Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The QF has some decent fluff and inspiration for roleplaying/building your character, although the language does show (in places) that it was written by non-native English speakers. It also holds some good ideas for different fighter organizations, but let’s face it. This is not why most people will buy the book. They will buy it for the new origins (backgrounds, a definite power creep, although not game breaking on its own, except in the hands of an optimizer), the new build ideas (everything from horseback fighter to pugilist is covered), the new powers (at-wills who do ongoing damage; dexterity, charisma, wisdom and intelligence attacks for the fighter; sustainable encounter powers etc), the new martial rituals (all high-level fighters will have the following benefits, every day: +5 perception and + 5 insight to avoid surprise, force reroll on the first attack that hits you, +1/+2 to all defenses, +10 to hit to one attack against a specific creature, regain 5-10 extra hit points when you second wind, gain 1d6 more hitpoints every time you spend a surge, +2 to certain checks and immunity to weaken effects), the new feats (yay, finally I can spend a feat and get +2 AC – vs. some weapons) and last but not least, the new combat styles (which boil down to having X specific feats, Y specific powers and get a bonus). In short, the QF is a flawed book with a lot of either subpar or borderline broken crunch. There are some useful stuff in there, but to be honest, I can’t see myself every using this book. But to each his own.
Mists of Madness is a short, straight-forward Indiana Jones-esque adventure where the heroes penetrate the ancient tomb of an archlich in order to stop a cult from reviving the arch-lich. Most of the encounters and traps are very good (and positively lethal, as usual) and have interesting features. My favorite is the secret chute behind the easily noticeable trap, so that when the players jump the pit, they fall down the chute, get hit by an Ochre Jelly as they fall by where it is, after which it proceeds to follow them down the chute to kill them. Mists of Madness does have a few editing errors (Swamp crocodile war mother – should have 68 hit points, not 40 – a simple copy paste error, when they leveled up the lower level croc, they forgot to up the hit points. Also, there is an X to mark the activation of a trap that I can’t find) but these are small issues. The biggest problems with the adventure (calling it the biggest doesn’t necessarily means it’s big) is that it does require some suspension of belief to believe that the traps (although they are lethal to 1st level characters) are supposed to “defend” the last resting place of an almighty archlich. The other is the encounter against the shades (which concept-wise is great), which sadly will TPK just about any party if run as written. These are however minor and easily tweakable problems. MoM is still a good, solid and fun adventure I definitely will be using for a campaign.
Rating:* * * *
They really like warlock pacts over at AE. And I bet the idea of a blood pact will be well received around the tables. But while the idea (although not revolutionizing) is good, the implement fails to a certain degree. The quality of a new warlock pact is determined by two things. The feel of the powers (do they fit with the concept of the pact) and the crunch behind those powers. AE definitely manage to hit within the thematic range of the pact. The crunch is just not there yet. It’s still better than the last one I read from them (Pact of the Angelic Choirs), but there are some definite issues still. Unfortunately, one of the big issues with it is in the at-will. A first level will be able to (assuming hit and curse, obviously) to deal 3d6+10 (assuming 20 CON) per round after the first round, costing him nothing more than 1 hp per round in damage. At 21st level, it will be 7d6+30 (assuming maxed CON and implement). This is quite nasty for a measly 4 damage per round and an at-will. Anyway, this is obviously not the only problem, one of the other highlights is a close blast 3 power that, on top of decent damage, stuns and gives ongoing 15 damage (save ends both) unless you have around 25-30+ con. But the true winner is a daily that causes the target to be unconscious as the effect, i.e. the warlock does not need to hit the target. Sorry, but that was quite funny. Quite a few of their encounter attack powers also have an effect, a perk which is supposed to be reserved for daily powers. All in all, you are better off waiting for something else.
The Purifiers tells the tragic tale of Wilhelm ark-Trasser, 4 times winner of the Contest of Ark, a paladin who has fallen a long way. His quest against an evil necromancer and the undead has warped his mind, sending his quest on collision course with madness. The former paladin now captures anyone he and his forces encounter and uses some corrupted plants of the Shroud to turn them into mindless servants – The Reborn – in order to build are horde matching the undead while depriving their enemy of their source of soldiers. With the Purifiers we get an organization, ready to fit into our campaign world with a minimum of work. But really, it’s so much more. The PDF is just full of great lore, ideas and fluff worthy of any campaign and it leaves me wishing that the good people of OBE would release a 450 page hardcover detailing their world. There are some great ideas within, from the Contest of Ark (great melee finale on hot coals!) to the Shroudrot mask, a ritual created mask that helps force the corruption of the Shroud upon a person. All in all, it’s a great PDF. There are some issues, most notably with the crunch of the main antagonists (overall, they are on the weak side) although they do partially redeem themselves with the second version of ark-Trasser, which you can find on the last page. It is just too bad that they didn’t give his two lieutenants the same treatment. Their fluff is just 10 times cooler than their stats, and the players might be disappointed once they finally meet them.
Rating:* * * * *
The Mahrog is an ancient race of primitive humans, who have been secluded away by their even more ancient goddess. Basically, they are civilized cavemen. The Mahrog gains a +2 modifier to strength, and can choose between two other stats for their other modifier. Likewise, they gain a +2 to their endurance skill and can choose between three other skills for their other bonus modifier. I like this approach, it creates some diversity within the race, much like Hard Boiled Cultures by OBE encourages us to make. It gives some flexibility, but hardly breaks the race. The racial feats also seem solid without impressing, although the Mahrog can end up being quite nasty with simple weapons. The PDF gives us a (aside from the race, obviously) a new language (Ancient) and a new goddess (Mahra, a sort of primal god of preservation). It is a useful and balanced product, which could find use in many campaigns. I know I will.
Rating:* * * *
Basically the quick kill rule allows players to do a skill challenge enabling them to get close to the enemy, without being detected. Following the skill challenge they make an attack which is an improved coup de grace. If the attack hits, it does damage equal to the bloodied value of the creature and it dies. Now, I have to admit that before buying this, I already knew what my review would be like, but I bought it anyway, just to see what they had done. While it probably sounded like a great idea at the time, it’s totally unnecessary to make up a new rule for this kind of situation. If you as DM want the guard to be able to be taken out with a hit, make it a minion. If you do not want him to be taken out, make it a normal monster. Much easier and you just saved $1.50. Now, the product isn’t completely useless, as it gives some pointers and ideas for the skill challenge you could run that enables the character to get close to the guard.
Editing, layout and organization are hopeless. It was written for 3e, and barely edited to fit 4e. Not to mention that whole 3e stat-blocks were left in there. This is really a poor excuse of a 4e adventure, and if I was American, I would sue to get my $5 back, not to mention compensation for the time I spent reading it. Actually, you can barely call BtBD an adventure. More like a railroad where the DM reads for 10 minutes, describing what happens and what the players decide to do (without asking, of course) then tells players to roll initiative. After the fight, the railroad continues. Seriously, this is the worst piece of crap I have ever seen. It makes adventures like Old Rock Tower look like masterpieces of ingenuity and quality.
Rating: [This product is not even good enough to get one star]