Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gods of the Shroud (One Bad Egg)

Let me start out by saying that if what you are looking for is a replacement pantheon for your high-magic campaign, this is probably not a product for you. It is however the perfect set of gods for a gritty, dark world on the edge of civilization or humanity. Baring running such a campaign, the Gods of the Shroud should be perfect as Ancient gods, still worshipped by barbarians, various humanoid tribes or really anyone living on the fringe of society. I must admit that I would have liked more fluff, but the fluff gotten was very evocative and sparked a lot of great ideas - just as it should be. The Channel Divinity feats are mostly great, and quite fitting. Overall a product I will be using a lot.
Rating:* * * * *

Friday, October 3, 2008

Paths to Prestige: The Fell Knight (Blackdirge Publishing)

First of all, despite the price tag of $1.50, you aren’t getting a whole lot. A prestige class, the corresponding template for monsters, and an example of a MM monster with the template slapped upon, along with a little fluff. Or maybe I am just spoiled. Anyway, the idea of the fallen paladin is fine, because we do not have it per say. We have the evil paladin via the core books, and the paladin that has given up on the gods via the Unbroken of One Bad Egg. So it’s filling a gap, although a very small gap. The problem I have with the Fell Knight is the implementation. For example, at 11th level, all powers you have that deal radiant now deal necrotic; except (because it is a class feature and not a prayer) your divine challenge. Then at 16th level, targets that are affected by your divine challenge take ongoing necrotic takes some ongoing necrotic damage. So your DC deals radiant damage and necrotic ongoing. Not really smooth in my book. Why not have DC do necrotic damage instead?
Rating:* * *

Lands of Darkness #2: The Cesspools of Arnac (Expeditious Retreat Press)

I think I won’t buy any more of the Land of Darkness series. Either they are extremely boring, or the whole concept just doesn’t suit me. The encounters seem repetitive and the new monsters seem without soul. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good, most notably a nasty level 5 disease which leaves you perma-dazed with a hefty penalty to AC and Fortitude defense. I am however not a fan of assured TPK’s which is what has been put in there. Sure, there is a skill challenge which allows you to avoid the encounter, or rather, resolves the encounter without bloodshed. A failed skill challenge is however a sure TPK. Against a level 3 a level 12 controller, 91 hps, insubstantial, flies, phases, and every 3rd round on average, he can make a close burst 6 attack that does 2d8+1 damage, pushes 5, and immobilizes (save ends). Of course, they can flee, I guess, but still...
Rating:* *

Tankard Tales: Willowbark (Myth Merchant Press)

Okay, so Willowbarks is a tavern at the edge of civilization. It is an interesting, if not completely innovative concept. The PDF describes the owner and his employees, as well as sets up some rumors and adventure hooks and some small adventure ideas. While I think that the author should have included stats for the owner and his friends, I like parts of the adventure seeds and the small adventures in Willowbarks. One sees the players being stuck in an alternate pocket-plane/dimension, due to a gnomish device gone awry. They must repair the device to return to their own plane, but unfortunately a portal to the Feywild is acting up and monsters are literally pouring in through the portal. Fun times, except that if the players fail, we are told that they just wake up unharmed, back at the inn. That’s kind of weak.
Rating:* * *

Critter Cache: Big Bugs (BlackDirge Publishing and Goodman Games)

So, finally we got us some more monsters! And they even have descriptions! Okay, I must admit I have never been the biggest fan of bugs, but there are some real gems in this product, as long as you do not look too much at the art. It looks like 1e stuff. Okay, I guess some people might dig it, I sure as hell didn’t. We got ant soldiers that frenzy (get more attacks when they are bloodied), we got an ant queen whose pheromone burst has not one, not two, but three different applications, both offensive and defensive, making it an awesome controller/leader hybrid. There are a few places where the author went a bit overboard, such as a beetle (level 6 brute) which does 2d10+10 damage when it has a target grabbed. Ouch. All in all, a good solid product, filled with some nasty critters to dispense of your pesky players. If you feel that 4e is just incomplete without these kinds of monsters, add another star.
Rating: * * * *

The Death-Mother (One Bad Egg)

"A mockery of motherhood, the death-mother appears a rotting, clawed zombie with an enormous, bloated abdomen that splits open to reveal rows upon rows of sharp, needle-like teeth. A single long tentacle emerge from that maw on occasion; striking a foe, the death-mother exerts a momentary control over the victim’s mind and feeds its gestating get with leeched life-force" - If that just sounds cool, nay awesome, it is because it is. Between producing undeads during combat and devouring more corpses during combat to produce even more undeads, this monster can be a truly horrifying experience for your players. Do not deprive yourself of the pleasure of using this against them!
Rating: * * * * *

The Half-Dead (One Bad Egg)

It had to happen I guess. With The Apelord and The Unbroken One Bad Egg had raised my expectations to a unreasonably high level. Yet, there is something intriguing about the Half-Dead.The concept and flavor really appeals to me, but I am never going to use it as a full player race. I think that is the biggest hurdle of the Half-Dead. I do not see it as a race that many will use. I will however use it at some point, where one of my players die, as some plot device. We will have to see. Overall it's a well designed race, but I do have some concerns about the racial ability. +5 to all death saves is too much (I think, but haven't had time to do the math yet).
Rating: * * * *

The Demigod (LPJ Design)

Hi, my name is Jack, and I am an 11th level demigod fighter, and I can't die.. what? No seriously, The Demigod race has it's moments. Three things really annoy me though, when I read it. First of all, divine nature? C'est quoi? Well, one must assume that it's mr LPJ dodging the GSL. Fair enough I guess, it just annoys me that the terminology changes from product to product. Second thing that annoys me, is the name. I mean, come one, DEMIGOD? I realize that it is what they are, but in D&D, when someone says demigod, you immediately think of someone extremely powerful. Not to mention the epic destiny from the core rules. So Jack the 11th level demigod fighter/vanguard becomes Jack the 21th level demigod fighter/vanguard/demigod? Say what? Last, but not least, can you spell B-R-O-K-E-N? Well, not the race in itself, but rather one of the paragon feats. Treat any roll of 10 or lower on a death save as a 10? First of all, there is no limit to this, so I guess that makes me pretty hard to kill, unless someone beats me down to below minus bloodied. Also, why would I need a feat to treat a roll of 10 as a 10? Hmm... There is some good stuff in there, I like the feel they got going, but it needs some work.
Rating: * * *

Punjar - The Tarnished Jewel (Goodman Games)

While made for their 4e OGL DCC line, PtTJ is easily adapted to any game system, as it has absolutely no crunch in there. The only 4e-ism in there is one mention of the dragonborn. This large city (75k) is run by a former thief turned Overlord is a haven for scum, bribery, murder and other nefarious pursuits and beings. Even the council-seats are as default buyable. Aside from the council, there is little centralization. Each of the wards of the city is run in it’s own fashion, with a common theme of brutality and hopelessness permeating them. Goodman Games and Mr. Stroh have created the basis for something truly great, and this appetizer has definitely let me wanting for more information about the Tarnished Jewel.
Rating: * * * *

King of the Trollhaunt Warrens (Wizards of the Coast)

Following the Pyramid of Shadows, but not really linked in a significant way, WotC finally get their adventure-writing together and brings us one of the best adventures in many years. The premise is simple. A little town is threatened by trolls and their new troll king. The heroes arrive and must find the secret warrens, kill the troll-king only to haste back to town to foil an attack by the troll-king’s “army”. After the attack, they find out the troll-king is not dead, and return to the warren, killing the troll king again, only to have to follow him into the Feywild, where he has now been reborn as the ancient troll-king Vard, first king of Vardar. Good stuff all around. Skill challenges, fights and role-playing opportunities are all there in good amounts, with seeds for much more.
Rating: * * * * *