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The Vertical Halls
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2021 04:15:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’/A5.

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreon supporters.

This review is based on both the pdf and the print version; the print version is a perfect bound PoD-softcover, with a b/w-interior. Special mention deserves the b/w-artwork: With one exception, the b/w-artwork is actually pretty top-tier and rather surprising in its number of pieces; the convention of DCC-adventures featuring pretty lavish maps can also be found here; the maps feature artworks and are gorgeous—Valentí Ponsa deserves applause in the aesthetics department. But my players will never get to seen them, because, alas, also like many a DCC-supplement, the module lacks player-friendly versions of said maps: One of the maps has the annoying number-labels next to the rooms (out of sight when using VTTs), but the others do not, and e.g. secret door indicators are clearly visible. sigh Annoying about the maps: The first level has a clearly visible grid; the second level has no grid, and the final level has a half-visible grid. The functionality of the second level is somewhat compromised at least, thus.

The module is intended for a 2nd-level party but does not specify a number of characters. I recommend 4-6; at 6 characters, the module isn’t that hard. At 4, it’s pretty challenging.

The module features no read-aloud text, and as a whole, I wished the organization of the respective text was a bit smoother; as presented, it’s very much a classic form of presentation sans any highlighters. The sequence of presentation for the keyed locales doesn’t prioritize information to be quickly accessible to the judge. I usually don’t mind that too much, but without read-aloud text, the relevant information is buried pretty deeply.

To give you an example: “Here the Geometrist would carry out his experiments involving living beings, dead beings, dead that were later alive again, undead, and…well, experiments.” That’s the first paragraph of a keyed locale. Information-content relevant for the judge? Next to 0. If you want to run this adventure, you should most assuredly have carefully prepared the entire module.

The text above should also provide some pieces of information for the astute reader. While not to the extent that it’d be a game-breaker, it is obvious that the team did not employ an English native speaker or someone with the proper skillset to properly proofread the module. DCC-purists may also scoff at the lack of the hyphen in “un-dead”, and indeed, in some ways, this is a thematic indicator for the module. The aesthetics of the adventure are significantly closer to the classic fantasy adventures laced with a few slightly weird components; this makes conversion potentially easier regarding the themes, but if you gravitate closer to the more Sword &Sorcery-esque themes in many DCC-adventures it’s certainly something to note. In many instances, the module takes a classic D&D creature and puts a somewhat horrific spin or alternate twist on it. The amount of loot also should be reduced and DCC-ified, imo.

On a personal pet-peeve level: The module does extend this at times verbose angle to rules-language; I usually don’t mind some tongue-in-cheek humor, but when I have to see “…it will start choking its victim (big surprise!) …” in the middle of a statblock, it’s really grating. I’m not just annoyed by the use of “will”, but by the snark in the middle of the rules-relevant information. That’s the stuff a judge has to quickly reference. It’s NOT the place to put snarky comments.

Anyhow, there is more to talk about, but in order to do so, I have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. . Only judges around? Great! So, the module starts in the small settlement of Shadypass, which was recently wracked by a quake; and ever since, people have started falling ill, with “geometrical nightmares”, and then later, geometric shapes in front of the sick. Okay, this is cool, and the angle points towards, how should it be different, a wizard’s sanctum, namely that of the aforementioned Geometrist.

You see, a magical stained-glass window was broken, and from it, the illness spread, as the imprisoned Hound of Tindalos is also the carrier of the virus. (And yes, the hound is a potentially brutal “super-boss” of sorts.) The tindalos-virus is pretty cool and acts as a multi-stage ailment, with stage 4 = death by hyperpyrexia (blood boiling).

Structurally, the module is a pretty linear dungeon-crawl, with particularly level 1 being essentially a corridor of rooms, with the second being a mincer of grinding gears. So, the thief gets to the other side and clears the path? Heck no, that would be sensible and reward player skill. Instead, the room requires the proper magic (not a given in DCC), and falling can split the party between two levels in the unlikely event of the falling character surviving. So yeah, this is also what I meant with the D&D-aesthetics; I can’t help but feel that this module was written for a system that assumes a higher degree of reliable utility spellcasting available than DCC.

On the plus-side, some rooms do have a pretty high degree of interactivity, with e.g. a gallery of detailed art coming with its own description; the area also includes e.g. one of the creatures that exemplifies the creature design: The darkmoantle, a twist on the darkmantle with cloaker-esque fear-moaning and some debuffing ability; this also is one of the leitmotifs for one of the dungeon’s factions. These include the amalgams, which are the caretakers of the halls and there’s also essentially a flesh golem by another name. The other factions are a spider/human missing link, the attercopus that creates spider-vomiting husks. Essentially, this is an Ettercap-y character. Finally, there would be the “survivor” of a failed adventuring party; a middle-aged halfling who has become the ”husband” of a choker-lady and now is essentially a grotesque, fused amalgamation with her, not unlike how in some species the females start absorbing the males. This latter aspect is certainly horrifying and interesting, but the entire impact of the horrific fate of said adventuring party is something the module could do a much better part at showcasing; having the party find out the truth as they explore? That’d have been neat. As provided, the unfortunate adventurer probably will have the function of a grotesque and icky bossfight, perhaps a rather sad one, but yeah.

As you can glean from these ideas, the twists on the “classic D&D concepts” executed here are actually GOOD and interesting; similarly, e.g. a lavishly-illustrated generator room that includes terrain effects is pretty interesting, and I do think that, making the flesh golem-y thing use skills from various adventuring classes, is mechanically an interesting angle. As far as a combat-relevant aspect of module design is concerned, it does an interesting and competent job. When it comes to the non-combat aspects, the adventure flounders somewhat.

Now, ultimately, the party tries to find a cure for the virus in the halls, while navigating these twisted “bosses” and…wait. There was something about this, right? Something… …oh yeah. These were supposed to be “vertical”, right? Well, let me divest you of any notions of a proper vertical dungeon. Essentially, this is a regular dungeon with one prolonged encounter/half level that is actually vertical. This level is awesome and has one simple rule: As long as one limb touches the “floor”, you don’t fall. AWESOME, right? Particularly since this environmental rule ties in with the aforementioned attercopus’ webs etc., this encounter can be great…but it’s just that. One encounter.

Calling the dungeon “The Vertical Halls” borders on deceptive marketing as far as I’m concerned. More like “The Vertical Half-a-Hall.”

…and that is perhaps what galls me most about this module; it’s not that the module employs a “D&D with a twist”-angle; and I can live with the less-than-optimal information-design. Particularly since it does D&D with a twist pretty damn well. Structurally, I object to the instances where the module could do a much better job at rewarding player-skill over character-skill. There are also quite a few unrelated filler critters like the darkmoantle, a fire elemental, etc.

But my main gripe? This is one of the worst instances of lost potential I’ve seen in a while. For one, I was really aggravated as a person by the halls not being, well, vertical. Why not actually present a vertical dungeon? Because it’s hard? Secondly, and even worse: The module introduces this cool Tindalos-virus as a ticking clock, as a motivator. I like it, but it could be any other magical ailment as written.

Picture this: First, the entire dungeon operates like the vertical half hall, which means lots of potential for falling and actual vertical adventuring! Awesome! Secondly: It’s the TINDALOS virus. What if those infected by it could tap into it and jump through angles? That would be a GLORIOUS way to jump from certain death to another place; it could have been used to make the halls a truly unique puzzle dungeon. Picture it!! And, of course, tapping into the power of the tindalos virus will worsen the sickness! Perhaps the hound is freed if the virus-powers are used too often? Each use = one vision of the window’s crack spreading further and further… so it’s a question of how well the party can navigate the complex without tapping into these powers.

Come on, you know you’d want to play that! I would! After I read about the virus, that’s what I was stoked for.

And then I got a relatively conventional and pretty cookie-cutter dungeon. Not a bad one, mind you, but also not one that left me impressed in any real sense of the word.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. There were a few minor nitpicks, but nothing crucial. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with nice borders and plentiful neat b/w-artworks, and original ones. The cartography is also aesthetically pleasing, but as noted above, the lack of player-friendly maps and the lack of grid etc. are comfort detriments. The pdf has no proper bookmarks (only one for front cover, editorial, back cover), so it loses points in the comfort detriment as well.

Gabriel García-Soto, with the English adaptation by José Manuel Sánchez García and proofing by Tim Snider, delivers a solid D&D module with some DCC-ish twists to the classic themes. For the most part. But that’s all this is.

The module has a PHENOMENAL idea and all the components to make it a genuinely UNIQUE and creative module…and then fails to capitalize on all of these components. Instead, it delivers a challenging dungeon, but not one that will rock your world. If you’re looking for a DCC-module that hearkens closer to traditional fantasy in both its aesthetics and its design, then this may well deliver.

Compared with the many excellent DCC-modules, though, I can’t help but look at this is as anything but the sum of its lost potential. As a person, I felt deceived by the module’s title. As a reviewer, I will not take this into account.

But add the lost potential the comfort-detriments, and even the low price-point can’t make me rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Vertical Halls
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Xd6
by Matías M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2019 10:32:34

Para lectores en español:

Xd6 a primera vista tiene muchos elementos en comun con otros sistemas genericos gratuitos. La primera vez que lo ví, lo sentí similar a Risus pero enfocado a lo narrativo. Al ver como se articula el personaje, me doy cuenta que no estaba tan alejado de lo que originalmente planteaba; pero al conocer las fuentes originales que dieron vida al sistema (Fate, y un sistema llamado Sd6) logré profundizar en una intencionalidad de tratar de tener el sistema lo mas simple y minimalista posible, muy al contrario de Risus que te invita a chapuzar y agregarle mas detalles a su exo-sistema.

Este libro, sin embargo, no esta orientado a los que empiezan el juego por primera vez, aunque una persona con experiencia puede usar el sistema para introducir a los recien llegados de manera muy simple y sencilla. El hecho de que los pocos reglamentos escritos aquí esten dirigidos a los experimentados, hace las cosas mas complicadas para quienes nunca han jugado rol y desean iniciarse por vez primera de forma autodidacta.

Si buscas algo mas bien narrativo, donde lo primordial es la historia, y donde las escalas de poder son aterrizadas a un nivel, llamemos "humano", este sistema es ideal. Este el sistema pretende dejarte ambientar toda clase de escenarios, aunque no se le da tan bien ambientando escalas super-heroicas o épicas.

Este es un sistema que, aun sin querer hacerlo de parte de su autor, da espacio para customizarlo y arreglar temas como la granulidad en torno al progreso de los personajes (que sin duda alguna es muy baja) o la carencia de reglamento para equipos, que por cierto es adrede ya que el autor empuja al director a trabajar directamente en ello, sin ahondar, una vez en escalas de daño o algo similar.

Si bien, hasta hoy busco inclurile cosas que permitan estandarizar el juego para toda clase de personajes, tratar la salud como una caracteristica a parte de los rasgos, entre otras cosas, debo decir que es un sistema que me encanta. Con lo que hay aquí, puedes improvisar un buen juego y mantenerlo de forma solida por un buen tiempo. El sistema ya ha sido utilizado para poder escribir un juego llamado Ablaneda, en español, y sin lugar a dudas el juego resulta muy divertido de llevar a cabo.

Si buscas experimentar sistemas narrativos para alguna ambientacion que haz inventado, vale la pena darle la oportunidad de hacer a Xd6 el motor que haga correr tu juego.

For english readers:

Xd6 at first sight have a lot of elements in common with other free generic systems. The first time I saw it, it felt like Risus but focused on narravite terms. Seeing how you structure a character, it seems i'm not too far away from what i originally show. But knowing the sources of inspiration that gives life to this system (Fate and a spanish system called Sd6) I could perceive an intention to make the rules as minimal as possible, very contrary to Risus how invites to change and modify his exo-system.

This book, however, is not oriented to those who wants to play roleplaying games for the first time -but a person with experience in playing can use this system introduce easily new people to the roleplaying hobbie. The fact very few rules written here are directed to experienced ones makes things complicated for those who never have played an RPG for first time and goes to the hobbie by themselves.

If you are looking for something like storytelling, where story is primordial and power scales about a level -let's call it "human"- this system is your option. This system pretends to let you do all kinds of scenarios, but it doesn't go very well for "super-heroics" or epic moods.

The system, even when the author doesn't want it, gives you some room to customize and make arrangements with problems like character progression, or make room for health as an appropiate characteristic, or the lack of equipment -Last thing is because author wants it that way so the game master makes all the work on weapons, tools in the adventure, and such- without looking scales of damage and stuff like that.

I must say -even when i try to make my own customs like a better health system apart from traits and such- I love this system. With what is in this book, you can improve a good game and make a continuum for a good time. The systes has been already been used in an Spanish RPG called Ablaneda, and the game without doubt the game happens to be quite fun.

If you want to make experimentation with narrative systems for a ambience you happened to create, it's worthy to test Xd6 as your RPG engine to run it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Xd6
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Ryuutama - Cartas de terrenos, climas y encantamientos
by Marina J. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2018 10:30:00

Maravillosas, preciosas y en perfecto Español. Con mucho color, dibujos detallados, tacto de una carta normal (es decir, no es papel fino, es más gordito, muy de agradecer). Le da mucha más vida al Rol y lo hace más fácil para los viajes sin tener que ir recordándo todo el tiempo el clima que hace o el hechizo utilizado. Lo recomiendo si vas a rolear mucho con Ryuutama. 10/10

Psdt: Recomiendo comprar unos sobrecitos transparentes, tamaño carta, para meterlas dentro y así prolongar más su vida, evitando dobleces y manchas.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ryuutama - Cartas de terrenos, climas y encantamientos
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Ryuutama - Las Cuatro Estaciones
by Lori W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/03/2018 21:11:30

These adventures are a must-buy for new Ryuutama players. They're in Spanish, but are very playable even just quickly run through Google translate, so don't let that stop you. They give you an excellent idea of how to run Ryuutama adventures outside of the tutorials in the book. They stick to the flavor of Ryuutama while doing some very interesting things. My group has been loving them!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ryuutama - Las Cuatro Estaciones
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The Phlogiston Books Vol. II: The Stone Heir - English
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2018 21:37:08

My first impression was that I was impressed by the professional quality of this book. From the beautiful cover to the layout to the old school black-and-white art, the whole thing is visually appealing.

I plan to use the content within, too. How often do your PCs move from the 0-level funnel to their 1st-level adventure as if a switch had been thrown and they went from a nobody to a stereotypical "adventurer?" Perhaps not everyone does this, but I suspect it's pretty common. This volume offers an adventure that bridges the gap between the funnel and the first "real" adventure -- a concept I don't recall having seen before.

If you've played enough funnels, you've likely seen the same mundane trade items used repeatedly by the characters. There's an article here that will help add some spice to your starting equipment by allowing you to barter for hundreds of other items -- but you don't know what you'll get! You might get something even more useful, or you might get stuck with something worse. You get to roll on a series of tables, old school stye.

I'm a big fan of "reskinning" monsters, classes, and other game elements. Not everybody is as comfortable with doing that, so there's a helpful little article that shows you how you can use the racial classes in DCC as humans in an all-human, sword and sorcery setting with just a few tweaks. Dwarves become the defender class. Halflings become the rogue. Elves become the warlock. These are just label changes, though. In a manner that reminds me of Pathfinder's archetypes, racial abilities are swapped out for flavorful new class abilities.

I would recommend this book for DCC judges who are looking for some low-level adventures, 0-level options, or classes for their sword and sorcery setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Phlogiston Books Vol. II: The Stone Heir - English
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The Phlogiston Books Vol. I - English
by Markus A. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2017 16:00:15

Splendid value for money! Has many useful ideas, items, tables, game mechanics etc. for any DCC RPG campaign. Hopefully a Vol. II is coming up!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Phlogiston Books Vol. I - English
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Los Salones Verticales
by Tilmost D. R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2015 05:31:28

La idea me ha gustado, y aunque tendré que hacerle unos ajustes para adaptarlo a un sistema genérico (ya que no juego al juego para el cual se creó esta aventura), creo que será una aventura muy intensa para mi grupo habitual. Ideal para one-shot.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Los Salones Verticales
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The Vertical Halls
by Paul W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2015 17:09:17

The module is very portable, cuts to the Appendix N ideal of unique threats and interesting locales, and is very well produced. The art is exceptional, the writing has a great gallows humor tone that really offsets the horror of the monsters and situations encountered. Physical book is high quality. Overall, these guys did a great job. Pick it up. Run it. Scare the crap out of your players.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Vertical Halls
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The Vertical Halls
by Daniel B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2015 15:04:44

Players of earlier OGL games will recognize many of the monsters, but they are redrawn for DCC, and they work well. The main conceits are well done, and should be entertaining in play. The maps are great, and definitely have the DCC vibe that the official maps do (i.e., they are drawn with side illos ala the great Mr. Kovacs). The backstory is not only entertaining, but the players should be able to at least glimpse it through play, if not figure it out entirely.

The author makes sure to tell you that it is okay for the PCs to fail. This is good advice.

My verdict is a Thumbs Up. Get this one!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
La Puerta de Ishtar
by Sergio d. l. C. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2012 11:43:06

Como Narrador testeador de este juego no puedo sino elogiar el trabajo que ha realizado el señor Rodrigo/Wachinayn:

  1. Está escrito muy bien, de forma didáctica (me encantan los resúmenes de final de capítulo, incluidos los de ambientación), amena y, ¡oh, sopresa! Sin faltas de ortografía.

  2. La cantidad de información que encontraréis sobre el mundo es tan grande, tan evocadora y tan completa que no echaréis de menos ningún suplemento que "la complete" (aunque los hay)

  3. El sistema de juego es sencillo, intuitivo y que se enlaza perfectamente con el tipo de historias que narra la Puerta de Ishtar.

  4. Los secretos del mundo, la brujería, lo "alienígena" de ciertas razas y la oscuridad que envuelve a todo os harán devorar la información hasta el tuétano.

  5. La creación de los personajes de verdad consigue una unificación de grupo en el que los personajes están verdaderamente relacionados entre sí (y también unas historias muy interesantes a nada que dominéis la ambientación).


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
La Puerta de Ishtar
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La Puerta de Ishtar
by Jaime B. F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2012 06:50:49

Uno de los pocos juegos que aprovechan el potencial estético de la más antigua civilización del mundo, transformándola en el entorno idóneo para llevar a cabo aventuras de fantasía oscura inspiradas también por las obras de autores como Lovecraft y Robert E. Howard. Una combinación tan perfecta que parece mentira que nadie hubiese hecho algo con ella antes.

En cuanto al sistema, La Puerta de Ishtar escoge elementos narrativamente muy potentes de sistemas como FATE o Burning Wheel y los combina eficazmente con elementos más clásicos tales como atributos numéricos determinados al azar y profesiones que recuerdan al Dragon Age RPG de Chris Pramas, dando con un inteligente término medio que da lugar a un sistema bastante versátil y que premia el desarrollo del personaje y la inmersión en el trasfondo.

Uno de los productos más interesantes de los último años, en mi opinión.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
La Puerta de Ishtar
by Imanol B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2012 06:37:05

Juego inspirado en la antigua Babilonia, muy recomendable tanto por la ambientación como por el sistema, sencillo y dinámico potenciando la narración y la interpretación. Imprescindible en la Biblioteca de todo Rolero.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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