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DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:10:17

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson\'s Haunting of Hastur series. It\'s for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc\'s are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren\'t your players\' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin\'s take on elves. In particular the Formene\'s are an interesting version of \"dark elves.\" They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It\'s got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you\'re looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat Pathfinder Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:10:00

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson\'s Haunting of Hastur series. It\'s for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc\'s are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren\'t your players\' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin\'s take on elves. In particular the Formene\'s are an interesting version of \"dark elves.\" They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It\'s got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you\'re looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat Pathfinder Adventure
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat 5e Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:07:26

Originally posted: http://punverse.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-buried-zikurat.html

Overview: The Buried Zikurat is the second part of Kevin Watson\'s Haunting of Hastur series. It\'s for a party of characters level 6-8. It has an implied setting, but is easy to import into any game. A zikarut has been discovered by a clay mining operation and the pc\'s are hired to investigate.

Layout: Each room of the zikarut is presented in a simple and useful layout like this:

Number - Name of Room Ingress/Egress: how to get in and out of the room and where it leads Description: Detailed description for the DM. Players: Descriptions for players: Lore: History of the room. Not all room descriptions feature this.

Crunchy Bits: 1 new monster (Nexus Guardian), 1 new spell (Destroy Stone), 3 new magic items (Boots of Formene, Cloak of Formene, Ring of Elvenkind)

Thoughts: This adventure is full of puzzles/riddles. This is a nice change of pace from most published adventures I see, which are light on encounters like that. However, if those aren\'t your players\' style they can just fight nexus guardians to get past locks.

I like Kevin\'s take on elves. In particular the Formene\'s are an interesting version of \"dark elves.\" They live underground, but they are definitely not Lolth-worshiping spider-kissers.

Overall, I think this is a fun adventure with a nice connection to otherworldly horrors. It\'s got a mythos vibe, but it is not a beat you over the head with tentacles while you\'re looting the random dungeon experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNA - The Buried Zikurat 5e Adventure
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Cooking With Class
by Family A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/08/2017 18:10:11

What a great supplement! Well written, creative ideas for menus and taverns; the best part to me is the discussion of cooking and foodstuffs from the RPG perspective. So glad I bought it! Great work!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cooking With Class
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Julien P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2017 16:21:43

To be honest, I wasn\'t really convinced at first that Castle Falkenstein actually needed a bestiary. I was however very happy to see the Great Game being revived. After reading Curious Creatures, I\'m happy to say that not only it is faithful to the unique writing style of the original series of books, it also expands and enriches the universe of Castle Falkenstein in clever ways. It is also very pleasant to read, light on rules but full of imagination and humor. Each entry could spawn an adventure or a full campaign. Last but not least, the layout is also very elegant. A testimony to the quality of this product: I bought the PDF first and actually enjoyed it so much I ordered the printed version as well, so it can rest proudly on my shelf, next to the rest of my Falkenstein collection. One of my favorite games is not only alive again, it is also in very good hands, and I couldn\'t be more happy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Call to Arms: Horses and Mules
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/04/2017 17:57:31

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a full-color, 86-page product. As the name suggests, Horses and Mules focuses on things relating to steeds and their use. The product opens with a section detailing the biology of horses, with occasional notes on how donkeys and mules are different. Normally, I don\'t actually think too highly of these sections - but I felt this part of the book actually came in useful, since some of the things it addressed might be relevant to players using steeds in creative ways. For example, the inability to see certain colors, or their drastically improved hearing, might actually come into play every now and then. Towards the end of this section, the various terms are all broken down into game mechanics - for example, moving at a trot would be considered hustling, while a gallop is the equivalent of running.

Starting on Page 20, we get statistics for different kinds of horses, from large warhorses to small, dog-sized breeds. There\'s also a table for horse personalities, helping to give added flavor to a creature whose activities are often just hand-waved by a group.

Page 35 is where we start to get into the real material of this book, and it opens up with a section on horse-related skills. These are mostly copied from the CRB, but there are a few new options inserted. I\'m not actually sure how to feel about this - on the one hand, I dislike too much copying of CRB content. On the other hand, having all of this could be helpful if someone wanted to print out the section for use at a game table (although they could also print the CRB\'s stuff, when you think about it). Having additional options helps, but it\'s difficult for me to call this part either good or bad.

The section on feats is similar, acting as a mix of new and old brought together in one place for easy reference. This is quite helpful for those who don\'t want to search every book they own for related feats, but also serves to pad out the content. I mean, don\'t get me wrong, there\'s new material here - but not quite as much as you might expect if you look at the page count. This continues until around the time we get to the Hussar, a new full-BAB base class focused on the use of mounts. In that regard, it\'s fairly similar to the cavalier, and includes a few archetypes for added specialization.

After this class, we get a little more magic, including some notes on how to obtain magical steeds, a list of horse-like creatures by CR, and statblocks for quite a few of them. As before, though, a lot of this is collecting information from different sources into one place.

In the end, I think that\'s what stops me from giving full marks to this product. Don\'t get me wrong - having a lot of rules for one concept brought together and expanded on in one product is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be very useful. However, I really would like to see a little more original content in this line. To me, this product is a solid 4/5 - it certainly accomplishes its goal, and I have no major complaints about it, but it doesn\'t go quite far enough with offering new content to earn full marks.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Horses and Mules
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Fat Goblin Travel Guide To Hell
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/21/2016 10:12:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 52 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? Well, a travel guide - after a one-page frame narrative that acts as a fluffy red thread suffusing the pdf, we begin with the conception of hell...and it is not like what you'd expect. Instead of envisioning hell as a traditional plane that is separate from the world it is tied to, this pdf envisions a concept of hell closer akin to AAW Games' HEL in their Aventyr-setting. Hell, as presented in this guide, lies within the respective planet, rotating against the rotation of the planet, hovering within the core of the planet. Inside of hell, there (probably?) is its own gravity or somesuch...but alas, if you are looking for planar traits for the layers of hell (7 of which can be found, just fyi), you won't find them. However, the write-ups (each about 1/2 a page) generally are pretty evocative, so the book has that going for it...and there actually are some unique features for hell: Blood for water, mysterious floating eyes, flesh pits - the concepts are very evocative, but they could use some actual mechanical effects.

The number 7 should make the reader hearken - and yes, the conception of hell is modeled after the feudal sins and the pdf does provide full information on the respective archdukes of hell - and, once again, the prose for these is well-crafted - in fact, I found myself enjoying these quite a bit. However, at the same time, the mechanical components of the archduke write-ups do not feature subdomains, unique boons or similar options - only title, domain, favored weapon and unholy symbol are depicted. Whether you care about that or not ultimately depends on your own expectations from such a book. Less detailed, but also with this level of crunch-coverage, 3 lesser nobles are included, before we dive into the crunchy section of the book, which begins with a take on the heavier, devilish black iron as a material with increased damage output (increased weight, counts as increased size). This alone would be strong; however, the material becomes utterly ridiculous when applied to a piercing or slashing weapon - on a critical hit versus a foe with armor (NOT on a sunder attempt), it renders the armor broken; a second crit destroys the armor. Disregard hit points, sunder rules, anything. Granted, it only works on a natural 20 crit, but that's still better than many sundering options. Oh, and it counts as adamantine. Sure, it is even more expensive than adamantine, but still...ouch...that could have been done slightly more elegantly.

The Omen of Vengeance item lets you send forth a slightly more powerful fiendish raven (with slightly wonky, but functional wording) to harry your foes. The eye of sin is pretty OP: Occupying a headband slot, this third eye not only can be opened for the see in darkness ability, it can also, as a standard action, fire hellfire beams (5d6, 60 ft. range, touch attack) that deal half fire, half hellish damage that cannot be negated (not a big fan of that in any context). The eye can be opened for 5 minutes a day, which need to be spend in 1-minute increments and...and has no other factor to reign in the power of the eye beam. No cool-down, nothing. Fire away. No, this is not getting near my game. The mirror of the black gate is basically a simulacrum in a can, though one that will try to kill those it mimics. The pdf also features two artifact-class items - the forbidden fruit of belecor and the angelbone aegis, both of which feature an interesting array of visuals and make for nice objects - particularly the fruit, whose pit may replace a heart, further enhancing [blood]-magic...but more on that later.

The pdf does feature a selection of feats for your perusal and they are rather interesting - Runic Scars allows you to inflict piercing or slashing damage (I assume, you need to have a free hand or an appropriate weapon) to yourself to gain 11 + HD SR for Con-mod rounds and the feat allows for the lowering of the SR and lasts only for Con-mod rounds and has a hard, daily cap balancing it. In spite of the minor clarification this can use, I actually really like it. Red Nectar allows you to drink blood to gain temporary hit points based on creature HD - not kittenable...can live with it. Gaining a Fiendish Legacy is nice, but there is also skill-boost filler material or a variant of nonlethal damage dealing joined with temporary hit points. Firebrand has an issue - it nets you fire resistance that scales up to immunity at level 15 (nice) and features an explosion when you're reduced to 0 hp...the DC is "con-based", but does not specify the DC. I assume 10 + 1/2 HD + Con-mod, but considering that there are alternatives, spelling it out would have been nice. Somewhat OP: Diabolist's Bond nets you +2 Cha and Con, +1 natural AC when you have a Devil summoned via the spell(s) - on its own not too bad, but I know a couple of tricks to keep this up all day. Still, not too bad. Utterly OP: Touc of Profanity: At-will touch to regain hit points and cause the sickened condition. Get one bag of celestial kittens or similar disposable do-gooders. Not a fan.

The pdf also covers an array of spells, which include the aforementioned [Blood] descriptor - such spells require the caster to deal 1 (or more, as noted in the respective spell) point of slashing or piercing damage to himself as part of the somatic component. This, unlike the aforementioned scarification feat, btw. covers the "needs utensil to inflict damage"-caveat. Similarly, the descriptor's rules manage to account for vampires, undead sans blood and similar critters. Here's the deal, though: spells with this descriptor ALSO render the target shaken on a failed save for the spell's duration and save-less spells still have a duration for the effect. The pdf also codifies previously released Paizo-spells as blood magic, which is a nice touch. I do have one nitpick, though: Does the self-inflicted damage require a concentration check to complete the spell or not? This is a potentially pretty important balancing component...so yeah, I'm in a bit of a cinch here and have a hard time properly judging whether the blood spells are appropriate for their respective levels.

The pdf offers spells that feature auras of pain, lidless laser-eyes and a pretty powerful spell that conjures forth a black twin that duplicates non-spell attacks at - 3 that mirror the damage caused at 1/2 potency and increases the DC of any ability that requires a save from the original attack by 2 if the attack is successful. This presents a bit of an issue - usually, attacks are resolved one after the other, with this happening at the same time, which can mess badly with the finer components of action economy. There are some visuals here that I've come to enjoy from the lesser known Blood Magic and BoVD-books I used in 3.X, though they are not just cut copy pasted and instead rebuilt within the context of the blood magic championed herein. The pdf does have some aesthetic hiccups here, though: There would be blood spells that deal basically fire and acid damage, while others feature the untyped damage/fire damage duality. The latter particularly, imho overshoot their intended powerlevel. An example: Sanguine cannon requires a full-round action to cast and requires a ranged touch attack...but deals 1d6 untyped damage /2 levels (NOT caster levels) and half as much fire damage...oh, and on a failed Fort-save, the target is sickened AND knocked prone. No CMD interaction, no maximum damage cap as usual for a 2nd level sorc/wiz/summoner spell (or 1st level bloodrager/antipala). The spells aren't bad per se, but they do feature minor hiccups like this throughout and GMs should be aware of their increased power.

Beyond these spells, we are introduced to new class options, the first of which would be the contractor, who receives temporary hit points equal to the total Hit Dice of devils he has summoned. Öhm, wut?? Oh, and 1/day standard action summon monster (which one?, not properly formatted...) as a standard action...which opens the old "How many actions/can the called critters act"-conundrum. The other options allow for an Imp familiar who ALSO gains the fiendish template and at higher levels, binding mortals with hellish contracts makes sense...but still...nope. The wizard most certainly did not require the extremely exploitable power-upgrade this archetype represents. Next.

The Dark Chanter cleric pays with diminished spellcasting with black benediction, usable 4 + Cha-mod rounds per day, +2 rounds per level - basically, a kind of bardic ability that allows for scaling bonuses...though the archetype fails to codify the bonus types thus gained. I like the visuals, but the execution falls behind the interesting concept. The halo hunter ranger would be, surprise, an anti-angel specialist is pretty much what you'd expect: Locked into favored enemy, any weapons treated as good outsider bane and later features the unholy property as well - which is not properly italicized herein. At high-levels, we get temporary hit points when confirming a crit versus good outsiders. An infernal companion replaces hunter's bond (OUCH!) and similarly, the class replaces the summon nature's ally spells with the superior summon monster spells, ultimately making the archetype stronger than the base ranger, even when pitted against foes that are not the chosen killing field - read that as: Slightly too strong. The black rider cavalier gets both Mounted Combat and Archery at 1st level and a steed that increasingly becomes more fiendish. The archetype also receives bonus feats instead of the tactician chain and a debuffing banner. He is locked into one of two new orders, one more focused on offense, one more focused on defense. A supernatural command is a nice idea, but needs a CL for suppression-interaction. The archetype may be a bit much for players, but still works; the orders similarly aren't perfect, but they work and do offer some nice ideas.

The fiendlash magus can manifest a fire lash that may, via arcane pool points, ignore armor and shield bonuses (O.O) - partial unholy power can bypass fire resistance and higher levels allow for scaling blasts and deafening critical hits. While the rules-language has some deviations from the standard, they aren't too bad. I can see this guy work, though, again, the omni-bypass of untyped damage and ignoring bonuses is nasty. The tongue of sin archetype would be the charm-specialist bard and the infernal chemist alchemist receives an alternate, fiend-themed mutagen. Not a fan of the fast healing gained at 5th level for obvious reason. Pit Warden druids would be, well infernal druids with diminished spellcasting and giant-summoning...actually, petty interesting one and the reduced spellcasting pays well for the increased power for the companions. Nemesis inquisitors must be female and may place marks on foes that increase the damage the target takes...and honestly, I kinda like it - it's got an unique idea and theme and runs well with it. Odd, though - why use "he" when the archetype is female-only? Looks like a cut-copy-paste hiccup...

The next archetype would be the armiger summoner (unfortunately non-unchained, but hey...), who calls forth a ghostly standard that can be moved by the character and confer bonuses and a variety of effects to those within its range, making it basically a cool, variable buff-aura, replacing eidolon thus. At higher levels, this standard may surge with power quicker, armigers may have more standards and these spectral banners will heal and at higher levels, allies may take damage for the banner. I really like this one! The focus is radically different and taking the eidolon away kills several balance-issues of the non-unchained summoner and makes for an overall neat play experience. This one, I will actually use sooner rather than later! Kudos to the author! The sanguine soceror bloodline can damage herself to increase CLs and at higher levels, they heal when damaging foes with blood spells or utter oaths of vengeance. I can't really judge this one's balance due to the issue with blood-spells.

The final piece of content herein would be the Blood Knight PrC, who gains full BAB-progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression, 1/2 Fort-save progression, d12 HD and 2 + Int skills per level. The PrC needs to be able to cast 1st level divine spells and have +5 BAB. At first level, the class receives Blood Strike, which can be activated as a swift action, remaining active for 1 minute. This can be activated 1/day at 1st level, +1/day at 4th level, 7th level and 10th level. The ability nets +2 Str-bonus (Strength not capitalized) and deals + 1d6 damage (damage type not specified); at 5th level, this increases to +4/+2d6, at 10th to +6/+3d6...but whenever the blood knight makes an attack while this is in effect, he loses 10 hit points...oh, and he can't benefit from healing while the ability is in effect, with one exception: 5th level blood knights regain creature's HD + 1/2 it's Constitution score, rounded down when a creature is defeated while in blood strike modus.

2nd level nets DR equal to class level and the levels provide bonuses to atk and damage with 2-handed weapons, bonus feats from a unique list and 4th and 9th level provide more hit points. 6th level provides a rend-like effect to blood strikes. At 7th level, these guys receive fast healing when below 50% or 25% maximum hit points - I assume, that this ends upon reaching 50% or 25%, respectively - some minor clarification would be neat and I'm not the biggest fan of such thresholds, but can live with them. As a capstone, the PrC receives truly devastating super strikes. I do like this PrC, but the blood strike, honestly, is too weak - the anti-healing caveat is mega-nasty and the very strictly limited daily uses mean that the PrC can't really use its unique tricks too often. More uses and a bit of dev and rewiring can make this a neat gem; as written, it needs a bit of polish to shine, but much like the armiger archetype, it has serious potential.

We end this book as we began it - with a nice piece of prose that wraps the content up.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay - there are numerous instances where things aren't properly formatted and while the rules-language is generally in a shape that makes it work, it sports several nonstandard wordings and minor hiccups in the details - sometimes to the point where the integrity of the rules is influenced. Layout adheres to a pretty gorgeous, unique and hell-themed two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports thematically-fitting stock artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with nested bookmarks.

Justice Mora's travel guide shows a lot of potential: I really like the flavor and ideas contained herein, the alternate take on hell's cosmology and structure makes sense and the ideas contained within in that regard are nice...but the pdf fails to follow-up he structural innovations with the rules: Planar traits, etc. - NOPE. How does hell being on earth influence planar borders? Outsiders? Can hell's borders be expanded? The plane suddenly is finite due to existing in the material plane, so there's a lot of cool storytelling potential - with the proper GM-tools, that section could have been amazing.

The character options feels somewhat disparate: There is an oscillation between slightly too strong and slightly too weak and similarly, editing and rules-precision are not 100% consistent. More than that, the one central gripe I have with this pdf is that it was a sequence of déjà-vus for me. While the content has been modified to fit within the paradigm of the book's contents, most options in this book felt...like I had seen them before. This is particularly unpleasant as far as I'm concerned since the first chapters with the new take on hell provided a refreshing read. Ultimately, I only considered one of the archetypes, the buff-standard summoner (and the cavalier orders) to be sufficiently distinct apart from "let's make class xyz infernal-themed." The [blood]-spells are problematic, but the PrC has potential...though it does need a capable editor/dev to make it a more universally rewarding experience.

Which leaves me in a conundrum - there are quite a few things I like in this book, but the majority of the crunch feels either problematic or less inspired than the concepts deserve. You may not run into the same problem, but if you've read as many blood-magic takes or infernal books as I have, you will feel a distinct "been there, done that"-vibe quite a lot. This still has some value, but it falls quite short of the sourcebook it wants to be. One more thing: If the title made you expect a full-blown gazetteer or something like that, you will not be satisfied by this book. How to rate this, then? Honestly, I want to go 3 stars for this, since there are some things I really like in the book. But at the same time, the somewhat lukewarm archetype-array and half-realized chances can't be rescued by glimpses of brilliance. I can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for this one for me as a person. As a reviewer, though, I have to take into account that if you're less experienced with hell-themed d20-books and willing to invest some time in dev-work, you'll get some serious mileage out of this one. Due to this fact and in dubio pro reo, I will round up with my official verdict for this one. It should also be noted that, as per the writing of this review, you can get that book for a measly buck - not sure if that reduction is permanent, but it certainly is worth this very low asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fat Goblin Travel Guide To Hell
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Publisher's Choice - Creatures A to Z: Girallon
by David M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/15/2016 20:37:59

A detailed depiction of the feared girallon. This piece will help make your product pop and break up the great wall of text.

It can also be used at home, to drive home what your player's having gotten themselves into this time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Creatures A to Z: Girallon
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/13/2016 17:32:22

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a 32-page, full-color PDF. As the name and color scheme imply, this is very much a holiday product, themed around the kids' (i.e. player characters') adventures as they deal with the evil of Krampus. These games tend to be quick, so it's very possible to play all of the adventures in a single gaming session - and indeed, this may be the best way to run them, given their interconnected nature. Note that this is very much a horror product despite the festive wrapping - with adventure names like "Slay Bells" and "Holiday Hell", it's pretty clear what you're in for.

Each adventure is composed of several "acts", short scenes that serve to reveal information and/or advance the plot of the game. Each adventure has one or two combat scenes as part of the adventure - and the end of the book includes some notes on how to allow healing, since this is a little different than the way the game is normally meant to be run. The end of the product has a couple of maps - one relatively serious and one distinctly more amateurish to show the average house - something I'm pretty sure is intentional and intended to help set the mood of the game.

You'll probably want access to a printer before playing, if only to get copies of the maps and the character sheets. Overall, this is a very solid product - and an excellent entry point to the vs. Stranger Stuff system, since the basic rulebook is included and will teach you the details of play. This isn't something you're going to play over and over, but it's priced very attractively and serves as an outstanding one-off for a game with your friends. I'm happy to endorse it for that purpose, and since I noticed no meaningful flaws with the product, it gets a full 5/5.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
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Fat Goblin Games Presents - Creating New Armors
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2016 09:22:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, we have all probably been there, at least the GMs and designers among us - the point where you want to make a new armor. The system presented herein is simple - there are 3 base armor types and shields featured: First, you take the basics and base-price...and then you multiply the price by the DP - the design points. You can have armors or shields of horn or stone and then you determine the armor qualities.

The heavier the armor, the more often you can gain additional design points, a 0 DP quality. Adding boots, helmet and gauntlets is covered and modifies cost, but not DP; camouflages/muffled armor etc. and the different base types, like chain, can be added via DP to modify the basics of the respective armor, fleshing out the abstract proto-armors. Pretty amazing: Lamellar material, dependent on the base material, can be found. The book is also VERY useful in that an easy one-glance table codifies the DP for the respective qualities and to which type of armor they can be applied: Once glance, done. Two thumbs up!

Obviously, there need to be shield-only options as well - want a lightweight tower shield with a blinder? Sure, why not. Quickdraw, weapons and weapon slits...really neat! The pdf also presents two sample items created with the system. Oh, have I btw. mentioned that NOT using the points makes the armor/shield less expensive? Yep, rewards for not going feature-bloat! Cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column, full-color standard. The pdf sports nice full-color art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - with nested bookmarks. Kudos for going the extra mile for the brief pdf!

Garrett Guillotte's little system is amazing; for the low-price point, it provides a balanced, immediately useful design tool at the tip of your fingertips. Simple, elegant and fun, the system is easy to use, fun, inexpensive...in short, this pdf is awesome and more than worth the fair asking price. Can we have expansions for special materials, please? This is a fine purchase, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fat Goblin Games Presents - Creating New Armors
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Call to Arms: Shields
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:20:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 42 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As always, we begin this pdf with a flavorful piece of prose before diving into the history of the shield before we receive rules for the respective shield types: The pdf classifies a total of 4 shield types, providing a nice overview of what you can and can't do with shields - like heavy shields preventing you from doing anything else with that hand, while light shields allowing you to use the hand to carry items - which makes sense, I guess, but I would have liked some finer modifications there: Penalties for delicate work like disarming a trap while a shield's still strapped to your arm, for example. Also slightly problematic: "You cannot use weapons with it." I get that...but do e.g. tanglefoot bags count? Torches? The improvised angle could have used some coverage here.

Somewhat annoying: Tower Shields are rebranded as "Body Shields". In a rules-system as crunchy and terminology-heavy as PFRPG, that is just unnecessary and a potential cause for confusion. I get why: The new term is used as a hyperonym, whereas tower shields are used as a subcategory. The issue, though, is that there is a Proficiency for tower shields, but RAW, none for body shields. Shield designs and materials are next...and left me a bit disappointed. Where usually, the Call to Arms-series excels in providing these nice little rules-tweaks for simulationalist games, here, we are basically left with: "It's fluff, no mechanical repercussions." This left me somewhat stupefied, in spite of the discussions being solid - the pdf acknowledges the traditions...but does nothing with them. Weird.

Now where we actually do get some crunchy bits is when it comes to wielding a shield: A total of 3 grips are provided. Shields strapped to your arm require a standard action to strap and loosen, but grant you +2 CMD versus attempts to disarm your shield. Argive grip lets you drop the shield (or don it) as a move action, with Quick Draw-like bonuses for BAB +1 characters, allowing the shield to be drawn as a swift action accompanying a regular move. Finally, the boss grip can be dropped or used as a move action (the pdf here mentions "readied", which is a loaded term in PFRPG - that could have been more elegant), but can be drawn as a free action as part of a move y characters with a BAB of +1 or higher.

The main bonus here in contrast to the Argive would be that you can draw it and a weapon as one action if you have TWF and draw/put back it as a free action if you have Quick Draw, treating the shield as a quickdraw shield. There are, unfortunately, a couple of issues here: 1) Why ever use argive? It's objectively worse than both other grips, bringing literally no benefit the others don't. 2) Regarding boss grip and quickdrawing: Quickdrawing shields, as far as I can remember, exist only for light shields. Heavy shields in PFRPG do not have that option by default, and neither do tower shields. Particularly when looking at the latter and the significant action-investment their use requires, one cannot help but ask whether boss grips can be made to modify tower shields. The interaction of the new rules with the existing ones, alas, is not as precise as I've come to expect from the series.

The next section here covers a diversity of different shields that are used as weapons - think of this as the collating section, where you get all the info in one place, from the tiger claw shield to the klar or the throwing dueling buckler....the array of weaponized shields presented here is nice, but the table's messed up: One, the table lacks cost entries for many of the shields - probably due to them being shield + modifications...but why not simple provide the total cost for convenience's sake? The very first entry has a glitch, where the crit multiplier wandered into the range column and from a layout perspective, the Exotic Ranged Weapon-row does not feature the grey background to set it apart that the other sub-headers feature.

The collated shield modifications provided are intriguing - integrated firearms, bladed edges and throwing shield modifications all are cool. However, considering the usual mission of collating and collecting relevant information, I was somewhat puzzled by the omission of the boss modifications already existing for PFRPG. On a more positive side, the rules for providing shields as cover (first presented in a sidebar-installment, unless I'm horribly mistaken) is nice and adds some tactical dimension and useful upgrade for the shield: You know, hiding behind a tower shield to survive a dragon's breath, etc. - neat. And yep, you can't Stealth-abuse them, which is a nice catch.

Speaking of nice: The pdf provides some generally cool variants of new shield designs; from dueling bucklers to jousting shields, provides a cool selection of new and interesting modifications - but, alas, the devil's in the details here as well. When a dueling buckler notes "Treat this shield as a standard buckler when shield bashing." I cringed a bit. Bucklers cannot, RAW, be used for shield bashes. It's these little glitches that add up and make the chapter less refined than it should be: Granting adjacent allies shield bonuses can be fun and the pdf does have these little glimpses at what I expect to see from the Call to Arms-series.

Among the modifications, straps to keep dropped shields attached make sense, but fail to specify hardness, hp or anything like that - even though sooner or later someone will try to sunder them. Again, one of these avoidable glitches that hamper a great concept. On the plus-side, reinforced straps or integrated weapon sheathes - there is amazing to be found here. The pdf then goes on to collect special materials for shield construction - though only a part of Paizo's materials are collected here. One new material can be found, wicker shields, which are lighter and more buoyant. The pdf also provides relatively concise rules for shields with special bosses etc. - and yes, a sidebar provides Captain America-build guidelines.

After the material component, the shield special abilities are next - on a slightly nitpicky side: The glamered quality has been renamed "glamOred" and lacks italicization. It's these little glitches that are just unnecessary. There is new material here as well, like shields that feature a nice breeze to keep you cool and may also create, for short bursts, clean air and protect against lethal gasses. Feather fall-inducing shields are nice - shields that can turn into gliders are cooler still. I also liked the shield that has a minor glamour to hide you from foes when using total defense (erroneously called "defence" once...). The offensive shield properties are not reprinted and, oddly, they are not organized by bonus, but alphabetically...weird internal inconsistency there, but aesthetic only.

The book then goes on to depict specific magic shield - it basically collects the info from Paizo-books...sigh, but the battlement shield's formatting is messed up. Something you can actually see at one glance. That being said, we also get an array of new shields among the reprints...but, alas, they are missing from the table in the beginning...why? On the definite plus-side, the shields that are new generally provide cool visuals and options: Does e.g. a Bullette Maw turned shield sound amazing? What about a buckler that helps with burglary and may turn into tools 1/day? Yeah, it's cool - but e.g. an italicized name in an item's header once again would be a cosmetic, but still, easily avoidable glitch. Charge-enhancing Line Breaker is another nice example; not so cool: The Savage Quill's shield bash is locked into a full-round action, converting its bonus...which makes it a bad choice for shield bash specialists. Amazing: Slider's Shield is basically a shield and a hoverboard at the same time. The pdf also contains two cursed shields, one that is a reprint...and one is a shield -2. Yay? No GM has ever needed a -2 shield designed for him/her. The intelligent shield, Rovan's Round...is not as cool as usual: No unique abilities and "protect others from spellcasters" is pretty bland, even before at-will (!!!) dispel magic. Nope, can't see myself using this guy.

There is a reprint of a mythic shield ability and a shield as well as a new shield, Breathtaker, which adds nonlethal damage after bull rushes...which is per se no big issue. What is an issue is that it justifies this by the target beginning to suffocate. Are non-breathing critters immune? Can you hold your breath? No idea. Oh, and, more importantly: THIS IS NOT HOW SUFFOCATION WORKS IN PFRPG. Artifact-wise, the Aegis is reprinted (oddly, again, with italicized header), as is the Shield of the Sun - but there's also a new one, namely Centurion's Fortress - this one can both animate and dance, allowing it to execute autonomous defense and shield bashes. Additionally, the wielder can designate a target as a swift action and have the shield attack the adversary, potentially even adding bull rushes to bashes while granting cover and it may 1/day spawn copies to prevent flanking etc. - while the wording's not perfect here, I love the visuals and everything's functional...so yeah, I may end up using this guy!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to the standard the series usually has; a glitch here and there is okay, a slipped row can be forgiven when the information's clear...but this pdf feels rushed. There are literally a ton of formatting hiccups that even casual observation should have caught. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks as well as with some neat full color artworks.

Taylor Hubler, CtA-team...what has happened here? I don't get it. Let me make that abundantly clear: I don't object t the reprints herein - that's pretty much the deal of Call to Arms: Collect information and expand it. Here, however, there is not that much new information...and I wouldn't mind even that. If only the new material, the cool rules-tweaks that you can usually find in these books, would be here, the spark of the amazing. It's not. The supplemental rules-material feels half-done; not checked. The pdf acknowledges so many facets...and doesn't really work with them. And when it does, there are some serious hiccups to be found, some of which impede the functionality and the toolkit appeal significantly. I...honestly was flabbergasted here. I usually look forward to reviewing Call to Arms-books, because they often have this neat spark of brilliance this one so sorely lacks.

In fact, at one point, I was just stupefied - between this and other, recent Fat Goblin Games-releases like the awesome Player's Guide to Vathak, the installment on Ropes or Lucus Palosaari's Mantles of Power yawns a huge chasm in ambition, quality and execution. (Btw.: Get those!) In fact, this pdf, to me, felt very much like a WIP, perhaps handed in with a delay and thus rushed through editing/development...that would kinda explain the significant discrepancy. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought this was the first CtA, from even before Axes. And it's about shields, of all things, which have so much amazing untapped potential, which can use the coolness-upgrade so hard. sigh Don't get me wrong, there are gems herein...but you have to look for them. The problem is that modification-engines like the one this tries to provide, ultimately, require significant precision and when the crunch feels just not as carefully generated...well...then you have a problem. It breaks my heart, it really does, mainly because I went into this wanting so hard to like it; looking forward to reading it...but I can't go higher than 2.5 stars on this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Shields
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/17/2016 12:33:30

Ok, we all know I love monster books. Like all Castle Falkenstein books, new and old, this book is gorgeous. The art is fantastic. The book is a nice mix of travel guide, creature catalog, and journal. This is a fairly common feel to all CF books and it is served well here. The first 50 or so pages cover some new rules and some various stories. The central conceit of the book has notes from the very Doctor Doolittle. I have to admit this is really awesome. I wish I had thought of it, to be honest. The next 100 or so pages cover the Bestiary proper. This includes about three dozen monsters, as many normal creatures and a little more than 20 or so unique characters and intelligent animals. This includes Doctor Doolittle, Gregor Mendel, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. The surprises include Mowgli, Riki-Tikki-Tavi and Fantomah. The mere fact that Fantomah is here really increases the value of this book in my mind. The writing is very fluid and is a pleasure to read. The CF stats are, well CF stats, you either like that game or you don't. The bonus here is that this also makes the book extremely flexible for use with any number of systems. In fact, this book is a very fine supplement to be used with any number of other game's monster books. The art, is for the most part, Public Domain, but that is something I REALLY like in my Victorian books and here it flows seamlessly in with the text.
I don't have the softcover book, but I am considering picking it up now. It is really that good looking and really that useful. Do you all remember the old "Enchanted World" books from Time-Life books? Well, this book reminds me of reading those. It is less like a game book and more of a coffee table book of monsters. This is a very, very fun book and I am so pleased to have it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/17/2016 12:31:09

Now this is a fun little book. It's not long, only six pages, but it packs a punch. This guide allows gamemasters of Castle Falkenstein to use a standard tarot deck instead of playing cards for the game. There are additional rules to cover the Major Arcana. If you play CF then I would easily say this is a must have. If you play other games that have a playing card mechanic then is also a useful resource. I am considering using this with Victoriana. I think it would work fantastically.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Stephen K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/17/2016 07:14:14

Curious Creatures, Fat Goblin's first print product for Castle Falkenstein, is a fine addition to the line and gives me great hopes for its continuation. It ably follows the style of prior books in combining a running fictional narrative with in-game asides and rules material. Although the bulk of the book is a "monster manual" with listings of creatures and their game traits, it is also packed with setting and adventure ideas and includes a small, but substantial appendix of Host Characters and Dramatic Character archetypes. It's a triffle odd that the print-on-demand edition has no spine text. I'll also note my initial print copy had a registration error on the cover, but Fat Goblin was quick to respond and offer a replacement copy, which corrected the problem. If you are a fan of Castle Falkenstein, then you most definitely want a copy of this book. I look forward to the publisher's upcoming offerings for the game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/15/2016 12:10:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Vathak-book clocks in at...436 pages. No, NOT kidding. 436. 1 page of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 427 pages of content. HOLY MOLY.

This massive book was moved up in my review queue as a prioritized review. Additionally, it was moved further up due to me getting a print copy. Finally, the reason you see this now, so shortly after release, is simple: I've had the WIP-version for more than a month and had sufficient time to tinker and analyze this book.

Vathak. Before we take a look at the content, a brief history lesson: Vathak's original iteration was born out of a design challenge...and while the setting had promise, it didn't grasp horror or its peculiarities. It had great ideas, but their execution was problematic. The Fat Goblin crew did not give up - instead, they brought John Bennett on board - and he knows horror. Under his line development, the series of supplements releases has continuously scored rather good reviews and a couple of the books, frankly, are maazing...but this is the big one, the tome...so does Vathak work now?

Well, let's first begin with the basics: In the beginning of this book, leitmotifs are established: Vathak is a stricken world, a battlefield between the believers of the One True God (cue any fanatics of our religion as ample horror fodder there) and the Great Old Ones...or rather, their servants. Morality is the thin line drawn by a character and the story written by the victor, as petty tyrants rule with iron fists, superstitions and xenophobia hold sway and ruined villages, lost ruins and otherworldly threats abound.

To give you a general idea of the social demographics: We have the Vindari as dominant human ethnicity: Originally, they were conquerors from across the sea and have pretty much colonized the continent; a resonance with themes of the American enterprise can be found here (and thus also a synergy in themes with SagaRPG's excellent Darkwood-modules) - including a blending of Puritan beliefs and the less savory chapters of the history of Christianity. The native humans of the continent belong to one of two ethnicities, the first of which would be the Romni, which could best be pictured as a nod towards the Vistani of Ravenloft and their ties to Strahd von Zarovich, for they once were enslaved by the vampiric dynasties of the continent...and many claim that they still are. The third race, then, would be the Bhriota, who once were the true natives of the continent and provide an intriguing cultural blend of Native American aesthetics and some voodoo influences...oh, and these once noble clans have since suffered mightily from the Great Old Ones, often falling thrall to the madness. Add to that a plethora of secret societies and cults, religious infighting in the church and political issues and we have a powder kegs teetering on the edge of the abyss, with a wick lit and ablaze. The brief history and sketches on the diverse regions provide knowledge that is considered to be common and thus readily available, providing a more than fitting introduction for the intrigued player to deal with political issues and the looming threats that abound, for Vathak is a darkened world...in short: A setting in desperate need of heroes.

Speaking of heroes - this is a player's guide, so how does the character generation aspect work? The short reply would be: Excellent. The longer and more complex reply is as follows: If you have run any sort of horror-themed game or consumed any sort of media that deals with the darker aspects of the fantasy genre, you will have, at least subconsciously, relaized something: Horror does not happen to shining, one-dimensional beacons of light. "Because they're evil." is never a valid justification for slaying a foe (unless you're actually the evil guy) and the general resonance such tales have are directly aligned with the way in which characters are relatable - and that means both detailed and not perfect. If you understand character creation as purely an exercise in number-optimization, you may be missing some of the fun associated with playing such games. It is my experience that it takes a while for players to grasp the mindset, but once they have, even hardcore optimizers actually benefit from the experience of making rounded characters in a sense that pertains their respective (in-) humanity. Horror requires, to a certain degree, more investment than just killing orcs and as such, the extensive guidelines that provide ideas from the archetypical to the circumstance of the birth etc. help create a deep immersion from the get-go. Similarly, notes on creating/establishing your character's familial ties and a massive table of no less than 100 potentially personality-defining childhood events add further depth. Similarly, social status and education are given consideration.

If all of this sounds wishy-washy to you and you're craving crunch, rest assured that the tome offers a selection of traits - including two new types: Basic traits, which can be exchanged for other types and occupation traits, which represent the "proper" job you actually learned. Occupation traits allow you to select one of two different types of benefits, representing different specializations. The traits universally are relevant, come with a bit of flavor and employ the respective bonus types correctly. Now one thing I mentioned before is represented here as well - the fun of horror characters often comes from them being flawed (not only in horror, think of Raistlin...) - so yep, you have to also take a drawback, kind of like an anti-trait, if you will. These range from being a condescending prick to being in chronic pain, dangerously curious, forlorn...a wide array of options here and ultimately a selection that yields itself to actually emphasizing the rolpeplaying game aspects in nice ways. This basic array of considerations helps immensely in generating a biography towards the days when the PCs start adventuring.

Now race-wise, the usual core-races are pretty much a rarity in Vathak, though notes on their impact are given. Instead, the race chapter provides mechanical racial traits for the respective races like the Bhriota, the Old One-touched cambion with their disfigurements, the dhampir, the ghost-touched hauntlings, the xenophobic svirfneblin, the romni (with different clans) and the vindari. Oh, and there are the shapechanging witchwolf romni and the half-construct wretched. All of the races have in common that they receive detailed information on their respective culture, background and the like. I will not kid you: In particular the non human-ethnicity races herein are basically half monsters of their own and lend themselves to higher powered games than what I'd prefer in the setting and the races are not balanced among themselves: These half-breed/tainted races are universally stronger than the default human ethnicities. If they stood alone, outside the context of Vathak as a setting, I'd frankly complain about them...but this is one of the beauties of settings as opposed to standalone books...you need to take the totality into account and the tainted legacies of these individuals will mark them as targets and make their life significantly harder. Trust me, I've done that in Ravenloft for years. So, in the context of this setting, the book very much maintains a solid social tapestry. As a design complaint, I'm not the biggest fan of the Bhriota's ability score bonuses being only on the physical side, but that remains the only lopsided race. As a whole, the races should not unbalance any game. EDIT: Now with age, height and weight tables! The favored class options and alternate racial options generally can be considered to be well-crafted and allow for a diversity of different, interesting tricks.

The book also contains class options and begins with the disciple base class, which gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapon, light and medium armors, shields and the favored weapon of their deity. They cast prepared divine spells from their own spell list, with Wisdom as governing attribute and up to 6th level. They get 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. They choose a patron saint at first level and gain domains and domain spells as well as a Wis-based Favor that can be used to power graces or a grace-like-based flurry and may be regained via appropriately devout acts - in short, this is a more refined and better balanced version of the Saint-class originally introduced in the CLASSifieds-series. As a specialist of the dead and consecration, the dustman archetype provides a flavorful option.

The fortune-teller is a full, spontaneous psychic spellcaster (Wisdom as governing attribute) at d6 HD, 2 + Int skillsper level, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves that focuses on tarot-like readings, premonitions and divination - nice and once again, with a solid archetype.

The d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression reanimator would make Herbert West proud, with 4 + Int skills per level and simple weapons as well as light armor. They get a variation of alchemy that is based on injections (based on Int, prepared, up to 6th level). These guys get a grotesque homunculus ally and have a surgical pool they may refresh by harvesting body parts. The grotesque can be customized somewhat akin to a more streamlined eidolon. Beyond that, though, they get emergence solution, powered by aforementioned pool, allowing for the healing of others via SCIENCE - including the undead, mind you. Still, finally a non-divine healing option ina viable class. Pretty nice one! Oh, have I mentioned the grotesque bomber that basically makes living, short-lived bombs?

The book also contains an alternate fighter, the soldier - while still hamstrung by 2 + Int skills, but focuses on the military aspect, assigning a regiment from a significant array: Archers, guerilla fighters, bombers...there are some nice tricks here, though the linear power progression could use a bit more player agenda. The archetype here would be the drill-sergeant, who does what you'd expect. Oh, and there are class options. The LIST of them spans two frickin' pages. Anti-aberration alchemists. War medic alchemists. Cannibal arcanists. Insane Assailant barbarians; church sparrow bards that ferret out cults and heretics. Bloodragers chosen by WAR. Gladiator slave brawlers. Veiled handmaidens of the One True God; plague-employing Host druids. Negative energy channeling fighters. Curse-slinging gunslingers (with modified firearm-rules, for these are more common in Vathak); Rat Slave vindari; Investigators that delve in forbidden lore; kineticists that can wrap themselves in plat-based exoskeletons; gunslinging magi; séance celebrity mediums; alienist and regressionist mesmerists (who can poach a lot of class features by dabbling into past incarnations), scientists of the lost, oracles with the ancients mystery, espionage specialist psychics, agents of the hand of twilight, the divine killers of the church; skaldic chanters of the codex or mad fiddlers, sorcerors with the 6-clan bloodlines of the romni; spiritualists that generate an ectoplasmic double; summoners that believe in a profane evolution and even the vigilante (Fool) archetype, with nods towards Tarot, is included...or perhaps the vigilante would rather be a ritual killer? Yeah...nasty..in a good way. Also: Vampire servant witches? Yup.

The massive tome also covers Linguistics in the setting and presents, as mentioned before, modified firearm rules that allow for a significant level of customization and a vast assortment of feats can similarly be found to further customize characters in the setting. Wait, before we get there: if you expect basics, the book goes beyond that: There is a whole chapter devoted to firearms! We get a metric TON of firearms, bullets and rules - optional misfires, customization, bullets...oh boy, this chapter is amazing...and it better should be, considering Fat Goblin Games' experience with the subject matter! Rifled bullets of pure gold required? Rules are here. This is amazing and extends to supplemental equipment like powder horns or percussion caps.

The book also features a massive equipment chapter - which even goes into the names (and look!) of coins and their exchange rates, tool grade weapons and weaponry by group...and here you get to drool a bit: Weapon artworks. In color. For all of them. Not kidding. Amazing! A vast array of kits and mundane/alchemical items, from dhampir neck guards to filth bombs and plaguemasks, prices for horses, lodging and services...the pdf is amazing in its detail: Deathveil war paint. Necrobane formaldehyde. Garlic tablets. Magical incense. Magical romni smoking weed (jep, ton of mechanically relevant drugs) and a variety of poisons and yes, even vehicles with full stats complement a massive chapter.

Now, extremely important would be religion as one of the driving forces of Vathak's life and hence the dogma of the One True God, including the deadly sins, forms of address for the clergy, holy texts and the saints of the church - the level of detail provided here is excessive in a good way, bringing the belief to life for the reader. Similarly, the take on the Old Ones is presented in a relatively SPOILER-free manner that provides a similar level of detail - and, better yet, manages to explain rather well how/why the players can/should worship these things...and leaves a level of insecurity...so yeah...you ultimately do not know. Disturbing cults are mentioned alongside the 4 best known of the dread elder entities. Utterly unique: The romni court of signs, which could be considered to be the deification of some cards of the Tarot, tying resonant folk tales, astrological signs and the divine together in a neat, thematic knot. The attention to detail and narrative quality here is excellent...and yes, even ancestor worship is properly explained. Alternate divine domains, blessings, inquisitions and patrons add mechanical relevance to the respective divine choices. The massive chapter of spells provides a variety of [reading] spells that employ focus items and establishes, for the players in the very beginning, the fact that magic may not always be reliable and/or dangerous. The dark themes evoked by the spells emphasize well the themes of Vathak. Transplant Visage. Sequestering Thoughts. The themes of the spells focus on the occult, the weird and the investigative and that is a good thing here.

Oh, and guess what - the book is actually easy to navigate. The final chapter is devoted to a truly massive index that helps navigating the confines of this colossal tome.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-language level and the latest pass improved that further. While there are minor hiccups here and there, as a whole, the book is impressively well edited for a tome of its size. This huge beast of a book is similarly a beautiful tome: 2-page full-color in the style of an ancient grimoire; tons of flavorful letters, mad scribblings and the like inserted...oh, and from an aesthetic point of view, the vast array of original full-color artworks actually adhere to a unified style, lending a concise visual identity to the book. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but for a tome of this size, I kind of would have expected nested bookmarks and more of them - there are a lot, mind you...but there could be slightly more.

All right, so let's get one thing straight from the get-go: The crunch in this book, partially has premiered before - quite often in books I trashed. Instead of just reprinting these components, their rough edges have been filed off, the respective components improved in an interesting manner. Not all required this, mind you - but taking e.g. the Call to Arms-books on explosives/firearms/etc. and modifying them, Vathakizing them, if you will, actually added to their appeal. The racial and class-write ups and massive array of crunchy options herein generally are significantly more solid than I expected...but judging this book only as the totality of the crunchy options herein would be a grand disservice to the book.

You see, this is a player's guide and as such, it manages to portray the panorama of races, classes and lands in a captivating and SPOILER-free manner. Moreover, it manages to convey a mindset and the mechanical tools to back up it up; after reading this book, it is pretty much impossible to not have a HUGE amount of character concepts at one's back and call. The massive selection of options is amazing - though I was kinda surprised to not find any of the glorious lineage feats in this book. It should be noted that crunch-fetishists will not find Interjection Games/Everyman Gaming/Dreamscarred Press level of complex classes here, but the options that are here sport evocative themes and some of them have the spark of amazing I am looking for in design. The most important factor, though, is that the cadre of authors (Ismael Alvarez, Tyler Beck, John Bennett, Troy Daniels, J Gray, Rick Hershey, Taylor Hubler, Lucus Palosaari, Jennifer Povey, Michael Ritter and Matt Roth) have managed to craft Vathak's tones into one concise whole. Where before, the tones seemed to clash, we now get a setting that feels concise and surprisingly medieval in its themes and the flavor conveyed; the excellent prose suffusing the book make it an actual neat read, in spite of the density of material provided...and frankly, it makes it the most ambitious player's guide I have read so far. It is testament to the talent of line developer John Bennett's talent that Vathak has matured from its original iteration to a setting I actually really want to play. Handing this tome to players and telling them to go wild with it certainly is an experience I very much look forward to...and this book makes me exceedingly excited about the GM-book, hopefully to come.

In short: This book manages to elevate Vathak far beyond the confines of what it once was; the book also represents a massive step forward for Fat Goblin Games as a company, providing more internal consistency than I expected a book of this size to have. This Player's Guide is a fantastic tome and has an excellent bang for buck ratio. If you are remotely intrigued in the setting or horror gaming in general, then this is most definitely something you need to get.

There is another reason to get this. The resonance of themes of our world and relatively conceptual proximity (One True God, different ethnicities, plagues...) allow for significantly easier insertion of the evocative horror modules and supplements available in the OSR-scene: I could literally, just with a name-replace, insert Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Kort'thalis Publishing (Liberation of the Demon Slayer or Purple-Haunted Putrescence, for example) material in Vathak, do some NPC/monster crunching and be done with it - no annoying rewriting of plots or the like. Similarly, Cthulhu Dark Ages and similar settings allow for perfect thematic scavenging...oh, and quite a few of the Ravenloft classics or horrific Frog God Games-modules (Cyclopean Deeps I and II) could similarly easily be dropped in. Vathak, in short, offers a fantastic place to drop in the type of module that is hard to run in Midgard, Golarion or similar settings, adding yet another reason to get this tome. You can splice in Obsidian Apocalypse...or just about anything horror-themed else.

We finally have a worthy horror-setting for PFRPG that provides a thematically concise set-up, a vast array of character options and considerations that help making unique and intriguing characters and situate them in a world full of exquisite detail...I can't wait to peer behind the curtain of the already suitably tentacle-studded exterior and see the grand GM-y insanity behind the veil of what constitutes for as normalcy in Vathak. How to rate this? Well, I really enjoyed reading this tome and while it may not be a perfect tome, it is one massive, inspiring toolbox full of intriguing prose and captivating concepts.

If you are a horror fan and want a setting that is tailor-made to cater to your preferred gaming style...get this immediately!

This is well worth the more than fair asking price and thus receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
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