Ring Side Report- Saga RPG Adventure Arc: Darkwood #3 – The Vile and the Voracious

Product– Saga RPG Adventure Arc: Darkwood #3 – The Vile and the Voracious

System– Pathfinder

Producer-SagaRPG

Price– $15(PDF)-40(softcover and pdf) here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/249671/01AA03–Saga-RPG-Adventure-Arc-Darkwood-3–The-Vile-and-the-Voracious-PFRPG-PDF–01AA03?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Why does it have to be mutant trolls! 93%

Basics– That troll pillaging the town has an arm growing out of his head!  Darkwood 3-The Vile and the Voracious is the third part of an ongoing series where the players adventure through Darkwood, a community on the fringe where different power players attempt to gain sway while horrors in the woods attack unrelentingly.  In this one the town is attacked by trolls, but not just any trolls, horrible mutant trolls! All the different groups are united against them, and the players are sent to exterminate the threat. In the dark caves where the trolls call home, long, best forgotten fey things are found as well.  The book also features a new mechanics for mutant monsters, crafting rules, items, magic, templates, locations and even gods of the Darkwood setting.

Mechanics or Crunch-Here is honestly where the book shines.  This book provides some really fantastic new crunch to Pathfinder with items, guns, templates and a large section devoted to making mutant monsters of old favorites.  These are liberally applied to all the things the players experience through the adventure, so it’s fun to see the new crunch dropped on the players mid battle! The new camping expedition rules are a welcome addition as well as “Ok, you set watch” *rolls one die per payer on watch* “Ok, get back your spells and hp.” *rolls encounter table and nothing happens* REPEAT TILL DESTINATION is honestly boring.  It’s fun to make your players’ characters people and give them things to do while living. This book adds some solid mechanics to the Pathfinder RPG 5/5

Theme or Fluff–  Here is the low point for the book. It’s not bad, not even close to bad, but this is not a very diverse adventure.  This is an unrepentant dungeon crawl and everything about this one is getting you to the place, so the killing can happen.  There are fun elements to the place like great descriptions of each room and new monsters to right in each room, but do not expect levels upone levels of intrigue i this one.  It’s just a fun romp killing trolls with some extra splash put in to keep the bard from being bored in the back. That’s not a bad thing, but not a diverse adventure. A decent hack and slash dungeon crawl in a lost fey cavern.  4.3/5

Execution–  The book is put together pretty decently, but has a few things I’d like changed.  It reads pretty quickly and is set up so I, the laziest DM ever, can simply skim enough at the time to get the game running in under three minutes while I say take a bio brake on the phone with clear outlines of plot and locations as well as area descriptions with monster personalities.  That’s exactly what I want from every adventure! I HATE having to read and reread a section to find how one of five brothers interacts in a combat when I’m trying to give life to 10 different monsters, and this book makes my life easy! What I don’t like is even on my tablet at the table, I have to do some considerable zooming to read the text.  The background looks nice, but the weathered parchment look makes it hard for me to read because I’m getting old! Others things I think are interesting design choices are to put the camping section in the middle. It kind of interrupts the flow, so I don’t think it goes there while other mechanical things are at the back of the book. But, I honestly can forgive that pretty easily because this book HYPERLINKS THE DAMN PDF!  I am boggled by how this isn’t industry standard, but these people do it and it makes my day. The art is nice and adds enough, and even better the PDF had maps WITHOUT labels on them that I can easily grab and throw into my online games or print for my table, so that is another fantastic plus to this adventure. Minor issues with the book, but otherwise its a solidly put together PDF. I have a few minor issues, but this is a well put together PDF 4.6/5

Summary-Sometimes you want a fancy 20 course meal with multiple courses.  Sometimes you just want to curbstomp a troll in a cave. This adventure might not redefine the fantasy world for its story, but simple doesn’t mean bad.  If you are in this deep to the Darkwood Adventure Arc, you are gonna have a blast in this book. If you are looking for your next book of long intrigue in the high courts of nobles, then this isn’t your book.  But, if you just want a fun Pathfinder adventure you can spring on your players to have them fight some mutant trolls then honestly for 15 bucks it’s hard to beat, even if your players don’t care about darkwood at all and they just want some good old fashion hack and slash.  The other things in here that really stand out well like the expedition camp rules, the mutant templates, and multiple other things are slick pathfinder additions. The Vile and the Voracious is a simple adventure done well and put together smoothly. 93%

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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

Product– Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

System– Starfinder

Producer-Paizo

Price– $23.00 here https://paizo.com/products/btpy9tmf?Starfinder-Adventure-Path-1-Incident-at-Absalom-Station

TL; DR-Not the brightest star, but a decent start.  83%

Basics– ARE YOU READY FOR ADVENTURE!?  Incident at Absalom Station kicks off the first Starfinder adventure path.  Players step off the ship and into gangland warfare as their contact is gun downed within seconds of seeing him.  Why? What dark secrets are at play? Who is involved? Also, this book contains a gazatier on Absolom station, several new monsters, and a whole new world for your players to play in.

Mechanics or Crunch-Ah the intro adventure!  What can a level 1 nothing do on their first day?  Not much, but LOTS OF SKILL CHECKS! Paizo has a history in their adventure paths of having players do lots of checks to get past those first few levels.  This adventure is no different. It’s not bad, but once you get past the first fight, its checks. And, if your party doesn’t have the right checks, then its a slog.  Past that its balanced and fun. After the checks, there are some simple space fights to get those mechanics out there, an exploration with some progressive fights to get those mechanics out there, and then we’re off to the next adventure book.  Overall it’s balanced, but the standard paint by numbers of a new RPG needs to really get players into the system and teach them the rules can be a bit boring. 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-Repeat after me-PLAYERS HATE FIGHTS WHERE THE ENEMIES SHOULD RUN AWAY.  I’m not talking big bads, I’m talking regular grunts above the player’s level.  Players want to KILL! This adventure starts with gang war above the players pay grade, and the players want everyone dead.  It’s not supposed to happen, but my players are always EVIL, SPITE-FILLED MONSTERS who must kill EVERYONE! If that describes your players, then as written, they will be mad.  For check section I mentioned above, the players need to talk to people, and if your party decides Charisma is for suckers, then that is a SUPER slog as my Cha 10 fighter attempts to talk to people as the -1 to -2 modifier other players hope for 20s to even get the middle of the ground information.  Past that first fitful start, it’s a fun adventure as players can find the roles they need and better understand what they should do next. This adventure runs like a train-slow, clunky start but then smooth sailing the rest of the way. 4/5

Execution-PDF?  Check! Hyperlinked?  NOPE! Why not hyperlink this book?  It’s 60+ pages! Next, Starfinder isn’t going to get the 64 page world building books that went with the Pathfinder line.  That’s ok, but now my players don’t get as much world building as before as unless I print of sections and hand those out, they players either can read the book or spoil the adventure.  The items are nice, the monsters are interesting and have great pictures, and the layout is well done. But, no new races! Part of the fun of Starfinder is if you want to be an intelligent mist, then we got stats for that baby!  But, I’m not seeing that here. Throw me a new playable race each mod! There are a few other issues as some things just don’t fit well. The water world of Heicoron IV is ok, but there are no mentions of how I can play either of the races that live there.  It feels thrown in. It’s not bad, but reference your other books or give me stats, so I can have a whole adventures with the fish people. This is a good but, but it has some flaws that do knock it down a bit 4.25/5

Summary-I’m ready for more, but I have some notes.  Overall, I like what’s here. It’s done well, readable, and a good introduction to the mechanics of the system.  The story itself has a few issues, but those issues are part of every adventure path’s start. I have more notes on the new execution of the Starfinder line.  I want separate books and changes to how they are produced. New races, new tech in the books, and some focus will help improve this line. Will I get that? Most likely not.  But, as a GM running a game, I think this is a good way to get your players rolling dice and understanding how to play Starfinder 83%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

Product– Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

System– DnD 5e

Producer-Paradigm Concepts, Inc.

Price– $25.00 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/234910/Arcanis-5E-Campaign-Setting?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Shades of grey are finally comprehensible!  95%

Basics-For the EMPIRE!  FOR ILLIIR! Arcanis was a campaign setting for 3.5 DnD which grew to its own game when 4th edition happened, and finally is coming back into the DnD mechanics with a conversion of DND 5e.  How does the world of the Shattered Empires stack up with a 5e rebuild? Let’s get into it!

Mechanics or Crunch-I usually start with theme, but let’s go mechanics first.  If you like 5e DnD, then you will like this. This isn’t a scrap to the base boards rebuild of DnD 5e, it’s a new implementation using the same base mechanics of proficiency, hit dice, et al. you most likely love from DnD 5e.  And honestly, that a good thing. I could give any person playing “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” an Arcanis character and they would be playing in seconds. So that begs the question, what’s different? Well some things are just simple reskins.  The Fury is the Barbarian. It’s got some different parts to it, but let’s be honest-it’s just a new name. Not bad, some theme for Arcanis added, but it is what it is. Some get a much more exhaustive change. Paladins are holy champions, and they might be a tad overpowered if you build them right, but that’s a criticism of DnD 5e itself.  Holy Champions get god specific paths to take that really hit theme hard with powers appropriate to the gods of the setting. The same thing for clerics. There are new races with instructions on how to change DnD straight races toward Aracnis races like there are no Tieflings, but there are Dark kin. New feat trees are brought in so you can master a fighting style with both introduction and advanced versions of those feats.  The book also introduces psionics in a heavy way, but honestly, it’s just the same mechanics you’ve seen time and time again in DnD 5e vanilla. You have powers, the DC of the power is 8 + ability mod + proficiency or you attack with a power and you use ability modifier + proficiency. DONE. Vanilla is my favorite base for ice cream, so this isn’t a bad. Rocky road starts Vanilla, and that’s what this book did. It took the base stuff you know and like and made it something you will love. 4.8/5

Theme or Fluff-So what is Arcanis?  Well, that’s probably the best thing this book does.  You get to feel the Shattered Empires honestly better than before.  It’s a pretty weighty tome coming in over 400 pages, so you get a lot of backstory.  And that’s really what this world needs. I came in when DnD 4e brought about a major change in the RPG world around it.  The Aracnis alone system wasn’t bad, but it relied heavily on me having books that we not in print and knowledge for a world that I could not find.  So, I was honestly in the dark for large portions of this world. Heck, there wasn’t even a great map available. I had fun with what I understood and playing in, so off I went playing and running Arcanis all over.  But, I would always run in to diehards who knew stuff from the wayback. The 5e book fixes this smashingly. I get better breakdowns in things. It’s big, but doesn’t have to dedicate all the pages the base DnD system does to the base rules just saying “GO SEE THE OTHER BOOK YOU BOUGHT!” and can dedicate those words to how the world works.  That’s amazing! The mechanics have been adapted and modified to meet the needs of the theme. Again, that’s a phenomenal way to build your world. As a GM when I run games with this book, I’m not lost. I feel like I finally know as much or MORE than my players. Sure, they are also republishing all the old books with updated rules, but this is a good way to hop in to a world of multiple different empires and groups fighting and in-fighting for control in a quzi roman world.  5/5

Execution-And the low point because I’m a bit petty.  I like the way this book is laid out. I like the text style, but it might be a bit too small.  I like the background, but I would like a background free version to read on my tablet. It comes in a PDF from Drive Thru RPG, so I’m thrilled that we’re moving Arcanis to the Paper free world.  But the things that makes me the least happy is no-hyperlinks in the text. This book is 400 plus pages. Thats a lot of hopping around trying to find pages. Just link the book! The book is bookmarked, so if you read on some readers, you will be fine.  Honestly, it’s small things that minorly annoyed me about this book, but as the RPG industry moves forward, I want hyperlinked PDFs to become the standard! 4.4/5

Summary-The real two remaining question to if you want this book is 1-Do you like the 5e DnD rules? And 2-do you want morally ambiguous semi-roman age fantasy?  If you don’t like 5e DnD, then this book still has lots of background that you might want to put into your game. If you don’t like shades of gray in your fantasy but love DnD 5e, then this is a great source book for crunch including psionics which WotC needs to get out there before they end up just copying these guys.  I like this book. I like the shades of gray fantasy that Arcanis bring to the table and using 5e is a great way to get people into the world extremely quickly since 5e is a snap to learn. My only qualms with this book are technical. Give me a backround free version if I want to print and bind myself or read on a tablet and HYPERLINK THE BOOK!  Will that stop me from reading this? No. This books is a well done resource from a fun world where a fallen Roman empire battles snake people for dominance of long lost relics that belonged to the elven gods that the Roman gods ate for power using slick mechanics. Ya, that’s an Arcanis sentence if I ever saw one. If you want to play in that world, then you need to get this book NOW! 95%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of What’s Past is Prologue

Product– DDAL-ELW00-What’s Past is Prologue

System– DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99 here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/248589/DDALELW00-Whats-Past-is-Prologue?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-I can get my DCC RPG in DnD now!  92%%

248589 (1)

Basics-A get rich quick job in Eberron?  That CAN’T FAIL! The players take the roll of level zero characters as they attempt to earn a ton of money on a simple pick up and deliver job.  Along they way they get a ton of thing to sell for millions of GP, but how will they do it?

Theme or Fluff-The story of What’s Past is Prologue is a pretty simple one, but it’s done well.  The players get pregenerated characters that they will meet later in the Eberron adventurers league adventures.  This story tells how the characters got together, how they get a ship, and how they are amazing wealthy. That part of the story is fun and really tells a great Eberron based story while giving me the GM a jumping on point to dump the Eberron goodness on my Forgotten Realms/old school fantasy only players.  The only real problem with a prologue based story, is players always do things they are not supposed to do! The adventure gives some guidelines for this, but honestly, my players could not ditch the skyship fast enough! It might have been easier to instead of having a Sharn based section where the players can go off the script have some other story of how the characters fix their newly acquired ship.  It’s not game ending, but be ready for this eventuality! 4.5 /5

Mechanics or Crunch-This adventure features something new in DnD-level zero characters!  I love level zero character in Shadow of the Demon Lord and DCC/MCCRPG, so this was great for me!  My players had to adjust to this, but they dealt well. Aside from that, the encounters are balanced with the limited power of the players.  Running DCC style funnels in DnD 5e is a valid way to build characters now! 5/5

Execution-This is a solid modules that is spaces nice, reads quick, and provides most of what I want in an adventure.  Its a PDF, so that makes me happy! But, it doesn’t have hyperlinks between the parts so I can quick navigate.  Also, this modules again doesn’t have much if any box text. BOX TEXT IS SUPER IMPORTANT! It lays the scene for the GM to get in the right headspace on the fly as well as making sure the author lays out what information the PC have right away without the GM having to take notes on what’s in the scene.  The first paragraph of each section is like box text, but I as a GM have to read that, chop out my parts, and give a good scene starter to the players. Another issue is the number of pregens. You can have seven characters at a DnD Al table, but this adventure only comes with six. If you want to run seven, you have two of the same character, and that’s not as much fun.    Aside from those issues, the book is laid out gorgeously. The layout uses lots of old Eberron artwork. For a non-WOTC product on the DMs Guild, this is the exact reason the Guild was made-get non-WOTC people to make great product using art assets that usually only WOTC could reprint. This book has some obvious flaws, but it’s still a solidly produced book. 4.25 /5

Summary-The best and worst part of a DnD story are the players.  In a homebrew game, where the players can completely 180 degree their characters because they want to, free choice is amazing.  In a prologue adventure, that freedom hurts the story a bit as the PCs behave in ways the regular characters would not. That said, the story here is a great one and I can’t wait for the next part of the story and how players own characters will interact with their prologue selves.  The new mechanics here work well, are simple to implement, and easy to understand. That’s the trifecta of new bits on an RPG system, so good job! The execution is a bit off, but not in a way the will destroy the product. GIVE ME HYPERLINKS AND BOX TEXT! We’re exploring a ship, so having a ready to go box text will rapid fire my players through the exploration and get me in the rooms mood.  But, the book look AMAZING! I love the layout, text, spacing, and all the wordy bits that some modules forget are an important part of the human reading process. If you want to jump on the Eberron Adventurers League season, then this is an excellent way to start. 92%

 

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Lover in the Ice

Product– Lover in the Ice

System– Delta Green

Producer– Arc Dream Publishing

Price– $4.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/184098/Delta-Green-Lover-in-the-Ice?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Good adventure, Hard NC-17 rating!  85%

Basics-Some things are best left unremembered.  In “Lover in the Ice”, a snow storm opens up a Delta Green storage facility, and “something” gets out.  Can you stop whatever got out from loving its way across Missouri in a blizzard?

 

Theme or Fluff-The story of “Lover in the Ice” is a solid one.  Players race around a medium sized town in the middle of a blizzard of the century.  It’s got some great scenes that feel real and a lot of little extra fill out the world details.  What I miss from most of Arc Dream’s work is intro paragraphs of box text. These set the scene for the players and really the GM to get you in the right headspace for each location.  I’m long enough in the tooth that I can cobble one together from the description, but this is something that needs to be part of each place you visit! Players do a breach, bang, and clear for several houses and locations, and a quick section detailing what each room looks like will really help my players and me.  It doesn’t make the story any less fun, but it does make me have to do more work. What here though is fun, but HOLY COW it’s hard R. KNOW THIS GOING IN! If your group is ok with that, then have at this one! 4.5 /5

 

Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, I like what’s here, but I think some things need to be filled out a bit more. There is a monster that can do some very horrible things to the players.  I’d like a bit more words on how the attack is done. I have an idea of how it works, but I’d like either a few extra checks or two phase method of attack to make it happen.  Otherwise the attack looks like its a one and done prospect. That’s a bit rough. Also Delta Green likes to just give the players information saying if you have HUMINT 30% you know X.  I prefer to make the players roll. This is at odds with the ideas Arc Dream has of not making trivial things rolls, but it’s more in line with player expectations. Players like touching dice and even if I say “you know X because of your HUMINT 30%”  It feels less fun to the guy/gal holding the dice. Overall, this is much more of a social/explore mission than a straight up fire fight. Don’t expect Fallujah level fights here! This is a contain the problem mission. The mechanics work well, but I had a few issues that I changed on the fly because its my game and I can.  I think you will do the same, but I think these changes should be a standard part of the scenario. 4.25 /5

Execution-I like the basic setup of this mission.  Now, let’s get petty! “Lover in the Ice” has a decent layout, but for the price, I kinda want a cover page, more art, and hyperlinks.  Its a PDF, but not hyperlinked, so I get slightly annoyed. It’s pretty short, so this is a good one shot. But, I’d like a bit more production value.  The monster gets a hand drawn picture, but never a nice, graphic picture I can throw to my players. The handouts I gave to my players are amazing and horrified a few of the players to stop reading!  But the adventure puts up a few red herrings along the way. There is a section where players can keep finding random crap. Nothing in the random crap box is useful except one item. That is fun to see all the different things in there and what other things Delta Green might have been up to!  I’d also like player maps of places without the marks that a GM has. These unmarked maps are VERY useful as something I can plunk down on the table instead of having to remake maps or just cover up points of interest. I like the general execution of this adventure, but I’d like a few more things to really knock it out of the park.  4.25 /5

Summary-I really love this adventure!  It’s got a solid storyline, good execution, and enough action to keep the players involved.  It is not without its faults. I’d like a bit more direction or changes to some of the rules, some extra writing, and some minor things added to the product.  None of the faults here absolutely breaks the game in any way. Honestly, if your group can stand Hellraiser and wants to try Delta Green, then this is a great intro game.  If your group cannot stand theme of body horror and rape, then give this one a hard pass.  Just like sushi, it can be done amazing, but if you can’t stand raw fish, pass and be polite.  Don’t force anybody to eat the sushi! But if you want to try this one, it’s a great day to save the world from some crazy horrors in the snow!  85%