—until the very end. Zeb Cook’s article on mystery religions is completely systemless, and very useful. Tim and Eileen Connors’ article on “Clerical Conflicts” employs a lot of Pathfinder crunch, but has a lot of story elements too that could easily be ported over to 4e or other systems. Steve Winter’s column asks “Why No Monotheism?” is pretty short, and actually spends more time answering the titular question than providing any hints for GMs wishing to run monotheistic settings (the advice occupies basically the final column of the two-page article). I enjoyed the interview with Bill Slavicsek. The “Scriveners of Allain” article, though 4e in mechanics, didn’t light my fire; the Pathfinder article presenting the witch louse was much more engaging (though somewhat disgusting).

Kobold Quarterly is always a mixed bag, unless you play several different game systems or are willing to put in the extra work to convert other crunch to your favorite system. If you’re strictly looking for material for just one system, I’d say this issue is worthwhile for Pathfinder, less so for 4e. If you’re up for mining articles written for a different system than the one you usually play or run, KQ 21 is a worthy entry in the series.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 21
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Party of 1: Alosar Emanli and the Creatures from the Fallen Star (solo adventure)
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2012 16:54:32
(The following review is jointly written for Roleplayers Chronicle and Adventures & Shopping)

Alosar' ticks many boxes for what should make a really good solo adventure but I found myself very reluctant to replay the adventure to see where else the situations led. Technically it has a high replayability factor, in practice I found it a bit of a drag. The solo games I grew up with were the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, Sorcery! GrailQuest and Lone Wolf, which all used RPG styled systems. Most of the CYOA books which I saw at the time didn't have dice systems, and had objectives like "Find all 25 different endings" which seemed less of a victory somehow. Alosar is third in a series of separately published texts which (I believe) started as an article-mini-game in Kobold Quarterly. That article partly inferred or revisited the solo adventure from 1983 "Red Box" D&D. The solo game in the red box may have seemed very innovative to CYOA players, but to Fighting Fantasy readers it was lacking in description, story and the epic-ness found in a proper "quest". It was a dungeon with a few rooms, a few monsters, a handful of acquisitions. As an introduction to the D&D xp slow-climb of low level play it was perfect. D&D and Pathfinder are balanced towards group play, so perhaps introductory solos are in fact rigged so that group-play will always appear to be more exciting. I mention all this because when I buy or am leant a solitaire adventure I like to know its exact context in relation to other products. In typing this I have yet to fully explore the Pathfinder Beginner Box and perhaps there's a solo game in there too, much like in the D&D Basic game of my youth. In some ways solo texts are brave move for publishers whose meat and potatoes is often scenarios, new monsters, power lists and new classes.

Although not implicitly stated, Alosar is almost certainly a game for new players who wish to learn the core rules. The inclusion of the character sheets is for group campaign play, and not as a record sheet for the text itself (which I at first assumed it was). Alosar, as with the two titles prior to this is absolutely perfect for a Dungeon Master to give to a new player before a game, as a taster and familiariser with both a character and basic rules. In fact, I'm pretty sure that their aren't many Pathfinder Druid solos out there. I feel I have to say this in case you're a Pathfinder player wanting a new challenge on a rainy afternoon when friends are away - unless of course you enjoy the nostalgia of being led through the rules with someone else's character (which many of us do). I don't mind introductory solos, it's just that I feel that the solo medium needs championing for experienced play. Just for a moment I thought Open Design were going to challenge this concept. No, it's definitely a low level introductory solo. But hey, at least we know that the Party of One products can be played by anyone from newbie players to the jaded long-beards.

The reason why I mention gamebooks, is that for myself, the more exciting games were the ones where the reader was able to relate to the character as a detailed persona, like in the Lone Wolf. By contrast, in Fighting Fantasy and Tunnels & Trolls solos, the protagonist is an invisible persona where the reader fills in the gaps and stats. In the latter, descriptions of the hero's weapons are absent because the character might be of any class and armed accordingly. Naturally with games where different types of characters have a different skillset, it's very important to tailor the limited number of choices to that character. Party of One BB3 totally succeeds in placing the reader firmly in the shoes of forest-alert trainee-druid Alosar, whose sickle and select spells smack down the foes which have entered into his locale. Alosar is not yet a wandering adventurer, stumbling into random unknown caves (no doubt that will be his future). He is defending his territory, the living woods, from (literal) alien invaders. Therefore, the writing style flows very well - the reader is both "you" and "Alonsar", and is kept immersed in the situation in hand. I like this a lot. Unfortunately, the notion that (before getting involved in real danger) Alonsar the Druid has to perform a set of tasks or trials for his teacher feels a little hackneyed. In a larger text this would be appropriate, but we only have a handful of sections (65) with which to complete the game. Which brings me to a minor problem I have with the ending ...

"You have completed this adventure. If you would like to try for a different outcome, return to 1 and begin again."

There is a reason for this, because although the adventure is fairly linear, there are a couple of "minor reveals" which mean that as a reader you are rewarded with a somehow richer experience of the adventure. I'm just a fan of survival really, and that statement smacks of the CYOA books where the meta-game of beating the book by seeking out all of the routes is actually a goal. If this text is an introductory text to campaign play then a "one-time through" experience is all that should be allowed unless the character is a time travelling quantum physics specialist. This might be up to the DM of the campaign to decide. Again, I have to stress that I believe this product is ideal for a DM to give to a learning player before a game, and that it is not ideal as a one-off game for a player without a group.

I would like to see more of the Party of One texts produced and then bundled together as a reduced pack for group players to collectively build a party with a back story prior to their noble alliance as a party of adventurers (starting at 2nd or 3rd level – which is perfect!).

I printed the text out. When mentioning this to the editor of RC, the response was "Why the heck are you printing that?" I guess his foresight was better than mine...

Open Design produce some lush easy-on-the-eye products - Kobold Quarterly excels in this way. The Party of One products wouldn't look out of place in a glossy full colour rulebook or a coffee table magazine for that matter. There's a marbled background image and the choices of fonts are aesthetically balanced, the text is well ordered, in easy to read double columns. Easy to read, that is - if it was a magazine...

Experience has taught me that paper copies are the best way to play solos with dice and a pencil, either at a table or in bed. If I want a solo-fantasy RPG experience on a PC I'd probably play an actual PC game. There are practical reasons for printing some PDFs out. One is that when combat occurs in a solo, a separate sheet of paper is useful for scribbling HPs on, equipment found etc -if you don't have a character sheet. I mistook the two sheets at the back of the text as being working character sheets, but they are not up to the task and are intended for the character's life beyond the game text. So I printed the PDF and my partner's inkjet really struggled. The marbled background does the document no favours when in comes to low budget printing - it certainly gets worse when any of the colours are running low. An alternative printer-friendly copy of the text, or information about how to turn off the background would have been very handy in this case.

Viewing the PDF on a tablet is a fair compromise and my old school ways are slowly accepting that an iPads are less invasive at the gaming table than a laptop or tower. Playing the text on an iPad had it's own problems as the two column text made navigating through the different numbered sections even more chaotic - zoom in, out - flip forward and back a few pages - scan up, down ... what was the passage number again?

A message to all publishers: If you're selling a solo game PDF or ebook with numbered sections - please include hotlinks.

It's bad enough that some publishers don't connect a Table of Contents to the actual contents in purchasable documents. We are living in what could be a glorious new age for interactive texts. Hyperlinking is what the web and simplest of PDFs do best.

In summary, the PDF is beautiful to look at - but unprintable and unreadable on paper, but it is also lacking in the basics in terms of on screen navigation.

On the positive side, if you're collecting the Party of One publications then this product is a genuine must have. If you're DM teaching players, or a player wishing to learn some basics, this will be nice investment. If you play a lot of solo games you may find Alosar' disappointing.

It's refreshing to play a druid and some of the encounters are quite original, but overall I see this text as a pre-game tool and not standing up well on it's own as a gaming experience in it's own right.

Overall: 3-4 stars out of 5

-Billiam B.
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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Alosar Emanli and the Creatures from the Fallen Star (solo adventure)
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Party of 1: Alosar Emanli and the Creatures from the Fallen Star (solo adventure)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2012 02:44:08
This pdf is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 13 pages of content, so let's check this out!

Since this is a GM-less solo-adventure, I'm not going to give you a run of the whole module or its story and refrain myself to basic information:

Alosar Emanli is a druid and much like his ranger-brethren Elgar Fetch before him, the elf is going through a kind of coming-of-age - in fact, the pdf kicks off with the tests Alosar has to pass to become a full-blown druid. These tests are supervised by his master and thus, the chances of Alosar dying a rather slim, though he may get hurt (and healed). Since the title already gives that away: There is a shooting star and aberrations quell from the fallen star. You master leaves to hold counsel with his druidic brethren and you may find the threat and go after it or follow your master. As with the other "Party of 1"-books, there are two versions of the stats of Alosar, one for level 1 and one for level 2.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are ok, though I still have some things to complain: First of all, the rules-information is printed in red, thus, if you print out the module in b/w, you can't distinguish the two types of text. Secondly, there's a problem with the spells: The entry that introduces the player to the prepared spells can be skipped if you fail one of the druid's tests, which essentially leaves you in the dark regarding your capabilities. The pdf is bookmarked and layout adheres to a 2-column, full-color standard.

Now, If you look at the char-sheet, you'll notice an absence of e.g. the "burning hands"-spell Alosar is supposed to have prepared, depriving you of a combat option you ought to have. And no, this is clearly not intentional, but a serious flaw in the overall flow of this scenario. It's also quite fascinating that a LOT of space is wasted on this initiation rite, while the options to deal with the threat almost fall by the wayside and are rather boring. And then there's the cardinal sin of "Solving the problem by running to your boss", which is one potential outcome of this module and a no-go of adventure-writing 101. Add to that the fact that beings in the forest don't respect the main character and in fact hinder his progress and we have a main character that is hard to relate to, an unfortunately rather bland threat and no truly exciting elements like Kalgor's conspiracy or Elgar's decisions. Alosar's adventure not only exhibits a severe flaw in its flow of the narrative, but also is the weakest in terms of story. Thus, my final verdict will be 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
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Your Whispering Homunculus
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/23/2012 07:00:02
This pdf is 169 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 162 pages of content, so let's check this out!

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

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

Friends of our often neglected d12 will rejoice, for there are a lot of neat "dozen" tables - from barkeeps to insides of pit traps, weather changes, starting disposition modifiers in conversations, minor afflictions, battle-scars on monsters, watch captains, goblin chiefs, unusual rooms (e.g. a sludgery...) and village squares provide quite some food for our poor d12 to be used. Oh, and if your PCs are in the city, be sure to make sure of the new 12 consequences of bad rain and 10 instances of bad snow in the city! And if afore-mentioned goblin chiefs need some servants - there are 100 goblin features make them distinctive!
If you want the PCs to go to the horse fair (perhaps due to owning 4WFG'S "Phantasia Zoologica" or NNW's "Steeds and Stallions", a sample one, including a race, is provided, as is an article on (un-)common breeds of dogs and advice on how to freak out players and play to their sense when their PCs are alone, but they obviously aren't.
There is also an article that uses the troll-touched template to introduce us to a variation on the concept of adaption/degeneration. More on the appetizing side is the new feat and 20 sample ales that add magical effects to dwarven ale.
I already mentioned monster scars, but in this book, we also get mechanical rules for monsters that have actually been mangled - from disfigured nymphs to hydra-stumps to an extremely cool mini-bestiary on one of my favorite critters Ankhegs! I'm not sure whether it should be worrying, but this section contains content I have also used in my campaign with variants prior to reading this. Pett is in my mind! AHHHHHH.....Oo The Bestiaries also have a section on variant Basilisks and the trog-kin template.
A short article explains a subschool of malignant magic, variants of regular spells that impose a toll on their casters but are also more effective than their regular versions - I would pay for a malignant treatment of ALL spells in the Core/APG/UM/UC, as they make for a great take on magic that is inherently...taxing and potentially corrupt.

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Your Whispering Homunculus
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Kobold Quarterly Magazine 21
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2012 11:14:36
Hmm... an Editorial on that contentious question: semi-naked female characters. Traditional game fare, perhaps, but provoking comment. Being of the female persuasion but pragmatic rather than sexist, my only complaint is that if I were participating in a fantasy adventure I'd want a decent layer of armour between me and the monsters - and that doesn't mean hiding behind the nearest paladin! A few bare-chested blokes would be nice, to maintain balance, though.

The first article proper introduces a Shaman character class for Pathfinder. Opening with an evocative narration of a shaman performing a divination (not for the squeamish, she's using rabbit entrails!), the class is described as very druid-like, recognising the spirit with all components of nature. They are shape-shifters and healers, whilst the most powerful can send their very essence forth from their mortal body on a spirit quest. Spell lists are limited, but unlike most divine casters a Shaman does not have to prepare but can cast any spell he knows, up to his limit, when he chooses. They have a bond with an animal spirit, which takes the form of the animal in question and acts pretty much like a companion. As they gain in levels, they learn Totem Secrets - such as the ability to use entrails for divinations (or a less messy alternative involving interpreting the flight of birds) - and gain other abilities. Quite a fun class, particularly in wilderness adventures or when there are lots of barbarians around, although I'm not sure just what benefits there are over choosing a druid. Probably more style, and the variety is always good...

Next comes Daughters of Lilith, an article about the ecology of the succubus. Written in academic style, ostensibly with research assistance by a wizard called Oziel, it looks at the possible origins of succubi and moves on to dicuss their appearance and behaviour... even their growth and development from childhood. The concept of succubi celebrating their birthdays is quite unusual, as is the startling fact that apparently very few are actually able to bear children themselves, despite their tendency to engage in fornication whenever they get the chance. There's also a sidebar on the male equivalent, the incubus... overall, this is not an article for the prudish although it's all in the best possible taste. You may want to consider your group carefully as you decide how much (or if at all) you will incorporate into your game. If you do decide they'll be suitable, there are several neat plot ideas laid out, while the rest of the article is quite ripe for plundering for ideas. And there are a few new powers, feats, actions - and a quite scary curse spell - for those who enjoy adding variant game mechanics to their monsters.

Then comes a thought-provoking piece on mystery cults as a way to make the religions encountered in your game world more interesting. There's plenty of historical precedent, and they don't even have to be evil - just a group which prefers to hold worship rituals in private. Public worship may also happen in overt temples, and even participants in mystery cults may not be required to hide their membership - they just don't talk about what happens in their ceremonies, and may have secret doctrine that is not shared with outsiders. The article then runs through the basics of designing such a cult, along with suggestions as to how to use it to effect in your game.

The next article is a look at Clerical Conflicts, by Tim and Eileen Connors. Within the alternate reality of your game world, the deities your cleric characters revere are real (whatever your views about religion in the real world might be), and they have the potential to make personal demands on their followers. Even if the deity doesn't intervene directly, the church or other religious organisation may well give that cleric orders. These can lead to powerful opportunties for role-playing and character development, as well as being a potent way to introduce plot events... and the real fun begins when the organised church wants something different from the desires of the deity they ostensibly serve! Plenty of ideas are presented here, along with notes for the Pathfinder ruleset. The ideas will work whatever system you prefer, of course.

This is followed by an article asking a question that's puzzled me over decades of gaming: Why No Monotheism? Real-world religions include several monotheistic faiths, most of those with a pantheon of gods are confined to ancient history. Yet fantasy games have pantheons of deities galore, or at least gods who do not insist that their followers never, ever worship anyone else. The author comes up with some compelling reasons for why things are the way they are in the heavens of your favourite games... and presents ideas for how you can, if you wish, have a monotheistic religion and still have a good game without offending your more religious players!

Next comes a whole bunch of Divine Archetypes. Why should clerics have all the religious adventures? Lay followers can be as devout, gain special abilities, and serve their god in far more active ways than attending temple on the relevant holy days. You might also use some of these to ensure that all members of the party feel fully involved in a campaign that centres on the divine... rangers specialising in hunting undead and incorporeal spirits, fighters with celestial companions on the battlefield - there's even a fighting style for monks called the 'angel fist' to play with. I wish I'd had access to them a few years ago when running a campaign in which the characters formed a party of missionaries sent out on behalf of a deity to explore and convert unknown parts of the game world!

What else? There's an enlightening interview with Bill Slavicsek, some intriguing backgrounds in magic for the AGE ruleset - alchemists, druids, illusionists, and seers - while Skip Williams muses on heavy armour and flat-footedness in his rules query column. Then we meet the Scriveners of Allain, a bunch of scribes for D&D 4e, who have formed a cult practicing secret rituals based around glyph magic... and noted for their talents at taking revenge on those who have wronged them! Treasures from the depths under Midgard, the saints associated with the worship of Mavros, and a really creepy wizard's familiar which bonds to the wizard's very flesh follow, with strange goings-on in the Pathfinder Society and amidst Zobeck's bandits rounding out this issue... an issue well worth the reading, with masses of things to spark your imagination and make any campaign divine!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 21
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Party of 1: Elgar Fletch and the Dark Army (solo adventure)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/10/2012 03:46:34
This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 14 pages for this GM-less adventure for one player, so let's check this out!

Remember the "Choose your own adventure"-novels? Well, this is essentially a GM-less adventure for one player that follows the same format. Seeing that anyone who might be interested in the module will perceive any detailed information on it as spoilers, I'm only going to go into the most rudimentary of information.

The hero of this module, Elgar Fetch (stats for 1st and 3rd level are provided, though the latter is assumed to be the default) is a kind-hearted man who lives a good life as a trapper and ranger in a little village. Life has been good to him and he has quite some money to buy pieces of equipment in the town. This is the first scene and depending on what he buys, later decisions will be influenced. After the short shopping trip, Elgar will meet the town-beauty, who is obviously in love with the awkward ranger and it is after that meeting that things turn ugly. Suffice to say, Elgar will determine the fate of the nation's capital with his skills and the adventure provides quite a smattering of different choices and essentially two basic paths to follow. Oh, and there's some potential for even tricking a rather major adversary. Were I to hold anything against the module, it would be the lack of a exciting final confrontation, but that remains only a minor blemish.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks. Non-fluff-information is in red, which is somewhat subpar, as, when printed out, the two different colors become indistinguishable in b/w. Elgar is a sympathetic, if somewhat awkward and nice hero to identify with and is much more colorful than Kalgor in the first Party of 1. In fact, I very much preferred Elgar's adventure - the choices matter more, there are more solutions to most problems and the different outcomes vary enough to offer some replay-value. That being said, presentation (with the red) is not yet optimized and the lack of bookmarks is another minor downer. Additionally, the lack of a true climax somewhat, at least for me, deters from the overall appeal - here, Kalgor's adventure is superior. Also, the opposing forces remain mostly undeveloped and potential for a certain affliction has been omitted. My final verdict for Elgar's adventure will thus be 4 stars - a good module that could have been stellar.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Elgar Fletch and the Dark Army (solo adventure)
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Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
by Raphael P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/06/2012 02:05:15
As a child I always had a fondness for adventure gamebooks (Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy, Way of the Tiger, Golden Dragon, Tunnels & Trolls etc). In fact I must have played about two thirds of the original Fighting Fantasy series wich stretched to 50-something titles (52/53 ish) not to mention most of the Lone Wolf books.

As a Pathfinder player, when I came across this product I thought it would be interesting to see how they'd handle slimming down a complex rules system like Pathfinder for solo play and I have to say they've done a remarkably good job of it. They've even avoided the usual Gamebook format of putting all the rules you'll need at the front and instead, have opted to introduce them gradualy during play (in a similar manner to a couple of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - Creature of Havoc and Dark Vein Prohpecy if I recall correct). This helps to ease a player into the adventure without the need to think about rules straight away.

Given the size of the file and the price the adventure is exactly what I expected: short and sweet. I would give it five stars but there are a few errors on the character sheets presented at the back as being fully ready to play. The ammount of hit points on the 3rd level character sheet differs slightly from those listed frequently throughout the text and since the number in the adventure is consistent I'd take it over the one on the character sheet. Additionaly the 1st level character sheet only has 1 feat when it should have 2 (1 for being 1st level, 1 for being a 1st level fighter). Likewise the 3rd level character sheet only has 2 feats when it should have 4. Now there's nothing wrong with this. You're average Pathfinder player will look at those character sheets and realise they've been left some space to play with. Some creative freedom to the fill the gap. However a new player coming to sit down at a table and play might not be aware of this and the experienced members of the group wouldn't know the sheet was incomplete. Perhaps a little eratta or a footnote that some more work is required to complete the character before play is in order but as it stands I'll give it a solid 4 stars, amrked down from a potential 5 because of the few tiny errors in the character sheets at the back.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
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Party of 1: Elgar Fletch and the Dark Army (solo adventure)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/28/2012 13:28:37
This second in the 'Party of One' solo adventures follows the same format as the first, diving straight in to the first paragraph of the adventure then directing you to the next bit to read, and with the character sheets - for Elgar as both a Level 1 and a Level 3 Ranger - tucked away at the end. All you need are some dice, the necessary game mechanics being explained as and when they arise.

Starting as a backwoods youth, skilled at hunting and trapping, young Elgar Fletch begins the adventure as he's wondering what to treat himself with after selling some pelts to a local trader. Soon he's shuffling his feet around a local lass who's clearly sweet on him and then... well, you pick your route through the rest.

There's plenty for Elgar to do, and to fight with, as he betakes himself through his woodland home and, for the first time in his life, beyond. There are people to talk to, secrets to discover, a mad dash to the capital city and - if you get it all right - a kingdom to save. You might even get the king's thanks... as for the girl... wait and see!

It's an engaging adventure with enough going on that you can play it more than once, discovering new things and finding other places to go and people to meet. Ideal for a quiet moment when you cannot find anyone with whom to play.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Elgar Fletch and the Dark Army (solo adventure)
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Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2012 06:55:43
This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 12 pages of content. So. What exactly is this Party of 1 about?

Remember those "Choose your own story books"? This is essentially an adventure that can be run without a GM and with just a couple of dice - 73 different sections, most of which provide more than one outcome, guide you through the adventure. You run all combats, play both the opposition and your character as well as allies and the basics are the PFRPG-rules - essentially, we get 2 sheets for the main character, the dwarf Kalgor (one at 1st level and one at 3rd), with the latter being assumed to be the default.
Over the course of the adventure, Kalgor not only has to brave an initiation ceremony, but also deal with deadly undead, rescue and fight along allies and might even uncover a conspiracy of sorts! As no DMs are required, any additional information I could give would act as spoilers, so I'm breaking my usual format and jump straight to the

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, though not top-notch. The beginning fails to e.g. mention that you should also have a d12 ready. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with a parchment-style background. Rules-information is printed in read and I didn't notice a "dead link" among the numbers. The pdf comes with neither bookmarks, nor a printer-friendly version, which is a bit of a pity. The amount of different outcomes crammed into the adventure is rather interesting, as several factors (secrets) decide on different story-branches and, much like a good computer-rpg, provide for some rather neat replay value. On the other hand, some of the links and how the secrets work that open up new options can be a bit confusing - making having holy water for example a deciding factor for a new number felt a bit strange to me, while the basic street-level-entry can feel a bit confusing.
The text also always assumes the 3rd-level default - alternative mentioning of the 1st level stats would have been nice. However, the story, while simple, is actually adequately complex for the short length.
Add to that the fact that this is an easy way to learn PFRPG-rules and we have a nice little pdf that is definitely worth the low asking price. Next time you're on the train or some other location where you don't have a GM at hand, this will definitely come in handy to satisfy your gaming needs. That being said, the lack of a printer-friendly version is a bit annoying, as in printed out b/w you can't make out the difference between the red and black sections of the text. Also, the motivation for the instigator remain, at least slightly clichéd and Kalgor, as a character, is rather hard to relate to and pale. This alongside the minor glitches remain my only problems with the adventure and thus I'll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 - a good and fun past-time with some minor blemishes and an exciting finale.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
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Red Eye of Azathoth
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/25/2012 19:12:35
This pdf is 108 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 103 pages of content, so let's check this scenarios out!

The anthology of adventures begins with a prologue depicting the rather complex plotlines that span a millennium and that will have your investigators struggling against terrible odds...and die. A couple of times. For one of the basic ideas of the anthology is that all of the adventures are connected via reincarnation - the Investigators actually are the same individuals and, via the new, story-driven Incarnum skill, may even tap into skills they had in past lives etc. - for a price, of course. And the currency is your sanity...

Each of the adventures comes with 4 pregens and the campaign is very much centered on using pregens suitable for the respective eras, so if you do plan to run these adventures with more characters, you should plan in some additional time to create fitting characters.

That being said, this is an adventure and thus the following text contains massive SPOILERS. Investigators should cease to further investigate and jump to the conclusion.

Are you a Keeper? Sure? All right! The overall storyline centers on a cataclysm of proportions most terrifying: Lei Peng, ancient Chinese sorceror and vassal to the Denizens of Leng jerks his leash and breaks free of his master's control. While the Denizens seek to unravel the truth behind a brass-sphere artifact of Lei Peng and want to harness the "Red Eye of Azathoth", the red harbinger star to make earth their own playground and possess mortals at their leisure, Lei Peng uses the original sphere to reincarnate over the ages and wants to summon Azathoth to earth and usher in a cataclysm of madness and despair under his reign. The only drawback of Peng's ceaseless reincarnation (his true life-force secured in the dreamlands) is that the displaced souls of his former incarnations also resurface with each of his sojourns to our earth - cue the Investigators! A brilliant way to make the characters WANT to stop Peng and end their neverending nightmare!

Our first scenario takes place in Lindisfarne, 887 AD. The harbinger star looms over the abbey, in which the twisted bones of a former Peng-possessed saint lie and unfortunately for everyone involved, dark magic has taken over the cloister. The vikings who were in the process of raiding the place did certainly not expect the red rain of blood, rising tide or dark magic of Peng and thus, 2 monks and 2 vikings are sent to find the reason and put an end to Peng's dread sorcery. The initial constructed mistrust between the characters makes for a great way to encourage roleplaying and 2 handouts sum up what the respective characters know - this set-up, while potentially problematic, works only to unite the characters, though, as soon visions of past lives (5 are provided) and with it, the Incarnum skill slowly surface and forge them into a team while the apocalypse seems to loom. In order to stop Peng, they'll have to infiltrate the abbey, push blindly past corpse spiders (hideous amalgams of dead bodies who can only see what sees them) and finally stop Peng by breaking through his magical defenses. This climax sets a precedent for the whole anthology - while many Cthulhu-scenarios focus on investigation and offer a climactic show-down in the end, in this anthology, the stretch from investigation to full-blown, almost survival-horroresque escalation is a short one and while not common, it does work here - after all, if the Investigators die, not much is lost, thus encouraging players to go for the blaze of glory/gibbering, homicidal insanity approach.

The second scenario, 1287 AD, takes place in the Kamakura era in Japan. The land is still suffering from the repercussions of averting Mongol invasions and one particular, isolated mountain village alone, Iwazumi, always manages to pay its tribute. 6 visions, a summary of what the investigators know (including glossary), 3 hand-outs notes, 3 new creatures and 4 new spells (mostly for the bad guys) are included. Sent to investigate by the authorities, the investigators will reach the village after an encounter with a servitor-race creature only to find a massive problem for their investigation: The people are mute. All of them. Thus, the investigation will mostly work via written notes, perhaps even improvised gestures and a wall of silence literally blocks the investigators in the beginning - until they hear a newborn's scream, which cues them, hopefully, that the local Kami is not all it seems and takes the voices - to put them into voice-boxes. When Peng attacks the village with a flock of disturbing bird-like servitors, the Investigators will have to save people, hunt the sorceror...and find that the Kami is in fact a Denizen of Leng who has already taken care of Peng's latest incarnation and seeks to undo Azathoth's lullaby via the thousands of stolen voices. It's up to the PCs to stop this via any means necessary and hopefully thwart the plans of the now-revealed second faction of masterminds involved in this deadly game of chess.

The third scenario, 1487 AD hits the town of Valencia in Spain rather unexpected: The Spanish inquisition has taken the town under the leadership of the charismatic Esteban del Cassandro, divine savior of the town, guarded by angels made flesh...and latest incarnation of Lei Peng. To make matters truly worse, the angels are Byakhee in disguise and he has already rounded up Muslims, Jews and anyone else who might make for a good scapegoat and seeks to have them all purified by fire in the morning. The scenario kicks off without any of the investigators knowing which of the other inmates subjected to torture actually are investigators and after a grueling torture session potentially characterized by forced confessions and blaming of others, the players will find their latest incarnations confined to the city dungeon. This time, things are a bit different, though: We get 7 different handouts, 3 additional ones that help the players get used to the era and 5 different visions. The new characters are more experienced and some of them even know spells. And they will need them, for this particular scenario is HARD. Not only will they have to escape the prison, they will also have to navigate the streets of Valencia under the watchful gaze of the "angels" and mobs routing up people to be burnt - in order to stop the madness of a pogrom, the investigators will have to unearth how Peng controls the angels and expose/assassinate him in front of the whole town while exposing that he's not who he claims to be - otherwise, Peng's death will do nothing to spread to impending carnage and the fires of hatred will indeed defile the skies...

The fourth scenario, 1587 AD, is rather tame in comparison, but no less compelling - the investigators are colonists and have purchased their tickets toward a new life in the new world - they're set out for Roanoke! We again, get 5 visions as well as a handout. With regards to the scenarios in this anthology, this one is rather tame, but things can be deceiving. Once the investigators have taken care of their business in the old world and survived the perilous journey to America, they'll settle in the abandoned colony and try to establish contact with the natives to find out what exactly has befallen their predecessors - hopefully without opening hostilities with the natives. Peng's latest incognito tries to incite and escalate the dealings with the natives, but is soon stopped short in his tracks by being killed off alongside other people missing. Tensions are running high on the side of both settlers and natives and existential anxieties threaten along-side maddening drums from the woods the existence of the whole settlement. Hopefully, the PCs dealing with the natives keep a cool head and find the remnants of failed Leng possession (flawed copies of Peng's sphere) devices along the remains of the former colonists. If they fail to stop the denizen that has taken the shape of an evil tribal spirit, the Denizens will complete their duplicate spheres and condemn the world to eventually becoming their decadent playing ground of self-destructive urges...and that's not even the finale!

The final adventure, 1887 AD, takes place in Desperation, Arizona and includes wild west gun-fighting rules, 4 new spells, 2 new creatures, 3 visions and a whopping 11 pages of handouts - which is plain awesome in itself. The mining town of desperation has been beset by sandstorms and cut off from outside influences - even worse, Peng has finally had enough of the investigator's meddling and located them prior to them awakening to their nature. He also dealt with them. Permanently. All is lost. Well. Not really. A gallows in the desert suddenly sees the corpses coming to choking life - without any memories and still mostly mummified by the scorching heat, corpses spring the life, clotted blood starts to slowly unclot itself and half-undead gunslingers shamble back towards desperation in order to reclaim their identities and stop the apocalypse the mad sorceror with the shown eyelids seeks to bring down upon earth. Even with the benefits of six-shooters and their excellent gun slinging-skills, these individuals will be hard-pressed, for Peng's grip on Desperation is tight - controlling the food supply of the town, he has fed the town human flesh and is on the verge of having the town consume itself in a homicidal, cannibalistic fury. Even though the investigators are half-undead (though slowly returning to life), proficient in some spells and have a lot of skill on their side, Peng has stacked the odds against them: A conjured azagoth guards his codex, undead wendigo (and a lot of them!) servitors have taken over all positions of power and with a town teetering on the brink of madness, investigating when the whole town knows you're supposed to be dead and without knowing who you are tends to be rather difficult. Worse, this is their last incarnation, the last chance for the wayward souls to stop Peng - their incarnations are at an end and the demon-sultan looms. Hopefully, they have succeeded in some of the other adventures and pierced together enough of Peng's M.O. to get rid of him permanently and seal Azathoth in a showdown of cataclysmic proportions. Even if they succeed, though, their victory may prove to be bitter-sweet if they botches the Roanoke-scenario - the hottest goods out there are these intricate brass spheres...

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed 3 glitches, and all were punctuation glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The pdf is full color, though the softcover (no longer available) is b/w. The artworks consist of a mélange of period piece stock-art, original drawings and beautiful maps and handouts. This anthology is wholly different from anything I've ever played in CoC - chock-full of interesting mechanics and apocalyptic scenarios, the anthology may fall a bit flat on the investigation side of things, something purists should be aware of. However, the time-period-spanning sequence of scenarios and the non-traditional, episodic narrative structure make up for that in presenting you a tour de force of escalating nightmares, oppressive doomsday scenarios and disturbing allotopias, with each scenario featuring some kind of special set-up for roleplaying or some complications - this still is CoC, after all and whoever thinks that unfocused violence will solve anything will be squashed. Brains over brawns - even though this anthology feels more like a action-horror offering than a murder mystery. If you're looking for something different or want to show players of more combat-oriented rpgs how awesome CoC can be, this should be considered your anthology of choice. My final verdict will be 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Eye of Azathoth
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Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2012 08:54:50
The concept of the GMless adventure seems to be coming back, an ideal way to while away a few moments when there's no time to round up some fellow players but you fancy some adventure... just the thing if you are waiting for an flight, or stuck with a long train ride!

In this, the first of a series from Open Design, you take on the role of the dwarf hero (or at least, would-be hero) Kalgor, son of Kongar, son of Kalal, of the Bloodhammer Clan. The time has come for you to try out for the Iron Shields, the elite guard of your dwarf city...

The test is one of combat, and as you move as directed from paragraph to paragraph you get directions in what to do in respect of game mechanics - indeed the GM is replaced, not just in terms of being led through the plot but in the wider sense of being helped to play... ideal if you are unfamiliar with the ruleset, or just don't happen to have the rulebooks to hand. These explanatory notes are printed in red, and provide sufficient detail that a complete newcomer to role-playing ought to be able to follow them.

Although the ostensible entry test to the Iron Shields is a straightforward head-to-head combat with another candidate, there is a lot more to this adventure that brawling... even if you manage to lose the first bout (and so miss out on that coveted slot in the Iron Shields) the adventure goes on with other things to discover, and a few more fights as well. It may be a bit simplistic, but it's fun and, for the newcomer to role-playing, gives a good idea of what it's all about, some of the scope of things that you will be able to do in a role-playing game.

The layout is the conventional numbered paragraphs of solo gaming, each paragraph ending with a choice or challenge, based on which you are told which paragraph to read next. It is all clear and easy to follow, although it would have been improved by making use of the hyperlinking capability of PDF design. For that matter, it might have been a good idea to put the character sheets - you may play at 1st level or 3rd level - at the front so you do not have to scroll through the entire adventure to find them!

That said, it is an exciting little adventure in its own right, with plenty that could be developed... indeed, it's something that could be readily converted into a regular adventure for one or two characters by an eager GM. If you are 'home alone' and want to exercise your battle axe (or at least your dice) you could do worse than give this a run-through.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach (solo adventure)
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