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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/12/2013 04:17:23
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of Player's Guides for the Midgard campaign setting is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 27 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As has become the tradition with the series, we kick off this installment with a short fluffy introduction on the Rothenian Plane and after that, we get the racial qualities of Centaurs - Centaurs get +2 Str, Wis and Con, - 2 Wis, are large, have a movement-rate of 40 ft., darkvision 60 ft., get Run as a bonus feat and are treated as having mounted combat for purposes of feat-prerequisites, get +2 to ride (???) and attacks while charging as well as Heal Heal and Craft (Bows) and as quadrupeds, they get +4 to CMD versus Trip, but also -4 to stealth. Centaurs may also choose from 6 alternate racial traits - from eating anything to faster speed, poison use or increased encumbrance (I assume in addition to the already impressive quadruped encumbrance-bonus), centaurs may also replaced their skilled trait with alternate skill-bonuses while in the Rothenian Plane. If you're going for playing centaurs, I guess they kind of work, though I do consider them rather strong stat-wise - one particular issue centaurs will face would be the climb-issue and similar problems whenever feet would be required and their bulk a hindrance. So honestly...a sample DC-table/advice for this particular race would have been rather justified, especially since per design, they seem to imply that this is a balancing factor.... or the designer just didn't balance them with the core-races: Since they don't use undersized weapons like lamias, the large weaponry alone is quite a bonus...



The second race herein would be the Huginn, the Ravenfolk of Midgard, who get +2 Dex and Wis, - 2 Con, low-light vision, +2 to Stealth and Perception, +4 to linguistics, automatic proficiency with short swords, greatswords and longswords as well as a bite attack at 1d3. They may also choose from a total of 4 alternate racial traits, all of which are nice and balanced, including Wotan-blessed milky-white eyes that impede ranged combat, but mean they are closer to the flow of destiny, allowing them to 1/day add +1 to an attack or check.



The Human ethnicity of the Kariv is also depicted - Kariv replace the default human traits with one or more of 5 different traits, many of which add 1/2 class level to a respective skill: Rather powerful and definitely something, as the header suggests, that should be subject to DM approval. The Khazzaki Nomads may also choose from alternate traits that emphasize their alliance with elves and centaurs or their opposition to dread Baba Yaga or the Lord of Demon Mountain. Finally, Elves may belong to the ethnicity of Windrunenr elves, choosing from a total of 4 racial traits. We also get 26 new traits, all of which are neat, but also nothing too particularly exciting - plus, I noticed a minor glitch, a lack of italicization of a spell herein. Oh yes, all of the races lack age, height & weight-tables, which would have been particularly interesting for Centaurs & Huginn.



Among the 6 new feats, 4 are archery-themed, pinning crited foes or allowing you to incur penalties to add bleed and dex-damage and at level 20, even death (thankfully all with saves) to your shots. The other two feats allow you to unseat multiple foes - all in all, an awesome little feat-section that offers some cool options. Two thumbs up for that category!



Hereafter, we are introduced to Rothenian Archetypes - starting off with the Centaur Cloud-render, who becomes subsequently more immune to detrimental conditions and rather powerful high level abilities in the final spectrum, including increased Str- and Con-bonuses and +2 enhanced threat-ranges and auto-confirms as a capstone. All this mostly in exchange for trap sense, uncanny dodge and indomitable will. Solid if not particularly exciting archetype, though one ability has its name not properly bolded. The Second Centaur-archetype would be the Earth Mother (a druid archetype), who gains detect poison and know direction at will in exchange for woodland stride as well as speak with-spells as abilities etc. - okay druid-archetype, but kind of lacks a true selling point for me. The Holy Spear would then be a centaur paladin - these paladins don't get spells, but instead more lay on hands and mercies and they also get a groom instead of a mount - essentially a human (or elven, or gnomish...though gnomish squires are rather...problematic in Midgard...) squire. At high levels, they may create circles of protection and dimensional lock adversaries. Now this one is rather cool! Speaking of cool - we also get the Sky-Father for the centaurs, an archetype for Marc Radle's much-lauded spontaneous casting shaman-class: This one being particularly resilient and a foe of unnatural supernatural beings (i.e. not necessarily fey). oh yes, and they can MAKE SWORDS OF LIGHTNING. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a worthy archetype!



Khazzaki Husars are a subset of fighters that specialize on fighting while in the saddle and under the stars of the Rothenian plains - utterly bland and boring in contrast to e.g. the Shrive. What's that? The hermaphroditic Shrive oracles of the Kariv may discern lies by partaking in one's blood and they also may discern the hidden or let targets swear blood oaths - mechanically not too intriguing, but the stellar fluff makes this archetype awesome.



Sorcerors of the Huginn may now opt to choose the new Stormraven bloodline, which allows them to store spells in their weapons and sacrifice illusion spells to increase their disguises. We also get 10 new hexes, many of which cripple quite profoundly those coming too near to the rothenian witch - powerful, yes, but also very distinct. 2 major hexes and 6 grand hexes are also included in the pdf - the latter including storms of vengeance and even clone-like doppelgänger.



We also get the new lightning and sky subdomains, 3 divine spells and 5 new arcane spells -one of which calls the legendary Black Gnash, a particularly famous nessian warhound... 8 new magical items, 4 types of magical weapons as well as 5 mundane weapon types and 8 pieces of gear and equipment are ready to be bought via your PC's hard-earned gold. The pdf closes with the stats for 4 different mounts that include fey hounds and spirit horses, but strangely lack the stats to be used as animal companions - particularly weird in a Player's Guide.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed no truly outstanding glitches, but there are some minor ones interspersed throughout the pdf. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' glorious 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artwork ranges from fitting stock to awesome original full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Adam W. Roy has talent, as he's shown in some installment5s of the series, but this particular one is not his best take - there is nothing particularly broken herein, but there indeed is quite a bunch of filler material that simply could have used a tad more unique options - some archetype are simply not that compelling, the traits don't live up to their name or could (in the Kariv's case) be considered rather strong. The Shrive's exceedingly awesome concept also asks for a better array of exclusive tools. What's imho the worst, though, is that the pdf is extremely focused on centaurs - the other races & ethnicities are more or less glanced at. Which would not be that bad, would not all races herein lack age, height and weight tables AND would the pdf not fail to address the problems adventuring centaurs will inevitably face - whether by ladders or simple tunnel-size. Some magical items or abilities to deal with that or advice for players and DMs would have been very much justified in this particular case.



All in all, the Midgard Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains left me neither blown away, nor disillusioned - it remains a solid selection of crunch with some neat Midgard fluff strewn in, but also falls short of making for a truly excellent Player's Guide since it fails to modify the formula of the series to the unique challenges the material herein poses - not only via the Centaurs, but also via the human ethnicities: Where are the Status-rating-modifications for example? Crab-Divination? Perhaps exiled Kariv divining via the dread spiders? A tad more balance between the racial material would have gone a long way here. My final verdict, taking these into account as well as e.g. the age, height, weight etc. absence, minor glitches etc. will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains
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Advanced Races 6: Kobolds (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2013 15:05:41
What do you think when someone says 'Kobold'? Do you reach automatically for your sword? This book may not change your mind, but it will give you greater insight into what those scaly little fellows are all about.

Or even inspire you to play one, if your GM permits...

Or if you ARE a GM, it should help you bring them to life, for at least as long as it takes the party to get their slaying faces on.

Kobolds are portrayed as desperate survivors, ones who cannot even rely on those who hatched out of the same clutch of eggs, never mind the same species. This has bred into them innate cunning and wariness. Here you can read all about the life of a kobold from its hatching to old age (if it lives that long), their religious beliefs, and their place in Midgard (if you use that setting).

There's a section on kobolds as player-characters, which includes a very complex kobold name-generating table (well, roll percentage dice four times). For kobolds not only have given names they also have descriptive nicknames or sobriquets that they acquire based on appearance or behaviour. Interestingly, they do not seem to go in for family names. Perhaps it is just that they do not have much sense of family! In game mechanical terms, the sobriquet can suggest a trait; and there's a list of kobold-specific traits associated with some of the more common sobriquets as well as other more general racial traits that may be used if preferred.

Next comes an extensive list of kobold feats. Some are restricted to kobolds, but others are open to anyone who meets the prerequisites... although actually learning them could prove interesting if you need to find a kobold teacher! Several are based on kobold talents at fighting dirty and apparently the little beasts are good at using their claws to climb. Several kobold archetypes are provided including an archanomechanist and a clockwork alchemist - smart kobolds can come up with some really interesting ideas, it seems. But there are several combat-oriented archetypes as well, possibly fitting the common perception of the small, ferocious, cowardly creature many adventurers hold.

New spells, kobold equipment and a fascinating discourse about the traps that they manufacture follow; and finally there are some magic items.

All in all, a fascinating glimpse at the secret life of the kobold. Your first thought may still be to clobber one as soon as you see it, but you'll know a bit more about them after reading this!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 6: Kobolds (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/24/2013 19:35:17
Influenced by the necromancer class in Diablo 2, I've had a player who has longed to play a heroic necromancer for a couple of years, now. The White Necromancer by Kobold Press allows him to do exactly that. He's quite pleased with his huginn necromancer. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in playing a very different twist on necromancers than the typical D&D/Pathfinder villains.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 3: Tools & Techniques
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:40:01
The kobolds are back with another amazing collection of twelve thought-provoking and informative essays from some of the best designers and writers creating roleplaying game material today. The essays cover everything from the simple question of “What is Design?” and work through contentious topics of creativity, craft, and how to recover when things don’t go well. Anyone who’s tried to write professionally understands the power of the blank page, rejection, and the unforgiving and untapped potential of any great idea you can’t quite find the words to express, but it’s a rare treat to get advice from some of the stars of the roleplaying game industry to address those problems. It’s nice to know the kobolds care.

As someone who aspires to be a game designer and writer, I find that rules are hard for me and settings are relatively easy. So as I perused the pages of the guide, I found myself trolling for tips and tricks to simplify my rules process and make finishing projects more of a reality than a wish. With that in mind, I will avoid talking about each essay in depth and instead focus on a couple that I found particularly helpful.

Wolfgang Baur has worked on some of my favorite gaming projects over the years, from the original Planescape line at TSR to adventures for Alternity, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and a whole lot of D&D. He’s edited the Kobold Quarterly, Dragon, and Dungeon magazines and is the publisher and founder of Open Design – a collaborative game design company. Oh, and in his spare time he publishes the Kobold Guide to Game Design series.

Baur’s essay “What is Design?” tries to define a term that doesn’t lend itself well to a definition unless you have context on your side. In this context, he defines it as “its own discipline, but it always borrows and builds on other modes of creative work.” What does that mean in terms of roleplaying games (RPGs)? It means there has to be a balance between rules and setting. When they are out of balance, you can end up with a less than fun experience for your gamemaster (GM) and his or her players, which may cost you fans or customers. Rules must be focused on the setting and the setting must keep the rules in mind at all times. It’s a balance I know I’ve not yet achieved in my own games.

The other essays build on Baur’s beginning, covering the similarities between designing RPGs for the computer and for the tabletop; the basics of combat systems; the power of a good design, hook and dastardly plot; and the fun and heartbreak inherent in collaboration and any creative enterprise. Each essay is lovingly crafted by a master in RPGs today who knows what they’re talking about.

The other essay that really got my attention was “Basic Combat Systems for Tabletop Games” by Colin McComb. As I said earlier, system design is my Achilles’ heel. McComb manages to explain, in a Q&A-type of format, what you need to know about attack systems, who attacks and when, how things like area of effect attacks affect a group of targets, how to measure the consequences of combat through permanent or temporary damage, and so on. He then lays out a sample system using his own rules (minus stringent playtesting) to show how the questions can help you come up with a working system. The practical aspect of the article provides a ton of hints and help to avoid the common problems that plague beginning system designers (like myself).

Colin McComb was involved in 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but helped create one of my favorite settings for that edition – Planescape – and even helped with two of my favorite computer games of all time – Planescape: Torment and Fallout 2.

Rob Heinsoo has been involved with the 4th Edition of D&D and seems to have written half the sourcebooks that have been published so far. He’s the force behind the D&D Miniatures game and its first nine expansion sets. And if that’s not enough, he’s worked at Daedalus Entertainment, Chaosium, and A-Sharp in the 1990s.

Ed Greenwood is simply a legend in the gaming industry. Not only is he the author behind the Elminster Series, including Elminster: The Making of a Mage and Elminster’s Daughter, but he’s written hundreds of articles about gaming and continues to GM his own campaign. Where does he find the time when he’s typically writing three novels at a time?

And Monte Cook… What can I say about Monte? When 3rd Edition D&D and the d20 system came out, he was one of the three principle designers behind the efforts. And since then, with his own design studio Malhavoc Press, he’s managed to create several award-winning products such as Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved, Ptolus, and the Books of Eldrich Might. In my opinion, he has one of the most unique voices among the game designers of today.

If you’re a GM, a game designer, or a RPG player interested in getting into the design side of how to create your own games – you can’t find a better introduction than The Kobold Guide to Game Design – Volume III: Tools & Techniques. These 96 pages will provide infinite food for thought and hopefully save you some pain and suffering along the way. I certainly have a lot to think about now…

As a final note, I think that kobold on the inside cover is up to something… don’t you?

Article first published as here on Blogcritics.org: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-the-kobold-guide/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 3: Tools & Techniques
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Sunken Empires
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:38:22
Ever since college when I actually started having the extra money to do so, I’ve been drawn to game stores and hunting for unique supplements. Adventures, gazettes, simple collections of maps – each has its own attraction for me. As such, I have ended up with a wide variety of books, pamphlets, and PDFs that each holds a particular fascination.

Open Design’s recent release of Sunken Empires: Treasures and Terrors of the Deep encompasses the perfect storm of history, art, and implementation that makes a supplement not only a useful tool for gamemasters to terrorize their players from time to time but a great read as well. From the forward by David “Zeb” Cook to the chapters on dealing with the deep and its denizens held my attention to the very end, which is a rarity in any supplement.

Beginning with Cook’s introduction – “A History of the Aboleth” – I felt I was being let into a tomb of previously unknown horrors. I honestly can’t recall if I’d heard of the Aboleth as a creature prior to reading Sunken Empires, but now I know it has a place in the occasional nightmare realms players may find born of my own freakishly random firing neurons. The story of how the creature came about provided crucial clues to crafting hooks and monsters without filling in absolutely all the details – leaving the rest to the players encountering such vile critters.

And Brandon Hodge takes things from there, weaving a storyteller’s spell upon the reader and introducing them to the aspects of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu from tales both ancient (Plato’s tales of at Atlantis) and relatively recent (H.P. Lovecraft adapting Mu into the Cthulhu mythos). Hodge then takes it a step further to create the lost city of Ankeshel and the modern cities of Upper and Lower Cassadega now exploring the submerged ruins and learning a few of Ankeshel’s mysteries.

After that, he provides all an enterprising GM would need to torture entertain his or her players with hints of powerful artifacts and spells from the distant past just waiting to be discovered by an enterprising band of adventurers. We have the half-merfolk Maerean peoples working both above and below the waters as well as new paths for other races and classes… I was particularly fascinated by the description of how Monks are entranced by undersea ruins – “drawn by the promise of lost knowledge and paths of enlightenment cultivated by ancient civilizations.” I’d not considered monks in that light before and yet I may start doing so…

Chapter 3 provides not only equipment for adventures daring to explore the sunken ruins, but by what they may find. The lure of lost technology provides not only interesting magic items, but the almost Steampunk-influenced weapons of a much more advanced race. And the weapons don’t disappoint… rifles that fire magically-created ice slivers, methods of crowd control, and even a magical/mechanical method of duplicating a Dispel Magic spell. Very creative items indeed.

Spellcasters aren’t forgotten either, with new spells provided for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, Wizards, and even Rangers. The Druid spells provide water-related magical effects such as Barnacle Armor, Wall of Water, and Calm the Waves. I was a bit disappointed by the small number of Ranger spells (there are only two) and wondered if as a GM I might consider creating additional powers for those adventurers used to prowling the underwater wilderness. Of course the Sorcerer/Wizard list was the most impressive, including more than 30 new spells for those classes.

The list of new magic items was definitely fun to peruse… Though I felt like I needed a much bigger bankroll to be wandering the aisles for many of the items costing 10,000 gold pieces or more. Even so, as a fighter who wouldn’t want a heavy steel shield shaped as a writhing squid that 3x a day could try to disarm your enemies!

If you plan on running any adventures in the split city of Cassadega, Chapter 5 is a must read. It provides much needed guidance on how to handle different levels of parties adventuring in or near the sunken ruins. Though that discussion is little more than a page, it provides answers to many of the problems parties may encounter if they are outmatched by the environment they find themselves in. Hodge goes so far as to provide random encounter tables for the coast and the underdeep that would scare the heck out of me as a player. Everything from plant life trying to kill you to a shoggoth waiting to devour you and your party as an hors d’oeuvre.

Lastly, Chapter 6 provides a description of the many critters you may encounter above or below the waves in these areas. Everything from a Bone Crab to a Wharfling Swarm (described as a huge number of hairless underwater raccoons with needle-like teeth) and aquatic variants of other creatures such as a Needlefish Swarm (a variant of Bat Swarm), a Slick (a Black Pudding variant), or a Giant Trilobite (variant of a Giant Centipede). And then of course there’s the Aboleth… I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter one in a dark, submerged alley.

Honestly, I was very impressed by Sunken Empires. It provides enough “crunch” for an enterprising GM to take it and merge it into his or her own game world quite easily. And if done right, a GM would have potentially years of gaming to explore all the dark corners of the Ankeshel ruins. I did find a few typos here and there, but nothing earth shattering that prevented my understanding of the content. And the artwork for the book was amazing from Malcolm McClinton (awesome cover art), Thomas Cole, Hodge himself, Pat Loboyko, and Hugo Solis.

If you’re looking for a new supplement and you think you want your players to get wet, scared, or both – I’d encourage you to check out Sunken Empires from Open Design and Brandon Hodge. Look for it at Paizo Publishing, RPGNow, and Kobold Quarterly!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-sunken-empires-by/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sunken Empires
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Kobold Quarterly Magazine 13
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:36:32
The good people at Kobold Quarterly are at it again, producing another fine issue of their roleplaying games (RPG) magazine. However, I have to warn you – perhaps this issue should have come in a paper wrapper because of the cover. The cover art features a scene right out of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a forest clearing teeming with fae-looking folk, satyrs, unicorns, and other critters all getting ready to party. Now, there are some carefully placed shadows, hair, and arms, but it’s tough to ignore that a good number attending the revelry are stark naked.

Before anyone gets up in arms, I’m not a prude. But my concern would be for those game stores who carry KQ on their shelves and the pre-teen and teenage gamers who shop there. If we want our industry to be taken seriously, it’s tough if one of our best magazines (who have taken over for the once great Dragon and Dungeon publications from TSR/Wizards of the Coast/Paizo Publishing) is presenting Boris Vallejo-style pictures without properly warning folks first.

Yes, this issue does deal with sex and romance in RPGs, but you could warn a fella first. It’s funny, because I don’t typically object to magazine covers. Many of the KQ covers have been suggestive, but not objectionable. I guess it’s the pure… nakedness… that bugged me here.

That said, the articles inside this issue are the typical top-rate variety that you expect from KQ. And alongside the articles about sex and romance, there are articles about gnomish flying machines, magic weapons, and some darker material about creatures like the Shoggoth and using Lovecraftian Gods in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Again, the mix of content is amazing and thought provoking as always.

Who knew the ecology and psychology of Shoggoths was a topic that needed exploration? These are vile creatures from H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulhu Mythos who can now be injected into your own RPG campaigns to add some additional “ick” factor if you need it. “Ecology of the Shoggoth” by Phillip Larwood describes shoggoths as an intelligent ooze that consume living tissue or material and add it to their bulk. But just because they’re intelligent doesn’t mean you can have a conversation with one if you see it sliming down the street. These grotesque creatures embody chaos itself and leave a path of destruction and insanity in their wake. Larwood introduces the concept of cults to these strange creatures who actually feed and worship them… not the kind of folks you want to take home to eat meet your mother.

And if that wasn’t enough to scare your players, Aeryn Rudel describes the properties of some of the Cthulhu elder god and some of the qualities of their worshippers in his article “Lovecraftian Gods”. These gods cover everything from chaos to true evil and I wouldn’t want to run into them in a dark alley. No goody-two-shoes gods here. I do wonder a bit at the game balance qualities of some of the powers the faithful get from these divinities. Things like the Veil of ‘Umr at-Tawil would drive me nuts as a GM or a player for example (a blue silk veil that gives the ability to see all possible actions an enemy may take and then interrupt them), but it’s nice to have additional options.

As a game designer contemplating a Steampunk setting, David Mallon’s article for Pathfinder – “The Arquebusier” – was intriguing. Introducing a class proficient with early firearms such as the Musket and Blunderbuss would certainly add numerous options to a game world. And some of the new feats included, such as Double Tap and Bulletcrafting make this class much more well rounded – giving such a character the ability to not only create such weapons and ammunition, but have proficiency in using them in combat.

By far my favorite article in the issue was Monte Cook‘s “The Thrill of the Unknown” – which cuts to the heart of game setting design, which is one of my favorite things to do. Cook suggests that instead of illuminating all the corners of every dark place in the world, the element of the unknown needs to remain ever present. As he says – “Remember… that the power of the truly unknown is that, because it is entirely undefined, we can never grow accustomed to it.” When you know what’s coming, you can prepare for it. And that’s fine most of the time, but leave a bit of mystery where you and your players can explore it together.

If you’re looking for inspiration as a player or a GM, look no further than an issue of Kobold Quarterly, past or present. Every time I crack open a copy I learn something new or find a new way to look at things… Be sure to pick up your copy of Kobold Quarterly, Spring 2010, Issue 13 at a gaming store near you or online at KoboldQuarterly.com. Even with the questionable cover of this issue, you’re bound to find something fascinating!

This review originally appeared: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2010/04/magazine-review-kob-
old-quarterly-spring-2010-issue-13/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 13
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Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 04:18:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second in Kobold Press' series of racial pdfs is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what are Darakhul? well, they are a race that has haunted my twisted imagination ever since I had the good fortune of being able to read the closed Open Design "Empire of Ghouls" - essentially, Darakhul are intelligent ghouls that inhabit a subterranean, militaristic empire that constantly requires fuel in the form of flesh. Taking the idea of social predators up to 11, their empire can essentially be envisioned as a kind of blend of twisted theology, Roman discipline and undying hunger. Add a well-greased war machinery, complex social structures and we have an empire of foes that is frightening on more than one level.



And now, you can play these nasties. Darakhul get +2 Cha, no con-score (using like undead instead cha) are either medium or small (with small benefits balanced out by a reduced movement rate of 20 ft. versus the 30 ft. of medium Darakhul), darkvision 60 ft., burrow speed 10 ft., a bite attack 8which unfortunately does not specify whether it acts as a secondary natural attack or a primary one), darkvision 60 ft. and count as undead. Undead PCs are a nightmare to balance and usually, my knee-jerk reflex would be to start complaining right now...but being permanently annihilated at 0 HP, -4 to ability and skill-checks in day light (-2 in the spell's area) sans save and lethal starvation when not consuming sufficient amounts of meat actually do a good job of making the race more fragile and balanced...so yeah, no gripes.



After this basic crunch, we are introduced to the Darakhul and how they interact with the world, advice on how to avoid the Drizz't-syndrome (or at least make it cool) and cover the problem of proper disguises - for Darakhul on the surface (or anywhere, really), may easily end up rather dead by lynchmob when not developing a proper strategy to conceal their nature. Worse, since positive energy harms them, Darakhul may suffer rather unpleasant side-effects from even well-meaning clerics.



A total of 12 different traits for Darakhul are provided to further customize your character: From having grown up in the empire's capital to being able to select traits from the former race prior to ghoulification up to the option to choose lantern beetles (with full stats) as companions/familiars or determine a certain stock from which you were initiated into Darakhul ranks, the traits are balanced and neat.



We also get a selection of 14 new feats that allow for the expansion of darkvision, healing by corpse-consumption, improved tracking of wounded creatures, gaining claw attacks, increase burrow speed and gain DR 5/magic, which upgrades to DR 10/magic - powerful, yes, but since the Darakhul is particularly vulnerable and fragile at low levels, a life-saver to prevent your PC from reaching that nasty 0...Partially adapting to sunlight, cha-mod/day using paralytic saliva (for 1 round +1 per point of cha-mod) and via two feats, one of which is rather high-level, Darakhul can even end their hunger. The problem of rage not working as intended for undead can also be countered via the undead rage-feat, which instead adds the bonus to cha and finally, there is a feat that allows you to consume hearts to power your metamagic - the latter, suffice to say, is a rather evil option.



There also are 3 archetypes herein - the Quicksilver Alchemist who uses mutagens to enhance cha at the cost of wis (and said damage can only be healed by massive meat-consumption) and also learns to create undead and use the inflict-spells, but pays for this in weaker bombs. At 10th level, the archetype may choose the new "Death which dreams"-discovery, which nets him/her 10 negative hp before destruction and a buffer of 5 cha-points of attribute damage before true death - essentially making the character more like a mortal and less fragile in that regard. then again, at 10th level, these scarce few hp are not that much. the Imperial Hunter is perhaps the best slaver/catch 'em alive (and perhaps eat them)-archetype I've seen so far - iconic and cool and nothing to complain about! Finally, we get a focused wizard's school with the Necrophage school. Associated with (surprise) necromancy, these wizards may bolster their power via flesh, gain undead familiars and consume the flesh to gain the benefits of speak with the dead, even if the target is still alive.



Of course, we also get new magic items - 8, to be precise - from books netting bonuses on checks regarding the ghouls, a new type of bone armor (and magic version of it), helms that net you razor maw, ghoul saliva-paste-poison, paralytic poison-net-stones and ghoulish travel rations as well as morningstars optimized for tunnel fighting and close combat/grappling at the expense of working worse when attacking mounted or from higher ground. Beyond these, we also get 5 new spells - cannibalizing lesser undead, inciting forced confessions from targets, improve your flesh with DR that is negated by exposure to daylight or gain deadly, increased bite attacks. Oh, and there is a cantrip that allows you to conjure forth maggots to clean the flesh from bones of the truly deceased. Beyond that, we also get a new incantation - "Call the Reaper's Pack". Superbly fluffy, this cool ritual allows you to call forth one or more lich hounds, which btw. constitute the new CR 5 undead hunting dog: With frightening howls and deadly capabilities to finish off prone creatures with massive damage as swift actions, these undead hounds will drive the fear of the pack into your players!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. layout adheres to Kobold press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and also with several neat pieces of beautiful artwork.



Ben McFarland actually manages to deliver a take on the undead PC-race that is both flavorful and powerful without breaking the game. Playing an undead is a challenge and not for the faint of heart, but with this supplement, I wager it can be a fun endeavor for all involved. Even with very minor ambiguities here and there, the intent of the rules is always clear, though the absence of age, height and weight-tables is a bit unpleasant - I realize that height can be taken from the parent race and age is practically immortal, but weight would be interesting... This second installment of the advanced races-series is fun to read, oozes flair and makes this a thoroughly nice offering at a more than fair price-point. Any supplement that actually can make me contemplate allowing an undead PC in a game is well-crafted indeed- especially since I expected to at least dislike or be ambivalent about this pdf. Great quality in crunch and fluff, compelling writing, neat production values - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
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Trapsmith (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/06/2013 02:51:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book by Kobold Press is 70 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?



So this is it – the long overdue “big” book of traps for PFRPG – big in quotation marks, btw., because I consider the total page-count not that massive for the topic of traps, especially since it’s a topic not covered by that many supplements. After a short introduction, we are introduced to a taxonomy of traps, including a flow-chart. Now if you think that’s superfluous, I’d still recommend checking it out. Why? Because trap-placement requires careful deliberation. I can see your unbelieving scowls right now – but think about it: How many times when you’ve designed complexes have your players questioned the exact benefit of a trap at a given place? Traps are more than hp-depleters, they should make sense within the context of a given structure’s defense and whether it’s active or passive, boon, bane, ward or alarm – the right tool for the right place should literally be the maxim. Carelessly dumped traps can incredibly fast suck the believability out of any given complex and annihilate suspension of disbelief faster than Batman failing to solve a Scooby-doo mystery. The same can go for inordinate scaling of traps – hence the importance of the concisely-worded scaling advice that directly follows this.



Now if you’re a DM with some experience under your belt, you may be directly or indirectly aware of some points mentioned here, but providing a short introduction for trap-using PCs (hello Rangers and e.g. Drop Dead Studios’ Vauntgaurd or Purple Duck Games’ Runecasters…) should definitely help with both immersion and your player’s capability – especially since from a crossbow barricade to alchemical bombardment and alarms a couple of sample traps are provided, including information on how to scale them via various upgrades. These scant few pages should be considered required reading for trap-using PCs.



And then we’re off to the traps. Traps, traps and then…even more traps. First of all, let me mention that, yes, we get relatively “simple” traps like caltrops being dropped from the ceiling and the like – these may be neat. Where the pdf trumps, though, would be with its depiction of the more complex traps – take for example a forceful hand bull-rushing you into a collapsing wall (after taking crushing damage, of course!) and squeezing you to a pulpy mess. Several of the traps herein feature expertly-drawn schematics that make envisioning how these complex traps work actually very easy – at times even with a step-by-step run-down of how they work. Not only does this make picturing the traps much easier, the pencil-drawings actually are glorious renditions that instantly evoke a sense of old-schoolish nostalgia while still fitting seamlessly within the gorgeous full-color layout -quite a feat, I might add! On the content-side, escalating dangers and further modifications allow for the traps to be reused as variants and also for customization of skill-checks by level, further increasing the value of this pdf.



Now don’t expect all classic traps here – while there is nothing on the sadism-level of the infamous grimtooth-traps herein, a pivoting trapdoor that also features walls of fire in the pit and an orb that drains lifeforce and confers the advanced creature template to foes are just two examples of the nefarious traps herein and from deadly spores to black aether some hazards/special substances also add their value to the overall collection. Now it should also be noted that not all of the traps deserve praise – there is some filler here and there as well: Song of discord? That’s it? No cool harmonica/similar physical representation? Come on! A table with a button to slice guests to ribbons? Rather trite. Essentially, as neat as many of these traps are, chances are that with some DM-experience you’ll recognize quite a few of them or at least won’t be that blown away by some of them. Now don’t get me wrong – in 3.X the amount of traps herein would have been more than adequate, but since in PFRPG Raging Swan Press has provided multiple-rounds-spanning traps galore (which can be disabled/survived via other means than disable device/saving/not being hit) and since e.g. T.H. Gulliver delivered #30 Traps for Tombs and since similar offerings are out there, these traps, while very good, still feel like they don’t 100% stand up to them... and I'd be complaining about that endlessly.



BUT that’s not where the book stops (which is incidentally also the reason you read my complaining not in the conclusion) – instead, we first get advice on layering multiple traps. DMs, read this section, memorize it and properly apply it – even relatively conservative components like “Spikes” and “Pits” can easily be shaped into a varied and interesting cornucopia of pain when properly combined – if you need a case-study, jus recall the devious pit traps in the by now classic first installment of “Shackled City” …



Where the book starts to SHINE, blindingly so, would be with the next chapter – themed trap areas (we’re at page 35 by now – just to give you an idea of how concise the writing here is…). We get 3 exceedingly complex traps – and HERE we have the multiple round-by-round benefits I was missing before, the skill-DCs to jump on e.g. a swinging pendulum, the options to use various skills to claim necessary pieces of information to best the traps – in short traps that can’t be boiled down to save or suck and which are rather challenge the whole party in unique and intriguing ways. My only regret is that I would have loved to see more of them – glorious indeed!



Starting on page 39, we delve into the exploits of one Gavin the Trapsmith, whom regulars of the KQ-blog will recall undoubtedly. In this chapter, the informative and surprisingly well-written crunch of traps is prefaced by nice prose that makes this chapter a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. The traps per se are nothing to smirk at either and contain some rather… let’s say interesting choices. Take a net filled with cheese. Yes. Cheese. If you spring the net, you ignite flammable oil which promptly melts the cheese, burns the rope and douses you in scalding, smelly cheese – a disgusting fate to be sure – and a hilarious one. On the more devious side – what about a combined smokescreen that also colors a foe blue and then chains him/her/it to a barrel and ejects said barrel into the waves to drown while being harder to spot? This is devious thinking. Nasty. Insidious. I like it! In fact, this whole chapter drips with ideas I consider not only smart, but which actually had me grin my most malicious DM-grin.



Speaking of DM-grin – the next chapter is all about trick locks – 10 to be precise, to frustrate cocky rogues with both special constructions and locks – and no, not going into details here – rogue players will have to determine their properties the hard way…



From page 53 to 56 we are introduced to system-neutral items and tricks – and honestly, after all these glorious chapters and ideas, this whole chapter feels out of place. So there are boots that let you hover over the floor and become ethereal. Nice. No costs, no durations, no caster level, just a general idea on how common they are. Wut? Why? Seriously? Statting them in any system from 0e to PFRPG is almost insultingly easy – and yes, I can see how that’s the point – they don’t “require” hard stats. Any DM worth his/her salt could make them. But honestly – why should we when this book is supposed to be for PFRPG, if we pay money for it? The whole book so far is PFRPG. Why chicken out here? Why not provide proper pricing/item-stats? It just feels lazy to me or like some kind of alibi to incite users of other rules-sets to get this -which is simply unnecessary: The traps herein live mostly from their ideas and should be easily converted into other rules-sets, rendering this whole chapter even more moot. Now if the ideas per se were glorious, I’d let slip what I’d consider trying to wiggle around item statblocks/crafting-rules, but they honestly aren’t that high-concept or intriguing. Thankfully, this thoroughly disappointing chapter is not long – still, it left a bitter taste in my mouth.



Next up would be a module for 6th level characters, the “Whispers of Wyrmwood”- thus, from here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right, this module is essentially a short dungeon crawl that has the players try to infiltrate the warrens of an abyssal kobold called Kwipek – one that seeks to change the entire kobold-race via the arc of ascension and transform his brethren into higher beings – like his own twisted self. His complex is studded, as befitting of kobolds, studded with traps and with information and statblocks provided, the respective kobolds not only can benefit from DMs being guided to portray a coordinated, intelligent defense, but also from the nice builds themselves. The complex comes with a b/w-map, but unfortunately no player-friendly version has been provided as per the writing of this review. Story-wise, there’s not that much going on, but that’s okay – it’s still a fun little trap-heavy crawl.



The pdf concludes with an appendix listing traps by CR (1 – 35, btw!) and one listing traps in alphabetical order – great to see since appendices are of tantamount importance for the usability of books like this.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any crucial glitches or issues. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ beautiful two-column full-color standard and the artwork, apart from the full color cover-artwork, are superb B/W-pencil-drawings by James Keegan. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Urks. Sometimes being a reviewer is just plain hard. Author Maurice de Mare has crafted a supplement that is not only useful, but also should be considered one of the supplements that is guaranteed to see use upon purchase – quite a bit of it, actually. And oh boy, did some chapters of this book excite the heck out of me – grinning from ear to ear is not something a lot of books manage. On the other hand, the overall quality of the book just fluctuates wildly, more so than in most supplements I’ve read. From imaginative, cool traps to filler to awesome rooms and fluffy, enjoyable, devious traps to utterly useless, relatively uninspired system-neutral bits that are only present due to either an unwillingness to do the crunch-work or to rope in users of other systems and a rather conservative module that feels a bit unnecessary, this supplement took me from the highest peaks to the lowest dales and back up.

So let’s break it up. The module is not bad, but it’s also nothing particularly special. I don’t object to its inclusion, it’s a nice romp, but I feel that more traps would have filled the space better. I’m also the last one to object to system-neutral content – the amount of excellent ratings I handed out to system-neutral supplements or fluff-only-pdfs should make that clear. What I object to is that this chapter feels like a foreign, alien object in this book – there is no reason for it to be in here. Its ideas are not that special either and the absence of fluff makes these 3 pages feel like wasted space.



Yes. 3 pages. I want to emphasize that. I’m only complaining this vehemently about these 3 pages. The vast majority of this book features excellent pieces of advice and above all…TRAPS! Devious, glorious, insidious traps. And yes, some of them may be considered filler. The vast majority, though, are actually ingenious, cool traps. Veterans may see some old acquaintances here and there, but even I got some new tricks out of the “simple” traps in this book. Now that the complex ones are simply stellar should have become readily apparent from my earlier gushing, so let’s end this, shall we?



I’m writing these final lines 3 weeks after having finished my second draft of the review. I’ve read this book 4 times by now and still, settling on a final verdict is hard. For novice and less-experienced DMs, this is a veritable treasure-trove, a cornucopia of death and should be considered a more than neat offering well worth the investment. For expert-level pro-DMs with years upon years (and trapbooks!) under their belt, this pdf should still have something to offer – which is a feat in and of itself. The excellent contents herein balance out the less inspired slip-ups that have crept in. Still, I can’t help but feel that a tighter focus, i.e. minus adventure and the inexplicably uninspired system-neutral chapter, plus more traps, would have helped the book, as would have e.g. some new ranger traps or a collated chapter on “common” trap-modifications – different coatings for spikes, different slings, the like – something more trap-centric, perhaps more tools for trapsmithing PCs? Perhaps a chapter of truly sadistic ones?

Now don’t get me wrong – these traps herein are delightfully insidious, nasty and will have your PCs CURSE their adversaries/complexes. But the book also delivers less than author Maurice de Mare’s talent (judging from the other content) could deliver. This book is close to being the definite resource on traps, it is evident that it could have been THE book for traps/trapsmithing - a mark it misses due to its focus being slightly askew. It’s a good book on traps, one mostly suffused with excellence that stumbles here and there…and one that shows that a potential sequel could be THE one. Now don’t take this as a negative criticism, but rather see it as a testament to how well this book performs in its more glorious entries – this IS a good buy, in fact, one I’d recommend to make a sequel/more trap-books of this quality more likely.

In the end, I have decided on settling for a final verdict of 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 that essentially consists of 5-star+seal-worthy components and less than stellar blemishes as well as a significant amount of well-crafted, good ideas – resulting in the appropriate, fair rating for a good book that is quite close to being stellar.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trapsmith (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Adventures 4: Mayhem Beneath Demon Mountain (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2013 03:49:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 13 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? The PCs are hired by the wine merchant Korsav for a risky gambit - take his caravan to Demon Mountain's foot and spoil the wine of one of his competitors, Ulfer, who happens to be one of the decadent children of the legendary Master of the Demon Mountain. Upon their arrival at Demon Mountain, the PCs have to surrender their weapons and make the spoiling of Ulfer's wine a reality - during the 5-day-lasting festivities. Worse, PCs might notice that a couple of gnomes hide their weapons (these fellows are sworn to the lower planes in Midgard, after all!) and if they prattle, they immediately have a fight on their hands.



In the courtyard during the massive festivities, the PCs may witness a number of weird happenings - from corpses crashing from the tower, swarms of flies that suddenly dissipate to immediate cold snaps and silences, the PCs should be completely creeped out by the proximity of such epic power suffusing everything. The festivities per se also offer an array of weird tents - surviving the kiss of a vargouille as a wager, witnessing a crowd killing a gnome when they realize he has sown the elven faces on his "authentic" elven dancers, juggling limbs - a lot of rather weird and partially horrific things to do. Further complicating the matter, the aforementioned gnomes might try to assassinate the PCs if not having been taken care of.



And somewhere in the chaos, the PCs must find a kobold called Vyoda - and sooner than later, the PCs will try to infiltrate the outer donjon, where they may prevent a rape and save a poor kitchen maid from her drunken assailants and fight with multiple possible improvised weapons. Said maid may also point them towards the quartermaster who holds their equipment - a minotaur that can be bribed - if handled well. They may also expose a priest who worships a sinister god while collecting clues about Vyoda's preferences to find him in the chaos outside. Upon finding the kobold, the PCs still have to navigate the lightless tunnels beneath the kitchen, where giant rotgrubs, a haunt, an otyugh zombie and a schir demon who wants to kill Vyoda still remains - for the kobold's family's fate, as can be attested by the clues gathered, was rather grim.



Upon spoiling the wine, the PCs can witness Ulfer being humiliated and rest on their laurels - though if they boast, they may have made a powerful enemy.



The module closes with 4 pregens.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - though I noticed a couple of minor glitches, none really impeded my ability to run this module. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full color standard and the artworks are neat. The b/w-maps are awesome, though I would have loved a map of the chaotic festival grounds. The maps unfortunately come sans player-friendly versions, which is a minor detriment. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Chris Lozaga has managed to do something hard - confront PCs with an iconic, overwhelming, epic location without having to result to hard killer-encounters, instead creating a deadly tapestry of weirdness that should make for a truly unique experience. I did not expect to like this module and its deceptive brevity also points toward an experience unbefitting of the Demon Mountain - when it isn't. When it actually does the hard thing and manages to capture this epic location in all its weird glory, while leaving the true horrors of the mountain and its master up for appropriately high-level future sojourns when the PCs reach the apex of their powers. All in all a more than enjoyable module that only misses the highest honors due to the editing glitches and since I would have liked printer-friendly maps/a map of the festival grounds, thus resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures 4: Mayhem Beneath Demon Mountain (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2013 05:54:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of Kobold Press' New Paths-series is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So...this is it. Ever since its initial inception in Kobold Quarterly, the White Necromancer by Marc Radle has been met with laurels and I admit to having waited for it for quite some time. That being said, in the meanwhile, Zombie Sky Press' Sacred Necromancer has delivered a solid, if not always perfectly balanced take on the class as well - so can the White Necromancer stand its ground or has it become redundant? Let's see!



After a short bit of aptly-written IC-narrative, we delve into the meat of the class: White Necromancers get d6, must be non-evil (d'uh!), get 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons (no armors and shields - arcane spell failure), 1/2 BAB-progression and good will-saves as well as full spellcasting of up to 9th level. Spellcasting is handled via cha and thus also spontaneous.



White Necromancers get Eschew Materials at first level and are surprisingly not restricted from casting evil necromancy spells, but the respective spells use two slots when being cast - interesting balancing there! They also add wis-mod to all Knowledge-checks pertaining death and the undead, burial rites etc. and get +1/2 class level to heal skill checks. As a signature ability at 1st level, they also get the option to Rebuke Death as a standard action, which translates to healing living creatures by touching them for 1d4+1 per two class levels 3+Cha-mod times per day. Yes - ladies and gentlemen: An arcane healer that is effective without stealing the divine caster's thunder. Nice...at least at low levels. At higher levels, a more rapid scaling of healing would very much be in order.



At 3rd level, the class may also Turn Undead 1+cha-mod times per day and is treated as having channel energy, but ONLY for the purpose of turning the undead. Adding on further channeling feats is also mentioned. Now starting at 4th level, the class actually gets its signature ability - White Necromancy.



Undead creation-spells cast by the White Necromancer no longer count as evil and the resulting undead are free-willed, if intelligent, and of the same alignment as the White Necromancer - and as a crucial difference to regular undead: They are not slaves. To make them perform a task (even mindless ones), requires a diplomacy-check on behalf of the White Necromancer - and while I can hear some groans, I do think that's valid - interrupting someone's eternal rest should be no laughing matter and require some finesse. As you may have gleaned from the cha-focus and now diplomacy - white necromancers actually make for pretty good party leaders as written.



At 5th level, the class gets perhaps one of its most iconic abilities with Life Bond (Su): As a standard action, the White Necromancer may create a bond between him/her and one living creature within 90 ft. Each round at the White Necromancer's turn, each bonded creature (of which the White Necromancer may have up to class level active at once) is healed by 5 Hp if they've been damaged for more than 5 hp below their maximum hp, while the white necromancer siphons his/her life into them. Now this ability seems weaker on paper than in play - the tactical options it offers are significant and beyond that, the ability mirrors well the duality between life and death as well as lending itself to great potential for heroic sacrifice: We've all been there, the villain is almost vanquished, but it becomes readily apparent that she/he/it will take on PC down with it - with a solemn smile, the white necromancer can now make the conscious decision to give his/her life to give the PCs just that edge to survive. And this potential for drama, ladies and gentlemen, is awesome! This theme is btw. further enforced at 7th level, when the white necromancer may sacrifice up to 10+con-score+class level hp and transfer them via touch to an ally.



Speaking with the dead and blindsight that sees only the living and the undead also tie well with the concept of a spiritual person aware of the balance between life and death. At 11th level, damage-dealing skeletal arms erupting from the ground make for a more macabre form of attack and at higher levels, turning incorporeal and warding against death effects further enforce the theme of the class, with the capstone making the white necromancer hard to kill indeed and offering a lesser power word: kill - as a supernatural ability.



Now the class gets its own spell-list that takes the released Paizo-books so far into account and features a couple of, you guessed it, new spells; 6 to be precise. Bone shards (and its greater version) would be offensive spells that deal bleed damage beyond the piercing damage, whereas bone swarm allows you to conjure forth bones and direct them to move towards foes and pummel them into submission. Chains of Bones allow you to initiate ranged combat maneuvers (grapple, disarm, trip) and dance of the dead temporarily animates corpses to attack foes, but at a temporary cost to your life force. Finally, you now may erect Walls of Bones. It should be noted that all spells are NOT class-exclusives, but also available for other arcane classes.



We also get two new feats: Necrotic Spell allows you to make undead count as humanoids for the purpose of a spell at +1 level (and you have to think only for a split second to get the vast implications of this for once useful Metamagic Feat!) and the second metamagic feat, Siphon Spell, allow you to use lesser spell-levels to power high level spells, allowing for more control over your spells and adding quite an edge regarding versatility to those casting via it. Nice! Two out of two metamagic feats herein actually have a reason to exist - that's more than I can say about the vast majority of their brethren!



Now next up would be two new archetypes, first of which would be the Necrotic Healer, who not only gets increased healing capabilities, but may also, much like Forest Guardian Press' excellent Direlock class, take negative conditions from others to suffer from them. Unlike teh Direlock, though, the Necrotic Healer needs to suffer a certain base amount of rounds from them and may not redistribute them to foes. However, since the ability does not specify otherwise, White Necromancers may, in theory, even take permanent conditions upon themselves - not sure whether I'm comfortable with the repercussions there, but complaining here is a nitpick at best. At 9th level, the Necrotic Healer may a limited amount of times per day reflexively take the wounds of allies incurred by spell or blade upon him/herself, making for a more powerful option for the heroic angle.



Now Grave-Bound, the second archetype herein, nets the character an undead companion: These undead companions cannot be turned or controlled by others, are intelligent and there are some lavishly detailed choices here: Mummy, Skeleton, Zombie, Shadow, Ghost and even Vampire are potential options for your undead companion, all with their own advancement tracks. Furthermore, Grave-bound get a kind of minor semi-apotheosis into undead. One gripe: The Zombie-companion feels a bit weak and has an error in its 20th level advancement, where its 2d8 slam-attacks mysteriously regress to 1d12.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches that would have hampered my ability to understand this pdf. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' rather nice two-column full-color standard and the original piece of cover art is duplicated on a gorgeous one-page spread. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Death is as important as life - and I'm not waxing philosophical here. Look up simulations of mortal versus immortal populations and you'll realize why - the presence of death drives one to excel, to cherish life - turns out immortal ennui actually has a scientific basis. But I'm rambling - the white necromancer as a scion of the balance between life and death works exceedingly well as a class and actually does not compete with Zombie Sky Press' "Sacred Necromancer" - instead, we get a shepherd of souls, an advocate of the dead that. The White Necromancers fills its niche and fills it well - though I do have one complaint - I wish more had been done with the hp-redistribution factor, which imho makes for the most interesting part of the class, but oh well - guess you can't have everything.



When all is said and done, the White Necromancer succeeds at the task set for the class and should make for an interesting addition to your game, one that only misses the full 5 stars only by a margin, since personally, I would have enjoyed a tad bit more unique tools for the class. Still, an excellent offering worth of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only due to the impression that the undead companions of the Grave-Bound could use some tweaking, the minor glitches and me longing for a tad bit more to be done with the condition/hp-distributing options.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 1: Tieflings (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2013 03:19:08
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first advanced races-supplement is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1/2 a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick this pdf off by an expertly written introduction to Tieflings in the context of the Midgard campaign setting as well as, of course, the Tiefling's racial traits - I'm not going to rehash them here - suffice to say, they are not modified in the Midgard setting - at least on a basic level. That is not to say you may not modify them - there are 6 alternate racial traits for you to modify the tieflings: You may replace skilled with getting +1 to skill checks when in the presence of other tieflings/half-fiends (even if they're hostile!), replace their sorcerous aptitude with +2 to caster level checks, replace the usual spell-like abilities with cause fear Another trait replaces skilled with +2 to Bluff checks to lie and +2 to Sense Motive to discern lies. Marilith-descended tieflings can replace fiendish resistance and spell-like abilities with +2 to CMD and may deal 1d3 points of constrict damage with grapples that increases by +1d3 for every 5 levels. Alternatively, you may play a tiefling with sheltering wings that can be wrapped around their bodies as a swift action for +4 to AC, but also - 4 to atk. Now this is the one of these traits with the coolest imagery - but also the one where the benefits are a tad bit overpowered for my tastes: stacking with fighting defensively, especially at lower levels, makes this an extremely powerful option for tanking characters, especially when coupled with heavy armor. And yes, the wings are very obvious, but seriously - crunch-wise, that's imho too strong, even when replacing fiendish resistances. Attacks should either not be possible or movement limited. I also consider the lack of bonus to fly skill checks/gliding options a bit of a pity.



On the racial feats side, we get 8 new feats: Increasing base speed to 35 ft, +3 to bluff skill checks or intimidate checks (the latter you can take twice, but suffer -2 to bluff the second time),1/day reroll damage against good foes, +1 to a save of your choice or +2 CMD and CMB via a tail, increase one of your resistances by further +5, and a feat to grow wings - unlike the alternate racial trait, these only offer +2 to AC, -4 to atk, but if you also have the trait's wings, you get +4 to fly-checks - which is nice, I guess, but honestly not that great a payoff for a feat since the feat's bonuses don't stack with the wrapping wings of the alternate racial trait.



Next up are the archetypes - fighter may opt for the Damned Defender, a fighter with threatening glares who gets a slam attack that may slam foes back. Hellcaller sorcerors can call demons and devils sooner than other casters. The archetype also comes with notes for demon, devil and daemon-summoning hellcallers. Bards may opt to train as Master's Ambassadors of the dread master of Demon Mountain, temporarily charming foes and coming with bombastic entrances. Somnambulist wizards can make sleeping creatures their puppets, keep sleep spells viable throughout the levels and prepare restful sleep as a wizard's spell. Redemption seekers are good clerics who can cast a domain spell at +2 levels when prepared in a domain slot and loses two domain slots when preparing the spell. Okay. So what does that have to do with a) tieflings or b) seeking redemption? This has got to be one of the flimsiest archetypes EVER.



9 new spells are next, from implanting suggestions in the mind of the sleeping, making shadow fey friendly, a spell that makes it possible to forego the improved familiar feat when calling a demon/devil to serve you thus, modify ley lines, fire rays that are particularly deadly for elves and elfmarked or conjure forth acidic rain or extremely lethal vampiric fog. Oh, and there is a spell to direct the sleeping great old ones towards your destination - not fast, but still...ouch!



Speaking of ouch: David "Zeb" Cooks excellent article on tieflings, written mostly in IC-prose is interspersed throughout the pdf - and it was originally 5 pages, so if you already had that one, you'll be getting some content you're already familiar with. Still, I love the article and its take on Tieflings - though what I honestly don't get is why this pdf failed to address the original one's GLARING balance issues, namely a table of alternate racial abilities that can be taken from a d% table in exchange for their spell-like ability. I love the idea that it's not necessarily under the tiefling's control and overall, the balancing is nice - with two exceptions that stand out like sore thumbs: Shadowsteel AUTOMATICALLY lets you ignore the first AoO you incur EVERY ROUND. No limit - no chance to ignore it - flat-out no-dice. Broken. And then there is heartseeker: Always do max damage on confirmed crits. Yeah. Right. I'm not going to dignify the existence of this horrid piece of brokenness by elaborating how easily this can be abused to death and why it's insanely OP. +1d6 sneak attack damage also feels excessive to me.



We also get new items - infernal stink bombs, tiefling booze, a shadowstepping cape and a gem that lets you lesser geas good creatures.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a couple of minor glitches like words not properly printed in bold letters etc. Layout is beautiful and adheres to Kobold Press' gorgeous Midgard 2-column standard and the full color artworks are a sheer joy to behold. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Okay, let me get one thing out of the way - this is a Midgard supplement through and through. While the content herein can be reappropriated towards other settings, you'll lose a lot of the specific cool nudges here and there in the process - this is all about Midgard. Defiantly and proudly so. Amanda Hamon has crafted several options herein that are neat indeed regarding their fluff and all those little story tidbits woven into the crunch are neat indeed. That being said, when not using Midgard, you'll lose some of the crunch: What use is a spell to direct Great Old Ones if your world doesn't feature them? The same goes for the shadow fey charm. That being said, it is said options and the ley line modifying spell that made me grin and enjoy the content - thus me feeling the need to mention this.



Now I wouldn't harp on a couple of setting-exclusive options - in fact, I tend to love those, but the thing is: The crunch, once you take the fluff away, more often than not feels just...Well, sorry to say it, BORING. +3 to a skill-check? Wow, never have seen that one before. /sarcasm.

Sorry, I try not to get asinine, but seriously - that is not compelling design. Why not play with the tiefling's racial traits? Lowering/shifting resistances, improved defenses versus the creatures of the lower planes, angel-killing options...something like that, something that truly ties in not only fluff-wise, but also in the crunch of the race? As written, the options are rather generic in their benefits and could have used a closer tie to the tiefling's racial abilities. And then we have the issues: The defensive wings are simply broken as written (I can get behind the feat, but the ones from the racial trait...REALLY?), allowing for much too easy tanking at low levels and then there is the inclusion of David "Zeb" Cooks article: 1:1 from KQ #6, without fixing the evident and glaring balance issues in the one piece of crunch said article featured. Yeah - max damage on every crit. Always ignore the first AoO every round -no roll, no acrobatics, no CMB/CMD-interaction - nothing...Come one, that's simply so much less in care and quality than I've come to expect from Kobold Press.



And it sucks - really: Amanda Hamon has written a supplement that, in combination with said article gets a 5 out of 5 on the fluff - it's glorious. But the crunch falls flat on its face, offering boring, bland bonuses even when used in Midgard, featuring balance issues here and there. When used in a setting that's not Midgard, you'll lose some of the coolest pieces of content herein. And the archetypes feature too many one-trick ponies, they are simply not that impressive and often show a distinct lack of unique abilities/cool options. The Damned Defender gets a 1d4 slam that upgrades to 1d6 at 17th level. Wow. That just plain sucks on a damage-scaling perspective. I like the archetypes' idea of tying said slam to dropping foes prone and moving them - but the execution! In PFRPG, that kind of stuff is DONE VIA SPECIFIC COMBAT MANEUVERS. Not via "attack results in ref saves". The two archetype that are a hit would be the somnambulist, especially when tied to the Midgard-fluff - and the ambassador of the Master of Demon Mountain: Both are mechanically and fluff-wise well executed.



*sigh* As much as I LOVE the fluff, I can't recommend this pdf. Fans of Midgard should get this for the fluff alone and the neat mundane items (The magic ones once again are boring - a cape to shadow jump? How many times have I seen that one again?) and awesome (very specific) spells. Beyond Midgard, though, I don't see so much use here - and crunch-wise, DMs should take heed whether this one should be allowed or not.



All in all, at least for me an utterly disappointing offering, in spite of the great fluff and beautiful art -and evidence to the contrary; the author CAN create awesome crunch - there are some instances in here... and hence my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 1: Tieflings (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2013 11:53:48
Nasty fellers, necromancers, aren't they? Disturbing the dead, surrounded by decaying undead...

... OR ARE THEY?

Some of those who practise the magicks we know as necromancy are decent upstanding members of the community using their knowledge and skills to the benefit of their fellow sentients both living and dead, and potent indeed their powers. Here, should you wish to play a nice necromancer, is everything that you need to know. Studying the cyclic nature of life and death and respecting those who have passed on to the other side, their powers include some healing as well as the ability to control undead and, at higher levels, create them in a manner that honours the dead raised rather that the abusive practices of your common-or-garden evil necromancer.

They are provided with their own spell lists (given here, along with some newly-designed spells) and can cast any spell they know at will, being restricted solely by a limit of number of spells per level that they can cast per day. There are a couple of new feats and an archtype (Grave Bound) which allows the white necromancer to have an undead companion - various ones are possible including ghosts, mummies and even vampires. A second archtype is the Necrotic Healer, who heals by taking others' pain into themselves in order to heal it.

Some intriguing possibilities here... and just watch the other players' faces when you announce that your new character is a necromancer!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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Dark Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2013 11:46:19
If you ever thought fey were nice, with pretty dresses and butterfly wings, forget it! Foul and grim, more like...

... and here's a collection of information about them, set in Midgard but easily portable to the campaign world of your choice. Fey congregate in 'Courts' which are not so much geographical but based around the person of their leader, so you can put them wherever you please.

There is a bestiary of malevolent fey, beings who will delight in harassing the characters at any opportunity. Each comes complete with illustration, full game stats, descriptive material about how they behave and - lifting the curtain - designer notes as well. There are a full eighteen of them from the nasty little Aridni who associate with slavers to the Zubnaya, another nasty little flying critter that buzzes round your ears lashing out with a spiked chain. Some are larger, all are vicious and best avoided (or culled!).

Next comes a 'fey animal' template - the fey often amuse themselves by acquiring ordinary animals and... twisting them. Then come the lists - fey by type, fey by CR, all you need to select the most appropriate one for your needs.

A fine array of the foul and grim side of the fey.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2013 12:38:37
If you are not one of the Darakhul, you are food.

A chilling introduction to this subterranean people, who are more than mindless flesh-munching ghouls, yet encompass that very nature. Herein are all the details to play one, although I cannot imagine wanting to do so by choice... they certainly make for a potent enemy and GMs who prefer real depth to their adversaries rather than using them as mere cannon-fodder for the party to slay will find plenty of use here.

There are, however, several suggestions for ways in which a Darakhul PC is actually viable and enjoyable to play; a worthy challenge for the keen role-player seeking new depths and angles to explore.

For these are no ordinary ghouls. They have a thriving below-ground society in Midgard and even have occasion to venture onto the surface (and not just in search of fresh meat for the larder, either). When doing so, most disguise themselves using a cover identity that allows for all-enveloping robes so that people encountering them do not instantly realise what they are dealing with.

Whether you are looking to play one or are designing some exceptional foes, there are feats and traits and archetypes ready for you to use as well as a section entitled Ghoulish Magic and Miscellany packed with useful things and spells and more.

Thought-provoking.... even if I think I'll stick to fighting them rather than being one!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2013 07:33:33
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page advertisement and 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick off this supplement with new firearm-themed traits - 8 to be precise. And they actually are interesting - most of them have options to be used in black powder-less campaigns and two in particular stand out: Kobolds and halflings may opt to be scavengers and thus ignore the penalties of the broken condition of firearms, though increased misfire chance still applies. The other one would be Gun-shy: Taking a cue from one iconic trope from countless movies, taking this trait makes you take a -2 penalty to atk with firearms and automatically become shaken (but not frightened for further shots) when using a firearms - in return, though, you get a massive +4 bonus to confirm critical hits with them. Plain awesome - two thumbs up!



Next up are 11 new feats and while many utilize grit, not all of them do. Being more pain-resistant as long as you have grit (bonus to saves), you may also heal yourself 1/day by spending 1 point of grid for 1d8+class level hp. Covering Fire is also BRILLIANT - when succeeding a touch attack as a standard action against a foe, you may opt to deal no damage, instead granting an ally (or more with the improved version) a +4 dodge bonus to AC for a round. Disabling devices via well-placed shots is another absolute winner. Also rather neat - as a full-round action, you can threaten all squares within 30 ft. for a round - a nice take on the trope similar to LRGG's overwatch, but more limited. Free stare-down intimidates have been done before, though there's nothing per se wrong with that. Steel Fury is also epic - 1/round when suffering firearm damage, you get 1 round of rage or one point of grit - finally something for gun-toting barbarians! Monks may opt to adopt the Thunderous God Stance, which is a style in all but name (instead being a combat feat tree): This style allows you to wield your firearm as a bludgeoning weapon and mix unarmed and firearm attacks in flurry of blows. The follow-up feats allow for quicker reloading via ki and stop provoking AoOs as well as essentially making a 30 ft. whirlwind attack with a firearm, applying precision damage etc. only to one of the targets. The latter feat would be overpowered, were it not for the MASSIVE requirements that even the playing-field - hence: No complaints. Finally, there's a feat that allows you to use intimidate and diplomacy via firearms -the only one of these feats I wouldn't consider excellent - and that saying quite something!



Next up are new archetypes, first of which would be the Black Hat for the Gunslinger-class - essentially a Malefactor light for gunslingers, these individuals are master of psychological warfare and jinxes, causing bad luck, mishaps and even potentially making enemies fumble for grit-expenditure - neat one! Barbarians may become Black Powder Reavers now - which nets a weaker rage, but also the amateur gunslinger feat while raging. When in rage, moment of clarity is required to reload, may use firearms sans bullets (with a greatly reduced range - though the ability does improve) and a limited fixed amount of deeds and feats. Again, neat!



Oozing flavor and offering something for those who hate blackpowder in their game, Coilgunners have salvaged their weird weaponry from ancient civilizations and use these mysterious coil guns with their alchemical ammunition. Being more scholars than killers, they get grit not from killing, but from scoring crits or suffering misfires. The archetype also gets 3 exclusive deeds that replace others from the gunslinger list - allowing you to electrically overcharge your coilgun, dealing electricity damage instead of piercing damage. While mechanically not as exciting as the first two, this one is high and iconic in concept and hearkens back to pulp-themes. Whether introduced via Azlant or Ankheshel, this one is a winner.



Witches may now opt to become Futurists -diminishing their spellcasting for the option to deliver hexes via bullets and for an area of study: alchemical, natural philosophy or mechanics - depending on the discipline chosen, we get different benefits and bonus spells - neat! And if you want to go the other way round and want a gunslinger with minor hex-access, the Hexslinger from RiP's "Secrets of the Gunslinger" has you covered - I love it when 3pps don't overlap!



Gunfighters are essentially fighters with a focus on guns - more reliable and wealthy in feats, but less flashy than the gunslinger - especially neat for anyone who doesn't like the gunslinger's mechanics. Hellfire Preachers could have come from my favorite italo-westerns - disillusioned with the gods, these clerics lose some of their supernatural powers in lieu of the ability to shrug off divine spells easier and hitting foes with massive mortal wrath at higher levels - iconic indeed and once again, both high in style and execution.



Noble Shootists use charisma instead of wis for their grit and also are rather adept at social skills - simple, yet effective. Noble Shootists also get two exclusive deeds to rally and buff allies when scoring crits and may, against flatfooted opponents, replace the damage her hit would have caused with a combat maneuver - thanks to the limits imposed, a great deed. The pdf also provides a sidebar on gunslinging in Midgard.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full color standard and the full color artworks are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The gunslinger has been blessed with some awesome 3pp supplements already and I was seriously dreading too much overlap when I set out to read this one. My fears, as it turns out, were completely unfounded. This is one of those rare little crunch-books that literally are all killer - there is not a single problematic piece of content herein - neither rules-language-wise, nor balancing-wise - instead, we actually get content that is high and iconic in concept and execution - author Crystal Frasier lives up to her excellent reputation and my exceedingly high expectations and delivers - appropriately, with a bang and fanfares. Fans of gunslingers (and everyone contemplating introducing ancient ray-guns from empires past into the campaign) are looking at a must-buy file they should not miss - final verdict? Easy 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
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