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In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/29/2016 09:02:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The latest installment of Rite Publishing's massive "In the Company"-series for playable monster races clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 43 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


Unlike most of these books, we do not begin with the in-character prose that guides us through the book itself - instead, we start with author Jonathan McAnulty noting taking us a long on a short trip through his mind and past, explaining why this book exists in the first place - and personally, I like that. It makes the book feel...well, more direct and establishes a context and theme against which one may process the following information.


After this, we dive right into what has by now become a crucial part of the identity of this series, namely the fact that it reads very well: The introduction to the playable treants featured in this book is narrated by a member of the race, structured alongside a song of the treants, as the narrator explains the mythology, the role of shepherds of trees and then proceeds to detail the life-cycles of treants, misconceptions of other races, the unique society, ethics and relationships with other races. This whole section is provided in stunning, captivating prose and extends its level of detail to nomenclature to the finer details as well, resulting in a truly captivating experience as far as reading material is concerned.


Now, an important component of the treant as depicted here is that the treants are plants, yes...but the plant traits, very powerful as a default, have been modified for balance's sake, which is a pretty big (and smart) decision right then and there. Unlike previous installments of the series, the treants provided herein actually are not simply one race: There are multiple options to choose from, the first of which would be the birchwalker.


Birchwalkers gain immunity to humanoid-targeting effects, paralysis, stunning and sleep effects as well as +1 + 1/2 HD to saves versus charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, phantasms and polymorph effects - these would be the modified plant traits mentioned above. They get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, low-light vision and are always awake, though their spell preparation etc. work via a meditation, though this does not include penalties to Perception for sleeping. Birchwalkers gain +2 natural armor and are resilient versus starvation, suffocation etc. - they get +4 to Con-checks to avoid the like and gain +2 to Diplomacy, Appraise and Craft. (Here, a cosmetic formatting glitch has crept in, with the artisan racial trait not beginning in a new line; cosmetic, though and not a reason to harp on the pdf. Birchwalkers get +4 to Knowledge (Nature) pertaining trees and armor made for them costs twice as much. They also take +50% fire damage. Alternate racial trait-wise, they can have a slightly faster speed (and minor bonuses versus trip and bull-rush), +2 to Knowledge (nature), +4 to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local) or +4 to Profession (orcharist), increasing a region's plant productivity 1/year via plant growth-y tricks.


The second version of treant we get is the oakheart, who gets the same modified plant traits as well as +2 Str and Wis, -2 Dex, only 20 ft. movement rate (that is never diminished), cannot run, is always awake, gains low-light vision, +2 natural armor, the same photosynthesis-bonus versus starvation/suffocation/etc. (and yes, they still require sustenance!), speak with plants at will, +2 to saves versus spells, SPs and poisons, +2 to CMD vs. bull-rush and trip and the same Knowledge (nature) bonus to deal with trees. They also share the requirements for more expensive armor and being flammable. Alternate racial trait-wise, they can get +2 to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local), 1/day wood shape, +2 to saves versus electricity, cold and heat-based saves or an increased natural AC at the cost of further reducing movement rate, down to 15 ft.


Pretty cool and a nice showcase of 3pp-camraderie - instead of simply replicating another author's work or generating redundancy, there is also the seedlings included. First written by Marie Small and then published by Jon Brazer Enterprises, these characters would be the option to use if you wanted less powerful base race stats and are the version you'll take for the low-fantasy campaigns. While seedling-material is obviously included herein, the original book is by no means redundant and can be pictured as a nice companion-pdf to this book. It's great to see Rite Publishing giving credit where credit is due.


That's still not all, though - there is a FOURTH race of treants in this book, the Willowkin. These fellows also get the modified plant-traits, +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, darkvision 30 ft, low-light vision, +1 natural armor, photosynthesis, they can speak with plants at will, gain +2 to CMB when making trips and +1 initiative, +2 to Spellcraft checks as well as +1 DC when casting SPs and enchantment spells (not that big a fan of the SP-caveat since I know a couple of classes that cast exclusively SPs...) and 3/day daze, I assume as an SP - the trait doesn't specify, which makes figuring out the DC slightly more opaque than it should be. They also suffer from the more expensive armor and flammable drawbacks like their brethren. While their write-up, like those before, sports some of the cosmetic glitches, I noticed no formal ones. Alternate trait wise, they can get keen senses, +2 to Acrobatics (which should be capitalized, not lower-case) at the cost of natural armor, tremorsense 5 ft. instead of darkvision and 1/day healing by putting his feet/roots into water - which is a damn cool image.


The pdf provides a significant array of favored class options, but class-specific ones and general ones and then proceeds to provide racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Primal Forest Guardian, a treant barbarian that gets a modified skill-list and proficiency-list. Instead of uncanny dodge, improved uncanny dodge and DR, the archetype gains +1 natural AC per level and +1 DR/- per 2 levels, but also pays for this enhanced defense with reduced numbers of rage per day. Instead of fast movement, they become particularly adept at hurling boulders, trees, etc, increasing the damage output of these at higher levels and they begin play with a slam attack that scales in base damage. Pretty cool: At 11th level, the guardian can elect to forego iterative attacks in favor of an additional slam attack at full BAB, which improves the flow of combat. They do, however, gain less rage powers. Unique: The barbarian actually grows in size, up to Gargantuan at 20th level, with minor attribute bonuses and a single Dex-loss accompanying this feature. Bonus damage versus inanimate objects is nice, but more interesting would be that prolonged rages may animate trees in the vicinity of the primal guardian.


If you've read the above, you may have begun already contemplating how treant growth and multiclassing work - for you'd be correct in the assumption that all the archetypes herein indeed do sport such options. Their interaction is handled with a rather nice, explanatory sidebox that provides concise and succinct guidelines for the GM and players. Kudos!


The verdant healer would be the treant cleric and, like the barbarian, the archetype receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies and is locked into the healing domain as well as one domain of the player's choice from a brief list. Verdant Healers cannot channel positive energy to harm undead and gain 1/2 their class level to Heal-checks. They gain a scaling slam attack as well as natural armor bonuses that increase every 2 levels, with high levels also providing a bit of DR. At 3rd level, the archetype gains the option to use channel energy as a touch instead, which heals slightly above the median of rolls for regular beings, 6s for plants and allows the healer to even treat attribute damage and at the highest levels, raise dead. Think of this as a channel powered alternate lay-on-hands/mercy-ish option. They also are experts at brewing potions and gain, as mentioned above, growth, though size-wise, they cap out at Huge at level 20.


The tree master druid takes the tree animation one step further in a bonded forest and would probably be the incarnation of the treant character concept you think of first. This ability is powered by the quickening point pool, here equal to 2 + Charisma modifier, +2 per class level gained. This concept, just fyi, can be found in quite a few of the archetypes herein, with information on pool-behavior when multiclassing being provided as well. Obviously, wild shape is focused on plant shape iterations for a tonal consistency. The fighter archetype provided herein focuses on a combination of tanking akin to the barbarian brother and a focus on hurling devastating stones. The earthborn kineticist is locked into earth (geokinesis) as primary element and gains basic geokinesis as a wild talent and burn gets an interesting modification: Earth-related burn is reduced by 1 to a minimum of 1, while fire-related burn is increased by 1. Burn can also be accepted in order to temporarily increase the kineticist's defensive capabilities and they may infuse the power of earth in their slams.


The serene master would be atreant monk (which is a pretty powerful option, considering the fact that the armor-restriction is null and void for those guys) - and the combo of modified monk-AC-rules and AC-scaling means, ultimately, that these guys end up with better capabilities to survive the rigors of adventuring. While they do not gain stunning fist (thus locking them out of quite a few archetypes and tricks that use Stunning Fist as a resource), their damage-output is increased. Now here is an interesting option: At 4th level, they can deliver attacks by proxy via trees, allowing them to be supremely lethal combatants in forests. I was pretty skeptical about this one, but it ended up being rather cool, so kudos! (And yes, ki-powered, but balanced regeneration is included, though the ability lacks an activation action.) At higher levels, these guys can also swap places with trees. Prophets of the Glades oracles gain the new deep woods mystery, which sports among its revelations true strike-ish benefits alongside rock throwing as well as establishing an effect that lets your survey a tree and share damage with it...which certainly is powerful, but also evocative and in line with the treant mythology established in fiction. As a minor cosmetic nitpick, that one's name isn't italicized. Pretty cool would also be the second mystery, the weather mystery, which grants you bonuses depending on the current weather! You know...I actually really like this idea! Windy day? Your bonus applies to Dex. Cloudy? Wisdom. I think there's a class concept here. Three sample curses for treant oracles, from being hollow to being fire-scarred or stunted can be found as well.


More classic and in line with what you'd expect is the Woodland Stalker, a pretty straightforward ranger with treant-y abilities. The wald walker rogue is interesting in that it may, among other options, flank with trees a limited amount of times per day and has quite an array of nice, unique talents. The skald archetype provided similarly uses the treant-y tricks like slam attacks and hurling stones, but supplements them with unique performances. The arcane classes aren't left out either: Sorcerors can gain two new bloodlines, the ley line and fey woods bloodlines; the first featuring healing capabilities for the sorceror and the second being more closely aligned with classic tricks, including a vanilla quickening directed tree attack. Finally, the verdant scholar wizard gets a bonded tree that can aid him when making magic items and divide damage between him and the tree. Additionally, a selection of unique arcane discoveries are provided for the archetye. This one surprised me. Why? Because the bonded tree is narrative GOLD. "Look, the leaves of our protector's tree are falling...a great calamity is approaching" or "Defend the sacred tree of our guardian!"...damn cool and made me come up with multiple, cool ideas.


The pdf, as has become the tradition with this series, features a racial paragon class, the tree shepherd. Tree shepherds get d8 HD, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with clubs, great clubs, spears, stones and slings. They begin play with the option to supernaturally animate trees with a range of 50 ft + 10 ft. per level, powered by 4 + Cha-mod quickening points, which are expanded by +3 per level thereafter. The animation takes one full round for the tree to uproot itself, though somewhat annoyingly, the ability does not specifically call that it requires the tree shepherd to expend this action, which means that the activation-action component of the ability could be clearer. The number of trees simultaneously animated and their power increases at higher levels. If a tree is left beyond the radius, it roots itself, but you do not need to spend quickening points again to reanimate it while the original duration persists. Charisma governs the number of trees a shepherd can have activated at a given time. The class also features forest stealth (+class level) while in forests as well as the scaling AC and DR-bonuses some archetypes featured as well. Obviously, the iconic slams and stone hurling can be found as well and tree shepherds get the powerful savage growth of treant barbarians, which means they cap out at Gargantuan size at 20th level.


At 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the paragon class gains a forest gift, which would be the talent-selection within this build: The talents themselves run a broad gamut of tricks: Moving a whole forest via quickening expenditure at high levels? Yup. Summoning elementals (maximum power based on shepherd size and point expenditure) may be nice, but personally, I really like the option to call forth mist in a 1-mile radius. Sure, only 60 feet visibility...but I know my players will LOVE this one....and visibility can be further reduced via additional points. Now get a character with mist sight and you have a great setup for a brutal infiltration. Conjuring forth an exhaustion-mitigating spring that also heals, gaining greensight or benefits depending on the season (YES!) render this class, alongside the numerous attribute bonuses, versatile and strong, but fitting for just about every campaign. In fact, I'd probably recommend it more for a lower magic environment that emphasizes magic as something mystical rather than as something common.


That's not even close to what this book has to offer, though: Beyond detailed age. height and weight tables, we get information on treant food and unique mundane and magical items: From fire extinguishing chalky powder to living chests or treant brew rations, there is a lot of cultural uniqueness to be found here.


Speaking of which: The new feat-section, featuring the options to animate vines and bushes, increase your photosynthesis as well as multiple styles render this section rather neat. Beyond the significant array of feats, rules for crafting vine traps alongside 8 sample plant traps (CRs range from 1 to 5) complement the well-ingrained ideas we have on treants. Bowls of light that enhance nearby plants, clubs that can be animated via quickening points or enchanted, returning rocks - the magic items are similarly uncommon and fitting. The pdf goes one step beyond, though, and provides a 20-level NPC class at full BAB-progression, good Fort-save, d8 and 2+Int skills for NPC-treants - which reduces the tricky bits of the previous archetypes to the base and may be a nice option for low-powered campaigns that want a manageable, straightforward treant-PC.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good; on a formal level and regarding rules-language, there isn't much to complain apart from a few hiccups. Formatting-wise, the pdf similarly sports a couple of minor issues, with in particular line breaks between abilities not being always clear - one more pass in those two disciplines would have made the book a bit more streamlined. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with branchy-graphic elements based on public domain art in the margin, providing a nice, fitting aesthetics here. The full-color artworks in the book seem to be not only original, they also are rather beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Oh boy, this was work. But also a rather joyous occasion, at least for me. Why? Because I'm honestly glad Jonathan McAnulty has once again written a big, whopping book. Then, I started thinking about treants and started shuddering. I mean, seriously? How can you maintain their power and evocative tricks and retain a sense of balance? It seems like a losing game, no matter what you do: Get rid of the plant traits and the high-power games while whine; don't get rid of them and the low-powered games will start yelling "unabalnced!". How does this book solve this conundrum? Simple. In the best way possible. It's all in here. Want a high-powered treant? Go for birchwalker. If you're like me and like races to have powers and drawbacks and a unique flair, go for the oakheart. Want a more agile one? Willowkin. Something in line with the core races? Seedling. Better yet, the racial paragon class and archetypes generally sport the "treant"-feeling. They are not simply general archetypes with a racial coat - they feel and play distinctly unique, they are fitting for the races. The cornucopia of supplement information and fluff further enhance this book and render it, as far as player-agenda, table-variation and the pure imaginative potential is concerned, one of my favorites. The mile-mist...the moving of trees...beyond mathfinder abilities (which are there, fret not, my fellow crunchers!), this pdf offers great storytelling devices that may actually be useful above and beyond the limitations of the system. This book codifies what we know of treants from literature and our cultural unconsciousness and provides the definite book on playing the masters of the woods and, personally, my favorite in the whole line alongside the rakshasa-book. That being said, there are a couple of glitches herein, some of which pertain to ability activation and thus, the rules-language. While one can usually glean what they are supposed to be, that does remain as a minor drawback- Mind you, these glitches are few...but they're there.


So...let me reiterate that: As a person, I absolutely adore this book, particularly the extensive means to customize treants to make them viable for just about any campaign. As a reviewer, however, I can't let the glitches that are here slide...and thus, I'd arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars. I do know, however, that quite a few of you out there tend to share my opinions and prefer evocative, unique options that emphasize a cohesive theme over formal perfection of bland content. Hence, I will round up for the purpose of all the platforms - this pdf has its heart at the right spot and is a fun, great read that will make you want to call forth the shambling, ponderous masters of the forests deep.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
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The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/23/2016 10:54:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This adaptation of the taskshaper class to the 13th Age rule-set clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the taskshaper? In case you are not familiar with the exceedingly awesome background of the class - it is one of the most challenging classes to GM for in PFRPG, defined by the option to basically shapechange and poach abilities from monsters, a class suffused with great background info: You see, as the in-character prose that guides you through this pdf makes amply clear, the taskshaper is a creature changed by the fey, with themes of changelings and the mythological lord Auberyon being part of the deal. As such, after the well-written introductory prose, we dive into the particulars of the class.


The taskshaper has an original form - basically the race you had prior to becoming a taskshaper. They can choose either +2 Dex or Cha, provided they have not already increased said ability score, A smattering of sample backgrounds are provided for your convenience. You begin play with the gear of the latest person you impersonated, up to 50 gp worth and are wanted for a minor misdeed...or you halve starting gold and are not wanted and get decent clothes as well as light armor. And a simple weapon. Armor follows the 11 -> 13 -> 15 progression, shields netting +1.


The taskshaper being a unique creature regarding its flavor, thus proceeds to classify natural weapons by type - tables align these with one-handed or two-handed weapon equivalents and, from different bites to stings and special attacks, this classification is simple, to the point and easy to grasp. Ranged weapons gain a similar classification, just fyi. The taskshaper receives (8+Con-mod) x3 starting hit points, scaling up to x24 at 10th level. Each level nets a feat and 4th, 7th and 10th level provide ability upgrades, as noted. Damage bonus from ability score increases to x2 at 5th level and x3 at 8th level. The Form pool (more on that later) begins at 1st level and upgrades at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level. Ini is Dex + level. AC is 11 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis +level; PD is 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex +level; MD is 12 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + level. The taskshaper gets 8 recoveries, recovery rate of 1d8 x level + Con-mod, 8 background points (max 5 in one), 3 icon relationships and 3 talents. When transformed, their basic attacks can govern hit damage with Cha instead of Str or Dex, both in melee and ranged combat.


The first class feature of the taskshaper would be perfect imitator, which allows you to assist allies with tasks or repeat a task you have observed. At champion-tier, you can use a feat to learn a wizard spell and cast it 1/day. You cast this via Cha and may replace the spell with another, provided you can learn it from a spellbook. The Epic tier feat can even uncover repressed memories via this copying, provided you beat the MD of the creature. The second class feature would be Moment of Change, which allows you to 1/battle gain minor bonuses as a free action by reshaping your body. You may also use this ability as a quick action to shapechange into one of your forms known or the combination of forms known. Additionally, you can expend this moment to modify an assumed form. Adventurer feat nets +1 such moment, Champion-tier's feat increases the aforementioned bonus and nets another moment, while the epic feat provides +2 moments of change per battle. Additionally, 1/encounter, you regain all moments upon becoming staggered. Here, presentation is a tad bit confusing - the dev's note mentions 10 moments for a scenario of two epic-tier taskshapers duking it off, which is, obviously correct -it's 5 per character. The dev's note does make that sound like it's 10 per character, so a bit of confusion there. Moments of change are regained upon a short rest. Reverting to your original form, just fyi, does not require moment o change expenditure.


The taskshaper class also receives some talents, the first of which allows you to mimic an object - which becomes particularly unique at epic tier, when you can assume full properties of objects, including magical bonuses and special abilities, but the special abilities do require the expenditure of moment of change uses and size-requirements and restrictions still apply, but may be overcome with your shapechanging. Slightly odd from a wording point of view: The epic-tier feat also nets the option to conduct a ritual to make a functional non-combat utility copy lasting for 1 hour per moment of change used - this looks like you create the object, while the reversal clause does imply that reverting to your original form takes longer. Basically, I think the taskshaper turns into this item, but the wording is simply a bit opaque here.


Shift Condition is intriguing - it allows you to expend recoveries to delay/temporarily halt conditions, ongoing damage and last gasp saves, with epic tier allowing you to transfer these to adversaries...thankfully, this does reset the counters. Troll Blood improves your healing capacity, making the save easy to use full effect recoveries, with the epic feat granting you 10 hp of healing for 5 minutes. This is a bit odd, since even a regular troll's regeneration is tied to uses in battle, not a time-frame. Protean Touch makes your face and body malleable, allowing you to freely assume other guises and grants you a free 5-point background, with champion-tier weaponizing this to allow you to prevent touched foes from taking move or quick actions, while the epic-tier feat lets you grant limited shapechanging to your allies...and gain a touch that can pulverize foes.


So, what exactly do the forms do and how do they work? Well, you begin play knowing 4 forms, learning new forms requires a first-hand experience. Thereafter, provided you can learn a new form, one day of experimentation does the trick. You retain your size unless specifically noted and can speak in forms. Unless specifically noted, items do not change with you. Upon becoming disabled or dying, you revert to your original form and while forms have no duration, you only regain moments of change when resting in your original form. You may also use moments of change to only partially transform parts of your body - these never cause damage to yourself. You retain a certain recognizable quality when changed and forms assumed come with a 20-entry table that sports unique distinctive marks.


Now here is the cool thing regarding the forms - the respective transformations offer some non-combat utility, modifications of defense-stats, natural attacks and provide you with a selection of diverse abilities - you choose multiple such tricks when you assume a form. Beast Form, for example, would allow you to gain +2 to AC and PD in addition to the base form's modifications and make you venomous. Or, you could be venomous and constrict. Or increase damage die of your attacks and gain a 16+-triggered secondary attack. Some suggestions for e.g. which of these traits would be appropriate for e.g. bears, etc. are a welcome bonus. Starting at level 3, aquatic beast forms, ooze and plant bodies are unlocked, while level 5 unlocks the avian beast form, elemental body (air, earth and water). Level 7 nets you access to diminutive and large size, Elemental Body (Fire) and level 9, finally, lets you take the forms of dragons and, yes...even swarms! The forms themselves are varied and unique, their fluff being pretty awesome and they actually also feature quite a few interesting things to consider: Fire Elemental Body, for example, nets you a cool vs. PD attack with ongoing fire damage...but also makes you susceptible to non-flammable liquid and weakened if you have no material to burn.


That being said, personally, I'm a bit of a stickler for precision and partial change and its interaction with the forms could have used a bit of clarification -when I take e.g. the fire elemental's body, does this mean I get aforementioned weaknesses? The ability for the PD-attack mentions that it replaces the regular attacks - but what if one only assumed parts of this form? I assume that's not possible since it and a bunch of the other forms have the "body"-caveat, which looks like it means that it is only available for total change...but I am not sure. A bit of clarification for such cases would be nice, even though GMs can probably handle these decisions.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard, is nice regarding art-direction and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Patryk Adamski's adaptation of Steven D. Russell's cool taskshaper class works exceedingly well for the most part. While I consider the relatively few moments of change a bit too restrictive, (Boys, I need to take a short break...again.), that is a relatively easily changed component that can be attuned to a given campaign. The unique and complex options of the taskshaper are somewhat simpler in 13th Age than in Pathfinder, but that does make sense and actually does the class some good - the acquisition of forms and their limits ultimately requires no GM-book-keeping in this version, which is pretty awesome. At the same time, there are a couple of instances where the otherwise precise rules-language could have imho used some further clarifications regarding specific interaction with shapechanging objects, partial changes, etc. While these issues are not glaring, they do mean that the GM is required to make some judgment class when the class is used. Still, this does manage to convey the unique nature of the taskshaper to 13th Age - and that is a great thing.


How to rate this, then? Well, while not perfect, this is an inexpensive, evocative addition to 13th Age, one that particularly should be interesting for more experienced 13th Age-players. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Taskshaper (13th Age Compatible)
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#30 Haunts for Objects (PFRPG)
by Martin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2016 14:04:11

Haunts are great! They are part traps, part undead, but more interestingly, they are useful to create an atmosphere and tell a story. The haunts contained herein are well crafted and all have nice background that can generate a short adventure or be a ppart of a greater story. We even get a haunted location, The Temple of the Worm God that could the center of an adventure in itself. The background details are abundant.


All the haunts in this book are narrative gold and will help a GM craft interesting haunted locales.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Haunts for Objects (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
by Jacob B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2016 22:37:12

So far, I have been a fan of every product in the "Ine The Company Of" series. Rite Publishing continues to impress me with their excellent material in creation monster races and classes to be played as PCs. Time to get our Groot on!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Treants (PFRPG)
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101 4th Level Spells (5E)
by Jacob B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2016 22:35:01

Rite Publishing continues its excellent work in producing new material for 5th edition fantasy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 4th Level Spells (5E)
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In The Company of Unicorns (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/01/2016 03:11:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rite Publishing's series of racial sourcebooks clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!


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


So, this time around, it's unicorns - but what type? Well, obviously not the classic arcane mysticism of the middle ages that equated the unicorn with Jesus Christ - but neither is this just a rehash of the classic, noble trope, though this does feature in the equation. The unicorns, or re'em as they call themselves, as depicted herein, are a noble breed with a tendency towards good and an ancient history. The re'em, as depicted herein in vivid prose, do feature a long and storied history and they have, indeed, retreated from many interactions with fickle men. If anything, the theme and general feeling the prose evoked was one of subdued melancholy and yet, hope - the closest emotional analogue would probably be the blending of the aesthetics and mindset of the wonderful classic "The Last Unicorn" with a fantasy world - with e.g. traditions like the Great Gallop of the herds both making sense from an in-game point of view and aptly taking visual associations from the classic piece of animation, blending them in an evocative manner. And yes, should you be new to the series - this reads well, for the prose and racial information is written from the perspective of one of these unicorns and yes, there are regional differences in fluff, with unobtrusive nods to the implicit Questhaven setting of Rite Publishing shining through here and there sans compromising adaptability.


Racial stats-wise, the re'em receive +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are small magical beasts (but do not gain any traits save those listed), have low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft and are quadrupeds, which modifies carrying capacity and limits slots and armors. They gain +2 to Knowledge (Nature) and Survival and increase all conjuration (healing) spell CLs cast within 10 ft. of them by +1. Re'em get +2 natural AC and a 1d4 natural horn attack that receives 1.5 times Str-mod to damage. It should be noted that the latter may not specify that it's obviously a primary natural attack, but since they don't gain hoof-attacks per default, I'll let that stand as an obvious and negligible minor gripe.


The Re'em get a full-blown age, height and weight-table and may choose two alternate arrays of ability modifiers: +2 Int and Wis, -2 Con (not a fan, a bit lopsided) and +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int. Interesting: These choices do also modify the "minor" racial traits for a better rounded variant than usual in each. A powerful aura of corruption (+1 CL for negative energy-based spells and SPs), walking across water, fire resistance 5, endure elements vs. the cold and +1 to atk. vs. lions and leonine foes (like chimeras, dragonnes, etc.) can be found. Battling unnatural foes, SR equal to 6 + level, free movement over desert terrain, swim speed-transformation as a swift action...the alternate racial traits are diverse and varied...and they come with an important secondary balancing mechanism beyond the limited slots. Unicorns, obviously...have no hands, which makes certain operations not as simple as one would expect them to be.


The race also sports FCOs for the druid, fighter, hunter, magister, oracle, paladin, ranger, sorceror, taskshaper and witch hunter classes as well as for the racial paragon class introduced in this book, the Silvermane Exemplar.


However, unlike many a racial booklet, this sports an intriguing component - the Re'em Hero universal archetype, which nets the racial paragon's natural attack progression and a very limited array of alicorn abilities and options for growth (Medium at 5th, Large at 10th level) - however, at the same time, this archetype does cost the classes: Re'em alchemists lose throw anything and bombs, for example. Similarly, the class-array, which cover the traditional classes and the ACG-array alongside some classics from Rite Publishing and Rogue Genius Games is extensive and varied in the modifications employed - sorcerors are, for example, locked into the new unicorn bloodline, though the progression of bloodline powers and feats. These, just fyi, allow you to alleviate certain conditions a limited amount of times per day, cleanse targets and later gain some immunities traditionally associated with unicorns.


Beyond this universal archetype, the pdf also sports two class-specific ones, with the Forest Guardian Druid gaining the option to attune herself to a limited selection of domains and spontaneously cast the attuned domain spells, while the Arboreal Equine ranger gains woodland stride and basically is a hunter-themed short and simple archetype.


Now I already mentioned the racial paragon class - so what does it offer? The Silvermane Exemplar gets 2+Int-mod skills per level, d10 and only proficiency with natural attacks. The class gains full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, the class gains a so-called alicorn ability. These abilities are powered by a pool equal to 1/2 class level (min 1) + Charisma modifier. For as long as the character has at least one of these pool points, they can manifest mage hand at will as an SP, eliminating the crippling factor of not having hands - which is btw. pretty important for the universal archetype also has this option. Additionally, a point from this pool can be expended to enhance temporarily the silvermane's horn in a way similar to the magus' enhancements, with net bonuses increasing by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. At 5th level, a similar weapon property-exchange can be used.


So that would be the base functionality. Beyond this, the alicorn abilities are pretty diverse: The Alicorn charm allows the silvermane to expend a point from her pool to create a talisman that cannot be regained while it exists. Said charm can then be enchanted and reabsorbed, granting potentially, at least for some time, a significantly powerful god-horn at higher levels...though only for a couple of days and the higher the power, the lesser its duration will be. Not for every campaign great...but unique and costly enough. The abilities thus run a gamut between unique utility and modifications and active/passive benefits - increased reach while the silvermane has at least one point in her pool. Short-range, scaling and upgradeable teleportation makes for a pretty powerful tool for a full BAB-class, particularly since it is available at 1st level. However, the fact that it is limited by the pool and that it has a mishap chance when teleporting beyond line of sight act as balancing mechanisms here. Shape-changing into an alternate form, increased damage output foe ONE natural attack, better armor...pretty cool. At the same time, first level unassisted flight powered by the pool can be problematic, though, once again, the pool does limit this sufficiently for most rounds. At 7th level, pounce can be chosen and evil exemplars can ooze powerful toxins. And yes, at high levels, telekinesis and trampling is possible. Limited SPs can also be found. I mentioned natural attacks, right? Well, 6th level provides hooves 11th bite and 16th a tail attack, all of which are properly codified regarding their type. (Though, as a nitpick you should ignore, damage-type, if relevant, needs to be looked up.) Now, like the universal archetype, these exemplars grow - to Medium size at 4th, to Large size at 8th level, with both allowing for investments to be used to further enhance the bonuses gained.


Investments? Yep, for the silvermane exemplar chooses at herd at first level, of which 6 are provided. Herds may be changed at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, also allowing for the reassignment of the investments chosen and reflect changing playstyles and party-dynamics. Each herd grants a herd ability that ranges from active at-will stabilize per touch to adding Cha instead of Con to Fort-saves and maximum negative hit points. A minor complaint: Some of these grant class skills - I assume the bonus is lost upon changing herds? Or isn't it? I'm not sure whether this is considered to be retraining or more akin to a multiclass operation in terms of its rules. Still, a none-too-grievous glitch. Each herd also sports several investments to choose from - these are gained at 2nd level and every even level thereafter and determine the capstone final investment gained. Unless otherwise noted, these investments have a save of DC 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod when required and generally, the abilities tend to be less directed at resource management, though tie-ins do exist - certain alicorn abilities like Trample, etc. that only work while the silvermane has points can e.g. be made available at all times with one such investment of the ferocity herd, which btw. can also gain DR, combat feats - you get the idea.


Basically, each herd is somewhat akin to a mystery with a huge bunch of revelations you can freely choose. On a formal level, I noticed e.g. a non-italicized ability header here and one instance of the investment-header missing between herd ability and investment list. Indeed, the editing here is not as tight as in the rest of the pdf - take e.g. the Magic herd's alicorn bolt that can cause class level x d6 untyped magical damage a very limited amount of times per day in a 60 ft.-line....only to then talk about "damage of the selected type." I think this ought to instead provide a proper damage type...untyped damage, in spite of daily limitations, is always clunky in its interactions with creatures, defensive capabilities etc. Overall, somewhat baffling since e.g. the rune-traps they can make get the usual energy type codification done right. Pretty cool - one ability takes the "hit chance"-idea and provides it as a quasi-hex. In case you missed that Rite Publishing-idea: It's pretty much the opposite of a miss chance: When you'd miss, you still have a chance to hit the target! And yep, hex-24-hour-caveat keeps it in line. I also like an exclusive resistance to antimagic effects and spells, representing the uniquely magical nature of these beings.


If you'd prefer your silvermanes less magical, I'd like to point you towards the nature herd, where dominating enemies, alicorn pool-powered fascinate effects via tail whirling, favored terrain and an animal companion at -3 levels beckon. On the downside, the moonlight globe gained here once again deals untyped damage...and by now we all know how I think about that...even though I do love the visuals evoked here. One ability that may be in line with lore and restricted in daily uses, but also remains very frustrating, would be a curse available at 12th level: Save or suck, spellcasters - if you fail, that's it - no more arcane spellcasting. Not even SPs. Curse. Have fun. I've seen those mechanics before and I didn't like them back then - I still don't like them here, though at least the limited uses mean that this won't be used all the time...and it requires an attack. Still: GMs beware, silvermanes are very mobile and one attack can wreck your BBEG. Cool on the other hand: Size-increases to a maximum of HUGE and a cornucopia of alternate movement rates...which are somewhat underpriced at 10th level: Burrow 30, Climb 90, Fly (good ) 90 ft, Swim 90 ft, blindsense 30 ft., scent, constrict (which attacks?), ferocity, grab, jet, poison, pounce, rake, trample, trip, web, +6 Str, -4 Dex, +6 natural armor. Granted, this lasts only one minute per level and has a daily cap...but still. Look at these qualities! Seriously??? All of them? At once? WTF?? I am pretty positive that this was supposed to be a list to select some of these abilities and not the totality, for trying to get all of these via buffs etc. is exceedingly costly...plus, the silvermane already is a pretty powerful class. As written, this ability's pretty broken, in spite of its limitations.


That being said, while there are some problematic components herein, there similarly are some awesome bits and pieces to be found here - the purity herd, for example, gains a pala-like lay on horn, use alicorn points to enhance saves of allies, send the undead to their resting places and tear down illusions with their horns and even reduce the severity of the most problematic of conditions. Silvermanes belonging to the proud herd gain a kind of resistance against being forced to roll multiple times and take the worse result and, at 10th level, they may perform combat maneuvers sans incurring AoOs - which is cool, particularly since the investment has the prerequisite of requiring 2 combat maneuver feats - but what constitutes a "combat maneuver feat" - I assume the usual Improved Trip/Disarm/etc., but cases could be made for diverging interpretations. This is particularly baffling to me since the unseen herd actually properly specifies feat-types when it comes to Blind Sense and Blindsight as abilities gained. Still - the proud and unseen herd, with focuses on not being impeded and stealth respectively probably constitute my favorites herein.


Beyond the final investment granted by the herd, the class gains aa winged apotheosis with wing attacks, Leadership and similar powerful tricks as a capstone, making the character truly formidable...and very hard to kill. The class also has archetypes - the honored companion is an interesting one: Basically, you get a Bonded Rider (as per the new feat) and play the mount...which is interesting. And yes, regular re'em will NOT be ridden! Blackmanes would be the corrupt anti-silvermanes - with auras of corruption, alternate alicorn abilities and the corruption herd, these would be the evil unicorns so dreaded. Oh, and the specialize in Betrayal feats - basically the evil brother of teamwork feats, which alongside a selection of racial feats, close this pdf - these btw. can grant you an alicorn ability, more investments, mighty kicks...the like. And yes, I really get some evil ideas while looking at these betrayal feats.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are rather good - though admittedly not as tight throughout the whole pdf as in quite a few Rite Publishing releases. There are some hiccups on a formal level, though none too much. More significant would be that the rules-language sports some instances where damage-type classification or slightly more precise rules-language would have helped. Layout adheres to Rite's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports gorgeous artworks and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


BJ Hensley and Steven D. Russell have glimpsed into my twisted mind. Why? Because, believe it or not...I absolutely adore "The Last Unicorn." I always have the track on my MP3 player and have, unlike 98% of movies, watched it more than once without being bored out of my wits. (Yes, I mean America's version of the song, just fyi.)


Yeah, I'm a guy and I love the iconography, the subtext - everything about unicorns is simply evocative to me. And know what? I really like this pdf. I really enjoy how the hand-less/shapechange-issues have been addressed. I love how many aspects work. At the same time, though, there are some grains of sand in the machinery of this pdf - while the majority of options works exceedingly well, even while juggling complex concepts, there are a couple of hiccups. Take e.g. the aforementioned short-range teleportation that is a component of how the silvermane retains its movement superiority (powerful for full BAB-classes) - it does not note that it is a conjuration [teleportation]-effect, nor a CL, which means that its upgrade at 8th level, which duplicates dimension door, may now suddenly no longer work under certain conditions, while the teleport worked before. YES. I know, I know. I'm a stupid bastard. Any GM worth her or his salt can handle that and knows how it works. I know. Still, RAW, this is in here.


Still, the like would not and does not sink the pdf. While the silvermane is a very powerful melee combatant, the slot-restrictions and later, size-increases alongside the pool-based mechanics sans means of regaining the points actually evens out what looks much worse on paper than one would expect - while not too great for low-magic campaigns and grittier adventuring, in most campaigns the silvermane and options herein will even out as a balanced option. In grittier campaigns, less combat-focused silvermanes will probably still work if predicated by a proper agreement between players and GM...so yeah, overall, this is a nice job. At the same time, a couple of the abilities do sport some uncharacteristic oversights pertaining damage-type, some minor paste-errors...and some less minor hiccups. Similarly, not a fan of the save-or-suck tricks or the use of untyped damage in some cool abilities.


But then again, this is pretty much "The Last Unicorn - the class"...with literally everything you expect to see. And it's a great read that actually gets me excited, that inspires me. So...how do I rate this? Well, I have to say, I do consider this somewhat less refined that the take on rakshasa and the hiccups do extend to the mechanics in some instances. However, at the same time, this does make up for a lot in evocative prose, unique abilities and the sheer fact that it does not go the easy route - the vast majority of options in this book are unique and not something other classes could do - so it's not a "I poach class feature xyz" experience and when it does stumble, it at least does so valiantly in the pursuit of uniqueness instead of redundancy. In the end, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform, with the caveat that GMs should take a good look at how some of the abilities interact before allowing them.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Unicorns (PFRPG)
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In The Company of Dragons (5E)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2016 05:43:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The conversion to 5e of the massive book on playable dragons clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, which leaves us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Okay, so the first thing you need to know as a 5th edition player - the In the Company of...-series started off as a PFRPG-exclusive line of unusual races that codified monstrous races as balanced player options, often utilizing a class to represent progression into becoming a proper full-blown member of that race. This class was optional and thus allowed you to play the race sans progressing in it, at the cost of losing the ability-progression you'd associate with the respective monstrous entity. In the Company of Dragons was arguably the biggest of these books and will become even bigger soon, with an upgraded kickstarted version waiting in the wings.


You have to know a couple of other things: I LOATHE the concept of playing dragons. As a person. I hate it. Seriously. Not as much as I hate Dragonlance and dragon companions, but still. I want my dragons to be the huge, big, bad bosses, the nigh-unbeatable army-squashing apex-predators. It's a personal thing, though and, diligent review that I am, I actually reviews the original ItC:Dragons. And, picture me saying this through gritted teeth...I actually really liked it. Damn.


Why? Well, the reasons for this are manifold, but at least partially are found in the superb in-game prose provided: You see, Rite Publishing's crunch books tend to be actually good reading experiences. I know, odd, right? Kidding aside, ItC-books are written from the perspective of a member of a given race, which here would be the taninim -a kind of proto-dragon that lives in an isolated area/demiplane/suit your needs-type of locale (hence allowing easy integration into a given campaign setting), roughly aligned with Rite Publishing's Questhaven setting that is assumed as the backdrop of all their books. Before you groan - integration into just about any setting is dead simple - no big hassle required. So yeah, by making this decision, the author managed to make dragons viable sans making wimps out of the dragons our players came to fear.


Here's the next thing, though: Beyond this interesting narrative framework, the dragons depicted herein actually also, in the PFRPG-version, had a fearsome array of power and customization options to tailor-make just about any type of dragon you wanted...and they were pretty high up on the PFRPG-power-scale. (In play, this did even somewhat out since most people will try to take down the big, nigh-impossible to overlook dragon...) Anyways, enough of a history lesson - why should you care? Well, as you may have noticed, 5e has a bit of a different design aesthetic and power-level than PFRPG: A conversion of such magnificent beasts has to walk a very thin line indeed...but does it succeed?


Well, racial traits-wise, taninim get Con and Cha-increases by +1, darkvision, proficiency in in Perception and Insight and may hold weapons in your claws, but make attacks with them at disadvantage and only walk half your speed. The quadruped stature of taninim means that your slot-array is changed and they get a bite that uses Strength and deals 1d4 piercing damage...oddly sans gaining proficiency in the bite. 3 subraces are provided - truescales get +1-increases to Str and Wis and a "fly" speed of 30 feet. That should be flying speed in 5e. In a formatting glitch, Deadly Tail is written twice and nets you 1d8 (2d8 if Large or greater in size) Strength-governed bludgeoning with a range of 10 ft....as a bonus action. Not "as a bonus action when making a melee attack". As a bonus action. Oh, and you get a wing attack that deals 10-ft.-AoE-damage to nearby foes and has the potential to knock them prone on a failed Dex save with DC being governed by Strength.


Lung dragons get an increase of Strength by 2 and walking as well as climbing speed of 40 feet as well as +1 natural armor and spines that deal damage to creatures grappling the lung. Lung are proficient with their claws and deal 1d6 base damage with them. Feykin dragons increase their Dexterity by 2 and are of a tiny size, with a base walking speed of 20 ft and a fly speed of 30 feet. They gain advantage on saves versus being charmed and "cannot be put to sleep." They also learn one sorceror-cantrip governed by Charisma.


So, base-race-wise, we do have an issue here - base flying speed. Now while there already are precedents for flying races in 5e, a GM should take heed in this regard and always remember what great targets those flying PCs make... Apart from the minor hiccups mentioned, though, this iteration of the taninim can be considered a well-crafted option.


The pdf also provides class options: The Scaled Juggernaut fighter gets a new fighting style, namely claws and scale - which nets proficiency with claws (base damage 1d8) and also nets you +1 AC. Claws are improved at 7th level, increasing their base damage and making them count as magical. 3rd level nets you resistance to fire and cold and adaption to extreme temperatures. 10th level provides proficiency in all saving throws and at 15th level, you can combine a Dash with a melee attack that can drop foes prone on a failed save and at 18th level, these juggernauts can make claw attacks after reducing a foe to 0 HP - as a free action. 5e usually codifies this type of behavior with bonus actions.


The dread white worm, the undragon of taninim myth, also gets a new cleric domain - with generally solid spell-selections and the option to use channel divinity to consume damage you incur. Any amount of damage. God-strike of deadly annihilation? No problem...at least if you still have a channel divinity uses left. Personally, I would have prefered a scaling amount of damage absorbed here - absolute "I absorb everything"-type of abilities tend to cause issues sooner or later. 2/day, you can, at 6th level, disgorge a massive swarm of nasty grubs. Pretty awesome - at 17th level, when failing a death saving throw, you can spend your reaction to reassemble your body at full HP, at the cost of suffering "1 point of exhaustion" - which should be "level of exhaustion." The ability can only be used 1/day - but still: Damn cool.


Sorcerors may elect to become trueblood sorcerors, gaining a draconic essence (more on that later) at 1st level, but there is a chance of material components being consumed in you casting spells - and yes, this means that these sorceror have to eat the components before casting spells...which can btw. result in rather hilarious roleplaying for the more disgusting components. These sorcerors also get a breath weapon with short rest recharge that increases in potency and can be improved via "sorceror points" - which do not exist - that should be "Sorcery Points". Higher levels increase these potencies and unlock a second draconic essence.


The pdf also contains the conversion of aforementioned racial paragon class, obviously - the draconic exemplar, who gets d12 HD and no armor, weapon or tool proficiencies with saves being Str and Int and three skills chosen from Arcana, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Nature, Persuasion and Survival. The class gets no starting equipment, but begins play with proficiency in claws that scale from 1d6 to 1d12. Claws can be used as an attack action AND as a bonus action. You also get an AC of 10 + Dex-mod+Con-mod, courtesy of your scales. Your size increases at 5th level from Small to Medium, then by one step every 5 levels thereafter, with corresponding weight increase. Similarly each increases by +5 ft. at 10th level and 20th level. As a minor complaint, I think Lung taninim should probably get some replacement benefit here. Bite attacks scale up from 1d6 to 2d10 in base damage. The base class also provides a draconic gift - 3 are provided and grant abilities at 1st, 6th, 11th and 17th level. The Gift of the Behemoth allows you to regain hit points (short rest recharge) as a bonus action and renders you immune to being frightened. Personally, I think Pinion Strike needs a save - striking a foe with an opportunity attack automatically sens the creature prone to the floor...which is a bit...well. Odd. Flinging foes sans dealing damage is cool and trampling foes similarly rocks.


Gift of the ancients provides elemental bonus damage to bite and claws (OUCH) as well as a shield and reflecting magic that targets you back at the caster is nasty. While this is wording-wise pretty much in line with established wording, it imho could have used a bit of clarification regarding AoE-effects for e.g. spells like fireball etc. - since 5e got rid of the "target"-line in the spell-statblock, this can otherwise be a bit problematic/cause confusion. Not a bad gripe, mind you, but one I noticed. The gift also nets you an elemental aura. The gift of the third eye provides a charming gaze that improves over the levels. On a nitpicky side, the 6th level ability's light should probably specify the spellcasting attribute for it on a design aesthetic level, but as written, it is functional.


The class also undergoes dracomorphosis, which is the name for all the aforementioned attack/size/weight-increases - with feykin dragons gaining the option to ignore them for spells based on Cha gained instead and advantage on Dexterity (Stealth)-checks. I already mentioned draconic essence - these basically determine sclae-color, damage type of your breath weapon and its shape and also offer a compulsion, basically a drawback - to e.g. have to save when trying to retreat, etc. - a total of 20 such essences are provided and allow you to tailor the chassis to generate the taninim you want to make. Aforementioned breath weapon is, fyi, unlocked at 2nd level and 3rd level provides a single alternate humanoid form so your taninim doesn't have to wait outside the dungeon that's too small for him. Ability score improvements work as usual and extra attacks are gained at 5th and 14th level. 7th level provides advantage on initiative rolls and 9th renders your claws magical. At 13th level, you can crush foes beneath you and at 18th, you get a terrifying roar - recharge durations for these class features make sense.


The pdf provides also a significant selection of feats and while their formatting looks rather Pathfinder-ish, they still very much are products of 5e - i.e. they provide significant benefits, usually more than one...and if they provide only one benefit...well, then they at least offer one brutal benefit - take Appendage Severing. This one makes your bite crits incapacitate targets until the start of your next turn and makes them drop an item they're holding. Similarly, size-increases for non-paragon-class taninim are cool and necessary feats like Flyby Attack are included - though here, the wording could be clearer - "If you target a creature with a melee attack, you no longer provoke opportunity attacks when you fly out of that creature's reach." All right. For how long? As written, one attack suffices to never provoke opportunity attacks from that target again -which is clearly not the intent. A high-level, balanced option to decapitate foes can be btw. also found here - and yes, it has legendary action, head-less etc. caveats.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, slightly less refined on a rules-level - while the basic rules-language is precise and to the point, there are some minor hiccups to be found here. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a ton of glorious dragon-artworks in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Wendall Roy and Joe Trotter's conversion of this book to 5e proved to be honestly much better than I imagined it would be - the taninim as an intricate, customizable power-house have been transported well to the 5e-rules and generally are a fun race to play...but also, much like in PFRPG, a very strong race. While I'd hesitate to call it overpowered, the race itself is certainly on the strong side and honestly, when comparing lung with truescales, I think the lung got the short end of the stick. There are some components that I consider to be a bit strong, with most of them being that due to bonus actions for additional attacks not being tied to melee, allowing for a bit to much flexibility for my tastes. As for rules-language, while there are some minor Pathfinderisms herein, these do not unduly impede the functionality of the options presented herein.


All in all, this is a well-crafted, if not perfect conversion of an exceedingly hard to convert book and as such, this must be called impressive. Still, with the couple of flaws noted throughout the review, I can't award this my highest honors. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, roundd down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons (5E)
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Rite Map Pack: Coastal Region
by Jeremy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2016 18:16:58

Yet another high quality product from the folks at Rite Publishing. This 3rd party publisher produces some of the most impressive content on DTRPG. The cartography is excellently render. The PDF contains the full map and individually formatted sections of each map. It can be printed and pieced together for in person play. I have not tried to print and assemble, but it seems like it would be easy to do with the provided 1/2 inch overlap. Rite Publishing was also thoughtful to include black and white versions of the map pieces, helping to reduce printing costs for those on a budget.


I am a map junky and really appreciate this product. Its a beautifully designed region that is left blank, ready for the fertile mind of the DM and actions of the players.


5/5 stars. Definitely worth your coin!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rite Map Pack: Coastal Region
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Book of Icons (13th Age Compatible)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/06/2016 05:36:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive pdf clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 42 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, at this point it's not a big secret that I'm not the biggest fan of 13th Age's vanilla icons - while recent installments of 13th Age Monthly and similar supplements have added dimensions to some of them, I still consider them to be a bit too archetypical. Similarly, the rather freeform approach to icons can be challenging for a GM, which is why this pdf provides pretty much a rather simple, yet more streamlined and concise nomenclature regarding icons and the interaction with them.


A proxy, for example, would be an NPC that serves as a reliable intermediary/liaison between PCs and icon, meaning that your low level PCs don't always get to hassle their icon, diminishing the effectiveness of actually interacting with them. An investment is a gift, an object or piece of information that provides a permanent advantage in the grand scheme of things, while an event would be a single occurrence that fits the theme of the respective icon. Similarly, the pdf provides the term of "thematic adjustment", which means that the GM reskins a given area to fit more closely with the themes of the respective icons.


As a nice nod to one of the cooler aspects of Rite Publishing's conversion of the superb Breaking of Forstor Nagar-module, the pdf also provides dead simple, elegant basic rules for hazardous terrain/attacks by the terrain. Two thumbs up!


Now before I get into the nit and grit of the respective icons featured within these pages, I'd be grossly negligent to mention an aspect that may well enhance your 13th Age GMing prowess, particularly if you are a relatively new GM - the rather handy step-by-step break-down and explanation of Relationship Dice and how to handle icons in the game. This section is VERY detailed and, particularly for GMs that aren't as good at improvising, pure gold - with advice on staging events, balance-considerations regarding aforementioned investments and thematic adjustments, it is a handy section to have, though one more experienced GMs won't require.


Now I mentioned new icons, so what's their schtick? Well, basically, the 6 new icons herein are based on 6 cards of Tarot's major arcana, with the first, the Fool being reimagined as the adventurer. (And yes, dear fans of the Persona-franchise, I'm thinking the same thing here and really want to expand that aspect...) The general presentation of the respective icons in this supplement sport information regarding heroic, ambiguous and villainous adventurers and d8 themes that can be mixed with the following to provide contexts relevant for the icon. Each of the icons sports a d6-table for proxies, events and investments that can be blended with the aforementioned leitmotif. Each of these d6-tables sports negative spins for the respective entries.


Based on the reversed fool, the revolutionary would be the next icon - where the adventurer is happy-go-lucky and all about the challenges in a given moment, the revolutionary is methodical and exists to take a stand - particularly in the regular 13th Age context with its plethora of established icons, this guys makes for an interesting addition as a more methodical wildcard. The order, in contrast, based on the Emperor-card, is, as the card shows, perhaps the most redundant of these - while one can envision it as a cabal that enforces the status quo, the obvious thematic overlap with the emperor icon and similar icons is apparent, though conflict between the two may make for an interesting narrative.


A similar duality can be seen with the Cult of One, based on the reversed emperor - this one is basically rooted in the belief of individual exceptionalism and can be used to spin it in a priestess-like believe in a messianic figure or twisted towards an ideology seeking to create a new species under an enlightened leadership...and history has certainly provided ample of examples how horribly wrong this type of ideology can turn out. The Monster, based on the devil arcana, would be an icon that is useful for the opposition: Brute, vile, tainting evil, this icon would be the mirthless, raving sledgehammer as opposed to the diabolist's razor or the crusader's pragmatic discipline - the icon of vile perversion, mutation and unwholesome change.


The more elegant and less overt evil icon herein, the tempter, also based on the devil arcana, could be bast summed up as the more subtle part of that, providing some overlap with the diabolist - basically, you can envision the methodology here as the devilish equivalent to the monster's demonic brute force, more Faustian than brute force.


This pdf does not stop with these icons, though: The book also sports some handy tools to add depth to the game, beginning with 10 abbreviated NPC-write-ups, several of which sport unique abilities alongside general guidelines and backgrounds as well as trappings. Beyond these, the book also sports no less than 7 sample organizations, ranging from the Fireworks, Demolishing and Quarry Blasting Company to the order of knight-hospitalers and adventurer guilds, the respective entries sport information on goals, structure, status and key areas of influence - but, as often, all may not be as it seems, which means that the GM is also presented with 6 secret agendas that include a claim for domination, being fronts for invaders from beyond and similar unpleasant, if classic twists.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with nice, full-color artworks...though fans of Rite Publishing may have seen a couple of them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.


Patryk Adamski's Book of Icons is a good read and particularly useful for less experienced GMs - anyone who has had issues with the presentation of icons in 13th Age and handling them in-game can consider this to be a useful, nice sourcebook - which is also pretty much the theme for this book: The general presentation of the new icons, NPCs etc. is overall solid, easy to grasp and well presented, providing some additional structure to the icon-rules, while retaining the flexibility championed by 13th Age. Novice GMs and those who had/expect to have issues with icons and relationship dice should consider this well worth the investment.


At the same time, while certainly not a bad book, personally, I didn't take much out of this book - as a longtime veteran GM and someone who can improvise PFRPG-statblocks and whole adventures, I had no issues adjusting to the icon-mechanics of 13th Age. The new icons presented herein, by necessity of them being setting-agnostic, felt a bit opaque to me and while I like the Tarot-idea, the restriction to only 3 cards means that the new icons on their own can't really replace a pantheon of existing icons - and, more jarringly to me, they offer quite a bit of serious thematic overlap with 13th Age's default icons - unnecessarily so, at least in my opinion. By emphasizing other aspects of e.g. the tempter or the order, they could have been made more distinct...but perhaps that's just me being spoiled and expecting something akin to what Icons of Parsantium or the Midgard icons delivered regarding facets and depth.


Please take my criticism of this book with a grain of salt, for, as mentioned above, I may simply not be the target audience - for less experienced GMs and those struggling with integrating icons, this pdf may well be a godsend, though veteran GMs get decidedly less out of this book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform - a good offering, though one that could have done a bit more to also provide material for the veterans.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Icons (13th Age Compatible)
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Lucien's Guide: Legends & Lies (Diceless)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2016 03:42:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Lucien's Guide-series for Rite Publishing's critically acclaimed Diceless system clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 16 pages of content!


This pdf, presented as an account of famous Lucien, depicts various legends and ominous tales that make their rounds among the blessed beings capable of navigating the Grand Stair - generally, the respective entries begin with a brief legend that can be encountered, to then go on and discuss the truth...or one of it, behind the respective legend. The first of these we encounter would deal with Doorghuls - the legend of mimic-like creatures, masquerading as doors, waiting to swallow hapless travelers...


The second legend herein is a more complex one and one that will bring smiles to fans of the Dark Tower - it pertains the Fall of Gilead, reimagined as an inconceivably powerful world, one possibly shut down or destroyed by the Dwimmerlaik...or...well...perhaps they have chosen isolation? Instead of King's gunslingers, the fabled champions of this iteration of Gilead were the paladins and we do get concise rules for the 57 point paladin armor as a sample relic of fabled Gilead. By the way, have you heard about the darkened doors, that seemingly can't be opened, sealed from one side or another? For what reason, none can fathom...


Know how the Grand Stair is reasonably free of detritus? Well, in the drowned expanse, this is not the case, with partially and fully submerged doors leading...somewhere. To be more precise, the realms of a once unified lizard-like people called the Notar -and these fellows, as a whole race...can NATURALLY navigate the stairs. It's not rocket science to grasp the implications of such a race existing...and lets you gulp when thinking about the progenitors that engineered them. Lucien, btw., does not believe in the Old Ones that presumably exist beyond Eidolon and Umbra.


If you've read my review of the Gossamer World detailing the ramifications of colonization by the Incursion, you'll already be familiar with some of the problematic implications of this empire - which consider the Stair foremost a logistic problem - one they are methodically solving, step by step...and sure, their empire may have collapsed...but perhaps, they are just preparing themselves to rise...this time, with magic as well.


The legend of the infinite door is dismissed pretty quickly, but the nature of dragons and their interaction with the Stair...well, let's just say it's hard to find reliable sources. Oh, btw. - there is a section of the Grand Stair called God's Passage - where doors range from 60 ft - 200 ft....and if that doesn't unnerve you, you probably are a fool...particularly since they all lead to dead worlds, burning under a red sun. The pdf also talks about the forest of doors and Old Man Cavendish, who has lived through all tragedies of the Stair. Really cool: The cupboards - think of the Grand Stair, but only for interconnected cupboards...as though for mice or similar beings...


Finally, the pdf talks about broken stairs - the hypothesis being that the Grand Stair may shed sections of it, which then tumble as separate entities through time and space, but continue operating on a smaller scale...which is narrative gold.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard with ample of high quality, glorious full-color art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Rob Donoghue's Lucien's Guide to Legends and Lies is a truly inspiring read that provides not only ample intriguing ideas and narrative potential, it also lets you ask some important questions pertaining the nature of the Grand Stair, while providing an indirect glimpse at the psychology of those that travel its expanses as a social entity. This is an inspired pdf and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lucien's Guide: Legends & Lies (Diceless)
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In The Company of Unicorns (PFRPG)
by Trev W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2016 17:26:17

This is an impressive book on bringing unicorns into your Pathfinder games. It begins with a conveyance of the unicorns’ sense of transcending and surviving great epochs of time, their experiences and what they learned, their roles since the beginning of time, and their derisive observations of those proud being that walk on two legs which harmed them and drove them into secrecy. We have presented information on unicorn society, relations with others, various types of unicorns: all that is needed to run unicorns and have them feel different with their own perspectives.


The base stats are presented, and the benefits are many and well thought out. Strangely they are listed as small, but height and weight are listed if they are medium or large. This makes more sense when you look to archetypes, and the unicorn hero at 5th level becomes medium size, and at 10th becomes large. The hero gains many bonus spells, feats, and altered abilities. The unicorn sorcerer was particularly well tailored, with the very nice bloodline powers, making the unicorn quite the adept supporting character to a party. The Arboreal equine, a ranger archetype for the unicorn, gets woodland stride at first level (very nice!) and stalk at level 7, fast stealth, would make the unicorn considerably sneaky. Your unicorn can easily fit different roles, and be of an existing class, or, a new class.


The Silvermane unicorn paragon has a plethora of “Alicorn” abilities. They get teleportation, changing shape, poison horn attacks, and natural armour. There are pages upon pages of abilities to customise your unicorn. The Alicorn bolt, a nice energy line attack is one that grows in power as the Silvermane levels, making it very useful in giving a reliable magic attack. I think the Silvermane would make a particularly strong player class with a great number of options in one class, and if I were throwing in a unicorn npc ally, or a unicorn as an enemy, I would make them a Silvermane.
The book ends with feats and teamwork feats.


If you like unicorns you are going to want this. If you want to put unicorn spellcasters as friends or foes into your game, the rules are here. If your players may want to run unicorns of any class with new abilities, this will excite your players. There are a large number of rules, and a great deal of choice in what is used, and in how your unicorn develops. I would try the Silvermane first, and dive into full customization.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Unicorns (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to do a review of our product Trev!
Pathways #57 (PFRPG)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2016 19:17:10

Layout is very good. Very professional looking. Good, clean look and easy on the eyes. Interesting stuff here for a Pathfinder GM. Interesting new monster, lots of reviews of other books for Pathfinder. About a quarter of the page count is ads (more...about a third if you count the cover, small ads and the SRD). I figure that pays for the content. Curious how much the mag would cost if you took away the ads. Overall, some good stuff here for fans of RPGs and Pathfinder.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #57 (PFRPG)
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Addendum: Shape Shifting (Diceless)
by Daniel W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/22/2016 14:19:07

A good addendum to the Lords of Gossamer game line. A nice additional power to the set.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Addendum: Shape Shifting (Diceless)
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The Secrets of the Metadventurer (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/22/2016 07:30:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


Wow, wow, wow...are you serious? This is the reviewer who is supposed to judge my magnificence? This odd, long-haired German goth/metalhead-sod? Really? Oh well. I'm in a good mood, so I'll "help" you, okay endy? Great! So, my splendorous debut is 11 pages long, though 1 page is the front cover, 1 the editorial, 2 are advertisement and 1 page is the SRD, which means I get a full 6 pages...not that I'd need more to show how awesome I am, mind you...but still, gotta talk to my agent about that... walks off


Ehem, yeah, so this is a prioritized review and was moved up in my queue at the request of my patreons, before this strange guy rudely interrupted...oh damn, he's coming back!


Hey, Chris...yeah, about those... WAIT. You there, endy! I said I'd do that for you, right? Right! So, what do I do - urgh...I hate repeating myself and I explained it in the book already...but, in a nut-shell:


I WIN PATHFINDER.


There, 'nuff said.


Urgh, you're still reading. I can see you. So yeah, wanna know more? Gotcha. I am better and more awesome than all other classes, because I friggin' know. I'm not some pseudo-smart wizard-sheeple...I know I'm a character in your game. Yeah, you heard me. I know I have 2+Int skills (really? come on!) and d8 HD and proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armors. I have 3/4 BAB-progression. I also am good at Min/Maxing - bonus points for kicking off a discussion on the Stormwind Fallacy. When resting, I choose one good save (two good saves at 12th level) and the others are bad save.


Starting at 4th level, I can select two skills that are not knowledge (No, GM, I don't care about the intricacies of your world!) and get max ranks for the day. At 8th level, I can also swap attributes and at 16th level I can swap 1/day saving throws, ability scores and bogus feats. I also am a master of optimizing flexibility: I can choose each day to gain arcane casting, divine casting, martial tricks or a crapton of skill. Oh yes, I'm that awesome.


Starting at 2nd level, I get a metagaming pool equal to 1/2 class level + 3. I can spend these as free actions to get skill bonuses, additional non-AoO-5-foot movements and even negate partial effects on successful saves. At 3rd level, I know what you know. No seriously, I can simply metagame what you know - d20+class level + Int-modifier and bam...you're GM is pissed. Priceless, believe me.


At 5th level and every 6 thereafter, I get Bogus feats. I can change these whenever I rest. Why? Cause that is how I roll! Oh, and 6th level, I can spend metagaming points to alter the damage of my weapons. At 7th level, I am adept at making allies count as abettors for Betrayal feats...who needs these suckers, after all? Oh, and yeah, at 9th level I can Rules Lawyer game-mechanics 1/day and alter them by +2/-2 or +10%/-10%, twice that much at 19th level, +1 daily use every 5 levels above 9th.


At 10th level, I can change energy types or better pass through SR via metagaming. At 13th level, I can divert effects when I failed my save to allies - we all know we only have to do better than the other suckers, right? And guess what? I have read all those supplements - at 13th level, I can take a treasure and identify it...and determine which treasure it is, within GP-boundaries. I always get what I want, man. At 15th level, as long as you, the player, bring a third party book to the table, it'll be game for me. I know. Awesome, right? Oh, guess what, at 18th level, I can metagame those stupid action economy limitations. But the most fun is 20th level - the ability's called "Make the GM Cry" - extraordinary wish. Oh, and when I die, I immediately resurrect. Oh yeah. You know you want to see that in action, right? Thought so.


Conclusion:


All right, so this reviewer-git doesn't pay me enough for this, so blabla, nice artworks full color 2-column layout etc. Bookmarks are there as well.


So, I dictated the book to Wendall Roy and he seems to be able to write it - congrats, dude. No seriously, I couldn't wait anymore. This game needs my awesomeness in it. It's time that those prissy wizards and stuck-up paladins learn their place. This is where I come in, by the way. So do yourself a favor and get this book - we'll have a lot of fun making your fellow players cry. And best of all - you can always just point to the fact that I'm not "overpowered." Not our problem if the others just can't play the game, right? Hate the game, not the player!


Ehem...how do you end these things? Oh yeah, I'm obviously 5 stars + seal of approval (Seriously? "Seal of approval"? Pretentious much? Man, reviewer-dude, you got some issues...) and totally inexpensive, so buy my awesome book!


Metadventurer out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Metadventurer (PFRPG)
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The Secrets of the Metadventurer (PFRPG)
by Sam H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/21/2016 22:55:57

Very amusing with unique but balanced abilities. My only issue being the 24 hour limit on nearly all abilities which can severely neuter the character in campaigns with irregular rests or attrition themes.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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