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)
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.
[5 of 5 Stars!]