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EZG rambles: Strange Magic Kickstarter

RPGAggression - Lou Agresta - Fri, Aug 29 2014 - 02:31
And now for something completely different:

As you may have noticed, I read *A LOT* of roleplaying products in my function as a reviewer. The logical conclusion of this vast amount of material is that my campaign is suffused with unconventional races, classes, monsters, feats - you name it.

My players see a lot of weird classes in playtesting and are infinitely patient with my constantly refreshing pool of options that I throw at them. One of the issues I have with many playtesting practices is that they happen in a vacuum - that way you can check math, sure. But actually *playing* the classes is where the glitches show or where a one-dimensional focus becomes apparent. A class that can't do anything worthwhile in non-combat becomes significantly less enticing. Hence, they have to put up with a lot of playtesting scenarios.

It is no surprise then, that a *LOT* of great 3pp classes have and continue to enrich my player's gaming experience. From Rogue Genius Games Talented classes, to Dreamscarred Press' Psionics, Kobold Press's New Path-classes or Radiance House's Pact Magic and infinitely more - there are many cool options to which my players have been exposed. Then, one fine day, one guy called Bradley Crouch started making truly "advanced" classes - highly customizable and a tad bit weird, with their own, strange systems and unique tricks.

Little did I know that playtesting was about to get more complex for me and my group. Take the Ethermancer, perhaps the best warlock-class currently available for any d20-based system: When we tested that guy, I was stunned to see the class actually work exceedingly well, in spite of its constantly refreshing mana-style pool. Gone were the "nuke and cover"- evocation overkills and in game, it proved to be exceedingly fun. So fun that one of my players went for the class for the campaign.

Over the course of the following weeks of gaming, he enjoyed the class enough to write an optimization guide for the beast.

That has never happened before. The level of commitment was interesting and so, I took a look at the system, started tinkering and experimenting with ideas. If you'd like to have Daniel's optimization guide for the pre-KS ethermancer, just drop me a line via endzeitgeist.com's contact tab and I'll send you the pdf.

Cut to some weeks later and a lot of exchanged e-mails about ideas on how to file off some rough patches, making some options more viable etc. - and suddenly, Bradley asked me whether I'd be game for a kickstarter that expands the options of three cool classes and their unique systems that have been enriching my game. I said immediately "yes."

In case you're wondering whether this book will be worth it, here are the reviews of all the constituent magic systems, all of which are greatly enhanced with new material galore:

Truename Magic
Ether Magic  (& its first expansion)
Composition Magic (& its first expansion)

Now 2 of these guys are Candidates for my Top Ten of 2014. Yes, that good. Even before expansions and further streamlining.

The resulting book is live, progress on each class is fast and thorough and this book will be glorious!

So if you will, drop in and take a look - and if you're looking for balanced, cool alternate systems, a Tome of Magic that actually works - well, here you go!

Click here to go to the Strange Magic Kickstarter Page.

Next week, I'll talk about some of the cool things I've got up my sleeve for this project and explain the design intent behind one of the classes, the etherslinger!

See you then!

 Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: RPGs

EZG reviews Road of the Dead Collector's Edition

RPGAggression - Lou Agresta - Thu, Aug 21 2014 - 05:28
Road of the Dead Collector's Edition






This module clocks in at 45pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC/CR-lists, 1 page advice on reading statblocks and 1 page advice on running the module for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover,  leaving 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!
All right, before I dive in - we get 6 pre-gens to run the module, a short primer-style appendix of the general area of the lonely coast including travelling distances/speed and 3 new monsters +2 magic items, the latter of which both get their own artworks. That's the supplemental stuff. It should be noted that the original "Road of the Dead" may have had more pages, but not more content - the collector's edition simply properly collates the information of the module and thus makes it more printer-friendly.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Great! What is this module about? Well, one upon a time, a strange people lived in the forests and vales of the Lost Coast. These people had their own, distinct culture and now, the PCs, via one hook or another, stumble across a complex of said folk. Now the culture is the interesting thing here, for the dungeon mirrors essentially a take on the "Road to the Underworld" that dead souls must take upon death as you probably know from Mayan/Aztec mythology. That is, unlike most mythologies, the souls of the vanquished still are in jeopardy after death - failure on the road means an end to the soul - truly final annihilation. The iconic dungeon herein mirrors the procession of such a conception of the afterlife in the very dungeon - resting, to this date, as one of the finest example of unobtrusive, indirect story-telling I've seen in a dungeon: From pools of "blood", crimson mists, roads of wails  -the complex offers smart, intelligent hazards and obstacles, a barrow-labyrinth with undead that also includes RSP's trademark dressing tables of unique sounds and things that happen, spell fragment-hazards, a divination pool - there are plenty of unique and challenging threats and hazards here - including a now added possibility for more socially-inclined characters to shine that was absent from the original. Now I can't emphasize enough  how concise and organic this module feels - the dungeon, in the very act of the PCs making their way through, tells a captivating story by simply existing: Each encounter, adversary and trap has the distinct feeling of being lovingly hand-crafted - from sharpened stalactites to flame-gouts spurting demon maws and unique outsiders and one of the most iconic final rooms in any PFRPG-module - not one component of this adventure feels like filler or anything other than downright awesome.
Add to that the further adventuring options that have direct consequences depending on how the PCs manage their discovery to acting as +1 optional boss battles to challenge the truly capable or lucky groups out there and we have a significantly improved version of a module that already was very good...
Conclusion:Editing and formatting, as almost always in RSP's offerings, is flawless. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks. It should be noted that the pdf features improved artworks for many a piece and also features one version for screen-use and one for print-use.
Creighton Broadhurst's "Road of the Dead" was a very good module back in the day, but it had minor weaknesses. The Collector's Edition has purged them all and made what shone before a dazzlingly glorious beast. The complex and its story, the adversaries, the hazards - this module is one of the finest examples of indirect storytelling I've seen in ages and imho surpasses in the thoroughly awesome concept of the dungeon and the implementation of its features in the narrative almost every example I can think of. This place makes sense in all the right ways; It's exciting and challenging, but not too hard. It can be enhanced via the bonus/follow-up encounters to be hard, if a DM chooses so. It provides a fascinating glimpse at a unique culture and one I'd hope we'd explore more in the future.  The Collector's Edition is a significant improvement in all regards and my dead tree copy, including spine etc., lives up to all the standards as well, adding superb production values to stellar content. Even if you have the original Road of the Dead, the print version is definitely worth its low price and if you don't have the original module, then this should be considered a must-buy anyways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval...and since "Road of the Dead" has not featured in any of my best-of lists...this one does and is a candidate for my top ten of 2014.
You can get this awesome module here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: RPGs

EZG reviews GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing

RPGAggression - Lou Agresta - Fri, Aug 08 2014 - 01:54

GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing





This massive compilation of Raging Swan Press' Wilderness Dressing-series clocks in at a massive 159 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than a massive 152 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Okay, so you know the deal, right? I did reviews for all the constituent files of the wilderness dressing-series and I don't like repeating myself over and over, so if e.g. the exact content of what the installment on "Snow & Ice" or "So what's the Pirate Ship like, anyways?" intrigue you - just check out my reviews for those, all right?
Great - what I will go into details about, though, would be the massive array of brand new tables to e found herein as well as the organization, for especially the latter is downright genius:
The first bunch of the book covers features and events - caves and their dressings, firesite/campsite events and the like complement the installments on ruins and castles. Then, the next chapter provides bandits and travelers to put in respective locations, whereas after that, we have a concise organization of dressing-tables by terrain type - expanded by the equivalent of three full wilderness dressing-pdfs (and we're talking this chapter alone!): Full coverage for swamps and marshes and farmlands as well as borderlands complement well the classics like the glorious primal forests or desolate deserts. Now the final chapter provides ample tables for ships - from shipwrecks and pirate ships to coastlines and sea voyages, the new supplemental content herein once again amounts to a surprising amount.
On a  content-base, the campsite tables features no less than 100 full entries for dressing and features each and the same holds true for the tables about caves, which furthermore get terrain properties. The Borderland-content as well as the content on swamps and farmlands follows the full wilderness dressing formula by proving massive tables of 100 entries for both dressing and minor events as well as coming with concise d12-tables of random encounters that include the respective fluff for the adversaries faced. And yes, the variety here is universally as staggering as we've come to expect from the best of wilderness-dressings - from bulls about to break out of control to fey and GARGANTUAN BUMBLEBEES, creatures from all 4 bestiaries get their chance to shine here. The swamp rules-cheat-sheet for DMs, with quicksand, undergrowth and bogs etc. all collated further provides a level of DM-help unprecedented in just about any supplement apart from those by Raging Swan Press.
I should also not fail to mention that exactly this level of detail also extends to the entry on coasts, while 50 entries of sample shipwrecks, 100 entries shipwreck dressing and, once again, 12 encounters, round out this book.
Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, bordering on flawless - an impressive feat for a book of this length. The pdf comes in RSP's two-column B/w-standard with thematically fitting b/w-art that partially is stock, partially glorious original. The book comes with two pdf versions - one printer-friendly and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs are extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and even ToC etc. is hyperlinked within the document in an unobtrusive manner, rendering navigation by pdf as comfortable as possible. It should also be noted that the pdfs are extremely tablet/smartphone-friendly and render perfectly on my Google Nexus 5 while taking up next to no space  -the screen-version does not even surpass the 10 mb. The print-version has its title conveniently placed on the spine and offers a neat, matte cover as well as nice paper. Nothing to complain there either.
The designers John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Seamus Conneely, Brian Gregory, Eric Hindley, Greg Marks, Brian Wiborg Mønster, David Posener, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham have almost universally done a great job and when some tables aren't as glorious as others, then only due to the insanely high standard of the series in general. Now I won't kid you - I didn't particularly look forward to reviewing this, mainly because I did not think I'd be able to say something I hadn't said in one of my reviews of the small pdfs in the series. And yes, I could have ran my usual spiel of talking about the respective new tables, what works and what doesn't etc. - but it didn't feel like it would be enough.
So I postponed and procrastinated. Then, my group went into the wilds, on journey and left civilization, at least for a while.
I've got to go on a slight tangent here: As some of you may know, I print out all my pdfs. I just prefer paper. It makes catching glitches easier for me and is just more pleasant to work with, at least for me. I printed out all the component-parts, archived them in my terrain-folder and had them on standby ever since. I did use them and I enjoyed them. Then I got this book.
The difference, by some strange quirk of my mind, organization in the tome or whatever you may call it, is staggering. This book has since rapidly turned into my most-used DM-accessory book. And oh boy, is my campaign better off for it! And the reason eluded me for some time...after all, I had most of the constituents, why do I use it now this excessively?
The answer came to me the other day - I looked at the ToC and it was there, I read it, it made sense. When I was gaming, though, I did not actively remember where what is, my usual process. Think for a second, recall information xyz, go on. I didn't have to.
Somehow, the organization of this book, at least for me, is so borderline genius and adheres to some weird principle of how my brain processes information and draws logical conclusions that I don't even have to remember what first letter (i.e. the "d" of desert) the respective table has - via a borderline genius organization of tables and content, my subconscious manages to immediately pick up where the information I'm looking for can be found. Now mind you, I experienced this phenomenon from the get-go, the very first use of the book. This is a triumph of glorious organization and layout and perhaps the best example of the like I've seen in any roleplaying game supplement. This is a proof that layout artists, alongside developers and editors, truly belong to the heroes of the rpg-industry. And it makes me use the book. ALL. THE. TIME.
Now even if this observation does not interest you in the least and you already have all the old Wilderness-Dressing files - take a look at the sheer amount of bonus content. Yeah. Even for people like me who had the constituent files, this should be considered a must-have, a book that every DM should own. This book is a hot contender for my top ten no. 1-spot of 2014, gets a 5 star + seal of approval and while I'm at it - every DM should own this: It's hereby declared an Endzeitgeist Essential-book for DMs. Players, if your DM doesn't own this, get it for him/her - they'll be happy and your gaming experience will improve significantly while traveling - I guarantee it.
Do yourself a favor and get this book for your game. If you're a player, buy it for the DM. Seriously, your game will immediately become more detailed, more awesome. You can get this GEM here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: RPGs

EZG reviews Journey to Cathreay

RPGAggression - Lou Agresta - Fri, Jul 25 2014 - 05:44
Journey to Cathreay




Journey to Cathreay clocks in at a massive 115 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 112 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The module begins with a massive explanation of the module for the DM - essentially, the module provides an extremely helpful explanation of the module's structure, making the modification on the fly very easy on the DM. A total of 5 maps are provided and a table of all encounters with CR, treasure, XP to be seen at a glimpse. It should also be noted that the pdf also comes with a 25-page NPC-book that has versions of the NPCs of varying strength depending on the number of PCs your party sports - one statblock for 4, 5 and 6 PCs. Indeed, DMs have an extremely easy time with this book - a reference for all animal tricks, beasts, items, rules and spells used in the module is part of the deal - i.e. you ONLY need this book when running it. No book-flipping. (And yes, these take up quite a bunch of pages, but a massive 67 is still left, making this a long module. This being a journey-module, we also get a massive write-up of a caravan resting, with rules for slashing through tents and the like as well as stats for bisons and their handlers - and yes, we actually get multiple stats for guards and handlers, making these guys more versatile than what most modules would provide.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion - believe me, you'd hate spoiling this one.
Okay, still here? Roco P'loma is a man with a reputation for making the trip to the domain of the Crimson Khan a couple of times and bringing back curious wonders - and now, his guards have ran off, claiming the caravan's haunted.  P'loma, imbued with the power to negotiate by the Khan, offers a significant reward for the PCs and after signing the contract (yes, paperwork etc. would be part of the module's realism, though you can skim over this fast) and after that, the first subplot immediately kicks off  - Acomat, the brother of Tegana and an important part of the caravan, is about to have the time of his life with gorgeous gal named Daisy. And after that, the worst, and last time of his life. In truth a doppelgänger, the creature wants to infiltrate the Khan's court and her plan is lavishly detailed. Know how usually in a module, such a plot works like "He is killed and replaced, the end." Well, here we get a full write-up, step by step of the infiltration process and thus also ample opportunity for the PCs to foil the gambit. This level of realism (including, btw., plainly hilarious moments of unobtrusive humor) is mixed with an uncommon assassination weapon (a giant rot grub - yeah...nasty) for the best handling of such an operation I've seen in quite a while. Whether the infiltration works or not much depends on what you as the DM want to do with it and how perceptive and paranoid your players are. After this, the PCs will have to make a short 4-mile trek to a dwarven bison ranch and escort bison to the caravan - in a dynamic skill-challenge type escort. And yes, bison are not that easy to ride or lead and accidents may well happen... This journey already uses a level of detail nigh unprecedented - take potentially poisonous berries bison may or may not eat, a wizard practicing his fierball-spell and unintentionally creating a stampede
The journey hasn't even started yet. Now if I go through the day-to-day things that happen, this review will become bloated beyond repair. So let me tell you: Yes, EVERY DAY of the 5-week journey has its own write-up of small things happening, landscapes changing, stops at settlements, interactions with ratfolk traders, taking down a fire drake so the caravan may safely progress (in its disturbing cave of 500 eyes) - there is a LOT going on and beyond these effects, it should be noted that 7 NPCs in here are of particular interest -interacting with them and driving forward their respective plots allows for maximum customization options for the DM. And yes, these interactions are relevant, but more on that later. Assaults by very smartly planned div-assailants and wonder galore await on this journey - what about an oasis, where peacock-feather-like reeds grow and turn towards those closer, making it look like the plants are watching you? (Including a neat, challenging combat here that makes nice use of the strange place...)
What about a Jiang-Shi that has managed to stowaway among the people of the caravan, making for yet another complex foreshadowing and multi-part plot that may see an innocent man and his goat exiled. Rescuing a desperate man from a cyclops? Crashing an arranged marriage via trial by combat and potentially winning the freedom of a lady by besting her less than enthusiastic husband to be's champion? An Elk-hunting mini-game with a megaloceros? The wonders of the journey are plenty and varied indeed.
On day 32, the PCs finally arrive at the Khan's winter palace to a roaring welcome party...during which, their employer bites of more than he can chew and unintentionally makes a bet with the Khan that he (or another of the NPCs with their various plots that the PCs unearthed during the trek) and the PCs can take on Sennacherib. What is Sennacherib, you ask? Well, it is a legendary Tendriculous. , dare I say, MYTHIC adversary. Yeah. And before you say anything - I've been using mythic foes as legendary adversaries in my campaign for quite some time and they make for superb bosses against non-mythic groups. However, they imho require proper foreshadowing and the module does a superb job - a fully depicted legend of the creature, extensive and superbly written, makes clear from the get-go that this beast is indeed something to be feared. Even the end of the creature, should the PCs and their NPC-ally prevail, is the stuff of legends. By the way, this is not the only legend provided in the module - remember the fire drake's cave? I failed to mention that another legend the PCs may have encountered hides the true treasure of the place in an unobtrusive puzzle. Yes. This module has it all.
Conclusion:Editing and formatting are top-notch - I only noticed 2 minor typo-level glitches à la "Ncps". Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard that is exceedingly easy to print out. The module comes with a handy NPC-book, varied stats, includes all the rules required to run it, is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and has two versions, one optimized for the US-standard and one for the A4-default used in Europe - awesome! A total of 6 solid full color maps are provided, also as high-res jpgs and the artwork is provided, handout-style, in the back of the module, allowing you to print them out and hand them to your PCs. The artwork is solid, btw., and adheres to a very old-school aesthetic.
The last 2 modules by 4 Dollar Dungeons made my top spot of my top 10 list of 2013. "Horn of Geryon" can be considered an apex of the art of wilderness sandboxes. "Panataxia" is one of the best dungeons/planar modules I've ever read, regardless of system. Then this one hit my review-list and I was concerned - caravans? Urgh. Two massive potential issues seem to be ingrained in such a scenario - a) the caravan-rules introduced in Jade Regent just aren't that good and b) such modules are by definition railroads.
"Journey to Cathreay" deals with both issues remarkably well - by ignoring the caravan-rules and replacing them with STORYTELLING. You know, with developments, cool wilderness-scenery and a ton of things to do. The second gripe is harder to handle, though - how do you change that up? Via great NPCs and subquests galore the DM can introduce on the fly, by providing varied challenges and options to amp up or slow down the pace whenever required. Then, there would be the potential issue with the final boss and its mythic nature (and no, you don't eed mythic adventures to run this module - all rules required are provided) - the module manages to properly foreshadow it and makes for a truly epic final fight that is challenging, yes, but NOT unfair. Each combat, each encounter comes with round-by-round tactics, interesting terrain-features and at the end of each section, all relevant skill-checks/DCs are collated into a handy box, available at a glimpse.
Richard Develyn seems to be out on a quest to demonstrate mastery in all types of module possible - this journey breathes the spirit of wonder so often lost in fantasy, the sense of exploring a truly different world. The level of detail provided is simply staggering and the world feels ALIVE. It may be ugly at times, it may be hilarious - but over all, these NPCs and places feel like they truly exist, like you could just fall from this world and wake up in the pages of this module. The diverse choices of the PCs and how they matter, the simply astounding, great writing, the unobtrusive, realistic puzzle (that can be brute-forced), the bison-herding mini-game, the hunting mini-game - adventuring is not always a fight to the death and this module shows exceedingly well why one would embark on such a career. PCs actually get to do something that may be considered fun not only for the players, but also for the characters. Add to that the copious amount of read-aloud text, legends, ridiculously easy to use format, the fact that NOT ONE ENCOUNTER in here is boring/common, that creatures get smart tactics and actual background stories/reasons for their actions and we get a module that is on par with the superb predecessors, perhaps even beyond it.
Want to know how good this is? My players actually were sad when the module was over. They've been badgering me about more 4 Dollar Dungeon-modules ever since Horn of Geryon, and this module took them a long time to complete and unlike every caravan module I've ran before, not one of them lost interest even for a short time - invested from beginning to end, this module just blew them away. This beast is long and never loses its stride. When your players refuse to get up from the table at midnight, even though they have to  go to work on the next day, when they ask for more roleplaying sessions because they are so into a module, then you realize you have one glorious beast of a module on your hands. This module cements Richard Develyn as one of the best, perhaps even the best, adventure-writers currently active for PFRPG. It's hard to describe what makes this so impressive, how this quasi-realism and wonder go hand in hand - let it be known that there are few modules that breathe the spirit of old-school gaming to this extent and combine it with all that is great about new school gaming for a result that can only be described as master-class.
Modules like this make reviewing worthwhile. Seriously. And then there is the ridiculously low price, the fact that you need no other book to run this. And the rather interesting fact that this module surpasses its predecessors in length. If this review is short on the actual story of the module, then only because I want YOU to experience this beast like I did - with eyes wide open at the wonder that oozes from every page, chuckling at the humor, grinning at the smart encounters and all the details. The writing is so captivating, it also makes for simply a great experience to read and honestly, I've read a lot of fantasy novels I found less engaging than this.
You won't find a better bang-for-buck-ratio anywhere. Seriously. This is, by any scale I apply, the apex - if there were 10 stars, I'd slap 10 stars + seal of approval on this book. This is the best caravan/journey-style module I've ever read. This is a must-purchase. This module makes me run out of superlatives to slap on it and, at least as far as I'm concerned, may actually surpass its predecessors. This is a hard contender for the number 1 slot of my Top Ten list this year and, barring the means to rate it higher, I'm going for the highest honors of 5 stars + seal of approval. I guarantee you'll love this module if the idea of a caravan even remotely interests you, if you're looking for this sense of wonder the old grognards always complain about being absent from most current modules - here is where it lives and breathes and has been blended with all the comfort we now expect.
Why are you still reading this ramble? Seriously, buy this. 
You can get the best journey module I've ever read here on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: RPGs

EZG reviews Parsantium: City at the Crossroads

RPGAggression - Lou Agresta - Thu, Jul 24 2014 - 04:13
Parsantium: City by the Crossroads


This massive city sourcebook clocks in at a brutal 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping 172 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

Author Richard Green kicks off the book by telling of its genesis - the city's inspiration would essentially be a Byzantium-inspired metropolis, closer to far-east influences than our real world equivalent was - and of course, as one glimpse at the superb 2-page map by Jonathan Roberts (Yes, THE Jonathan Roberts - you know the Fantastic Maps/Song of Fire and Ice-cartographer!) tells us, the city is vast and detailed. Nestled around a massive river delta flowing into the ocean, the city covers the north and south banks with its sprawling streets, while the merchant quarter, situated on the central island, the walls, the extents of the harbor and docks just feel right- all of these, at a glance, convey the believable illusion of a city that actually could have existed and developed. It may be a small thing, but people tend to note when settlements feel inorganic, constructed. This one feels RIGHT, including wards extending beyond the confines of the city walls, which also separate the respective wards. Even the array of streets, the bridges - all of these feel like they belong and this is seriously not an easy task to achieve, especially for a city of this size.

Now, as befitting of a city f this size, we kick off with an overview from the ruler, the so-called Basileus Conrandias XVIII and his less than popular consort (nicknamed Mendatrix - two brownie-points if you can guess the meaning, though the pdf explains for the less-linguistically-inclined among us) to the city's history and quarters and development. With a good overview out of the way, you'll be happy to note that the city gets a full-blown PFRPG-city statblock complete with demographics etc..

Now if you've been to Athens, Rome or Venice (or less famous: Rothenburg, Dresden...), you'll notice something peculiar about these cities - they have a kind of living, breathing flair, their very own mythologies steeped in stone and ready to be discovered at your leisure, if only your eyes are open and your mind (and literature/language-skills) sharp. Much of this has developed slowly over the ages, with the very rocks of the pavement, the ancient monuments speaking a language for those inclined and willing to hear. Ah, how glorious must that be in a world, where fantastical elements actually exist? Well, here's the crux - Parsantium's massive history, including a timeline stretching almost 2000 years, actually manages to lay the foundation for just such an endeavor - the basic mythologies of the place are in place.

Now a city sans people is just a ruin waiting to happen and the roles of the races, including dragonkin and gnolls as well as the default-races and their respective roles within the context of Parsantium are provided - but how are your player characters going to fit in? Well, know my ranting about boring character traits? Well, herein are traits (called character backgrounds) that allow you to customize your character within the confines of Parsantium.. Now in contrast to most traits, these actually come with extensive fluff-text detailing the precise implications and possibilities growing from these, making them so much more compelling. On a nit-picky side - why not call them properly "traits"? Why are the bonuses of the backgrounds untyped and not trait-bonuses? Nothing to break the content here, but good indicators that the focus on the narrative potential here is warranted.

Now beyond people, of course, government (with classic style b/w-artworks for the rulers), law and structure in general shape a city's life and experiences - and from bureaucracy, the Strategos, tribunes to praetor and council and yes, even FINES for crime and the respective punishments are included here. Don't believe these influence and mirror a society/are important? I'd suggest Michel Foucault's "Discipline & Punishment" - and the punishments detailed here actually conform much to the proper etiquette of punishment and the city's culture technology-level work well with these in context. Then again, you might not care at all, but the culture science-teacher in me rejoices when I see things make sense.

Speaking of making sense - from city watch to possible sources of entertainment like chariot races, local festivals, bathhouses, brothels and drugs to proper greeting and social customs and even superstitions, trade-routes and currencies, this chapter misses NOTHING of the constituting elements that make a city and its culture come alive. Commodities, healing and the trade of magical items also is covered in their own respective entries and, taking a cue from Raging Swan Press' superb offerings, a random table of different events happening in the city help further make the place feel organic. This also constitutes one gripe I have with the city - one of the reasons Raging Swan Press' villages and cities feel so organic would be the short entries of whispers and rumors and events available in tables for the DM to randomly roll - having one of these for the respective quarters would have made the city feel even more alive.

"I don't care about your academic squeeing, Endzeitgeist, tell me about what this does for me as a DM!" All right, what about a selection of campaign themes ranging from street gangs (perhaps with a Streets of Zobeck gone Byzantium tie-in?) to politics and intrigue or the return of a legendary rakshasa - Parsantium supports just about all play-styles you can conceive and the pdf offers some interesting guidance and inspiration for the DM in that regard.

Speaking of helping the DM - the districts are detailed in an exceedingly detailed manner that would blow the format of my reviews out of all proportions, so let's just say that the respective areas of the city are exceedingly detailed and also come with their own symbols, iconography and landmarks the local populace might use to tell you where to find certain areas.

Caravan-centric wards, forums, hippodrome, clubs for gentlemen arcanists (the Fireball Club - nice nod to the Hellfire Club...) - the wards come with first impressions, sample passer-by characters (fluff only) and places of interest. And yes, a 200+ feet colossal bronze statue is in here as well as just about all variations of sample businesses relevant for adventuring - taverns (also those frequented by the wizards of the esoteric order of the blue lotus +2 browniepoints if you get that allusion), shops, scribes, theatres, a garden mausoleum, mosques, a secret temple of Kali, a chinatown-like sub-ward , gambling halls on galleys and even a tasteful (and non-explicitly depicted!) BDSM-brothel and yes, even a flotsam town within the city - the mind boggles at the amount of surprisingly concisely fitted elements that constitute the sprawling metropolis and the adventure hook potential just about each of these has. Even before the tunnels that constitute the hidden quarter (including random encounter chart, btw...) and e.g. a mapped hideout for your convenience. From halfling camps outside the city to forests, the area around the city is also glanced at, just should you feel this wilderness itch.

If you require more motivation or some sample pro-/antagonists, you'll be happy to hear that no less than 16 organizations, from aforementioned mage-order to the friendly half-orc society and even more guilds provide for ample social networks for PCs to work and DM to use to tailor proper adventure potential....even before the obligatory noble houses and rakshasas influencing the city's fortunes. It should be noted, though, that none of the organizations provides distinct prestige-mechanics-related benefits - as fluff-only, they work, though.

Finally, religion of course shapes a city's life and feeling and Parsantium is no different - well, actually it is. At least for ole' Europeans like yours truly who isn't that used to religious multiculturalism from everyday life as some of you fellow American city dwellers might be - The eclectic mix of Byzantium-inspired gods and those drawn from the Indian and Chinese folklore makes for a broad selection that supports well the multicultural nature of Parsantium. It should be noted, though, that this supplement was released prior to "Gods of the Inner Seas" - thus, we get no explicit notes on obeisance, but also no inquisitions or sub-domains, restricting the gods to being rather rudimentary and, compared to the rest of the source-book, disappointing.

The pdf concludes with a massive index.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any particularly grievous issues - in fact, for a book of this size, the editing is very, very tight, so kudos! Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with scarce (but as far as I could tell) original and fitting b/w-artworks. The embroidered line of glyphs on the top of the page is nice to look at, but had a curious effect on me - during the course of this review, I skipped a lot of pages back and forth and the odd and even pages have a slightly different set, which means that staring at the screen while skipping pages might be slightly disorienting. Note that as an utmost nitpick, though. The pdf comes with EXTENSIVE nested bookmarks for your convenience, making reading Parsantium easy on the DM.

Superbly ambitious for a first product, I did not expect much from Richard Green's metropolis - and I'm seldom so glad to be proven wrong. Parsantium BREATHES authenticity and love - New York City meets Byzantium, modern metropolis meets swords & sorcery - this book actually manages to portray a believable, interesting, unique city that oozes the spirit of Al Qadim, early weird fiction and recent phenomena like the god of war-series, all while staying believable. Down to earth grit, high fantasy epics - this place supports everything and is better off for it -and manages to walk the tightrope and NOT become generic. Think Kaer Maga if a book of this size had been devoted to the city - only larger. The drop-dead-gorgeous map by Jonathan Roberts (which btw. also comes as high-res jpeg for your perusal) is just the icing on the cake here. Not since books like 3.0's Hollowfaust or since the Great City by 0onegames have I read a city and actually wanted to visit it. This is on par with how iconic Zobeck by now is - and feels thoroughly, wholly RIGHT. Concise. Well-conceived. A stunning achievement indeed! Now I wouldn't be me if I had no complaints now, right? So yeah, what hurts the city is its obvious intention to be multi-format. Don't get me wrong - I don't object to fluff-centric books and honestly, by now I'd rather have good fluff than the oomphteenth bad archetype, feat etc. But e.g. the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus screams at least PrC to me. The organizations practically demand prestige benefits. Concise addiction-rules for the drugs and beverages would have been so cool...what about vehicular combat rules expanded from UC for e.g. the chariot-races? Yes, I know - not the intention.


But these things, at least to me, are the only things missing from this glorious city. Now don't get me wrong - look at the price-point - exceedingly low. Note that this has been made sans kickstarter. Add the SUPERB writing and good production values and we still get a city that should find a home in Qadira, in Al-Qadim, in Conan- and similarly Sword & Sorcery-themed campaigns. We still get a superb milestone of a book, one of the best settlements available out there right now. There's a reason I evoked some of my all-time favorites in the above text - you simply won't find any comparable resource out there. This city is unique and daringly so, bravely carving its own niche and making for one of the most furious freshman offerings I've seen in quite a while. Light on the crunch-side yes, but any writing that manages to draw me in to the extent I want to walk a city's streets does it right in my book. Parsantium establishes one superb framework, one I hope will get ample crunchy books and especially, adventures to support it. If the muses and fates be just, this will be remembered just as fondly as e.g. Freeport in the years to come. Yes, the absence of whispers, rumors and events and lack of statblocks are minor downsides, but not enough to drag this down. The place deserves a chance - give Parsantium a visit! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, the relative absence of crunch and somewhat disappointing entry on the gods are the only minor nitpicks I could muster. For the exceedingly low price, this is a true steal!

You can get it here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out-
Categories: RPGs

Wayfinder 11 - House of Cards

DeviantArt - Liz Courts - Wed, Jun 25 2014 - 09:57
Illustration for Wayfinder #11. It's fun designing a devil-themed card deck! Queen of Swords is her Imperial Majestrix Abrogail II, the pit fiend is the Ace of Devils, and then a good ol' Hellknight fist is the Three of Scourges.

It would be phenomenally fun to make this into a complete deck. Oh for unlimited time and energy!

Pit fiend, Abrogail, and diabolism holy symbol are © Paizo. All else is my design. Done with Copic markers and Photoshop.
Categories: Art

Super Duper Street Fighter Collab - Dhalsim

DeviantArt - Liz Courts - Tue, Jun 03 2014 - 23:57
Wow. An honest to goodness finished piece! WTF! Piece of fan art for a Street Fighter collab project, for which I chose Dhalsim...because Chun Li was already taken. >.>
Categories: Art

King of the Mountain (Atomic Array 063)

Moonstew Productions - Fri, May 25 2012 - 12:08


King of the Mountain (Atomic Array 063)

You’s never admit it in public, but you knew it all along: Elvis lives!
Well, kinda.

On this episode, we ask Michael Satran to tell us all about it - and his latest HERO System adventure entitled King of the Mountain.

BlackWyrm Games: http://www.blackwyrm.com/

Michael Satran: http://michaelsatran.wordpress.com/

Ed’s Pick: 3,000 Miles to Graceland
Rone’s Rant: “San Francisco Misadventures”

Sponsors:
* d20Pro
* Hero Lab

Past Satran Episodes:
* Foxbat for President
* War of Worldcraft
* Unkindness
* Pretty Hate Machines

* * * * *

Feel free to ask questions, or leave a comment on the site. You can also share Atomic Array with a friend, or contact us directly. In fact, we’d love to hear what you think about the games you’re playing. Tell us what you like (or don’t), and what you’d like to see on the Array in the future.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment, and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

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Categories: Podcasting

RPG Countdown Best of Q1 2012

Moonstew Productions - Wed, May 23 2012 - 14:26

Welcome to RPG Countdown.

This episode counts down the 25 best-selling RPG products of Q1 2012.

RPG Countdown Sponsors:
* d20Pro
* Gamerati
* Scrying Eye Games

Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

RPG Countdown Best of Q1 2012

Categories: Podcasting

An Evening With Steven Brust (Atomic Array Special Edition)

Moonstew Productions - Sat, May 05 2012 - 04:23

An Evening With Steven Brust (Atomic Array Special Edition)

A couple months ago, Patrick DeLise suggested we invite author Steven Brust on the show. So, being fans ourselves, we did!

Steven’s first work, Jhereg, was released in 1983. Since then, Steven has released a total of 13 stories that follow Jhereg’s protagonist, the smart-mouthed assassin Vlad Taltos. In addition, he has written The Khaavren Romances, which at set in the same world - though follow different characters.

Sprinkled amongst the novels set in Dragaera, you will also find a number of other Brustian offerings, including a novel based on the Firefly television series, called My Own Kind of Freedom.

Steven doesn’t just know his way around a good story, he also plays a number of instruments - and has been known to play them, and even sing, from time to time at the various fiction and fandom events he attends. He is a part of the band Cats Laughing, which even received a mention by Chris Claremont in Star Trek: Debt of Honor.

You can keep up to date on what Steven is up to by visiting The Dream Cafe.

* * * * *

Feel free to ask questions, or leave a comment on the site. You can also share Atomic Array with a friend, or contact us directly. In fact, we’d love to hear what you think about the games you’re playing. Tell us what you like (or don’t), and what you’d like to see on the Array in the future.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment, and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

(more…)

Categories: Podcasting

Wu Xing (Atomic Array 062)

Moonstew Productions - Sat, Apr 14 2012 - 23:39

Wu Xing (Atomic Array 062)

The war has begun. The Emperor has called for blood!

That is how the description of Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade begins. So we called on creator Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games to come on The Array and tell us all about it. In this episode, we talk chop about the Wu Xing RPG, the many ninja clans that player characters come from, and the war that permeates the setting.

Third Eye Games: http://thirdeyegames.net/
Eloy Lasanta: http://eloythesaint.com/

Ed’s Pick: Basilisk
Rone’s Rant: “The Old Gray Mare”

Sponsors:
* d20Pro
* Hero Lab

Also Mentioned:
* RPG Countdown
* Origins Game Fair
* Iron GM | Dexcon
* ReaperCon

Frazetta’s Death Dealer

* * * * *

Feel free to ask questions, or leave a comment on the site. You can also share Atomic Array with a friend, or contact us directly. In fact, we’d love to hear what you think about the games you’re playing. Tell us what you like (or don’t), and what you’d like to see on the Array in the future.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment, and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

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Categories: Podcasting

RPG Countdown Best of $2011 Giveaway Winners!

Moonstew Productions - Fri, Mar 30 2012 - 13:52


Welcome to the RPG Countdown!

We collected 228 receipts from listeners of the RPG Countdown Best of 2011 show who went into their local game stores and bought one of the products on our list.

Today, we put all the envelopes into a bin and pulled out the winners.

Winner the First: One lucky store will receive $2,011 in free advertising on great gaming websites.

Winner the Second: One luck gamer will receive $2,011 in cold hard cash!

Did you enjoy this special? Please share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future Countdowns delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

RPG Countdown Best of $2011 Giveaway Winners!

Categories: Podcasting

Checking the Mail

Moonstew Productions - Fri, Mar 16 2012 - 03:25

RPG Countdown host Ed Healy (and helper) grabs the final entries for the RPG Countdown Best of $2011 Giveaway.

 
The winner will be announced on March 30, 2012… Right here at RPG Countdown.com.

Categories: Podcasting

Mistborn Adventure Game (Atomic Array 061)

Moonstew Productions - Mon, Mar 05 2012 - 14:57

Mistborn Adventure Game (Atomic Array 061)

Based on the bestselling novels by Brandon Sanderson and powered by an all new story-driven rules system, the Mistborn Adventure Game lets you explore, command, or liberate the oppressed world of Scadrial, battle the Lord Ruler’s Inquisitors, and master the primal forces of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy. It’s the ultimate resource for fans of the novels and those who want to experience the Final Empire firsthand.

On this episode we have Alex Flagg and Patrick Kapera, from Crafty Games, who talk with us about the RPG adaptation of the novels. And… we also speak with Mr. Mistborn himself, author Brandon Sanderson.

Brandon Sanderson: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/
Crafty Games: http://www.crafty-games.com/

Ed’s Pick: The Good Thief
Rone’s Rant: “Holier-Than-Thouists”

Sponsors:
* d20Pro
* Hero Lab

Also Mentioned:
* RPG Countdown
* Genghis Con
* New Gods of Mankind (Atomic Array 006)
* Game Developers Conference
* Iron GM
* TotalCon

* * * * *Feel free to ask questions, or leave a comment on the site. You can also share Atomic Array with a friend, or contact us directly. In fact, we’d love to hear what you think about the games you’re playing. Tell us what you like (or don’t), and what you’d like to see on the Array in the future.Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment, and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

(more…)

Categories: Podcasting

Best of 2011

Moonstew Productions - Wed, Feb 15 2012 - 05:00


Welcome to the RPG Countdown: Best of 2011 Special! We’ve got the 100 hottest selling RPG products of 2011 on tap. Sit back, grab your dice, and get ready to roll…

Where the stats come from: We collected sales statistics from 126 brick-and-mortar retail stores, representing over 5,000 products from more than 250 publishers.

Would you like an extra $2,011 in cold hard cash?

Just listen to the show.

Visit your local game store.

Buy one of those 100 best-selling products mentioned on the RPG Countdown Best of 2011.

Send us the receipt.

We’ll put all the receipts in a drawing, and send the winner a check for $2,011!

The Details:

1) Your receipt must have a time stamp on or after February 15, 2012.

2) We must receive your envelope no later than March 15, 2012.

3) You must write your name and email address on the back of your receipt.

IF WE CAN’T READ YOUR NAME AND EMAIL, YOU CAN’T WIN!

The Address:

Moonstew

ATN: Best of 2011 Contest

PO Box 386

DuPont, WA 98327

We will announce the winner of the RPG Countdown Best of $2011 Giveaway on March 30, 2012.

NOTICE: By law, we have to say No Purchase Necessary, so if you don’t want to go support your favorite game store and mail us a receipt, or you don’t have a local game store, you can also enter by sending in a 3×5 card with your name, email, phone number and mailing address.

READ THE OFFICIAL GIVEAWAY RULES HERE

Oh, and lest we forget…

We’re also giving away $2,011 in free advertising to a retailer!

Every receipt submitted in conjunction with the RPG Countdown Best of $2011 Giveaway will also double as a ballot for your friendly local game store. After we draw the name of the winning consumer, we’ll also draw a second receipt and give the retailer listed on that receipt $2,011 in FREE advertising on some of the most popular RPG websites.

So listen to the Countdown, shop at your local retail store, enter to win - and support this industry we all love so much.

READ THE OFFICIAL GIVEAWAY RULES HERE

Did you enjoy this special? Please share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future Countdowns delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

RPG Countdown: Best of 2011 Special

Categories: Podcasting

Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Atomic Array 060)

Moonstew Productions - Fri, Feb 10 2012 - 08:49

Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Atomic Array 060)

This episode, we go Old School… James Edward Raggi IV is on to talk about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. If you’ve been intrigued by OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord, but haven’t taken the OSR plunge, may we suggest you give the Flame Princess a look.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: http://www.lotfp.com/

Ed’s Pick: The Complete Poems of Stephen Crane
Rone’s Rant: “Restaurant Rudeness”

Sponsors:
* d20Pro
* Hero Lab

Also Mentioned:
* TotalCon
* Genghis Con
* GottaCon
* Jen Page

* * * * *Feel free to ask questions, or leave a comment on the site. You can also share Atomic Array with a friend, or contact us directly. In fact, we’d love to hear what you think about the games you’re playing. Tell us what you like (or don’t), and what you’d like to see on the Array in the future.Did you enjoy this episode? Please leave a comment, and share it with others. Consider subscribing so that you will get future episodes delivered to you - you won’t have to remember to download each one.

(more…)

Categories: Podcasting
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