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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Rob T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 01:17:27

This is a wealth of PC creation options and has many fun options. I recommend the Fantasy Grounds version as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
by Rob T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 01:16:58

This is a wealth of PC creation options and has many fun options. I recommend the Fantasy Grounds version as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2017 05:38:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Without much further ado, we kick off this file with a new sorcerous origin, the shadow bloodline. At 1st level, you gain darkvision 60 ft. (what if you already have it?) and may see through magical darkness in the range. Also at 1st level, you can gaze at a target within 60 ft. to impose disadvantage on an attack roll or a sight-reliant ability-check. This usable Charisma modifier times (minimum 1) before requiring a long rest to recharge. 6th level yields advantage on saves versus illusions and allows you to expend two sorcery points to cast blur or mirror image. 14th level allows you to step into shadows for 200 ft.-range teleportation as a bonus action, with the option to stay up to Charisma modifier rounds (minimum 1) in this interim, making you invisible and invincible and incapable of affecting anything. This costs 4 sorcery points per use. Not a big fan of the “can’t be affected”-part, personally – I think that could have been solved in a more organic manner by using etherealness et al. as orientation. 18th level yields a 15-ft.-aura, which can be activated for 4 sorcery points, potentially dealing necrotic damage and frightening enemies, with a save to negate the frightened condition.

We also get a new warlock patron, the light-eater, whose spells include ray of sickness, fear, shadow monsters, etc. - it makes ample use of the new spells. 1st level allows the warlock to spend an action to force those within 10 ft. of you to make a Wisdom save to avoid being blinded until the end of your next turn, with a short or long rest to recharge. 6th level yields the living shadow feature: When taking damage, you may, as a reaction, teleport the creature that damaged you up to 60 ft. away. The creature also takes cold damage and becomes frightened on a failed Wisdom save. This is very potent, but needs a short or long rest to recharge. 10th level nets immunity to fear-based effects (which are not a concisely-defined thing in 5e) AND the frightened condition (which is, thankfully, very concisely defined!) – whenever you are affected by one such effect, you can use your reaction to return it back to sender, frightening the creature potentially, with subsequent saves to end the effect. Okay, so how does this work with the warlock entering the area of a pre-existing AoE-effect that causes the frightened condition? Can this be reflected as well, or does the warlock need to be the target? The wording could use some clarification here.

At 14th level, you can conjure forth a shadow horror, which uses chuul stats with some modifications – a very potent ally that does require concentration to maintain, though. ODD: The pact boons here refer to the “dark one” instead of to “light-eater” – some version-change-remnant, no doubt. The boons yield Hide for familiars in shadows, but also disadvantage for it in bright light; a blade that may cause necrotic damage or a weightless book of shadows. Okay…so can other creatures interact with the book? What are its stats? These three modifications of the pacts are problematic – you see, they do not provide a full rules-text, but seem like they are supposed to modify existing pact boons…but they don’t clearly spell out their reference, which means that RAW, the pact of the blade does not yield proficiency with the blade, for example.

We get a third class option, the whisper rogue archetype nets darkvision 60 ft at 3rd level, no upgrade when you already have it, as well as the minor illusion and douse light cantrips. Okay, as what spells do these count? Do they have a spellcasting attribute? Srsly, the arcane trickster literally provides an easy precedent template here. And yes, I am cognizant of the spells not necessarily requiring that for most instances, but the lack of definition can still generate issues. AT 3rd level, you may Hide while observed, providing you have dim light or darkness, with advantage on Dexterity (Stealth). This requires a short or long rest to use again. 7th and 15th level yield +1 use per rest-interval. 9th level provides the shadow road feature for 60 ft. shadow-step-short-range teleports as an action, with a short or long rest to recharge. And yes, you may Hide as part of that teleport. 13th level allows you to become invisible for up to 1 hour while in hazier conditions. It ends when you cast a spell or attack, but otherwise requires RAW no concentration, but does require a short or long rest to recharge. At 17th level, attacks against you have disadvantage, but if you are hit, the ability shuts down until the start of your next turn – interesting.

The pdf also contains a total of 20 spells – as always, we’ll move from top to bottom of the power-range, starting with the two cantrips here: Douse lights can counter the illuminating cnatrips or extinguish small light sources; claws of darkness grows two cold-damage claws with 10 ft.-reach and may use them with melee spell attacks. Okay, so one or two? I assume one, since it doesn’t state otherwise…but yeah. A total of 3 1st-level spells can be found, the first being black ribbons, which is a pretty underwhelming shorter range reskin of entangle, based on Dexterity instead of Strength. Cloak in shadow makes for a nice reaction spell when targeted by an attack, but before the roll is made. It imposes disadvantage and provides resistance to radiant damage until the start of your next turn. Nice (and gets the casting time reaction formatting right). Cloying darkness is a ranged spell attack that inflicts necrotic damage and dims the lights for the target by one step.

There are 4 2nd-level spells, starting with darkbolt, a cold-damage inflicting variant of scorching ray that prevents hit targets that fail a Constitution save from taking reactions for 1 round. Solid variant. Dark path conjures forth a path through difficult terrain or obstacles. Negative image lets you swamp places with a target within 120 ft. that you can see, with a save for unwilling targets. Shadow puppets is too strong for 2nd level: You animate a shadow within 60 ft., make a melee spell attack and cause psychic damage – on a failed save, the target is paralyzed until the start of your next turn. This would be as well a place as any to note that “At Higher Levels” sections are only bolded, not bolded and italicized throughout the pdf– while I consider this a harmless, cosmetic deviation, someone is bound to complain if I don’t mention it.

We get 2 new spells for spell-levels 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th – in sequence, from 3rd onwards, those would be call shadow mastiff (guess what it does) and legion, a cube of shadowy soldiers that attacks those that enter it for the first time or starts its turn within or within 5 ft. of it for necrotic damage, using melee spell modifier. 4th level’s shadow monsters affects 2 creatures in range, which, on a failed save, perceive allies as monsters and forces them to attack said “monsters” – compared to dominate person’s limitations or better, confusion, this seems like a straight power upgrade that could use nerfing.

Night terrors is ridiculous: It’s an AoE-spell that paralyzes creatures with fright; sure, beings immune to the frightened condition can’t be affected, and the spell has saves on subsequent rounds, but it’s still AoE save-or-suck. Shadow Realm Gateway is a 5th-level ritual with an obvious effect; dark dementing causes a creature to need to save; on a success, it gains a short-term madness effect, on a failure a long-term madness…which is really, really potent. That means, even on a successful save, there’s a very good chance you’re done for – one look at the short-term madness table will make you cringe. Dragon slayer of a spell. OP. Needs to die.

At 6th level, we have banshee wail, which is better than harm: It kills off half current hit points and causes the frightened condition, affecting all critters in a 30 ft.-cone and causing psychic damage on a successful save. Needs a nerf. Fixed damage, no halving. WTF. Become nightwing nets you flight and a recharging necrotic damage breath attack, which is a nice one, all concerned. The final 3 spell levels all come with one spell each: 7th-level’s conjure shadow titan is pretty self-evident, using a variant stone giant as basis; Malevolent waves nets all allies in range advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) and all enemies are poisoned, sans save. Finally, umbral storm generates a necrotic damage-causing area that also causes exhaustion on failed saves – it may be moved around, just fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and also rather well done on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports seriously nice full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press will remember some of the pieces. Bookmarks are included in the pdf.

This is the first pdf by Michael Ohl I’ve read and I must admit to be being positively surprised: As a whole, the pdf does provide some thematically-fitting, interesting options. For the most part, the rules-language is precise and well-crafted and while there are some hiccups, they don’t wreck the pdf per se; balance-wise, the save-or-suck conditions imparted in the spells make for some serious balance-concerns on my part, though – and as a whole, I consider this a mixed bag with some high points and some low points – thus, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars…and in spite of the freshman bonus, I don’t feel that I can round up for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2017 09:47:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deep magic-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what the hell is ring magic? Where other magic traditions covered in the series remained pretty self-explanatory, ring magic should be defined and that’s how the pdf starts: Basically, it is a dwarven tradition (Ring der Nibelungen, anyone?) of forging rune-inscribed rings to channel magic energies. A big plus: The pdf does explain the symbolism of the ring and how the magic tradition came to be – while only brief, this section adds some serious context for the tradition, rooting it more deeply within the context of the game world. There are two feats resented herein that are of interest to users of ring magic: Circle Spellcaster increases one mental attribute by 1, to a maximum of 20 and allows you to spend 2 hours (explicitly possible during a long rest) to generate a mystical bond with another nearby spellcaster. When one of these bonded casters needs to roll concentration, the other may use a reaction and may also make a Constitution saving throw – if one succeeds, the concentration remains unbroken, but if you fail, both spellcasters lose concentration and take 2d6 psychic damage. You may only be bonded to one spellcaster thus and a bond lasts until the end of the next long rest, with new bonds or refreshments superseding existing ones. This feat represents a really cool tweak of the spellcasting engine, with a nice risk/reward ratio – two thumbs up.

The second feat herein would be Ring-Bound, which nets advantage on saves versus transmutation spells and allows you to physically bind a ring token to a weapon, a process which takes 1 hour and may be undertaken in conjunction with a short rest. While thus attached, you can spend your bonus action to make the weapon magical until the start of your next turn – in a minor hiccup, I assume this refers to meaning magical for the purpose of overcoming resistances and immunities, not refer to actual magic including bonuses. The ability can be used twice before requiring a short or long rest to recharge.

Now, the pdf also features class options, the first of which would be the ring warden, a new arcane tradition, which halves gold and time of transmutations copied into the spellbook at 2nd level and yields bonus proficiency with either blacksmith’s or jeweler’s tools. Moreover, 2nd level provides the bonded ring staff, a special quarterstaff, which may be used as an arcane focus. The staff’s creation comes with precise rules and you may include a number of rings in the staff equal to your wizard level. While holding the wizard staff and rolling spell damage, you may add your proficiency bonus to the damage, and when it deals damage multiple times, you need to choose to which it applies. This may be used a number of times equal to the rings attached to the staff (which are capped by the wizard’s level AND Intelligence modifier, minimum 1) before requiring a short or long rest to recharge. 6th level yields the master metalsmith feature, which lets you add double your proficiency bonus on the tools chosen at 2nd level. You also make double the progress per day when creating magic items with these tools and learn to make a specific magical ring, with a list included and GM-control thankfully maintained.

Starting at 10th level, you get imbue ring, which lets you store a spell in a ring – while it is thus stored, you can’t regain it’s spell slot, though. As an action, you can take a spell from an imbued ring and use it yourself or give it to another creature, who may then release it as an action, using your parameters, but otherwise acting as the caster. Imbued rings are ongoing effects for the purpose of dispel magic and proficiency bonus caps the maximum number of spells you can have imbued at any given time. At 14th level, you can embed a ring within the staff, which then grants you its benefits, but does not count towards your maximum number of attuned items. Damn cool! A brief primer on ring magic in the Midgard setting complements the first part of this supplement.

Now, obviously, this is Deep Magic, and as such, we also get spells – 12, to be more precise. Hoarfrost is a potent cantrip that lets you make a weapon count as magical and inflict scaling cold damage – however, as a balancing mechanism, you can only maintain one such weapon, balancing the odds of this potent option, Among the 1st-level spells, we have ringstrike, which lets rings orbit you – and when you hit a target with an attack, you may launch one of the rings to strike said target as well, adding bludgeoning damage insult to injury. This would btw. be as well a place as any to note that “At Higher Levels” is only bolded, not bolded and italicized here – only a cosmetic hiccup that will not influence my verdict, but if I don’t mention that, someone is bound to complain. The second 1st-level spell would be circle of wind, which is pretty cool: It nets an AC-boost versus ranged attack and also provides advantage on saves versus extreme environmental heat, gases, etc. –you get the idea.

At 2nd level, we have bitter chains, which multiplies a ring into a spiked chain, binding the target on a successful melee spell attack with a potent debuff that also causes damage when moving more than 5 feet. The chains can be slipped or broken and come with AC and hit points. While personally, I would have liked to see a damage threshold here (I like the idea that some characters just can’t break certain things), but for balance’s sake, I understand why the threshold-less version was used. The second spell of 2nd level would be reverberate, which has really iconic visuals: You jam your staff down and create a cone of thunder damage that may knock targets prone, with a save to negate being knocked down and to halve the damage incurred. Yes, it is “only” a damage-spell, but it is one that is balanced against comparable options and its visuals are amazing.

At 3rd levels, we have innocuous aspect, which affects you and all allies within 20 ft. you choose to affect, concealing you as innocuous objects. Yes, means to see through that deception are provided. Infiltration gold…that made me laugh. Why? I’m a huge fan of the Metal Gear franchise and immediately thought about a group of cardboard boxes infiltrating a fortress of some evil dude. Yeah, I’m weird. From here on out, each spell level gets one new spell, so in ascending sequence, we get the following spells: Spinning axe is a low-range battle spell that penalizes foes stupid enough to try to get the caster in melee, conjuring a deadly, spectral axe that inflicts force damage and causes bleeding necrotic damage in non-construct/undead, corporeal targets struck. Curse ring lets you do the Alberich and store curses in rings. At 6th level, enchant ring makes the ring very compelling, charming those that take the ring. 7th level’s ringward represents a nice defense buff and at 9th level, circle of devastation can be pictured as a really flexible, moving zone of pain that you can move around – nice!

…no, I did not forget the 8th level spell. Create Ring Servant ties in with the new creature included herein, which has btw. also been lavishly illustrated – a challenge 8 adversary (math is correct, btw.) that comes with flight and the ability to generate a devastating low-range aura. Ouch!

But we’re not even close to done: As befitting of the theme, we also get new magic items: The molten fire forge item class comes with means to codify the rather opaque crafting mechanics of the system and for that alone deserves serious applause. Oathbound rings are legendary items that not only net you resistance to all 3 physical damage types, they also net you advantage on rolls versus targets that come between you and your oath...but also prevent you from willingly violating your oath. Warden’s Links are basically another item-class –basically, they represent an enchantment for a type of item that may be moved from one item to another, rendering non-magical armors magical, for example. Beyond these, the pdf also includes a ring magic artifact, Karrek’s Bastion , basically a super warden’s link that can be attached to weapons to make them devastating tools of destruction.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no serious hiccups worth mentioning. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ two-column full-color standard and sports absolutely gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dan Dillon of the four horsemen is a 5e-BEAST. I seriously so far haven’t read a single of his pdfs that I did not love in some way. Ring magic may, however, be actually his best work for the series: The magic presented herein not only is really flavorful, it also offers a seriously different playing experience and tackles some rather complex concepts. Balancing, as always in his work, is pretty much impeccable as well. In short: This should be considered to be a must-have offering for 5e-groups, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/07/2017 04:57:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep magic-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first things first – as you may have figured, chaos magic is not exactly reliable – whenever a feature or spell calls for a chaos magic surge, you roll 1d20 – on a 1, a chaos surge occurs, This surge is handled via its own dedicated d%-table, which is a total of 50 entries strong. Some of these duplicate spells (like enlarge on the spell’s target), while others e.g. summon a constrictor snake around your waste (does that mean it starts grappling you? No idea…) or drops a mule on the target. Perhaps, all the target’s hair falls out (dwarves will hate you…) or you become utterly immune to damage for one round. I really like this table, though I do have a number of concerns with it – namely how potentially awkward/detrimental spells cast in addition to existing ones interact with concentration – aforementioned enlarge, for example, is usually a spell governed by concentration…so what if the spell that prompted the surge has no concentration? How long does it last? At what spell level is moonbeam cast via chaotic surge? I assume base level, but triggering spell level may also make sense… one entry makes a weapon in sight temporarily magical. Okay. Does that mean +1 to attack and damage rolls? I assume not, but you could also make a case for it, since e.g. the monk’s ki-empowered strikes employ a different wording structure.

In short: I like the metrics here – chaos magic will happen sooner or later, but probably not all the time. The respective entries of the table, though, could use some clarification in a number of entries. Unfortunately, this constitutes a flaw in the very foundation of the magic tradition. Class option-wise, we get a wizard school for adherents of chaos: At 2nd level, the gold and time to copy a chaos spell are halved and as a bonus action, you can grant yourself or a creature within sight (as a reaction) advantage on one attack roll, saving throw or ability check “that will be made this turn.” This causes a chaos surge. Oh boy. So, is it intentional that RAW, you can use a reaction to help an ally in a save, but not yourself (you’re locked into bonus action use)? “Will be made” implies that you must use this feature BEFORE the check in question is made, but the rules do not properly codify that. I have no idea how this is supposed to work. The feature requires a long rest to recharge, just fyi.

Starting at 6th level, you may choose to have damaging spells infused with chaos – you may do so after determining whether you have hit, but before determining damage. You roll 1d6 +1 and this is the maximum number of damage die of the spell that you can reroll. Additionally, damage is changed randomly to one of 10 non-physical damage types. This causes a chaos surge and needs a long rest to use again. Okay, so big question: What about spells that do not require an attack roll? Can you use this feature with them? Do you have to announce its use before saving throws are made? What about spells that require attack roll and saving throw? The feature states “You make this choice after determining whether the spell has been successful (i.e. after making a spell attack roll)” –so I assume that any spell that “hits” constitutes a successful spell. Still, rules-language-wise, this could and should be cleaner. 10th level nets you random resistance to one damage type drawn from the same aforementioned table for 1 + Intelligence modifier min 1) rounds; if you choose to invoke a chaos surge when using this feature, you can roll twice and choose the resistance gained. Once again, long rest to use again. The 14th level ability represents a huge power-boost there – suddenly, you regain one use of one of the aforementioned features without needing to rest when casting a chaos spell, and you gain temporary hit points when casting such a spell.

The pdf also contains a bardic college, the college of entropy, which nets you “proficiency with Acrobatics, Athletics, and a gaming set of your choice.” I assume that means you get proficiency in the gaming set, but frankly, it could be read as only gaining the set. Starting at 3rd level, you gain luck stealer, which lets you use your reaction when a creature within 60 ft. makes an attack roll, ability check or saving throw with advantage: This expends bardic inspiration to impose a penalty to the roll equal to your bardic inspiration die. You gain Inspiration, only usable on yourself, which lasts for a number of rounds equal to the die rolled. This causes a chaos magic surge. Cool ability! 6th level yields one Bardic Inspiration as well as a chaos surge whenever you cast a chaos spell. This can only be used once before requiring a short or long rest to recharge. 14th level, as an action, allows you to change one prepared spell for another one of the same level or lower, returning the spell to normal after one turn. This causes a chaos magic surge. It should be noted that both class options delimit otherwise limited options – while not problematic as presented, as far as future-proofing is concerned, GMs should be a bit careful with these.

Okay, so those would be the class options. The spells note the suitable classes in brackets after the respective spell level, just fyi. A total of 17 spells are provided. For first level, we begin with auspicious warning, which can be cast as a reaction to add a surge-like d4 as a boost to atk, a save or an ability check. While it is clear how the spell is intended to work, the casting time formatting is not correct: The spell does not specify the conditions of the reaction taken in the casting time section – a glitch that btw. extends to ill-fated word, which represents the debuff-mirror to this spell. Undermine armor decreases the target creature’s AC by 2 on a failed save, affecting only proper armor – so no natural armor subversion.

There are 4 2nd level spells – bad timing imposes disadvantage on the next attack roll or ability check on a failed save. Chaotic vitality requires a melee spell attack against a creature with HD no greater than yours and at least 1 hp. (Nice kitten-proof!). You total your and the creature’s hit points and roll a d% - both you and the creature gain new hit point totals: From a 1% to be set to 0 hp to a 1% chance of getting 200% and haste, the effects run a nice gamut and contain temporary hit points for the caster; as a whole, not cheesable. One problem: The spell is instantaneous, so how long does the haste effect of the best result last? Frenzied bolt causes 3d8 damage of a randomly determined energy type (which is pretty cool) - but the spell is somewhat risky: On an odd attack roll (50%) rolled, it targets the next legal target, potentially affecting your allies or yourself! With massive range of 120 ft., this can be a brutal mook-sweeper. That being said, while it is evident from context, I think the rules-language would be smoother if the feature specified that it requires a ranged spell attack before mentioning that it requires new rolls for subsequent attacks. Shifting the odds makes your next attack or ability check have advantage, but imposes disadvantage on the attack roll or ability check, whichever happens first, thereafter.

At 3rd spell level, the ritual surge dampener allows you to protect one creature from chaos surges, allowing the creature a save against it, even if the surge would not allow for a save, or it gains advantage when a save would be allowed. Okay. So what’s the save DC in such a case? The benefits discharge upon being used, fyi. The 5th level spell is the mass version of this ritual. Entropic damage field is very, very strong: It freely disperses damage you take evenly among all creatures that fail a Charisma saving throw within 60 ft., and a creature that makes the save ends the spell’s effect for her. Personally, I think this should have a fixed number of creatures affected. Otherwise, this can be cheesed. Also: You don’t have to see the creatures – the spell could be used to kill off targets behind barriers, hidden foes, etc. Calm of the storm lets you negate the effects of a chaos surge. It should be noted that the “At Higher Levels.”-headers have not been properly italicized.

4th level comes with 3 spells: Chaotic form provides a buff that halves creature speed, but nets the target advantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) and the ability to pass through difficult terrain unimpeded as well as the option to squeeze through tight spaces. Fluctuating alignment changes the target’s alignment randomly on a failed save, changing every minute while the spell persists. I assume that this affects only a single target, but I’m not sure – the spell doesn’t specify its targets. Wild shield lets you spend a reaction to absorb a spell targeting you or including you in the affected area; absorbing a spell thus makes you cast a chaos surge and the spell ends upon absorbing 4 spell levels; trying to absorb more potent spells requires an ability check – on a failure, the spell takes place regardless, alongside a chaos surge.

The 6th level spell included would be chaotic world, which renders the targets blinded, deafened and prone on a failed save. Personally, I think the spell should allow for saving throws on subsequent rounds. 7th level’s ritual is the most complex spell herein, uncontrollable transformation: You either roll 1d10 and gain a random mutation from a table, or roll 1d10 two times and choose, but when you do, roll twice, you incur one level of exhaustion. Higher level spell slots yield more mutations that require extra rolls and can make you incur more exhaustion, if you try to control them. The benefits are potent and interesting. Finally, the highest level spell herein would be 8th level’s paragon of chaos, which nets resistance to all physical damage types and immunity to exhaustion, paralysis, petrification, poisoned and unconscious –RAW not poison damage though! You may also teleport as a move and gain truesight 30 ft. You can also, as a bonus action, create a chaos surge each round – using either yourself or another creature as the “caster” of the surge. Problem: The ability to do so LACKS A RANGE. RAW, you can choose any creature you’d like; you don’t even need to see the target.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good; on a rules-language level, there are quite a lot issues in the details herein; more so than what I’m accustomed to see from the series and Kobold Press. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, for chapter headers, but not for individual spells.

Greg Marks’ chaos magic per se is a damn cool school; the chaos surge mechanics are interesting and evocative; what the pdf does with them, however, is significantly less impressive. The spells contained herein could do more with this unique set-up; similarly, there are some wonky bits in the very basics of the rules for the magic type, as well as in the details of some spells. These glitches, alas, influence rules-integrity…and that is not something I can ignore. This is not bad, mind you -if you’re willing to exert some GM-decision-making, then this will provide some fun at the table. Still, I wish the rules were slightly tighter and that they embraced the cool chaos ideas more thoroughly. Ultimately, this is a quintessential mixed bag for me. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
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Sanctuary of Belches for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/30/2017 04:05:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first things first: This module makes use of Kobold Press’ excellent “Tome of Beasts”, using several creatures featured in that massive bestiary. However, it should be noted that the Tome is not required to run this module; all creatures featured get abbreviated statblocks with the respective ability-modifiers, speeds, short-hand traits, etc. – while these are not exactly nice to look at and pretty cramped, their inclusion constitutes a nice bonus for everyone who has not yet bough the massive tome. Kudos for being customer-friendly! As a minor complaint regarding presentation-sequence: The abbreviated flab-giant stats are included one encounter after they’re first encountered; not a true issue, but something to bear in mind, I guess.

While situated in the world of Midgard, the module can seamlessly be plugged into another fantasy world. The module takes place in the cold North, but similarly can relatively easily be reskinned for other climates, though two maps may need a recolor in such cases –it’s snowy in the North, after all!

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

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! The proceedings take place near the isolated village of Olsha – where no one is getting any decent sleep due to the annoying sound of a horn, whose location has been identified as somewhere within the hills – eliminating the grating horn will be the quest for the adventurers and is probably something most people can empathize with – after all, who hasn’t lost sleep due to neighbors, cars, construction or worse in real life?

Further details point the adventurers to a subterranean complex, where a strange smell and belch-like sounds rumbled deep within. En route to the hills, the PCs will have to deal with yeti ridden by two fraughashar – upon defeating these foes (the encounter comes with a nice full-color map), the PCs may get mildly magical earmuffs that deafen them – a hint and taste of things to come…for the area in the vicinity of the complex is shrouded in a poisonous cloud that PCs with queasy stomachs will not appreciate…but they’ll also find the remains of a dead duergar, which hints at what has truly happened…and a parchment also yields first clues. Within the cloud of gas, the temple entrance has since been fortified by roving orcs – which are in the middle of fighting against duergar and their flab giants. Into this free-for-all massacre, both the PCs and two adventurers (lesbian lovers – nice bit of inclusion there!) stumble into the battle for a chaotic and rather fun proceeding…though the deafening, potentially grisly visions causing blare of the horn makes for an interesting complication.

After the battle has passed, the PCs will be finally be able to explore the complex, which has obviously been excavated by the duergar, a subterranean temple dedicated to the forgotten deity Youm. You see, the duergar have employed a mutant thursis giant who was “blessed” with acidic vomit during their excavations, but said giant has found the horn of Youm the most potent of 3 magical items devoted to Youm, including a potentially nasty, possessing tiara and particularly strong bonds. The horn, just fyi, is particularly potent in the hands of a bard.

The PCs are thus exploring the temple complex, potentially encountering the duergar commander possessed by the spark of Youm…and, with the duergar, they may actually find some unlikely allies, for the complex is littered with strange worms and the duergar basically just want out. So yes, while the basic set-up of this module is rather complex, the PCs will have ample opportunity to actually find out about the background story – big plus there. I also very much applaud the diverse use of skills and the means to decipher in some ways fragments of the strange worship of this ancient deity…

Ultimately, in order to end the infernal blaring of the horn, the PCs will have to enter the eponymous sanctuary, where Huppo the thursir mutant featured on the cover, awaits – his diet of strange rime worm grubs responsible for his deadly belches…and if the PCs have too easy a time, the avatar of the greatly-weakened Youm, an adult rime worm, makes for a second boss fight (or a second stage, if you prefer them to happen sequential). A big plus for me would be that the module sports a surprising amount of actual roleplaying opportunities – up to the point where proper roleplaying in the boss fight can yield a serious edge for the PCs!

Particularly helpful for quick preparation, for example in the context of a con: The appendix lists the story in handy bullet-points.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ excellent 2-column full-color standard. The pdf features drop-dead-gorgeous full-color artworks that deserve special mentioning. The full-color maps are similarly impressive, and while they lack a scale, I assume them to be the standard 5-ft.-squares. More disappointing would be that none of the maps come with a player-friendly version sans keys etc. – if you suck as much at map-drawing as I do or if you plan on using this via VTT, you’ll have a bit of work on your hand if you don’t want annoying numbers in your map.

Jon Sawatsky’s “Sanctuary of Belches” is a creative, action-packed module; from the environmental hazards to the general atmosphere evoked, this most assuredly makes for a fun dungeon. The boss fights in particular and the way in which the PCs can properly unearth the story (if they don’t just want to hack and slash through it, which is perfectly valid!) deserve applause. From the roleplaying opportunities to the terrain, this module makes for an all-around cool package that is only marred somewhat by the lack of player-friendly maps. With this remaining my one and only chief complaint, I can thankfully still gladly round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars – a module well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sanctuary of Belches for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Battle Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/29/2017 03:59:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ 5e-Deep Magic-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this installment with a brief introduction and then move on to no less than 8 (!!) feats, so what do they do? Arcane Charger lets you Dash and cast a cantrip with a range of touch as a bonus action, granting you +5 to spell damage or the option to push the target 10 feet away if you move at least 10 ft. in a straight line. Okay, so I assume, due to the name, that the cantrip is cast at the end of the movement of Dash, right? Or could I Dash part an enemy, cantrip-push him and then move on? I am not 100% clear on the sequence here. I am also not happy with the fact that the push, RAW, happens automatically. Compared to the tempest domain’s thunderbolt strike, for example, which requires actually dealing damage, this is odd.

Arms Booster lets you touch an ally’s weapon as an action, which is then treated as magic and gets a +1 damage roll – but the use of this feat requires expenditure of a spell of 1st level or higher as well as completing a short or long rest to use again…and it needs concentration, which hobbles the caster for a pretty minor buff. Beyond that, the feat is called lower caps arcane infusion in the final sentence, which makes me think that something has probably gone wrong in the WIP-stage here. Battlecaster nets you a proficiency with a simple or martial weapon, allows you to use the weapon as spellcasting focus, and lets you add the weapon’s bonus to hit and damage to a spell while wielding a weapon you’re proficient with. Nice one! Eldritch Lifesaver lets you, as a bonus action, expend a spell of 1st level or higher, healing spell level hit points of an ally within 30 ft. or yourself, while also netting you temporary hit points equal to your spellcasting modifier. Thankfully requires a short or long rest to recharge.

Elemental Trapper makes you choose one of the 5 elemental damage types, leaving a cloud of this energy behind when casting a spell. Single target spells create 5-foot-clouds in the target’s square. The cloud inflicts spellcasting ability modifier + the spell’s level damage of the type associated with the cloud. Interesting soft crowd control – and yep, the cloud only lasts briefly and damages targets that end their turn in it, so it is kinda fair. Inspirational Caster nets proficiency in Intimidation or Persuasion and when affecting allies with a spell that does not cause damage, said allies get advantage on saves versus effects that “cause charm or fear” for Charisma modifier rounds – so, does this mean inflicting the charmed and frightened conditions? Or does this refer to specific spells? Also: Shouldn’t be cantrips exempt here? Merciful Caster allows the character to knock creatures out with spells, but oddly requires a long rest to use again. Resolute Caster, finally, is imho pretty problematic, as it makes an incision into a pretty basic concept of 5e, namely concentration: After losing concentration, the effect remains in place until the start of your next turn. Sure, feats are valuable, but this carries a whole lot of potential baggage and could use a bit more information.

The pdf also contains a total of 25 spells, noting the appropriate classes for the respective spell in brackets after the spell-level. We begin with 3 first-level spells: Adjust Positioning allows you to move one ally nearby 5 feet, with higher spell levels yielding more allies – nice chessmaster-style option that yes, does get opportunity attack interaction right. Hobble mount is pretty self-explanatory – it inflicts damage to the target when it’s moving more than half base speed, with higher level spell slots increasing the damage output. The damage, +2d6 per spell slot level, is pretty potent, considering that the spell does not allow for a saving throw. Cool, on the other hand – both it and spur mount, which nets the mount Dash or Disengage as a bonus action, can only affect mounts. Two minor aesthetic gripes: the range “touch” should be capitalized (It’s not the only such instance herein) and in a weird choice for a pdf, artwork from the next page bleeds over to this one – understandable, considering the likelihood of compilation at one point, but some people may be bothered. This, however, will not influence my verdict.

The spell level that gets the most new options would be 2nd, with 7 new spells: Boiling oil creates a 30-ft.-diameter pool that causes fire damage and automatically renders a target beginning or ending his turn in the area prone. And yes, damage applies for beginning AND end -and at 3d8 damage per instance, it is better in every conceivable way than e.g. cloud of daggers, making the spell pretty much OP, even before the no-save prone – grease allows for a save! Mass blade ward, affecting up to 3 targets that may not move further than 30 ft. away, makes for a potent defensive option, thankfully held in check by the brief duration. Poisoned volley is pretty much like boiling oil, but instead inflicts poison damage and the poisoned condition – though with a Constitution saving throw to halve…but it does affect a 20-ft.-square. So yeah, complaint remains, if to a lesser extent. Shared sacrifice allows you to link your life force to up to 5 allies, who take 5 necrotic damage that can’t be reduced – okay, what about immunity and negating the damage? Anyways, these hit points are pooled. Each creature thus linked can, as an action, touch another creature that was affected by the spell, healing hit points equal to your spellcasting modifier, reducing the pool by the same amount. Interesting! Trench does what it says on the tin – it digs a trench. Nice. Warning shot does not specify as what reaction it can be cast, making it non-functional RAW. Wresting wind catapults all items held within 20 ft. of you 10 ft. away from the creatures affected. The area affected is 20 ft. within the designated range.

3rd level yields 6 spells: Curse of incompetence is interesting, imposing disadvantage on the mental ability score checks made to direct a battle and similar commanding features, including penalizing those that seek to make heads or tails of it. Like this one! Mass hobble mount is weird, in that it actually codifies what it affects, specifying beasts, including two-legged beasts ridden Nightfall creates a 60-ft. cylinder of darkness, with sudden dawn doing the opposite. Outflanking boon creates an illusion that helps grant allies advantage on melee attacks versus the foe, with subsequent saves to end it. Weird: “action” is capitalized in the casting time-section. Thunderous wave is a blast that explodes and repositions targets – rather nice…though being pushed even on a successful save can be pretty nasty.

We get 3 new 4th level spells: By the light of the watchful moon illuminates all threats within 90 ft. hostile creatures, traps, hazards – while it’s nice that the spell gets interaction with entering creatures right and does allow for a save, it is anathema to spirits, haunt-like terrain features, etc. – not a fan. Inspiring speech takes 10 minutes to cast and affects all allies within 60 ft., granting +1 to atk and advantage on saves versus “charm and fear effects” – thing is, there RAW are no such things in 5e. None of the features that cause the charmed or frightened conditions are classified as such. Each ally also gets a couple of temporary hit points – and no, you may not benefit from more than one such effect. Instant siege weapon is easily one of the most interesting spells in the book, assembling a siege weapon instantly if the materials are available, with higher levels providing bigger siege engines. Reposition can target multiple allies and teleport them within 30 ft. –as a bonus action quite potent and nice.

At 5th level, we have holy ground, which prevents the raising of undead and blocks off lower level undead creating tricks. Instant fortification is a ritual that immediately creates a small fort, oddly with the walls or doors having no damage threshold, considering that comparable objects have less hp, but do have a damage threshold. Fault line is a nice 6th-level spell, creating difficult terrain as well as causing damage/potentially knocking down creatures on a failed save. Walking wall creats a wall of swinging axes that does use your spell attack modifier for its attacks – but while it is evident that the attacks are melee attacks, the spell does not explicitly say so, unlike comparable options. The final spell herein would be an 8th-level spell, costly victory, affects multiple foes – on a failed save, when they reduce an ally of your to 0 hp, they burst into flames. Okay…so what I’d do is this: Take a bag of…ants. Or gnats. Or kittens. Designate it as allies. Throw before enemy. Laugh while he takes 6d8 fire and 6d8 radiant damage and bursts into flame…per “ally” killed, for RAW, the spell does not end for a target set ablaze! Pretty big issue there…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are neither on a formal level, nor on a rules-language level as precise as I’ve come to expect from Kobold Press. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with really amazing full-color artworks. The pdf sports basic bookmarks for the chapter-headers, but not for individual spells.

Greg Marks’s battle magic feels significantly less polished than what I am accustomed to see from the series; from balance-concerns to cosmetic hiccups to glitches, we have quite a bunch of problems here; these are partially offset by the cool tricks that are in this book, but ultimately, this, to me, represents the low point of the series so far. With a bit of fine-tuning, this can be made to shine, but as presented, I can’t recommend it as anything more than a somewhat mixed bag. As a person, I did not get much from it and my balance-concerns weigh heavily; as a person, I will round down from my final verdict of 2.5 stars. As a reviewer, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, however, and hence will round up for my official verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Battle Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Angelic Seals
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2017 04:45:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' 5e-series of magic traditions clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, so, as always, we get feats to interact with the spellcasting tradition - here, the first would be Heavenly Scribe, which nets the Celestial language and an angelic seal of the character's choice, with Int as governing attribute for the saving throw DC. Heaven's Chosen, the second feat, nets you a second saving throw when you fail one - this one is rolled with a single d20, regardless of advantage or disadvantage, with the ability recharging upon completing a long rest.

As in previous installments, it is pretty much recommended that characters don't get universal access to the respective material herein - beyond the feat granting limited dabbling access, we have the Angelic Scribe arcane tradition, which halves time and gold spent on copying these spells in the spellbook and allows for one of the 2 spells to be gained on a level-up to be an angelic spell. 2nd level yields also the Celestial language and the ability to scribe the eponymous angelic seals, which may be scribed on paper, canvas, stone or other tokens that may be carried or displayed -this takes 10 minutes. Alternatively, 8 hours may be spent to create a permanent seal with artisan's tools on a harder surface. Activation of a seal in an action.

However, before you ask - no, you cannot cheese this. You have a hard cap of a maximum of one seal active at any given time, which increases by +1 active seal at 6th, 10th and 14th level. At these levels, you also gain an additional seal and may replace an old one with a new seal. Deactivating a seal can be done as a bonus action. Broken or defaced seals similarly immediately deactivate. A given creature can only benefit from one seal at any given time and concentration on a spell or similar effect suppresses the seal temporarily, thus preventing stacking. And yep, suppressed seals are still treated as activated, so no cheesing there either.

Starting at 6th level, you gain Warding Seals, which must be attached to the floor or a similarly solid surface - as a touch, you can activate it and generate a spherical barrier that requires concentration to maintain - aberrations, fey, fiends and undead cannot physically cross the threshold, unless they succeed a Charisma save versus your spell save DC, and yes, they may retry, though they get disadvantage when being able to see the seal. Say it all with me: "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" ...sorry. I know. It's old. Hope that still got a chuckle out of someone out there. Additionally, creatures carrying an angelic seal you can see while maintaining the warding seal can benefit from your powers: You may impose disadvantage as a reaction on an attack against a creature thus protected.

Starting at 10th level, the tradition gains greater seal, which lets you spend an action to activate the greater seal benefit for an angelic seal for 1 minute, replacing the seal's default benefit. If you instead choose a warding seal, it instead inflicts 6d6 radiant damage to creatures failing the save to breach them for 1 hour. The ability may be used twice, and is recharged upon completing a short or long rest. 14th level yields Angelic Wrath, adding conjure celestial to the spellbook. As a bonus action, usable once per short or long rest interval, you can grant all targets with active angelic seals a bonus of +1d8 radiant damage to their weapon attacks. This should make archers really happy.

Okay, but what do the seals do? Well, first of all, 10 seals are provided, which also sport really nice visual representations of the respective seal - kudos there, it adds a sense of occult legitimacy to the material. This is also underlined by an angel's name showing up behind the seal - "In the name of Chamule, I invoke judgment!" It's a small thing, but for me, it adds seriously to the appeal of the pdf. Anyways, we have retries for failed attempts to improve attitudes and the greater use of charming a creature on a failed Wisdom saving throw. Spell save DC is btw. usually the DC employed. Another seal adds 1/2 Intelligence modifier to Wisdom (insight) and Wisdom (Perception), with the greater seal providing blindsight 10 feet.

Using the reaction to boost AC against an attack and gaining resistance to nonmagical physical damage types in the greater seal, the abilities are pretty cool. That being said, e.g. Glory can be kitten'd somewhat - it yields Int-mod temporary hit points upon killing an enemy. Hand me that kitten to slaughter between encounters, please... Yeah, not very angelic or glorious. It can be argued that "enemy" does not include these and it's not a significant boost, but still. On the plus-side, automatically passing the first death saving throw (requires a rest to recharge) does feel angelic, though. While, as a person, I am not a big fan of any ability that adds more than one attribute modifier to a given roll, 5e is less prone to attribute minmaxing than PFRPG, making that concern mostly aesthetic. As a whole, these should not provide problems for games in which they are used, though.

The pdf also contains 10 new spells, one for each level - from cantrip to 9th level, these would be:

Benediction, which lets a creature you concentrate upon deduct 1d4 from its next damage received. Angelic Guardian, which nets +2 AC and may be ended to roll a failed Dexterity save. Blessed Halo sheds light, nets advantage on Cha checks interacting with good creatures within the light, dispels low level darkness and also provides 10 points of healing, which you may use as an action to heal allies within the range of the light, with higher levels increasing the healing and darkness-dispelling capacities. Blades of Wrath creates a sword of pure white fire that deals 2d8 fire and 2d8 radiant damage, with aberrations, fey, fiends, undead having to succeed a Wisdom save to avoid the frightened condition. Higher levels yield increased damage output, allowing you to choose which energy type you'll upgrade.

Deva's Wings grant a flying speed of 60 ft. (hover) - the wings can be used as a melee weapon with 10 ft. reach, potentially knocking targets prone. Blazing Chariot is a classic and star - you conjure a blazing chariot, with magical animals that can fly and you may direct its movement instead of your own and may direct it to Dash, Disengage and Dodge as a bonus action. with actions allowing for overruns - amazing. Heavenly Crown makes you the heavenly commander: As a bonus action, make an ally capable of hearing you use its reaction to make one melee attack and move 1/2 movement rate, or vice versa. Very potent and cool. Seal of Sanctuary is basically a more powerful warding seal with more damage output, 24 hour duration and seriously wicked drawbacks for those capable of crossing into it. At 8th level, Quintessence nets an AC fixed at a minimum of 20 as well as immunity to being frightened and necrotic damage. Worse for hostiles: On a failed save while within 120 ft. of you, they are restrained by fright...though it thankfully may repeat the save and becomes immune upon shaking the effect off. Finally, the Greater Seal of Sanctuary is basically the apex of the warding seal theme - crossing into this will be like stepping into a heavenly blender for most critters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issue in rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with artworks being a mix of awesome new and previously used art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity -kudos!

You see, I really like Dan Dillon's angelic supplement. The seals feel "lawful", methodical, like tools of the angels. the touch activation if cool and has been popularized by plentiful forms of media (like Supernatural) and the respective options fit - the potent defensive tricks make pretty clear how the angelic host can withstand the assault of the abyssal hordes. The seals and how they work makes sense to me, in spite of the brevity of their presentation.

Which brings me to my primary and only real gripe with the material herein: Honestly, I wished this had a bit of fluff. Not much, just a paragraph or two for the seals. I know, I know - this is a crunch book, retain wide open nature, etc. - but the seals very much feel like they belong to a flavorful tradition and getting some more knowledge about them and the angels would have been the icing on the cake. Similarly, I would have loved to see special seals requiring certain materials or set-ups...the engine can carry a whole lot more than what it does, but that may very well show up in a sequel. Hopefully. Anyways, this should not dissuade you from checking out this pdf - we have a winner on our hands here, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Angelic Seals
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KOBOLD Guide to Gamemastering
by Michael D. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2017 15:43:06

This KOBOLD GUIDE was the first in the series that I had ever read, and I had high expectations. One interesting detail I noted right away is that famed DM Matt Mercer is clearly the inspiration for the cover, but he doesn't have an essay featured within. Not a big deal, but funny nonetheless.

The book is sorted into different sections, grouped into themes such as Before the Game, During the Game, etc. Each section contained a handful of essays written by a variety of GMs, with quite a broad range of experience and expertise. Some of them are very storied personalities, involved in very key games, developments, or events. Others are... well, just people with a bit of web presence or relatively minor impact. Not that someone's advice should be judged solely on their previous work, but I feel it should at least be mentioned that not every author will necessarily come off as an authority.

To give a bit of context, I've been DM-ing weekly for about 15 years, now, with a variety of groups, people and systems. So while I haven't been playing since the very beginning, I have been around since AD&D, and have a considerable amount of experience in the GM's chair.

That being said, I naturally found a lot of the information in this book redundant. Things like dealing with shy players, allowing players to shine, or improvising sessions. I've come to those conclusions on my own, over the years, and found that a lot of the information corroborated my own experiences. This is not necessarily a criticism, however, since it is always reassuring to read 'advice' that you already follow, in the sense that it gives you the feeling that you are on the right track.

Others might also have very different experiences. I have dealt with many new and shy players, so naturally I've learned how to cope with that. A GM who has not might find these sections more useful, even if they are otherwise just as experienced as myself.

There was also certainly some stuff in here that I found new and interesting, and will be incorporating into new campaigns.

In conclusion, this book really feels like a series of panels given at any given convention, market, or other event. Some of the panelists will be legendary, others will be unknown. Some of the panels will be very helpful and interesting, others will be relatively banal or elementary. You will learn something new, and you will read some stuff you find obvious, or flat-out patronizing. However, if you go through the book, you will come out with an expanded mind, and some new ideas. For that, I found this a worthwhile read for any GM.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Gamemastering
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KOBOLD Guide to Magic
by John W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2017 13:27:05

Entertaining essays on the use of magic in TPRPG. I will definitely steal I mean use the information in my own games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Magic
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Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/14/2017 07:20:05

This work opens by defining elven high magic as an ancient and rare art capable of approaching the powers of the deities themselves, shaping cities, even worlds to their will. It's said that a practitioner can accomplish literally anything, given long enough. Of course it's very hard to master, taking literally centuries of dedicated work, so it is not just the innate arrogance of elven-king that means only elves ever get to study it, it's sheer practicality: short-lived races cannot manage to learn enough to be worthwhile.

Presented as a new school of magic, there are level-based abilities that include being able to bind ritual magic to a location and make it permanent, copy ritual magic into your spellbook irrespective of source and more. Rituals feature large in this style of spellcasting.

There are some seventeen new spells, most of which can be boosted in potency if a ritual focus is used. Perhaps you have wondered why elven bread is so nourishing. There's a spell that lifts the lid on its secrets. Or if someone has really annoyed you, perhaps you'd like to curse not just him but his descendents as well. There's a neat spell called Celebration, an area effect in which everyone who enters the area joins in the party. There's a lot to play with here.

This provides an interesting insight into elf magic, and perhaps even the elven approach to life. Maybe there is a small enclave of elves, deep in a forest somewhere in your campaign world, that is the last bastion of elven high magic. What might cause your party to visit? Or perhaps some calamity has caused them to venture forth into the world... It's a neat way to encapsulate different attitudes and approaches to magic, to make being an elf about more than the pointy ears.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
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Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/14/2017 04:31:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of side-trek modules for 5th edition clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we go any further, one important note: You need the Tome of Beasts, Kobold Press' massive and gorgeous hardcover of 5e-monsters to properly use this supplement, as statblocks have not been reproduced herein.

Structure-wise, these encounters/sidetreks are pretty easy to grasp: We get a background and then the different Adventure Elements that make up each sidetrek - usually, but not always, 2 - 4. These can all be combined or modified - here, we can find fight choreography, mini-events to keep modules dynamic and complications. Basically the moving parts, which come, where applicable, with read-aloud text. The areas themselves are also covered this way and each of the respective sidetreks gets its own full-color map, with one of them being isometric. The maps sometimes have fitting annotations and graphical elements like scribbled symbols, blood-spatters and the like.

All right, this out of the way, let us take a look at the modules within! This, unsurprisingly, entails SPOILERS. Potential players should most certainly jump ahead to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? Great!

The first mini-module herein would be "The Impregnable Fortress of Dib", intended for characters level 1 - 2. The eponymous "Dib" would btw. be a goblin who, with his buddies, has a penchant for wrestling. Goblins being goblins, this entailed copious destruction and thus, these guys were exiled from their clan, building a fortress (with pitiful, half-finished moat) from a tipped over, abandoned wagon. It is this "fortress" that makes the short adventure interesting, for the fortress behaves somewhat like a creature of its own, with initiative and attack/defense options - and from burning it down to tipping it over, the means to deal with it are nice. Oh, and below is a brief cavern-complex. All in all, a creative and fun sidetrek!

The second quest is for level 1 - 3 characters and is called "The Marrow Mines" - in it, the PCs explore, starting from a cavern, the skeletal wing of a titanic dragon, wherein the addictive marrow is mined by kobolds...and holds visions that may tie in to a greater plot.

For 2nd level PCs, the "Vault of Pallon the Pious", a pirate who turned lawful in his twilight years; ostensibly, this caused him to go mad and now his famous scales are still hidden there...but are they really magical? The module also sports the subtle humor we could see in the first module with the word "Wrongteousness" making for a key leitmotif. You'll see...

The "Claret Wellspring", for level 4 - 5 characters has the PCs follow strange lights to an oasis, where blood-red waters and arcane secrets of old await...and the mini-module is surprisingly atmospheric, focusing on the strange and wondrous...and the adventure sports a rather cool reskin for a monster. So far my favorite!

"The Room with 5 Corners" for characters level 6 - 7, deals with a streegang that has recently been taken over by a dread aberration, who is extracting the solidity from victims, rendering those that survive partially ethereal and unable to cast a shadow, with eldritch symbols awaiting...as well as a disquieting portal...but where does it lead? Can it be easily closed?

"Upon the Icebound Terrace", for characters level 6 - 7, pits the PCs against the machinations of an exceptional ice mephit, who plans to open a planar gateway to the plane of ice...and with the relatively complex terrain and the arrival of an unintentionally summoned dragon, things get even more complicated. Tactics-wise, this is one of the stars in the compilation, with the blizzard not helping in the assault, and it is certainly one of the more complex set-ups, though, much like before, it rewards smart players.

"In Its Horrid Wake" put 7th level characters in the aftermath of an attack on temple: The dread demon that compromised it may have moved on, but the gnolls that travel in the aftermath haven't - and they plan on finishing a ritual to receive the favor of a fang of Nikshi: The scavengers have to be defeated, lest more woe follow the stride of the grand demon.

"A Bad Night for Betting" puts level 8 - 9 characters in the remote village of Bleak Rock, where dog mole wrestling is pretty much the only form of viable entertainment...but unfortunately, the alchemical concoction sold to the owners of the beasts is about to result in some seriously lethal mutation...enter the players.

"The Burning Crater", for level 9 - 10 characters, has the PCs find a crater containing a strange metal object - and closer inspection reveals that it is hellshot - basically a cannonball that contains hellhounds...while the fire giants developing this artillery have obviously not perfected it, the arrival of the scout and mere existence of it should prove plenty of motivation for stalwart PCs, beyond the confines of the sidetrek.

"Atop the Mountain", intended for 11th level characters, centers on a fountain, once a planetar rewarded and transformed thus, which lies atop a mountain - the previously pure waters are spoiling, so it's up to the PCs to save the angel...but easier said than done, for careless spilling of the devilish blood of the corrupting fiends may well spell doom for the erstwhile champion of good's immortal soul...

"Under Reveler's Feet", for characters level 12th to 13th, has the PCs explore the basement under a very busy feast hall, and indeed, in the dark below, undeath looms while above, the party continues...

The final sidetrek, "The Obsidian Pass", is intended for characters level 14th to 15th and has the PCs help defend a fey village and resting place of a powerful artifact from the greedy hands of a sorceror, who is in the process of constructing an arcane siege weapon...and whose clockwork soldiers and golems are all too ready to attack....

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is amazing as well...though I am quite a bit sad that we don't get key-less player/VTT-friendly iterations of the amazing maps.

Jon Sawatsky's collection of 5e-sidetrek and encounters is creative, diverse and fun - pretty much every region and gaming group should find a worthwhile, instantly-prepared scenario herein that can be run on the fly. The options are diverse, the creature selection is fitting and the modifications of creatures with new abilities, the terrain hazards and the like all conspire to make this a worthwhile collection. That being said, the absence of player-maps, particularly considering the no-prep angle of these scenarios, hurts the pdf even more so than it would a regular module. Personally, redacting maps and/or drawing them myself is pretty much the worst timesink in my whole preparation routine (and I suck at it). Considering the gorgeous maps, it really hurt me to note that, quite realistically, my players would never get to see them. If you don't mind that, then consider this a 5 stars-offering. If you're like me and consider that an issue, detract a star. Ultimately, my official final verdict will clock in at a rating in-between: 4.5 stars. I'd usually round up, but considering the go-play mission-statement of the compilation and that, at least for me, it does not fulfill it perfectly, I'll round down instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/13/2017 07:56:37

People have always been afraid of the dark, of shadows. Shadow magic, at least in your game world, may be one of the reasons why. Perhaps it's a sinister NPC, or even a player-character with dark edges to his spells...

Various ways of tapping into this darkness are provided. The first (and fairly obvious one) is a sorcerous bloodline. Maybe you prefer the idea of a warlock whose pact is with a being from the Plane of Shadows, or maybe it's a rogue who has taken his kind's natural affinity with shadows just a little too far. Each is provided with appropriate class abilities to embue them with a touch of shadow.

Next, there's a spell list. Some little gems here, like Dark Dementing - "A dark shadow creeps across the target's mind and leaves a small bit of shadow essence behind, triggering a profound fear of the dark" - how's that for something really nasty to do to your enemies? You can also summon creatures or effects from shadowy realms, hurl shadows around and extinguish lights.

A neat selection of shadow-based abilities to add a little shiver of darkness. Probably better for NPCs unless you are running an evil campaign, though. If your party isn't scared of the dark now, they will be soon enough...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/10/2017 07:25:05

Most of us know "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" even if we cannot recite the entire verse... but have you ever stopped to contemplate magic rings within your game? In this work, it's suggested that magic ring manufacture is a dwarf thing. Now dwarves as a whole don't tend to be into magic much, their creative outlet is in making and shaping physical items but in forging rings and embuing them with power they reach a fusion of physical and magic creativity like none other.

Geometrically, the ring is an unusual shape for a dwarf: they tend to prefer angles and straight lines over curves, never mind a smooth circle with no beginning or end. Yet they make fine ones, often inscribed with runes and encrusted with jewels, perfect for the storing and wielding of magical power. Opening with quite a bit of fascinating background linking dwarves with this specific magic item, we then move on to a couple of feats related to ring magic as a whole before meeting the new arcane tradition of the Ring Warden. Rare outside of dwarven strongholds, they are recognisable by their staves bound with multiple rings.

The Ring Warden's magic is based on transmutation, blending dwarven craftsmanship with the magic that they use to empower the rings that they make. There's a sidebar linking Ring Wardens to the Midgard campaign setting, but if you're not using that, it's quite straightforward to find suitable locations and background for them in your own campaign world.

There are a selection of spells mostly aimed at enchanting rings and other ring-related effects (some of the links being fairly tenuous, like Reverberate where the only connection is that the material component is a metal ring with which you strike the ground to cause it to shake and your opponents to lose their balance!), and a slew of magic items most of which are, of course, rings. There is a rather wonderful molten fire forge, which anyone who wants to make magic armour, weapons or indeed rings would really want to get their hands on, a full-blown artefact - a sentient ring left by one of the founding Ring Wardens - and a new monster, the ring servant. This is a construct of metal plates around a core of glowing energy.

If you've ever wondered where those magic rings come from, here's your answer. The Ring Warden is probably best as an NPC, it seems a bit limited to play, but the entire concept provides background and depth to the whole idea of magic rings in your game... and maybe more. What if a rival group started making rings? A different race, even? Would the rings be identifiable as to source? Might trade wars break out? It would be quite easy to build a whole campaign around this...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/07/2017 09:17:26

There are many diverse theories, we are told, as to where 'magic' actually comes from. No doubt scholars will argue furiously for their preferred source, but the truth is, it has multiple sources, those listed here (ley lines, other dimensions, bloodlines...) and probably quite a few more. One fairly undisputed source of magic, however, is the dragon. An ancient and wise race, innately magical and capable of studying to develop their knowledge, dragons themselves are excellent at magic, and also pass it on, through bloodlines, to those descended from dragons as well. Because of their lineage, dragons were amongst the first to master magic, so they have been practising and refining their skills longer than most.

This leads on to a discussion of the particular forms of magic practised by so-called Dragon Magi. They walk a line of balance between wizards who pull power out of the air to mould as they wish and sorcerers who draw on internal chaotic power to drive their magics, a mix of order and chaoes. This new arcane tradition, mechanically speaking, uses spell slots not just for actual spells but for powering magical abilities, an interesting approach which has great potential for developing your own personal style in magic-use.

Dragon magi can call upon various aspects of the dragon - head, heart, tail, and so on - which have a visible manifestation and in-game effects. Calling them costs a spell slot, but once you get to grips with the potency of the abilities granted, it is worth it. Several feats are also presented, many of which are available to anyone not just dragon magi. Perhaps you might care to be a Dragonrider, a feat that grants the ability to climb onto an opponent much larger than yourself and 'ride' it in combat - despite the beautiful illustration of a sword-wielding elf seated comfortably on a barded dragon (who looks quite happy about his mount), the text suggests that this feat is for use against a hostile beastie that has no intention of permitting itself to be ridden!

A range of Dragon Magic spells are also presented, which any spell-user may acquire and cast in the usual manner... provided they can get access to the necessary information. There are many intriguing dweomers here, all linked in some manner with dragons - maybe you want to make a lot of noise with Dragon Roar (it's basically a sonic attack) or seek out precious metals and gems with Enhance Greed. Or maybe you'd like to make like a dragon yourself and use Dragon Breath to give you a one-off breath weapon.

Taking the theme of dragon magic and stretching it in several directions, this provides some interesting ideas to expand the scope of the magic available in your game. Magical theorists will enjoy the way these new powers are embedded into the alternate reality of the game, whilst more muscular magic-users will enjoy trying them out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
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