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The Desolation, Part 2: The Ghosts of Victory (PF) $5.99
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The Desolation, Part 2: The Ghosts of Victory (PF)
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The Desolation, Part 2: The Ghosts of Victory (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2010 03:40:30

Slumbering Tsar - The Desolation - The Ghosts of Victory is the second part in a 14 chapter mega-adventure from Necromancer Games and Frog God Games. This mega-adventure is further divided into three primary adventures - The Desolation (three chapters), the Temple-City of Orcus (five chapters), and the Hidden Citadel (six chapters). The primary adventures can be run as stand-alone or as part of the larger campaign arc, though it is not recommended that the individual chapters be run on their own, other than using material from said chapters in other adventures.

The Ghosts of Victory kicks off where the first part of the Desolation - the Edge of Oblivion - ended, with the characters about the leave the Camp and set out into the Desolation and beyond. The Ghosts of Victory described two of the four quarters that form the massive expanse that is the Desolation - the Ashen Waste and the Chaos Rift - while the third chapter in the Desolation describes the remaining two quadrants - The Boiling Lands and the Dead Fields - along with the network of paths and crossroads that run through the barren and dangerous Desolation. In the Ashen Waste the characters will encounter numerous threats and dangers while exploring the area, while the magically sundered rift, the Choas Rift, will reveal more about the history of the Desolation, the Army of Light and the hordes of Orcus and his disciples.

Like the first part, the Edge of Oblivion, the Ghosts of Victory is a high quality presented product, with excellent layout, art and fantastic writing. The maps are a bit sparse and perhaps bland, but no less functional because of it. The story details and background are handled very well, and elements of it are scattered throughout the various encounters of the Ashen Waste and the Chaos Rift. It's worth re-mentioning my complaint from the first part of the Desolation - there's no campaign summary, making it difficult to know exactly where all these chapters of the larger adventure are headed and how to plan around that to make the most of what is undoubtedly great background material. The problem is a little more prevalent in a way in this and the third part of the Desolation, in that there can be a lot of seemingly purposeless wandering and encounters that aren't necessarily tied to the plot in any way. It's a little like experiencing a vast wasteland of random encounters, though most of the encounters are either tied to events in the Camp or to story elements, though the players may not always be aware of this.

Issues of overarching story elements and plot aside, the Ashen Waste and Chaos Rift are locations oozing with flavor. The author has gone out of his way, even in the numerous available random encounters, to create every drop of flavor that he could, making each encounter here rich in detail and fun to play. There are some fantastic encounter locations, all described in gorgeous detail and with some challenging and interesting combat encounters. I naturally gravitated to those tied to the story elements or the exploits of the Camp, and it was a pleasure to read through this material. Each of the two quadrants in this product have their own flavor and theme, the Ashen Waste one of intense bone storms, and the Chaos Rift a deep gash in the earth caused by immense magical power. Despite the potential unrelated events and encounters that can be in these regions of the Desolation, players and their characters will no doubt have a blast. There's a very good variety of encounters and challenges, and with the Camp not far away, excellent opportunity for further roleplaying in between combat encounters. There is also some room for the characters to discover more about what happened here in the Desolation, the main players involved in that fatal clash of armies long ago, and what lies ahead for them in the Desolation.

The Ghosts of Victory is a very good product, oozing flavor and offering plenty of rich combat encounters and roleplaying opportunities. It's a pity the story elements, as yet, can not be tied together properly, but this product will be lots of fun even without that. Rich in detail, challenging in combat, and fun in unravelling the machinations of the Camp, this product offers a good taste of what is potentially to come. The differences between and themes of the two quarters of the Desolation are tangible, and players will enjoy the atmosphere created, and experience how the Desolation lives up to its name. Overall, a good product with a lot on offer - a dungeon crawl in the wilderness as only Necromancer can.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Desolation, Part 2: The Ghosts of Victory (PF)
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2010 11:12:03

Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation Part 2: The Ghosts of Victory

This installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar Saga is 75 pages long.

One page is taken up by credits, 1 by the front cover, 2 by the OGL.

That leaves us with 71 pages of gaming goodness, prefaced by a one page introduction to the eastern part of the wasteland that is the dreaded Desolation.

Following up on the first installment of ST: Desolation, the pdf starts with “Chapter 4: Ashen Waste”, depicting one of the major areas of the wasteland. The Ashen Waste is an inhospitable land with its very own environmental dangers (e.g. acid rain or storms made of pulverized, choking bones), extensive notes on random encounters in the waste as well as 3 planned battle encounters, 2 mini-dungeons, 1 safe spot to rest (guarded by a hostile, rejuvenating guardian, though –nothing is simple in Desolation!), 1 oasis (with several sub-locations) and an encounter with a creature that is a fitting and creepy (unofficial) bossmonster for the area. The chapter is 27 pages long and includes a new bloodline for sorcerers.

The atmosphere of the whole area is focused on hopelessness and a constant feeling of trespassing on a battlefield that once has seen countless feet tread upon the shattered remains of both friends and foes. Awesome and incredibly concisely written, this chapter could serve as an autonomous desert/wasteland in itself.

Chapter 5 details the Chaos Rift, the second huge area of the Desolation. The chapter begins with its very own extensive discussion on random encounters in the Chaos Rift, showing already a difference in tone and setting. In stark contrast to the Ashen Waste, the topic in the Chaos Rift is rather one of Chaos, Destruction and planar evil of a magnitude that only high-profile villains like Orcus could have inflicted on the mortal plane. The Chaos Rift is, as the name suggests, a terrible series of canyons or rather wounds in the very earth, ripped into the very foundation of the earth in the war against Tsar. After being lowered down into the canyons by Rock Troll brothers (or other means), the PCs are confronted, again, with unique environmental dangers and new challenges. Apart from the planned encounter with the brothers and 2 paragraphs containing environmental damages, this chapter contains 3 combat encounters (one of them may actually send foolhardy PCs to an untimely death in Orcus’ realm in the Abyss!), 2 outdoor encounters (with a series of sub-locations) and 2 mini-dungeons. For fans of “The Grey Citadel” and “The Eamonvale Incursion”, this chapter offers a nice tie-in.(It should be noted, that one versed in the modules of Necromancer games will find numerous tie-ins with the other modules, that, while not necessary, are nice eastereggs.) The chapter also contains the slime-zombie template and is 25 pages long.

This pdf concludes with several appendices: -4 pages Monster Appendix (Spitting Gargoyle, Ossuary Golem, Screamer [not the fungus!], Shadow Dire Bear) -1 page with a new magic item (Chain of Beguiling) -4 pages prestige class appendix (An update of the Justicar of Muir-PrC for PFRPG, vastly superior in design to its 3.0.-incarnation, with its own codex, fluff and abilities – nice.) -9 pages of Maps (1 page Ashen Waste, 1 page Chaos Rift, 1 page Tomb of the Sleeping Knight, 1 page Garden of the Reclaimers, 1 page Tark's Mound, 1 page Old Death's Hollow, 1 page Spitter's Canyon, 1 page Wolf pack / Bartileus' Lair, 1 page Sepulcher of the last Justicar)

Conclusion: This installment contains enough ideas to make each component of the Desolation its own wasteland. In a way, they are unique enough to work alone, although they, of course, work even better when used as intended. Building upon the awesome mood created in the first installment, the Desolation thickens the already awesome mood. To quote James Jacobs from the foreword of Paizo's “Spires of Xin-Shalast”:

“The thing about Greg’s adventures that has always impressed me the most is his knack for catching the excitement of discovering something new. Each of his Dungeon adventures was set in an exotic but nevertheless iconic location—be it under pyramids on the Isle of Dread, on haunted islands, in cliff dwellings on the edge of a canyon, inside of a primeval lost valley, in a lost temple dedicated to gods from the far side of the world, or even in the Abyssal kingdom of the Prince of Demons.“

This is once again true in his imagining of a deadly wasteland somewhere between battlefield, demonic, blasted landscape and endtimes-mood. I'm very happy with my subscription and look forward to the future installments of ST. If you think about running a wilderness adventure set in an iconic wasteland, be sure to give this a try. If you liked the special price first installment, you'll also love this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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