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The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF) $5.99
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The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
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The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2010 13:34:33

Slumbering Tsar - The Desolation - The Edge of Oblivion is the first part in a 14 chapter mega-adventure from the creative minds of Necromancer Games and Frog God Games. This 14 chapter mega-adventure is divided into three main adventures: The Desolation (consisting of three chapters), the Temple-City of Orcus (consisting of five chapters) and lastly the Hidden Citadel (consisting of six chapters). It is generally not recommended that any of the individual chapterss are run on their own, though those chapters that form a particular adventure can be run as a single adventure product with some modification.

The Edge of Oblivion is the first part of the Desolation and sees the adventurers arrive at a rather dilapidated settlement called the Camp, where they get the chance to explore, learn about the various northern lands of the Desolation and encounter some of the numerous threats that pervade the area. The Ghosts of Victory, the second chapter in the Desolation, continues the exploration of the Desolation with the magically created Chaos Rift and the deadly storms of the Ashen Waste, while chapter three, the Western Front concludes the details of the Desolation with the Boiling Lands and the Dead Fields. In essence, this first adventure acts as a spring board to further exploration of the Desolation, which in turn, at the end, brings the characters to the gates of the Temple-City of Orcus where the adventure continues.

The Edge of Oblivion is a professionally and excellently presented product, with high production quality, excellent writing and very good art. It ticks all the boxes as far as presentation and writing go, providing vivid and frankly quite compelling details on the adventure background which features the battle between the Army of Light and the hordes of Orcus. The background details are rich and ripe with opportunity, allowing plenty of room to incorporate your own ideas and thoughts. The adventure hooks are enough to get you started on exploring the Desolation and the Camp, though I have my doubts about whether they're compelling enough to provide incentive and motivation to continue the exploration beyond that. With less than a handful of parts in the mega-adventure released so far, it's hard to estimate the purpose and motivation of the rest of the adventure, and how easy it will be to keep the characters hooked on the plot hooks provided. The lack of a complete adventure overview in some form is quite bothersome, as it doesn't give you enough information to make the most of the material provided, or to incorporate overarching plots across the three adventures.

This chapter of the adventure is focused solely on the Camp, a small, but wretched settlement. The aim is to give characters both a base of operations as well as an introduction to the adventure and the Desolation itself. Here the characters will deal with all sorts of interesting characters and creatures, and find themselves embroidered in a variety of schemes and conflicts. I though the Camp was very well done, with great roleplaying opportunity, very interesting encounters with all manner of creatures, and the opportunity to learn a lot about what lies ahead. There are several fixed encounters in the adventure, but also other encounters that are triggered by various events as the characters explore the Desolation. I thought this was an excellent touch, though at the same time I was disappointed that the adventure couldn't have provided more details or integrated further. For example, there's no integration with the other two adventures in the series (Temple-City of Orcus) and (The Hidden Citadel), and it would've been really nice to give a well-fleshed out base with colorful characters a more lasting role in the overall adventure.

Having read all three parts of the Desolation adventure, I have to admit that I like this one the best. It's got the most opportunity for roleplaying, the most opportunity for DMs to stretch the creative minds, and the author has provided a compelling area to act as a springboard to the rest of the Desolation. Within the scope of the broader adventure the Edge of Oblivion has a few faults, but as a stand-alone area it's a lovely settlement with diversity of characters and interesting subplots. For those not interested in running through this mega-adventure, the Camp is an unique location that can easily be used in other campaigns. Overall. a great start to the mega-adventure, but lacking in details as to what this mega-adventure actually entails, and a more lasting connection to its material for the Camp itself.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Robert A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/23/2010 00:13:59

These adventures are really great, well-written, and well-organized. Bill Webb certainly hasn't lost his touch since the days of Necromancer Games (or really, long before that when he was in college). Excellent adventure campaign!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Adam B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/18/2010 21:21:01

A word of warning to those Dungeons & Dragons 4E buyers: The game mechanics ARE NOT written for 4E, despite the claim to the contrary on the order page. The background story and "fluff" are good, actually great, but you will need to do some work re-writing the mechanics to be playable in your game (4E). Only because of the work involved for the buyer to convert it over to their 4E game, I can not give it as high a rating as it deserves. With that being said .... $2.00 is still a value steal.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
All fixed. hanks for letting me know I checked the wrong box, and I am very glad you liked the book! Let us know what you think of Chapters 2-14!
The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Nicola H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2010 10:06:22

Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation, Part I - The Edge of Oblivion is the opening part of the Slumbering Tsar mega-adventure and the debut release from Frog God Games. It details a forlorn and forsaken outpost at the edge of a terrifying wilderness and acts as the jumping-off point for adventures into the Desolation and beyond. Originally a Necromancer Games product (more on the module's history below), the adventure is a pdf-only download at present. Print-on-demand softcover versions are on the way, however, and a monstrous hardcover compilation of the entire series is also promised. Right now, though, we're just at the start of a fourteen-part series. So what do you get for your troubles and your two dollars?

Structure and Layout Well, you get a full-colour cover with a truly evocative piece of artwork, one page for credits, one page for the OGL, three pages of maps and 27 pages of adventure (comprising a four-page intro and overview and a two-page preview of things to come). The layout is crisp and clean and reminiscent of previous products from Necromancer Games. We have sidebars where needed, brief bursts of boxed text and a smattering of fine b/w art. Statblocks are placed throughout the text in the relevant places and maps are collected at the rear of the product (and are easy to decipher and read).

Writing and Mechanics As you'd expect from an industry veteran like Greg A. Vaughan, the prose is clear and atmospheric, giving a strong sense of the setting, the NPCs and their ideals and motivations. The statblocks are complete where needed and limited to page references for creatures drawn from the Pathfinder Bestiary. There are plenty of creatures taken from the Creature Collections and Tomes of Horror, but statblocks for these are given in full. Even better, the statblocks for creatures from these older products have been updated to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The same applies to a handful of spells taken from the Relics & Rituals book - these, too, have received the PFRPG treatment.

Art As mentioned, the artwork is good. However, there are only four pieces of artwork in the product (not counting the cover) and two of these are recycled from Tome of Horrors I and II, which leaves us with only two new pieces of art. While not a major failing, it would have been nice to see some more new art showing some of the locations in the adventure.

Adventure Content As for the subject matter itself, it's here that The Edge of Oblivion really shines. As mentioned above, the product details "The Camp", a filthy little outpost on the edge of the Desolation, which is a war-torn wasteland surrounding the ruined city of Tsar, site of an ancient battle with the forces of Orcus. After the introduction treats us to an overview of the epic conflict that brought Tsar to its knees, we get right down to the gritty details of the camp itself. Like a refugee from a Mad Max-meets-spaghetti western, the Camp is a collection of hovels and shops. The adventure details its various locations, its notable NPCs (and their secrets), gives us rumours and encounter tables and provides immediate hooks and advice on using the camp and its denizens in-game. Reading this section alone will provide you with any number of ideas for play.

While the locations are standard (shops, inns, homes), their descriptions are evocative. A structure built from abandoned wagons, an apothecary housed in an abandoned barrow, a tavern that has been knocked down and rebuilt several times over - the concepts used here are gripping in their own right. The NPCs are fantastic. We have a hanged man who won't stay dead, an alcoholic elf, an orc mercenary with a hilarious catalogue of injuries, an unusual collection of rangers, an ambassador from a nearby city who is clearly out of his depth, a fascinating ghast undertaker. The list goes on. There's even a lich knocking about the place, and it's one of the most fascinating portrayals of its type in any adventure anywhere. No crypt-bound "eeevil mastermind", this critter is developed to an unexpected degree of detail. When you never sleep, never breathe and terrify folks by your mere presence, how would you involve yourself in a thriving settlement? Vaughan's take on the undead is nothing less than remarkable. There are over a dozen fully-developed NPCs here (and half as many again generic types and creatures) and each one is an adventure unto itself.

If these weren't inspiration enough for you, the adventure continues with five suggested events to use in the camp. One is a startling introduction by way of a grief-maddened hill giant. Two others feature NPCs from the previous section, while the remaining two involve new faces. One of these, the midnight peddler, is an utterly wonderful recurring encounter that the DM can use throughout the entire series if desired and was a joy to read. The remaining encounter is to be used further down the line, and involves an enemy from a future part of the series who returns to the Camp to wreak revenge on PCs who have crossed him.

Drawbacks This last point, although a great piece of adventure design, also highlights what is probably the only major flaw with The Edge of Oblivion. Simply put, it's barely a taster of what is to come. Rumours put the final product at between 600 and 700 pages. These opening 30-odd pages provide a jumping-off point for the campaign, but nowhere to jump to. After visiting the Camp, your players will be champing at the bit to delve into the Desolation itself, to seek out Slumbering Tsar and its secrets. With this product on its own, there's nowhere for them to go.

Still, that's hardly a crippling flaw. As of this writing, Part II came out yesterday, with plenty of meat to sink your teeth into out in the Desolation (and plenty of teeth eager to sink themselves into you in return!) so if you pick up both, you're good to go. And if you only get Part I (and for a meager $2.00 you'd be crazy not to) you have an "edge of the world" settlement that you can use in any game featuring a vast wilderness just off the map.

The Series As A Whole Slumbering Tsar was originally intended to be released by Necromancer Games in three parts. The Desolation was the first of these, and came out in pdf for 3.5e just before 4e appeared on the market. It contained material that is now being re-released for Pathfinder as Parts I, II and III of the series. For a while, though, it looked as if the whole adventure would never see the light of day. Enter Frog God Games. Bill Webb, one half of the ground-breaking duo behind Necromancer Games set this company up only recently, with the plan to release Slumbering Tsar as a fourteen-part mega-adventure, one part per month. Which is where we are now, with Part II just available.

You have several options when it comes to buying the series. You can buy the individual chapters as they come out from Frog God Games or DrivethruRPG (with POD sofcovers soon available from the latter). Part I is $2.00 and subsequent parts are $9.99. You can also subscribe to the series as a whole by paying for all fourteen parts in a single lump sum of $89.99. This gets you all fourteen pdfs at a considerable saving. And if you really like, you can subscribe to all the pdfs and then have the series compiled as a hardcover at the end. This "premium" subscription currently costs $125.00, but only lasts for a few months, after which prices will rise. An excellent set of choices for all budgets.

Summary As an opener for the series, The Edge of Oblivion is excellent. Rich with detail and hooks, it makes for a hugely enjoyable read even if you never plan to run it. You could steal ideas from here for weeks and still not be done. And at $2.00, it's perfectly priced to tempt you to dip your toes in the waters. Although light on the artwork, the meat of the content is succulent and tasty and deeply satisfying. If the remainder of the series maintains this high standard, we have a classic of the Pathfinder line in the making. Great stuff.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Desolation, Part 1: The Edge of Oblivion (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2010 12:28:13

Slumbering Tsar 1: Desolation - The Edge of Oblivion This is the first installment of Greg A. Vaughan's epic 500000+ words mega-adventure "Slumbering Tsar", published via Necromancer Games' Bill Webb's new company "Frog God Games." Slumbering Tsar is being released via a subscription model and this review takes a look at the first installment of the subscription.

This pdf consists of 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page OGL.

That leaves us with 30 pages of adventure.

First, we get a 5 pages "Introduction" to Slumbering Tsar, its epic background story as well as several, extensive hooks to draw your PCs into the adventure.

"Chapter 1: The Camp" gives us the main meat of this installment of Slumbering Tsar, the so-called Camp at the edge of the wasteland called Desolation. This camp is far beyond your average town or frontier settlement, expertly evoking a unique flavor reminiscent of a combination of old-school Necromancer Games-feeling and a touch of end-time melancholy à la "The Dark Tower"-saga by Stephen King. The chapter also includes stats for the inhabitants, 4 spells converted from Sword & Sorcery's Relics and Rituals and takes up 14 pages.

"Chapter 2: Events in the camp" is 6 pages long and describes events to spring on your players. They are very cool, and, keeping the promise in the introduction, quite lethal. I won't spoil the fun, though an entity called "Midnight peddler" should be mentioned...

"Chapter 3: A Desolation Primer" is 2 pages long and helps DMs portraying the Desolation.

After that, we get 3 pages of beautiful maps.

The following is true for the whole installment: The prose is captivating and the editing is very good: No awkward phrases, no typos. The S/W-artwork is among the most beautiful I've ever seen in a 3pp's book and is on par with the heyday of NG. You get the stats for the creatures and NSCs where they are most likely to appear, which helps immensely.

Conclusion: For a measly $2.00, you get an awesome, big pdf, containing one of the most imaginative small towns I've read for quite some time. Even if you don't plan to check out the whole saga, at least give this installment a try. You'll be very hard-pressed to find a better bang-for-buck ratio or quality out there. 5 out of 5 stars.

The one and only drawback I can think of, is that due to the fact that Slumbering Tsar was not originally designed to be published via subscription, you'll have some minor problems when trying to start ST with only this pdf. Right now, the second installment has been sent to subscribers and can be purchased, making it possible to dive into the goodness that is ST.

Additional information: If you like Rappan Athuk and Bard's Gate by Necromancer Games, give this a try: It ties heavily in with several published classics by Necromancer Games.

If you buy the whole series (including the as of yet unreleased ST 2 & 3) up front via subscription, you get the epic hardcover (probably around 600+ pages) for free once the whole series has been released via pdf and save $44. Plus, the first print-run of the books will be signed by both Bill Webb and Greg A. Vaughan.

If you are like me and have bought the old D&D 3.5-Version of ST: Desolation and think about getting the whole deal, be sure to email Bill after purchasing the subscription.

If you want to know what you get in addition, here's a list: -everything has been expertly updated to PFRPG -monsters from the Tome of Horrors series have been updated to PFRPG -more artwork -better editing

Even if you are skeptic, give this special price introduction a chance. If you don't like it (unlikely), you'll still have a great (and deadly) town to spring upon your unsuspecting PCs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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