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The Secrets of the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2018 05:35:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This April Fool’s release clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

CRASH

Oh boy. What was that?? Sounded like a bad crash. Sirens blaring. Focus, man.

Ähem.

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

Door splinters in a loud explosion

“Move aside, you reviewer-git, I need to talk to my amazing fans out there! DID YOU MISS ME?? Don’t answer. That was a rhetoric question! Of course you did, it’s me, your favorite metadventurer, helping to make this bland snore-fest of a review suck less!”

Wait a second, man…I wasn’t done! Isn’t it enough that your unqualified dithering suffuse this whole supplement, commenting on the crisp mechanics and delicious rules?

“Nope, because that’s BOOORING!! Buckle up, folks, as we all established in the review of my amazing book, I have won Pathfinder. Everything released since and before that was just rules-bloat and utterly irrelevant, regardless of system.”

Yeah, right. Sounds like a hardcore-grognard speaking about anything past 0ed…

“Shut it, endy, or I’ll move back in. Behind your couch. With my bags of chips. ALL of them.”

Okay, okay…may I cover the basics at least? Talk a bit about the rules and stuff?

“All right, all right! Man, do you have something in your fridge, or do you still subsist primarily on coffee for your reviewer-robot-shtick? Seriously, folks, the amount of coffee he drinks is insane. I still have this theory that he’s the first German, coffee-powered replicant…”

Okay, while the metadventurer’s pillaging my meager supplies, let’s talk. We have to be quick. He’s uncannily fast at gobbling down anything with a nutritional value…

Ähem. So, know how a well-optimized team can make BBEGs just suck? I’m sure that, if you’re a moderately experienced GM, you’ve encountered it at least once. That time when your players started curbstomping all bosses from published modules. Well, there is an issue here: After all, we all know plenty of media, wherein a team of heroes faces down a super-powerful villain. Here’s the problem: In the games we play, that does not translate too well, courtesy of the restrictions of action economy.

“I’ll bum a smoke or 30, all right endy?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever!” Anyways, in Pathfinder, my go-to-solution is to use Legendary Games’ mythic rules and Mythic Monsters/Path of Villains/Dragons to upgrade builds and make boss fights more interesting. But perhaps you don’t want to learn mythic rules. That’s pretty much where this becomes your one-stop-shop. Since the CR-system, wonky as it is, doesn’t properly measure up here, we work with threat levels, which range from 1 to 5; CR-adjustments of the template are based on threat level. The pdf urges caution here, with the metadventurer cheering for a TPK and the fact that the first three letters of “funeral” are F-U-N. You get the idea. ;)

Anyhow, the template nets +1 hp per HD, +1 deflection bonus to AC and +1 to SR per threat level, and +5 to existing DR and energy resistance per threat level. Also, +1 to initiative, damage per threat level, +1 to atk per two threat levels. +1 to all ability scores per threat level. That, however, is not the main meat of the massive templates: That would be the colossal amount of BBEG abilities that make up the majority of the pdf. Saves versus these are governed by Constitution, just fyi. (As an aside – it should probably specify that Charisma is substituted for undead.) One such potent ability is gained per threat level, and they are brutal: Aggro, for example, allows the BBEG to move up to their speed and execute a full attack as a swift action.

“Endy, I’ve called my relatives from China while you’re writing this! Oh, and you really shouldn’t let your credit cards lie around openly… Ni hao!”

Urgh. Anyways, there are adaptive resistances, devastating, potentially disintegrateing waves of energy governed by HD, summoned creatures that detonate, the option to generate hazardous terrain that detonates, siphoning off life of meat shields…have I mentioned super-strikes at +20 to atk, which ignore concealment and auto-threaten a crit, increasing crit multiplier by threat level?? Yeah, these guys will WRECK even veterans when build smartly! Doubled hit points, a ton of additional AoOs…the focus here is truly to make a single being capable of standing up to a well-oiled group of adventurers. Really nice would be btw….

“So, endy, I’ve just talked to this nice gentleman from Nigeria and gave him your social security number and banking IDs. Oh, and when I arrived…that crash? I kinda may have totaled your car. Which I’ve hijacked. Also: You’re now all out of food.”

Damn, I need to finish this review, stat! So yeah, the abilities of the BBEG are amazing and deadly, and we actually even get two cool puzzle-abilities that require that the players use their brain to defeat the BBEG. And fret not if you’re new to the concept, or the pdf provides an extensive section to guide you in how to use these without being unfair.

This is not all, though, the pdf also…

WHACK; sound of head crashing to desk

“Dude, this pretentious git is really slow for his supposed IQ. Man, I even have a Goatee, dammit! So yeah, you probably realized it by now, right? I’m frickin’ evil! I am the drumroll BBEM! The Big Bad Evil Metadventurer! DUNH-DUNH-DUNH Don’t believe what this dumb pdf says, though – I’m not an archetype of the Metadventurer. He’s a wimpy, half-baked archetype of ME! Got that? Great!

So, like all cool things, you can only play me if you’re a GM, because screw players, amirite? We all wanna bask in their despair, bathe in their tears, as pages upon pages of lame background-story are invalidated by me being too awesome. So, I can use the GM’s OOC knowledge on PCs. I get BBEG abilities. I can treat allies and enemies as abettors with betrayal feats at 7th level. At 14th level, I treat my threat level as +5 for BBEG abilities. At 15th level, I get +5 to AC and saves from 3pp-supplements, because I’m cool and amazing and know the authors. Oh, and at 20th level, when you save versus my abilities and roll a 1, you obviously don’t deserve to live. Rocks fall, you die. No save, because that’s how I roll. Also, obviously, when I crit. Because I’m too awesome. Suck it!!

What? That’s all? Okay, so you need to bask in my glory a bit more, as I…”

whack, thunk

I gestalted vigilante, bastard!

Okay, I need to get rid of this bastard…before the real Metadventurer comes back to deal with his evil twin. I can’t deal with two of the sort.

So, in all brevity, my conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s old, two-column full-color standard. Artworks are full-color and amazing and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.

Wendall Roy’s template and associated archetype are super-deadly tools for the beleaguered GM. While the writing is hilarious in the details and commentary, it should be noted that this pdf is very much intended for table-use. This is not a useless file that just plays it for the laughs. The template provided can amp up even the most pitiful of final bosses, and while it requires a responsible GM, I love it for what it offers. Indeed, it is my contention that this concept could carry a book of thrice the size on its own. Considering the low asking price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this pdf, rating it 5 stars + seal of approval.

Damn. He’s twitching. Gotta run, see you on the flipside, folks…that is, if the BBEM doesn’t retaliate…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Fiends
by David C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/23/2018 14:26:15

I can see this being a divisive title, but right now it’s probably my favorite of the “In The Company Of” series because of how well it captures the feel of playing a fiend (if not a specific type of fiend; more on that later). This book offers evocative flavor text, a cool new race, and a solid, playable new class that feels very fiendish. The art ranges from passable to quite good, and on the whole this is a book I’m excited to use in a future game.

The new race, the nephilim, are humanoid creatures that have been more or less permanently possessed by disembodied fiendish spirits. The precise metaphysics of this are left somewhat vague, although there is a handy sidebar discussing how to handle an existing PC or NPC who becomes a nephilim during play. I like this race rather a lot; they positively drip with flavor and potential GM hooks, and I would consider using them as a replacement for tieflings in a future campaign. Mechanically, the ramifications of their unique form of possession are that nephilim are treated as humanoids rather than outsiders, to the extent that they can be raised and resurrected like PCs from the core races.

The Fiendish Exemplar class appears to be rock solid, if perhaps a bit high-powered for the tastes of more traditional GMs. It offers a full BAB progression, d10 HD, and 6 skill points per level - an impressive stat array that might seem a little bit unbalanced at first glance. Fortunately, the book includes a handy sidebar that suggests some easy ways to tone the class down if you find it to be too powerful for your game.

The array of fiendish powers on offer is reasonably broad and, properly selected, they can produce a character who feels very much like a member of a broad category of fiends - a devil, a demon, a kyton, etc. It isn’t quite as good at recreating the experience of being a specific fiendish monster - a cornugon devil or a demonic succubus, for example - which might be disappointing to some players, so keep that in mind before you buy.

To sum up, I like this book a lot, but it may not be for everyone. The new nephilim race is cool and interesting, and the exemplar class seems both exciting and playable. If you’re looking for a set of rules to create a balanced character with a strong fiendish theme, “In The Company of Fiends” is for you. If you’re looking to play a succubus, a vulnadaemon, or some other specific creature, you may want to look elsewhere, but I think there’s enough good stuff in here to make it a good addition to any player’s library.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Fiends
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101 Desert Spells (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/20/2018 04:26:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation of desert-themed spells clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a rather massive 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Now, as always, we begin this pdf with a massive array of spell lists by class and level, covering the classes up to and including the ACG classes, but not the occult classes.

From there, we move right into this massive compilation of spells, beginning with Aghasura’s bluff, a 3rd level spell that allows you to beckon targets towards you. They just move closer on their next round, perceiving others entranced as allies, as they move closer. The spell, alas, does not state that this compulsion cannot make targets walk into obvious danger/offers rerolls for them, which is a rather important caveat for such compulsions. Cool, though: You get a bonus to one attack (since dropping it is a move action) versus targets thus entranced. As a limit to the spell, moving ends the spell as well, but sans this bonus. Now, this being a supplement on desert spells, we get more than the rattlesnake rattle component to represent the leitmotif – you see, casting the spell in a warm desert environment makes it harder to resist.

Why did I specify that this is relevant regarding warm deserts? The pdf is smart and also covers the cold wastelands. The first spell that ties into this would be Amamrok’s aspect, which is obviously a transmutation that nets +4 to all physical attributes as well as +4 natural AC, as well as low-light and darkvision and scent…and a bite attack that is not codified requiring defaulting. This bite is also what makes up the main bulk of the spell. The caster can execute a bite attack against the air, focusing on any creature he can see, provided it has a soul. The bite targets a harmless, shadowy duplicate of the creature that is intended to allow for at-range tripping/grappling and “If you hit, you can attempt to trip and grab the target…” Okay, this is problematic. Those are two different maneuvers, so do we get two CMB-checks? If one of them gets a bonus, does it apply to both rolls? If it’s only one CMB-check, do bonuses to either apply? The wording here is also needlessly opaque – it would have been simple to state that bite attacks executed against such a shadowy double benefit from the grab and trip universal monster qualities, but the verbiage stumbles over grab vs. grappling. It is also a bit puzzling whether the creation of the shadowy duplicate “wastes” an attack or whether the creation is part of it. While this spell feels uncharacteristically rushed in its benefits, I did enjoy some design decisions: In cold desert terrains, the duration is expanded and at higher levels, additional spell effects are added. The rare material component is btw. required to grant these, even if you have Eschew Materials or similar substitution options – as a box clearly indicates, the spell would otherwise be too potent.

There also would be Amphiptere’s flight, which is an interesting 2nd level flight spell that is limited in height and thus retains the covert cap of unassisted personal flight. Arctic pelt is a cantrip for shaman and druid, level 1 spell for the other classes. It grants “resist cold 2” – that should be cold resistance 2. The creature also gets +2 to saves to resist damage from exposure to cold. Casting the spell in the proper environment increases the bonus, resistance and duration. Asleep unaware also has a rough edge of sorts – as a bard 3, sorc/wiz 4 spell, it targets a living creature, which is then rendered prone and falls asleep. On a successful save, the target falls asleep, but believes to be awake, which can be an interesting scenario to describe at the table – it is a mind-game I very much enjoy. That being said, the fact that you fall prone and are asleep for at least 1 round, even on a successful save, is utterly OP – at least the sleeping component should be negated. And yes, the focus is rare, but still – not going to happen RAW in my game.

On the hilarious side, aspect of the great roadrunner boosts your Dex and nets you Run in the proper terrain. Meep-meep! Benevolent commands is also interesting, in that it is a good variant of command that nets you the ability to use it at-will; you can discharge the spell to duplicate either cure moderate wounds or lesser restoration for targets that have heeded your command. It also can’t be used to command others to harm beings. The component, a lammasu’s eyelash, is pretty cool and the desert specific effects are interesting here as well. Biting winds is damn cool – at 6th level, it produces a 30 ft.-emanation that causes severe winds, a drop in temperature and cold damage – but it also sports a frustburn-ish engine of sorts, with cumulative failed saves increasing the severity of the additional conditions incurred. While we have 7 saves that lead to death as opposed to 6 levels, I was still pleasantly reminded of 5e’s exhaustion-mechanics. While these effects can only affect warmblooded creatures with a skeletal structure, it still feels a bit weird. Why does cold immunity, RAW, not prevent these effects? The Fort-save should be contingent on actually taking cold damage from the spell, which it does not – the per se nice wind chill mechanic is RAW completely decoupled from the damaging component. (As a nitpick: Range should be “Personal”.) Calling forth shadows with the dustman template added.

On the evocative side of battle spells, burning beams let you generate lances of light, intangible ones, that are lodged in the targets hit, burning them, with fire damage increasing in bright light, decreasing in darkness. Neat visuals and cool effects. Bursts of frost and flame would be another definite winner: For one, it converts cold to fire and vice versa for you; it also allows you to voluntarily fail your save against such an effect (if any), taking half damage, and emit a burst of the other energy, the damage output of which is contingent on the damage you suffered. Now, if you think that this could result in some really weird combos, you’d be partially right, but spell and sidebar explain sequence of events and make sure that the spell is not misread and uses cleverly the fine nuances of the free action. Particularly from a design-perspective, a rather interesting offering!

Conjuring forth a cactus and various efreeti-calling tricks, transformation into camels…some solid utility options can be found here. The nonlethal century in the sun represents a neat spell to simulate prolonged exposure to the sun, and is one of the spells herein that casters with the correct domain, for example (here: Sun) can substitute, which adds to the usefulness of the pdf in that regard. Ghul claws that are correctly codified and count as cold iron and magic and come with temporary hyena-shapechanging also make for an interesting variant on the buff. Concentrate condensate is a nice low-level spell to make air dry and condense in a square, which is one of the spells that sounds less useful at first…and once you start thinking about it, you’ll see its benefits. There also is a spell that makes darkvision color. Which is cool. Alas, I think that the target should specify that it can only modify pre-existing darkvision. The spell’s text implies it, yes, and so does the spell level, but it could theoretically be misread.

Slashing foes with cones of salt or dissolving creatures into puddles of acid via corrosive mists (via corrosive liquefaction) represent nice tricks. I am also partial to create ghost town and its lesser brother - the spell allows btw. for synergy when maintaining more than one casting, providing bonus “bridging buildings” of sorts. Swarm-conjurations also can be found here, with stats provided for a CR 4 scorpion swarm. The supplement includes a variety of desert-themed spells that e.g. allow for better movement, and potential discharge to treat poisons; ones that instill panic, curses that make the target think that they have been deserted. I am somewhat concerned about drake’s surge. A third level spell, this one allows you to convert your swift action into a move action. While this is less potent than the other way round, I am extremely weary of tweaks regarding action economy, particularly when said tweaks explicitly stack with haste. Why am I not screaming OP right there? Simple: The spell explicitly prevents you from using the action to cast spells or attack, limiting you to trail-like effects and preventing the otherwise inevitable issues.

Dusty shroud would be another winner – in dusty environments, you get fast healing 2 and are blurred, but you also are sickened in non-dusty ones. Oh, and you can harden the dust and generate a burst of slashing damage, ending the spell. This feels magical and using a dust mephit’s dwelling’s dust increases the potency of the hardened dust burst discharge. Cool! Using a sand stalker’s front leg to fascinate targets also is rather cool and gets how magic is supposed to feel. Endless sands/snow is an illusion that is so classic in its visuals, it should have existed before. I also love the imagery of the high-level flames of Phlegethon, generating hellish heat that can truly wreck objects and structures. Straight out of fighting videogames would be the 4th level flying grappler, which nets you flight while you’re grappling targets. The high-level, potent freezing shatter is nice and assuming, either willingly or via a curse, a ghostly form, similarly represents a classic and cool concept. A healing-spell with a cold-theme that can be used to damage targets is smart and we get two spells, including mass variants, which allow for better desert/arctic explorations.

There also would be a 5th level Wis-damage spell that penalizes Will-saves, a lightning aura that uses a rare focus as balance…there are some neat ones here. I am also partial to the spell that fire lightning in dust/sand, making it glass, and then blasts the glass to shards with a sonic boom, combining damage and soft terrain control. (As an aside, I think the glass should behave as caltrops, but that may be me.) Poisonous lines, a spell to protect versus sandstorms, summoning a dire bat that can be ridden, making a target believe that you and your allies don’t exist, a 9th level shadow conjuration to call a black scorpion…some cool stuff. If you’re like me and gravitate towards some realism and grit in your games, stave off loneliness may be very smart, as it draws upon the subconscious to prevent mental breakdowns and the like – this spell is one that focuses on the narrative, rather than the mechanics, and it does so very well. Calling forth an impressive, fully statted CR 13 crimson worm, sunburn/screen…cool. Also rather nice: Superchromatic vision, which allows you to perceive more colors than we usually do – somewhat akin to e.g. a mantis shrimp and the like. While this allows for navigation in desolations (and it can make for a really cool storytelling tool), the spell also renders you potentially more susceptible to sight-based effects. Thermal inversion line generates a line that is cold on one end, fire on the other, and manages to get the rules regarding the damage etc. right. A low-level curse that adds vertigo to falling prone is also a winner in my book.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se very good as a whole, in both formal and rules-components, but there also are a few uncharacteristic hiccups in some of the rules-components here. Not enough to sink the respective spells, but in this series, it did show. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and employs some nice full color artworks.

David J. Paul’s latest collection of terrain-based spells has a very, very high level of expectations to live up to. His spell collections represent my absolute favorite series of spells available for PFRPG. It is this series I’d take along to my lonely island, if I had to choose a single series of Spell-pdfs. These are my reference-books for what I expect from a good spell book. And honestly, the desert-installment holds up, as a whole – the spells herein often dare to juggle complex concepts that are hard to get right. Problematic effects are generally evaded and the spells feel MAGICAL. Foci and components act as smart balancing tools; annotations in sidebars help; the spells have relevant, terrain-based modifications and sport thoroughly fun effects. I love a lot about this pdf. That being said, it is a bit less refined than the last couple of installments. The glitches I found mostly pertained minor aspects of the rules-language, but in a series that is pretty much the bar by which I measure awesomeness in spells, this does show.

So, to make this abundantly clear: This still represents one of the best spell-collections out there. It is an inspired, interesting offering. At the same time, it features more “variant summoning”-spells than the others in the series, feels slightly less refined in the details, sometimes forgetting obviously intended components that would have catapulted spells from cool to amazing – glass acting as caltrops, connections between two effects…Now, mind you, the spells herein are still inspiring! They are interesting and the mechanics of the vast majority of them are great! However, when looked at back to back with the phenomenal installments of the series, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment at a very high level. Where are the glass shards that make lenses that can make light-spells more brutal, for example? I am a huge fan of deserts, and some of my fondest memories pertain driving through the Mojave, visiting White Sands or marveling at the Petrified Forest; of walking through Iceland’s black, sandy beaches and the desolation there. I do not object to the dual cold/warm desert focus, but I maintain that either could have yielded a bit more.

But I am rambling. As a whole, I really enjoyed this pdf, but I do have to penalize it somewhat regarding its rough patches. My final verdict clocks in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. I still very much recommend getting this, but it doesn’t reach the dazzling heights of exceptionalism of its predecessors.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Desert Spells (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Fiends
by Gavyn D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2018 14:37:51

I felt extremely disappointed with this product. Was hoping for something like the Grigori race with it's alternatve racial stat boosts... I don't know something like a combination of the aberrations and angel product this... this has too few options. Forces players to be two people essentially or requires regular GM intervention to make it work. There's simply not enough options to allow for someone to work for something to make a particular demon, devil, asura, etc only to realize that there wasn't even an option to start making one in the first place.

You can only have 4 natural weapons, increasing your size doesn't afford stat boosts. There's like no reason to make a size buff than, just make an increased attack range option or something like that. You limited yourself too much here, make this paragon class an archetype. The idea is great, but you put it in the worst place possible.

I know you can do better here Rite Publishing. Nothing was wrong with aberrations, dragons, treants, vampires. Or like 90% of your other products. What stopped you here? It's not because your unfamiliar with outsiders like you are with undead, you fixed the Wight book no problem, But you've made outsiders already, this is a step down and for no reason. For what, you wanted to try something new? Sure, it's a good idea, for an archetype... not for the main class

I want to make a Shemhazian, an Astradaemon, an Adhukait, an Augnagar... I can't make ANY of that with this. What happened Rite? This is the only one where I've actually been disappointed with a product, and I do not get frustrated or disappointed with these kinds of PDFs at all. I don't know what you have to do, what to say, what to pay... but if you can fix this, than please do.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Fiends
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Player's Guide to Kaidan
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/02/2018 06:16:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Player’s Guide to Kaidan clocks in at 61 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page patron list, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Before we begin, it should also be noted that I am somewhat of a Japanophile and love the Japanese horror tradition that this setting’s down to earth, gritty themes evoke. I was a backer of the Kickstarter that created this book, and, back in the day, I bugged Steven D. Russell (Rest In Peace) relentlessly about a good horror Player’s Guide sans spoilers for the setting. I was not, however, involved in the creation of this book in any way, shape or form.

All right, got that? Great! We begin with introductions by none other than F. Wesley Schenider and the man that first envisioned Kaidan, Michael K. Tumey. This section is a bit more interesting than usual, so I’m going to elaborate on it for a bit: You see, asian fantasy settings tend to gravitate to lumping all literary traditions and aesthetic conventions into one bucket; there is nothing wrong about that, in that we do the same for Western-themed RPGs: There is a style that hearkens to old-world aesthetics, some distinctly American settings – it happens and more often than not, the pot-pourri that is the result works. At the same time, this tendency has a consequence that few ever talk about, namely that the “loud” and flashy concepts override the nuanced ones, that mythology becomes this weird conglomerate. I’ve heard more than once someone remarking that e.g. “hero” would be a good “Samurai-movie” – which made me facepalm. In our globalized world, cross-pollination of aesthetics and concepts is a good thing as a whole, but at the same time, aesthetics cultivated in e.g. anime (and I’m a huge otaku!) can actually overlay and replace narrative traditions that are more subdued, but no less, perhaps even more, engaging. While I am, for example, a huge fan of Uzumaki (the manga!) or some of the grim horror-mangas out there, they do represent a different take onnarrative structure and employ different tropes than what you’ll see herein.

You see, Kaidan is based on the tradition of the Japanese ghost story, which has greatly influenced western sensibilities (most famously via the Ring and Ju-On franchises), but from Lafcadio Hearn’s traditions to Masaki Kobayashi’s classic movie adaption of these stories (Kwaidan, 1964), there is a lesser known, and, as one may argue, more humane type of horror that can be found – it is on said genre that Kaidan is based. The setting is horrific because of its deeply psychological nuances that remain relevant to this day, and because of the delightfully twisted cosmology that represents the backbone of the setting. The more subdued nuances of the setting allow you to tell different stories, and for that, I love it.

Now, if all of this sounds like a glowing recommendation before we get to the book, then you’d be right – I adore the setting. That being said, as always, this adoration also makes me rather stern regarding what I expect to see from this book, so can it withstand proper scrutiny? Let’s take a look!

Okay, so the first chapter here begins in a smart way – it explains to the player’s the social structure, caste system and environments found in Kaidan, including a nice b/w-map of the whole setting. Here is a crucial difference, though: The section does not pull back the veil regarding the central leitmotifs of the setting – it describes what PCs can learn and experience without spoilers, allowing the revelations, once they begin, to hit harder. It also helps players to feel embedded in the setting without explaining away the horrors at the root of the setting. That is a big plus and represents a central task I expect to fulfill from a player’s guide, so the section, in that way, achieves its lore goal.

Now, I know players, so I’m expecting that lore alone won’t cut it – the pdf knows as much as well and presents the races up next, starting with the Anu, one of the human ethnicities. Instead of the human bonus feat, these folks get +2 to Craft (poison) and Craft (trapmaking). They also get +2 to notice traps in forest settings – and yes, the bonus types are correctly codified. They replace the skilled racial trait with +1 hit point per HD. They also get 3 alternate racial traits that make sense and work. The henge come with 7 arrays of different ability-score modifiers for the respective clans (which include tanuki, hare, etc.), all of which are evenly dispersed between physical and mental scores and they get keen senses, +1 skill point or hp per level and are shapechangers, obviously. They also get Stealth and Survival as class skills and treat club and great club, long bow and spear as familiar weapons, gaining proficiency in them regardless of class. However, they also take a bit more damage from cold iron. The alternate racial traits include more bestial hengeyokai, who pay for natural weapons with decreased Intelligence. Aesthetic nitpick: Natural weapons are not codified, requiring the player to default to the standards regarding primary/natural and damage-types, but that is a minor complaint. Small and mixed marriage henge or those with priest or tengu training can also be found.

The dominant human ethnicity of the setting, the Kaidanese, come with a neat array of alternate racial options, with e.g. unclean and unwanted or being tengu raised as examples – they are mechanically sound and feature a strong narrative impetus, which is a big plus. Kappa are Small with +2 Strength, get a swim speed of 40 ft. and suffer no size penalties for grappling, gaining +1 to CMB and CMD instead. They treat Stealth and Survival as class skills and get a non-codified (this extends to all natural attacks and I won’t mention it from here on out) claw attack at 1d3 as well as kappa weapon familiarity. Sounds a bit stronger? Well, if you’re familiar with the legend of the water on top of the kappa’s head, you’ll grin when reading the racial weakness pertaining it. Kitsune can also be found – and in kaidan, they are significantly different from the standard race, gaining 40 ft. speed. They also are Small, have -4 Str, +2 Dex and Cha, are quadrupeds in their fox form and get a 1d4 bite. They have yokai traits, i.e. Stealth and Survival as class skills and may assume a specific, alternate shape. They get a single cantrip that can be sued 3/day for each use of Fox Magic – they are treated as 1/3 of a fox magic use. Fox magic? Well, that would be supernatural effects that can be used 1/day per tail of the kitsune. Save DCs scale based on Cha and fox tails. Oh, and guess what? If they fail a Will-save, their alternate forms may slip, revealing fox tells. They also can speak with foxes at will. I love this more subdued take on the kitsune. If you’d rather play a more martial kitsune, the alternate racial traits do allow for the use of fox magic as an attack-buff and nocturnal foxes and thieving specialists can be found here as well. The korobokuru are next at +2 Str and Wis, -2 Str. They are Small and have a slow speed, but get +2 to Stealth and Perception as well as +1 to saves to resist mind-affecting effects. They get +1 to Climb, Perception, Survival and Stealth in forests and their own array of weapon familiarities. They loathe conflict, though, and thus get -2 to atk versus non-animals, which is reduced to -1 in forests. Finally, the take on the tengu envisions them as +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, with yokai traits and a 1d3 bite attack (properly codified regarding types!). They are sword-experts and as such get quite a few racial proficiencies as well as +4 to Linguistics and receive 2 languages per skill point invested in them. They also have low-light vision…and an alternate racial trait that is called “Boar Rider.” Yes, there are dire boar-riding tengus. Come on. That’s damn cool. The races come with proper age, height and weight tables.

Now, next up, we take a look at forming an adventure party – whether you’re playing gaijin, yokai or samurai, there will be somewhat different things to consider, and the pdf helpfully states that “samurai” in the setting does not necessarily indicate having levels in the class. The roles of classes in Kaidan are explained, though, alas, the Occult classes or the ACG classes are not covered. The former is a bit of a pity, since e.g. spiritualist, medium and occultist imho would have made perfect fits for Kaidan. The pdf then proceeds to provide a selection of some of the cooler class options from the various Kaidan supplements: The blind Moso bard from Way of the Yakuza, the tengukensei from In the Company of Tengus, the yamabushi and yabusame from Way of the Samurai all have found their way here. The formatting of these has been improved. We also receive the kannushi priest cleric archetype, who gets 4 + Int skills and proficiency with light and medium armor and simple weapons. They only have access to one domain, chosen from a limited list and do not require a divine focus. Their channel-based healing is slightly less efficient, while their channeling versus undead is slightly more potent: +/- 1 per die, with 12th level allowing for full-round channeling for +2 damage per die. The rules-language here is slightly awkward, but remains functional and sans ambiguities. They gain spirit empathy as well as a bond to a shrine and may bless large structures and areas, very much emphasizing the priest aspect, which is something I enjoyed. Theme-wise concise, rules-wise less mind-blowing.

The miko shrine maiden is an oracle with a modified class skill list and proficiency in simple weapons and light armors and shields, expect tower shields, replacing Medium Armor Proficiency with Skill Focus (Perform [dance]). The pdf suggests curses and mysteries and proceeds to introduce the kami mystery, which yields Knowledge (nature) and (planes), Stealth and Survival as class skills. The bonus spells range from pass without trace to object/plant animation and summon nature’s ally spells. The spell array is okay, but nothing mind-blowing. The revelations include scaling energy resistance, a bonded animal, walking on water (later also on air) and the option to summon a kami into you for warrior-prowess. Minor complaint there: The ability is active and doesn’t sport an activation action. While it being SU lets you default to standard action, I think this one would actually warrant swift/immediate as activation. Making nature strike down targets is cool and we get nature sight, knowledge, talking with animals and elements – so nice, flavorful tricks here. The capstone lets you meld with any natural objects as well as 1/day elemental body IV.

The second new mystery would be the shrine mystery, which nets you Bluff, Knowledge (local) and Perception and pretty classic cleric spells. Here, we can find the nature mystery’s friend to animals, a shrine bond, fortune telling and a bunch of nice ones that thematically expand upon the concept of the bonded shrine. That being said, the mystery also loses a big chance: One revelation sports the option to make limited elemental bursts. …Come on! That practically DEMANDS some kineticist engine-action! The bonded shrine plus kineticist tricks would be perfect, natural fits for the setting! It’d explain why the flashy kineticist blasting isn’t found everywhere in the setting!

Now, the next thing the pdf presents is a new class – the necrotic warriors, elite agents of the Shogun, infused with the powers of dark arts. Oh, and guess what? No alignment restrictions! Thankfully! The class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and light weapons as well as kama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, siangham and light armors + bucklers. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Ref-saves. They also get limited Charisma-based spontaneous spellcasting at 4th level, with the spells limited by necrology chosen, which is btw. the most important class feature of the class, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.

The class begins with necromantic strike, which is basically a negative energy-based smite that adds Cha-mod to atk and twice class level to damage, usable 1/day, +1/day for every 3 class levels thereafter. Unfortunately, the ability fails to specify its activation action. 2nd level yields divine focus less channel negative energy as a cleric of ½ his class level. 3rd level lets the warrior add Cha-mod to Will-saves, but not if it’s negative. At 11th level, the same applies to initiative, which can be pretty strong. These wording constructs could have been phrased more elegantly by just noting that only the Charisma bonus is added. 5th level makes the necrotic warrior take damage from positive energy, be healed by negative energy, and also provides immunity to mundane diseases, +4 to saves versus magical ones. 9th level yields evasion, 15th level improved evasion and 17th hide in plain sight. 20th level is the undead apotheosis.

Now, as far as necrologies are concerned, we get 5 of them. As mentioned before, these define the spell selection and 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the list of bonus feats from which the warrior gets to choose. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a special necrology power defined by the necrology in question. There is no choice here after choosing the necrology, which means that all such beings with the same necrology will be VERY similar. The class really could have used some player agenda there. The necrologies are blood, bone, brawn, poison and shadow. They…sport some weird design decisions. Blood, for example, lets you fling blood at nearby enemies – as a secondary attack, making the whole thing work as a natural attack, when that is NOT how such things are usually handled. Indeed, the material here is uncharacteristically rough for Rite Publishing. We, for example, fail to specify the save DCs of necrology powers. Some of the abilities specify the save DCs, but usually, that sort of thing is determined globally. There are also instances where damage type hasn’t been properly noted – bone darts should, for example, inflict piercing damage and later be treated as magical etc. for purposes of overcoming DR. Doubling Strength-bonuses (brawn necrology, level 18) gained from items is also a really bad idea and further skews PFRPG’s offense focus and high-level rocket-launcher tag syndrome. Yeah, not a big fan. The class, as an NPC-exclusive, could perhaps fly, but as a player-class, it’s too limited, has too few choices and while I love the visuals evoked by the abilities, the issues in the details make this one problematic.

The next chapter deals with Kaidanese weapons and armor as well as other equipment, which is neat to see. We conclude with a handy glossary of kaidanese terms.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good; on a rules-language level, the book isn’t bad, but it is also not as good as usual for Rite Publishing, with the new class sporting serious flaws in some of its components. Layout adheres to a two-column standard that is mostly b/w, apart from headers. The book is GORGEOUS: Ian Greenlee, Mark Bulahao, Mark Hyzer, Patricia Smith and Kamil Jadczak provide a ton of amazing, original b/w-artworks that manage to gel together into a consistent style. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but oddly, only for the appendices and the first chapter – the race and class chapters lack bookmarks!

Now, my long-winded introduction should make clear that I love the Kaidan Michal K. Tumey and Jonathan McAnulty created, with additional design by Steven D. Russell. And indeed, I like that the race and class options focus on flavorful choices that are suitable for more low-key playing experiences, for grittier games. I really applaud the consistency of the vision here. That being said, I also found myself slightly disappointed that we don’t get any occult materials herein, that no favored class options are provided for the races. That would be something I can live with, though. However, the serious issues in the new class, which takes up a ton of real estate, are somewhat jarring after the cool, spoiler-less gazetteer and neat race-section. If I were to rate this as a crunch-book, I’d probably settle in at something around the 3-star region. However, this is a Player’s Guide, and the gazetteer-section and flavor is amazing. Still, as a whole, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars for this one. If you like grittier gameplay and the idea of Kaidan, round up; if you’re looking for primarily crunchy components, round down. My official final verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Guide to Kaidan
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In The Company of Valkyries
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/07/2018 05:25:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s „In the Company of...“-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Okay, the first thing you’ll note: New and improved layout! Really nice one, at that! Parchment-like background, central page numbers against a red backdrop, lion-like glyphs in the borders. Elegant and neat!

Now, as always, we begin this supplement with a missive to Qwilion of Questhaven, chronicling and interview with a member of the species in question, which means that, yes, this pdf, like all installments in the series, is actually a nice reading experience, as what otherwise would be dry notes, takes on a personal touch: “Hail and well met, scholar!” indeed, as this is how we begin the supplement. Now, obviously, valkyries are chosen, not born – the initiation sees the valkyrie, according to narrator Scorcia Stormcrow, gaze down a chalice in a hall, where no drop may be spilled; they gaze into a well, reliving the final, mortal fight, as weakness bleeds out of the valkyrie to be. The new initiate receives a mentor and the pdf proceeds to explain the details of the choosing, the importance of drink and poetry, and indeed, the valkyries retain some aspect of their erstwhile race, though it usually is cosmetic – yes, this means that half-orcs, elves, dwarves, etc. all can become valkyries. The pdf also explains the meaning of some famous names associated with valkyries.

Now, basic stats-wise, valkyries are native outsiders with +2 Strength and Charisma and -2 Dexterity. They are Medium, have darkvision 60 ft., resistance 5 to acid and cold and gain deathwatch as a supernatural ability 1/day, using character level as caster level – though only for the purpose of seeing creatures with souls. As battle-trained fighters, armor the valkyrie is proficient in never impacts her speed, nor does it add its armor check penalty to Ride checks. A valkyrie gains a valiant steed, which acts as a druid animal companion that does not automatically improve over the levels. The steed must be a horse, which is always combat trained and gains Light Armor Proficiency as a bonus feat. It does not gain share spells, and may be replaced if slain after a 1-week mourning period.

The signature ability, though, would obviously be the choosing of the slain: 1/day as a standard action, the valkyrie may draw a soul from a recently deceased body and safeguard it indefinitely, as per soul bind, but she may only do so for creatures willing to have their souls thus carried. The ability may only be used on a target if the target has been slain within a timeframe equal to a number of rounds that is equal or less than the valkyrie’s character level. If the soul is reluctant, the valkyrie may use Diplomacy to attempt to convince a target. In order to carry a soul, the valkyrie’s character level must be equal to or greater than the creature’s HD and she may only have one soul at any given time. She may free a soul as a full-round action. And before you ask: The pdf does talk about souls, what does or doesn’t have them, and retains full GM-control. The valkyries won’t wreck your world-building.

We get a proper height and weight table, fyi – being immortal, no age is given, obviously. The race comes with a total of 9 alternate racial traits. Instead of the standard darkvision and resistances, we can choose negative energy resistance and 1/day immediate action + Cha-mod (min 1)to saves versus negative energy, energy drain and death effects as well as +2 racial bonus to saves against the like – however, upon using this boost, the valkyrie loses the benefits of the trait for 24 hours. Cool! The resistances may also be replaces in favor of 10 resistance to one of the default energy types. Instead of being battle trained and the resistances, there is an option for a Charisma-based mage armor like effect and one for better divination CL as well as an initiative boost after casting such a spell. Speaking of divinations: We can replace the steed with a better form of augury 1/day. Fated sight may be replaced with Knowledge (planes) as a class skill and perfect knowledge of where she is in the planes as well as the knowledge about the closest gate. We also get a racial trait to make Small valkyries and the signature spear wielding: Instead of the steed, valkyries can use a standard action to call a masterwork spear to their side, which may be enchanted as usual and retains the enchantments, but may not be permanently destroyed. Finally, the steed may be replaced with wings: Here, we can see the mastery of the designers: The wings start off as gliding and synergy with the battle trained trait is covered. It should also be noted that the pdf qualifies these traits as racial feats – so yeah, you can take them sans trading in other options, and we get different prerequisites for qualifying traits!

Favored class options cover arcanist, bard, bloodrager, cavalier, magus, medium, occultist, skald, sorcerer, warpriest, witch and wizard as well as the racial paragon class., but more on that later.

Before we dive into the details there, let us talk for a second about the feats: We get no less than 18 racial feats, which include the ability to have the companion steed scale, quicker summoning and banishing of the spear, halving the duration of divinations with casting times exceeding a round, divination-based SPs…and yes, there is a feat-sequence that nets you flight! Yes, it is locked behind the appropriate minimum ranks/levels and will not hamper your game’s assumptions at low levels. The wings can be further upgraded to serve as natural attacks (properly codified!) AND the upgraded metallic wings may act as shields and cause bleed damage. HECK yes! (And yes, the prerequisites for these make sense, regarding level-range!) The paragon class can choose an extra insight (more on that later) and mid-level death ward that also acts as a safety net to keep you from falling below 0 hp, can be found. Aura sight is also here and really high-level valkyries can 1/day claim the soul of a living being.

Now, two of the feats tie in with Norse lore particularly well – these allow for the creation and improvement, respectively, of enchanted meads, a new item category of sorts, which can take four forms. The first is a more potent spell than what can usually be contained in a potion; the second allows for the creation of a potion-equivalent of up to 6th level. The third combines two spells into a single potion and the fourth uses strong alcohol to lower the cost of the brewing process, which is amazing – and before you ask: If you attempt to cheese these by being immune to the effects of alcohol…well, you can’t. The respective basic crafting mechanics are explained in a concise and precise manner that bespeaks that the authors did their math. Kudos! Beyond the basic crafting system expansion provided here, we also get 5 special, specific meads, which provide potent spell benefits, but, like the base engine, they come with risky drawbacks if you can’t keep your mead down. This represents, in short, the flavor of the race really well in the mechanics. We can all picture amused valkyries smirking over mortals that can’t keep their mead down, right?

Now, while pretty much every feat in the racial section is for valkyries (surprise), there are three that aren’t: The Valkyrie Style and its two follow-up feats. Valkyrie Style lets you wield a two-handed polearm one-handed while using a light shield or buckler, but, following the rules, you don’t get the 1.5 Str-mod to damage when doing so. The follow-up feat, Valkyrie Strike unlocks this damage boost and adds +1d6 precision damage with it – and this bonus precision damage bypasses all forms of DR. That is really interesting: Precision damage is easily one of the least valuable damage types in PFRPG and the DR-ignoring, while usually not something I like, makes it actually valuable. Kudos! The third feat, Valkyrie Fury lets you add a shield bash when making a full attack – sans losing the AC-bonus. Oh, and free trip attempt on a hit, sans AoO! Really cool style-chain! The base feat for this Style-chain also acts as one of the prerequisites of the Shield Maiden PrC, which represents one way other than dying to become a valkyrie.

The PrC requires the Valkyrie Style feat, BAB +5, 3 ranks in two Knowledge skills. Here is a great way to note one fact that made me smile and that is rather important for quite a few of my readers: Valkyries are obviously gendered entities, right? In another supplement, we’d probably read a “female only” line in the prerequisites for the PrC and be done with it. Well, guess what? Both regarding being chosen after slain and PrC only cares about how your character identifies – a shield maiden must identify as female, but doesn’t have to be female. This is really cool, as one could see the struggle, bloodshed and fights throughout a character’s progression as a symbolic, potentially cathartic representation of the struggle of transitioning, adding potentially deep symbological depth to the playing experience. So yeah, big kudos!

The PrC, on a mechanical side, gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The PrC gets full BAB-progression as well as ½ Fort-save progression. At 1st level, we get + Cha-bonus to saves (not stacking with the paladin’s divine grace, thankfully), and she may 1/day reroll a save, but upon doing so, loses the benefits of the ability for 24 hours. The shield maiden also gets the valkyrie’s ease when operating in armor at this level. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the shield maiden gains a boon, chosen from a selection of 6: She may substitute the armor or shield bonus she has with her Charisma-modifier (thankfully, min and max values included); 3+ Cha-mod valkyrie-style deathwatch, gaining an insight from the paragon class, a bonus feat (fighter level caveat included), resistance and gaining valkyrie traits may be found here. 3rd level nets fatebond: Either, you get a cool spear with enhancement bonuses and special abilities (scaling, caps intact) or a steed – and paladin-synergy is once more covered. Kudos! 5th level nets light fortification while wearing armor, and, in a cool twist, actually provides synergy with armors actually enchanted to grant the property. 7th level nets glory, which is a mini-smite of sorts usable up to ½ class levels times per day, each use lasting 1 round. When confirming a critical hit against a target of her character level + 2 in CR or higher, she regains uses – cool, and uncheesable! 9th level yields a death ward that may be used reflexively and 10th level provides the coveted valkyrie ascension upon dying. Really cool PrC!

Now, we also get quite an array of different racial archetypes for valkyries, the first of which would the be fortune weaver witch, who is locked into a raven or eagle familiar. 5th level yields a cool ability that lets you 1/day speak a target’s fate, causing a suggestion – if the target disobeys it, he is cursed. Cool! The ability may be used more often by expending spell slots, but only may target a creature 1/day. Similarly, rerolls for allies (9th level) may also be used more often via spell slot expenditure and at 11th level, we get, following a similar design paradigm, the dispelling of charms, curses, compulsions or mind-affecting effects, potentially redistributing them. Two major hexes and grand hexes complement a flavorful, cool archetype. The keeper of souls warpriest is locked into repose and builds on it, with the soul shepherding and planar ally options representing the agent of the valkyries and their agenda – nice!

The raven feeder would be a bloodrager who modifies bloodrage to add bleed damage. Raven familiar and the ability to select alus instead of bloodline powers complement this one, building on the bleeding theme. The runecaster magus is one of the coolest archetypes for the class I’ve seen in a while: Basically, arcane pool is replaced with a rune pool, which allows for the improvement of weapons to provide passive benefits, from which other characters can benefit. These runes, once inscribed, may be activated, granting fitting benefits, getting stacking issues right and unlocking combo’d runes add higher levels, which is, engine-wise, amazing and could carry its own class. Runic tattoos and armor also are included. Cool one! The Saga singer skald’s song can yields Diehard and further improves if the target has Diehard already. The telling of heroic sagas (urgh, I shudder when writing that plural, even though it’s the commonly used one – to me, the correct term for the plural is sögur, but that as an aside) replaces several passive abilities with these active boosts, which btw. may be combined at higher levels.

Speaking of which: We get no less than 5 bardic/skaldic masterpieces, all of which are epic: Brynnhild’r Lament nets an improved rage; Deliberation of the Norns nets save rerolls for allies. Kenning is amazing, allowing for the prevention of verbal communication of tactics, aiding, etc. via potent poetic allusions. Love it! Saga of Unbreakable Fate nets a slew of immunities, and the epic Ragnarok’s Requiem, usable only by the mightiest of heroes, provides a combo meteor swarm/mass cure serious wounds. All of these are worth taking for their price.

All right, so let’s move on to the valkyrie paragon, shall we? The class gets d8 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The class begins play with a mount that works as a druid companion. If the character has the valiant steed trait, the mount is treated as class level +1, which makes it really strong at low levels. The mount may be called to the valkyrie’s side 1/day. First level also nets 3 + Cha-mod deathwatch as a SP, usable versus creatures she is unable to see, but sans pinpointing them. 5th level allows for somewhat status-like information for those under the effects of her deathwatch. 7th level also adds knowledge of conditions to the information and 13th level makes the ability constant.

6th level yields a 1/day plane shift with up to 8 other creatures – it is not perfect, though, and may put the valkyrie and her entourage at other places if she is not familiar with them. Yes, random plane table provided. This risk is eliminated at 13th level and 19th level makes it flawless. At 11th level, the valkyrie can attempt to choose unwilling souls slain (which can be a really cool plot point!) and 17th level allows the valkyrie to destroy souls of the slain she carries to grant herself boons – a decision she should not lightly make. The capstone yields automatic critical confirmation against all creatures with a soul, as well as 1/day attack, skill, save or ability-check reroll with + Cha-mod added. Additionally, she can force such a reroll 1/day on a foe, using her Cha-mod as a penalty.

Of course, this is Rite Publishing, and as such, the class obviously sports some serious player agenda. This time around, that would be represented by the insights the class gets, which are the talents. The first is gained at 2nd level, with an additional one unlocked every 2 levels thereafter. Some of these build upon another and some have minimum levels – at 10th level, we for example have automatic planar adaptation. The theme of future’s sight is represented by the very potent augur’s strike at 4th level, which nets true strike as a SP, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day…with the difference that she must select the foe against which the bonus applies and the fact that the bonus lasts and halves in subsequent rounds, as the ability represents seeing into the future. This also prevents novaing of the ability, which is a really smart way of handling the concept. Swift action performance-like minor boosts , bless with temporary hit points added, bonus feats…At high levels, full attack charges are possible (again, locked behind a sufficiently high cap), seeing in perfect darkness, sensing deceit, a variant lay on hands, retaining AC when charging, making the return of those slain by her from the dead harder, ensuring that the sanctity of the dead is retained – the insights are MANY. We get more than 4 pages of different insights, which run a gamut from mechanically potent and engine-wise interesting to extremely flavorful, often blending them. You can make a really potent guardian valkyrie with constant detect spells; you can make a fearsome charge, a true champion of spear fighting, guardians of the fallen and any combination of such themes. The leitmotifs are represented in a concise and well-crafted manner.

No, we’re not done yet! Remember how I mentioned the cup of welcome before? Well, the pdf also contains 6 potent valkyrie-themed items, including the cup, which represents the classic theme of hospitality from the myths; a potent armor, a shield, seiðr runes, a bracelet from the world tree and a very potent spear complement this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no issues in either. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s new two-column full-color standard and is really nice. The pdf is chockfull with cool full-color artwork, with only one piece being somewhat less nice. It should be noted that the artworks do not contain unbecoming cheesecake and just depict badass warrior ladies. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

As some of you know, one of my fields of academic expertise is actually Scandinavian literature and culture. I am actually fluent in Norse. I loathe most depictions of valkyries in mainstream media, mainly because they don’t get what makes them fascinating. The whole ideology and culture that provided the cultural underpinnings of the concept of the valkyrie is, ultimately, not one that has stemmed from the Judeo-Christian dichotomous thinking process and ideology that resulted in the creation of cultural artifacts like our RPGs – in a world where good and evil are absolutes, it is hard to properly convey the concept of valkyries and the depiction of paladin-like battle-angels makes me barf internally. It is testament to the obvious love and attention to detail, that the representation of the valkyrie-concept, in spite of being codified with the confines of a system where good and evil are tangible forces, works here.

The love for concept and lore is apparent in each of the design-components, and detailed stacking caveats and a vast amount of small stumbling stones are avoided left and right, with the grace befitting of the valkyrie. Now, Kendra Leigh Speedling has already penned one of my favorite hybrid classes, but I think this may be the first time I have reviewed anything by Mara Lynn Butler – and the two ladies and their designs seamlessly gel together herein. No authorial voice clash can be found and the book, beyond getting the tone right, juggles complex and unique concepts in an admirable manner. There is a ton to love in this book, with race and paragon class as well as archetypes being pretty damn amazing; the addition of the PrC as a central concept is another huge plus here, and once we’re almost done, we also get the neat mead-engine, which represents the cherry on top of something truly amazing. This is a phenomenal representation of the concept, that neither compromises the rich lore associated with valkyries, nor the integrity of PFRPG. The pdf manages to actually blend the two components in an elegant and amazing manner.

In short: This continues the streak of absolutely phenomenal books in the series, standing as an impressive and amazing example of the cool things you can do with the system, even after all these years: From tweaks to SPs to new items, this oozes care and passion, always takes, design-wise, the high road. Now, excuse me, I have a distinct craving to listen to the Crüxshadows, a ton of good pagan metal, and build some badass valkyries. Rating? Oh yeah, forgot that, didn’t I? Obviously, this is an easy 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation. “Fate is armed with arrows – and she watches our battlefields.”

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Valkyries
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Pathways Bestiary(PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2018 05:46:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 229 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 223 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so the thing that drew me to Rite Publishing back then was the blending of really imaginative concepts and deadly, highly template adversaries. Here were monsters that did not need me to beef them up to stand a chance against my PCs. When the Book of Monster Templates hit sites, I was ecstatic: It took the monster template concept from 3.X’s beloved Advanced Bestiary by Green Ronin and one-upped it. Not only were the templates super-interesting, they sported unique and diverse abilities, many of which pushed the boundaries of what I expected to see. I liked the Advanced Bestiary (who didn’t?), but I loved Steve’s Book of Monster Templates.

As the master of Rite Publishing, Steve continued to provide amazing templates – and for FREE/PWYW, no less, for every installment of the Pathways e-zine featured one of the templates, always with a unique sample creature added, often with absolutely gorgeous flavor. Now, I adored these, I still do; however, the game evolved, Rite Publishing grew to become Steve’s dayjob and the time-constraints and limited budget a free magazine, of a 3pp, no less, could afford, meant that there were a couple of instances where the wording could have been tighter, where editing needed to be rushed.

Even when I had to bash one of Steven’s designs, he took the criticism in stride, encourages and supported me; he was there not only as a publisher, but also as a friend, and when he was taken from us too soon, I was crestfallen. I miss him to this day and his writing continues to influence my games, my own writing, and what I expect to see. In many a way, he pushed the boundaries of what I dared to expect and demand from roleplaying games. I am incredibly happy that Rite Publishing continues to prosper.

Where am I going with this? Well, this book, in a sense, is a monument to Steve’s work. It collects the first 60 templates released in Pathways by him and his talented cadre of freelancers, and polishes them, brings them up to speed and presents them in a refined, new manner. In a sense, this is the second Book of Monster Templates that I always bugged him to write.

Now, from all of this you can glean that I am, to a degree, emotionally invested in this product. Frankly, I’d have a hard time going full-blown analysis-mode and review-bot, abstract my own emotional investment. But then again, Steve would tell me to buckle up, call things as I see them and tell me to rate this as neutral as usual. To review this the rite way and not to make any excuses on behalf of his legacy, so there goes.

After a brief introduction of none other than legend Owen K.C. Stephens, we dive into the respective creatures and templates. Here, I am going to deviate a bit from my usual formula. If I were to discuss the respective templates and monsters in detail, this review would be bloated beyond any usefulness for the customer, so instead, I’m going to paint the picture in broad strokes, all right? Great!

So, first things first: Know how the 7 deadly sins are kind of a big deal in Pathfinder, beyond the neutral evil outsiders? Did you want templates to really reflect them, to e.g. represent champions and creatures of the Thassilon empire? Well, we get one template plus associated creature for each of the sins. These are not just any templates, mind you: The gluttonous creature gets a grinning maw in its belly; the lusting creature’s gaze can wreck your equipment-based bonuses; prideful creatures fight not simply to win, but to prove their superiority – which is actually a thing, thanks to the rules. These examples do not even begin to encompass what the templates offer, though.

You see, the templates herein are not simply content with just providing some numerical bonuses and perhaps one cool ability; no, the templates in this book sport multiple unique signature abilities per template, sometimes even going so far as to add a whole subsystem of trickery to the ability complex bestowed on the base creature. In short, you will NOT just mistake such a creature for a weirdly colored version of its base creature; you won’t just find animals with slightly fiendish touches, or critters that add a bit of elemental energy damage. Instead, you’ll find templates that really make a difference in how the creature operates, in its options, etc.

Now, there are a couple of somewhat elemental-themed critters within: E.g. the +1 CR pyroclastic template. To give you an extent of the level of modification you can expect to see from each template within: We have type change to elemental, immunity to crits and flanking and precision damage, vulnerability to cold perfect flight as well as burrow speed. They get a long burn, that adds not only fire damage, but has it last. Their aura causes Con-damage on a failed save and they get a breath weapon. Gentlepersons, that is the least amount of modification you’ll see herein. Yep, beyond the usual play with abilities and standard offense/defense tricks, we get no less than 3 signature abilities. Oh, and you don’t want to add the template, but need a brutal boss ASAP? What about a CR 23 pyroclastic red dragon? AC 39, over 500 HP. Need I say more?

Okay, another way to illustrate the extent to which the respective templates go to make the playing experience unique, would be the Agent of Chaos. One of the abilities bestowed by the template is the chaos field. Whenever someone nearby uses supernatural, SP or spell, the ability automatically causes a mishap, and the ability takes longer effects into account. Here’s the thing: We don’t get one, or 20 different effects; no siree, we actually get a massive 100-entry-strong table of chaotic effects! These are not brief ones either – in total, the table takes up 3 whole pages. And yes, these are not just cosmetic, but mechanically relevant! And that is before the next ability, the warpwave, which can have 20 different effects! Speaking of which: There actually are two feats to further build on the warpwave, so yes, the monsters and templates herein do actually come with supplemental material where appropriate.

Speaking of the monsters: Take the amber template – obviously, this makes creatures adhesive, and the creatures can negate freedom of movement and they can encase and suffocate victims. The sample creature here, lavishly depicted in full color, would be The Glorious Snare – a CR 4 amber unicorn. Yes, it is CE. Yes, it actually is pretty lethal. There are also rules-components that exceed significantly the frame we usually expect from templates: Take the bladeleaf creature. Not just a template for plant creatures, it provides basically a statblock that is based in part on the stats of the respective base creature, representing the animated swarm of leaves. Yes, the template actually allows for swarm-creation. Blood magic creatures can enhance their abilities via killing other beings. In this case, we get no less than 4 new spells to tie in with the template, one of which actually conjures forth fully-statted creatures.

Need some creatures that embody the cataclysmic end of days? Well, what about a template that will do just that, increasing CR to 25? Speaking of super-potent stuff: What about the DIY-Kaiju-template Daikaiju? Divine champions can assume frickin’ avatar form…yeah, there is definitely a ton of amazing, high-concept stuff here.

Fans of the mythos aren’t left out, either: We get a Dark tapestry template and the many-angled template, for example. Really neat! That being said, even though the editing has improved, there are a couple of snafus left: In the many-angled creature’s write-up, we have an erroneous reference to the lostling instead; there’s a statblock that has a double “AC” in the line – this book is not perfect in that regard.

Now all templates are this epic in scope, though: Want a representation of the not-at-all-wholesome prankster? The deadly prankster template offers just that, turning whimsy to being full-blown creepy! Prefer something more twisted? The Mad Harlequin allows you to make your own Joker or works as a nice foundation for Jack-of-Tears-inspired creatures. Want an undead jester instead? Red Jester template. As a fan of things macabre and dark, these struck a chord with me.

Dichotomous creatures are another example I adore: The creature represents a duality, rather than a singularity in morals, allowing for the fusions of e.g. demons/angels. Not happy with all representations of some classic undead? Dread Banshees, Phantom Armors, Revenants, Sayona and Crucifixion Spirits make for brutal, interesting takes on the respective concept, more in line with the level of deadliness than the more standard iterations.

We can find dream killer and false idols represented here, and there is a template to turn you into a gallows-based construct. The grandmaster template comes with an integrated cabal of servants and unique tactical tricks that, in conjunction with similar commander options, make for a deadly threat. Combine these fellows with the destined kingkillers, a template representing figures like Mordred or V, and we have a great coup-d’état scenario. The kingkiller’s wounds are cursed, btw., and not in some pansy manner – they can only be healed under a specific circumstance, which makes the old “the good king lies dying” actually work within the confines of the game! And that is before the sub-ability sections. Oh, and yes, we get kingdom-building-rules-synergy for the kingkiller!

Heartless creatures take a trope from classic fairy tales, creating duplicates…and the only way to truly slay them, as they’re born of negative emotion, is to find the origin. If played to their capabilities, Heartless can make for a potentially world-ending threat…and make for a super-difficult, cool investigation if handled properly. The template only clocks in at CR +1, but frankly, I could see this carry a whole campaign.

Need more forward threats to throw against the PCs? Both hellfire and hero killer should do a good job there. And yes, the latter isn’t called “Hero Killer” for giggles. Are you one of the folks who wished that Iron Kingdoms had continued support for d20-based games? Well, this book contains the iron lich! Speaking of classics: Poison and Deep dragon templates

Now, Pathfinder is an offense-heavy game – it’s much harder to establish a good defense than a good offense – and if you’re a GM whose players just steamroll over most published monsters…well, then you may want to check out the nigh-invulnerable template. This template represents something I loved in 2nd edition, where a few creatures like Greater Wolfweres actually fully regenerated each round, unless killed in a very specific manner. Well, the template represents just that, allowing you to create a classic, nigh-unkillable monster. This template, on its own, could be used to duplicate a more classic horror gameplay. Just modify it to suit the respective creature, add/detract cooldowns, etc. Gold.

It’s not all evil, though: Creatures infused with the fires of heaven or beings that represent the concept of the sublime can make for potent allies for stalwart heroes, with feats like Too Pretty to Kill further enhancing this trope.

If you’re like me and enjoy esoteric, weird or philosophical concepts in your game, then the notion of the timebreaker creature will most certainly appeal to you as well….and even if the concept per se is not something you like to explore theme-wise, the abilities are uncommon enough to warrant integration. If you’re bored of the standard treasure golems, why not use the treasure hoardling to represent the concept of the self-defending treasure? And if you enjoy the aesthetics of the Soulsborne games, you’ll probably also enjoy the walking weapons, the disintegrating void creatures, the walking wastelands. Creepy and eternal, the eye-studded watchmen creatures eternally hold vigil, while witchfire and whispering phantasms speak of dark things just beyond your ken.

Beyond all those templates, the last 30 pages are devoted to appendices: We first get recaps of creature types, then subtypes, then universal monster rules, then templates by CR-adjustment. After that, we get sample monsters by CR. These appendices are incredibly useful and make navigation of the book simple and smooth.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the original iterations and quite a few rough patches have been smoothed over and properly codified. However, there are more glitches in the book than in comparison to most of Rite’s recent offerings. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard used by Rite Publishing and the pdf comes with a ton of full-color artworks, most of which were previously used for Pathways covers, so yeah – the artworks, while not adhering to a uniform style, are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. As per the writing of this review, I cannot comment on the print version, since I do not yet own it.

Steven D. Russell, Matt Banach, Jonathan McAnulty, Will McCardell, Mike Welham and, of course, Owen K.C. Stephens are the authors of this tome, and they have in common that their names are synonyms for amazing books. All of these authors have, in more than a few cases, gained my highest accolades and they all know what they’re doing.

Now, as a reviewer, I have to admit to not being too happy with the minor verbiage deviations and cosmetic hiccups that have crept into the book; but frankly, I’d rather have a couple of those than a book full of bland standard templates. You see, this book is, in a way, an epitome of the Rite Publishing mentality: We receive a vast array of truly formidable, high-concept templates, with unique critters attached to them. The templates are not content with just representing the base concepts, they utterly embrace them and make them not a side-flavor, but the leitmotif of the creatures. They also do not shirk away from making creatures challenges, which is a huge plus for me. In comparison, the only series of monsters that, in design-philosophy, feels similar, would be Legendary Games’ Mythic Monsters series. Considering the amazing standards set by that series, this should be considered to be high praise indeed.

The creatures and templates within this tome are geared towards more experienced GMs and players, and the book is better off for it. Considering how often I hear from GMs whose players steamroll through many published modules, this book is pretty much required. Beyond the simple challenge, the design philosophy of the templates excels in another level: The book does not just escalate numbers. The templates grant power-boosts, yes, but at the same time, the book emphasizes smart tactics and roleplaying as well: Quite a few of the creatures herein can inspire whole campaigns and make for truly deadly foes, but at the same time, their strong motifs also make sure that clever players are rewarded when tackling them. Your brain and creativity will provide better angles to win than just rolling high with a min-maxed character. Now, that does not mean that folks who like ROLLplaying won’t get a ton of challenges here; quite the contrary. It is interesting, though, that the unique abilities of the templates go one step beyond the usual rules-confinements in favor of making the creatures distinct, unique and rewarding to face.

Now, this massive bestiary may not be perfect, but its ideas can keep your game going for literally decades. In the rare and distinguished air of its predecessor and Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary, I actually prefer it over them, courtesy of the truly distinct, creative and courageous design-decisions that suffuse the templates herein. My final verdict will, in spite of the hiccups here and there, clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is absolutely worth getting and any GM I know will love pouring over these pages…and start cackling with diabolical glee. This is a wonderful monument to a design philosophy and the man that championed it. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways Bestiary(PFRPG)
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Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Diceless) Kickstarter preview
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2018 15:40:10

As an introduction to Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, this is good - and you can't beat the price. Gossamer & Shadow is a development of Amber Diceless Role-Playing, that I personally am not fond of. But if you like diceless, and a system that encourages competition between the players, this is definitely worth checking out. It showcases the most important aspects of the game, without giving away all the detail you might be paying for when you get the full version.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Diceless) Kickstarter preview
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In The Company of Dragons Expanded (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/19/2018 04:40:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive expansion hardcover of „In the Company of Dragons“ clocks in at a massive 199 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with194 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. It was further expedited by me receiving a print copy.

All right, so we begin with a massive foreword by Bill Slavicsek, original author of the by now classic Council of Wyrms…and then we dive right in. Okay, usually, I assume a degree of familiarity regarding the “In the Company of..:”-series, mainly, because it is by far the best monster-playing option series out there for any d20-based game. Yes, I’ll stand by that. Since this book is a massive hardcover expansion of the original content, it must be considered to be special. Let us be a bit more in-depth.

So the first thing you’ll note upon starting to read this massive tome, particularly if you’re new to the series, is that this does not read like your average splatbook: Rite Publishing employs a cool framing narrative, wherein Qwilion of Questhaven requests members of specific species to talk about their own race; we basically get the inside scoop, and this is amazing for a couple of reasons. In the hands of a talented author, this inadvertently means that we get a glimpse at the psyche, biases and Weltanschauung of the respective races featured, one that goes beyond what we’d otherwise receive from a neutral depiction. As an aside, this also makes paragraphs that many readers are likely to skip in other publications a joy to read – this book is no difference and does not read like a phone-book of stats, but rather like a compelling, intriguing glimpse at draconic psychology.

These write-ups, obviously, also tap into creation myths and an often delightfully positive view of physical descriptions. Qwilion’s draconic correspondent, Thunders in Defiance, for example, wastes no time mentioning how the draconic form is the crest of royal houses, a symbol of destruction and majesty. These are little components that accumulate, enhancing the profile we have of the race: When e.g. the dragons tells us about how a clan of Taninim (that’s the name of the dragon-race herein) consumed a divine clam, losing their wings and becoming compelled to organize the world as a potential origin story for imperial dragons, I couldn’t help but smile at the compelling mythweaving. Now, beyond these components, we also learn, in depth, about the structuring paradigms of the taninim society in the Lost Isles, the backdrop/setting that houses them – more on that later; for now, let it be known that taninim differ in a couple of key aspects from regular dragons, but fret not: This does NOT mean that they are anything short of majestic apex predators. The Lost Isles is what I’d call a tie-in mini-setting; much like the Plane of Dreams or the Shadowplane, it allows for easy plugging into another campaign setting and its presence explains why few folks had heretofore heard of the taninim.

Anyways, the reputation of a taninim is important and the pdf explains the various grand rites of the race – these are relatively rules-lite rituals that account for example for banishment, challenges, changing alignment, etc. The acquisition of names and titles is also a big deal, with additional, grandiose titles gained…and there is a rite that governs basically a mating ritual of the otherwise mostly asexual taninim, who btw. also can change sex. These entries do codify their effects in proper rules-language, just fyi, so yes, while flavorful, they also carry game-mechanics with them that make their success or failure relevant in game-terms.

It should be noted that alignment changes may actually yield a painful process in which the character gets new scales, and the extensive discussion also delves into taninim religion and the psychology of hoards and lairs – territory is important. Now, it should be noted that chromatic/metallic distinctions are not necessarily color-coding All right, I know, I’m waffling – so let’s take a look at the rules-chassis, shall we?

Tanimin are dragons, receive +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, are Small, receive regular movement, can use manufactured weapons et al (at a -2 penalty) with their claws (secondary, base damage 1d3), receive darkvision and low-light vision, are immune to sleep and paralysis, can glide, receive +1 atk and +2 AC versus dragons as well as +2 to saves versus SPs, spells, etc. of such targets and +2 to Knowledge (arcana) to identify dragons. They also get a properly codified natural primary bite of 1d6 +1.5 Str-mod; Their hide yields +2 natural AC, but their form requires special armor. They increase ACP by 2 and suffer the same amount as a penalty to atk when wearing one; oh, and they reduce their maneuverability by one step when wearing armor while flying. They also get a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Taninim are quadrupeds, receiving modified slots (armor, belt (saddle only), chest, eyes, headband, neck, shoulders and wrist. Armor costs are doubled, but they get a greater carrying capacity, depending on size, as well as the usual +4 to CMD versus trip and overrun.

Alternatively, they can elect, racial ability modifier-wise, for +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, or +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Dex. Among the alternate racial traits. Beyond these, we get alternate racial traits. It should be noted that the alternate ability arrays are not simply that – instead, they are tied to certain types of flavor and additional benefits – the Dex and Cha-boosting option, for example, comes with Tiny size and sports only a 20 ft. base movement rate, but also provides a fly speed from the get-go. Yeah, in case you didn’t know that already, we’re talking DRAGONS right here; I’m not going to complain about the first-level flight here. If you’re reading this book, you’re not going for a gritty low-fantasy game where that would become overly intrusive. There is a trait to use Wisdom instead of Intelligence for Knowledge skills where the character has at least 1 rank. +2 concentration, better giant killing (+1 to atk, +4 to AC), being a Lung dragon, immunity to altitude sickness and no lost Dex-bonus when climbing; better aerial combat, toxic blood and spiny hides complement this array. The alternate racial traits contain meaningful tweaks beyond their mechanics.

The race also receives a couple of favored class options -barbarian, druid, fighter, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, taskshaper and war master are covered. Before I delve into the respective archetypes provided, let's not mince words so far - the taninim are strong. On a cosmetic level, the slight feature-bloat and two alternate attribute-sets that gear the race towards caster/martials are not something I'm overly fond of. Still, generally, the race itself can be considered strong, but manageable. It should be noted that we get tables denoting sizes by category, which is really neat.

Now the racial paragon-class is the draconic exemplar, which covers 20 levels, nets the taninim full BAB-progression, 3 good saves,d12 HD, 4+Int skills per level, no proficiencies apart from natural weapons. The taninim also receives a draconic essence - each of which provides one type of scaling energy resistance, a color, a breath weapon type and a unique compulsion, which always remains hard for the dragon to refrain from doing - which fits in thematically nice with the overall theme of draconic types. How many do we get in the expanded edition? Well, not “just” 20 as before…but rather than that 4+ pages of them!! Twice as many as before! And yes, these include trifling dragons, zealots, primeval ones, etc. Upon taking level 1 in the class, claws are upgraded to primary weapons and 1d4 damage. (The claws and how they work are one of the changes in this expanded version.) And yes, the role of e.g. linnorms in the context of the Lost Isles is covered.

Additionally, at 1st level, 7th, 13th and 19th level, the draconic exemplar can choose draconic weaponry - these can be used 1/2 class level + Con-mod times per day. Rather interesting - if applicable, their save-DC is governed by either Con or Cha, depending on the ability. They include fascination-inducing gazes, bolstering oneself against assaults, blinding gusts of wind, receiving the breath weapon associated with the chosen essence, elemental aura, charging through allies, enemies etc. The iconic whirlpool of bronze dragons, faerie dragon euphoric gas, frightful presence, spellcasting, roars, rampages, channel energy, retributive attacks after crits…and at higher levels, growing additional claws or even a second head can be gained thus – and yes, before you ask, draconic essence requirements prevent combining these two – thankfully! And yes, e.g. death curses by linnorm-y subtype are provided for your edification…if your PC falls, at least the enemy will suffer…There also is a sub-category of draconic weaponry that almost takes up 5 pages on its own, the draconic flair, which allows for the use of draconic weaponry uses to power SPs, with 1st, 7th, 10th and 13th level unlocking new options. Some of these sport unique tweaks to the SPs; zealots get their own unique abilities here; minor hiccup: The 13th level ability states 10th level in its explanation, but it is pretty evident what the intention is.

Additionally, at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the exemplar receives a draconic defense, which is chosen from its own list - rerolls versus sonic/language-dependent spells, evasion while airborne, all-around vision (at higher levels) spell resistance (even reflective one!), 1/day save-rerolls (upgrades at higher levels), scaling resistance to negative energy, an aura of slowed time (class level rounds per day), scales that apply ½ natural AC to touch attacks (does not stack with other such abilities, thankfully) - quite an array of iconic tricks here. High-level swimming through lava can be found alongside fast healing, which thankfully sports a daily maximum cap, preventing abuse. A blinding aura, fortification, nictitating membranes (called “nictating” here), being breath-less – you can basically make very linnorm-y or esoteric-style dragons – the expanded section provides a serious array of unique tricks.

This is not everything, mind you: We receive a third list of special abilities, the draconic gifts. These are chosen at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, they are also governed by Con or Cha, depending on the ability. These gifts usually require a specific draconic essence to pull off - without access to energy (acid) and a corresponding breath weapon, you can't make pools of acid, to give you an example. Most of these provide alternate uses of draconic weaponry and similar tweaks. Here, we can find high-level adamantine claws, the option to use two heads (if you have them) more efficiently, adding an auto-trip on a failed save to the breath weapon…and e.g. lacing the breath can be found.

Now, it is pretty awesome and something I’ll get back to later, but the book makes, courtesy of stretch-goals, use of quite a few amazing supplements: If you’re like me and like the time thief/warden-classes by Rogue Genius Games, for example, you’ll enjoy seeing the option to learn a bit of time-dabbling via aevum here. Blindsense and forming a potent living bottleneck in cramped conditions is another cool trick – after all, you are bound to explore dungeons sooner, rather than later, right? Camouflage, capsizing vessel, various gaseous weapons, poisonous chrome crystals, magnetic pulses, crushing foes, summoning temporary crystal balls, flinging foes…and have I mentioned basically bleed added, clinging napalm-y breath, oozing ice breath, no penalty to Perception while asleep, partial bypassing of energy immunity/resistances, touching spirits with claws, starflight, rending armor asunder, sweeping breath weapons…and yo know you want to unleash a tungsten sandstorm, right? How many of these do we get? Well, I only touched the tip of the iceberg here – more than 15 pages (!!!) of these gifts are included. Yes, you heard me. This is vast. It should also be noted that the array of gifts available often taps into the respective essence and other class options, generating specific progressions based on prerequisites that prevent OP combos…but rest assured, even a moderately capable player will get something rather cool out of this section.

10th level provides spell-trigger/completion items as though a sorcerer/wizard, using class level as caster level.

But we’re Small! That sucks, right? Well, here's where dracomorphosis comes into play - gained at 4th level, this one nets you size increases, secondary wing attacks (or primary gore for Lung-dragons), AC and attribute bonuses - and flight. Dracomorphosis is gained every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the taninim to grow to Gargantuan size at 16th level - the race also reduces Dex during the size-increases and receives tail sweeps, crushes etc. Which is damn cool, granted...but what happens if Dex drops to 0? No, I'm not kidding - with a total reduction of -8 to Dex, this is a real possibility. And yes, I am aware of how this sort of thing is usually handled with monster-advancement, but the point remains that this pdf ought to have tackled this particular issue. I am also a bit disappointed here, for this issue already cropped up in the original version. The capstone is, of course, the final great wyrm apotheosis.

The book also contains no less than 3.5 pages of feats, with the options to swallow snatched foes, changing spell damage a limited amount of times per day to mirror the breath weapon, one that helps capture foes alive and the usual “additional class feature”-feats. More guardians for the lair, high-level appendage serving , etc. – quite a cool, if potent array. The section also contains suggestions for monster feats suitable for the taninim.

Now the archetypes - first would be the draconic hero - an archetype that allows a taninim of any class to gain draconic essence and grow via Dracomorphosis at the cost of some class abilities usually gained - as a massive multiclass-covering archetype, the abilities replaced vary from class to class, including Rite’s taskshaper and RGG’s hellion and war master classes, as well as the ACG-classes among the supported classes. No occult classes support, though. This archetype is very much a required component of the book, for it provides means for various different draconic PCs to further diversify the party’s portfolio without compromising the integrity of the classes and balance.

Speaking of hellions, a new archetype herein would be the defiler of lairs, which necessitate that I elaborate on a crucial flavor component of the Lost Isles – you see, there is the Well of Oblivion, an almost cosmic-evil level source of power and corruption that can taint the dragons to become what they call “worms”, undragons; the spiteful corruption of all dragonkind. And you wondered why dragons reacted so picky when not called “wyrm”, as proper…Anyways, the ultimate representation and a sort of satanic adversary for dragonkind would be the White Worm, tapping obviously into the literary tradition of the conqueror worm imagery. The defilers are tainted dragons with a slightly modified patron spell list and 1st level yielding the White Worm’s taint, modifying the basic combat capabilities and form of the defiler of lairs, replacing the bonded object ability. Instead of 8th level’s hellion talent, we get an aura that can suppress luck bonuses as well as better combat capabilities while, bingo, assaulting lairs.

Scaled Juggernauts are essentially taninim fighters specializing in combat with their natural weapons, gaining rake and pounce at higher levels, as well as better defenses. Stormclaw magi are a natural weapon-based tweak of the magus-engine, combining that with draconic essence. Trueblood Sorcerors are locked into the draconic bloodline, but receive a scale-spell-component that replaces material components/divine foci and replace regular bloodline powers with a breath weapon. The wardrake war master archetype replaces consul with better Diplomacy with dragons and may even get a dragon cohort later. Followers may have the drakeling template added.

White Worm Apostates, oracles tainted as undragons, receive degrees of fortification and may disgorge a swarm of consuming, maggot-like worms and later, rise as a twisted phoenix from their corpse 1/day - a very powerful archetype that absolutely requires the immense social stigma associated with the white worm to be added to the campaign. Amazing one, though!

Now here is one aspect of the book that is slightly annoying s far as I’m concerned: The player-facing material is split to a degree: The psionic dragon-chapter penned by Jeremy Smith is basically an appendix at the back of the book, which is, organization-wise, not ideal – we get, for example, psionic class support for use in conjunction with the draconic hero general archetype, requiring page-flipping. Similarly the draconic exemplar racial paragon class sports psionic support here, with 5 psionic essences for dragons, which doe interesting things, like e.g. tying the breath weapon to active energy, or providing cryptic support; we also get a new array of even more draconic flairs based on psionic powers – weird formatting decision: While functional, they are not presented in the same table-style manner. A total of 6 different draconic defenses may be found here, which include a dream shroud, negative energy resistance, astral suits, a buffer versus psychic enervation, a nightmarish mind and the option to attune to attacks after suffering them, gaining DR versus the creature’s weaponry from that source. We also get a massive 20 new draconic gifts that include astral cages, being right at home in astral or shadow plane, gaining cryptic insight, dream surges, bursts of ectoplasm and a scaling, cool mastery of oneiromancy. Beyond these massive expansions to the core features, the chapter also contains 3 new archetypes: Psychic warriors can elect to become black dragon heralds, locking them into the feral path, which is further enhanced. The bonus also applies to acid-damage-causing damage-rolls. Instead of the secondary path power, we get exhalation of the black dragon, which may not be changed out. 12th level yields claws of energy and 15th level breath of the black dragon. The gale dancer would be another psychic warrior archetype, gaining a draconic essence if the character doesn’t have one; the archetype also comes with its own path, which focuses on aerial combat mastery and basically pounce while flying for psionic focus expenditure as soon as 3rd level – OUCH. The archetype also nets better overland flight and 12th level yields all the unique dogfighting techniques we expect – death spiral, hovering…pretty neat. 15th level provides further adaptation to airborne assaults as well as yielding the ability to form shape and solidity of clouds. The third archetype would be the winged horror dread, employing terrors via claws and natural attacks and the tapping into the terrifying draconic weaponry; bonus feats and draconic gifts complement this one. A total of 6 psionic feats complement this section for e.g. temporary fast healing for psionic focus expenditure, with a hard cap. Rerolling Will-saves via psionic focus expenditure, but only versus non-dragons and options to increase the potency of the new options complement this section. We also get 5 favored class options for psionic classes. (Ultimate Psionics can be found here!)

The second player-facing chapter relegated to the back of the book deals with Rogue Genius Games’ Dragon Riders/Dracomancers – Since Taninim are similar, but different from the classic draconic threats, the book provides one archetype for either class: The Spirit-Bonded Rider and the Spirit-Bonded Theurge – these two focus mainly on modifying the base class engines to account for the taninim ally, modifying e.g. bonus spells etc.

Thirdly, there would be a massive chapter penned by none other than Jason Nelson of Legendary Games, and the chapter is glorious: Some dragons once were overcome by the Elder Voices, making the eldest of these titans the cairna drakh, the First Fangs; in recent years, the younger glorven muun have risen, a new generation of mythic heroes. While the default assumption of the Lost Isles is that mythic powers are restricted to NPCs, the material herein is extensive. If you do go the NPC-route, be sure to pick up Legendary Games’ superb Path of Dragons and Path of Villains, but that as an aside. In addition to notes for PCs within the context of the Lost Isles, we also receive notes on mythic hoards and lairs and more than 3 pages of mythic modifications for the racial paragon class, including augments and meaningful changes. Beyond that, we get no less than 18 different mythic feat-upgrades for the material herein and beyond, making these adversaries really, really deadly. I love how this section ties deeply into the captivating lore presented in the book.

All right, now I’ve already mentioned time and again the Lost Isles mini-campaign setting, gorgeously mapped by none other than Tommi Salama in full color. The islands, sheltered behind the mystic barrier, sport an absolutely GORGEOUS map and more detailed looks at the respective islands are covered – this whole section acts as basically a massive gazetteer of different regions: There would be Borealis, land of ice and snow, where the glasslike aurora coral grows; rugged and mountainous Earthspine sports the majestic Windscour Cliffs and the small fireflower islets and the ones known as jetsam promise more adventure still; war-torn Stormhome calls to the brave, in spite of its foreboding skies, the earth lush and rich, maintained by draconic might…and wooded Verdance is home to the feykith, human settlements and may well be refuge if you manage to hassle the powers-that-be…and, of course, there would be the festering wound that is the Well of Oblivion…but I touched on that before. The Lost Isles breathe the spirit of high fantasy in the best of ways, providing glimpses at unique vistas that may well have carried their own book; as far as I’m concerned, I’d love to see this unique tie-in setting developed further.

The role of regular dragons in the setting is btw. also covered, and we get a chapter on the unique magic items that may be found herein – several of which would be barbules, which are implanted in the thick draconic hide, allowing e.g. weapons to be treated as dancing. The downside to these potent implants is that they cause permanent damage while implanted. Really cool for big dragons – with the proper barbules, you can generate a missile-deflecting shield, guarding allies within your space with a powerful 75%, non-stacking miss-chance. Ability-score boosts and spell storing is also included in the deal…and if you’re afraid that the big dragon won’t accompany his allies into dungeons, well, there is a collar that allows for compression. Class ability enhancers can also be found and the eye of elemental focus allows the taninim to form breath weapons into fireball-like blasts. The steelrain war howdah also rocks and yes, there are vambraces to duplicate the standard benefits of unarmed damage escalation. Even better, we actually also get Elder’s Pixane, a legacy item collar. Legacy items are Rite’s scaling magic items, just fyi. What begins with a basic defensive item becomes pretty amazing pretty fast. Now, as noted before briefly, there is a CR +1 drakeling template and we get 2 new critters: At Cr 8 and CR 11, the Screaming and Whispering Entropy, respectively, horrid clouds that can exsanguinate and possess targets, tied into the rich lore of the setting.

Okay, so the book has another chapter that made me smile from ear to ear: This book is, in fact, also a Dragon-NPC-Codex of sorts. Why should you care? Simple. When someone asks me for the best NPCs in the 3pp-circuit, my response is usually to list a whole variety of Rite Publishing books first; the complex and challenging builds are what, a long while back, led me to become a fan of Rite Publishing. So yeah, we don’t just get some standard codex stats, we get fully developed characters…and not any characters either, mind you: We get full stats of the Elder Voices, and they are EPIC. Take e.g. “Darkened and Bloodied”, the mighty draconic hero war master wardrake: This lady clocks in at CR 22/MT 5, and she will mess you up – if not with superb tactical acumen, then her ridiculously potent physical tricks. Beyond here, we get to know the most accomplished spellcaster of the isles, the mighty green sorcerer Gardener; Heart of the Mountain; Infinite (includes an artifact); Winterglide (again, with unique item) – none of these sport less than CR 20 and guess what? They come with stats sans buff-suite as well. Beyond these mighty demigods, we get 10 mighty dragons of note, including the narrator of this missive, Thunders in Defiance – and yes, the stats are pretty complex and diverse. This one is pretty epic. Beyond this aspect, however, we also get the rules to make undragons and an archetype for the jotun (see Rite’s In the Company of Giants) – the race sports a pretty cool tie-in with the tale of the taninim, putting a spin on the classic giants vs. dragons-conflict.

Okay, so this also includes an adventure intended for dragons of level 1, guiding them up to level 6. The adventure is billed as a scripted sandbox and comes with, once more, gorgeous full-color cartography by master Salama. Even better: We get player-friendly versions of the maps in the back AND high-res jpgs of them for VTT-use. Dear publishers, please take note: This is how it’s done. When you have amazing maps, make sure that players get to see them sans secret door markers, keys, etc. Kudos to the Rite team! Oh, I didn’t mention the most important thing, did I? Guess who wrote it? None other than Ben McFarland. If you have any kind of experience with adventures, this alone should be enough t make you grin. Oh, and guess what? The adventure is not some brief 10-page standard supplemental adventure – we’re looking at a proper, full-length module. The adventure takes place on the volcanic island of Pani Ura (explorable via hex-map!) and deals with taninim granted a fiefdom there. Years passed, no sign remained. Sounds familiar? Well, one way to think of the module is to consider it a reclaiming of a Roanoke-like aftermath, through the lens of a brilliant writer and high fantasy.

Want to know more? Well, sure, but for that, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS:

..

.

The taninim PCs are sent to Pani Ura by none other than Raging Tide, to figure out what happened on Pani Ura and to secure the island for the taninim – which is depicted as a hex that contains tribal lands, wilderness, villages – etc. Heck, we even get entries for subaquatic animals noted, for the PCs will need to sustain themselves; the island is inhabited by several tribes: The Maohi, who btw. are the native grippli (yay for frogfolk!); the Otsjanep tengus; the Pu’oku locathah and the Saissut iguana-lizardfolk; all of these tribes come with notes on their settlements, sample statblocks, story seeds and potential threats/developments. Similarly, there are several threats the PCs will have to contend with – like the interaction with the tribes, these threats are tied into the environment and can be used in a pretty freeform manner by the PCs. After establishing contact, it will be up to the PCs to unify the island: Seeds for the dealing/negotiations with the respective tribes are provided and ultimately, the PCs will have to explore the old taninim lair within the dungeon of Pani Ura. The dungeon comes, once more, with a superb full-color map and the locations sport read-aloud text here as well. It is here that the PCs will have t deal with taninim that have been utterly corrupted, as well as a body-jumping menace that was foreshadowed before. Once the PCs have defeated these foes and destroyed their tainted idol, they should have managed to consolidate their rule, right? Well, no. Unfortunately for the PCs, crusaders have found the island; the crusader’s ship is fully mapped and the invaders are hostile, belonging to an order dedicated to the enslavement and eradication of all dragonkind. Usually, those guys would be potential allies for PCs…but this time around, the PCs unfortunately are the dragons. If the PCs are smart, they better prevent the escape of the vessel and defeat these fellows…but this is not the end. The order won’t just take a loss; instead, they send really potent, really nasty folks atop the mighty Drake’s Misery, a fully statted vessel, armed to the teeth…and if the PCs don’t intervene, the crusaders will deal serious damage to the island…let alone the PCs… The literally only thing I didn’t love about this great module is that I have finished it; while the replay-value is huge, I wish this was a full campaign. I mean, seriously, the defending the isle angle is great!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, I noticed a couple of minor, purely aesthetic hiccups, missing blank spaces and the like, but less than you’d expect from a tome of this size; in this category, I’d consider this to be good. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s classic 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a ton of amazing full-color artworks. The cartography is excellent and in full-color, comes with player-friendly versions and even high-res Jpgs for VTT-use. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The massive hardcover is really neat and well worth getting.

Wendall Roy’s original “In the Company of Dragons” was a “squaring the circle”-sort of file; on one hand, he had to capture the power of dragons; on the other, there had to be some sort of balance. He succeeded in a truly impressive manner. This expansion, then, represents a massive evolution and refinement. We add Steven D. Russell’s draconic flairs as basically a whole sub-engine; well-done psionics by Jeremy Smith; kickass mythic support by Jason Nelson and a masterclass adventure by Ben McFarland. Sounds like an all-star team? Yeah, well, it is.

Beyond the mega-impressive chassis and the subtle, unobtrusive balancing that prevents the worst potential combinations, this oozes flavor and flair; the prose is stellar and the mighty NPCs can carry whole campaigns. The added details to taninim culture and Lost Isles is a joy to read and radiates creativity and heart’s blood. The adventure is unconventional, creative and amazing and the supplemental material otherwise never goes the lame route, instead opting for creative and unique solutions.

The Lost Islands are unique enough to carry a campaign by themselves, but please indulge me for a second, for this book made me come up with a pretty cool idea: So, you know how PCs often are supposed to “save the world”? Or, when evil, lose in the finale, à la Way of the Wicked? Well, what if the evil guys don’t lose? What if the PCs get squashed by a certain, unleashed Worm-that-Walks, what happens when the comet-summoning ritual isn’t stopped and the world as we know it ends, nations fall, gods follow? When darkness claims the world, for the PCs have failed and been TPK’d? Here’s an angle: A few mortals managed to escape to the taninim and the Islands remained. In the aftermath of the downfall of deities, divine energy was released. Now, if you take the rules from Purple Duck Games’ Dragon Thanes of Porphyra, you can do something cool: The latter book assumes that dragons, with enough followers, can learn to grant divine spells to followers! The new PCs could thus be a single taninim with his followers, attempting to become a new good deity of sorts, guarded by the other mortals, in a world that has fallen…or all PCs could be taninim, using the universal leadership rules from Everyman Gaming’s Ultimate Charisma; they are basically a new, draconic pantheon in the making, as they venture forth to bring hope to a defeated world! Come on, can you honestly not be excited by this idea?

Anyways, the fact that I mentioned this angle should tell you how excited this book made me. Yes, I freely admit it. I go review-bot whenever I have to deal with the notion of playable dragons and focus on the crunch, the fluff and turn off my personal biases. As a private person, I don’t even LIKE the notion of playable dragons. I consider it to be a horrible idea in most games. I rated the original version grudgingly, with respect for the design and vision, but no truly pronounced desire to use it, as my games tend to gravitate towards grittier playstyles. This book changed that. Not only did the crunch duly impress me, the whole vision, the setting, the cool NPCs…there is an incredible amount of love poured into this book, and it shows. This is one of the tomes, where the synergy of evocative prose, unique crunch and a daunting vision coalesce and form something greater even than the sum of the parts. In short: This is pretty much the definite option to play dragons. It oozes passion from all of its pages. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and the book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If the notion of playing dragons even remotely intrigues you, then look no further.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons Expanded (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Valkyries
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2018 13:06:19

I bought In the Company of Valkyries with no prior knowledge of the other In the Company of … books. Having done a small amount of research now, I see the series focuses mostly on monsters and creatures, and how they can be used in an adventuring party. I went into this looking for ways to help spice up a PC that’s a barbarian. I did not get what I was looking for, but will attempt to be a fair judge of what the book is, and not what I wanted it to be.

In the Company of Valkyries is a 39 page book, with a lovely cover from Tan Hui Tian, a page for credits, a page for OGL, and a back cover; boiling down to 35 pages of content. There’s no table of contents, which I would have liked in a book that’s just big enough that scrolling through the PDF becomes an annoyance when looking for a specific section.

The book starts with a page of in-character fiction of a witness to a woman joining the valkyries upon death. Following that is the Introduction, with 3 pages about valkyrie history, societies, descriptions, etc. Remember, this is a race book, and this section adheres to Paizo’s Advanced Race Guide format well. Next, we have a section on valkyrie racial traits. Valkyries (the race) get bonuses to Strength and Charisma. Charisma kind of surprised me, but becomes much more evident as to why later in the book. Almost all their abilities are based on their Charisma bonus. The valkyries have one racial trait that, initially, I just don’t see a use for: Choose the Slain. This ability works similarly to the spell soul bind and is meant for use with creatures that agree to become bound to the valkyrie. While I can see the spell being used as a trap to keep your opponents from coming back from the dead, I don’t see the racial ability as having any advantage by itself and there aren’t any alternate racial traits that replace it. All of the other racial traits and alternate racial traits seem to fit the theme of “angelic warrior women” well, and are useful too. Some of these racial traits can even be taken as racial feats as well.

The valkyries have 5 racial archetypes for the witch, warpriest, bloodrager, magus, and skald classes. All meet the theme, and look to be mechanically sound. I didn’t see any problems with anything, and found the art to be wonderful here. Remember earlier when I said I couldn’t find a good use for the Choose the Slain racial trait? The Keeper of Souls (bloodrager archetype) makes very good use of this ability. Not enough that I think it should be a racial trait, I would have made it a class ability, but they do make use of the trait.

We have a section on racial feats, which includes the ability to brew magical mead. It’s like brewing a potion, but not. Enhanced Meads are a new type of magic item, and can play a part in the valkyrie paragon class. Most of the racial feats make certain racial traits better. I’ll be perfectly honest; I don’t like “racial” feats. Very rarely do I think it makes sense that only a single race should have a feat. Most of the feats not tied to a racial trait seem perfectly acceptable for any race to learn. That’s just my opinion. The racial feats are another place where the Choose the Slain racial trait comes into play, making it a more useful ability – at the cost of a feat.

Maybe the best part of the book is the Valkyrie Paragon. This is a perfect synergy of what the race is trying to achieve; warrior women who are back from the dead, and ready to kick some ass. They get a wide array of class abilities that feel something like a magus/ paladin/ cavalier blend. If that sounds good to you, you’re going to love this paragon class. You get a mount, some healing, some divination magic, a full BAB, all the best weapon and armor proficiencies, and d8 HD.

Up to this point, the book has been focused entirely around the valkyries as a race. That’s ok, but, hard to shoe-horn into an existing character. The shield maiden is a prestige class that many classes (so long as the PC identifies as female) can work their way into. The shield maiden gains a lot of the race’s traits and capstones with the PC ascending after death into the ranks of the valkyries. They can become the valkyrie race, which in some instances, makes the prestige class abilities redundant.

The book ends with almost 4 pages of magic items and enhanced meads. As noted, the enhanced meads can only be made by the valkyrie race (unless the GM agrees with me that any race could take that feat). The magic items continue fitting the theme well, but, could be used in any setting to good effect.

In the end In the Company of Valkyries, isn’t the book I wanted, but it’s still a good book. If you’re wanting to play a Charisma-based character with some magical or melee talents, I’d give this a read. If you very specifically want to fight with a spear, you’re going to love this book. I think, if you like race books, you’re going to enjoy this book too.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Valkyries
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The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (Diceless)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:58:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This HUGE tome for Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Abbreviated LoGaS below for brevity’s sake) clocks in at 205 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page dev and playtester thanks, 1 page dedication to Steven D. Russell (Rest in peace, you’re missed, man…), 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 199 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All right, we begin with a well-written piece of prose before we dive into this book…but what exactly is this? The question here is less simple to answer than what you’d think – you see, this massive tome is at once a kind of meta-campaign setting for the worlds-spanning LoGaS-setting and a massive toolbox, as it features a TON of powers. It also sports some new worlds to explore and acts as an NPC-codex of sorts. In other words, this is a massive book and I can’t mention every detail herein, if I want to avoid bloating this review beyond what would be useful – hence, I’ll be painting with broad strokes here.

The first chapter is pure crunch, showing us new powers: These usually come in different variants for different point costs: You may e.g. learn Aetheric Projection for 35 points…or its advanced brethren, for 55 points. An upgrade, just, fyi, is possible for 20 points – so no, nothing lost there. Each of the powers features herein comes with a distinct definition of its dangers and abilities granted, which, in the best spirit of LoGaS, provide a distinct and diverse variety. The aforementioned ability, for example, would be the separation of mind and body, allowing for potentially quicker travel, visions of other times and concise possession rules; the advanced version allows for the influence of the physical worlds, as well as e.g. the erecting of barriers. Enchantment would be the second power, and does not require Sorcery per se; to use spells with Enchantment, the character will still require it, though. Basically, this ability is about…well, enchanting places, objects, etc. with gossamer material and is thus more aligned with the forces of Umbra. Detailed examples illustrate how it and its two more advanced options work, building on LoGaS’ artifact and construction engine in a sensible manner. Slightly faster Enchantment, disguising it…there are a lot of things to consider here, though ultimately, this will probably be one of the most beloved ability-suites.

An interesting addition to the lore would be the inclusion of Keeper of the Void – this ability represents that the character has come into contact with the shadow between worlds, gaining the shadow within as well as a weakness to both Umbra and Eidolon – but also thoroughly unique abilities that center on the manipulation of, you guessed it, the void – sinister and interesting, it makes for a great option for villains and anti-heroes. Scrying is probably self-explanatory in what it does – it is most certainly a great narrative tool for more intrigue-heavy campaigns.

But what about the existing abilities? Won’t they be somewhat devalued by the new ones, lacking the multiple steps many of the new ones sport? Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that Channeling, Eidolon Mastery, Invocation (which comes with 3 upgrades!), Sorcery (also 3 upgrades), Umbra Mastery and Wrighting all get upgrade/specialization options – this means that you can, power-wise, further escalate the already impressive options at the beck and call of the lords and ladies. Huge plus here!

The second chapter deals with talents, which are intended for use with NPCs – after all, not every adherent of Eidolon/Umbra is an adept/master, respectively – talents represent a limited knowledge or mastery of a power, but they are subject to strict limitations and as not as cost-efficient as buying a proper ability-suite. This means that proper lords and ladies will have an upper hand, but it VASTLY diversifies the arsenal of the GM, allowing for significantly more credible weirdness without an annoying inflation of the appearance of really powerful lords, ladies and wardens. This does manage to alleviate one of my concerns with longer LoGaS-games and diminishing returns for the encountering of such powers – by making them fragmented and more specific, a GM vastly expands the narrative arsenal at his/her command, which, once more, is a very good thing in my book. The fact that you retain full control over how many, if any, of these you wish to include in your game further helps. The chapter, then, constitutes mostly a massive list of these talents – as an aside, the progression from warden to master is covered as well…and in case you haven’t figured that out: It is very much possible to employ this engine for PCs as well, allowing for very fine-grained differentiation and dabbling…and these talents can also be used rather gainfully as a kind of story-reward in-game…so yeah, this section alone imho warrants getting this book.

We are not done, though – chapter 3 deals with idiosyncratic powers and qualities, and, while only 2 pages long, represents another MAJOR boon for LoGaS – special abilities granted by tech or magic usually do not work beyond the world of origin. This chapter changes that, providing guidelines to translate such abilities to talent-like options, at the cost of +10 points per Quality, +15 per Power – this uses vampires, fey messengers and e.g. Fantastic 4’s The Thing (minus the IP) as examples, illustrating the process rather nicely.

Chapter 4 provides yet another very welcome expansion of the options of LoGaS, namely character creation rules for beings that are meaningful regarding their power, but not on the level of lords/ladies – the easy to grasp rules and considerations are supplemented by several sample NPCs – and yes, this obviously ties back to the talent-system, which allows for specialized characters with a meaningful array of options at lower power-levels. (As an aside, I am a big fan of progression-style games, so this helps me tremendously – in GUMSHOE, I e.g. transitioned from Fear Itself to Esoterrorists to Night’s Black Agents when the PCs reached milestones in their abilities – a similar process can now, arguably even more organically, be achieved here.

After this massive array of customization options and tweaks, we come to what essentially constitutes a gazetteer of the Grand Stair – we learn about history, customs, language, the Pax Escalara, economy and travel, long-distance communication and the traditions surrounding the deaths of gossamer lords, hinting at the fabled Polyandrium as a mythological resting place, and yes, burial on the Grand Stair is mentioned.

Now, I did note that we’ll get new Gossamer Worlds to explore, and this is where that section starts: We can visit the Academy at Arbanes and learn about the multiversal, massive empire of Bastiano, the Ascendancy, which can make for either hope or deadly foe; we visit the impossible pyramid, bigger on the inside and connected to 4 primal gossamer worlds that otherwise are isolated and share no connections with each other or the Grand Stair; I am not going to SPOIL its details here; suffice to say, unlike the previously mentioned ones, the domain of the impossible pyramid comes with a proper table, and the respective primal worlds are similarly covered. Need a reason to like there? Twin-world. Hurricane world. ‘Nuff said.

The market of agora comes with stats for two unique races taking care of business there, and in less detail, we also gain more information on the black market and the previously mentioned Polyandrium. From there, we move to the unique types of people that can be found on the Grand Stair – we learn about ambassadors, the castellans, the allied guilds of the cicerones and porters, heralds and the bardic praecones.

All right, I did mention that this was a kind of NPC Codex as well, right? Well, there is a whole chapter devoted to sovereigns, and they are creative: A somewhat lecherous, nut sympathetic gunslinger with a heart of gold, the Indalo Kid, and his faithful bull-horned horse, for example, would be the master of Helldorado. Wanna picture Kaspar the Fixer? Visualize him as an orc in a tuxedo, with a cigar in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. Lord Sparda should put a grin on the face of fans of “V for Vendetta” or the Dishonored franchise – the masked individual is currently acting as the Ascendancy’s sword…though he shows up, strangely, on worlds impossibly far apart. We also btw. get stats for none other than Luther, oldest of the known Gossamer Lords and a true mystery…he may have won the last Dwimmerlaik war with his designs…but no one knows for sure if he enacted his horrid Stairbreaker… We also meet the archmaster of the impossible pyramid, the general of the Raven Legion. We meet a professor who REALLY knows people; the caretaker of Agora; Sybelle the Arbiter, happy-go-lucky Uwe, who knows the really weird places; the honorable and dutiful Shield of the Ascendancy is btw. a badass Walrus in cuirassier armor.

Now, no matter how powerful a lord or lady may be, ultimately, you need reliable, potent organizations – these are represented by 4 different organizations/knightly orders that are discussed in-depth: The Conciliatore are the foremost defenders of the Ascendancy. They also get their own unique torcqs and sport detailed information on ranks and relationships with others and a sample NPC – a structure that is btw. also employed for the Doormen of Lord Drake and the previously mentioned mercenary Raven Legion. Finally, there would be the Khalderi Host, the step nomads that claim to have always been there. Really cool, btw.: Their entry sports their own glyph-alphabet (numbers included), which I’m SO going to present to my players sans comment to decode.

The final section of this module presents a campaign outline, namely the “Dwimmerlaik Inquest”, intended as a potential sequel to the adventure “The Gathering Storm” featured in the LoGaS-rule-book; this goes beyond a few, fluffy lines, mind you: cast of characters, timeline, suggestions for alterations, using factions, etc. – all detailed in a rather nice and helpful manner.

The book also contains no less than three brief adventures; in order to avoid spoilers here, I will be brief: The adventures follow a similar structure as the outline of the campaign – cast of characters, structure, etc. – a plus would be that they are pretty character-driven, allowing the PCs to make meaningful interactions. The modules deal with the PCs being chosen to undertake the Last Walk and put a deceased Lady to rest; in the aftermath of this module, the PCs may learn about the Impossible Pyramid while investigating the cause of death of the Lady…but the third module is where things get really interesting…though, frankly, module may not describe it adequately: The connected realms of Iridess, unique in composition and nature, come with details, NPCs and are absolutely inspiring – this section could carry a whole campaign!

The book btw. also contains talent flow-charts (!!) that break down the respective powers (super convenient and amazing), a detailed index, and form-fillable character, creature & artifact and domain sheets – Wow!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a book of this size: Perry Grosshans and the cadre of proofreaders did a great job. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s neat two-column full-color standard for LoGaS-books. The artworks deserve special mention: There are a ton of nice original pieces herein, and while they do not adhere to a unified style, I haven’t seen any of them before – and they stand out. This is a beautiful book. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks, making navigation easy. I can’t comment on the print version yet, since I don’t own it – but oh boy is it on my to-get-list!

J.P. Brannan, Thierry De Gagne, Perry Grosshans, Adam Easterday, John Lee, David A McCreless, Selene O’Rourke, Joel Saul and Cliff Winnig would be the developers and contributors to the work of lead author Christopher “Kit” Kindred.

In more rules-heavy systems than Diceless, reviewing a core book is often rather tedious, particularly if it’s based on D&D; you’ll inevitably have the standards covered; it is only with the second book, for PFRPG the Advanced Player’s Guide, for 13th Age “13 True Ways”, that these systems really come into their own, become distinct – and it is these books I will most fondly remember in the years to come. While the core Lords of Gossamer and Shadows book was already a reinvigoration of Amber and Erick Wujcik’s engine, it is in my opinion this book that really makes it come into its own. While purists may scoff at the talent system presented herein, it is exceedingly elegant, easy to grasp, and the flow-charts simplify the process of using it to the point where it is a no-brainer. The system not only exponentially increases the array of options for the GM, but also for the players; it allows groups to explore a vast plethora of new and exciting narratives with the system.

Beyond that, the book also represents a MASSIVE setting sourcebook of the quality we have come to expect from Rite Publishing’s “Lords of Gossamer and Shadows” – the new vistas depicted herein are diverse, intriguing and captivating; they provide options without being prescriptive, adding political angles and details to the Grand Stair without infringing on the GM’s ability to customize what the Grand Stair means and represents in his/her game.

In short, this is art from adversity. The author has evaded blindness as a kid, courtesy of transplants; now, these transplants and the scarification cause crippling headaches and impede his reading and writing ability. It is testament to his passion and vision that this book exists; indeed, it can be felt that this was a book he needed to write. When you read as many RPG books as I do, you get a sense of when someone is phoning it in, and when someone is really and truly passionate about a task. This book not only represents a true must-have for any Lords of Gossamer and Shadows-group, it should be considered to be the essential work for it. This is a masterpiece, worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval. It also qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 and receives the EZG Essentials tag for Diceless roleplaying, meaning that I consider it an absolute must-have for any such campaign I’d run.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (Diceless)
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In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2017 04:56:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the second revised version

The second revision of the 5e-conversion of „In the Company of Giants“ clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Now one of the definite strengths of this series, should you not be familiar with it, lies in immersion - like most Rite Publishing books, the "In the Company of..."-series is defined by being simply pleasant to read, which is a pretty big deal for me. How does it achieve that? Well, know how some crunch-supplements read like telephone books? Rite books employ a cool strategy here - they are written from the point of view of actual characters. Thus, this pdf begins with Owain Northway, one of the sages of Questhaven, receiving a letter from a member of the Jotunnar race, who then proceeds to explain the basics of the race.

If Jotunnar does sound Norse-flavored, you wouldn't be wrong (their names sport the Icelandic suffixes of -son and -dottir, denoting "son of" and "daughter of"), but neither would you get the totality of the picture. Far beyond what other product lines offer in either 5e or PFRPG, we receive an in-depth look at culture and mindset of the race - which begins as Medium-sized and only slowly unlocks the true potential of their heritage. Philosophy-wise, the race similarly does take an unconventional stance - there are two dominant ways of thinking, with the first being called Vird.

Vird would be pretty much a philosophy steeped in Norse morale - i.e. cherishing the value of bravery, being forthcoming and true, but this does not extend to traditionally "good"-coded concepts like mercy. Courtesies and proper behavior still are very important and the elaboration of the concept is enticing and well-presented.

Osoem, then, would be the path of embracing what one could construe as the base giant desires - they are not necessarily evil, though their actions would be considered as such; instead, they very much behave as one would expect from the more unpleasant real world giant mythologies, rationalizing it as part of their nature. The scorpion on the turtle crossing the river comes to mind.

Racial trait-wise, the race increases Strength by 2 and they increase your choice of either Constitution or Wisdom by 1. On a basic level, Jotunnar become older than humans and favor a regimented society. At the start of the game, you are Medium and gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. You do count as one size category larger for the purpose of determining carrying capacity, pushing limits etc. and when you fail a Strength or Constitution saving throw,, you can reroll the save, but must keep the new result. You can use this feature only once per rest interval, requiring a short or long rest to use it again.

The main meat of this book. Crunch-wise, would be the jotun paragon class, which is exclusive to the jotunnar race and gains d10 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, one artisan’s tool, Strength and Constitution saving throw and you get to choose proficiency in two skills, chosen from Athletics, History, Insight, Nature, Perception, Performance and Survival. Nice: Beyond quick build advice, we also get equipment choices and ability-score requirements for multiclassing purposes. While not wearing armor, the class has a natural armor of 10 + the greater of either Strength or Constitution modifier + Dexterity modifier and you may still use a shield in conjunction with this AC boost. The jotun paragon class also gains a slam attack that inflicts 1d4 + Strength modifier bludgeoning damage, which increases to 1d6 and 1d8 base damage at 6th and 11th level, respectively. RAW, it does not note that the jotun paragon is proficient in slams, but I assume so, analogue to other class features.

At 3rd level and 15th level, the jotun paragon gains a mighty cool ability – as an action, you can grow in size (so yeah, you still can adventure with your buddies), increasing your size at 3rd level to Large. Equipment changes size with you and your weight increases by a factor of 8. Items out of your possession regain their size after 1 minute. Now, 5e’s size-increase rules are brutal – in order to maintain balance, the usual rules for size increase are NOT applied for the jotun paragon class. Instead, weapon attacks deal an additional 1d4 damage, which increases to +1d6 or +1d8 at 5th and 11th level, respectively. You may resume Medium size as a bonus action. The upgrade at 15th level allows you to use a second action to grow to Huge size, for a further size and weight increase. Damage boost while Huge is +2d8…and before you ask: No, you can’t be affected by enlarge/reduce while thus grown. Big kudos for balancing this…and for explaining the interaction with e.g. a giant’s sword in a sidebar.

Starting at 5th level, we get rock throwing, which scales based on your slam attack; 7th level lets you swat rocks etc. out of the air as a reaction, protecting your puny allies. Also at 7th level, you gain temporary hit points equal to 10 + number of Hit Dice extended + Constitution modifier whenever you complete a short rest, but only when you actually spend Hit Dice, so no cheesing here. They btw. vanish after a long rest. While you have these temporary hit points, you ignore the effects of the frightened condition – note that you only ignore the effects – you’re still subject to it! Interesting ability!

At 9th level, you gain advantage on all saves that affect humanoids, but not giants. At 11th level, you may execute a crushing blow in melee, which inflicts of +2d12 damage and the target must succeed a Strength save or be knocked prone. The feature may be used twice before requiring a short or long rest to use again, +1 use at 14th and 17th level. 13th level nets perhaps the most hilariously epic ability of the class – at this level, you can take grappled creatures and use them to beat up their friends or throw them. Yes, you are proficient in using other folks as weapon. Yes, it’s cool, and yes, you can smash grappled foes against walls, floors, etc. At 15th level, you double your damage versus objects and structures. At 20th level, you increase your Strength by 4 points to a maximum of 24, gain +10 speed while Large and +20 speed while Huge. Ability score improvements are gained at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level. Minor complaint: You have to deduce that and Extra Attack from the table, but that remains a cosmetic complaint.

Now, as far as player agenda goes, we get a Jotun Lineage, which is chosen at 2nd level and grants abilities at 2nd, 6th, 10th and 18th level. A total of 6 different lineages are provided: Cloud giant, fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, stone giant and storm giant – the classic ones, basically. The respective lineages are pretty flavorful – some abilities tie in with the mythological components associated with giants: Jotun paragons with a cloud giant lineage gain, for example, gain a kind of wildcard Charisma skill proficiency that may be changed upon finishing a long rest, representing their mercurial temper; at higher levels, these jotun paragons gain the ability to treat clouds etc. as solid and may even create duplicates from cloud matter. Fire giants can make nonmagical weapons temporarily magical and fiery, with the option to use Hit Dice as a resource to further enhance the weaponry. And yes, there is a hard cap on the number of weapons you can prepare thus…and having access to a forge increases the duration. When suffering normal fire damage, high level jotun paragons may draw some heat into their armors and at the highest levels, we have the ability to temporarily negate fore resistance or decrease immunity.

Jotun paragons with the frost giant lineage are not simply carbon copies of the fire lineage in cold; instead, they can fortify themselves against cold, gain Constitution-based limited spellcasting (representing runic lore). Really cool: At 10th level, grapples may inflict escalating negative conditions on failed saves, even including temporary petrification! Cool! Hill giants gain a necrotic bite and may regain Hit Dice by consuming flesh, but only once per long rest interval, and only as part of a short rest. Tapping into the cliché of the stupid, tricked giant, you can waltz towards foes if you succeed a save versus charms, illusions, etc., and you gain a thunder damage stomp that deals damage in a small cone and may push foes back on a failed save. Stone giants get a further AC bonus when not wearing armor, proficiencies and some adaptation to the deeps…which comes with a cool angle: Life aboveground feels less real, allowing you to use your reaction to declare one attack incurred in such environments as less real, halving its damage. Finally, the lineage of the storm giant nets you both resistance to thunder and lightning and some storm-themed, limited-use spells – the only lineage that I consider a bit less interesting than it could have been.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, both formal and rules-language has been kept pretty precise and well made. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s nostalgic, old 2-column b/w-standard with its rune-borders. Artworks are mostly stock and b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Rite Publishing must be congratulated here; The 2nd revision of the Steven D. Russell’s original playable giants, handled by Brandes Stoddard and developed by Dan Dillon, is finally what fans of 5e wanted. Another company perhaps would have moved on after the failed 1st revision, but Rite Publishing is devoted to making things right…and that’s exactly what happened here. You get the evocative size-increases and can still adventure with your buddies; you get the option to become Huge without wrecking balance…and better yet, the lineage abilities are evocative and cool, at least for the most part: I absolutely adore the somewhat fairy-tale-ish flavor that suffuses even brief descriptions of the crunch, how the respective lineages offer different, cool options…in short, I do consider this to be the conversion that the file deserves.

This is, in short, a great little pdf. While I was slightly underwhelmed by the storm giants, the 0ther 5 lineages are pure amazing and this pdf, in short, is very much worth getting. Flavorful, fun and well-made – the second revision gets well-deserved 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
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10 Vampire Magic Items (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2017 07:21:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-pdf for Rite Publishing’s phenomenal „Play VTM-style vampires in PFRPG“-toolkit „In the Company of Vampires“ 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!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Okay, we begin not with the first item, but with an optional rule – the pdf introduces Blood Crafting. Warlock blood nobles (aka, the Tremere-stand-ins) have, RAW, a bit of a problem with crafting; this issue is addressed by the blood crafting rules. The vampire requires a blood magic blood talent equal to or greater than the level of the spell required; blood magic VI would, for example, act as a substitute for spells of level 6 and below. To make up for this increased flexibility, the crafting vampire employing blood crafting must expend the spell level of the emulated spell in cruor points on every day engaged in blood crafting. Cost in cuor is cumulative, which means that complex items will require a LOT of blood…blood that the vampire must somehow provide… However, there is a flavorful risk to using blood crafting – if the vampire fails the Spellcraft check by 5 or more, he can still finish the crafting process successfully, but the item may become thirsty, requiring blood to work properly. But hey, at least the materials aren’t wasted! (Plus: Love the general concept!)

Okay, so this was already pretty cool…now let’s take a look at the items! The first would be the blood doll – these effigies come in 5 variants and act as a painless means to donate blood…and temporarily store it. While the stored blood slowly dissipates, these dolls should provide a colossal boon for vampires embarking into lifeless environments. Big plus! Blood staves come in 6 variants – these staves can be used by vampires employing blood magic to 1/day per spell level, reduce the cruor cost of blood magic employed. Nice. Elixirs of lineage are really cool: Basically, this liquid acts as a vampire Litmus test – drop a blood inside and you’ll see color-changes depending on lineage. I love this item. It feels incredibly right for vampiric nobles obsessed with the purity of their bloodline…and can make for some really cool infiltration complications.

But we move even further past simple items, as the pdf introduces the item category raiment of the ancients – it should be noted that this entry contains discrepancies between the truths of moroi myth and what was elaborated upon in the account given by sovereign Evelyn Arlstead in ItC: Vampires – this is intentional and should be considered to be a mild potential SPOILER-warning. These items are rare, valuable and can only be properly crafted by vampires; they require components taken from vanquished elders; it takes a vanquished elder or ancient vampire to provide sufficiently powerful components. The astute reader will realize at this point that the respective raiments are basically the proof and in-game justification that is analogue to the defeat of the antediluvians in VtM, though, taking the system’s peculiarities into account, the narrative takes on a different turn beyond the impending doom of their return, setting the moroi more clearly apart. It should also be noted that these items have different benefits for vampires and other beings that are not of the respective, associated bloodline. It should also be noted that partial mitigation of the respective curse is part of the items, further enforcing their special place within the context of the moroi. In case you haven’t noticed – these are basically the most sought-after items of the race and could be defined as almost-artifacts…depending on the power-level of your campaign and considering the genesis of the items, they may well be considered to be such, though crafting costs etc. are provided, should your PCs manage to defeat such an elder vampire. As a huge fan of making items out of vanquished foes in RPGs, I applaud this notion. It just makes magic feel more magical.

Grisly Fetish bracelets of the nosferatu allow vampires to suppress their curse and better conceal themselves. Heart’s blood is a special magic weapon property (+2 or +4) that allows for particularly potent attack-deflection – the ancient one is borderline insane and allows for Reflex saves to deflect any attack (not an action), with only enhancement bonus modifying the roll. Usually, I’d be screaming hellfire and brimstone right now, but considering the requirements, that the item will not be for sale (unless you’re playing a WEIRD campaign) and its implications, I consider it frankly to be closer to an artifact than to a regular weapon and will let it stand. If you dish out these items like candy, you probably expected a brutal power-surge. Well, obliged. Memorial tomes of the warlock bloodline enhance blood magic and also act as a kind of spellbook of sorts for the blood magic engine (which is a more complex rules-operation than you’d expect!) – kudos! The inspired’s relic of betrayal allows the vampires employing them to mitigate the superstition and also fortifies them versus channeling. Minor hiccup: The item is an amulet, but the elder version calls it a ring in a cut-copy-paste remnant.

The shade’s secret urn is worn in the belt slot and helps versus sunlight exposure and light, while the sovereign’s shattered crown helps versus the mirror problem…which would be as well a place as any to note that the tales of how the elders were slain make SENSE. They tie into the lore, curses, etc. and add a layer of depth to the items. The nightcaller’s stolen fur allows for indefinite hibernation in the ancient versus and mitigates the homesoil restriction.

Now beyond these, the pdf explains some subtleties of the vampire condition and the potent curse that sparked the condition, which make, frankly, for a fantastic backdrop for a whole vampiric campaign. Speaking of which…Raiments actually echo the true, original sin that gave rise to the moroi – and thus, moroi gaining access to multiple raiments can enjoy synergy effects beyond the already potent item effects…the layers of lore woven with a scant few lines are inspiring.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; I noticed no serious issues apart from the somewhat uncharacteristic ring-snafu. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard. Artworks are nice full-color stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. KUDOS!

I challenge you to find better wrought crunch and lore for a single buck. Stephen Rowe is not content with just writing some items; instead, he has crafted a glorious, must-have expansion for “In the Company of Vampires.” The rules for blood crafting alone warrant getting this book; the non-raiment items are great and the raiments OOZE flavor; they can arguably inspire adventures on their own…perhaps even campaigns. The thread of lore is intricately woven through the crunch presented herein, adding a further dimension to the humble pdf.

This costs a paltry $0.99. For 8 pages of fantastic, vampiric goodness. Seriously, if you own In the Company of Vampires, then this is pretty much the DEFINITION of “Must-have”. Heck, even if you’re not interested in ItC: Vampires (Why? Beyond the player option, it makes for a rather nifty GM-toolkit, even if you don’t want playable vampires!), the raiments may very well constitute an excellent reason t get this pdf and its parent-file…the anti-arch-vampire story practically writes itself. Heck, blood crafting has very creepy implications when you ponder the consequences… So yeah.

GET THIS. Now! It’s less than a buck!

Forgot the rating? Obviously, this is 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Vampire Magic Items (PFRPG)
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10 Aberration Magic Items (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/27/2017 04:18:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of magic items, tying in with the fantastic „In the Company of Aberrations“, clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All right, we begin with an item that actually has a nice visual representation – the calamitous tentacle. Before you start yawning – the tentacle is NOT yet another tentacle whip – it’s actually a ranged splash weapon that detonates in icky bits AND that may attempt to grapple foes! Really cool! Encapsulated weirdness is delightfully disturbing: This item is a magical tumor that contains an extraordinary abominable weirdness, conferring its benefits to the “wearer” – oh, and if you don’t meet the prerequisites, it demands a steep price! See, this is how “gain feature x”-items can be amazing! The eye of undoing is basically a dispel magic and disintegrate spell in a can. Okay, I guess. The flute of mad enlightenment, Z-shaped and weird, is easier to play if you have tentacles (AMAZING!) and causes confusion…oh, and it can absorb magic missiles. Cool!

Glasses of puresight clock in at 20K and automatically pierce mundane or magical disguises of aberrations. I really dislike this item, as it can wreck a plethora of plots. Harness of the Favored Pet is amazing – aberrations slap these harnesses on pets, allowing the enslaved humanoids to be handled easier…including command words to silence and pin them. Can you see the scenario where the PCs lead an uprising against chthonic masters? I sure as hell can! Mindkiller’s vise takes a painful toll upon donning, but does enhance the mental powers of the wielder with mind-affecting spells and SPS as well as the offensive capabilities in psychic duels. Nice. Synthetic skin suits are basically a combination of Disguise-enhancing stolen skins and bracers of armor, and thus come in 8 variants – solid per se, though personally, I am partial to Everyman Gaming’s Skinsuit Ritual for that particular concept. Voidcaller’s serum is unique: It makes being adjacent to the user very dangerous (untyped damage, no breath, fatigued…) and allows the user to call forth void-called beings. Basically a magic drug sans drug drawbacks…which, come to think, is something that could carry a book of its own.

Now, as in most of these small item-pdfs by Rite Publishing, the final item herein would be a legacy item, namely Rift. This mighty dagger of crystal comes in 6 stages of improvement (legacy items improve as you gain levels and unlock new abilities); the dagger is nothing short of the stain on reality left by the first touch of Nyarlathotep. As such, it should not surprise you that the dagger can confuse targets, cuts rifts into space to conjure creatures, etc. – a flavorful item! I am particularly partial to the high level ability that, whenever you roll a natural 1, lets you force another creature to take a natural 1 on its next round!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches in either rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports 2 solid full-color artworks The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos!

Wendall Roy is one of the best-kept secrets, designer-wise – he constantly delivers intriguing, high-concept material with really cool, creative tricks and tweaks. This pdf is no exception – we get some really cool items herein. While personally, I loathe the flat-out auto-detection conferred by the glasses, that is mostly a matter of taste. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Aberration Magic Items (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Vampires
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2017 04:00:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s massive „In the Company…”-series clocks in at a massive 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This pdf was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

After a brief foreword, we begin with a letter by Sovereign Evelyn Arlstead – the vampire correspondent and narrator that penned the in-character prose – a lady obviously at least slightly infatuated with Qwilion, which provides a rather amusing subtext throughout the flavorful prose that suffuses the pdf. She is rather adept at trying to “sell” undeath to Qwilion with honeyed words, interlaced with some flirtatious comments. Of course, as such, she does have some serious words for vampire-hunters, zealots, etc. Moroi, just fyi, would be the polite term for the vampiric race depicted herein. Physical description and poise, a predator#s confidence and danger’s subtle allure – the romantic notions associated with vampires have been duplicated in a rather compelling manner here. Fans of e.g. “The Originals” won’t be capable of suppressing a smile when the good lady comments on being “a bit melodramatic when it comes to family.” Similarly amusing: As the lady ges through the respective noble families, her own view color the descriptions. There are also the vampiric middle classes – the respective descriptions are briefer, but the descritions nonetheless are intriguing. As in Vampire: The Masquerade, those with thin blood constitute the lowest rungs of the social ladder.

Moroi are only created from the willingly embraced, but there are some moroi that can indeed generate slaves, a practice obviously condemned by the narrator – though the question of sincerity springing forth from her agenda makes this interesting. As with the revised installment on wights, we do have the modified ability score generation array for undead, Constitution-less races. Vampires retain speed and size of the former humanoid’s subtype, but none of the other traits. As such, they are Small or Medium, have slow or normal speed and ability-score-wise, gain +2 Cha, -2 Wis. Vampires gain darkvision and a natural bite attack (properly codified in type and size) that can also cause Constitution damage versus helpless and/or part of establishing a pin.

Which brings me to blood drinking: The vampire uses up 2 points of Constitution drained worth of blood per 8 hours of activity; blood and how to preserve it is concisely codified. Better yet, the math checks out – I happen to have done the math for the blood of humanoids the other day and the formula scales properly. Failure to satiate the thirst can result in fatigue, exhaustion, etc. – and vampires with a Cruor Pool can use that pool’s points to sate their hunger (more on that later). The way in which blood thirst is codified here is simulation-level precise, interesting and very concise. Excellent job here – frankly the best engine for this type of issue I have seen. As you can glean, this makes travelling potentially a challenging endeavor, though the pdf does provide considerations here. Big plus: At higher levels, the significant magic at the disposal of PCs can make the vampiric condition a trifle – however, there is an optional rule provided, elder’s thirst makes the draining ever more potent and dangerous – and thus harder to manage. Big plus, as far as I’m concerned, and nice way to remedy the trivializing options at higher levels. Now, everyone who played VtM with a serious level of detail will note how hunting can take up a lot of time: This pdf acknowledges that and provides means for vampires to hunt via a skill-check: The smaller the settlement, the more difficult it gets – though expenditure of gold, magic, current hunts, etc. can complicate the matter or make it easier. On a significant failure, the vampire may suffer from one of 10 consequences in a table, which may provide further adventuring potential. This system is not a lame addon – it works smoothly and 3 different feats interact with it. Kudos for the extra support accounting for Blood Pack teamwork hunting, Thralls and Territory (the latter makes hunting MUCH faster and reliable). In a nutshell, this represents the most detailed and elegant vampiric hunting/blood thirst engine I have seen for any d20-based game.

But I digress, back to the race, shall we? Vampires have families: The inspired gain channel resistance +2; Nightcallers gain scent; Nosferatu can demoralize adjacent foes as a move action; Shades increase their darkvision to 120 ft.; Sovereigns gain +2 Bluff and Diplomacy; Vanguards gain a weapon proficiency; Warlocks with Charisma of 11+ gain Bleed and Stabilize 1/day as a SP, governed by character level and Charisma. However, much like in VtM, each of these bloodlines comes with a curse: The Inspired are innately superstitious and have a taboo à la garlic, not entering holy ground, etc. Nightcallers can only rest while touching at least 1 cubic foot of their homeland’s soil; the Nosferatu, surprise, are disfigured and decrease starting attitudes of the living while undisguised. Shades can be blinded by abrupt exposure to light; Sovereigns cast no shadow or reflection and have a hard time approaching reflective surfaces. Vanguards can be paralyzed by wooden piercing weapons (deliberately kept vague) and warlocks can’t act during surprise rounds during the day and is flat-footed for the first round of combat while the sun is up. As with wights, the modified undead traits are listed for your convenience. Similarly, becoming a vampire later in the adventuring career is covered – kudos!

Regarding alternate racial traits, we have options to retain humanoid base racial traits – in two steps. The first renders susceptible to any source of fatigue or exhaustion, the second costs the racial immunity to death effects conveyed by the modified undead traits. Vampires with the elder trait can make Knowledge and Profession skill checks untrained and gain +2 to them, but must drink more blood to sustain them. Mingled lineages yield more than one lineage, but also the corresponding drawbacks and penalties to Charisma-based skill checks when dealing with other vampires. Survivalist nightcallers can sustain themselves via animals – but these must be killed and a HD-caveat prevents the vampire from just subsisting on a diet of kittens. Some vampires can discern information from tasting blood, losing the family’s racial ability benefit(s). Vampires with weak blood, finally, have no benefit or curse and require less blood to sustain themselves. Favored class options for alchemist, barbarian (which lacks a “ft.” after the +1 in a minor hiccup), bard, cavalier, cleric, druid, fighter, gunslinger, inquisitor, monk, oracle, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, summoner, witch and wizard are covered -alas, no support for the Occult classes, which is somewhat puzzling for me, considering e.g. the mesmerist. Oh well, perhaps in an expansion.

Pretty cool: There is a lite-version of the racial paragon class as a general archetype that can be applied to other classes, with the benefits balanced by the worsening curse. The other archetype included would be the cambion sorcerer. This guy can choose the Knowledge (religion) skill instead of the Bloodline skill. The archetype gains a unique list of bonus spells and may choose vampire bonus feats. The cambion may choose to gain the skills, feats and powers of the chosen family or bloodline, but at the cost of vulnerability to a material or energy type. The archetype gains a cruor pool as an additional bloodline arcana.

Which brings me to the racial feats: 8 feats are included; The cruor pool is ½ character level + Charisma modifier and can be used to store basically blood, with each point equal to 1 point of Constitution drained – this also can be used to power abilities. Extra Cruor increases the pool by 2. Fast Drinker lets you choose to deal 1d4 Constitution damage instead. Merciful Drinker decreases the blood you need to survive and can eliminate the pain caused by the bite. Recovery lets you help the living recover faster from blood loss. Stolen Life lets you expend cruor to heal/gain temporary hit points, the latter with a limit. Unfortunately, this ability fails to specify the activation action. Undead Mind lets you use cruor to turn a failed Will-save versus mind-affecting effects into a success, while Undead Resilience provides the analogue for Fort-saves versus diseases, poisons and energy drains – these btw. properly codify the activation action.

The pdf also contains 5 racial spells: Blood supply temporarily increases the cruor pool; rain of blood can nauseate and frighten the living exposed to it; suppress curse is pretty self-explanatory regarding the context of the race, as is greater vampiric touch; villain’s feast can sustain the undead and vampires and otherwise is basically the undead version of heroes’ feast.

The pdf also includes, obviously, a massive racial paragon class, the blood noble, including favored class options for the dhampir, elf/half-elf, dwarf, gnome, half-orc, halfling and human races. The blood noble gains ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort-, Ref- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not with shields. The class gains the Cruor Pool feat as a bonus feat at 1st level. Also at first level, the noble family chosen upon character creation, with mingled lineage’s effects accounted for properly. Benefits-wise, this provides a number of class skills based on the respective family.

The class also begins play with undead evolution: +2 to saves against diseases, poison and mind-affecting effects. This bonus increases by +2 at 4th and 7th level, culminating in immunity at 10th level. 13th level yield energy drain immunity, 16th immunity to ability score damage and 19th, immunity to ability score drain – however, in a nice caveat, self-inflicted drain is not covered by this immunity. The class gains a bonus feat from a custom list at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.

The development of vampiric abilities is handled via blood talents: The first is gained at 2nd level, with every 3 levels thereafter yielding another talent. And yes, talents based on secondary families are not at full strength.At 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, the blood noble can choose to get an additional blood talent – but if the noble does gain one of these, the blood noble also worsens the effects of the respective family curse. Each of the curse-progressions further develops what we’d associate with the families – flavorful and sensible. Nice! The capstone makes permanent destruction contingent on a special set of circumstances, once again defined the family of the blood noble. Really cool!

The blood talents come in two big categories: General talents that may be chosen by any blood noble, and those that are exclusives for the respective family. The general talents are reminiscent of the classic vampire tricks – ability-score boosts via cruor, channel resistance, spawn creation, energy drain, fast healing that’s contingent on cruor and sports (thankfully!) a daily cap, DR, supernatural movement forms based on family (thankfully without unlocking flight too soon), natural armor, slam attacks, skill boosts or some energy resistances. All in all, solid selection.

The inspired can gain cultists, channel negative energy via cruor, quench the thirst of other vampires…and from blood oaths t gaining cultists, a domain, etc., the talents are somewhat resembling the Assamites/Setites from VtM, just with a broader, more generally divine focus. The Nightcallers would be the Gangrel equivalents – with animal calling feeding from animals, gaseous form, melding into stone, locating foes – basically the wilderness hunter/survivalist. Nosferatu are the Max Schreck-style, inhuman and ghoulish vampires – like their namesakes in VtM, though less disfigured. They can drink the blood of the fallen, crry diseases and learn to temporarily suppress their unsettling appearance…or exhibit stench. Strigoi nets a tentacle-like, fanged tongue and there is the option to animate the dead or detach body parts to act autonomously – a nice option if you’re looking for a monstrous vampire.

Shades would be the equivalent of the Lassombra – the shadow magic/illusion specialists. Nitpick: The Veil ability lacks its type. Sovereigns would be the representation of the aristocratic Ventrue and as such, are the vampiric leaders, with charming, deathly allure, soothing demeanor, telepathy – basically the option for the potent face/enchanter. Vanguards are the vampiric fighters and as such, are closest to the Brujah clan in VtM, with cruor-based blood memory, granting proficiencies, better CMB/CMD, armor training, weapons that are treated as magical, self-hasteing…you get the idea. Finally, the warlock family would be the representation of the Tremere: These vampires can gain progressively better wizard-list based SP – additional uses beyond the basics are unlocked later and contingent on cruor. Beyond that, blood-based metamagic and homunculi can be found here.

While the vampire families are VERY CLEARLY inspired by VtM’s clans, it should be noted that the blood lineage is a significantly more fluid concept herein.

The pdf also contains a vampire template for the GM to make use of the material herein – kudos! Speaking of which: Lady Evelyn’s post scriptum made for a fun way to end the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I only noticed cosmetic glitches and those are pretty few and far in between and don’t compromise the rules. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, all of which I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

If you’re one of the unfortunates who didn’t have the chance to check them out back in the day: In the 90s, I consumed World of Darkness books, both roleplaying supplements and novels, religiously. I adored Vampire: The Masquerade. Yes, the rules sucked and yes, it was a nightmare to GM, but I adored the game. Big surprise there, right? Well, that ended when Vampire: The Requiem’s lore-reboot hit (just didn’t click with me, lore-wise) and there was another book that pretty much ended, at least for a time, all desire I had to see vampires in game: That would be the d20-version of the World Of Darkness back in the 3.X days. I love Monte Cook as a designer, I really do, but oh BOY did I LOATHE this book with every fiber of my being.

Where am I going with this tangent? Well, this pdf constitutes, at least in my opinion, the “Play a VtM-story in d20”-toolkit I expected the d20 WoD-book to provide. The rules are deliberate, precise and interesting; balance is retained…in short, Steven T. Helt and Stephen Rowe provide THE single best “Play a Vampire”-option currently available for PFRPG. I love the prose, the clans, äh, pardon “families” – they strike a chord with me and work without needless complexity – If you know how to play PFRPG, you will be capable of using this – the design is very smooth. If there is one thing that could be considered to be a weakness of this book, then that would be the fact that the respective families and their unique ability-arrays and options could have carried a book of easily 4 times the size – the topic of vampires, particularly of vampires indebted to VtM’s aesthetics, can cover at least 200 pages. So yeah, this is a good candidate for an expansion/hardcover with more lore, family traditions, etc. – or, you know, you can dig up your old VtM-books and start adapting their flavor, add more blood talents…

My second, minor complaint, the second reason I’m asking for an expansion, would be the curious absence of occult adventure or horror adventure support: Vampires and madness (the weight of years), occultists and mesmerists…these books seem to be natural fits and the pdf doesn’t offer anything in that regard. Now, let it be known: The bang for buck ratio is excellent here. Similarly, vampires depicted herein will not unbalance campaigns wherein not all PCs are vampires, which is a HUGE plus, as far as I’m concerned – this is very easily usable. Still, this book did leave me wanting more, probably courtesy to my own long-term attachment to VtM’s lore. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars for this book – and since I am a vampire fanboy, I will also add my seal of approval to this book, in spite of my nagging feeling that there ought to be more. If you do not share my love for VtM, you should mentally take away the seal.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Vampires
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