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In Vino Gigantus (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2021 06:24:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review by my supporters. And yes, I know I should first finish the Quests of Doom-series, but I needed a palate cleanser from them, and this is the first Frog God Games-book where Michael “Mars” Russell was taken on board as a conversion expert to PFRPG.

The adventure is a low-level adventure, nominally intended for 4–6 characters of levels 1 – 3, though personally, I think that it works best for levels 1–2; at third level, most halfway decently-optimized PFRPG parties would curbstomp any opposition in this module. The PFRPG version uses NPC Codex material. The module features read-aloud text and does include a random encounter table that either has two entries cut, or the wrong die noted (the table mentions a d10, when it only has 8 entries), but that’s a minor nitpick. Regarding difficulty, the module is not exactly easy, but neither is it as much of a meatgrinder as the tougher Frog God Games modules; this can be bested without character deaths, and a well-composed party shouldn’t have too tough of a time. It’s no cakewalk either, though! The final fight in particular is designed to include the chance to die in a pretty epic way.

Length-wise, we have a pretty compact dungeon that can be run in a single session, two at most, and which would also work in a convention context. The map of the module notes its scale properly, but also represents a potentially weird logic bug I’ll talk about in the spoiler-section below. On the HUGE plus-side, the module actually does have a player-friendly map, and not one of those fake ones, but one that actually properly redacts secret doors! Huge kudos for that.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, this adventure is very “D&D-y” in the way that it feels like it is steeped, lovingly, in the tropes of both modules and CRPG quests, for the party acts as essentially conscripted exterminators. The “where” is important, though: Summoned (literally) by the foppish storm giant Clovis Tempestas IV. To his Stormridge Sanctum, a fortress in the sky, the party is tasked with cleaning up his wine cellar. The young and rather decadent giant lets his henchmen provide a meal before banning the party to the wine cellar of the rather dilapidated and neglected sky castle in the clouds.

This premise takes the much-maligned “kill rats in cellar” trope, and proceeds to infuse some serious high fantasy into it; while the vermin-angle is well-represented by the random encounters (which focus on giant frogs, leeches, centipedes, etc.), and the dungeon that contains all the action would be the wine cellar. The cellar is partially flooded, adding an interesting terrain angle to the proceedings (difficult terrain on the floor), and there is some solid interactivity going on. While the module features lots of fights, it also has at least some stuff going on beyond that. Personally, I enjoyed that quite a few actions don’t necessarily require DCs, as quite a few adventure authors for PFRPG tend to focus too much on that.

The strange knights with holes on their heads? They’re btw. marble knights and the animated salt and pepper shakers, which I considered to be kind of hilarious. They also are a first boss fight of sorts, with solid defenses and hp, particularly for a level 1 party, but on the other hand, the party only has to contend with them if they do something foolish, namely going for the Sunday’s best. So yeah, reap what you sow…

In the dungeon, the party can also find another party that the giant forgot about, and whether or not combat ensues is pretty much up to the party. If the players are smart, they take these fellows along, as the finale can become challenging indeed. Anyhow, this is a good place to note that information presentation isn’t always concise, and shows that the 5e-version was probably used as a template for conversion: we have e.g. “Treasure.” in one room, clearly denoting loot, while in another room, no such clear indicator is given. Personally, I’d very much would have been in favor of retaining that for all rooms. Beyond that, the aforementioned salt and pepper shaker knights have their extraordinary ability names both bolded and in italics, when PFRPG usually only bolds them, and the new critter has its ability also formatted thus, followed by a full stop instead of a colon, but that is cosmetic.

Risk and reward are tied together, and careful exploration can deliver some serious loot for a low-level party, and things that should have mechanical consequences do have that; jumping in the ash can might result in becoming briefly sickened, for example. Much to my enjoyment, the module also features the classic “contained mold freezer”, the dry storage uses brown mold, and beyond a wererat and giant spiders, the final encounter is particularly interesting: You see, Donner (Thunder in German, btw.), the thunder terrier (a new critter) and pet of Clovis, is caught by some giant spiders; the massive terrier is not dead or particularly injured, but frightened…and his bark is pretty damn lethal, particularly for a low level party. The build is neat with only a, even though the colors of the artwork and read-aloud text don’t match.

The goal here is to defeat the spiders, preferably without being killed by the lightning-infused bark of Donner; worse, the bark also causes random sections of the floor to fall away, which can send the characters falling to a horrible fate thousands of feet beneath the sky castle. It’s a cool set-up and calming the dog may be key to survival. There is but one issue with this set-up, and it is due to the premise of instability in the room: There is nothing keeping the party from retreating out of the rather cramped room, which is probably one of the smartest things they can do: Large creature (Donner) + 5 Medium spiders mean that most of the 12 squares are occupied by critters already, so pretty claustrophobic, and there’s a good chance to fall very far or be obliterated by the terrier’s bark, so playing smart? That’s a must here! But the claustrophobic nature of this battle does feel weird.

Which brings me to an issue I had with the entire dungeon: The grid is too small: I don’t get the whole “giant’s wine cellar” angle from the scale of the map; RAW, the storm giant can’t even walk into the cellar in his natural form, as the rooms and doors are scaled for Large creatures instead of Huge ones. I think I know how this happened: I assume that the original iteration had a larger grid, probably 10 x 10 ft., but PFRPG requires a 5 x 5 ft. grid to work smoothly, so the grid-reference was shrunk without increasing the number of squares. Where do I get that from? The TEXT still references 10 x 10 ft. grids, in a pretty glaring editing oversight. Ideally, the number of squares should have probably increased to make the dungeon less claustrophobic. And no, the excuse that “the servants do it” falls apart when one looks at the very claustrophobic final fight. Ideally, I think the bark-collapse would be more interesting if that arena locked down after entering, with the barking being less deadly, but that may be me. (Cool, btw.: the module does take spider webs vs. falling into account.)

Conclusion: Editing is okay on a formal and good on a rules-language level, particularly in the latter discipline, the expertise of Mr. Russell shows; formatting sports a couple of hiccups and inconsistencies, but as a whole, works. Layout adheres to a full-color two-color standard with solid full-color artworks. The maps are full color as well, and as noted, the player-friendly map is a big plus. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the merits of the print version, since I do not own it.

James M. Spahn is an adventure-writing veteran, and it shows here: This module takes an old cliché in RPGs and infuses some high-fantasy fun into it; the module is dangerous and interesting, requiring and rewarding player skill over good rolls; Michael “Mars” Russell delivers a significantly better conversion to PFRPG than what we’ve seen in the Quests of Doom-series, so that was neat to see.

The angle and dungeon per se are solid, and the ideas are neat, but ultimately, the scale-issue with the maps/set-up is a pretty significant detriment. I also couldn’t help but feel that the issue of the scale of the map is mirrored in what the dungeon doesn’t do: The whole angle of regular-sized characters in an environment designed for larger creatures could have been used to a much higher degree, and indeed, at least for PFRPG, I do have some recommendations: If you want to further scale the module’s size categories, Microsized Adventures is a perfect toolkit; for a level 3 party, more terrain hazards, such as via Ultimate Strongholds, would be a good call.

In the end, this is a good adventure; it’s not outstanding, but I do consider it to be worthwhile. If the scale aspect doesn’t faze you and you’ll just put a new grid on it anyway, then you should consider this to be a 4-stars module; with the aforementioned issue, though, this is only a 3.5-stars offering, and I have to rate what’s here. Ultimately, I do feel like this is closer to the 3-stars than the 4-stars verdict due to aforementioned gripes, hence I’ll round down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
In Vino Gigantus (PF)
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Tome of Alchemy (PF)
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2021 05:59:11

Frog God Games publishes some great books, building upon their years of game design and crafting. The Tome of Alchemy was a book I was looking forward too, as it does make the character class stand out from under the shadow of being just another type of spellcaster. The book focuses on the fact that Alchemy is a usefull skill/proficiency that anyone can have access too. The book gives a good breakdown on some traditional alchemy needs and introduces a new mechanic for refining "essences". Now it only focuses on traditional Western Alchemy....., tt also categorizes and gives examples of a great variety of alchemical items one can create, both in 3eD&D and Pathfinder you would find a few things scattered her and their.... but never collected in a single volume. So now there is at least a good categorization: Alchemical Devices, Ammunitions, Incense, Tonics, Ointments, Powders, Solvents, and Tinctures. It also contains some 30 spells as well.

IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY TO BURN.... then it may be worth your while.

This is he biggest negative about the book, for a pdf is is beyond a reasonable price point. The hefty $35 was too to expensive.... and even with the Xmas in July sale is still too much. For the price you'd expect tons of artwork and a heft page count, when compared to other monster manual and spell collections. Again the price is what hurts this book. I know the publisher has reasons.... but when compared to other products released in their catalogue it makes no sense to the buyer.

If they included some monsters (1 is mentioned but part of the spell), branched off into other forms of alchemy (eastern and internal), some real world science magic (elemental table and how it applies), and etc.... I would be inclined to have given it 5 stars... or at least make the book more affordable... at most $15.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Alchemy (PF)
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Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2021 09:19:44

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-bunnies-and-burrows-3rd-edition.html

Bunnies & Burrows has always been one of those games that elicits a variety of responses from gamers and non-gamer alike. Most often it is "really? there is a game of that?" I will admit I was and am a fan of the original 1976 Edition. I never really got to play it, save for one time, but that was it. It was fun and I wrote a review for it.

I did, however, spend a lot of time back in 2007 rewriting the Bunnies & Burrows article on Wikipedia. Not only was I and others able to get the article to Good Article status, but I also had a Furry Advocacy group offer to send me money because of it. I just asked them to donate the money to the Humane Society. I didn't want my edits called into question if I Was doing them for pay. I was doing it to further my own RPG knowledge.

So when the Kickstarter for the new edition from Frog God Games came up, well yes, I had to back it. They delivered it and it looked great. And I promptly put it on my shelf never to be seen again. I was cleaning up some shelves to make room for more Traveller books when I found it. I figure I should give it a go again.

If you have never checked out this game then I say do yourself a favor and remedy that. This is a great piece of the RPG past and should not go ignored.

I am going to review Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Edition from Frog God Games. For this review, I am considering both the PDF and the Print version I received from Kickstarter. There is a Print on Demand version, I have not seen it.

Bunnies & Burrows, 3rd Edition

Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Ed comes to us from Frog God Games. Maybe more well known for the Swords & Wizardry line of books than rabbits, this game is still a solid contender for the Old School market. More so I say than some other games that people think of as "Old School."

In this game, you play rabbits. Not anthropomorphic rabbits. Not mutant rabbits. But normal, everyday, common in your backyard rabbits. If this feels a bit "Watership Down" then you are right on track.

Part I: Traits and Characteristics

Characters have 8 base traits, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Agility, Constitution, Mysticism (was Wisdom in 1st and 2nd Ed), Smell, and Charisma. Different Professions (Runners, Spies, Shamans...) all have a primary trait. Traits are rolled like D&D, 3d6, and the bonuses are similar.

Every profession gets some special abilities. So for example the Fighter gets a double attack and a killing blow. It is assumed that your starting character is a rabbit or bunny.

There are other choices too, Raccoon, Jackrabbit, chipmunk, skunk, porcupine, opossum, armadillo, and gray squirrel. With the examples given, other small furry wild animals could be chosen.

Part II: Playing the Game

This covers the rules of the game and more importantly, the sorts of things you can do in the game. Covered are important topics like Habitats, Grooming, Sleep, Foraging, Diseases, and dealing with other animals and at worse, Man-Things.

There is a huge section on encounters and how basically everything out there is harmful to you. There are predators, humans, dangerous terrain, rival animals, and the ever-present search for food and water.

There are many sample scenarios and even a few mini-games to play.

Part III: For the Gamemaster

The last part covers the last half of the book. It has a lot of information on setting up a game, how to roleplay, and stats of all sorts. A lot of rival and predatory creatures are also listed in what would the "monster" section of other games.

There are a bunch of maps, scenarios, and encounters all throughout the book. There is no unified theme, nothing that ties them all together, other than "survive as a little thing in a world full of bigger, scarier things."

There is certainly a lot of Role-playing potential in that.

B&B makes you feel like it could all be happening in your backyard. That while we Man-Things sit on our decks and grill our burgers and drink out ices tea, there is a world not that far from us distance-wise, but one that is as different and far away as we can get. A world of survival just under our noses. The game is quite attractive in terms of color and art. It looks fantastic.

There is a feel from this, I am going to call it the S&W effect, that I didn't feel when reading the original game. This is a polished game that is trying to feel old. As opposed to an old that was trying to feel polished. The original B&B looks cheap by today's standards but it was such an "out there" idea for the time that it felt more important than say the representation it got in RPG circles. This new B&B has a similar feel, but maybe lacks a little of the gravitas of the original.

In any case, it is a fun game, and one every gamer would at least try. I don't think you can call yourself an old-school gamer unless you have played it at least once.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Romain B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2021 13:05:32

Plethora of cleverly made random tables, and some good adventure design advice. This is clearly a must have for any solo RPer or GM in need for some fresh ideas.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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Quests of Doom 4: The Covered Bridge (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/19/2021 13:07:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module in the Quests of Doom-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This module is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 4th to 6th, and is set in the Lost Lands campaign setting, though adaption to other settings is pretty simple. The module features read-aloud text for encounters and areas, and a total of 4 fantastic b/w maps by Alyssa Faden, who is one of the best cartographers out there. The maps are stunning; while one doesn’t note a scale, the maps do something cool one doesn’t see too often and use different shading for different ceiling heights. The maps are stunning, impressive…and guess what we don’t get? You guessed it, alas: No player-friendly versions of the maps. Particularly considering how absolutely stunning the maps are, it hurts me within the dark recesses of my soul to see that.

Genre-wise, this module is a mystery/investigation with some strong old-school gothic leanings; the module is essentially a kind of passion-play mansion crawl, though, obviously, fantasy elements do exist. The tone suits the Lost Lands rather well.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! Sir Varral et-Casan was a fabled hero once; called by Thyr to a life of service, and in the process of his heroics, gathered loyal companions like Demoiselle Arbasa, the exiled Joln, a large raccoon pet called Dari. Two of these NPCs are statted, and both are not impressive from a build-level; they are functional, but…yeah. The statblocks also have some glitches in the math, something that extends to the remainder of the module.

How is this relevant? Well, as the adventurers cross the eponymous covered bridge, they read an inscription “In whose hand did the poison lie?” carved into the floor planks; reading it turns day to night, and the party stumbles into a battlefield against The Lord of Crows and its minions; this is essentially a sequence of combats. The combats are solid, if a bit unremarkable; it’s a test of endurance, if anything, and I wished it set up the cool boss a bit better. It is here that the party meets Sir Varral, and is invited to the Manse Loga, the mansion where the majority of the module takes place. The module presents the staff and dramatis personae, and also presents essentially an event-driven encounter array, with dressing needs outsourced to the Tome of Adventure Design, though I’ve found that the maps do help there (if only there were player-friendly versions); after dinner and some initial encounters and a murder committed by one of the guests, the adventurers have to venture to the menagerie, where, provided they survive the monsters there, they’ll find the murderer to be mad. In the mansion, the weird occurrences intensify, and ultimately are identified as the consequences of a particularly potent cloaker and a nightmare node…and then, the inevitable murder of Sir Varral happens, as it always has. The whole reality is a weird interaction with the dream world, so if the party does murder-hobo suspects, they’ll just return; the goal is not t prevent the murder, but to find out how it happened! Once Sir Varral dies, the party will be back on the bridge – and will have to present their findings to the paladin’s now-undead specter to identify the true culprits...and the situation is complex.

The man driven mad did poison the paladin, but so did all of his compatriots (courtesy of the telepathic whisperings of the true culprit)…and the raccoon is actually the demonic instigator. Yeah, the latter is a bit too close to one of the twists of a certain mega-adventure set in the Lost Lands that I adore. Still, this “Agatha Christie with Undead”-style whodunnit in the end was really enjoyable to me.

So, all well? Unfortunately, not really. While the poisons employed are sufficiently deadly to make it plausible that the paladin died to them, in spite of a good Fort-save, the module cheats in the most aggravating manner: I do not object to the vials of poison reappearing/thwarting attempts of PCs to prevent the murder; it has already happened, after all. And here, the dream-logic effect makes sense. But know what’s really, really weaksauce? The module just DM-fiats investigation spells away. Detect magic, detect evil? Poof, suddenly don’t work anymore. This is capital letters BAD DESIGN, taking player-tools away as one desires. The party should at least have some means to use them; one does not work against player capabilities, one works with them. This becomes even dumber if you realize that Sir Varral’s downfall must have meant that he and his allies are really, really dumb. Why? Well, the non-functioning PC-capabilities can at least be explained away by the weird nightmare-curse thing going on. Badly, granted, and it’s really BAD DESIGN, but it does at least make a tiny degree of in-game sense.

The quasit-masquerading-as-raccoon, though? It has no ability to actually evade...drumroll detect evil. I am not kidding you. The signature at-will SP of a paladin, and the module literally tells us that the critter has been observing the paladin for more than A YEAR without triggering that. Is that possible? Theoretically. Is it plausible? Heck, the eff no! Which paladin would be so damn incompetent when he realizes that the raccoon is tougher than usual, something the GM’s btw. supposed to play up according to the module! W-T-F? How did this get past any inspection? And no, the good Sir does not have Int and Wis as sub-8-dumpstats; Int 11 and Wis 17. Yeah…well…NO. This makes no frickin’ sense in-game. I guarantee you that this is not something esoteric—it will be the first thing that players comment on once the true nature of the demon is revealed “How in the infinite planes of the Abyss did he not notice that??” SIGH

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, this module doesn’t fare well, but it’s serviceable. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ classic two-column b/w-standard, and features nice b/w-artworks. The cartography by Alyssa Faden is fantastic and detailed in just the right ways; the absence of player-friendly maps hurt me all the more. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kevin Wright’s “The Covered Bridge” (conversion by Dave Landry) is a great example for a 5-star module that stumbles, very hard. The set-up is interesting, and the investigation actually challenging. The atmosphere evoked is grim, foreboding and right up my alley. And the set-up gets everything, structurally ALMOST right. Now, granted, the GM/author-fiat to strip PCs of stuff they should be able to do? That’s the laziest way to handle this, and the least fun one. Why not work with the spells? Have them react with the unique set-up in ways that provide information that is not necessarily useful? It wouldn’t have cost more words, but made the module better. A similar issue applies regarding the in-game logic bug of the BBEG. One is subpar design, one is an error in setting-internal continuity, and both severely tarnish this module. BUT.

But both can be fixed by an experienced GM. And I genuinely think that this module is worth doing that for. There is fun to be had here.

As a reviewer, the module’s flaws do accumulate, though: Some rules-glitches, player maps missing, then add the two structural problems…and I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. This might well be the best Quest of Doom-module I’ve read in the series so far; it almost reaches the awesomeness it deserves to attain, so if you’re in the mood for some mystery and don’t shirk away from the two issues mentioned, please consider taking a look. The module deserved better, yes, but at least it can be salvaged with relative ease. And it deserves being fixed.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: The Covered Bridge (PF)
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Neil B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/09/2021 12:56:19

Fantastic tool for idea generation. I use this on a regular basis. It also has a great random table for unique monster generation. I especially love the tables on adventure generation.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Edward C. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/07/2021 15:25:16

this is an EXCELLENT tool for helping build a campaign or dungeon, etc if you're stuck on designing your world and stuff for your players to do.

the pdf said for Sword & Wizardy and the Pathfinder game, it works for any D&D and OSR type game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rulebook
by Edward C. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2021 19:00:26

i got the PDF and physical copy, so i will be reffering to the physical copy.

its no secret that Original Dungeons and Dragons is convoluted yet it is an interesting piece of gaming history that many like myself, find interesting and want to try a gaming session with those rules.

Swords & Wizardy is solid and clear on the rules, and with the OGL it adds optional modern rules to make the game much more easier to understand and play. my brother and i did a dungeon crawl and had a blast! he was thinking smart, using his henchmen and one of them ran away due to failed morale roll and one of them died and his character died. it sucked but we had so much fun, and he wanted to make another character.

the PDF this isn't an issue, but the book, all of the information isn't laid out clearly, your saving throws are in different pages etc.

the fact that it's the low low cost of free is great! i paid to get the book so i'm really happy with this, it's a thin hardcover book, so it'll fit your book shelf pretty well.

if you're curious about OD&D but want sometime that emulates it well, this is highly recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rulebook
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Quests of Doom 4: Pictures at an Exhibition (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2021 11:46:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let‘s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters.

This module is intended for 4–6 characters of levels 4th to 6th, and as always, it is better to tackle it with a well-balanced party. The module offers rather detailed readaloud text, and it offers essentially two handouts and a single b/w map; the map does not come with a player-friendly version, which is a rather significant comfort-detriment. One of the handouts is essentially an exhibition list that takes up slightly less than half a page – having that on its separate page would have been preferable as far as comfort questions are concerned. Personally, I enjoy handing the like to my players without having to cut out half a page.

It should be noted that this module begins on a cruise ship in the real world, not in a fantasy setting, and then quickly moves to a waterfront museum, so if you’re opposed to that sort of set-up, you might need to do some rephrasing. Indeed, the whole real-world angle is utterly superfluous: This works perfectly fine in a regular fantasy world with slight rephrasing. The module does have a minor weakness in the transition to the actual gaming: The adventure expects the player characters to move past the rope towards one of the pictures – which’ll suck them in and position them in a fantasy world. Now personally, I’d never step beyond the rope in a museum, and same goes for my players, so you might have to push the party a bit there. Structurally, each picture is a short little vignette, easy to place in ongoing campaigns.

There are other oddities in this module: I noticed a reference to an adventure called “Tourist Traps” by Frog God Games. That does not exist to my knowledge. Furthermore, we have a few instances of rules hiccups in the mechanics. The conversion to PFRPG isn’t exactly the smoothest. “Mostly Functional” is how I’d describe it.

Each vignette has an objective, but also means to fail the respective vignette.

And that is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great! So, in vignette #1, we have a puzzle that is solved only by player-skill, which is a nice thing to see per se: A Christmas gnome is surprised by the arrival of the PCs, drops presents, and the party needs to put them on the correct place in a diagram that looks like the Star of David. I LOVE this idea; this setup is also represented by a nice handout – which is great! HOWEVER. The handout actually spoils the solution. When the party arrives, only three presents are on the diagram, the rest is under the tree or dropped; they have different wrappings that should correspond to the sigils on the diagram. The places on the diagram are probably intended to be numbered (Horseshoes in location #8, but there are no numbers on the diagram…), and at one point, this probably was a pretty cool puzzle. As presented, it’s ridiculously simple: Present with shield on its wrapping goes on the shield space in the diagram. That’s literally square shape goes in square hole toddler-level of difficulty. The contents of the presents are somewhat lame magics, or pretty powerful – scroll of cure wounds (does not exist in PFRPG) vs. a +1 mace. Or “Wisdom +1 (Or Intelligence +1 for a magic-user)” [sic!] – it is pretty evident that this wasn’t properly converted. It also feels like something went wrong in production: Perhaps the handout was commissioned before the puzzle was finalized?

Vignette #2 has the players witness a balladeer serenading a princess; in the aftermath, the party’s supposed to help them elope, either by scaling the tower, or by fighting through laughably weak guards. Since the keep has no map, it’s also too opaque to make it a proper infiltration. Not challenging or interesting, next.

Vignette #3 has the party arrive in the aftermath of a bear having been stolen in a public plaza; the trail leads them to a ship, and if the party beats the weak crew, they’ll find a chained man below deck, who turns into a bear and attacks if freed below deck, only to calm above deck. Okay. There is no indicator of the transformation; this should be codified with magic items or spells. It’s also a weird railroad, since the module does not account for Handle Animal etc. to calm the bear.

The next vignette is another puzzle, one that deals with a cow-drawn cart and its sick entourage. This one is actually, genuinely, great: The cart’s entourage seems sick, and the cart sports runes: These cart runes are based on a selection of 12 runes. One, for example, looks like the rune for “iron” and that of “water” – this is the key to unlock it: Splaying blood on the rune eliminates it! While a rules-relevant reference is incorrect, this puzzle (it does come with visual representations of the basic runic array, but not of the cart-runes) is genuinely nice and well-presented. I liked it!

The next vignette is a battle in an amphitheater against 6 harpies. Okay. That happened I guess. Hope the group has serious ranged combat capabilities.

Next up, we have a moral dilemma: Smuggle a rich orc or a poor orc out of the city. Since we have no maps, no real established setting, this falls flat. There is no proper way to plan any exfiltration. The poor orc offers a family member as a slave for payment – distasteful, I know. The paragraph notes: “If the party accepts this deal, any character wearing a protection amulet is immediately burned for 1 point of damage per round until it is removed.” What damage? What is a “protection amulet”? No idea, it’s never mentioned before or after.

After that, we have literally a Solomon scenario, i.e. two individuals claim that something belongs to them. No, the solution is NOT different from the classic solution. It’s just a reskinned version. LAME. No means to solve it via Sense Motive or magic are provided either.

The following vignette is the mapped one: A vampire is at work, much too strong for the party. Flying, chanting skulls do help, though. The skulls belonged to holy people, taking from their sarcophagi. Returning the correct skulls to the correct sarcophagi is the goal here, and each skull utters a somewhat cryptic sentence that helps assign it. This one works and is genuinely fun.

After that, we pit the party against a witch in a chicken hut: Weakest take on the Baba Yaga trope I’ve seen so far, and there are errors in the witch stats, the stats of her familiar and the hut. Funniest glitch herein: The chicken-feet hut specifies that it is “Male” in the statblock. Call me puerile. That mental image made me laugh.

The vignette after that takes place in war and has the party try to reach a gatehouse; the conversion fails to specify DCs for the locks and actually has the boss of the vignette comes with the proper stats. The PFRPG-statblock has errors, and the module actually also has the OSR statblock erroneously included. WTF. This should have been caught be even cursory editing. The module also doesn’t understand how Diplomacy works in PFRPG.

And that is all.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are bad on a formal and rules-language level. Not just mediocre, but bad. There are errors in rules, some oddities that compromise the integrity of one of the puzzles, and constant absences of proper rules. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w standard with one nice handout, one inconvenient ones. The cartography provided for one encounter is solid, but the absence of a player-friendly map hurts it. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, but not ones to individual vignettes.

This is the second module by Dennis Sustare I’ve reviewed, and I know he is a legend. From this module, though, that is certainly not evident, and the first wasn’t better either. Half the vignettes are uninspired combat challenges with lame adversaries; the real-world framing device needlessly limits how this can be used. There are hiccups in mechanics and structure of some of the vignettes, and Anthony Pryor’s PFRPG conversion is rudimentary at best. There are two vignettes which, while rough regarding the rules, actually are fun and rescue this module from being utterly useless: The cart puzzle and vampire-scenario are both fun and show what the author can do, flawed rules notwithstanding.

Let me make that abundantly clear: Were it not for these two, I’d consider this to be a 1-star module, but these two are so fun that it might elevate this module for some GMs out there. They are worth scavenging, imho. But the module as a whole? Rushed, carelessly presented. It’s genuinely heart-breaking to me. Hence, my final verdict will be 2 stars. I’ve always considered myself a fan of Frog God Games, but the modules released under the fourth Quests of Doom-series so far have been painful, to say the least. And not in a fun way. Here’s to hoping that the remainder of them work properly.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: Pictures at an Exhibition (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: A Midnight Council of Quail (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/26/2021 11:40:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This module is intended for 4–6 characters of levels 3rd to 5th; in contrast to many modules in the series, it is actually not as brutal as you’d expect it to be. The adventure didn’t prove to be too challenging for a decently optimized band of adventurers. While a well-rounded group is suggested, the module is, difficulty-wise, very unlikely to result in PC deaths; if you’re running this for 3rd level characters, the PCs need good tactics in the final combat, but otherwise, the adventure is rather manageable.

Structurally, the module features slightly more of a page of magical and alchemical items, which range from functional (a ring to fortify you against poison) to rather creative ones like enchanted spurs; these spurs, by the way, also include a minor snafu in the item rules, missing a bonus type when there should be one. Another rules issue would be an instance where a Dexterity check is prescribed, when an Acrobatics check would be used for the sort of check instead. That being said, these two minor hiccups won’t break the experience.

The module can be thought of as a cursory investigation and a brief dungeon. As often for these modules, we get read-aloud text for the encounter areas in the dungeon, but not for the investigation section, which takes place in a small village. The module features a b/w-map for the village, and one for the dungeon, but both of these do not come with a player-friendly version sans glyphs/numbers. Serious comfort detriment there. The village map has no grid, and the dungeon map does not note its scale; I assume each square to be 5x5 feet.

Okay, there is one more rules-relevant aspect that needs to be addressed, but in order to do so, I need to go into SPOILERS. As such, I’d like to ask potential players to jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the module has a REALLY strong opening that hearkens back to old-school aesthetics, when high-level druids were rare (and only a fixed number per level existed, worldwide – to level up you’d need to eliminate a superior…): The party is approached by a flock of Quail, one of whom can speak: The bird has gained sapience (as well as speech – only this one bird speaks) due to proximity to an arch-druid. The birds have observed a weird tendency in a local village, with a new despot moving in and all people behaving more or less apathetic. They ask the party to investigate, and the first section of the module begins.

Here, the adventurers investigate the strange occurrences. The village is peculiar in a few ways, as it sports a wunderkind of sewing, which means that all peasants are very well-dressed, and with things like gong farmers taken into account, we have this subdued sense of weird that I very much enjoyed in the author’s 3.X offerings back in the day.

Structurally, the investigation is not particularly well-structured; a trail of clues or the like isn’t clearly laid out, requiring a bit more prepwork than necessary. However, on the plus side, the whole thing is created in a way that makes the PC’s actions matter more – it is relatively free-form and may well boil down to the party simply forming their own conclusions. The respective keyed encounters note “Infected” for a household that’s compromised, but ultimately, that is not relevant: You see, the obvious despot who moved in is part of the issue, one of the two villains responsible. This fellow is a wereboar who uses one of the new items, a ring of human control, to assert his dominance. This ring generates charm person 3/day, and has a CL of 1st.

…yeah, that’s unfortunately not how it works. RAW, this would mean that he can maintain 3 charm persons, for an hour each; on a failed save, mind you. That doesn’t suffice to keep all people in the village noted as “infected” under control. So yeah, RAW, the premise doesn’t work out as provided. Not even close. It should also be noted that, in PFRPG, there are plenty of ways to detect the presence of enchantment magic, so that is imho the likeliest outcome of the investigation. As a whole, this investigation feels like it has been cut down and/or simplified a bit, and that it doesn’t really account for all the cool things PFRPG can do.

Granted, you can fix that by explaining the flawed ring-rules away with a side-effect of the work of the second villain: You see, there is a hidden complex, where a mad druid lurks, who is under the effects of essentially a kinda-radioactive ore. I like this ore; it has a 6-stage progression (indubitably due to 5e’s influence), but the GM can potentially explain the weird villagers that way.

Anyhow, ideally, the party deals with the wereboar and the hidden druid, the latter being btw. the one difficult combat in the module: A young grizzly plus a CR 7 druid can be hard for a level 3 party but provided the party can keep the druid from using his spellcasting to full effect, it is very much possible to triumph in this module without having too hard a time. The small dungeon is solid; not much to complain there, but also not that much stood out to me.

Which brings me to one issue of the module that GMs need to be aware of: This module breaks the WBL-assumptions of the game, big time—not in a game-breaking manner, and indeed, I consider e.g. a flag that you can use to make use of the clouds as signals to be thematically amazing…but if that sort of thing is important to you, it still bears mentioning.

…and there is, sort of, the elephant in the room: The setup of this adventure is top-tier, and the village is rather neat as well; the Quail-hook is really cool. But I couldn’t help but feel that this great hook is totally wasted on the banality of the antagonists of the module. I mean, picture it: If the party actually had to use the Quail as a surveillance-force, combined with a schedule for villagers, you know, some actual real investigation, that would be SO COOL; but the module doesn’t really make use of its premise, instead opting for something safe. It’s so cool, but it’s only window-dressing. Alternatively, having a Quail surveillance hive-mind as an opponent would have been rather awesome, right? What has been done with the setup is okay, but not half as cool as mind-blowing as the premise deserved.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, okay on a rules-language level; the module is mostly functional as presented, with only details as slightly problematic factors. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, with solid b/w-artworks. The cartography in b/w is nice as well, but the lack of player-friendly maps is a big comfort detriment. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lance Hawvermale’s midnight council sports the trademark subdued weirdness I always liked in his writing; there are aspects of fairy tale-esqueness here, with a subdued and interesting punk-sprinkling on top. There’s just this tiny bit of it that makes it feel distinct and novel, while still hitting the classic Lost lands vibes. Dave Landry’s PF-conversion also works better in this module than in many other modules of the series. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel like this had been cut down to a much smaller size than originally intended…or like it squanders its absolutely fantastic premise. The investigation aspect of the module, structurally, is so barebones and obvious, and without that much to actually actively thwart the party, that I couldn’t help but feel let down after it kicked off so strongly.

In a way, this is almost a mirror-image of Quests of Doom: Awakenings: Awakenings was dragged from the lofty praise it deserved by formal issues, whereas this one is stronger in the formal components, but promises much with its hook, only to then underdeliver a rather mundane story. Now, as a person, I vastly prefer Awakenings over this module, but as a reviewer, I have to account for this adventure actually working as penned. In the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down…but this one gives me hope for the remaining modules in the series.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: A Midnight Council of Quail (PF)
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Quests of Doom 4: In the Time of Shardfall (PF)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2020 10:02:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as part of a series of reviews by my patreon supporters. My review is based on the PF-version, since that’s the one that was requested. I don’t own the other versions.

This module is designated for 4–6 characters of 5th or 6th level, and as always for Frog God Games, a well-balanced group is very much recommended. Nominally set in the Lost Lands campaign setting, the module can be adapted rather easily to other campaign settings…with a few caveats that may be relevant for you. On a formal level, it should be noted that the module has 7 neat b/w maps, but much to my chagrin, no player-friendly, label-less versions are provided; jarring, considering that FGG used to include those. We get random encounters, rumors, and essentially a hex map with a couple of smaller regions where everything zooms in – nice, I like a good wilderness/location scenario. (As such, it should be noted that this isn’t linear per se, though the module does seem to work best in a certain sequence.) The module features well-written read-aloud text.

The module is penned by none other than Michael Curtis, who is generally a guarantee for an awesome module, so let’s see if this module can break the curse that seems to have affected this series.

The following discussion of the module contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the backstory of this module taps into an inconceivably ancient prehistory where the Great Old Ones waged war. In this age of dinosaurs and worse, the dracosaurus horribilis was created – the proto-dragon Ghurazkz. This thing was so powerful that the demon frog god Tsathogga’s tsathar servitor race had to intervene, creating a mirror of raw obsidian, the Akaata – this would drain the life-force of the shoggoth-slaying monstrosity, but even it would not suffice. And thus, they cast the mirror with its prisoners into the vortex of time, into the far future. Eons passed, empires fell, tsathar degenerated…and that future has come. It’s the time of the Shardfall, as the Akaata shatters, releasing its prisoners.

Readers familiar with DCC will note the references to essentially a time of chaos back then, to dark forces battling, etc. – I like the tone here. However, if your game does have a pretty established lore regarding ancient eras, that’s something to bear in mind. Some of the module’s impact is also predicated on the fact that suddenly, prehistoric creatures are roaming the landscape is deemed to be odd, so if you have a dinosaur county in your setting, perhaps don’t play the module near that one.

The module begins pretty much with a bang, and has the party face dinosaurs and pretty soon find the first of the 5 fragments of the ancient mirror; I do like that destroying these is very much possible and rewards being smart (don’t attack the reflective side); after some serious (and cool/deadly) dinosaur action, the trail of the fragments will sooner or later confront the PCs with Jouktar, the most memorable NPC herein, and also a symptom for the book: This fellow would be a tsathar from the pre-degeneration phase, when they had an intelligent, refined culture; he was imprisoned as well, and could fill in the party on what happened…but the language barrier is severe due to millennia of differences, and as such, pantomiming is suggested, with some serious ideas re pantomiming etc.. I love that per se.

Yeah, unlike in DCC, languages aren’t a problem in PF. Comprehend languages, anyone? Tongues? Seriously, why does this module ignore basic strategies for solving this? Heck, the issue extends beyond system borders! In S&W (the go-to-OSR-system for these), the whole problem can be circumvented by writing down communication and casting read languages, a frickin’ 1st-level magic-user spell. 5e also has this little-known 1st-level ritual…it’s called frickin’ comprehend languages. I really don’t get it. This sort of issue could have been bypassed with just a proper narrative framing, but instead, we get some serious consistency issues in ALL THREE SYSTEMS this was released for. This is particularly jarring, as the tsathar actually makes for a reliable and unconventional ally during the module, and is one of the few non-combat scenes in the otherwise combat-heavy scenario full of neat setpieces, which also includes a tar-pit-laden bog of poisonous mists, with a nasty necromancer on the loose. AWESOME.

…why does none of the undead here get special tar abilities? A proper mini-template, done? Where are the cool environmental effects? Absent. It’s such a great backdrop, where is the mechanical significance? We also have a few minor formatting glitches and e.g. misnamed skills like “Riding” instead of Ride, but these are cosmetic.

Ultimately, the PCs will need to make their way to a tribe of ogrillons to the proto-dragon and deal with it before it regains its strength….and it’s a MEDIUM creature. It’s CR 7, and essentially a juvenile gray dragon. It’s a solid, challenging boss…but it’s so incredibly lame after the cool set-up.

It was so horribly anticlimactic, and without the dinosaur angle and background story, it’d feel like just another dragon lording over humanoids. This, more than anything, screwed with me; why doesn’t the fellow get a unique statblock? Even better option: Why is there no gathering of power/special abilities? It’d have been easy to assign one unique ability per fragment dealt with; all the abilities only work against the proto-dragon, and as such, they could have been used to have the PCs deal with a boss far above their weight-class!

You know, something like: “Power of the Ages (Su): As a swift action, you can tap into the life-force of those who perished at the claws of the proto-dragon, fortifying yourself against its attacks. You gain xyz temporary hit points, as the spirits of these damned shield you from harm. You can command these spirits to attack as a standard action…” (No, this is not in the book; I improvised this.)

You know.

Something WORTHY of the epic set-up!

As written, a well-optimized party can eliminate this fellow in two rounds, tops, and a real power-gamer can one-shot the “epic” proto-dragon. Also: It’s MEDIUM.

All this set-up for a MEDIUM dragon…sigh It’s also weaker (as in: less Strength) than many of the dinos unleashed. I can’t recall when I’ve been this underwhelmed by a module’s boss.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the lack of familiarity with the target systems, particularly the PF-version, of an otherwise great author is very much evident…as is the fact that the Pathfinder conversion by Dave Landry is just BAD and barebones, failing to account for realities of the system in instances where these aren’t just statblock errors, but actually the conversion hampers the frickin’ plot. Layout adheres to a clean two-column b/w-standard with some solid b/w-artworks that might be familiar to fans of FGG. The b/w-cartography is per se really cool and detailed…but we have one map with a 10 ft.-grid, and one with a 20 ft.-grid (an epic T-rex battle); both grid-sizes are a PAIN to work with in PFRPG. The lack of player-friendly versions is also a further strike against the module, particularly in light of the cool set-up. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Curtis’ “In the Time of the Shardfall” is an excellent example of an amazing yarn sunk by sloppy mechanical execution, at least in PFRPG. I can’t comment on the 5e and OSR-versions, but as outlined above, unless the module was rewritten (which I doubt) for these versions, the language-issue at least will persist. This module was frickin’ heartbreaking to review…because its framework does so much right: It is relatively free-form, has really cool dino-battles, awesome backdrops that ooze atmosphere and a cool concept for a final boss….and then proceeds to squander all of that potential. Where are the sticky tar-modifications for the undead? Where are the unique hazards? Why is the final boss so incredibly lame?

I think, I might have an idea. I’m just suspecting things here, but I assume that this was written in a system-neutral manner, with different specialists assigned to jam the module into the respective systems. And at least for PFRPG, that operation has fallen flat. Big time. This needed more pronounced rewrites to work in the system, and instead, we get what feels like a rushed minimal-effort conversion.

…can you have fun with this? Theoretically, yes. If your party isn’t that deep into PFRPG’s mechanics, and you gloss over the problems. But in many ways, this module is symptomatic of issues that sunk some other great modules in this series. I really hope the remaining modules in the series will leave me with more positive things to say.

I need to rate this, though. And as painful as this might be for me, I can’t justify rating this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up, but only barely. This has all the makings of 5 stars + seal of approval, but fails to capitalize on them in the most aggravating way.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Quests of Doom 4: In the Time of Shardfall (PF)
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Hall of the Rainbow Mage (5e)
by Craig D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2020 20:58:12

I legitimately really like this adventure. It's got a lot of awesome twists and turns and NPCs. It's got mysteries, conspiracies, and paranoid wizards. From an adventure design, I think this is phenomenal.

The only gripe that I have with it has to do specifically with its "5e" designation. It's clear that this was written for a retro-clone whenever a magic-user's tactics are described because it doesn't take into account 5e's concentration restrictions. For example, before ambushing the PCs, one wizard is supposed to cast alter self and fly on himself and then use black tentacles in combat. This doesn't work at all with the 5e version of these spells as casting one would end the previous spell, not to mention that Swords & Wizardry spell times are significantly longer than 5e spells. So be forewarned that if you hope to run this, you're probably going to have to find some kind of work around for these encounters.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hall of the Rainbow Mage (5e)
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Swords and Wizardry Complete Rulebook
by Jordan D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2020 15:24:57

I got the pdf version from the download above and I really appreciate the fact that it comes with a full complement of bookmarks, including an alphabetised list of bookmarks for every monster in the books monster manual. It's also nice that the book comes complete with it's own monster manual.

Its's a strange beast, since it's very rules light, and yet several of the rules it does have are needlessly convoluted, with a large array of tables to decide weather or not something hit, rather than simply saying 'OK, its got 15AV, so beat 15 on a D20 to hit'.

Here is how movement is calculated: 'Base movement rate divided by 3, times ten feet, is how far the character can move in one round.' Why!? Why not, 'Your movement is 15 feet. You can move 15 feet.'

I get that a large part of this whole OSR thing is that it is a re-collection and re-organisation of the original D&D rules, so it partly exists for archival/historical purposes, and is quite nice to have in that regard. The book itself also states that if you don't like a rule, feel free to either not use it or change it. So fair enough I guess. My quest continues for the perfect OSR rules. I think the plan at this point is probably to look through Vengers 'The Islands of Purple Haunted Putrescence' and then see if I feel inspired to either use his 'Crimson Dragon D20 Revised' system, or if feel like modifying 'Swords and Wizardry' so that it's more to my liking, or if neither are working for me and I need to buy 'Dungeon Crawl Classics' and see if that does the job.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Swords and Wizardry Complete Rulebook
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Jack C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2020 22:01:55

Came across this on Questing Beast and man am I grateful that I've found it. A huge amount of helpful tables to make designing your own campaign that much easier.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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Tome of Adventure Design
by Jonathon H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/27/2020 17:10:10

This should be a much more popular book, unbelievably useful and powerful creative tool. Helps best when you're at the blank page step and can't figure out where to start, or if you hit a dead end during creation. Meant for high level design and preparation rather than at-table use during a game session.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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