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MonkeyGod Presents: The Treasures of Elbard
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2006 00:00:00
The Treasures of Elbard is a 40 page d20 pdf adventure. This adventure was originally released by MonkeyGod Enterprises but has been re-released in unaltered form by Highmoon Media Productions. The adventure is suitable for characters of 8th or 9th level, and involves searching for the lost artifacts of the County of Elbard, a place originally overrun by goblinoids and other humanoids. This adventure, having been released in 2001, still uses the 3e revision of the d20 rules.

The product comes as a single pdf file that contains the adventure. There is a brief table of contents although no bookmarks have been included. About 25 pages of the pdf are the adventure itself, while the remainder is NPC statistic and write-ups, maps and other details. Writing and editing is generally good, as are the maps and art, but the most glaring feature missing from the product is decent organisation and summary. An adventure summary would've gone a long way in making the adventure clearer and easier to run, and gives some idea as to how the adventure is scoped or organised. In addition, such a summary would at least include details on how the players are expected to make their way through this adventure, and cater for any other eventualities regarding how to tackle this search.

The adventure starts by presenting a brief history of the region and its people before plunging into the adventure itself. The County of Elbard was a prosperous nation eventually overrun by goblinoids, and the three treasures of Elbard, minor artifacts, were spirited away in the wake of the battle. The PCs, for reasons of their own, are in search of these artifact treasures, and venture to the County of Elbard to find them. The plot is straightforward and simple, and the execution as straightforward. On their journey through the County of Elbard, the PCs gradually uncover the history and locations of the Treasures of Elbard, and eventually work their way through several locations and encounters to find them.

The adventure is location based, featuring a handful of location that the PCs can explore as they search for the missing treasures. For the most part the adventure is entirely PC driven - there's nothing really that forces them in any particular direction, although the random encounters in the forests of Elbard might force the hand of the DM in revealing the locations of interest. Once there, the locations offer a challenge based on their nature, and characters with good sets of physical skills will fare well in the locations of the adventure. While the locations are not particularly innovative or unique, they are challenging, and characters should enjoy them.

The Treasures of Elbard is one of many MonkeyGod Enterprises print products now released in pdf by Highmoon Media Productions. This particular adventure is pretty standard fare, although more by the standards of yesteryear rather than today's adventure standards. This adventure is a long treasure hunt and exploration, which has very little unique or even interesting in terms of execution, encounters or locations. Having said that, some of the combat encounters may present a challenge to players, although that might not be enough to keep them interested.


LIKED: The Treasures of Elbard is a well-presented adventure with good maps and general layout. It offers and quick and standard adventure for those interesting in an evening or two's gaming.

DISLIKED: The adventure is lacking in several areas, including an adventure summary, but mainly in the organisation and interest level. It's pretty standard stuff really - find lost artifacts - and the adventure provides very little guidance to the DM running it.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
MonkeyGod Presents: The Treasures of Elbard
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MonkeyGod Presents: The Treasures of Elbard
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/18/2006 00:00:00
Treasures of Elbard is a very typical find the treasure adventure for 8th and 9th level characters that has the feeling of the same ole Tuesday night meatloaf. There is nothing innovative about it and the new sauce tastes like rubber tire tread.

Treasures of Elbard was originally created in 2001 as a print supplement for 3.0. It is very unclear whether or not the document was updated to 3.5 standards. The PDF itself is 40 pages, upon which about 25 pages is adventure, and the rest is supplemental NPCs, treasures and monsters. There?s also a ton of the assuming box text that seems to attempt to forecast where and what your PCs will do and see.

For the DM
If you are like most DMs, you want to go to the summary to see what you are into. You will first be miffed that there is no table of contents. You would figure if the material is 5 years old, they would at least do some cleanup and deck out the PDF with separate tables, maps and bookmarks. The beginning of the book goes into the history of the treasure, and from there right into the adventure. There is not a single adventure summary to be found. And after reading the adventure I can see why, most DMs would find it too simple or unimaginable for their campaigns.

The summary would probably go something like this. There is a treasure. You got to the castle to find out about the treasure. You go to the place the treasure is. There is a bunch of spiders and halflings. Then there is a big ole halfling-spider you have to fight for the treasure. Then it?s over.

This all may not be too bad, if the writer accounted for anything else that could happen to the PCs. The only tactic the writer seems to assume is that the PCs will rush forward without using other tactics such as stealth, diplomacy or magic. This assumption is quite bad. If the PCs consider that the halflings took the treasure into the valley as a favor for a good king, they would not be so anti-social to a good party. Even if they were, at 9th level, the challenges presented would be a cakewalk for an experienced party. A couple of charms and the party will be at the treasure in a couple hours riding on the back of a monster spider.

The Iron Word

Treasures of Elbard works as an historical document of how adventure writing has changed in five years. With its lengthy box text, lack of a summary and very A, B, C style of writing, it dates itself worth than grandma?s blue wig.



LIKED: - The treasures are very nice


DISLIKED: - Seems like a retread of every other adventure
- Just seemed like they scanned in the book with no updates or PDF enhancements
- Without a summary, the DM doesnt know where he needs to switch things up beforehand.

QUALITY: Disappointing

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review. Just to clarify, all MonkeyGod electronic products are presented the same as their original print counterparts. Our agreement only provides for distribution, not alteration of the files, so beyond bookmarks (which I completely forgot to add to this adventure and which I will update soon), there is nothing else we can do.
MonkeyGod Presents: The Maze of Screaming Silence
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2006 00:00:00
Maze of Screaming Silence is a 100 page d20 pdf adventure product. Originally this adventure was released by MonkeyGod Enterprises, and is now released in pdf form by Highmoon Media Productions under the MonkeyGod Presents line of products. Maze of Screaming Silence is both a d20 adventure and a city supplement, with the City of the Damned being detailed quite extensively in the text of the product. This adventure is written for the 3e rules, and is suitable for characters of 3rd or 4th level. The contents, as the disclaimer for this product indicates, is for mature audiences only.

The product comes as a single, fully bookmarked pdf file complete with an extensive table of contents. No print version of the product is supplied. Artwork within the pdf is good black-and-white work, some of which depicts graphic violence (severed heads in a pool of blood, for example) and is one of the reasons behind the mature audiences disclaimer. There's an ample supply of artwork within the pages of the pdf that enhance the feel of the macabre, yet often humorous content. Writing and editing is good, though the writing style is rather informal and filled with several flippant remarks that probably don't do the adventure or its content any justice. It's difficult to set a theme based on the 'mature' content when the adventure is filled with remarks that undermine it. Nevertheless, these can easily be ignored despite them occasionally being off-putting. Several maps are provided, all which are clear and easy to read, although more maps would've been useful for some of the locations presented in the City of the Damned and surroundings. As mentioned already, this adventure is for the 3e ruleset, and as such the numerous stat blocks use the format of this ruleset.

Maze of Screaming Silence starts by presenting and overview of the adventure, and provides a handy table summarizing the ELs of the various encounters within the product. The adventure is largely a PC driven one, in the sense that once the adventurers arrive in the City of the Damned, the gateway to the maze, they are largely left to their own devices as there are no 'events' in the adventure. What the PCs do and get up to is entirely up to them, and what they make of this adventure is again entirely up to the PCs. The City of the Damned is detailed enough that there is plenty to do and experience before actually hitting the maze and attempting to survive it. The product presents essentially two ways in which to run the adventure - the first by using an overriding plot arc that is presented, and the second merely for the challenge of the maze itself. I'd certainly recommend the former, as it's more interesting and presents more motivation and roleplaying opportunities for the players than the latter.

The adventure is set near a remote outpost of the Empire of the Yagga Kong, a brutal group of people that live high in the mountains of the Wall of the World. Full details are provided on the history of these people, the origins of the maze, the culture and society of the Yagga Kong, and generally enough for any DM to allow the PCs to experience a new and certainly unique mountain culture. Given that the PCs are travelling high in the mountains, they'll need to cope with numerous environmental factors such as cold and thin air for which rules are provided and summarized.

The introduction to the adventure is a dream sequence involving multiple players, the end result of which leads the players to an oracle and from there admittedly very vaguely to the Yagga Kong. I liked how this sequence was presented, although in the old end it could've been more succinct in leading the players to the Yagga Kong and the City of the Damned. The main body of the adventure beyond the introductory sequence, deals with the City of the Damned and several locations within the vicinity of this location. There the PCs can do whatever they wish, and generally, considering the sense of humour of the Yagga Kong, how they wish as well. The Yaggo Kong are not adverse to killing slaves, for example, and PCs will be get to know people that collect decapitated heads and even teeth.

The City of the Damned is presented in two sections detailing typical encounters in the city (day and night), and site-based locations for the important parts of the city (more town-sized, despite the name). PCs should find this an interesting experience, and certainly one to remember if played right. Creative DMs will have a field day running these encounters and locations, and should be able to instil a sense of danger and dread in the PCs as they pass through the city. Almost a dozen encounters for days and nights are presented, as well as a dozen different locations that each provide an interesting roleplaying experience. The City of the Damned is well detailed and an interesting place, and should be easy to insert as a strange city in another remote corner of a campaign setting.

The Maze of Screaming Silence itself was quite disappointing. Given that the adventure has the maze's name as title, it was actually a rather small part of the adventure, a very short part of the adventure, and certainly in the end nothing to really write home about. Unless the PCs spend a lot of time in the City of the Damned, the maze is quite quick to get through and handle, despite the presence of the Thing in the Maze. It is also rather surprising to find that only once every century, as the module tells us, the maze is actually beaten. If one considers the maze and the City of the Damned as two different parts of adventure, the City of the Damned far outstrips the maze in terms of enjoyment and potential for roleplaying.

The adventure provides ample advice on how to conclude the plot presented that draws the PCs to the lands of the Yagga Kong. DMs will find this a good ending, although may potentially wish to do more with it. The adventure and location offer a lot of potential for expansion. The latter parts of the pdf present numerous appendices which include detailed NPC statistics for the various NPCs in the adventure, and advice on scaling the adventure for higher level parties. The statistics of the NPCs are, however, also included in the text of the adventure, which means you annoyingly get them twice within the product.

Maze of Screaming Silence certainly presents a different kind of adventure experience in the City of the Damned and the Yagga Kong. The maze itself is disappointing in that it's short, not terribly unique, and could certainly have done with some interesting elements to make it live up to the name the adventure paints it as to be. The City of the Damned is a richly interesting and devilishly vile place, although in a sense has a lot of 'overkill'. It is possible that adventurers will quickly grow used to or bored with the ways of the Yagga Kong. Overall, though, an enjoyable experience for a short adventure that shouldn't take longer than a session or two to complete, depending on the involvement of the players.


LIKED: The City of the Damned is an interesting place with lots of options for players to explore and take part in. The Yagga Kong are an interesting people and should provide for unique interaction between PCs and their culture. The adventure does well at presenting something different that should be an enjoyable experience for both DMs and players. Presentation and artwork was very good.

DISLIKED: The product contains double stat blocks in that stat block are presented in the text and in the appendices. The informal tone of writing in the adventure can be off-putting in places is you wish to establish a proper theme to the City of the Damned. The maze itself was disappointing in its originality, creativity and length. One or two minor editing errors, but nothing significant.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
MonkeyGod Presents: The Maze of Screaming Silence
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MonkeyGod Presents: The Maze of Screaming Silence
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/22/2006 00:00:00
MonkeyGod Presents: The Maze of Screaming Silence is an adventure/sourcebook released through Highmoon Media Productions. The zipped file is just under 10.5 megabytes in size, containing a single PDF of just over 11 meg. The PDF has bookmarks and a non-hyperlinked table of contents. It is one hundred pages long, with a front and back cover, two pages of geographical maps, a page for the credits/legal/table of contents, and a page for the OGL.

As a note, this is a 3.0 product, not 3.5.

The book?s only color artwork is the cover. The rest of the art, which is moderately prevalent throughout the book, is in black-and-white. Each page has skull borders around, alternately, the top and left of the page, or bottom and right. No printer-friendly version is included.

The product?s introduction explains the backdrop for the book. The majority of the book deals with the remote mountain country known as the Empire of the Yagga-Kong. A reclusive people, the Yagga-Kong are hideously chaotic evil, engaging in all sorts of terrible vices and even insanities as a normal part of life. Every so often, they have a game wherein people enter and try to survive the Maze of Screaming Silence. Most everyone dies, but the few who emerge can win a fortune, based on how long they stayed inside. Several pages of back-story are then given as methods of pulling player-characters in.

The next portion of the book covers The City of the Damned, the largest city in the Empire. A few pages of introduction are given to underline how decadent and malevolent the City is, before the product moves into daytime and nighttime encounters. Most of these are designed to shock and horrify the PCs, and they do a fairly good job of it. Following this are descriptions of specific places in the Empire, including several locations outside The City of the Damned.

The next portion of the book covers the Maze of Screaming Silence itself. This assumes that the PCs have signed up to participate in the ritual, either for riches, or to fulfill the presented back-story. A brief section then covers ways to conclude the adventure.

A series of appendices round out the product, including one with the stat blocks, descriptions, and role-playing tips for major characters in the product, along with notes for scaling the adventure, what happens if they ever return to The City of the Damned, and a few possible further adventure seeds.

All in all, MonkeyGod Presents: The Maze of Screaming Silence sets out to present a vile city filled with vile people, and it does it quite well. It is easy to see the PCs never wanting to come back to the Empire of Yagga-Kong, unless it?s to raze it to the ground and kill everyone. Player-characters will likely find much more than they bargained for in the Maze of Screaming Silence.



LIKED: The characters in this product do an excellent job of coming across as wicked to the point of repulsion. This book describes a place and a people that the PCs will love to hate.

DISLIKED: The book tends to repeat stat blocks of characters who show up in multiple places. If it gives their stat blocks and information in the appendix, then it shouldn't reprint the stat blocks at the adventure locations or city locations where those characters appear. Also, a printer-friendly version of this product would have been good

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bardic Lore: Riastradh
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/15/2006 00:00:00
Bardic Lore: Riastradh is a 10 page pdf product and the fourth in Highmoon Media Productions' Bardic Lore series which chronicles the travels of the bard Amergin O Mil as he records in his journal all things magical, mundane or exotic. This particular journal entry relates to the Riastradh or warp spasm, and brings the Celtic myth to life in a d20 fantasy environment.

Bardic Lore: Riastradh comes as a single, bookmarked pdf file. Highmoon Media Production provide professional and quality layout and editing, and the pdf looks good despite its length. The text is densely packed, so it means you get a little more for the page count than one would normally expect. There are two excellent art pieces in the pdf that depict warriors in various stages of a warp spasm. Overall a high quality presentation from Highmoon Media Productions.

The Riastradh or warp spasm is an ability akin to a barbarian's rage ability, although different in its implementation. During a warp spasm a warrior's form and shape change into a powerful force of destruction and reckoning. The riastradh is mentioned several times in Celtic tales, and this pdf brings the ability or feat to life in several different ways throughout the pdf. Scattered in the pdf are descriptive examples of what happens to a warrior during the riastradh, providing enticing examples of what to expect and visually imagine.

Two ways of introducing the riastradh into a d20 game are presented - the warped ones 'race' and the warp legacy feat. Warped ones are those humans that have the special touch or destiny, and they gain the ability to use a warp spasm. The riastradh of a warped one is stronger than that of a character with the warped legacy feat. Details of the warped one 'race' are provided including personality traits, descriptive details, and game mechanics. The warp legacy feat is a special Riastradh feat that allows one to discover your destiny and grasp hold of the might of the riastradh.

The riastradh is quite a strong ability, and based on the above implementations would probably require some careful balancing by prospective DMs. The warped ones in particular should probably be given a level adjustment of +1. Complete details of entering a riastradh, ending one, how to deal with armor while growing in size and other details are fully described in the pdf. A character capable of warped spasm is driven by a geas-like honor and reputation, and although this is touched upon in the pdf, it is not detailed sufficiently. In fact, it refers the reader to another Bardic Lore product, something that is always painful to see.

Having detailed the riastradh, the pdf provides a good number of other options related to the warp spasm. The first is the warped one paragon, a three-level class that can turn a warped one into a paragon of his kind and powerful wielder of the riastradh. The second is a collection of Riastradh feats, each allowing characters touched by warp spasms to expand on their abilities. There's an excellent collection of options here, making for a versatile and flavorful description of Celtic myth in a d20 fantasy universe. The pdf concludes by providing lore DCs to learn about the riastradh and a sample NPC which has a rather faulty and incomplete stat block.


LIKED: Bardic Lore: Riastradh is a good pdf which truly brings Celtic myth and tales to life. It provides a number of options related to the warp spasm or riastradh, making for a very useful pdf. Artwork and layout is good, and general presentation excellent. The mechanical implementations of the riastradh provide a number of different ways to introduce this into a campaign.

DISLIKED: The riastradh is a strong ability that some DMs may feel is overpowered and may require some additional tweaking to balance it. The NPC stat block provided was poorly done and incomplete in places.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bardic Lore: Riastradh
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Publisher Reply:
Peter, thank you for your review. If you can, please email me directly at daniel [at] highmoonmedia.com and let me know what was wrong with the stat block so that it can be fixed and reissued as an update to the PDF.
Bardic Lore: Riastradh
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2006 00:00:00
Riastradh is a product in Highmoon Media?s Bardic Lore series. Each PDF takes a different idea from Celtic mythology and applies it to D&D. The rules are presented with just enough history, plus a glazing of flavor text, to make them interesting and put them in context.

The thing I?ve enjoyed most about the Bardic Lore books is their ability to showcase the influence of the myths of the ancient Celts on D&D. Before reading Riastradh, I had no idea what the ?warp spasm? was, or how it related to the idea of a barbarian?s rage. It seems that the concept of the berserking warrior was not limited to the Norse, and the Celtic version was even more fanciful and chaotic than one might expect.

During a warp spasm, the recipient becomes a living embodiment of rage. His skeleton twists and inverts beneath his skin, his hair stands on end and drips with blood, and his organs protrude from his body. While in this state, the warrior mows through enemies with a mindless, ruthless efficiency. At its heart, its very similar to barbarian rage, but the description (taken directly from actual Celtic mythology) makes it seem like something more alien and terrifying than the charging Viking.

The game ability described in this book is not the barbarian's rage class ability, but it is statistically very similar. The warp spasm gives its recipient bigger bonuses, and it lasts longer, but it comes at the price of temporary Con damage. There are two ways to access the spasm: a character either has to be a member of the warped one race (a human with the blood of the riastradh), or somehow gain access to the Warp Legacy feats. The two methods are presented side by side, with advice for using one or both, depending on your campaign.

I prefer the feat option, honestly, as it seems like it would be easier to retroactively add to an existing campaign. Also, since race must obviously be selected at character creation, players must set out to learn the Warp Spasm from the beginning, rather than developing that direction over the course of several adventures. Fortunately, the Warped Ones aren?t really a brand new race so much as slightly altered humans, so either option would probably work with minimal tweaking.

The book?s mechanics, while sound, border on overpowered. I thought the Warped One probably warranted an ECL of at least +1. The race itself isn?t that powerful (though it has unbalanced ability scores), but the free access to the Warp Spasm once per day pushes it over the top. Likewise, the Warp Spasm feats seem a bit powerful compared to other feats and similar class abilities.

The main balancing factor of the Warp Spasm is temporary Constitution damage that the character suffers once the spasm ends. The book makes a special point in mentioning that this damage can only be partially healed via magic (the rest must be recouped normally). While this goes a long way toward balancing the spasm?s potent combat enhancement, I?m not sure if it goes far enough. The Warp Spasm lasts far longer than most D&D combats, and the bonuses it grants are hefty. Due to the Con damage, I think that most players would save their Warp Spasm for pivotal combats, after which the penalties of fatigue and diminished hit points won?t matter. A clever DM can (and should) work around this, but it doesn?t change the fact that the Warp Spasm is obviously better than most other feats.

While I?m a bit wary of the new rules in Riastradh, I wouldn?t call them broken. Part of the challenge is that, according to the mythology that inspired the ability, the Warp Spasm was an incredibly potent gift granted only to the greatest heroes. That?s a difficult thing to emulate while still maintaining a measure of game balance, so I have to cut the author some slack.


LIKED: Bardic Lore: Riastradh is a well-written book that takes an idea from Celtic myth and fits it neatly into D&D. The ideas in this book, and the way they are presented, are downright inspiring. With a bit of rules tweaking, the Warp Spasm will definitely find its way into my D&D campaign.

I honestly had no idea that such a bizarre and fantastic ability was part of a real world culture. This book gives no less than three methods to insert the Warp Spasm into a D&D game, plus advice and supplementary rules. Everything is clear and professional, with a lot of flavor and rules crammed into ten pages.

DISLIKED: It?s not likely that I would use the Warp Spasm as written in my home D&D campaign. The idea is neat, but the feat seems a bit powerful for my tastes. Perhaps if it had a more meaningful tradeoff or, at least, one that couldn?t be so easily circumvented, I wouldn?t be quite so wary. It?s not unbalanced enough to be called broken, so I can?t deduct major points. Without some long term playtesting, I?ll chalk my objections up to personal opinions and call the ability slightly overpowered.

There were a few mentions of concepts called Enech and Gessa, which are detailed in another Bardic Lore product. I found the references to rules detailed in another book a little annoying, but this is a minor point of contention since these rules aren't in any way essential to Riastradh.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bardic Lore: Riastradh
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/18/2006 00:00:00
Bardic Lore: Riastradh is a new sourcebook from Highmoon Media Products, released as part of their Bardic Lore line of products. The zipped file is just under 1.5 megabytes in size, containing two PDF files. The first is the actual product, weighing in at almost the exact same size as the zipped file. The second is a small (64 kb) PDF file detailing a St. Patrick?s Day contest that has, as of March 25, 2006, ended.

The main file is ten pages long, including a single page that is both the cover and an in-character except, and a single page for the credits and OGL, leaving a solid eight pages of game text. The product has no table of contents, but does have full bookmarks. Company images, colored tables, and the bit of cover art notwithstanding, the product only has two pieces of black-and-white interior artwork. As such, having no printer-friendly version isn?t that great a loss.

The product opens with an in-character accounting of seeing someone entering a ?riastradh,? or ?warp spasm.? Drawn from Irish folklore, this is a state that characters can undergo that warps their body into that of a huge beast, so that they can tear through their enemies. The exact flavor text is left intentionally ambiguous, so that players may specify exactly what their character?s riastradh looks like.

The book presents two ways that characters can undergo a riastradh. The first is that they are members of the new race presented in the book: the warped ones. Warped ones are essentially humans who are born for greatness. They?re born to humans, and there?s no way to identify them until they first enter a warp spasm. As to why they?re born that way?only the gods can say. The warped one race presented here is laid out in full PHB style, and has distinctive and separate racial traits from humans. Their major ability is to enter a warp spasm, which is mechanically similar to, but still different from, a barbarian?s rage. The other way a character can make use of a riastradh is to take the Warp Legacy feat. This feat, which means you?re descended from a warped one, lets you use a lesser version of their warp spasm power.

The book then spends a few pages defining a riastradh in more detail, including the effects of entering one, the exact consequences of the size change involved, and ending a warp spasm.

The Warped One Paragon class is given next. This three-level class is effectively a racial prestige class, that only warped ones, or characters with the Warped Legacy feat can take levels in (though that doesn?t seem to be explicitly stated anywhere, it?s quite obviously the intent). The class is given a PHB-style entry before the exact mechanics and powers are given.

Eleven new feats are given next. All of them are ?[riastradh]? feats, with prerequisites that only a warped one or (in most cases) someone with the Warped Legacy feat can take. All of them either increase the power of your warp spasm, or decrease its drawbacks, or both. One feat is notably epic-level.

A sort section on bardic lore is given, detailing what a bard can find out about the riastradh, and those who use it, at various DCs. The table also works for knowledge checks too, though those have a +5 increase to the DC (as the riastradh is more a subject of lore than study or religion). Finally, a sample NPC warped one is given, in the new NPC style laid out in the DMG II.

Altogether, Bardic Lore: Riastradh is a product that is as versatile as it is interesting. It presents a new mechanic that is innovative but still balanced, along with myriad options for introducing and customizing it in your game. Changing the flavor is easily done, as one needs to just alter a few names and flavor text to use this product in any kind of setting. Any game, be it fantasy or modern, could benefit from having a warp spasm introduced to it.



LIKED: I enjoyed learning about how this was inspired from actual Irish folklore. I also appreciated how there are multiple ways to make a character that can use a warp spasm, as well as great options for customizing a character with that ability.

DISLIKED: The product didn't have a printer-friendly version, but that's a very minor complaint given the size and sparsity of artwork. I would have liked it, however, if the product had told me how to pronounce "riastradh."

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Shane, and I'm glad you enjoyed the product. It is one of my personal favorites. The pronunciation of "riastradh" (in Old Irish) is REE-uh-struth, with the final "th" being the same sound as in the words "then." In Modern Irish, the "th" becomes a "uh" sound. Either one is correct, though remember these are approximations since I am not a native Irish speaker. Maybe I could start embedding sound files in the Bardic Lore products with the pronunciations of the Gaelic words.
Bardic Lore: Ogham
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2006 00:00:00
Ogham (pronounced OH-am) is a real-world language that developed among the Celtic people in ancient times. The language, which still exists in a somewhat altered form, can be traced back to the mysterious druids, making it a perfect fit for inclusion in Dungeons & Dragons and other d20 games that make use of the druid class.

In many ways, Ogham is similar to the early Viking runic language, which is probably what most gamers think of when the idea of runes comes up in fantasy gaming. Like runic, Ogham uses fairly simple characters carved in wood or stone. In a culture with a strong tradition of passing down history orally, the Celts had little use for a written language. Writing was the province of the scholarly, something that must have seemed somewhat mysterious and perhaps a bit magical to the common folk. Like the Viking Futhark, the letters of Ogham may have been thought to hold more than just a mundane meaning. Indeed, each letter is associated with a kind of tree, and is thought to have a symbolic meaning as well as literal one.

I explain all this to show you how well Ogham fits in with the D&D druid. The druid class has always given its members access to a secret druid language, a language kept deliberately vague by the game?s designers. For those DMs wishing to flesh this secret language out in a little more detail, Ogham seems like a perfect solution. Bardic Lore: Ogham gives you enough background information to incorporate the Ogham tongue into your campaign without much effort.

In addition to the background details, this PDF also presents rules for using Ogham as a kind of druid-based rune magic. The examples include a couple different kinds of wards that can be placed on standing stones, as well as a means to enhance spells using different Ogham symbols carved onto wood or stone tablets. I thought that the rules really fit the flavor of druidic magic, giving an in-game mechanic to govern such things as magical standing stones. Unfortunately, I think these rules are probably more useful to a DM fleshing out a celtic-inspired campaign that they are to a player. The majority of the Ogham items are costly and difficult or impossible to transport.


LIKED: To draw an analogy, this book is basically the length and depth of a quality article in Dragon Magazine. If you?re interested in expanding on the secret Druidic language, or you want to flesh out the history of druids in your campaign world, Ogham is a perfect fit. This product does all the legwork for you, giving you the basics and leaving the fine-tuning up to your individual tastes.

The rules are well designed and can be added to your game with little headache or worry about upsetting game balance. The book looks very professional, with a nice layout and easy to read graphical representations of the Ogham alphabet. There isn?t really any art to speak of, but its absence doesn?t hurt the final product in any real way.

DISLIKED: It would have been nice had this book been a bit longer. Don?t get me wrong, I think it?s a fantastic value for the money, I just really liked it and would have liked to see a bit more.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bardic Lore: Ogham
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Liber Sodalitas: The Pneumaphagoi
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/06/2006 00:00:00
Liber Sodalitas: The Pneumaphagoi is a 12 page fully bookmarked pdf product and the 4th product in Highmoon Media Productions' Liber Sodalitas line of products. Each product in the line presents a ready to use organisation that can be inserted into any d20 fantasy campaign. The organisations comes detailed with history, tenets, and all related game mechanics. The Pneumaphagoi, the organisation of this particular product, are eaters of the spirit, a group of people that eat haunts (lesser ghosts) and ghosts, deriving benefit from their often dangerous pursuit that can lead to addiction. The pdf comes with a solid yet simple layout, a single piece of artwork by Nathan Rosario, and is written by Scott G. Carter.

The idea of people eating ghosts is certainly intriguing and this pdf does a good job of presenting both background material and rules text to support the idea of ghost eaters. The pdf starts by presenting a detailed history of the Pneumaphagoi. While more is written about the development of the organisation through the centuries rather than its origins, it provides a solid framework to build an organisation on. Essentially the Pneumaphagoi are a group of smaller organisations that loosely work together as they hunt and eat ghosts. Pneumaphagoi learn to eat ghosts through various texts written by the founding members or more experienced Pneumaphagoi, or are taught by other members of the organisation how to do so, and, almost more importantly, how to catch the haunts or ghosts that you wish to eat.

The organisations lives and abides by certain tenets, loose rules that govern the behaviour of its members. Tenets include respect for other members' hunting grounds (each particular city or town is divided into sections and each section allocated to a ghost eater) and dealing fairly with other ghost eaters (ghosts or haunts can be trapped in containers and then shared between ghost eaters). Organisation is largely loose, rather than formal, and consist more of informal gatherings where ghost eaters get together. There are both groups that support the aims of the founding fathers of the practice, as well as those who would undermine these groups. Ample detail is given on the structure, community, and membership of the Pneumaphagoi to make inserting this into any campaign simple and easy.

Following this good and interesting introduction to the organisation, the remainder of the pdf (8 of the 11 pages of game text) is devoted to mechanics and NPC stats and descriptions. The three NPCs provided come with detailed stat blocks and histories, along with roleplaying notes that makes them useful to either introduce ghost eating to a party or as members of the community that can aid characters in matters related to ghosts and haunts. Each NPC is presented at a different stage of addiction. It was pleasing to see that the stat blocks were almost faultless as well on casual examination.

For an organisation with such an unique pursuit, adequate game rules are needed to support the practice and make it work. These are provided in the form of rules and feats that give access to the lore of the ghost eaters. The basis of ghost eating involves acquiring the required feats (Ghost Eater), catching a ghost using either clever mechanical methods, puzzles (stacked coins that simple minded haunts can't resist or warped mirrors), or magical spells, followed by inhaling the spirit which requires a Will save to achieve or otherwise the haunt or ghost proves to strong for the character to consume.

All these details are covered neatly and with strong mechanics to support the ideas. New spells are provided that can be used to detect or trap ghosts, and for those ghost eaters that aren't spellcasters, incantations are provided. An incantation is essentially a spell that can be cast by anybody, although it requires much more effort in the form of greatly extended casting times (typically 1 hour).

Either ghosts (as per the ghost template) can be caught or a new type of lesser ghost, called a haunt. A full template is provided to create haunts essentially using the ghost template but with minimal special attacks and special qualities. This works well to create a lesser ghostly creature. A trapped ghost can be eaten which results in any number of different effect, depending on the feats a character has. Generally, though, eating a ghost has only a minor influence on a character, granting a bonus to saves, temporary hit points and a penalty to attack and damage rolls due to the euphoric state one enters on consumption.

The last parts of the pdf deal with addiction. Each time a ghost or haunt is eaten, a character risks addiction but can avoid it by making successful saves. Saves will eventually fail, however, and most that pursue ghost eating for extended periods will become addicted and suffer suitable side effects. Rules are provided to cover all the scenarios, as well as overcoming addiction or even ghost eating overdose. Examples are given to fully explain some of the mechanics, a helpful addition to the pdf. A few new items are also provided to enhance the ghost eater's arsenal.


LIKED: This is an interesting pdf dealing with a very different subject. It provides a unique organisation that can be inserted into your campaign, complete with solid rules, NPCs to use to introduce the concept to characters, and more than enough detailed information on the Pneumaphagoi to use it successfully in any campaign. It contains a lot of enjoyable and useful material that will make for a different encounter in a campaign world.

DISLIKED: The only thing that would've made the material more useful would've been a number of plot hooks related to the ghost eaters, and perhaps some solid suggestions for incorporating or using the Pneumaphagoi in your campaign based on these plot hooks or in general. Not a pdf that's geared towards player characters, but that's not to say that it can't be used as such.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liber Sodalitas: The Pneumaphagoi
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MonkeyGod Presents: The Scourge of Raftport
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/15/2006 00:00:00
I recommend this module. It's written well and holds the players interest.


LIKED: This was a lot of fun to run and very easily adaptable to any setting.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MonkeyGod Presents: The Scourge of Raftport
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Liber Sodalitas: Erzsak's Drake Riders
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/22/2006 00:00:00
Highmoon Media Productions' "Liber Sodalitas - Erzsak's Drake Riders" (written by Daniel M. Perez) begins by telling the story of Ludvel Erzsak, a young cavalry soldier who eventually becomes the leader of Erzsak's Drake Riders, a premiere mercenary group. While kept brief, the backstory alone is enough to inspire players and GMs. Actually, I would have liked more information about the history of Erzsak's group and the adventures & assignments; the character - a mercenary with a strong sense of morality - is intriguing enough to warrant more material.

This supplement, however, is intended to be used by players and GMs rather than simply read as an exciting piece of fiction. In this regard, Highmoon Media Productions delivers. This isn?t a supplement about Erzsak or his company. Instead, this is supplement devoted to showing how PCs and NPCs can be part of this company. Everything from the Drake Riders' code of law to the ranking and organizational system is presented succinctly, and a quick read is all one needs to bring this to their game table. The requirements for becoming a member of Erzsak's Drake Riders as well as pricing information for hiring the mercenaries will allow gamers to either play a member of the organization or play a character hiring them.

This is an incredibly flexible little packet of information, and even goes as far as including new feats for characters that would either want to become a member of the Drake Riders or perhaps add a unique twist to their mounted warrior character. Feats like Deathly Charge, Great Trample or Mounted Improved Trip aren't restricted to drake riding characters (although Lingering Breath does have a restriction - only a character or creature with breath attack can take this feat).

The supplement concludes with statistics and role-playing notes for the firedrake, the large, flightless dragon-like creature used by the Drake Riders. The firedrake's most outstanding feature is its Pyrophoric Blood. When exposed to air, the blood of this creature bursts into flames, which is sure to spice up a combat encounter!

Perhaps the only thing missing from this supplement is the protocol with which a character or group would use to contact and hire Erzsak's Drake Riders. I can't imagine that an organization like this can be reached through ordinary means. A "hidden valley" is mentioned a number of times as their company's base of operations, but if it's hidden, how does one find Erzsak's Drake Riders to hire them in the first place?

Maybe this question could spark a game or even campaign, and that's this supplement's best feature. Any number of games could be spun out of the material presented here. Players of paladins or cavaliers can find inspiration in the feats and character backgrounds, and GMs can find inspiration in this unique organization of mercenaries with a moral code.

LIKED: This is an inspiring piece of work - easily read and instantly playable.

DISLIKED: There's very little to dislike. I found one typo, but that's it.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Liber Sodalitas: Erzsak's Drake Riders
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MonkeyGod Presents: From Stone to Steel
by Paul P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2006 00:00:00
A really very readable and comprehensive product, detailing and illustrating weapons and armour from various eras and locations of Earth history. Great for if you're running a game set in, say, an Exalted-like mixture of Mayan empire next door to Phoenician traders with some Stone-Age-level tribesmen milling about, and you'd like some authentic details and stats on their kit rather than, "eh, they're wearing leather. Or possibly scale. They had scale in Asia Minor, right?" Those playing in the Forgotten Realms probably need not apply.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MonkeyGod Presents: From Stone to Steel
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No Other Gods (An Adventure for Testament)
by Allen S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2005 00:00:00
This is a truly wonderful product. This setting really deserves more support and I am glad to see it getting it!


LIKED: Very cool setting, interesting story.

DISLIKED: Background graphics but that has been dealt with

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
No Other Gods (An Adventure for Testament)
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No Other Gods (An Adventure for Testament)
by Chris H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/21/2005 00:00:00
As the name implies, the adventure relates to idolatry, and is set in a village in southern Simeon during the period of the judges. The village layout is well done, and the village itself--reasonably well populated with NPCs in the module, but with room for more--could easily become a "base of operations" for a new group of Testament characters. The adventure would not be too difficult to move to different time periods, and although it is designed for Israelite characters, hints for using the adventure with other types of PCs are included. The adventure is actually fairly short, which makes it nice for a first-time module. Also, the overall plotline is sort of D&D-ish, but according to the publisher, this is actually by design, intended to help ease fantasy role-players into the Testament world. The visual presentation is top-notch--the look and feel imitates the Testament rulebook very precisely--and Highmoon even includes a separate version optimized for printing. The adventure includes new spells, a new artifact, and a new creature template, so you're really getting a lot in this package. I highly recommend it!


LIKED: Pretty much everything! More internal artwork, like sketches of the NPCs and the creatures, would have been cool, but the product is very nice.

DISLIKED: In the first release, the map scale was considerably off; a well described in the text as 10 ft. in diameter was shown on the map as being 1/10 mile in diameter, but I think Highmoon will be fixing this right away so it's not a serious complaint.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Chris. The discrepancy in the scale of the maps has been fixed and an update will be sent to all previous customers.
No Other Gods (An Adventure for Testament)
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/15/2005 00:00:00
No Other Gods is an adventure for the Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Era RPG from Green Ronin Publishing. The PDF is 28 pages long with a color cover and black and white interior. It has a table of contents and is fully bookmarked. The layout is professional and is very similar to the layout of the Testament rulebook. Unfortunately (for me at least), this means that it also has Testament?s ?crumpled parchment? page backgrounds. I really don?t like busy backgrounds. I printed some sample pages on a laser printer and although they weren?t unreadable, and they are not as dark as the pages in Testament, they still make things a little tough on those of us with poor eyesight.

For the unwashed heathens out there (those of you that grew up with hippie Buddhist parents know who you are) the adventure?s title refers to God?s commandment to the children of Israel in Exodus 20:3 that ?Thou shalt have no other gods before me.?

The adventure is intended for a party of 1st level characters, but notes are included to scale it for parties up to 3rd level. The adventure is also intended for a party of heroic Israelites, but adventure hooks are provided for Egyptian, Babylonian and other nationalities as well. No Other Gods follows a pretty classic adventure format with background information, keyed encounters and even a very short dungeon crawl of sorts. The adventure itself is very short and really has only one major encounter. I wouldn?t think that it would take more than a couple of hours to play through unless the GM pads it with extra encounters or the players do a lot of exploring.

The adventures? writing is clear and the PDF has some nice additions like separate pages for each map and appendices with summarized stat blocks for all the NPCs and monsters encountered in the adventure. The adventure also introduces a new deity, a new magic item, two new spells and a new monster template. This, along with the map of the village of Bethbeer, gives it some reusability for the GM.

No Other Gods could provide a nice introductory adventure for a Testament campaign. It is short, straightforward and shouldn?t prove too difficult to tweak as desired. It should even be usable as a generic d20 adventure with few changes. I would have liked to see some suggestions for fleshing out the village of Bethbeer as a base for adventuring and those page backgrounds eliminated, but other than that, I am pleased. It?s nice to see support for a niche product like Testament and I look forward to see what Highmoon Media might come out with for it in the future




LIKED: Well-written introductory adventure for the Testament RPG.

DISLIKED: Busy page backgrounds make things tough on those with poor eyesight.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review. We are all glad you enjoyed it, as it has truly been a labor of love to get this whole line off the ground. In regards to the backgrounds, we used them in order to tie up the products. We did go ahead and lighten considerably from what was used in the Testament main book, so it won't be a problem to brighten them a little more for all our future releases. We certainly have more Testament releases planned, so those interested can expect much more from Highmoon Media Productions.
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