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Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2016 05:18:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Feats of Legend-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 4 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a handy table that lists the feats along prereqs, we dive right in:


-Blasphemous Tongue:Bonus to intimidate, demoralize demonic/infernal creatures by ignoring their immunity, if any, +1 DC for fear-descriptor-spells, affect potentially demonic/infernal creatures immune to fear- Now this is how you open a feat-book! Neat!


-Call the Damned: Add imp and gaav to summon monster I and III list; 1/day spontaneously add fiendish template to summon. One of the prereqs is italicized that shouldn't be, but that's a cosmetic glitch.


-Chains of Perdition: +2 shield bonus when wielding a spiked chain two-handed. Solid!


-Improved Chains of Perdition: Increase bonus granted to +4.


-Dark Channel: Roll d8s to hurt the living via channel negative energy instead of d6s. Ouch, but mechanically feasible and okay.


-Devil's Advocate: +2 Diplomacy and Bluff, +4 at 10th level; double bonuses versus demons and devils.


-Fiendish Codex: +2 to checks to identify fiends, gain +1 piece of info. Nice.


-Fire and Brimstone (Grit): +1d6 fire damage for 1 grit; solid, though I would have preferred scaling here. Also is erroneously called "deed" once, but oh well - functional.


-Improved Fire and Brimstone (Grit): Your bullets count as evil and magical; spend 1 grit to reroll any attack modified by Fire and Brimstone on a misfire. At +5 BAB-prereq maybe a tad bit soon for alignment-bullets.


-Improved Protection of the Pit: Increase profane armor bonus to +2; gain negative energy resistance 5, +3 and 10 in unhallowed areas.


-Protection of the Pit: Gain profane +1 bonus to AC, +2 in unhallowed areas. Pretty weak...but worth it for the end of the feat-chain.


-Greater Protection of the Pit: Gain DR 5/good, DR 10/good while on an unhallowed site. Solid and the prereqs make sense!


-Hellfire Initiate: Ignore up to 5 point Fire resistance with spells and SPs.


-Hellfire Acolyte: : Ignore up to 10 fire resistance with spells/SPs, also gain fire resistance 5. Prereq possible via Edlritch heritage. Nice.


-Hellfire Master: Ignore ALL fire resistance of a target with spells and SPs; targets usually immune still take 1/2 damage.


-Inured to the Infernal: +4 to saves versus spells and SPs of tieflings, devils, etc.


-Luck of the Devil: +2 luck bonus to one save chosen, may be taken thrice, once per save.


-Pledged to Darkness: You have an evil birthmark that helps intimidate folk...and which acts as an unholy symbol for the devil in question. Kinda cool!


-Speak of the Devil: Increase DC of planar binding-called devil to escape and gain bonus to convince devils to do your bidding, double the bonus in conjunction with Devil's Advocate.


-Tongue of the Pit: Spellcasting in Infernal, which reduces infernal creature's SR by 5 for the purpose of your spell. Has planar binding-synergy.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting aren't perfect, but what glitches are here do not hamper the feats contained herein. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice b/w-stock art that fits neatly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Neal Litherland's infernal feats may not all be winners - but they all have their niche, their thematic raison d'être - their justification. This humble book contains some truly cool tools that make sense by virtue of their narrative potential and that's not something I get to see too often. The lack of overpowered or broken feats herein also means that even a really low-fantasy/dark fantasy campaign can easily utilize the content herein, making this an inexpensive, welcome addition and one of the better feat-books I've read in a while. While not perfect in all regards, this still is a good, neat little book, well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
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The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/07/2015 02:30:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!


I was a backer for the KS of this module, but otherwise was in no way affiliated with the creation of this module.


Before we get into the meat of this module, let me briefly point something out - this book does sport 4 nice feats for swamp dwellers that allow for devastating uses of the terrain. The adversaries herein, often with pretty complex builds, sport statblocks more detailed than usual, meaning you won't have to do much book-switching and also sport pretty extensive (lethal!) tactics. Finally, it should be noted that panthagators, stirge swarms and carnivorous giant lily pads are included as new monsters here.


While there is a chase card-deck for use with this module, it does not require the purchase of this deck - the book does provide regular playing card substitutions, though the chase card deck does facilitate using this particular scene. The Pdf's brutal encounters sport scaling advice and the book also sports handy milestones that show a GM when the PCs may be underleveled for a particular challenge. The book also sports Laying Waste-compatible rules for the respective combat encounters - awesome!


All right, so, this being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


Players, seriously, don't spoil this one.


...


..


.


All right, still here? Now that only GMs are around, here's how we begin this module - with hooks. Surprise, right? Kidding aside, the extent of detail these hooks utilize goes beyond what you'd usually expect to see - when e.g. a mad hermit spouts a cryptic prophecy, that prophecy is not only represented as a hand-out, it is delivered in a thick vernacular/sociolect - and there is ANOTEHR hand out that sports the "translated/deciphered" version...and that's not where it ends: The book actually has a clearer, third version the PCs can glean via magic - and that is represented as a hand-out as well. If you're like me, that fact alone (and the wonderful, cryptic threat included) should be enough for you to choose this one, though the others aren't bad either.


So, the PCs are traveling to the town of Wyvernglynn, an isolated outpost of civilization amidst the damp and hostile Sorrowfen swamp - and even of their way to the place, they'll be struggling, for the very first encounter with the lizardfolk that constitute the primary antagonists herein is pretty brutal and should initiate a kind of grudge-reaction...and allow a chance for PCs to turn their tails and run, for it only gets more brutal from here on out.


The town of Wyvernglynn is fully mapped and utilizes a map fans of Raging Swan Press' Village Backdrops-series may know - perched precariously behind balustrades on an island in the midst of a river at the edge of the swamp, this place certainly is not a cozy one - indeed, the Germanic-looking populace is many things...friendly is not one of them. After the local guardsmen are done with their "We're in charge, foreigners!"-routine, the PCs are free to take sidequests and research - and indeed, the settlement has been more isolated than usual, with caravans taken out obviously being the work of the raiders the PCs encountered....which is odd, for usually, the lizardfolk stick to themselves and only partake in internal struggles. The local inn's keeper, one Ostler Giodianus, also seems to be hiding something and asks for a subtle meeting if the PCs do their job well - he confides in them, telling the PCs he's being blackmailed: His daughter is missing....and indeed, the lizardfolk have a spy in town, the lethal assassin Thrazzeem, whose build is BRUTAL. The whole research and potential capture of this potent foe is btw. depicted in lavish detail, including sample read-aloud texts for GMs less comfortable with improvisation.


But sooner or later, whether the PCs defeat, kill or ignore this supreme foe, they'll have to enter the Sorrowfen...and it is here that the module pulls no more punches: The Sorrowfen has entered my conscious as one of the most compelling, unique environments I've seen in my whole gaming carreer: With brutal terrain-based repercussions (Flight = bad idea), predators galore and strange light pointing the way, this is the single best rendition of such a terrain I've seen in a module. While the town already managed to capture the hostility and grime I love in dark fantasy modules, it is with the almost sentient Sorrowfen and its unique ecology that the module truly becomes inspiring: If the mist-choked, lethal swamp and its predators, which the PCs will navigate by moving from giant lily pad to giant lily pad (each of which may be carnivorous...) is not yet enough, if the rules-relevant limitations have not yet blown you away and driven fear into your PCs, then the encounter with the local old woman oracle may just do that.


The "kind" Ol' Mamma Nis, presumably an oracle that guides kids lost out of the swamps does make for a slightly chilling visit: She tells the PCs about a staff, unearthed from dread ruins, sunk in the swamp, which now is wielded by the lizardfolk to dread effect and asks the PCs to bring the staff to her...and yes, this is a bad idea, for in her hut, the missing daughter of Ostler is awaiting the disguised hag's tender claws. This encounter proved to be an exercise in oscillation: The Pcs will arrive with suspicions, then be taken in by her stew (If they eat it...horror later...) and perhaps, realize that something is fundamentally wrong: Oh, and much like Thrazzeem, she is a TPK Games-boss with unique tricks, lethal powers and a build that can send wimpy players crying for their momma. This is a pro-module and Ol' Mamma Nis pulls no punches. She also constitutes the single best classic hag-encounter I've seen so far, with the grisly truth hiding just beneath the surface. Brilliant.


Speaking of which, since I thoroughly have to emphasize that: The Sorrowfen itself will be the enemy for the PCs, the most lethal component: With ruthless random encounters and terrain features, its properties span multiple pages, sparing you the need to swap books, while generating a terrain that most certainly will have PCs reminiscing about that cozy dungeon crawl on the graveyard the other day. It's that good.


But the Sorrowfen is not only about random encounters, the module also sports a significant array of unique, planned encounters - the PCs have, for example, the option to establish an alliance with a tribe of grippli...or destroy this tribe's sacred totem for Ol' Mamma Nis - in either way, the PCs may leave this one with unique totems and/or a stained conscience. Within the swamp, the PCs may also seek out the half-sunken ruins from which this odd staff was taken, potentially allowing the PCs to piece together some clues from the troubled past of this item...and encounter yet more unique foes.


Sooner or later, though, the PCs will have to get to the lizardfolk settlement, where they have multiple approaches - Stealth is problematic; force as well...and if the PCs go in with a truce-flag and want to see the tribe's "god" alongside the shaman, then help them whatever patron deities they may have: For, foolhardy PCs will then stand, surrounded by lizardfolk-onlookers, on a cluster of lily-pads, when the massive, regenerating, serpentine heads with their breath weapons and regeneration break the surface - the eponymous Five-Fold Maw is a brutal, mythic boss that ranks among my favorite boss battles in any module. It's also exceedingly BRUTAL...and it's not the end. You see, violence does not help and even if the PCs manage to win, they still have to escape the lizardfolk's territory with the staff - while a brief insurrection buys them enough time to run, they'll be a long, long way from home...and a long way from either Wyvernglynn or Ol' Mamma Nis' hut.


Which brings me full circle to the beginning of this review: The aforementioned, deck-based chase is different from any you've run: You see, it's a chase than spans multiple hours, one that represents the PCs literally trying to evade capture against overwhelming odds in a terrain that is simply brutal at least 21 challenges...and it is one that can be slightly confusing due to a bit of information being lost in the final version of the module's chase rules. Thankfully, the information's out there, so for your convenience, should you choose to get this, here's what's missing:


" The Lizardfolk Horde (army) marker moves after all PCs have had their chance each turn. It will move onto the first Chase card at the end of the third turn after the PCs begin moving. It will advance one Chase card each turn automatically, unless the Chase card it is on says that it loses a turn. Many individual lizardfolk will be doggedly keeping pace with the PCs and harassing them (as represented by the Encounter cards), but if the Lizardfolk Horde marker catches up to any PC, that PC is considered killed or captured, at the GM’s discretion, and is removed from further participation in the Chase. However, that event holds up the Lizardfolk Horde marker and causes it to lose a turn, so PCs may realize that they have the option of sacrificing themselves to give the PC in possession of the staff a better chance to outrun the horde. Lost turns are cumulative with multiple PCs on the same card and cards that automatically cause the horde to lose a turn.


If at any time the players decide to end the Chase and make a last stand, the GM is free to play that battle out as s/he sees fit.


If any of the PCs successfully advance through 21 Chase cards, they have arrived at the hut of Ol’ Mamma ‘Nis. Go to that section of the adventure for information on how to run that encounter.


If the PCs elect to bypass Ol’ Mamma ‘Nis’ hut and run straight for the walls of Wyverglynn, they must successfully advance past 24 Chase cards. Go to that section of the adventure for information on running that final battle."


---and when the chase ends, the PCs will be fatigued and tired...and depending on their choices, they may have to defeat a hyper-lethal boss and/or a horde battle against the lizardfolk brave enough to hunt them to Wyvernglynn for a thoroughly compelling finale...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are, for the most part, pretty good, though here are some minor violations of rules-language herein. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard in swampy green in the pdf, while the softcover, alas, is only black and white - which is a pity, for, quite frankly, the copious maps and the artworks herein deserve to be in color. Regarding maps: Unfortunately, the pdf does not sport the maps as big versions you can easily print out, nor are there player-friendly versions, which is another strike against the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I actually recommend the pdf version over the print this time around.


Skip Twitchell and Brian Berg have created a module that sports an awesome atmosphere, but one that is also deeply flawed, the missing chase-scene information and the lack of player-friendly maps...


...


I can't do it. F*** my nitpicking routine here, it doesn't do the module justice.


...


Yes, this is a flawed book with some serious rough edges. It's also one of the best modules I've had the pleasure to run in a while. This is a downright brutal module for the pros, for the players who want a challenge; this is a module for all the fans of dark fantasy and unique locales; this is a module for everyone asking for a big, nasty wilderness module; this is a module for those of us that love the grit, the darkness, the brutal challenge that only few modules can provide.


How good is this book's prose, how awesome its atmosphere and terrain implementation, how deadly are the bosses? Well, in a lesser module, the flaws I mentioned would have me smash the book to smithereens and detract at the very least two stars. I can't bring myself to do this to this module. Even in TPK Games' canon of awesome, deadly modules, this one stands out. Much like Frog God Games' Cyclopean Deeps Volume I, this may not be a mechanically perfect module, but it more than makes up for it in its strengths - the bosses rank among the best I've seen in a published module. The Sorrowfen is downright awesome in its visuals and nasty properties. The whole, concise atmosphere generated and the savage, relentless, unforgiving, yet fair difficulty make this a module that, in spite of its glitches, belongs into the library of the discerning GM...or at least into the library of some of you out there.


If you're very picky regarding the aforementioned issues, then give this a pass, but know that you'll be missing out on a very GM-friendly, challenging, awesome module, perhaps even the best swamp module currently available for PFRPG. The fact that even an anal-retentive, nitpicky bastard like me takes a look at the book, scowls, run it, and then says "Screw it, this is awesome!" should tell you something about how good this damn beast is. I've been struggling with myself here - on the one hand, I should rate this down for its short-comings; on the other hand, I want to keep on gushing about it for even more pages than I already have. Ultimately, what made me make up my mind is the fact that the map-issue, while annoying, is not as bad as with some other modules: Being mostly site-driven and happening beyond the confines of a battlemap, their importance is somewhat diminished. Also, this is a module, not a crunch book, so mechanical precision is a bit less important than in a crunch book.


How to rate this, then? You may well call me a hypocrite, seeing how rigorous I usually crack down on the lack of player-friendly maps or issues like chase-info missing mentioned above. I am all too aware that I ought to penalize the module for this. But I am also beholden to my passions and it is this passion (or so I hope!) that I manage to transport in some of my reviews, the passion which I hope, from the bottom of my heart, you, dear readers, share. I am very passionate about this module. I absolutely adore this book. I love it. It's absolutely glorious, evocative, challenging, well-written and unique. It's an accumulation of almost everything I love in a module and a prime example of the level of difficulty and variability I look for in such a beast. In short - I can't bring myself to rate it down. I really, really can't. If you're like me and, at the end of the day, want a book written in great prose, unique environments, deadly foes - the whole deal - then this is 5 stars + seal of approval for you. As a reviewer, I need to scratch that a bit as a concession to the book's objective flaws, no matter how great I think this is - hence, my official final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval...and yes, I'm rounding up here. ;)


One final note: With more editing, player-friendly maps and sans the chase-glitch, this would have made my Top Ten-list of 2015. I wouldn't even have had to think about whether to include it or not. Thank you for bearing with me through this rambling diatribe...now book your trip to the Sorrowfen and watch players gaze in wide-eyed fear at what you throw at them...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Fen of the Five-Fold Maw
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Feats Reforged: Vol. IV, The Magic Feats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/24/2015 03:57:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The fourth installment of TPK Games' series that redesigns feats to scale with character levels covers the feats from Ultimate Magic and clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a blank page, leaving us with 24 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, by now you know both the basic principle of the series and how the series works: Basically, you get additional benefits at certain character levels, with common progressions being 7th and 14th level; 9th and 16th level also constitute a common progression ladder and some feats also increase in potency at 18th level or 10th and 17th level - basically, the idea is a rough 7-level progression for most of them.


Now regarding the scaling benefits, much like the third installment of the series, we get effects that go thankfully beyond straight numerical escalation - Extra Ranger Trap, to give you an example, adds +2/day uses of ranger traps at the first scaling threshold and later increases their DC. Action-economy progression for e.g. Fast Empathy also deserves mention. Gliding Step's third progression allows for the expenditure of ki at 18th level to ignore all difficult terrain for 1 round in addition to its straight scaling benefit - which makes sense at such a high level. Remote Bomb's scaling distance (only requiring line of effect), is also nice, and Resilient Eidolon allows you to keep your eidolon around while you sleep at higher levels.


In fact, some of the feat-upgrades herein allow for whole new builds to be efficient - the Shaping Focus' scaling, to name one, allows for up to character level = druid level for the purposes of wild shape - at 18th level more than okay, especially considering the solid scaling step before. So yes, this book does have its moments, where it shines and does so brilliantly. At the same time, this one is less refined in its rules-language than Vol. III: Spell Bluff's scaling options e.g. mention that "you gain no negatives when dueling a caster whose spells are modified by Silent Spell or Still Spell" - the thing is: The vanilla rules for spell duels do never result in "negatives" - did the author mean "penalties"? I don't get how this one is supposed to work and reading up on spell duel rules didn't help. On the plus-side, Starlight Summons getting concealment and later Hide in Plain Sight? That's quite badass. Versatile Channeler getting rid of the -2 penalty for channel purposes at 14th level also is rather interesting.


I also like the decision to make Word of Healing, at 14th level, apply at full potency at a range of 40 ft. Adding two spellblights via Blighted Critical can also be considered a rather nice option in my book and Channeled Shield Wall's scaling bonuses and high-level DRs make sense and implanting bombs is nasty - after 24 hours, long-term implanted bombs no longer count towards your daily limit - evil empires and villains will make ample use of this one...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no particularly glaring glitches, though there are a couple of italicizations missing. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with solid b/w-artworks thrown in. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


The Feats Reforged series is hard to review - basically, you have a bunch of feats that you already know and add scaling benefits to them - as a reviewer, what to do? List feat upon feat's scaling options? Boring. Complain about base feats? Unfair. However, if you're a bit familiar with me and my work, you'll probably have guessed correctly that I do loathe quite a few feats out there - and Ultimate Magic is partially banned at my table for a reason, so no, I don't have a high opinion of the source-material this pdf draws on.


At the same time, though, as a reviewer, my task is to determine whether the feats herein do a good job at translating the source-material to a system wherein the feats scale. It is in this context that I'm rating this book. And it is in the context that I can say that Neal Litherland and Brian Berg have done a good job.


While there are some rare and minor hiccups among the formal properties, the vast majority of the scaling feats herein makes sense and even adds dimensions and new build options to the base feats. It is with new effects and intriguing effects beyond the numerical scaling (which is usually implemented in a well-done manner) that this book shines. While I STILL refute, adamantly, I might add, the series' claim that unilaterally adding these to the game does not change balance (this is wrong since some characters frankly get more feats and thus more use out of scaling feats), I gladly acknowledge one fact - even in the cases where I frankly dislike the base feat, the reforged iteration tends to add something new, something more to the table.


A further benefit of this series is that it helps in rare-magic/low-magic games to keep the scales - though wide-scale implementation for the monsters etc. will be a lot of work for the GM, I can see a lot of tables that will welcome this particular aspect over the annoying Christmas Tree syndrome. How to rate this book, then? Well, ultimately, we get a lot of good material here. While personally, I preferred Vol. III and considered its formatting/wording a teeny tiny bit more precise, this still constitutes a worthy addition to the series. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats Reforged: Vol. IV, The Magic Feats
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Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
by Jason L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2015 10:54:01

This book, as the name states, includes twenty new feats for anyone interested in being diabolical (in the truest sense of that word).


Things I liked:
Some new feats for using spiked chains. I wished they did more than grant a shield bonus but you take what you can get to make such a flavorful weapon more appealing.
Two new grit feats for adding hellfire to your shots! Hell to the yes. Pun fully and unabashedly intended.
Hellfire Mastery feats to let you ignore some fire resistance. Fire resistance is so common it seems. These feats are a tax, but worth it to make a dedicated fire specialist.
Feats for social interactions. The game isn't all combat and some feats to intimidate demons that are otherwise immune or to put the fear of the devil(s) into other folk that recognize the monster you've pledged yourself to are great.


For two bucks this is a great buy. This book can be utilized by more than just evil characters; make a character cursed by devilish forces or who made a pact with devils to hunt demons. So many great ideas that can be fleshed out by these feats.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
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Altered Beasts: Gnolls, Vol. I (PF/5e)
by james m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/17/2015 03:15:03

I honestly found myself more thrilled with this book than I expected. I knew it'd be fun but while reading it I caught myself grinning that evil GM grin.


Done in the similar theme and vain as Pathfinder's Monster Codex, Altered Beasts presents you with many variants of the Gnoll. The biggest advantage of Altered Beasts is it's Pathfinder and D&D 5e compatibility. The layout is easy and user friendly. Moving from PF to D&D 5e is not an issue.


Often times gamers get bored with fighting the same old same old this however gives you new options to spring on your unsuspecting players. As a long time gamer it's exciting to see well thought through monster variants. Some of the Gnoll options are pure GM delights, such as the "Den Mother" & "Plague Bearer" while others like "Demon-Possessed Gnoll" & the "War Chief" are built to put the hurt on your players if they're only expecting run of the mill Gnolls.


All in all this is another great TPK product and I'm looking forward to the following Altered Beasts volumes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Altered Beasts: Gnolls, Vol. I (PF/5e)
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Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
by Chris Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2015 13:07:52

20 Infernal feats is a pdf that obviously goes over feats related to all things infernal. The pdf is 5 pages of content, 1 cover, 1 credits, and 1 OGL.


I liked this short pdf. It has feats that are useful if you are fighting infernal outsiders or if you want to utilize the powers of infernals. I liked how it could be useful to good or evil characters. That is a real plus.


If I was ever running a specific kind of campaign that had my players fighting demons and devils a lot, I would want all my players to have a copy of this pdf. I think it could be very useful. In a general campaign, I am not 100% sure it would be that interesting to players or not.


I have a couple things that I am being nitpicky about but this is my opinions about cons of this product.


I enjoyed the art. However, I could see some people being offended by the image Baphomet from Levi's "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie."


The feats Hellfire Acolyte, and Hellfire Master are both cool feats that grant the character fire resistance. Which works fine for say a human or halfling who have no form of Fire resistance. However these feats do not explain what happens to a character that already has a form of Fire resistance like a Ifrit. Do they stack and add together? If a brief comment was added about that, I would feel that each feat is a little more complete and there would be no question.


All in all I liked 20 Infernal feats. It sparks an interest in running a Infernal themed campaign (an evil one, or good one where the characters hunt infernals). I rate 20 Infernal feats 4 out of 5 stars.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Infernal Feats
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Altered Beasts: Gnolls, Vol. I (PF/5e)
by Dudley B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2015 06:49:06

If you advertise a product to be 5e compatible, please, put as much thought into the 5th edition versions as you do for the pathfinder versions. This is a pathfinder product with some half hearted attempts at 5e stat blocks.
I don't want to have to scan the pathfinder version of the monster to see what the intent of the beast is meant to be. They should both be fully realized.
If I was rating this as a pathfinder product, I would give it 5 stars however..just a half baked 5e product.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Altered Beasts: Gnolls, Vol. I (PF/5e)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the feedback. We thought about making two versions, and I\'m guessing people would enjoy the versions separately. If that\'s your major detractor, great. It\'s an easy fix.
We should also mention that we can\'t do full-fledged 5e stat blocks, as that would be infringing on a certain company\'s trade dress. This is compatible with 5th edition fantasy, so it will not appear exactly the same. Apologies if that was your expectation.
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
by Daniel W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2015 04:20:45

While this book has some interesting additions to make combat more delightfully lethal ( Highlight being confirming crits? Nah. You crit when you crit. Confirming it just means you do even more hilariously huge damage, along with some other nasty effects! ) and some interesting classes / feats to go with the new rules.


However a full third of the book is just copy-pasted tables of weapon types, with slightly different numerical values depending on weapon size. Something that easily could've been done with a small / medium / large value on a single table for each weapon type, as well as making it easier to use!



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
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Publisher Reply:
I\'m not sure what you mean by \"a full third of the book is just copy-pasted tables of weapon types\" as this isn\'t a correct statement. There are critical effects for each weapon type, and I\'m guessing that you may have skimmed the book and missed much of the nuances. Give it another read and absorb the content. A lot of people, including community reviewers have only had extremely positive reviews of this product. If you are still confused, feel free to reach out to me personally online and I\'ll happily explain anything you like in the book.
Feats of Legend: 20 Warpriest Feats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2015 06:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!


-Crusader: +1 to atk with favored weapon, 1 max dex cap limit less in armor, 1 armor check penalty less. Okay.


-Extra Blessing: +1 BLESSING. Not "use of a blessing", full-blown blessing - minor + mayor. This is very powerful.


-Extra Fervor: +3/day uses of fervor.


-Project Aura: Expend fervor as a full-round action to project aura as a 15-ft.-cone and treat your warpriest level as twice as high for the purpose of stunning creatures, for they are treated as if they had cast the appropriate detect spell and studied you for 3 rounds. Thankfully, a Will save can prevent that and reduce the effect to shaken.


-Improved Project Aura: Also add minor buff for allies and increase cone-size to 30 ft.


-Greater Project Aura: Expend more fervor to increase the duration of the stunned/shaken effect and also increase the save DC. The DC-scaling per fervor point feels a bit high to me - +1 round at 2 uses of fervor, why not also go for that with the DC? Stunned is pretty much save or suck, so I don't think this would be weak.


-Improved Sacred Armor: + Cha-mod minutes duration.


-Greater Sacred Armor: Enhancement increases by +1 for a maximum of +6.


-Improved Sacred Weapon: Treat sacred weapon as if your warpriest level was +1 higher, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. I assume this refers to the level-based sacred weapon base damage progression; If it does, it ought to have specified that it does not apply to the enhancement-bonus scaling inherent in the base ability, since that one also improves damage.


-Greater Sacred Weapon: Increase enhancemnet bonus by +1 to a maximum of +6. See, this one sports no ambiguity.


-Insightful Strike: Substitute Wis-mod as atk-governing attribute instead of Str or Dex when using the deity's favored weapon.


-Improved Insightful Strike: Add Wis-mod to crit-confirmation rolls with the deity's favored weapon.


-Ranged Fervor: Use fervor at 30 ft. range, requiring touch attacks - see, this one is pretty awesome and concisely presents a downright awesome option!


-Sacred Armor Flexibility: Expend fervor as a move action to switch the armor enhancement on your sacred armor. Nice!


-Sacred Weapon Flexibility: Same flexibility, but for sacred weapons.


-Summon Raiments: This summons forth armor/weapons for "divine energy" - does that mean channel energy? Fervor? No idea. Non-functional as written.


-Vigilant Blade: Enhance sacred weapon as a free action for 1 fervor.


-Zealot's Strike: Expend 2 fervor tod eal max damage on the next successful attack, +4 to crit confirmation rolls. Why not limit the maximum to base weapon damage? As written, it can pretty easily be cheesed.


-Zealous Healing: Excess healing provided by fervor translates to temporary hit points of up to warpriest level.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect - from the mentioning of the bogus "divine energy class ability" to lower caps "dc" and similar small glitches, the pdf does sport some minor hiccups. Layout adheres to TPK Games' parchment-style two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Brian Berg and P.J. Harn deliver a solid expansion of warpriest feats that do deliver some much needed flexibility. The feats skirt the line from solid to absolutely awesome - the ranged version of fervor is a pretty genius adaption of the ranged channel-ray alternate rule from the cleric reforged and the added flexibility for sacred armor/weaponry is cool. On the other hand, the offensive aura feats left me rather unimpressed and there are some minor quibbles in editing and wording and some minor balance concerns that drag down the pdf. In the end, we are left with a solid little pdf that is slightly above average and definitely useful for warpriests. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at a solid 3.5 stars rating, rounded down to 3 stars, mainly because not enough feats blew me out of the water and due to some of the editing/wording being pretty subpar.


Endzeitgeist out.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Legend: 20 Warpriest Feats
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Feats Reforged: Vol. III, The Combat Feats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/24/2015 09:13:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of TPK Games' reimagination of feats as scaling with the levels clock in at 68 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 65 (!!!) pages of content..but what do these pages cover?


Well, essentially this book covers the feats from Ultimate Combat and introduces scaling mechanisms into them. Now the pdf does mention the topic of balance - and whether this changes the balance of the game. The basic stance taken by the pdf is "no", as long as you apply the scaling mechanisms to adversaries as well. personally, I am not sold on that, seeing how classes with many feats necessarily receive more benefits from the scaling of feats. That being said, I do consider the impact/power-increase to be relatively conservative, so no rating penalty for that. Another thing - this review is NOT, I repeat, it is NOT about whether the feats from Ultimate Combat are well-designed...or balanced for that matter. This review is about TPK Games' take on the feats, on their scaling mechanism and on whether or not they live up in creative/concise ways to the premise of the pdf. So no, my admitted loathing for some Ultimate Combat feats and their at times problematic rules-language will not reflect negatively on this pdf. If it manages to fix an issue from the source material, though, I'll happily point that out.


The scaling paradigm for the feats usually assumes a scaling on 7th and 14th level, 12th and 19th level, or 13th and 20th level, with powerful, high-prereq-feats sometimes coming with less scaling. Now the first feat herein already is an interesting example for why this pdf does have something significant to offer - the upgrades of Adder Strike allow for the application of two doses poison to three body parts and later, even to apply two doses to any number of eligible body parts. This scaling goes beyond boring numerical escalation, adding a surprising tactical diversity to the scaling, one rarely seen in the Feats Reforged series so far - so consider me intrigued. And yes, this extends to quite a few other feats - Arc Slinger's second augmentation, for example, allows the benefit of Point Blank Shot to be applied at 150% of its usual range when used in conjunction with slings/sling-staves.


What about e.g. Betrayer, adding a penalty to attacks on the round following your betrayal? Impressively, the feats themselves often provide whole new tactical options I quite frankly did not expect to be present - take blinding throw's second upgrade, which lets you count as +1 size category when using the feat. If you're like me and just love TPK Games' Laying Waste-book on critical hits, you'll also enjoy e.g. Boar Style's option to cause bleed damage and the advice on handling the use of Laying Waste in conjunction with this superb critical hit system. It should be noted that e.g. the massive damage rule and similar optional rules are taken into account as well whenever they are relevant - impressive to see this pdf go above and beyond.


High-level siege commanders may, for example, assemble siege engines much, much faster, whereas efreeti style's cone-blast can be expanded to full 30 ft., whereas sap masters of higher levels may treat rolled 1s as 2s and later even 1s and 2s as 3s when dealing nonlethal sneak attack damage to adversaries. Increased base damage dice for blowgun darts can also help retaining the usefulness of certain builds.


Indeed, while some components of the rules language has very minor hiccups, the significant majority of the feats herein go quite an impressive step beyond what I consider the numerical escalation school of game design, either providing much-required additional options for less than optimal feats or simply, brand new options, which in diversity, if not in power (thankfully!) reach the added level of tactical depth of mythic feats in their more shining iterations.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, while not perfect, is a significant step up from the blunders that have haunted the classes-reforged series - these components can be considered more than satisfactory in their execution. Layout adheres to a parchment-like two-column standard that is easy to read and the pdf comes with bookmarks by alphabet and the good type of unobtrusive hyperlinks. While I would have liked each feat as a bookmark for more convenience when using the electronic version, I won't penalize this pdf for it. The artworks in full color are sparse, but we don't get these books for the artwork now, do we? Content over bling any day for me!


I'll be honest with you -I wasn't looking forward to reviewing this pdf, mainly because Feats Reforged-pdfs tend to be an insane amount of work that is also not particularly rewarding from a reviewer's perspective. Or so I thought. The first two installments of the series did what they said on the lid - they took the core-feats and APG-feats and made them scale. Mostly sans issues, so yeah, great files, case closed. I expected this book to be pretty much the same deal. It's not. In the capable hands of lead designer Chris Bayes and Brian Berg, this pdf went beyond what I would have expected from it, delivering quite frankly more interesting options than a book with this scope almost has a right to. Certain crunch-projects look downright like WORK to me. Not the "inspiring" type of design, but, capital letters "work" - Legendary Games' mythic feats and spells fall into this category and so did the feats reforged-books. These are assignments I personally would not be too keen on. They are immensely useful, but for my part, the designers of books like that have earned their compensation - design like this can be rewarding, but it also takes a lot of dedication.


It is of utmost importance, then, to acknowledge books that are just like this and still manage to retain a sense of wonder, of versatility. Books that don't fall into the trap of just devising one set of numerical escalation design-rules and then stick to it, but instead go the long, high road. Not the road of least resistance or the fastest, but the one with the best results. I consider this installment of feats reforged to be just that. It is astonishing, baffling even, that such an assignment has produced such an interesting book. When I reviewed Vol. 2 of the series, I wrote that I'd be skeptical regarding how TPK Games would deal with the problem feats herein, how the line would go on. If this is the new face of Feats Reforged, then consider me excited. Even though Ultimate Combat contains some of my most loathed feats for PFRPG, even though I consider the base material far from perfect, the sheer passion and versatility of the design, especially within such a tight frame, is impressive.


While I still won't like quite a few of the feats in UC, the matter of the fact is that I am much more inclined towards just about ALL of their scaling versions. In quite a few instances, coal has been turned not to rough diamonds, but at least into something that sparkles, that has a shine. If this accumulation of praise was not enough indication - I am perfectly willing to consider the scant few issues herein, all of which fall into the "minor" category or are based on issues with the base feats, simply less than relevant when compared to the surprising wellspring of ideas found herein, of all places. Add to that the relatively concise balance and we have an obvious final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval. If waiting this long for a new reforged-book results in this level of awesomeness, I'll gladly wait for the next book!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats Reforged: Vol. III, The Combat Feats
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The Barbarian Reforged (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/21/2014 02:35:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second of TPK Games' redesigns of base classes clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


All right, so let's dive into these guys - the reforged barbarian receives much the same stuff you know from the base class - but with some modifications. First of which would be the addition of survival and stealth to his class skill list, which makes sense to me - lore is rife with suspicious barbarians that prowl the less civilized lands. In an uncommon twist, ref-saves have been upgraded to a medium progression - while not standard for class design, that is not a paradigm I'd consider sacrosanct - so yes, interesting.


Now in a rather interesting take, TPK Games have eliminated the movement bonus the standard barbarian receives in favor of a bonus to movement when charging, including a further increase in str-mod by half when charging for devastating charges. While this makes low level charge-builds exceedingly lethal, per se not something I'd consider broken. It should also be noted that reforged barbarians receive mobility at 5th level. In an interesting take, rage now has a fortitude save to prevent the temporary fatigue at the end of the rage - per se another choice that may add a small bonus, but not one I'd consider problematic.


As a variant to rage, whirling frenzy is provided - this nets the barbarian +4 to str (untyped, should be morale analogue to rage), +2 dodge bonus to AC and ref-saves and essentially allows him to flurry - +1 optional attack in full attacks, but at -2 to all attacks, INCLUDING AoOs the bonuses sclae to +6/+3 and +8/+4. Additionally, the barbarian does not receive indomitable will, but does receive evasion while in a whirling frenzy. This variant provoked a knee-jerk "OMG, OP"-reaction from me that was only partially justified. While the flurry is extremely strong for a full BAB-class and the bonus-type glitch sucks,, the lack of con-bonus means that these barbarians are more fragile. In the end, testing did show that due to proficiencies etc., this does not break the game, though it is a pretty strong option that is not for every game. Still, apart from the bonus hick-up, not something I'd condemn.


Trap Sense is modified into danger sense, granting a bonus to perception as well as the minor bonus to ref-saves and AC versus traps. Damage reduction is moved down from 7th to 5th level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter (not an issue since DR is probably the most overrated rules-component in PFRPG) and instead, at 7th level, the reforged barbarian receives Diehard hard-coded into his frame-work. The higher levels remain untouched, ability-wise.


We also receive a host of FCOs, -which are pretty cool - reduction of AC-penalties for drow, more claw/bite damage for catfolk, better mobility AC-bonus in dim light for fetchlings -the FCOs tie into both race and class and make sense and rank among the best examples for them. The one for (half-) orcs deserves special mentioning - +1 round rage per level feels very strong to me. I would have gone at least +1/2. Thene again...half-orcs are one of the notoriously weaker races, hence the ability to excel at arguably their iconic class may be in the realm of what one might consider valid.


A new archetype is also included, the cannibal. Instead of charging strike, these guys receive a secondary bite attack. Additionally, they may eat the heart (or what passes for it) of a fallen foe slain in the past minute to regain hp or rage rounds equal to their HD - before you pull out the kitten-bag: Yes, they can eat kittens since the mechanic is tied to their own HD, not the one of the enemy, but a daily limit prevents the ability from being broken. It's not as elegant as it could be, but it works.Imbibe Spirit uses a similar mechanic, but the actual bonus it grants has been lost to a formatting glitch - I have no idea what the ability does. Consume Vigor grants fast healing equal to the creature's HD, but fails to specify how long it lasts - two unfortunately massive glitches that render a cool archetype unusable as written.


A total of 33 new feats are provided - they range from damn cool to broken as hell: Take Butcher's Blade - whenever you hit a foe with power attack, you receive a swift action, AoE-intimidate check to all who see you within 30 ft. Usually, AoE-demoralization is a class feature, not something that can relatively cheaply be bought as a feat. Brotehrs of Steelwould be another example - while awesome, it simply is too strong - choose one ally at the begin of any combat - as long as one of you isn't flat-footed or flanked, neither is the other - this is much more powerful than many a teamwork-feat option and probably should be remade as one - as soona s two characters require this feat, it would make more sense/feel more balanced. The Camel Punch-feat that increases the damage dice of unarmed strikes by +1 should also be kept out of the hands of monks - A default strategy to improve damage output for these guys is size-increase and stacking +1 size on that via a feat is just nasty. Especially since another feat allows you to be treated +1 size when charging - do you see the stacking insanity...yeah...not gonna happen anywhere near my game.


Interesting, though quite some work to track, would be "Deep Wounds" - the bonus damage from power attack has its recovery rate reduced to only 1 of these hp per day - while not feasible for every campaign, especially low magic campaigns will enjoy this one. Eyes of teh Jaguar would be weird - the feat nets you low-light vision 30 ft. Problem being - low-light vision has no range. You either have it, or you don't. Darkvision has a range, though...so which is it?


Improved Diehard is a rather weak feat that could use a power-upgrade - not dying until you reach negative con + 1/2 level isn't that impressive; Here, for once, I would have went full level. Improved Mobility is BROKEN - it eliminates AoOs from threatened squares. Flat-out. One caveat - if you lose dex-bonus, are slowed, staggered etc., you also lose the benefit. Still, this is weird - it invalidates mobility and its increased emphasis in the reforged barbarian - this feat needs to die a fiery death. I do like the feats that allow for a bonus to str and con-checks, since both usually receive no love whatsoever. A cohort-less variant of leadership with twice the number of followers, based on str, should be interesting for humanoid warlords and str-based weapon-hurling is also okay. I also like the counter-power attack-feat that negates the bonus granted by power attack, unlike the foes combined BAB+str-mod is 4 higher than yours - interesting mechanic to counter one of the most used feats. Savage Strike allows you to trade in AC for damage-boost, which si also an interesting option. Unquenchable Flame is another feat, which, while high in concept, needs nerfing - once you run out of rage, you may continue raging, but are shaken and receive 3 points of non-lethal damage per round. Infinite rage at level 5. When rage-rounds are quite often used as the resource for rage powers, feats etc. - so, does the barbarian still count as having rounds of rage left, or is only the rage maintained? If only the latter is the case -all right.


The pdf also provides a total of 15 new rage powers: +2 damage versus foes below 50% max HP smells of 4th edition's bloodied condition to me and requires tracking, so not a fan of that one. On the other hand, Favor of the Forebearers is awesome - as a swift action, you may expend one round of rage to invoke the forefathers and add the ghost touch property to your weapon for one round. Using rage to temporarily boost ref-, will- or fort-saves, critical confirmation rolls, less duration of charms if your indomitable will doesn't do the job. On the nitpicky side, 3 rounds of rage for turn undead may be a cool option, but the wording "as a cleric" is misleading - turning undead requires a feat that not every cleric has. conical AoE sonic damage for rage rounds also makes sense to me and the level cap prevents abuse and to explicit novas. Using immediate actions and rage to negate 5 points of damage received also is a neat one, as is the option to temporarily boost DR and even grant yourself fortification. Generally, these rage powers include some cool gems.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are this pdf's weak points - while generally, there are not many glitches per se, the archetype is ruined (which is a damn pity) and quite a few feats should not have went even past a fleeting mechanical editing. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully hyperlinked and bookmarked for your convenience.


I did not look forward to this review. After the balance disaster of the Reforged Cleric, I did dread this one. This pdf is the labor of lead designer Brian Berg, with additional content from PJ Harn, Jason Linker, Ben Kent, Kevin Mickelson and David Miller and the pdf reflects that - quality, alas fluctuates from "glorious" to "awful." First the good news: The reforged barbarian is actually a cool alternative. It may be a tad bit stronger than the standard barbarian, but not by much and all changes make sense to me - they enhance the fluff and feel of the class. So if you wnat this pdf for the variant class alone - go for it!


Alas, the supplemental content is a mixed bag - from the cool, but unusable archetype to feats that range from cool to "Does the designer know which system he's designing for?" to the rage powers, this pdf's issue can be summed up in one sentence: Lack of a developer. The disparate voices and wildly fluctuating quality of the writing means that this pdf does have some awesome, glorious pieces of crunch that will most definitely see use at my table, but also that it features some horribly broken bits and pieces that need to be plunged into the deepest pits of the abyss. With a bit more care, this pdf could have been a 5 star + seal of approval book; It has all the makings of one. Alas, the at times sloppy fine-tuning has taken that away. Try as I might, as much as I love the base class, the ideas herein - with this amount of flaws, I cannot go higher than 3 stars. As a grab-bag and for the base class, definitely worth the low asking price, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Barbarian Reforged (PFRPG)
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Feats Reforged: Vol. III, The Combat Feats
by Chris V. D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/15/2014 10:27:42

I will make this brief.


Feats Reforged is absolutely brilliant!


Feats are something that I always enjoyed when it came to 3rd, 3.5 and Pathfinder but found that some simply became useless as the character progressed.


This is the third in the series that increases the feat's usefulness as the character progresses in level.


So this is brief and to the point.


Buy it! You won't be disappointed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats Reforged: Vol. III, The Combat Feats
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Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/29/2014 08:36:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive tome clocks in at 168 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 160 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But before we do, full disclosure: After receiving the Beta-version of these rules and thoroughly enjoying them, I was asked to be a stretch-goal for this book and thus have contributed some content to this book. I do not consider my verdict in any way compromised by this, but felt obliged to mention it anyways. The archetypes I contributed are clearly discernible (since the book properly credits its guest authors - which is awesome!), so judge for yourself.


Got that? All right. So the basic question this book poses is one that has haunted me for multiple iterations and roleplaying systems - why are critical hits so boring? Yeah, bonus damage may be nice, but let's face it - the additional numbers just aren't that cool. In older systems I essentially scavenged and homebrewed components from e.g. rollmaster, but those brought their own issues. When the critical hit and fumble decks hit shelves, I went for them. They didn't do the trick for me, being not extensive enough and a tad bit too random for my tastes. Just taking and modifying systems from other rule-sets also proved to be not the best option.


Enter Laying Waste. The base system is ridiculously easy to grasp - all crits deal max base damage. There are no more critical confirmation rolls - these have been replaced by so-called severity checks: These are essentially a d20-roll + the the excess amount the attack beat the target's AC and also fractures in the critical modifier of the weapon and the size of the weapon. Even bonus damage, different size categories etc. are taken into account. What sounds moderately complex in a review's text is actually exceedingly simple on paper and thanks to the concise examples given. Now additionally, severity checks then result in no additional effect, a light wound effect, a moderate wound effect or a severe wound effect. Some of these wound effects have saves to mitigate - so yes, while you make chop off nose, puncture eyes or even behead foes, they will have to have failed a save to suffer such debilitating effects. Once you have determined the severity of the wound, you roll a d% to check the effect, with each table offering a massive 50 entries of different wounds that makes 150 for piercing, bludgeoning and slashing EACH. While there are some overlaps of wounds between the respective damage types, these are the exception rather than the rule, resulting in the diversity and uniqueness of the remarkable occasions of criting being significantly increased - it's no longer: "Remember how I dealt 47 damage to the ogre in one stroke!", but rather "Remember how it took that ogre's arm clean off?" Yeah. You probably get why prefer systems like this.


Now in case you haven't noticed - this results in a significantly increased gritty-factor and a kind of increased realism that gets rid of an, at least for me, unpleasant abstraction in the rules. Now another part of the effect would be the prevalence of bleed-effects - it never made sense to me that bleed doesn't stack and for the purposes of this system, it does. Means of recovery and the heal skill also are properly implemented - no longer is the latter a waste of skill points, but rather a nice option to help keep your battered allies together. Now this base system can be further modified rather easily via a couple of optional rules that worked well in my tests.


Now, of course one would assume that synergy with e.g. already published feats would become wonky, but since severity replaces the critical confirmation roll, the bonus added can be simply carried over - elegant. Now this book does sport a vast array of new feats to support the system - the table alone covers over 5 pages, just to give you an idea of the scope. If I don't want to bloat the review worse than Kaer Maga's bloodmagic practitioners, I'll have to resort to giving you a general overview, all right?


The feats generally interact and expand with the new system - take the very first feat, acrobatic reflexes: Instead of a ref-save, this allows wounds that prompted a ref-save to avoid the wound's effects via acrobatics. Other feats allow you to treat the base damage (e.g. piericing) as another damage type. Of course, just about all common class/race features can be expanded as well - racial foe/hatred? There's a feat for it. Better threat range against foes unaware of you? Yep. Increased bleed damage whenever you cause it? Bingo. On a plus-side - shields receive more relevance: With the right shields, you receive a chance to negate the critical hit. Yes. The whole hit. Why do I consider this a good thing? Well, at first, I didn't. In actual game-play, it did add a level of dynamics, a roller coaster of emotions to the combat: When my Death Knight scored a decapitation against the paladin, who then proceeded to negate the attack, the player was sitting on the edge of his chair. Now some of the feats admittedly are "only" a good idea that could use proper expansion into a full-blown system: Take critical channel - Roll a d20 every time you channel: On a 20, double the effects. While this one won't break any game and gives the channeling player some of the criting satisfaction, I still maintain that a full-blown system would work better here. I'm also not a fan of adding a second attribute (like e.g. cha) as a modifier to damage, even if it's only on critical hits, but that's a personal preference and won't influence the final verdict. Now Deflect Blow is also an interesting feat - as an immediate action, you may opt to be hit by an attack, but receive DR /- equal to you BAB against the attack. No way to exploit, tax of one feat, action-economy-restriction - this is an example for a damn fine feat. Why? Because it makes combat more dynamic, adds some tactics and can't be cheesed via items, buffs etc. Opting to increase the threat range at the chance of an increased fumble-rate.


Another peculiarity of the feats herein would be that, beyond the weapon damage type finally mattering more, the feats also often require specific weapon qualities to work, lending the respective builds towards a more diverse weapon selection and thus, fighting styles. While by far not all feats herein are winners, the vast majority actually work in rather awesome ways and serve to neatly expand the base system's impact. Now Laying Waste would not be a massive book on mechanics without new archetypes -a total of 16, each crediting the respective author (and yeah, these include Rachel Venture, John Reyst, James Olchak, Adam Meyers, Clinton J. Boomer (!!!) and yours truly). Now generally, the archetypes are rather high-concept: James Olchak's Bajquan Imperial Bodyguard, for example, makes for one of the coolest bodyguard archetypes I've seen in a while - and while regaining ki by receiving damage can be cheesed with regeneration and fast healing, it is at least slow - still, that particular ability imho requires further restrictions to prevent all-out cheesing. Brian Berg's sinister Blood Archer, firing arrows clad in virulent poison with bone bows just oozes cool imagery. On the other hand of the spectrum, Rachel Ventura's woodland snipers bounded to nature spirits, the Dakini, are less sinister, but still damn cool. My Disembowler archetype is all about wielding oversized weapons (and yes, I plainly disregarded the cluster-f*** that is the Titan Mauler FAQ in favor of a simpler solution)...and gaining, at later levels a friggin' one-man cannon. This barbarian archetype also is all about NASTY severity-effects and may wilder somewhat in the gunslinger's arsenal.


Now some Otakus may start grinning right now - If you haven't realized it: I made this one as a personal love letter to the character Guts from Kentaro Miura's legendary dark fantasy Manga-saga Berserk. Conversely, my master of 1000 cuts, a fighter specialist of bleeding criticals actually came, concept-wise from my 2nd edition-days, before the bleeding rules were nerfed to smithereens - with Laying Waste fixing that, I could finally update the cool concept and modernize it. James Olchaks fighting-style analyzing Mockingbird-rogue is cool and Rachel Ventura's take on the Amazon actually makes a low armor, agile barbarian based on CHA work. Now if you've seen any WuXia-movie ever, I probably won't have to explain the concept of the pressure point master I wrote - Iless damage, better critical effect control would be what to expect here. (On a personal note: Thanks to all the reviewers that explicitly commented how they liked this one!) Adam Meyers also has something rather cool up his sleeve - the head honcho of Drop Dead Studios provides some cool Sneak Attack Substitutions. Now I don't have to tell you that Clinton J. Boomer's contributions are high concept and awesome - heavily armored dwarven barbarian? Ninja? Yeah. Brian Berg also provides a more down-to-earth sword master and a mace specialist. James Olchak's Spiked Gauntlet/Armor-specialist also makes for a neat take on the trope. John Reyst's Vandals are barbarians all about stealing and destroying.


Now it's only fair in a system of cool critical hits to apply the same thoroughness to critical fumbles -a distinction between melee, ranged and natural critical fumbles covers all the bases for the mundane ways to botch. This part of the system is just as optional and modular as the base system, but also damn cool. Now going even beyond that, Laying Waste takes groups that play with Armor as DR and Called Shots as variant rules into account and provides rather extensive advice on using the systems in conjunction, should you choose to. While I liked both base systems (introduced in Ultimate Combat, if my memory serves right) idea-wise, their execution did not work for my group when I introduced them, but since some groups will like them, kudos! Now I already mentioned the increase in significance the poor heal-skill receives and yes, the rules here are concise as well.


Beyond that, magical items and item qualities, a nice piece of short fiction and the fully statted Cr 15 fetchling magus on the cover as an iconic round out the book.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, not the biggest strength of TPK Games, is better here than in any other book they've released so far - while minor glitches can be found, their frequency is low enough to not impede one's enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column b/w standard (with red highlights) and the b/w-art is original, old-school and nice, apart from the full color cover and single pieces here and there. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience.


This critical system is AWESOME. There's no way around it. If I had not considered it great, I wouldn't have agreed to work on it. Now, quite some time has passed and the system has seen some use and I can wholeheartedly say - it has improved the game. Combat is more dynamic, crits are more memorable - and best of all - the system is ridiculously easy to learn and master, elegant in design and modular: Don't like the fumbles? Ignore them. Don't like a feat/archetype? Ignore it. Even better, the system does not require other supplements to be specifically designed for it - each new supplement you buy can easily be made to adhere to Laying Waste's rules - this system will remain relevant. That being said, I wouldn't be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints - some feats and archetypes didn't blow me away, but that's all right. A more significant catch would be that this book, by intention, is all about martials and martial crits - alchemical, magical or psionic crits will have to wait for Laying Waste II, which will also be made. So yeah, there's a gap in the system there, but one that is acknowledged. After several months of playtesting this beast, I can say that neither I, nor my players ever wish to return to the boring, bland default rules. This book may not be perfect, but you can cherry-pick it very well and the general system is elegant and downright genius.


If dark fantasy, horror, scars or just a gritty, more realistic fantasy is what you're looking for, if crits no longer result in excitement at your table - then you MUST get this. Even if you just want an array of wounds or additional effects for your own critical system, this beast is well worth the fair asking price. My final verdict will take all of these into account, but ultimately reflects one fact: There are few books that see this much use at the table, that so effortlessly increased fun - and while I can't always play with it (since I do a lot playtesting), it has become a permanent fixture in my main campaign. Now when do we finally get book 2? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval plus a nomination as a candidate for my best-of 2014.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
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The Ultimate Gladiator
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/02/2014 06:17:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This alternate fighter class by TPK Games clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page almost blank bar one trait, so I'm counting that one as blank for a total of 37 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Gladiators represent a melee-centric class loosely based on the fighter. They receive d12, good fort- and ref-saves, full BAB progression, 2+Int skills per level, but only proficiency with light armors and shields (not tower shields) and simple and martial weapons. It should be noted that the pdf also covers rules for gladiators using piecemeal armor, which is nice to see. Gladiators treat all weapons they have proficiency in as if they had the performance weapon quality and receive bonus feats at 1st level and every even level thereafter - these must be chosen from the list of combat, performance or teamwork feats. Beyond these, there is an option for bonus feats the class receives, the flexible bonus feat granted at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, which allows for the retraining of one such feat in a relatively short duration, but only if said feat does not act as prerequisite for prestige classes etc. For those not familiar with the retraining rules (or who choose to not use them) a cool ability, for all others unfortunately rather useless, but oh well - the lack of costs and limits mean that, provided he's got the time, a gladiator may change quite flexibly over the levels.


Gladiators may also select from special talents, which are grouped in three tiers: They receive their first such talent at 2nd level and then proceed to get another one every odd level thereafter. At 7th level, tier 2 of these is unlocked, at level 13 the third tier becomes available for selection. Now beyond what one would expect, there are some of these talents that actually utilize some interesting mechanics with appropriate risk-reward-ratios: Take e.g. buckler catch, which acts as a disarm maneuver with a further +4 bonus on the roll and can only be used when wearing bucklers; However, failure at the roll means by 10 or more you receive a -2 penalty to AC until the start of the gladiator's next turn.


It should also be noted that the class makes heavy use of victory points (see the rules on performance combat for an elaboration on these) in quite a few talents - expending victory points as a kind of hero points light version, the respective mechanics are nice and provide options both for regular combat and also in the context of deadly bouts in the arena - even defeated gladiators may thus avoid the fate of the thumb down-sign. The respective abilities cover quite an array that allows builds from crowd-pleasers and performers to ruthless killers and more often than not, offers iconic, cool options - shortening grips of polearms? Check. Sharing a bonus teamwork feat with allies? Check. Making attacks with bucklers valid and switching bonuses between light/one-handed weapon and buckler? Check. Subdual damage? Yep. Faster cover via tower shields? Aye. War Paint and all the tricks you'd expect can be found herein and quite probably, a vast bunch more.


Among tier 2 talents, knocking potentially foes unconscious with critical hits is a neat idea as well. Sundering via regular attacks also is an unconventional option, thankfully balanced by action economy and minor autobuffs for successful attacks via a combo point pool also makes for an interesting option. Daily-use limited auto-healing or death-preventing temporary hitpoints, DR-reducing blows - the amount of options is interesting indeed.


I am not a friend of the design decision to allow the swatting of missiles out of the air by succeeding an opposed attack-roll, since I consider the flux of 2d20 to be too big when compared to the usual atk vs. AC. The 3rd tier talent Deep Wound is also odd - treating all max damage rolls as critical threats can be cheesed rather easily with very small weapons, shuriken etc. While the vast majority of the multitudes of talents herein is awesome and cool in some way, black sheep like these unfortunately also have made their way in here and there.


It should be noted that the FCOs here span so much more than one would expect - a whole lot of ARG-races are covered beyond the core races - alas, here some glitches have crept in as well: Ifrits get e.g. 1/5 increase to movement rate. 1/5 of what? 5 ft.? of a transition of 10 feet? No idea.


We also get new archetypes, like the blind helm fighter, the barbaric slave who may wilder in rage powers, the animal trainer gladiator, the agile blade dancer, the gloryhound champion, the sneaky criminal, the huge beast of a man (gigante - damn cool!), the gladiatrix or the quintessential survivor gladiator, the immortal. Yeah, there are 4 more archetypes beyond those I mentioned. That's variety! Over 30 feats, many of which center along the theme of gladiator combat, achievements and reputations and which really want to make you try those combat styles are provided and a vast array of traits, enough to supplement a full gladiatorial campaign, are also part of the deal.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the unfortunate weak point of this pdf - from formal minor nitpicks à la WILL save/will save inconsistencies in the text to some obvious rules-oversights here and there, some glitches have crept into this massive tome. Not many or crippling ones, but they are here to an extent that imho could have been thinned out further. Layout adheres to TPK Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes extensively and fully bookmarked and also extensively hyperlinked. Artworks range from neat stock I already knew to cool artworks I haven't seen before.


Brian Berg's Gladiator (with content by Skip Twitchwell, Joshua Slick and David Miller) admittedly hits a soft spot in my armor - I love the base concept and the execution, which could conceivably be mixed with e.g. RGG's Talented Fighter (and vice versa) makes for a very versatile beast of a class that has A LOT going for it. Cool combat styles and iconic moves bespeak a love of the genre and the utilization of dueling/performance combat rules is something seen all too rarely. Reading this supplement really made me want to run a gladiator-only-campaign; The class with its massive supplemental content would support enough different characters to make the experience not boring or character-wise redundant for the players, which is quite a feat to achieve - so kudos for that. And yes, I LOVE this class; I LOVE the ideas herein, and yet, I can't rate this as high as I'd like to - a competent rules-editing that irons out the few issues, a check to prevent duplicate mechanics that usually are handled differently - it's partially cosmetic stuff and here and there simply unnecessary second solutions to already existing rules that, while not rendering the class bad in any way, still manage to make it feel slightly less refined than it ought to be. There aren't many true glitches herein, but those can be found as well. Rest assured that this is not enough to net this gladiator the dreaded "thumbs down" - the book is too good for that. While I won't be joining the loudly cheering crowd, I am standing here grinning and clapping at the performance of these gladiators - well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ultimate Gladiator
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Servants of Shadow: Five Necromancy-themed Races (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2014 07:58:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive racial book by TPK Games clocks in at 67 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving a massive 64 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


As has become the tradition with TPK Games' race books, we kick off with a short introduction by the author and then an expertly-written fluffy introduction, which this time around works also as a kind of origin myth. After that, we're introduced to the Mortiss, the dead that have escaped from Nergal's underworld - and from the get-go, the design is interesting: Being essentially the dead, they hail from a variety of species and still, the designer did not forget random age, height and weight statistics etc. - nice! Also nice - a variety of favored class options that are neither too strong, nor, get this, boring - for each comes with a short, fluffy text that explains it. Call me any name you want, but this makes otherwise dry crunch so much more flavorful. Kudos! Now what do Mortiss do? Well, as escaped dead, they get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Dex, have no constitution scores and thus determine hp and fort-saves via cha instead and only get a base movement rate of 20 feet, which is not modified by encumbrance, though. Mortiss are full-blown undead - with all the immunities, less attributes to divide points by etc. They also get DR 3/slashing (which they can exchange with a 15 foot aura of 5-round nauseating stench or full 30 feet movement rate), always consider stealth a class skill, get darkvision 60 feet, a vulnerability to resurrection and positive energy etc. - and most importantly - they are destroyed upon reaching 0 hp, sans means of being returned from the beyond.


Yeah...that is interesting. Point-buy-wise, this race clocks in at 17 points, but the ARG's guidelines are broken, so that does not for a good orientation point make. Whether you consider this class overpowered very much depends on the frequency of which you use fort-based afflictions like poisons and diseases and on the lethality of your campaign - if your game is rather cuddly, the 0 Hp = game over caveat may be manageable; If you have a rather lethal campaign, the fast final destruction is something that will take a lot of brains (and luck!) to avoid. On the other side, only having to buy 5 attributes makes for much more powerful characters. The best line I can come up with, would be Sentenced's "Neverlasting" - "Burn the candles at both ends - you and I aren't built to last." The Mortiss are powerful, but quite probably, will be more short-lived than similar characters that are alive. Solid race, though not made for every campaign.


There also is a racial archetype, the boneblade magus, which gets diminished spellcasting and sacrifices 2 points from the arcane pool to permanently improve their blades with the holy or unholy property. Unfortunately all other abilities of the archetype fail the kitten-test, big time: AT 9th level, crits heal the magus for class level Hp -kill 'dem kittens! At 12th level, the magus may regain aracana this way. Urgh. And at 13th level, each hit nets the magus 1 temporary hp, lasting 1 hour, up to a maximum of class levels temporary hp. That's three gross failures of the kitten-test at its most basic level, which renders the archetype utterly broken and deeply flawed. Unfortunately, something similar can be said about some of the feats: Take "Feign Death", which lets you collapse in a heap as an immediate action - nice. But it fails to specify what skill-check DC modifications this has to your bluff-skill at feigning death, rendering a cool feat concept useless as written. I won't complain about a feat to offset the no-resurrection penalty, but one that makes fifth level + characters easily healed via positive energy isn't too high on my list, since that takes away one of the most crucial vulnerabilities of the race. Granted, negative energy now damages the Mortiss, but still. Turn resistance, +1 natural armor and an achievement feat to slightly increase positive energy output feel a bit on the weak end. Two solid racial traits and a nice 3-level racial paragon class as well as two spells, a full-blown Mortiss settlement and a sample character (especially the latter two deserve credit) are also provided for an overall solid, if not perfect race.


The second undead race herein would be the Forsworn. These would be people, undecaying and less grisly than the Mortiss, who have forsworn life via a ritual and acquired the Cr+1 forsworn template - consider it a kind of reward, if you will. The race also comes with plenty of favored class options, gain darkvision 60 ft., +2 channel resistance, Bluff, Disguise and Stealth become a class skill, energy resistance 5 vs. lightning and cold, +2 to bluff and disguise checks and +1 natural armor. Oh, and if their origin isn't making that clear enough - these guys and gals are EVIL. They also do not heal naturally, unlike what was implied and not explicitly stated, the Mortiss. (Who do not have that caveat...) The Beguiling Witch archetype gets diminished spellcasting and instead, a warlock-like blast ranged touch attack with a range of 30 ft. that deals 1d6 points of untyped damage, +1d6 at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter. This blast is useable class level + int-mod times day. The archetype also gets arcane armor proficiency at 4th level instead of a hex and DR 3/cold iron that increases slowly further instead of the level 8 hex. Solid blaster archetype, though calling the archetype "Beguiling Witch" feels like a massive misnomer to me.


A total of 18 feats (that, as written, don't require the forsworn race - be very wary when allowing these!) are provided for the forsworn. Take "Bleak Spell" - The feat adds 1 negative level sans save to a spell, at +3 spell levels. Yes, that means NO SAVE for the negative level. OUCH. Combine that with unerring magic missiles, for example...rather easy to abuse and should probably have some caveat and instead a less severe level increase. The feat that auto-maxes the HP of undead you "prepare" is problematic - what does preparing entail? Do spawns qualify? If so, why does not every creature eligible have this? Seriously, this one is very strong and could use a tighter wording. Making your undead negative energy bombs is also interesting, as would be the ability to graft bone armor to undead. Greater Turn Resistance is once again flawed - "You gain DR 5/- versus channeled energy." There is no such thing as "channeled energy" - there is positive energy and negative energy. And they, as energy would adhere to the resistance X-formula. Additionally, the feat, as provided, makes healing via negative energy 5 points less effective - intentional? The fortification-granting feats, while not getting the terminology for fortification right, at least are not ambiguous. Speaking of sloppy wordings - "Revivification" specifies "By expending two channel negative energy uses, destroyed undead in your area of effect are reanimated with half their normal hit points." - what's bad here? Well, it's subtle. First, action type - I assume regular standard action, but I'm not sure. Secondly, do all the intelligent undead retain free will? Sans HD-cap? Instant perma-immortality for liches, undead dragons etc. Destroyed by pesky adventurers? No problem, loyal cadre of 1st level cha 13+ cultists and 1 (!!!) can INSTANTLY return you to life at half max hp. Though you'd usually be DESTROYED. This needs serious fixing, especially in the context of this book - if such a feat is inserted into the game with undead PCs, they can be brought back EASILY, for a regrowing resource, sans penalties. INSANE. Speaking of which - what about a feat that heals you when drawing negative levels from your allies, usable ad infinitum. Restoration and similar spells? Screw those. At least needs a daily cap. Worse, most of these feats have no racial prereq - avoid inserting them just wildly into your game.


The racial paragon-class is solid (though one ability has an annoying typo) and the write-up contains a cool level 17 grimoire in all glorious spell-lists, fluff etc., including a neat preparation ritual. We also get a shadow-themed unseen servant-style spell and a sample character. The forsworn are very powerful and lack any advice for DMs on how to judge this power in relation to other characters. The lack of ECL or RP-information makes clear these guys are intended for NPC-use, though the absence of guidelines in that regard for evil groups sucks. The base race is okay, if not intended for player hands, but the feats...oh dear. While almost universally cool in imagery, oh boy are their wordings SLOPPY. To the point where they contain a number of game-breakers. Avoid.


The third race, the Maghra are essentially degenerate half-ghoul barbarians, transformed by their deadly and strange practices. Theyare half-undead, get +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha and come with full age, height, weight-tables, favored class options, +1 to fort-saves and immunity to paralysis, non-magical diseases and poisons, a bite attack for 1d6 (not specifying whether as a primary or secondary natural attack, though I assume the former), +2 to Knowledge (dungeoneering) and Survival checks made while underground. They also always treat Perception and Stealth as class skills and gain light sensitivity. They can also get claws for 1d3, but then reduce the bite damage to 1d3 as well - once again, failing to specify whether claws or bite become primary/secondary natural weapons when used in conjunction. Very cool as an idea would be the feats that net you to +4 to attribute-spells for eating elves or dwarves...but the feats fail to specify CL for the effects...and duration/whether it's an extraordinary/supernatural/spell-like ability effect. This unfortunately holds universally true for almost all of the conceptually cool cannibalism-feats. "Blood Frenzy" is an interesting idea - when reducing a foe below 50% HP, the Maghra enter a frenzy for +2 to Str/Con, +1 to will-save for 1 round per level, useable 4+con-mod times, non-stacking with barbarian rage. per se, that's awesome, though the 50% caveat is, as written, makes no sense - hand the barbarian a kitten for rage. Why not just eliminate the 50%.limitation? Gaining DC 10 +1/2 level +cha-mod paralysis for 1d3 rounds on ALL natural attacks is also insanely strong - Paralysis being one of the most crippling conditions in Pathfinder.


The bite-power enhancing 3-level racial paragon-class, the 6 new traits, the settlement, the sample character - all of these are nice, though. Urghs, this one was a pain - mainly because the base race is nice and only has very minor glitches, but the feats once again just are in need of a massive overhaul, breaking rules and sporting sloppy wordings left and right.


The fourth race would be Nergal's servants, the deathless - another templated race at CR +2 who gets the full-blown undead-treatment, darkvision 60 ft, +2 natural AC, resistance 10 against cold, lightning and fire, fast healing 1, a slam attack at 1d6 (primary or secondary?), detect undead at will, +2 Str and Cha, +2 Perception + Sense Motive and Alertness, Toughness and Iron Will as bonus feats. Oh, and whenever they die, they automatically respawn after 24 hours, with one point of permanent Cha-drain that can't be mitigated. The ability unfortunately fails to specify WHERE the deathless respawns, whether s/he takes his/her equipment to Nergal's realm to be admonished etc. The 4 racial feats give you negative HP (and being staggered), allow you to conjure forth a +1 undead bane dancing scythe that can, with another feat, made brilliant + ghost touch (very strong at low levels) and one "kill foes to heal"-feat that once again gloriously fails the kitten-test. The undead knight-style racial paragon-class is neat, as is the bone armor spell and the sample NPC. So, depending on your perspective, this is the race for the player who doesn't want to lose his PC...or for the munchkin. The Deathless, as a templated creature, makes for a superb adversary, but lacks crucial information regarding balancing it with non-deathless characters. I would STRONGLY advise against using these in any but the most high-powered of games as PCs...but they do have a glorious usage: Remember Dark Souls/Demon Souls? Yeah. Make an exceedingly, mega-deadly campaign and see whether the PCs manage to conquer it - coincidentally, you could also take the Souls-series' reclaim mechanics for gear instead of for full hp... So while I'd never allow the race in a common campaign, it does have its uses! Apart from minor gripes, neat!


The final race would be the Nephandim, once again a non-templated race, these guys are the pale, small servants or Nergal - they get -2 to Str, Cha and Con, +2 Int and Wis, are small and slow. Tehy are humanoids with fire resistance 5 (or DR 3/slashing), +2 to saves against death effects, +2 to will-saves to resist enchantment (charm + compulsion)-spells and effects and may save again. They may also, 1/day, reroll a Bluff/Diplomacy-check when proclaiming their service to Nergal. Additionally, they may 1/day cast bleed, chill touch, detect poison, touch of fatigue as a spell-like ability if their wis is 11 or higher, deathwatch at will, +2 to their channeling DC if applicable, 120 ft darkvision, light sensitivity and also have negative energy affinity, making them great allies/healers of the undead. These lack the RP/build-information, though. Generally, the Nephandim feel a bit overburdened to me - the spell-like abilities, the better channeling sans alternate racial trait to switch out...depending on the build, these guys can be extremely strong. For my taste, the race is too strongly geared towards the caster-direction and a tad bit too strong, though not to the point where I wouldn't allow it after shearing some of the various bonuses to saves or similar ones, trimming a bit of the fat of the class.


The Sequestered Cleric archetype is a less paltry version of the concept of the cloistered cleric - d6, poor BAB, but +Int skills, the knowledge domain as a third domain, scribe scroll and 1/2 class levels to knowledge-checks (and the ability to make them untrained) - solid. The 4 new feats - are universally nice, though the achievement feat (of which there are a couple in this book) granting animate dead at will feels a bit excessive. The 3-level racial paragon class learns to ignore turn resistance and generally is solid. The spells are nice, though death conduit, which allows you to share hp with an undead within 50 ft. you control as a swift action makes for a powerful option that can be a bit strong for a level 1-spell. The Nephandim settlement and sample character are neat.


That's not where the pdf ends, though - we are also introduced to the CR+1 Bonescriven template and an extremely brief write up of Nergal, God of Death -who gets btw. access to RGG's superb Hellfire domain from the "Genius Guide to Hellfire Magic" - don't fret, though - the domain information is included.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are okay - not particularly flawless, though - there is quite a bunch of punctuation errors, inconsistent formatting etc. to be found here - mostly not influencing the ability to understand the rules, though. Layout adheres to TPK Games' elegant, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with glorious pieces of original b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and unobtrusively hyperlinked.


TPK Games' mastermind and author Brian Berg knows dark fantasy and knows the undead - his prose is exquisite and while most campaigns will balk at reintroducing an iteration of the death-god Nergal into their pantheon (and thus lose some of the cool fluff's bonuses), the races per se can be easily transported into a setting. And the base races per se are interesting - while I would not advise on flat-out making the book available to PCs, the races support diverse playstyles, even offering new options for campaigns (deathless souls, baby!) and are diverse enough to feel very distinct from one another. While the templated races require special playstyles, the others feel like they can fit in respective campaign niches and while the wording of their write-ups has a flaw here and there, the problems per se are not that pronounced. The archetypes are a mixed bag, the racial paragon-classes on the nicer end of the spectrum.


But alas, there are problems. This pdf's issues can be summed up in one word: Feats. If I didn't know any better, I would think that a completely different author wrote these. Brian Berg usually tends to get feats right, but the ones herein brim with issues - breaking balance, failing kitten-tests left and right, sloppy wordings - these feats often utterly break otherwise nice, balanced classes, providing sometimes a power-level that is ridiculous, sometimes failing to specify their limits/benefits and one even breaking potentially any campaign's logic. Yeah, that bad.


So on the one hand, we have some truly awesome prose, cool concepts and neat ideas with minor issues and then a whole class of crunch that is almost universally flawed in its execution. This book has potential, oh yes, it does, but it also feels rushed, like it was abandoned halfway through. As much as I love some of the content, I can't rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up by a slight margin to 3 for DMs. As for players - you MUST ask your DMs, who should consider carefully which part of these rules to allow in your game...low-powered games and those very conscious of precise wordings should round down instead.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Servants of Shadow: Five Necromancy-themed Races (PFRPG)
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