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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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Call to Arms: Shields
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2016 09:32:07

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

This is a 48-page, full-color PDF that adheres to the standard two-column layout. After taking out the front and back covers, the OGL, the copyright page, the table of contents, and a bit of fluff, we're left with about 42 pages of content.

This product opens with three pages on the history of shields, including how they were used by a number of different cultures across the world. That's more for fun than anything else, though.

Once we're through the flavor, the book gets straight into new rules for mundane shields, substituting the term "body shield" for "tower shield". I actually disagree with this decision - many things in Pathfinder are not historically accurate, nor are they meant to be, and it's best to try and avoid having multiple names for the same thing. That can get confusing. This is also a bit less real content than I was expecting, since it discusses shapes without mechanical benefits. That takes us through another two pages, until we finally get to new mechanical rules.

Here, we start with the different ways of wielding a shield. Strapped shields are hard to disarm, but require a standard action to use your shield hand for another purpose. Argive shields reduce this to a move action, and readying or dropping it can be done as a swift action during a regular move. Boss Grips essentially turn shields into quickdraw shields.

Following the section on grips, we get into a section on shields as weapons, detailing their damage, crit ranges, and so on. I noticed a couple of mistakes on the table that an editing pass really should have caught. That said, they're not providing separate weapons, per se - rather, the damage is based on what kind of shield it is. For example, a shield might do different amounts of damage based on whether it has spikes or a bladed edge. The options are generally cheap add-ons that can be added to most shields. The majority of these are straightforward, but they did include an option for integrating a firearm into a shield. Characters in low magic games may be interested in the Splash Pocket, which can do things like store vials of holy water for added effects against undead.

From here, we get to using shields defensively - unsurprisingly, they mostly just make your AC go up.

After all of that, we get to a series of new mundane shields, with a few choices in each category. For example, the Archer Buckler allows for the use of bows and crossbows without penalty, while the Ringed Round light shield specializes in disarming, sundering, and shield bashes. Additional defensive options are included a moment later, though I would've put those immediately following the offensive options. Options here include things like a lantern window (so you can keep your shield up and still have light) and a weapon sheath to provide easy access to certain kinds of equipment.

The next section is essentially a duplication of special materials that can be used to make shields, with a few notes on using multiple materials. (This isn't an even split, and mainly just affects the hardness and hit points for rims, and what happens when attacking for bosses - i.e. the middle of the shield.)

Magical shields are up next. The first part section is essentially a copy of the shield special abilities rules from Ultimate Equipment, which I suppose is good for having all the rules in one spot. Following this, we have a section on specific shields... many of which were also copied from Ultimate Equipment. Those that weren't tend to be in the text but not on the list at the start, and I'm not sure why this happened.

The book wraps up with a few cursed, intelligent, mythic, and artifact-grade shields for those who really want to make their defenses interesting, and it is nice to see those kinds of rules getting support in this series.

Despite its length, this book doesn't have as much substance as I thought it would when I first opened it. The early half of the book is pretty good, but most of the latter half is essentially just copied straight from other sources. Worse, I noticed a number of fairly basic formatting errors that should have been caught. One or two I can expect, but there were more than that, especially on the tables and with item headers. I would have liked to see more unique content and another editing pass before this was released. As it is, I can't really justify rating it higher than 3/5 - it's still a decent buy if you really want to use shields in your game - especially if you can get it at a discount - but it's not something I would recommend everyone pick up. Not until some tweaks are made to improve it, anyway.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Shields
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Call to Arms - Societal Masks
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2016 08:50:23

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

This is a 34-page, full color PDF with a few pieces of art sprinkled throughout - unsurprisingly, the art focuses on masks.

Rather than immediately jumping to rules content, though, this product takes the time to explain ceremonial masks and why people might want to wear them, including some real-world history about the societies that made use of them. Once we get to the actual rules content, it opens with a selection of mundane items, all of which grant a bonus to disguise checks. Some of these items are more advanced than others - including some explicitly technological items - and have effects ranging from immunity to inhaled toxins to being more disliked by other people. (Hey, some masks are punishments.)

Afterwards, we get into magical masks, and there's quite a variety of these. There are many minor and medium magical items here, as well as one major item. Several of these masks come in multiple varieties - such as the Burn Mask, which is intended for Kineticists and can reduce some of the nonlethal damage they take from using their class abilities. Other magical masks include effects like reducing the odds someone can land a critical hit on you with certain weapons, removing the risk of AoO's for certain combat maneuvers, providing additional uses of a Mesmerist's Trick, or offering the power to literally sniff out gold and gems. There are even cursed, intelligent, mythic, and artifact-level masks.

In other words, there's probably something in here that will be useful in any given game.

You'd think that would be the end of it, but no, we're only 2/3rds of the way through the PDF now. Following all of these items are a few class options, including the Outlaw archetype for the Gunslinger, rules for using the Vigilante as a Variant Multiclass, and suggestions on masked social encounters. The book even has a sample of how this can work, with a one-shot encounter for 5th-level characters at a masquerade ball.

All-in-all, I think this is a pretty good product for anyone who's interested in putting something on their character's face. Unfortunately, I do have to knock a few points off for some editing errors. For example, the Filter Mask says it uses rules based on "the official guide" released by Paizo. Now, being familiar with Paizo's releases, I understand that they're referring to the Technology Guide - but they should have used the actual name there instead of being vague this way, and I'm not sure why that happened. Somebody less familiar with Paizo's releases might not understand that reference.

My final score for the product is 4/5 - it's solid, and good for what it's intended to do, but I think it could still be improved by another editing pass.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms - Societal Masks
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Call to Arms - Ceremonial Masks
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:51:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This installment of the series begins with a nice, brief rundown of ceremonial masks within the context of our real world history, from Africa to Egypt, Asia, Oceania and all the other parts of this little ball of dirt we call home. The first array of masks presented here begin with regular masks and their masterwork equivalent before introducing a selection of masks that range from facilitating the binding of outsiders to supplementing arcane spell duel tricks or reduced ritual costs. Similarly, monster masks for theater performances are increased in their value by adding mechanical relevance to those wearing them.

Beyond the assortment of mundane masks, though, the pdf also features an array of magical ceremonial masks, 20 to be more precise - and they range in price from 4K to 90K gold. The first, the magical beast mask that conveys a hunter's animal focus to the wearer, though the wording could be more precise in stating that the animal focus is equal to the mask's features - the connection is RAW not explicit. The exorcist's mask may expel creatures...if they fail a DC 11 save...which is pretty easy, considering how most possessing creatures are pretty strong and tend to have good Will-saves. Not the most impressive of items and probably would have been served better via a scaling DC. Ghost Masks let you see the invisible and ethereal. The two healing masks increase base dice-sizes of cure spells and net a bonus to Heal checks and CLs when casting neutralize poison or remove disease (plus remove curse for greater ones...). The greater one sports a minor deviation from the default rules-language conventions, when channel energy can be expended to add "The result" to her CL check against the DC of the affliction. Result of what? The amount healed? WTF? That could even heal divine curses! Oo

The two variants of the masks of giants grant numerical bonuses and some limited special monster abilities associated with the giants chosen. Okay, but not brilliant. The mask of cosmic horror is underpirced slightly, offering 3/day 100-ft. save or suck confusion to all looking. I assume this activation follows default rules, but an action would have been appreciated still. Same goes for the mask of the krenshar, which is the weaker fear-based variant o the concept. The mask of the skull is evocative - it represents a skull flying to a target...and the target touched (50 ft. range) is finger of death'd. The range is pretty strong, but 1/day use is a balancing component alongside the minimum duration worn to activate, which prevents mask circling. It may be a spell in a can...but it is one with an interesting variation. Once again, no activation action, though. Which becomes weird, considering that the medusa mask does sport an activation action. Necromancer's masks let you shift death knell to allied undead. Unfortunately, I am not sure how the secondary boon is supposed to work:"If the wearer immediately casts animate dead, create undead or create greater undead on the subject creature after killing it, he loses all benefits of the death knell spell but the target permanently gains the advanced creature template." I get what this is supposed to do - but what does "immediately" mean? Within the round? Is the death knell still active, but needs to run its course sans benefits? No clue.

The ritual mask similarly feels a bit confused - the idea is that the mask lets you prolong casting time for more power: "By doubling casting time, the wearer may add +1 to the caster level, the spell, or to the level of the spell for purposes of applying a metamagic feat he knows." Ähem...two out of these are actually penalties, considering that numerical scaling is not modified by increased spell levels, only the save DC. I honestly don't get how this one's supposed to work, probably also because the numbers of the example are faulty....either that, or the sentence structure is wrong. The transference of non-instantaneous spell effects or magic item benefits to nearby allies via spellmasks is btw. a can of worms I'd strongly suggest not opening; targets of spells are crucial components of the balancing of the like and many a magic item actually has its bonus/slot/minimum wearing time for a reason. This breaks the system. That being said, there are some gems herein - what about masks you can affix to walls that then proceed to swallow AoE effects, converting them to luck for the person who hung it on the wall? Pretty cool! Similarly, masks radiating auras that cause vulnerability for designated foes make sense and work neatly! The tranquility masks can be used to quench haunts. Witch masks, even at 60 K, are way OP - as a move action, you can extend durations or round-duration-spells by 1 round. No limit. Not getting near my game, even before the modified mirror image effect add further value here.

The pdf also features 3 cool cursed masks and the intelligent mask that was created out of the attempt of dread Sabelest Anahm's attempt at lich-ascendence, providing the undead anatomy tricks as well as undead creation. The mythic Anubis mask grows the wearer as enlarge person and nets undeath to death 1/day. Mythic beings that also expend mythic power as part of channel energy to add up to tier number of d6s to the ability and prevent them from becoming undead. The artifact provided would be the mask of the outsiders, which allows for control over outsiders, trap the soul outsiders in the mask and hijack subtype traits of outsiders thus trapped, but at the cost of a negative level for the outsider - and ultimately, potentially, destruction. But what is the DC for the outsdider to get rid of the negative level? The trap the soul DC 26 or the control summoned creature DC 22 ability? I assume the former, but am not sure.

The pdf concludes with the masked shaman archetype for the shaman class, who replaces spirit animal with mask that provides a linear progression of spells granted by the mask 1/day each. Also, while wearing the mask, the spirit animal's granted power can be applied to the shaman, activated as a swift action for class level minutes, to be spent in 1-minute increments. A cool engine tweak that plays sufficiently differently.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though on a rules level, the pdf could be slightly more precise. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are neat and full color.

Jacob W. Michaels' masks aren't a bad installment of the series and in fact contain some gems - I like the archetype and the wall masks in particular. I am not sold on the pricing of quite a few of them, though and for my taste, there are slightly too much spells in a can...though, to be frank, they at least do interesting things to modify them. Still, this does have some rough edges. I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms - Ceremonial Masks
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Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:46:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Campaign Kit clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series is a charity product for the Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund and it is, to make that clear from the get-go, a "Pay what you want"-product. The original iteration has sported some glitches that have been identified and rectified, which is why this review is based on V.2.0 of the book.

So, what is this? Well, in short, this book contains 8 expanded adventure seeds: With statblocks and structure and all, just needing some fleshing out and get the GM grove on; if you're time-starved and don't want to start from scratch, this may well be what you've been looking for. Formally situated in the eponymous Hollowfield (isometric, CGI-created map provided, just fyi), the tales herein can conceivably be transplanted relatively easily to other locales - a wood and a body of water in the vicinity are pretty much all you need.

Now, in order to cover these, I will need to good into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? Great!

Adventure #1 begins with a commotion in the village square, where lichlytes, macabre fey that look like hummingbird-sized cadavers, have agitated the crowd and create a volatile situation they hopefully defuse. A quick investigation turns up that not all is well here: Villagers and foreign laborers in the Kaizermein saw mill have been feuding; at night, the clanging of metal can be heard; a prospector thinks he can reinvigorate the mines; bodies of livestock and the local cemetery show up across town; the pagan harvest festival has not been properly observed and then there's that old crone...enough potential leads yet? Anyways, the trail regarding the bodies will lead towards tunnels below the graveyard and there, pit the PCs in conflict with a redcap.

Once the PCs venture into the woods (or as an alternate lead-in, J Gray's adventure #2 will work: There, the PCs can find Lydia, a scared little girl of 6 years, who just wants to go home to Hollowfield...and indeed, provided the PCs can defeat the goblins en route, they will escort her home...only to realize that they have been escorting a ghost, for Lydia's dead and now, finally, home.

Jennifer R. Povey's adventure sketch has the PCs attend the pagan harvest festival only to be interrupted by the crone dubbed "Nasty Nellie" by the local population - whose apprentice Sera (cue in Final Fantasy XIII-reference and hundreds of "SERA!!!"-screams...) has vanished. The PCs will have to venture into the woods to retrieve SERA!!! and brave a nice take on the grasping wood as a haunt and deal with her standing amidst an ancient battlefield, possessed by the ghost of a general of days long gone.

Kiel Howell's up next and his adventure sketch starts with a mob threatening violence against a sweets seller. Why? because people have been losing their teeth...but oddly, only the adults. After some preliminary investigation involving barber and apothecary, the trail will lead the PCs to an abandoned mansion, where an advanced broken soul tooth fairy and her cadre of minions are behind the creepy happening. Now this hook is cool and amazing! I want to see that as a full module!

Matt Roth's Fallen leaves is up next and begins with the local lmber baron Johann Kaizermein inviting the PCs for dinner. Alas, not all goes according to plan and the PCs witness a incursion of leaf leshys, stained with autumn's touch, assaulting the groundskeeper. The maddening pestilence provides a neat autumnal decay angle, as the PCs venture into the forest to negotiate with the leshys (preferably sans being killed) and unearth the source of the corruption, a child lost and perished in the woods, now ascended to daemon-kind.

Kalyna Conrad's angle focuses on the disappearance of little Timeney, who was last seen in the vicinity of the half-elven, deeply prejudiced woodsman Edlemil - who not only has a nasty trap, but also a massive garden...in which a dread flower is growing that he uses to...well. Dispose of unpleasant (read: human) beings. Nasty and disturbing...I like!

We return to the Kaizermein mill in Garrett Guillotte's sketch, but oh boy, how we return: It's been some while since Gibs Greck was cut apart in what looked like a mill accident...but when the wood of the local tavern starts groaning, forming a face and uttering prophecies of doom, something obviously must be done...and indeed, there are other, haunt-based challenges to be found and dealt with, all based on the odd wood employed...oh, and then there's the spectral treant, whose power will be depending on the number of haunts dealt with. Another winner, at least in my book!

The final adventure sketch would be John Bennett's "The House Death Built", with one person, slumped over, being dragged away by shadowy servants to an abandoned house, which once belonged to Sir Erasmus Dratho - the house, which has been standing empty for a while, can be explored in a nice exercise of building tension, but the creepy hints the PCs can find, in conjunction with their nightmares, will suddenly make clear that the place is haunted and that there is some nasty darkness that needs to be laid to rest. If you need a reason why I consider John Bennett to be a master of horror/the creepy...this is a nice first glimpse of his talent.

The pdf comes with full statblocks for just about every critter and a map of the sawmill; the final appendix is a GM's cheat-sheet for the NPCs features in the town, be adventure. The town gets no statblock, though.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of V.2. are good - I noticed some minor hiccups here and there, but not enough to spoil the book in any way. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with interior artwork being full-color stock. The cartography employed is CGI-based and does its job, but expect no player-friendly versions. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience.

The cadre of authors assembled here sports some delightful little adventure sketches suitable for the darker times of the year; particularly the tales of John Bennett (no surprise there), Kiel Howell, Garrett Guillotte and Kalyna Conrad managed to invoke a sense of "I'd actually like to build on this and run it!" While not perfect, as a charity product and PWYW to boot, this makes for a truly nice little book as Halloween approaches. If you're starved for time or ideas and want to play a suitably creepy adventure, this certainly will do the trick: With a minimum of work, you'll get some nice mileage out of this book. Better yet, you can download it, check it out and then reward the authors in a manner you consider appropriate. Alternatively, this may well be worthwhile to check out for the haunts to scavenge - there are some cool ones to be found here!

How to rate this...well, here, it becomes a bit harder for me, but ultimately, I consider this worthwhile and thus, this receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to its more than fair PWYW-status. If this was a full-priced title, it'd be somewhere in the 3 - 4-echelon, just fyi.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
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Ritual Magic Expanded for 5th Edition Fantasy
by Gaetan V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2016 02:55:21

This is a nice set of ideas and a good basis for expanding the otherwise limited set of Rituals that are available to PCs. They have smart, non-adventuring rituals like "Union of Two Souls" for marriage or "Assuming the Mantle" for crowning royalty. They have rituals for things like putting people into stasis or sanctifying ground or exorcising demons. They even provide some ideas of rituals as plot hooks, such as keeping a flying castle afloat.

There's also a section on rituals for non-spellcasters.

Overall I like the ideas and will likely be using a few of these in modified form for my own campaign.

If this book comes up short of 5 stars it's because it lacks professional polish.

  • The layout is really poor. The Merry Respite spell splits across two pages with two lines on the first page.
  • The Assume the Mantle spell splits across three pages even though it's less than a page of text because someone decided to put a picture of thief picking a lock in the middle of the paragraph. Yes, this significant 9th-level spell is split across multiple pages and highlighted by artwork that has nothing to do with the spell.
  • The text includes 4 pieces of art and maybe one of them seems thematically relevant.
  • The text is painfully difficult on the eyes. Some of the header fonts render with zero kerning, the spell titles are white on black with insufficient border, the header is really wide and completely empty.
  • There are definitely pieces of the text that need another round of editing. For example, Magic Seal says that the imprisoned creature can attempt to break free, but then fails to describe how this happens. Instead it details that the caster has to re-cast the spell or the imprisoned creature automatically breaks free, which kind of negates the "attempt" because there is no such thing.


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ritual Magic Expanded for 5th Edition Fantasy
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(5e) Expanded Options #01 - Occult Ritual Magic for 5th Edition Fantasy
by Gaetan V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2016 02:30:18

This is a shortened version of a much more worthwhile larger product here. Just get the full thing, far more valuable http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/170570/Ritual-Magic-Expanded-for-5th-Edition-Fantasy.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
(5e) Expanded Options #01 - Occult Ritual Magic for 5th Edition Fantasy
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Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/29/2016 04:34:06

I loved this book! I really encourage everyone to get it. It's even in print at pay what you want!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits:The Mysteries of Hollowfield
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Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/28/2016 20:19:29

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

Okay, let's get the most important thing out of the way - when we think of a "Player's Guide", we usually think of a 10-ish page supplement with a few traits, maybe some extra rules, that sort of thing. This book, though? It is [i]over 400 pages[/i], divided into nine major sections to help detail the world of [i]Shadows over Vathak[/i]. (What immediately got my attention, though? The presence of some Old Ones. XD I do enjoy Lovecraftian entities, although I definitely like them Chaotic Neutral more than Chaotic Evil.) Aside from the length, this book is a full-color product, with lots of original artwork and the standard two-column formatting. At $20 (as of the time of writing), this may be more than player's want to buy individually... but I can already tell it's going to be a good investment for any group playing in this setting. Pool your money - it's worth it.

Now, let's take a look at the actual content. Unsurprisingly, it starts with an Introduction, covering what's going on with the world, the various lands, some politics, some history, and a quick guide for using the book. This stuff is important - games in settings like this one tend to do best when people understand the setting and make appropriate characters, rather than generic collections of stats that could fit into any world.

The main things to know are straightforward and simple - there are two major faiths (the One True God and the cults of the Old Ones), and this is not a happy world. Noble and righteous leaders are rare - far more are simply trying to take whatever they can, with an almost apocalyptic view of what's happening on their planet.

The notes on each land aren't exactly a Gazetteer, but they provide enough information to form a solid mental picture of what each territory is like. There's enough variety here to help support a wide variety of character concepts - always nice to see - and a timeline helps pull everything together. The full-color map at the end of the section isn't too shabby, either, although the digital version is a bit hard to read. I would've suggested making that sharper, myself.

The next section is simply titled "Heroes of Horror" - and here, they are very clear. Shadows over Vathak is fundamentally a horror setting, and they suggest a variety of ways to help create a unique character that's still yours while fitting into the tone of the game. This part of the book can be used for generating characters in other games as well - there are prompts to think about things like the circumstances of their birth, their family, and their social rank and education. All of these are things that help with creating a well-thought-out character, and I'm glad they were included. They even have a table for major childhood events.

Of course, one's background isn't solely flavorful - there are mechanical considerations for picking traits. This book has a number of new traits that characters can select, with a variety of very decent effects. Fat Goblin Games has done something interesting here with the addition of Occupations, which bundle two trait effects together to represent a character's training in life. For example, if you select the Artist occupation in lieu of your traits, you'd get a +2 trait bonus to a craft skill and a bonus on the money you earn when using Craft to make money. Occupations are definitely worth allowing as an alternate to traits. Just to cap things off, the guide has a couple of flavorful new Drawbacks as well.

From there, we go to Chapter 3, the Races of Vathak. This part of the book features an overview of the races - both the core races and those new to the setting. Some of the new races are technically human - to the point of having the human subtype - but have unique racial traits to help flesh them out. The options range from the nomadic (and violent) Bhriota to the tainted Cambion to the Witchwolves, descendants of lycanthropes who have inherited some of their features. As a GM, I would strongly encourage players to select from the book's races, rather than falling back on the default "Core" races of Pathfinder. Flavorful races are fun! And each race gets a very respectable writeup, including things like normal alignments, reasons for adventuring, religion, alternate racial traits, and favored class bonuses.

The fourth chapter focuses on Classes, and includes four entirely new ones as well as thematically appropriate options for many of Pathfinder's normal classes. The new options are:

The Disciple, a 3/4ths BAB, 6th-level divine caster who earns favor in the eyes of a Patron Saint and uses that to power their abilities The Fortune-Teller, a 1/2-BAB, 9th-level psychic caster who specializes in divination and gathering information The Reanimator, a 1/2-BAB, 6th-level "Injector" (i.e. Very Close To Alchemist) who's all about filling people with weird concoctions. Hello, Doctor West. Also, do ham it up as a mad scientist if you play one, all right? The Soldier, a Full-BAB alternate class for the Fighter that joins a Regiment to determine which abilities they get. This is the only class in the book I hesitate to recommend, but that's because I lean against anything that's basically pure combat in a game where non-combat challenges are a thing. They're stuck with 2+Int skill points per level, too. If people really want to be a combat-focused character for a game in this setting, though, you might as well point them to this.

Following all of these new classes are a bunch of new archetypes and other options - everything from cannibalistic arcanists to warrior channeling necrotic powers. Note that a fair few of these archetypes have racial restrictions, since they have particular focuses within this setting. Players interested in using these should check for that right off the bat.

After all of that, we finally reach Chapter Five: Skills and Feats. This part opens up with two important notes (on linguistics and firearms) before diving into a number of thematic new feats that characters can take. As a general rule, all of these were made with the Shadows over Vathak setting in mind, and some specifically support the new classes the book offers.

Chapter Six focuses on Equipment in the game, from the coins used to a variety of new weapons. Here, we have things like the Romni Dagger (which isn't disarmed very easily) or the Voltugrag, a punch sword with very decent damage and the ability to pierce or slice. These weapons certainly aren't required for use in the setting, but hey, they're thematic. Each weapon group has three or four options in it (enough to help support most concepts), and the weapons are followed by new armor and a full list of basic gear (from traveling kits to alchemical goods to vehicles).

Chapter 7 focuses on Firearms in the setting, and notably, they're quite common. What's included here is essentially an enhancement of the basic rules, and goes as far as new ways to customize guns when they're being made. A full list of common firearms is included in the book, complete with stat and a variety of ammunition.

Chapter 8 brings us to Religion in the setting, and notes that while outsiders exist, they're fairly rare. The main conflict of the setting takes place between the One True God (who is served by Patron Saints that lay people can follow, and who generally demands strict obedience - note the Lawful Neutral alignment) and the Old Ones - evil elemental spirits of the land.

The book wraps up with a chapter on Magic in Vathak, with a number of thematic new options (including some tarot-based stuff, since the Harrow deck is less appropriate here).

All in all, this is a SOLID book. I mean that in the most literal sense - again, despite the brevity of this review, the book is more than four hundred pages long. This has everything players need to play a game in the Shadows over Vathak setting, and if they enjoy horror-themed games, just reading through this is probably going to get them excited.

Now, obviously, this book is only relevant to anyone playing in this setting - but for those who are, it is clearly a must-have, and easily deserves a full score. I do have a few nitpicks, as mentioned above, but those aren't enough to affect the overall rating of the book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Player's Guide to Vathak
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5th Edition Racial Options - Aasimar!
by Elexious C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2016 12:44:04

One thing I wasn't all that keen on when it comes to D&D is that Tieflings have been front and center for two editions and Aasimar just feel like an afterthought or, in the case of 4th edition, replaced entirely. I don't exactly hate tieflings but I get enough players that choose them to be 'edgy' but also Mary Sues to have a bias against them without Aasimar representation, especially when they're tucked away in the DMG as an example. At this point they're my table's Drizzt. So I am happy that my first foray into third party 5th edition material is Fat Goblin Game's Aasimar book.

We get a page of flavor and tips on how to fluff up your Aasimar so we have a good idea as to what they are, before moving into the hard crunch. We start off with the list of what to put in for your size and speed and ect. You get darkvision, resistance to radiant damage, you get extra healing when you heal and/or get healed more when you can't heal (?). There are three subtypes for Aasimar. Each gives a different +1 to an ability score and a once per long rest spell. they also get an different physical damage (bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing) resistance but it's partial resistance. I wasn't too sure about what it was since 5e is a lot newer to me but there's a sidebar that explains it. Apparently this means they get old school resistance at a rate of 1 per character level, so at level 5 a Solar subrace would take 5 damage off of all slashing damage. You also get Lineage options which lets you trade off some of the base Aasimar racial traits for something new.

Lastly you have some new equipment. One is a super holy water that deals more damage to undead, and also gives an extra use of radiant racial abilities for aasimar. There's a weapon that has a few abilities that seem kind of redundant. It grants +1 to attack and damage but also grants advantage and an extra d6 damage. It only works for divine classes and aasimar though. There's a ring that gives celestial derived creatures a once per long rest daylight and some extra darkvision. There's also a new spell that gives you necrotic resistance and can deal damage to attackers.

I hate to say it but despite a few of these options being really cool and flavorful there are multiple points where I think it goes too far. Looking at the weapon inside it grants a +1 bonus to attack and damage, a huge deal in 5e, but also improves accuracy and deals extra damage. Its redundant and does too much. I know I haven't been playing 5e for as long and deep as I have Pathfinder but I know that getting a weapon that gains advantage AND bonuses to attack and damage is an uber weapon even if it's restricted to aasimar, clerics and paladins. Not to mention that the abilities aren't in of themselves aren't very interesting. Its just boosting accuracy and damage. The partial resistance seems more troublesome than regular resistance since damage happens at a smaller scale. I know Dragonborn get an elemental resistance that's just normal resistance and it works out fine, but this kind of resistance starts off small and eventually becomes something hugely powerful, especially since any of the three physical damages are pretty common and usually come in attack by attack chunks. The spell does something defensive and offensive with a decent duration and doesn't require concentration means that it can stack with other defensive spells which in the context of 5e can easily lead to really overpowered defenses. Some of the abilities reek of 'Pathfinderisms' like introducing trade out racial options, old school resistance, and no-brainer benefits from magic items. Things that work out in Pathfinder but seem unnecessary or overpowered in Dungeons and Dragons. The rest is fine but with a short pdf this is a significant downside.

I'm just not terribly thrilled with this entry into 5th edition Aasimar. Added to the gripes above there are some minor typos, particularly in the sidebar to explain partial resistance, and the ability to heal and get healed more is kind of wonky in that if you have healing abilities you can add your prof bonus but if you don't have healing abilities then you add it when you get healed. Nice to have a non-biased option but this raises questions, like where the line is for this since this is an either/or thing. Does Second Wind count? If I heal myself with my healing ability does this work?. I'm left with a document that I'm reluctant to use and I'm certainly reluctant to just hand it to players for them to sort out. For this I'm giving it a 2 out of 5 stars.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Aasimar!
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