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Tombstones of Terror
Publisher: Dylan Hartwell
by Jaren R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/23/2013 15:22:47
Just in time for Hallowe'en gaming goodness, Dylan Hartwell gives us a little adventure titled: Tombstones of Terror: Curse of the Sin Eater.

First: a disclaimer. I was an editor/proofreader on this project for Dylan. Thus, I want to make it clear: I have not received and will not receive any monetary remuneration for either my proofreading work or this review.

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to business.

We're looking at 32 pages of Labyrinth Lord goodness. (No worries to those who don't play LL; I regularly use Dylan's adventures in 3.x settings and they translate well.) As usual we have Dylan's unique artwork sprinkled throughout. I particularly like his grey-scale setting images and his critter pics. While the adventure is not graphic (it's not James Raggi grown-up stuff), it's not intended for the little ones. Definitely PG, or maybe PG-13, based on some of the thematic elements. This is not a critique or a complaint, just a warning to my more sensitive readers and the parents out there. As with most things: if you have a concern with your kids seeing something, take the time to look at it first rather than complaining later. YMMV.

The premise of the adventure is intriguing: the death of a village "sin eater" causes a curse to descend and sets the stage for some interdimensional doom and destruction. In order to lift the curse on the town, the adventurers must unlock riddles on seven different tombstones, each one a magical portal to a different and unique dungeon. Each dungeon has its own creatures and settings; each dungeon has its own boss. All seven dungeons must be overcome and each of the eight bosses Dylan gives us must be conquered in order to lift the curse. Yeah, I said eight. There's a final boss that must also be overcome to finalize the lifting of the curse.

As usual, Dylan gives us some interesting souls (literally in this case) to populate his world: lost sailors, grieving bards, and lustful priests. He also gives us some familiar monsters to battle, but adds in some new ones of his own. And yes, we have another spider. A wonderfully, gruesome spider. One that makes my skin crawl, and yet I cannot wait to unleash it on my own players. [I swear Dylan lies awake at night thinking up something new and creepy to do with spiders just so that the arachnaphobes among us can get the heebie-jeebies.]

Dylan also gives us seven new maps, one for each dungeon, plus a map for the cemetery. The text accompanying each dungeon is just detailed enough for most DMs: giving enough detail for some DMs to take it as written and run with it, while leaving room for other DMs to add/subtract details of their own. I think he strikes a good balance with the detail, myself. I will say this about the details, though: Dylan likes his Easter Eggs. He sprinkles little bits of continuity from his other adventures throughout. It's a nice nod to those of us who have/enjoy the other adventures, plus it gives an opportunity to expand from a quick adventure into a campaign.

If I had one complaint, it would be this: I want just a bit more. I'd like a bit more flavor about the town, a few more NPCs and townspeople with whom to interact. I realize I can do this myself, but sometimes I'm lazy. It certainly works well without the extra flavor and NPCs. I just think it would be even better. (But then, I collect NPCs, so I suppose it's not that difficult for me to pull a few out of the file drawer.)

Really, then, my one complaint comes down to pure, unadulterated selfishness.

I'm going to give this 4 battle-axes out of 5. I'd highly recommend it to anyone; as I said above, I think it could make a nice one- or two-night adventure for a group, or it could form the basis of an entire campaign. Great content, period. Currently it's available in PDF format, but he's also said he'd like for a print version to be available for those of us who want something physical to hold.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tombstones of Terror
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Infamous Adversaries: Slogar the Uncaring [Revised]
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Jaren R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/22/2012 19:08:27
This review is of the recently-updated (January 2012) version of Total Party Kill Games’ Infamous Adversaries: Slogar the Uncaring. The file comes with a .pdf book, a .pdf map, and Hero Lab files. Because I don’t use Hero Lab, I can’t speak to the quality or usefulness of the included files. My review is simply of the actual “printed” matter.

The .pdf is 20 pages long, including: 1 page front cover, 1 page title page, 1 page portrait, 1 page editorial, 1 page “How to use” explanation, 1 page Hero Labs advertisement, 1 page d20 PFSRD advertisement, 1 page TPK advertisement, and 1 page OGL. This leaves 11 pages devoted to Slogar.

This was TPK Games’ first product and has been updated and revised based on feedback from readers and fans, as well as earned experience in the industry. TPK Games indicates that they want to give this treatment to all of their Infamous Adversaries characters, although it is unclear whether this means new Adversaries only, or whether they will revisit the already-published Adversaries and give them the same updating treatment.

Content: The first page-and-a-bit consists of a short fiction piece related to Slogar. It provides some interesting flavor and could easily be used by a DM as a scene and/or conversation with a character or party to help increase tension and suspense around Slogar. The statblock is hefty, as are all 3.x Edition statblocks. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory, but anyone familiar with 3.x or Pathfinder will be able to follow the stats quite easily.

Plenty of background, history, description, and motive is presented, which I think saves Slogar from being a presentation of another murderous villain. Instead it gives the DM a way to present Slogar in almost a sympathetic way; indeed, after reading this material, one gets a better understanding of the opening short fiction and it becomes more clear how a community could actually rally around and protect this fiend. His tactics and practices are also detailed, which aids the DM in presenting crime scenes and evidence left behind, all of which can heighten anxiety and anticipation in the players’ minds.

I especially like the inclusion of both a small and large version of Slogar’s lair. Not only does it provide you with a nice setting in which the players can confront, ambush, or be ambushed, it also provides a nice neutral map that could be used in any of a number of different encounters. My one complaint is that TPK does not provide a legend or a breakdown of the buildings, rooms, or surroundings, or even much in the way of a description. It seems kind of odd, given the amount of description and detail found in other places in the book. TPK Games’ seeming goal is to make the DM’s life easier by providing as much as possible and doing as much advance work for the DM as possible. When it comes to Slogar’s lair, however, they stumble in that regard.

Presentation: The .pdf is nicely hyperlinked with the PFSRD. Most of the feats and traits for both Slogar and Daisy Pusher are hyperlinked, which enables a DM to quickly reference the rule-books as a refresher or, in the case of a new DM, to help learn the rules. Many of the details for the new Equipment and new Spells are also hyperlinked. Unfortunately, the skills and most of the Special Abilities for the half-orc and his steed are not hyperlinked. While this may not be an issue for an established or experienced DM, if a new DM wanted to use this, he would still face some page-flipping and research. This being said, I think that TPK Games settles at a happy medium between the two extremes. A beginning DM should be warned, however, that everything will NOT be handed to him gratis in this book.

One other improvement? Statblocks for Slogar’s advanced levels. It would have been nice to have additional statblocks – even if they were somehow truncated – to allow a DM to quickly drop a higher level Slogar on the party. This product almost assumes that the party will be around 8th-level or lower when they first encounter Slogar. Again, I realize it may only take a little bit of work on the DM’s part; however if the intended goal is ease of use for the DM, this would be a nice feature.

Editing / Formatting: Formatting is very nice: two-column presentation and nice artwork throughout. I will complain about the grey background; on the .pdf it adds a nice artistic touch. However, when printed out, it simply darkens the page and uses up a little more ink than is probably necessary.

I also have to say, as far as editing, the work is fairly clean; much cleaner than some third-party products out there. However, there were a few typographical errors – mostly related to punctuation – and one glaring mistake with a repeated sentence. In my first read-through, I only caught one or two spelling errors; again, much better than other products out there.

One other point, as far as the .pdf structure itself? Bookmarks. Use bookmarks to hit the main points of the Table of Contents to aid in pinpoint information retrieval. Don’t bookmark the cover, the title page, the Hero Lab advertisement, the d20PFSRD advertisement, the TPK Games advertisement, and the OGL page.

Conclusion: After all is said and done, I really like this product. I would highly recommend it; in fact, I have already done so several times. I have made several other TPK Games purchases on the strength of this product alone. It didn’t hurt to experience TPK Games’ quick and efficient customer service when they resolved some technical concerns on my first download. They have great customer service and product support. They won a customer-for-life with their service.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Infamous Adversaries: Slogar the Uncaring [Revised]
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