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Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2018 08:38:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive first part of the two-part Albion’s Ransom adventure clocks in at 105 pages, 101 pages of content if you take away editorial, ToC, etc. This review is mostly based on the softcover print version; the pdf version does not sport bookmarks, which makes navigation annoying.

So, this adventure is set in the UK, and as such, it comes with a well-written and interesting appendix that notes the use of abilities in conjunction with the local regions and explains peculiarities of UK English, as well as giving a cursory overview of the different regions of England. A whole page of slang-terms and an explanation of pub culture can also be found here. From there, we move on to explain regional rivalries, how religion is treated, notes on travelers, crime, eco-activism…and, obviously, esoterrorism activity. Beyond that, we receive notes on Manchester, including gang activities, etc. – in short, we get a surprisingly detailed gazetteer here. The section btw. takes cultural differences between UK and US into account and explains them in a concise manner – so if you haven’t actually studied/visited the UK, chances are that you’ll get something out of this. Really nice!

It should also be noted that the adventure features a pretty extensive 2-page summary of drugs and their use in Esoterrorists, providing a wide array of effects that once more can be considered to be impressive in its details.

This attention to detail is btw. also a component that extends to the adventure-proper, but in order to talk about this aspect of the adventure, I will have to dive into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? The 18-year old student at Manchester University Catriona Van Rijn has gone missing. Her father, Frank, is a truly valuable asset for the OV and thus, the PCs are sent in to find the girl – note for Americans: No big guns, this is the UK we’re talking about. The PCs are briefed twice and hopefully are aware that time is of the essence: While it is not explicitly spelled out, the PCs are very much on the clock and should meticulously plan where to go when, how to spend their time, etc.

That being said, investigating Catriona’s flat, her room-mates and associates is perhaps one of the best-written investigations I have ever read. Not only are the diverse students depicted as well-rounded characters; they manage to feel alive. You see, Catriona is not just really smart, she also goes through developments that are similar to those many folks go through when studying: She not only has obviously grown into a sexually active lady and is experimenting with what you’d expect, while also developing an idealistic, moral compass that is grounded in eco-activism. This tendency is supported further by a blossoming interest in the occult, something that should generate some serious red flags for the OV-agents. It is hard to describe just how good and detailed the characterizations here are – from flatmates to associates, the students feel alive and interesting…oh, and there’ll be perhaps one of the most skillfully executed red herrings ever in this investigation: When a flat explodes, the PCs may assume esoterrorist influence – but ultimately, what happened had nothing to do with the dark forces behind Catriona’s disappearance, and everything with an unhealthy drug-habit and experimentation with ether. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, OTOM…and more – beyond the students and their quirks, the PCs have to reconstruct the complex dynamics of Catriona’s life, which, among other things, is complicated by her having spent the night with her lecturer.

Let me make that abundantly clear: Once more, the characterization of the eco-goth-intellectual is hilarious. In the interest for Blake and the occult, this character felt, in a great way, like an evil caricature of myself. (Just for the record: Nope, never slept with one of my students, don’t plan on doing so.) In fact, the depiction of the British subcultures in academia and beyond is probably one of the most amazing I have ever seen: In spite of the themes of Esoterrorists, which may be considered to be inherently conservative by design, the depictions of all the NPCs makes them come alive in a manner I have never seen beyond the pages of this book. While esoterrists codes those interested in the occult as potentially evil, the characters herein do not feel like that at all – they are complex, multi-faceted and while some folks may seem despicable or misguided, you can’t help but feel that the depictions of these groups steams from a deep-seated sympathy.

But I digress. You know, the big, big issue for the PCs in this investigation is, first and foremost, the vast amount of details and information that can be unearthed. This module is ridiculously detailed in the information provided around all key persons and sports multiple ways to reach the conclusion. We have a truly amazing web of intrigue here – and one that thankfully does not rely on throwing OD-entities at the PCs all the time. Tension is slowly, steadily, ramped up as the timer ticks. This is not full-blown in your face horror, instead following the design-paradigm that less is more, as not only the complexity of the case, but also the detailed reactions and behavior patterns of the NPCs make it hard for the OV-agents to get to the core of things. As an aside: I think that a flow-chart summary would have been really helpful for the GM – as written, you’ll want to take copious notes to properly run this.

Ultimately, the trail leads to the 9 ladies, a Neolithic monument scheduled to be quarried, and the protest camp there. Unfortunately for the agents, the camp will be seeded with esoterrorists…and if they don’t take care, they may well end up drugged, potentially added to the planned mass sacrifice…for much is at stake. The esoteric underground cell Isa Kenaz is preparing to unleash the Fimbulwinter upon Britain, and this sacrifice, a perverted Ewemeolc rite (in a hilarious glitch, it’s noted to take place on February 31st – that should be January 31st/February 1st, unless I am sorely mistaken regarding my knowledge of pagan holidays), may well be the trigger that does it. Worse, there is a decent chance that Catriona’s been driven insane and/or converted to being an Esoterrorist…and, you know…every HOUR may actually count – time is incredibly critical and any group that manages to reach her while she’s not yet been brainwashed should pat themselves on the back. The OV-agents will need to infiltrate the camp and find the girl in a mine-shaft, which represents one weakness of the adventure.

You see, the finale works imho best when the OV-agents actually get drugged, but don’t succumb to the effects; attempting to stop the ceremony, rescuing Catriona, not being slain by psycho-Esoterrorists, all through the haze of drugs, makes for an absolutely glorious scene. That being said, we don’t get a map of the camp, which makes infiltration and the whole final scene feel rather opaque. The camp is hard to picture and, particularly considering the moving parts in play here, it would have made sense to provide a proper map – this is also the only truly potentially horrific scene herein; the adventure plays very much like a mystery module and builds tension in a smart and amazing manner.

As you may notice, there’s a lot to love here. However, here is the thing: If your OV-agents are really good, if they can piece together a couple of the more complex components, they may well stumble over the plot of Isa Kenaz, or at least parts of it. In an ironic twist, this is a bad thing – the timeframe the PCs have to secure Catriona is very, very tight and deviations like that may well cost them the time they need. So, ultimately, while the book does not explicitly state it, the PCs are supposed to “lose” this adventure in some form. While it is theoretically possible to utterly “win” the adventure, expose Isa Kenaz and save Catriona, it is extremely unlikely.

There is one aspect that literally made me throw the book through the room. It cheats in the most cheap of ways. Know how Isa Kenaz is one step ahead, how the OV-agents face a disturbingly well-prepared opposition? The book breaks a central tenet of Esoterrorist-gaming, one that can result in permanent damage to an ongoing game. Mister Verity is actually an esoterrorist. Urgh. A central tenet of the game, what sets it thematically apart from a vast number of other settings, is that the OV is good; that it is competent, and while it does lose agents to madness etc., the rigorous vetting, examinations, etc. should engender a sense of trust. By making the PC’s contact a traitor, the module breaks a central tenet of the setting that is even explicitly spelled out in the game’s book: The OV is competent and its agents are the good guys. It’s a basic premise of the game, and once it is subverted, there is literally no way to fix it. It’s also needlessly cheap and unfair: PCs are told, time and again, to trust the OV; by undermining this, the module manages to all but ensure the outcome projected for book #2.

In short, the adventure cheats. Unless PCs realize just how urgent their search is, unless they focus on doing the right things, fail to report things in; unless they don’t attempt to be meticulous (takes too much time); unless they focus on the right priorities, split up, etc., they will be faced with a big downer of an ending. Difficulty of the investigation is not my issue here – it’s this utterly unnecessary subversion of a central tenet of the game, a needless, unfair kick in the shins of even the most capable of agents, one that frankly almost wrecked this adventure for me. It is hard for me to properly enunciate the level of outrage this decision engendered, mainly because, apart from the somewhat opaque finale, this is one amazing, glorious investigation. This is, and let me make that abundantly clear, a challenging, inspired adventure, one that didn’t need this cheapshot. In another game, perhaps in Faer Itself or Trail of Cthulhu, the betrayal would be less important – but in Esoterrorists it undermines a pillar of what sets it apart.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, though not as refined as in most Pelgrane Press offerings. I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches etc. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column b/w-standard and the adventure sports some neat b/w-artworks. The lack of cartography for many locales is a downside from a presentation perspective. The softcover book is solid, sports the title on the spine, etc. The pdf, as mentioned before, lacks bookmarks, which is a HUGE comfort detriment for an adventure of this size and complexity.

Ian Sturrock’s prose is absolutely glorious; the author manages to write a fantastic module and his characterizations of the NPCs herein is compassionate, kind and simply superb. The little details, from hidden means of identification in e-mail addresses etc. to the more overt aspects, are absolutely inspiring. The gazetteer helps you add a sense of authenticity to the proceedings and the investigation per se is absolutely wonderful. The module manages to evoke a great form of tension, does not rely on shock horror, and must be considered to be an inspired, intriguing offering.

That being said, the module has several serious weaknesses that drag it down from the high recommendation and lavish praise I’d otherwise heap on it. The finale is, as mentioned, somewhat opaque; but more insulting would be the absolutely horrendous cheap-shot regarding the primary antagonist. The fact that this can actually subvert a central tenet of Esoterrorist campaigns makes it problematic. Finally, on a structural level, the organization of the complex investigation could have been more comfortable for the GM. Due to the lack of flow-charts or easy summaries, you’ll probably need to make copious notes, annotations, etc. – this requires serious prep work.

That being said, if you can eliminate these glitches and work around them, you’ll have probably one of the most rewarding investigation scenarios out there. I can absolutely imagine this being classified as a masterpiece, and were it not for the shortcomings mentioned above, this would be a 5 stars + seal of approval book. However, all strikes against this adventure do accumulate and particularly the fact that the module, to a degree, cheats, is something that soured what I’d otherwise consider to be an inspiring adventure. As a reviewer, I need to review this for what it is, not for what you can modify it into. Thus, while I do consider this module to be very much worth picking up, while I consider it to be amazing in atmosphere, characters, etc., all worthy of the highest praise, I also have to take these seriously unpleasant aspects into account. Ultimately, they make it impossible for me to rate this higher than 3.5 stars. Whether to round up or down is a hard decision – my impulse, as a person, would be to round up, but when I tally up, neutrally, my gripes against the adventure, I ultimately can’t do that.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/19/2018 10:46:02

Bookhounds of London is a Trail of Cthulhu supplement that puts the players in the role of a bookseller of strange and occult tomes. The generic hook is that the quest for forbidden knowledge can drive a lot of mythos stories. The supplement describes how the odd booksellers market works in London. Booksellers range from the odd pushcart to wealthy established shops.

I got a lot of inspiration on designing or modifying Call of Cthulhu scenarios from this book. The quest for forbidden knowledge and the characters surrounding that market is a wonderful idea.

I have my doubts about the usefulness of running a campaign where characters run an occult bookstore. It is a fine idea, but a book length setting for this is too much. You have to sell books to make money to keep your shop open in the 1930s, but some books are horrible and should be burned. Balancing the two would be challenging. The entire setting is very London-Centric which could be an excellent or poor idea depending on the GM.

There is a scenario included in the book that did not seem to be that fun for players. It revolved around several people trying to obtain a book and their movement towards a sale or auction. There was not a whole lot of action and even the scenario author described the frustration felt by playtesters.

In sum, as a book to generate inspiration for designing Cthulhu or occult scenarios I think it is excellent. To center a campaign where everyone is in the book industry - I have my doubts. The scenario itself seemed uninteresting and potentially frustrating for players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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The Dracula Dossier: Director's Handbook
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:07:41

Have only started exploring it as I decided to first read Dracula Unredacted. From what I gather about the Director's Handbook, it will be excellent. Cannot wait to run this game with my group.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Director's Handbook
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The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:05:41

Still reading it. Never finished the original version, but this one has captivated me. It will be a strong resource when my group plays the Dracula Dossier Campaign. Cannot wait for my players to read it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
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Night's Black Agents
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:03:43

Amazing book. I am not much into the Gumshoe System (though I recognize its strengths), but the campaign framework is one of the best things I have ever found in 25 years as a GM.

Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/19/2017 22:05:13

I made some modifications and ran this scenario as a mission for my Warhammer: 40,000 Dark Heresy group and it was a success. Overall this is a great short game scenario that captures an atmosphere of suspense and mystery. I think that the author did a good job of creating something where the tension slowly ratchets up as the players struggle to find the real evil plaguing the school. Feel free to check out my long-running Dark Heresy campaign here on Obsidian Portal: https://faith-and-betrayal.obsidianportal.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
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Hillfolk
by Giles R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2017 02:37:48

Hillfolk uses an innovative ruleset to place social interactions between characters at the heart of the game. It's aim is to make an RPG play more like one of the blockbuster TV series we get these days.

The story will be largely player led, with the GM almost on an equal footing as the players in terms of input.

The rules for physical confrontations are quite light, good if you want to focus on the drama played out by the characters. If not you could easly replace them with your favourite rule system for more crunch. I kept thinking this would be a perfect system for a Runequest campaign where all the players were members of the same tribe.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hillfolk
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#Feminism preview
by Randy L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2017 22:53:44

This is a phenominal collection on a bunch of different dimensions! There is a diverse array of games that do a wonderful job of exploring myriad aspects of feminism; they range in tone from silly to serious but all are well crafted and effective at approaching the relevant issues. The visual design / layout is also top notch!

If you're thinking about getting into larp-writing, this is also a great way to quick view a bunch of excellent games and see a diversity of larp mechanics.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#Feminism preview
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#Feminism preview
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2017 17:23:53
Feminism contains games that have changed my perceotions, and made me a better person. I've played several of these games.

I feel I should mention my own demographics: 30ish, white, male, cis, straight. I play life on the easiest difficulty setting.

Shoutdown to Launch. This game focused on workplace sexism. I played in the group who are shouted over, denigrated, and whose ideas are stolen. The degree of discomfort on both sides was really intense. Jason Morningstar was at the table, and halfway through started repeating what I said almost verbatim -- speaking over me as I spoke.

This was fantastic. During the debrief, I came to terms with some of the discomfort, realizing some events in my own office environment where gendered interruptions occur -- and the ways in which I allow it and aid it. That is, playing shoutdown did exactly what I wanted: expanded my own perspective to make me more aware of ways I have failed in my own feminism.

We also played "So, mom, I made a porno". We had five players, and I was the sex and porn positive Aunt. While most of this was comfortable ground for me, the character's arguments include using sex for advancement. I struggled with this, trying to embody that using every tool available certainly makes sense, especially if the deck is stacked against you.

As I very much want to believe in a meritocracy, this was really hard for me! Coming to terms with that involved coming to terms -- again -- with life's fundamental unfairness. The play in this was much safer ground than many larps, and the shame coming from the grandmother was tempered with love for her seemingly wayward granddaughter.

The intergenerational views of feminism worked very well. The daughter and sister's feminism were still being formed, and at some point I ad libbed that the grandmother was on the pill for 30 years, making her face a degree of hypocrisy in her own views on sex.

These games were absolutely fantastic. Personally, these made me wrestle with issues that I can normally avoid. They make me a better person.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age: The Strangling Sea
by heechan k. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2017 00:17:22

엘도란의비밀에 비해서는 퀄리티는 좀 떨어지는듯..저해초더미섬에서의 모험이 특이하긴 한데 굳이 살필요는 없을거같다.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age: The Strangling Sea
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Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
by heechan k. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2017 00:14:01

내용이 너무적어. 진짜 촛불 찰흙덩이, 춤추는 신발 저게다다 -ㅅ-;;;;; 별내용도없어 저아이템별로 이러이러한일에 얽혔을수도 있다라고 몇가지 소문이나 후크같은거 늘어놓은거뿐이야...이거 돈주고 사긴 아깝



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
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Esoterrorists: The Love of Money
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/17/2017 10:30:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive adventure for The Esoterrorists clocks in at 111 pages, 107 if you take away editorial, etc.

This review is based on the print copy of the module. I do not have access to the electronic version.

Okay, so the first thing you have to know about this massive adventure would be that it is pretty hard to integrate into an ongoing campaign, working best if you have a couple of months to set up the proceedings. Otherwise, it may make sense to play this as a one-shot with the supplied pregenerated characters - 6 of these are provided, with detailed motivations and notes for the players to establish their relationship to their team-mates and the NPCs featured herein, in particular a specific one, but more on that later.

For the GM's convenience, we actually get a handy table that sums up team-skills by category, providing all you need to know on one page - really comfortable and nice to have! It should also be noted that this module is really great when it comes to hand-outs - no less than 12 have been provided, ranging from photographs to strange scribbling, puzzle clues and images of ODEs, I was positively surprised by the amount of neat supplemental material featured here - including brief suspect profiles etc.

Speaking of ODEs - the module does feature a new ODE, the so-called spectrosite and provides a full write-up with stats, limitations, theories, etc. Genre-wise, its hould be noted that this is an adventure for SMART players - it has two rather unforgiving bottlenecks and if you're new to investigative roleplaying, you may want to elect for something easier. That being said, this is a nice challenge for those of us who enjoy challenging modules that require some brainpower to solve. It should be noted that this module is not particularly gory or combat-centric, being more about psychological horror and personal tragedy.

All right, and this is about as far as I can go without going into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right. Psychological breakdowns are responsible for most OV-agents being retired. When John Sheldon and his sister were recruited into the OV, things went well for a while - John was brilliant and he championed the operation that gives this module its name: Operation 610, after Timothy 6: 10 - "For the Love of Money is the Root of All Evil." - he figured he had found a way to deal a crippling blow to Esoterrorism by destroying their financially backing, but it hinged on using a lone operative, him - something the OV generally does not condone, for good reasons. Frustration built up.

Then, one winter's night, his obsession rising, his sister and wife wanted to take his mind off things - all drinking. Caroline took her brother's car keys and drove home, being the most sober of the 3...and then, in the rear-view mirror, the spectrosite, an ODE hiding in reflective surfaces like mirrors, showed itself - just long enough to make the car crash. John was inconsolable and severed all ties with his sister (who is btw. one of the pregens - see what I meant with "hard to integrate into an ongoing campaign?"). He had nothing left to lose. He initiated his plans for T610.

Traveling to Europe, he managed to infiltrate Métallon Incorporated, which is led by industrial giant Johan van der Hulst, who has been an Esoterrorist for most of his life, guided by his invisible play mate Nicholaus (who shows up in mirrors...) into the murder of, among others, his parents. He is deeply convinced of his twisted cause - and he has been gathering Rhodium, for Nicholaus has told him about a means of tearing the membrane temporarily.

It should come as no surprise that Hulst knew of Sheldon's plan. Nicholaus poses as Mary in the mirror, twisting Sheldon's already strained psyche further, convincing him that she's trapped in the Outer Dark, that he must free her - and that Hulst would know how. Hulst has a device, but it does require a willing sacrifice - it would not end Sheldon, but it would "reunite" him with his wife...but to bring both him and her back, someone else would need to take their place in the Outer Dark...and it only took a bit of gaslighting to convince the embittered operative to blame the OV.

Sheldon allowed himself to be ritually slaughtered, fusing his heart with the Rhodium-device crafted by Hulst. He is waiting the right circumstances.

Meanwhile, the PCs have all been considered to be potentially compromised by Sheldon dropping off the grid and are thus sent to Amsterdam to investigate the proceedings, fitted with heart-monitors and surveyed by psychiatric metrics...and an SSF team may well be waiting in the wings...The briefing is btw- fully detailed and a nice flow-chart of potential adventure scenarios and sequences of scenes has been provided. The PCs thus travel to Amsterdam to not only get to the bottom of the matter, but also to clear their name: And they will have to contend with a rather grisly scene, namely that of Sheldon's demise, carefully orchestrated to draw the agents ever closer into the proceedings - Veil Out of a potential witness's gruesome death at the hands of the spectrosite, right in the police station, will require some serious creativity and quick thinking.

Indeed, things become even more complicated pretty fast: Beyond the professional killers and snipers under Hulst's command, a rival Esoterrorist and former subordinate of Hulst tries to eliminate the PCs - with methods that are not exactly subtle. However, at the same time, this involvement may actually put stumped PCs on the right track! You see, there is a component that explains WHY Sheldon's murder was staged this publicly - the heart, extracted from his body, needs to be activated...and for that, it requires bloodshed by his enemies, the OV.

This adds a great moral dimension to the proceedings, as the agents may be required to race the SSF...if they are not duped by "Mary" as well and survive potential encounters with the spectrosite...and it emphasizes that the OV agents are supposed to be the good guys. That being said, in one way or another, the heart will probably be activated...but Verity's order remains: Get the head of the conspiracy. Hulst has the device on an oil rig, which is represented, image-wise, with a nice hand-out, yes, but it (and pretty much all of the action-oriented scenes) imho suffer from a lack of maps - in the case of the rig and the scenario, where the Esoterrorists try to dupe the PCs and the SSF to spill their blood in particular - these scenes could have really used some proper maps.

The approach to the oil-rig, btw., features the most brutal of bottlenecks in the scenario: If the PCs have botched their investigation, they may be shot out of the air by the surface-to-air-missiles installed on it via Hulst's fortune and black market connections...unless they have found the proper coded MP3 to call off the automated attack, this may well be "Game Over". The running gun battle through the rig feels like an afterthought, when set against the possible outcomes of the scenario - and while partial success is at least somewhat likely, stopping Sheldon's tormented soul and succeeding at the veil out without a horrid, horrid gaze at the abyss of the Outer Dark will be only something truly smart (and compassionate) players will succeed in.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as good as usual for Pelgrane Press - my copy did sport quite a bunch of hiccups and glitches on the typo-level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks/photographs are nice and well-made. The big weakness of the module, ultimately, is that its action-scenes don't have sufficient information to render them compelling - cartography, at least basic one, would have helped here. I can't comment on bookmarks or the like.

Matthew Sanderson's "For the Love of Money" is, in almost all disciplines, a glorious module: The Esoterrorist plot is challenging, smart and hard to foil and grasp, all while remaining fair. The antagonist reactions, detailed NPC-reactions, copious information for PC-actions and massive supplemental material really help. The investigation part of this module is really, really amazing. Unfortunately, the module does fall flat pretty much almost always (exception would be the cool visuals of the potential showdowns with the ODE) - they feel like afterthoughts. They don't sport the same attention to detail, aren't nearly as interesting and compelling as the rest of the module.

It is within the nature of the plot that integration into ongoing campaigns is hard, so I won't penalize the module for that. However, the none-too-compelling action-scenes and lack of proper cartography drag down this otherwise great module. If you're looking for a glorious investigation and don't mind working on those bits, then this is a very clear recommendation. Otherwise, it remains a module for fans of investigation who don't care much about the action-aspects of the game. When all is said and done, this gets the tone and feeling of Esoterrorists rather well and provides a compelling adventure, though one that falls slightly short of the excellence it could have easily achieved. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Esoterrorists: The Love of Money
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The Esoterror Fact Book
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/03/2017 07:51:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement for The Esoterrorists (or any other horror game, really!) clocks in at 150 pages (excluding cover, which is its own pdf), 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,, leaving us with 147 pages of content.

This review is mainly based on the print edition of the book, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my convenience.

So, what is this massive tome? It represents at the same time a massive dossier that could be considered to be useful as a kind of colossal hand-out, is written as though it was a dossier for agents of the OV: It discusses, on a need-to-know-basis, the realities of the struggle against the forces of the outer dark and the esoterrorists that seek to bring down the membrane, discussing changes in strategy, the psychiatric metrics of the struggle and the, very important, code of ethics that agents should strive to uphold. More than that, it explains the details of extractions, of the conduct in the field, etc. and supplements these pieces of information with flavorful and extremely creepy transcripts.

The methodologies of station duty, establishing deep cover and the like are presented in a concise manner that is a true joy to read - if you're like me and read a ton of RPG-books (and sometimes read them for reading pleasure/immersion), then rest assured that this book is a phenomenal reading experience - and not only in the guise of a pseudo-secret-agency operations manual. The adversary map as a prop can be seen as a kind of precursor to the organizational structures later refined in the Nights Black Agents game. Speaking of which - the book does cover branches of the agency usually not associated as regular PCs - the SSF, the special suppression forces of the OV, join the ranks of playable options, with more crunchy combat options included for such games herein.

Now this predates Night's Black Agents and the crunchy combat rules and high-octane gameplay of that system by years, so it is no surprise that they are not as diverse, but for GMs/directors stumped on how to combine the two, these represent a no-work-required variant for more action-oriented gameplay, with evasive maneuvers, martial arts, etc. - so if you're looking for a change of pace from standard Esoterrorists gaming, this may well still hold up rather well. Still, that would be the one part of the book that has not aged as gracefully as the rest.

Beyond those more crunch-related aspects, however, it should be mentioned that concise rules for dealings with assets and enemies are set down - while these may be modified by the GM, obviously, they represent glorious leitmotifs for whole campaigns. Speaking of which - what I honestly did not expect to like this much, would be the NPC-aspect of this book. You see, the factbook talks, in detail, about various potentially dire, perhaps even world-ending plots that esoterrorists are currently engaged in; it mentions weird occurrences, classifies the antagonists according to their respective psychological profiles...and sports a TON of some of the best NPCs I have seen for modern horror-gaming: From disgusting, sleazy media moguls to cynical cultural scientists, the book offers a diverse and truly creative cast of characters worthy of being primary antagonists for whole campaigns. Sample notes on missions, successful ones and failure, are interspersed throughout the book, further enhancing the reading experience.

From advertising agents to serial killers, the agents of the Outer Dark are presented in a manner that makes them come alive...and it is very evident that the book goes above and beyond, actually managing to get terminologies right and thus making the respective characters feel plausible. Suspected cells and operations are provided in similarly inspiring ways, ranging from gangs to incestuous farmers, international security consulting and high-stakes players on the global scene. The book also lists a wide variety of locations, all of which basically scream to be included in one's game: Haunted suburban homes, strange logging camps, the road to nowhere and more outré locales render this aspect of the book, once again, a pure joy to read.

While we're at it: The book not only covers antagonists, but also potential neutral parties - like seemingly benevolent, esoteric cult leaders "doing good" with "magic" - the problematic aspects of these practices and the double-edged nature of involving such beings makes them valid and intriguing wild-cards that further add a significant dimension to the game and the plots you can craft.

Now, the book also contains a sample adventure, one made explicitly for SSF-characters and taking place in Burma - the adventure is per se a well-crafted series of action-sequences, though ultimately, the brief scenario is pretty linear. The ODE introduced here is pretty disturbing and potent, and its weakness/symbolism MAKES SENSE and can be deduced by smart agents, even if they botch parts of the investigation - the module, in short, is solid.

The book closes with a handy appendix explaining the acronyms used and a massive, 3-page index that helps navigating this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches or hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book sports a wide variety of amazing, atmospheric b/w-artworks.. The pdf has no bookmarks - I'd suggest getting the softcover print book instead.

I honestly feel like I failed Robin D. Laws' book here. Why? Because, frankly, I cannot hope to convey how well this works - this is a glorious reading experience, extremely immersive and inspiring and it gets the horror aspect of Esoterrorists down to perfection. This book, in short, represents a truly inspiring option for horror gaming. All negative things I can say about this book are the result of me being somewhat late to the party - and are thus not the book's fault. Still, the lack of bookmarks can be annoying and the more combat-intense rules are solid, but pale before the newer GUMSHOE-mods. Even taking that into account, however, I do still consider this to be a must-have offering for anyone even remotely interesting in modern horror or GUMSHOE gaming - the inspiring fluff and glorious prose render this a must-own offering. While this book thus misses my seal of approval by a tiny margin, it should still be considered to be a truly glorious offering, fully deserving of a 5-star-verdict, even in 2017, 8 years after its release. So yeah, get this - it is a true wellspring of inspiration!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterror Fact Book
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Profane Miracles
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/21/2017 06:20:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Esoterrorists clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page blank, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So famous financier Jonathan Bentley was recently resurrected from beyond the pale in a rather public manner, at a charity ball of his widow Grace Summerville, and this feat was achieved by the famed psychic Cassandra Madrigal. The OV-agents are sent in with cover identities as investigative reporters. That's the basic premise.

Behind the scenes, resentment has festered between Jonathan and his wife - she was smarter and always one step ahead, the true brains of his enormous success...and thus he faked his death with an esoterrorist drug named Fatalix, which also acts as a drug...if Bentley stops heeding the call of the esoterrorist Dellinger, he'll withhold the drug. Bentley thus has fallen deeply into the control of the movement and the gambit of the esoterrorists (the medium is, obviously, a pawn as well) has paid off - Cassandra has retreated from business to live with her secretly loathsome husband, who has also, in his decadence, sired an illicit child - something that the investigators can find out...and the child is horrifically disfigured and can provide a hint regarding the involvement of the financier and his predicament.

The investigators will find a strange substance used by Cassandra during the ritual in the initial investigation of the big gala; it is this substance that will provide a clue. Cassandra, as mentioned before, is pretty much a well-meaning patsy and ultimately can point the investigators towards a street vendor of the occult and esoterrorist operative, one Vincent Marlowe, and point towards a large-scale order by Bentley financials - and yes, a nice chase may ensue here.

Blissfully unaware of the loathsome character of her husband returned from the dead, Grace can be convinced when faced with evidence (or smart investigators) provides access to the GPS-tracker and thus the PCs can track down Dellinger's sanctuary. Here, an ODE, the dementia larvae and Marlowe prepare for a showdown, while Bentley lies comatose and a journal etc. fills in the undoubtedly at this point numerous blanks. There is still some crucial stuff to decide: There is an antidote, but it can either save Jonathan or his illicit child, not both... and there is still the matter at hand to stop Dellinger's plans for a bigger ritual, on live TV - here, a series of obstacles provide some serious customization - and ultimately may boil down to another dangerous boss fight against an ODE created from a very strange Cassandra. The pdf does mention dealing with the two women harmed by the schemes here and the appendix depicting the dementia larva.

...did you notice something? Yeah, neither the actions of Bentley, nor those of Dellinger, make any sense whatsoever to me. I read the module multiple times and it's REALLY, really hard to make heads or tails of them - hence the sudden, convenient journal-exposition dump. Worse, saving Jonathan suddenly makes him realize his love for Grace? SERIOUSLY? That bit had me frothing at the mouth. And this very public figure faked his death for a whole year, while indulging on sprees of decadence with drugs and hookers? Seriously, this module expects you to buy a lot of BS for a system that is based on logical investigation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glaring accumulations of glitches. Layout adheres to a b/w-two-column standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artwork and cartography. The pdf I have does not sport bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

I am sorry, I really love Esoterrorists. But Leonard Balsera's Profane Miracles is not a good module, to put it lightly. The motivations of the antagonists are jumbled, its shock-values are for shock only, the whole plan of the antagonists makes no sense whatsoever and the climax violates, to a degree, the summoning paradigms provided by the Summoning Guide. In short, the logic bugs herein not only extend to the meta-level, they can also be found on an in-game level. The exposition-dump that basically jams the whole story down the PC's throats had folks groan at my table, complete with plenty of question marks above their heads. If you just want cheese-and-crackers-no-brains gameplay, this may do something for you...but why are you playing this investigative game then? If you want an actually good, action-packed Esoterrorist module, go for Six-Packed instead - it is much more rewarding and not such a structural mess. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Profane Miracles
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Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2017 01:07:41

Too short but a great little supplement. This is a resource for consumable magic items...the kind I like to put in games!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes
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