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Astonishing Races:The Aasimar
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2017 09:00:22

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

This is a 34-page full-color product, with 30 pages of actual content. Astonishing Races: The Aasimar is essentially a complete playable race, up to and including things like physical descriptions, society, age, and religious tendencies. This is all written to be fairly setting-neutral, and that's a plus.

Aside from the basic racial traits (functionally identical to the 'official' aasimar), we get a wide variety of alternate racial traits and I'm pretty sure most of them are new. Many of these focus on what type of celestial being the aasimar in question was descended from, helping to provide a little more distinction in their backstory. For example, Born to Battle gives you a bonus to damage and crit confirmations when using a two-handed melee weapon, while Brightest Star gives you a bonus to your level for casting spells with the Light or Fire descriptors. There's a real set of choices here, and I'm glad to see them present.

After this, we get to new aasimar heritages - entities quite distinct from the base class. While normal aasimar are considered something of a "celestial/humanoid blend", the variant heritages are more specific. The Soarynne is an Elf/Outsider mix, for example, while Planelings have no celestial ancestor, but did have a mother exposed to the energies of a celestial plane. These classes aren't given the same variety of alternate racial options as normal aasimar, but a generous GM might allow swapping out equivalent abilities.

To help further customize the character, aasimar in this product are given a full set of Favored Class Options, from core options all the way to occult classes and the Vigilante. Class options follow this, with choices like the Angelic Chorister (an archetype for the Bard that focuses on heavenly instruments), the Blessed bloodline for the Sorcerer (which adds healing to a normally arcane class), and the Peacebonded Monk (an archetype for the - wait for it - Monk, which focuses on nonlethal damage). Note that being an aasimar is not a prerequisite for these class options.

The book finishes up with a variety of other character options, from gear (like Celestial Elixir, which offers additional use of racial spellcasting, albeit at a cost if abused, and also as a supercharged Holy Water when used against undead) to feats (mostly reprints, but copied here because this is clearly meant to be a one-source guide for playing a given race) and spells (ditto).

Overall, this is a nice, comprehensive product for playing an aasimar character, and I probably wouldn't hesitate to pass it over to anyone at one of my tables who was interested in doing so. I'm also quite fond of the race in general - some of my favorite characters have been members of this race - and I would've enjoyed using this product when making them. Either way, this is a solid release. It doesn't have quite as much new material as the size implies, but again, it's not meant to. It's not just a collection of reprints, though - there ARE quite a few new options as well. I didn't notice any major mistakes (although there was the occasional typo), so I'm comfortable giving this product a full score.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Races:The Aasimar
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8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2017 08:16:50

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

This is a 14-page, full-color product - although only 10 of the pages have relevant content on them. As the name implies, this is all about vampire slaying... but with more of a video game twist than most products released for Pathfinder. This is actually quite important to understand - this product is very much intended to work with games inspired by a certain famous vampire-hunting franchise, so you'll want to review the options carefully before making them available in other games. Now, let's get into things, shall we?

The first page of actual rules stuff discusses iconic items from the games, and which items from Pathfinder are best used to represent them. This is fairly straightforward stuff, all things considered. The next page gives us a candle treasure table (to be found by breaking sources of light, generally), holding things like holy water bombs, whip crystals, and masterwork weapons. A second table is given for items found in secret areas. Many of the items on these tables are new items presented later in this product.

Following this, we get descriptions for two new weapons. The Cross Boomerang is a an exotic ranged weapon that deals Bludgeoning or Piercing damage, with a range of 30 feet, an x2 crit multiplier, and a returning property that allows the thrower to catch the boomerang (with it falling some ways away if they don't). The other new weapon (the Star Whip) is an exotic melee weapon - implied to be one-handed, but this probably should have been specified - that has the disarm, finesse, reach, and trip properties. Characters proficient in whips are also proficient in Star Whips, and it does lethal damage even to creatures with armor bonuses.

The next section focuses on magic weapons and armor. The Slayer's Shield of defense is a +2 mithral heavy shield, which counts as a divine focus, allows for a spell that helps protect against ranged attacks, and provides an added bonus when you use the total defense action (written here as "full defense"). The Whip Crystal is essentially a buff for whips, either giving them the Deadly property or - if they already have it or do lethal damage - increasing the damage progression by one step. The Slayer's Mystic Whip is a +3 ghost touch holy undead bane star whip that's also an intelligent item, and it's pretty focused on finding and eliminating undead. It also offers several additional powers, including a protective spell-like ability, detecting magic at-will, and a bonus to intimidate against evil. It's also worth over 150,000 GP, so it's not likely to be seen outside of high-level games.

Most of the rest of this product is taken up by other new items, which include things like boots that give both Jump and Feather Fall effects, bracers that give you an additional attack (at an accuracy penalty), and a holy water bomb that deals holy damage and is extra nasty against undead and evil outsiders.

The last part of this product is another equivalency table, much like the earlier one on classic weapons - although this bit is more for game masters, since it suggests specific monsters to recreate the feel of the games (and provides their source).

Overall, I find this product fairly entertaining, and it definitely accomplishes its job of providing thematic vampire-slaying tools. That said, I do think this product - and especially the items - could have used another editing pass. For example, the Sapphire Ring says it can be 'activated', but doesn't specify the type of action used. (Standard action to set up defenses? Immediate action to respond to a threat? Free action you can take when it isn't your turn?) It also says "any creature that attacks with melee attack takes 2d6 points of electricity damage". Since it doesn't quite specify that it's limited to you, it's arguably saying that anyone in the area (or, heck, the world) takes damage when they make melee attacks, and that probably wasn't the intention.

The errors don't ruin this product, but they do make it a little less solid than it could have been, and it's something to keep an eye on in the future. As-is, however, I'm going to rate this a 4/5.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
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Epic Races: Adapticons
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/07/2017 12:34:46

Want to add Transformers to your Pathfinder or Starfinder game? It's probably not something you've thought about, but now that I've mentioned it, you're kind of interested, right? No? To each their own. However, if your answer is yes, Epic Races: Adapticons has got what you need.

The pdf is 25 pages (including front and back cover, a page of advertisements, three pages of OGL). It gives you everything you need to play a transfor... adapticon in Pathfinder (or soon Starfinder). The book starts with history and origins of the race. To be honest, if I added them to my game I'd probably just straight lift all of that from Transformers. That being said, the background isn't a bad one.

In game terms the designers created the race emulating racial creation rules from the Advanced Race Guide. Adapticons are "multi-formed constructs" which means they have the construct and shapechanger subtype. They are large and get bonuses to Str, Wis, and Con, while getting penalties on Dex and Cha. They get an alternate vehicle form, though there are also options to have a metallic animal form, or even not being able to transform. There are Pathfinder favored class options and two racial archetypes (Spybot and Transporter). While these are cool, I kind of wish this pdf had came out a little later and we could have seen Starfinder racial archetypes (assuming the game has them). Note that adapticons do use vehicle rules which are found in Ultimate Combat. We get a new vehicle (dwarven dozer), nine feats (metamagic and racial), and several bits of new equipment (some magical, some technological).

Overall, I think this is a fun pdf. It's not a must have by any means, but it's still really cool. The race isn't overpowered and due to its size and actually has some rough drawbacks (beware of rust monsters).

To be honest, I mainly picked it up because I thought it would be cool for Starfinder, and I hope the pdf gets an update once that book comes out. That being said, this is a solid and unique addition to any Pathfinder game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Epic Races: Adapticons
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Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/07/2017 05:18:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Before you're asking: Of course Captain Thomas Olam is returning as the framing device for this adventure, with the esteemed Mr. J Gray acting as the transcriber of his notes. It should also be noted that the adventure comes with pregenerated dramatic characters - 6, to be precise. In a rather nice manner, the module collects the game-relevant stats on a few pages - but goes one step beyond: In the back, extensive, char-sheet-like depictions of the characters, complete with proper space for notes and even b/w-photographs depicting them can be found, enhancing the immersion. I strongly suggest handing these out to players when running it and not using the dramatic characters. You see, the German iteration of CoC uses period piece photography extensively and it does enhance immersion, so kudos for doing that!

We also get a massive city map of Paris, where the proceedings take place, in the pdf - both with a player-friendly iteration and one for the host, which contextualizes and places the adventuring locales. That being said, I do have a very minor gripe here, one that does not in any way impede the functionality of the adventure at hand, so consider this just me being a scoundrel: The city map as a physical artifact from the time must have been HUGE and as such, the one-page scans make reading streets-names etc. impossible. Now note that this is not required: The city map is here to put the adventuring locales in relation to one another, but as someone who really enjoys old maps, a high-res iteration would have been amazing. (And yes, quite probably, there is no such scan, but one may dream, right?)

Anyways, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to humbly ask you to excuse my digressions, so let us adjust our pince-nezes, put down our walking sticks and fans and take a look at what this recent account of Captain Olam has to offer. It should be noted that only the most dastardly rogue, tarnishing the good graces of the house of the Host of his regular game, would continue to read the following if he (or she) planned to attend the game wherein the proceedings depicted in this module take place. As the profane rabble is wont to say, from here on out, this review will contain copious amounts of SPOILERS.

...

..

.

Dear hosts, are we alone? Have all preening eyes, all scoundrels and spirits departed to their respective haunting grounds? Excellent, so let us commence with our discussion of the matter at hand! As we all know, this is an enlightened age that will catapult our species to realms heretofore unimagined and at the forefront of one such foray in the advancement of our glorious civilization would be the gentleman known as Martin Hoog, currently approaching the completion of his margarine factory, which will undoubtedly revolutionize significant aspects of our customs. However, as we all know, progress not always goes unopposed, and to the obvious concern of dairy farmers in the rural areas, we have to add the unfortunate sentiment of the brownie population - after all, it does seem like the machines will manage to even outdo the Faerie's vast working capacity.

The leader of this resistance, in case you were not aware, falls in this particular case to the Fae lady usually referred to as Danielle Bendit, and appropriate name, if her detractors are to be believed. The current state of affairs has her and her rabble preventing the opening of the factory. The protest has been going on for a couple of days, with no real progress on either side, as the authorities in their wisdom have to prevent a proper escalation of the proceedings. There are, of course, plenty of justifications for proper ladies and gentlemen to bear witness to the horrid proceedings that are about to unfold, but it should be noted that, if all else fails, one should not discard serendipitous coincidence as a means of getting the proper minds involved.

It is my sad duty to announce that there will be an incident most unfortunate, for, as Mme Bendit and her right-hand man Michel are about to announce the strategies of their further protests and the goals of their fledgling movement, a shot will ring - and provide the first decision, which only the cool heads of those of proper breeding and accomplishment may make: Whether to hound the assailant sniper or to move towards the stage and offer educated help; the chaos of hundreds of fae dispersing into the ethereal and panicked protesters fleeing the scene makes both endeavors rather complicated.

The office, from which the shot was fired, unsurprisingly yields a mystery - very perceptive characters may note signs that the window was kept open, an orphaned rifle with a scope awaiting - and particularly learned characters may deduce the "how" of this dastardly attack: The rifle was prepared by a devious mechanical mind with one of these fancy cells pioneered by Edmond Becquerel in 1839, firing as the fog cleared and light touched it.

At the same time, more compassionate characters with a less analytic bent (we shall not engage in the obvious associations here) may have moved towards the stage to find Michel, murdered in the arms of Mme Bendit, shot by cold iron - and as he lies there, only the most astute of characters will have a chance to collect further evidence before the poor creature suffers the Final Death, shortly before the griefstruck Mme Bendit is spirited away. Those among you illustrious hosts who fear that the obvious murder mystery here would be solved too easily by the inclusion of a certain order of thaumaturgical detectives should rest assured that proper guidance is provided to deal with such potential hindrances in a manner that if befittingly fair for dramatic characters.

Unless our valiant cast has split, the characters will hence have one primary lead, though one should not be remiss to mention that the arrival of the police force will put an end to the investigation of the scene of the deplorable crime. Recognizing the obvious potential for conflict inherent in the situation, and listening to their own valiant hearts and nerves of steel, our illustrious cast hence moves on to question the diverse beings involved in this most puzzling of cases - and here, the classic adage of truth, smoke and mirrors is indeed one that should prove true: The investigation of anarchist involvement and the grieving Mme can yield a surprising variety of rather intriguing clues. Astute individuals, examining the less than trustworthy guards employed at the factory as well as Mr. Hoog himself may even deduce a rather scandalous development and situation, though ultimately, not even that should suffice to coax veritas from the cloaking shadows - indeed, the potentially risky involvement with the préfet de police may proceed to escalate to a duel, though the puzzling demeanor exhibited here by the préfet can be considered to be another piece of this puzzle...or can it?

Indeed, the investigation of the proceedings can unearth a rather puzzling painting predicting the murder - precognition? Perilous premonition? Indeed, the colloquially so-called "red herrings" that are cleverly woven throughout this adventure render both murderous motivation and precise procedure of the dastardly deed a subject suitable for the magnificent minds that you, dear host, elect to entertain. Various ways can lead to the unearthing of the true culprit and the aftermath of the assassination will be strongly influenced by the astuteness of the minds involved - and yes, dear host: Much like any good mystery, there are multiple meandering ways to arrive at the elusive poodle's core, with the supplemental storylines and their conclusions allowing for the concise expansion and continuation of the adventure.

Who is responsible? How was it done? Why, my dear readers - that is only for the distinguished host to discover! It is my duty to mention in this context that the dramatis personae of this curious constellation of characters comes with the appropriate contextualization within the rules of the game. Those of us who enjoy the winding ways of history will be overjoyed to observe that Captain Olam's elaborations of the discrepancies between our world and his curious home have returned. Furthermore scholars of the Fae will most assuredly like the details provided for the Teuz, the brownies most commonly encountered in the Bretagne.

Conclusion:

The all too often thankless tasks of proofreader and editor have been fulfilled to my utmost satisfaction. The visual presentation of the subject matter at hand adheres to a 2-column standard, set against a beautiful, colored backdrop. The artistry of the photographs, portraits and paintings herein, taken from the vast treasure-trove of our species, serves well to enhance the consistent feeling of this book. Should you prefer one of these magical presentation methods, rest assured that more bookmarks can be found herein than would be feasible for a physical book.

Mister J Gray deserves my heartfelt congratulations for his triumphant transcription of this heretofore unreleased account from the fabulous fiction called "Castle Falkenstein." The adventure takes degrees of success and the importance of class, race, etc. well into account and presents a thoroughly compelling mystery that most assuredly is worthy of one or multiple encores. It is my utmost pleasure to be in the fortunate position to announce that the understanding of the period and the special considerations the presence of the Faerie have had on the world, should be considered more than adequate; indeed, I consider them worthy of heartfelt praise.

It is hence my honor and privilege to award this distinguished and entertaining murder mystery the honors of 5 stars as well as the seal of approval for extraordinary merits. A round of applause, mesdames et messieurs!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
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Castle Falkenstein: The Second Tarot Variation
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/26/2017 10:54:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Tarot-based alternate rules-pdfs for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, first, before we do: If you have not yet picked up the first Tarot Variation, please do so NOW. It has made my Top Ten RPG-product list for a reason - it is brilliant. The genius idea here is to use the Rider-Waite-Smythe tarot deck instead of the regular playing cards deck - the result has not only been an increase in atmosphere, but also a more interesting gameplay. I literally never want to play vanilla CF again.

...

Okay, that out of the way, to a degree, this pdf represents more of an amazing thing, we begin with establishing the connection between suites of playing card decks and tarot decks corresponding to another. The values for cards of the minor arcana are properly assigned their values. Since the deck contains one more face card per suit, but no jokers, the fortune deck includes 4 cads worth 15 points instead of 2.

The major arcana deck requires some choices to be made by the game's respective host: First, are major arcana cards held in a player's hand or apart. If they are held as regular cards, that decreases the number of minor arcana cards potentially held and as such, there is a balancing component there. If the major arcana is held on a separate hand, the plot-twisting elements of these cards become more potent, obviously.

The second decision would pertain how many cards the players can hold from the major arcana suite. If players hold these cards in their regular hand, the cards should be limited to a maximum of 1 or 2 held to maintain the option to keep succeeding at tasks via minor arcana. If a separate hand is chosen as the option to go for, the host can elect to cap the total at 3 or even 4 - the more of these a player can hold in a separate hand, though, the more volatile the game becomes, at least potentially - but that does fit well with Castle Falkenstein's high-adventure aspect.

Thirdly, an easy means to balance the impact of the major arcana is the third choice -here, the host determines how many major arcana cards can influence one given Feat. As you may have noticed, this does assume a host at least familiar with the game and confident regarding the ability to interpret on the fly the respective results.

These basics out of the way, the rest of the pdf is devoted to listing the major arcana and their effects - these range from spectacular successes, to conversions into other cards, the option to exchange cards for one minute (nut not those drawn to power sorcery). Returning cards just played to the hand, increasing success levels...and drawing e.g. Justice can result in either fumbling or high successes of the Feat in question. Increased success-levels at the cost of injury and there is also an option to draw a card and increase an ability ranked Poor to Good for the action in question - in short, the proceedings become more volatile.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is beautiful and the pdf doesn't sport artworks, but requires none at this length. Same goes for bookmarks - the pdf has none, but doesn't require any at this length.

J Gray's second tarot variation is amazing - while the novelty of the concept and enriched coolness obviously does not extend to the second of these, the matter of fact remains that this represents a glorious option that enhances the gameplay of Castle Falkenstein in much the same iconic manner as the original. All for a single buck. So yes, this is very much worth checking out - and a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Second Tarot Variation
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Publisher's Choice -Equipment Subscription
by Joel L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/25/2017 22:30:03

As someone who authors adventures I love this subscription. The artwork and in my opinion the value on this set is great. He is always updating it, too. All of the items are high quality artwork and ready to be used at the click of the mouse.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice -Equipment Subscription
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2017 22:01:20

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

This is a full-color, eleven-page PDF with eight pages of adventure content. Two pages of this cover the introduction and background of the game, and another page discusses ways of involving characters in the plot. The adventure itself covers four acts (scenes, really), although as per usual for vsM adventures, these are mainly outlines and the person running the game is given the task of actually creating dialogue and such. There's some flexibility in the scenes depending on what the players end up doing, and it's best to keep that in mind when writing stuff out yourself. Either way, though, this is a pretty solid adventure for any group that enjoys vs Ghosts, and the price is pretty good for the amount of content provided.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of Sand Island
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2017 21:42:31

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

This is a full-color, eleven-page product, with eight pages of actual game content. The Lights of Sand Island is a bit more mystery-like than some of the adventures that get published for this system, with the players urged to figure out what kind of force is causing ships to constantly run aground in the same place. The adventure itself takes place over four short acts (each 1-2 pages long), and no maps are provided. You may want to draw your own for this if your group prefers those to mapless play.

Overall, this is a fairly solid release for the system, and it's long enough to be good for at least part of a gaming session.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of  Sand Island
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2017 21:41:52

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

This is a full-color, two-page product, with one page of OGL and general legal stuff, and the other comprising a one-page adventure. Honestly, this is more of an outline than a true adventure, briefly describing scenes and what's going on but leaving it for the game master to come up with specific dialogue, any maps that the group may be necessary, and so on. I wouldn't run this adventure straight from the page, but rather, use it as the framework and write the rest of it out myself.

My overall feelings on this product are a bit complex. For pre-published adventures, even in generally rules-light games like this one, I prefer things that are as complete as possible. This product is honestly more of an adventure idea than a full adventure in its own right - although it's also priced low, so it's not like you're forking over a ton of money for something less bulky than you expected. Overall, I'd peg this at 4/5.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
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Creature Card Catalogue: Canny Constructs
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2017 21:13:20

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the PDF version of this product for the purpose of this review. This review does not cover any physical cards.

This is a full-color, eight-page product - although, like Brutal Beasts, four of the pages appear to be identical copies of the OGL as front/back sides for the cards.

The monsters included here are the Arc Hound (Challenge 3), Gallows Golem (Challenge 8), Pelt Amalgam (Challenge 5), and Steel Stallion (Challenge 2). Each creature comes with its full statistics, an image, and a general description of what the creature is and how it behaves, essentially making this product a mini-bestiary of themed creatures.

My feelings here are essentially the same as for Brutal Beasts - four extra creatures on a given theme isn't bad, especially at a price and format that makes them easy to organize if you get physical copies (either as cards or by printing them), but the redundant copies of the OGL make this product slower to navigate than it really needs to be.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Card Catalogue: Canny Constructs
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Creature Card Catalogue: Brutal Beasts
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2017 21:05:40

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the PDF version of this product for the purpose of this review. This review does not cover any physical cards.

This is a full-color, eight-page product - although four of the pages appear to be identical copies of the OGL, one for each of the four creatures contained here. If I understand this right, these are meant to be front-and-back sides (which would make sense for an individual physical product, legally speaking), but it's still slightly jarring to see in PDF format.

The monsters included here are the Apex Ram (Challenge 6), Ridgeback Stalker (Challenge 2), Skullcracker Wolf (Challenge 3), and Tundra Savager (Challenge 8). Each creature comes with its full statistics, an image, and a general description of what the creature is and how it behaves, essentially making this product a mini-bestiary of themed creatures.

Overall, I'd rate this a 4/5 - I really don't think it needs three extra copies of the OGL, and even if those are meant to be included for physical copies, people can simply print out multiples of one copy if need be. That design choice does generally detract from the product, and I'd recommend changing it in the future unless they have a specific reason not to.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Card Catalogue: Brutal Beasts
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Occult Rituals of the Necronomicon Vol. 1: Undead
by Tyler E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/23/2017 06:43:16

Copies provided by Fat Goblin Games.

Bloody, Gross, and I'm digging it.

So, before I begin this I have a confession to make. I love the Occult Ritual system. Presented in Occult Adventures about 2 years ago, the ritual system has in my mind helped go a long way toward solving one of the greatest problems the magical system has in the OGL/3.5/Pathfinder system, that is, making magic feel well... magical again. As it stands, magic really doesn't have any unknown elements, there's no mystery or surprise inherent in casting a spell like magic missle or dumping a bag of diamonds on the floor and trying to raise your friend from the dead. Everything does exactly what it says on the can, nothing inherent to the spell causes a change, and everyone goes on about their lives. Now, this might be nice for new players but in my mind that makes it math, not magic. Magic needs chaos, it needs uncertainty, and it needs risk for it to FEEL like the spellcasting we all know from myths and stories. Magic missles need a chance to explode to life with more power than that neophyte expected and raise deads need to be able to fail spectacularly as demonic enemies take the opportunity to use this freshly prepared corpse to crawl into the lands of the living. This is part of what makes "magic" as a concept compelling to introduce in mechanics, and it is in part what makes the system we have often been saddled with so uninspiring after a while, it becomes routine.

And magic should never feel routine.

Now though, with the Ritual system in Occult Adventures we, the consumer have finally got a REALLY solid system for presenting increadibly powerful magic, both new ideas and spins on old, as something strange and fantastic again. Something that I as a GM could give to ANY PLAYER and watch as the party now looks for an opportunity to literally call on the Gods of old to smite their enemies while simultaneously dreading what happens to them if they succeed, or worse, if they fail. That makes me as a GM and a player giddy.

Now, with that in mind lets dig into this piece.

Presented as a 15 odd page folio of new occult rituals wrapped around a specific theme, Occult Rituals of the Necronomicon Vol. 1: Undead focuses on rituals aimed at, well you guessed it, Undead. Filled with about a dozen new occult rituals, Undead Volume 1 presents a rotting smorgusboard of fun, bloody, creepy, and spiteful new rituals for you to scatter amongst the musty tomes and crammed shelves of some spiteful necromancer or ancient nosferatu's library and just leave players reeling over.

And spiteful might be the keyword here, because if their is one theme that runs through these rituals more than anything it's spite. Spite for the caster's enemies, spite for the dead, spite for time, nearly every single ritual in this thing feels like something you cast to spit in the face of the forces the caster rallies himself against. Unnatural Appetite has you cooking a person into a meat pie and serving it to someone to turn them into an insatiable cannibal that can't enjoy the taste of anything but the flesh of his own kind, Worm Feast gives the target freaking piles of tapeworms that wreak all kinds of hell on their innards until they somehow... remove them through either magic or a lot of traditional medicine, and Curse of Binding Rot raises the target corpse as a Juju Zombie with all of its skills and abilities it had in life and completely under your control.

Again, spite seems the apt descriptor for this thing, and with that bloody, squirming, and gross.

But that's not all. You also get rituals like Flesh of Sand, which takes the Mummy Lord and gives you a ritual to transform yourself into one a la Occult Realms Eternal Apotheosis and the 90's classic The Mummy. Unfortunately it doesn't go into as much nitty gritty detail as either of those sources do, which is a shame as having to have your party collect swarms of scarabs and/or remove their organs and embalm them as part of the casting would be super cool, but having another ritual to create super undead added to the list is a nice bonus and one I'm happy to get on my shelf. We also get Under the Skin, which has the caster painting a portrait of the person they are wishing to target that with paints made from crushed up spiders and a brush made of the victim's likely stolen hair. When completed, the painting turns hellish and the victim has an experince that literally makes their skin crawl and reads like something from a medieval Kronenburg film and an arachnaphobic alien remake that is best left to them to describe. Suffice it to say, it's the beginning of your grossest Halloween special game encounter and you'll be looking for an excuse to do it. Land of the Damned basically drops a necromantic nuke on wherever the hell you put the focus and makes sure that EVERYTHING that dies or is buried there rises as a walking corpse set to wreak havoc on whatever poor sods live within sight of the damn thing, and Walk of Ages literally DECOUPLES YOUR SOUL FROM THE CYCLE OF LIFE AND DEATH and just lets you return to life over and over again, being reborn to different, unnoticable parents of whatever race you want as whatever sex you want and do it all over again.

The stories I want to build around whoever's stupid enough to try that last one are freakin' epic.

Now, amid these horrors of necromantic spite and bloody, wriggling awesome we also have some options that are far less... evil? Maybe the better word is maliciously spiteful. Anyways, among all these great balls of Ewwsome we also get stuff like Eternal Slumber, which lets you annoint a corpse so that it doesn't rot and can be transported to wherever you need to take it in order to raise it from the dead or perform last rights (and makes it smell good). We also get things like Rise from the Grave, which lets you bring back people a la Raise Dead but turns them into Undead if the ritual is failed or Vampire's Flesh, which, for the simple price of a drink of wine, going a little Ozzy on some ground up bat, and having to gnaw through some zombie fingers grants you the defenses and healing powers of a vampire for a limited time. Finally, we get Ward of Pain, which lets the casters draw an intricate ward that causes a constant ball of damage on anyone who tries to stay within the warded area without having been cleared. All of these make fine rewards for any white necromancer or pious follower of a church looking to get access to any of those great secrets of the faith that might deal with life & death without having to worry about whether or not it fills their friends full of worms.

All that said, this book still has some problems. Walk of Ages has some DCs so incredibly low they make me think they have to be a misprint. Even with 9 saves across a wide array of skill checks a DC 12 feels waay too low for what this spell is going to give, and with the relativley innocent nature of most of the checks (like having someone pen a geneology and make it into a book) the chances of a caster passing this with just a bookbinder and geneologist he hired in town are way too high. Second, a lot of these rituals NEED the evil subtype. Now, don't get me wrong, I like unaligned spells of dubious moral use but some of these like the aforementioned Unnatural Appetite, Under the Skin, Curse of Binding Rot, and Flesh of Sand just scream to have that [evil] subtype tacked onto them right beside their necromantic school and not having it just seems like a rookie mistake that shouldn't be made by a dev house who's now on their 4th or 5th book of rituals like this. My final real complaint comes with the Crafted Companion ritual. A rather standard rit, Crafted Companion lets you upgrade a construct by 1 CR and give it all the commiseruate parts therein, including a new universal monster ability. It sounds cool, but the idea of giving just ANY universal monster ability feels a bit too powerful on its own and what's more there's this giant text block that explains the Bezerk rule but really doesn't make sense within the context of the book. It doesn't make sense as a support text to go along with the Failure state of the ritual since anyone who's casting a ritual to upgrade a construct/golem should already have access to a source that explains Berzerk and as something that only happens on a failure just clutters the page. By sticking it on the page it makes me assume that it's supposed to be something that any construct gains as part of undergoing this ritual rather than a side effect of things going horribly awry, and that busying of the page is the kind of stuff that just creates unnessecary confusion at the table.

These complaints aside, this is truly a stellar, if not perfect, addition to the rituals system and something any table that uses the ritual system would be happy to have, both as rewards for players and dark weapons for the vilest of villains. I know that at least 3 of these feel like something that would totally fit into any church as sacred mysteries and having that side by side with a bunch of awful curses gets me excited to crack these open and look for ways to add them into my home game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Rituals of the Necronomicon Vol. 1: Undead
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Occult Rituals of the Necronomicon Vol. 1: Undead
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2017 11:23:15

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

This is a 15-page, full-color PDF. Or, well... two PDFs, actually, but as far as I can tell they're exactly the same (not even a grayscale printing one... uploading error?). Nine pages are actual content, and after a brief bit of story, this product jumps straight into things. Helpfully, many of the references include online hyperlinks.

Options present here focus on new Occult Rituals (the rules for which are introduced in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures). Don't be fooled by the similarity to spell blocks - these are not spells. Options include rituals like Unnatural Appetite (which push people towards cannibalism), Eternal Slumber (permanently stopping the decay of a body so resurrection can be done later), and the Ward of Pain (which creates an area that can constantly damage others). Most of these rituals are meant to be used by the GM, but clever (and mostly evil) player characters might also find use for them in certain games.

One of the options includes rules for creating a Mummy Lord, although I question the use of black text on dark red highlights at this point - as a general rule of thumb, highlights should always be on the opposite end of the brightness spectrum (dark if the text is light, or light if the text is dark). It's not a huge problem, but it does make some ability names hard to read, and it really should have been caught on even a casual glance through the final product... so I do have to knock a few points for that.

Otherwise, though, this product is essentially exactly what it presents itself as - a collection of new occult rituals focused on the undead. You'll probably want to have a plan for them before you get the product - a BBEG focused on occult lore and undead? - but they'll work quite well as either things for the enemies to cast or for the players to interrupt.

My final score for this product is 4.5/5. Points were lost for a proofing error that should have been caught, but gained for the nice hyperlinks. For the purpose of this platform, I've decided to round down this time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Time Assassin (New Base Class)
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2017 11:08:40

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

This is a 16-page, full-color (if mostly rather gray) PDF, with ten pages of rules material.

The Time Assassin is a mid-BAB class with good Reflex saves, and 6+ skill points for level across a decent spread of class skills. The class itself is among the most straightforward you'll find, as there are few choices outside of picking weapon groups for proficiency at various levels. The class is also almost entirely Intelligence-based, eventually gaining the ability to apply their Int modifier to their attack rolls, damage rolls, AC, and even skill choices not normally triggering off of that stat.

The main resource for the class is their Paradox Pool, which determines capacity by their class level plus their intelligence modifier (so, likely to be 5-6 points at the start of the game, depending on how high they were able to pump their Int score). The Paradox Pool can be used to apply a variety of small, non-scaling buffs, or to fuel things like their Time Split ability (which allows them to be in more than one place and take additional actions, albeit with limits on what can be done).

Starting at fourth level, they also get access to Temporal Rifts, which are quite expensive for class abilities (especially when they trigger off the same resource pool as everything else). The ability to move objects in an area backwards in time (to open doors, clear collapsed hallways, et cetera) is free to use, but the other options cost 3-6 points per-use, rather sharply curbing what they can do for the day.

This product also has Favored Class Bonuses for the core races, and two archetypes that provide the only real customization the class gets. (Seriously, everything else is pretty locked into place.) The Time Madness archetype is basically more for fun than anything else since the duplicates take on a random alignment (and may thus be quite unpredictable - or able to get through alignment-based things!), while the Focuser emphasizes watching opponents for awhile and then striking for all the damage at once. This is probably a good choice for people who don't want to do too much in combat, and notably, it also distinctly shrinks their Paradox Pool and makes it harder to use other abilities.

As you've probably picked up by now, the Time Assassin is geared towards a fairly specific style of play - more so than most classes, because the only real decisions you're making are "which weapon should I use?" and "do I play normal or Focuser?". This isn't inherently a bad thing, though most classes in the game try to be more flexible - in fact, this might be a pretty good option if you have a player who wants to fight but suffers from a bit of choice paralysis when they look at all the options in the game. It is, however, something you should know going into this product - there are basically just two ways of playing this class, and everything else is fiddly bits.

Overall, I feel this class is about a 4/5. It's relatively good at what it does - making up for its reduced accuracy by creating clones that can simply make more attacks instead - and it has a little bit of out-of-combat utility if a player is sufficiently creative with their first Temporal Rift and their time clones. That said, it's definitely a combat-focused class, and players shouldn't expect to do much else with it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Time Assassin (New Base Class)
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CLASSifieds: Astra (New Occult Class)
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2017 10:25:55

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

This is a fourteen-page, full-color product, although only nine pages have actual rules content on them. (The rest is the usual OGL, cover, other legal stuff, et cetera).

The Astra is a full-BAB class with a good Will save, unsurprisingly focused on dealing damage to their enemies. They're proficient with all simple and martial weapons, but that's mostly just a support for the fact that they can create an astral blade as any slashing or piercing weapon they're proficient with. Most players are likely to stick with one form they prefer, but the variable nature of the blade means they can adapt to some defenses. The blade automatically gains enhancement bonuses every four levels, and is always treated as possessing the Ghost Touch quality (<- important in games with lots of incorporeal enemies).

That said, most Astras are likely to be Dexterity-focused characters, rather than Strength-based. The reason for this is that they actually have to be wearing light armor to get the most out of their defenses, as their Astral Protection ability gives them a scaling insight bonus to Reflex, AC, and CMD. They also get Uncanny Dodge and Evasion at higher levels. They also get the Astral Step class feature (referred to as Astral Slide in the table), which gives them 1/2 level + Wisdom Modifier in short-range, swift-action teleportations per-day.

Their most variable class feature is their Mantra - ways that Astras can personalize their astral blades. Mantras are learned at second-level and every three levels thereafter, and basically function as non-enhancement special abilities that can be activated in response to particular situations. If you're fighting a troll, activate the Flame mantra. If you're fighting demons, activate the Good mantra. And so on. Characters can have up to one Mantra active at second level (when they first get the ability), to a maximum of three at 16th level.

This product also includes favored class bonuses for the core races and a couple of archetypes (the Hundred Arms and the Phoenix Soldier, both focused on a rather mythological theme).

My overall feeling for the class, mm... I feel like the Astra largely does what it sets out to do, which is being a mobile close-range damage-dealer. Unfortunately, that's about all it does. As a general rule of thumb, I'm hesitant to approve of classes who only appear to have one role in the game, and dealing damage is a rather limited niche. Both the Kineticist and the Magus - which are the official classes I feel this most resembles - offer more out-of-combat utility, while Psionics' Soulknife offers a similarly-growing psychic blade and many diverse blade skills to go with it. At its core, the Astra is essentially a "you get to enchant your own weapon" class, and the additional effects of the mantras - mostly small defense buffs - don't really provide any more than that.

Thinking it over, I honestly can't rate this any higher than 3/5. It accomplishes its goal, but that doesn't help much if that goal isn't ambitious enough to really let players join in on the rest of the game. If you're looking for a class that essentially just does damage with a magic weapon, this is a good choice. Otherwise, there are similarly-powerful classes who also offer far more utility, and most people would probably enjoy playing those more. For future releases, I would recommend the publisher carefully consider how to give new classes some more out-of-combat options. You don't need another twenty pages for that, but there should be something to help keep players more involved when they're not killing things. Similarly, you don't necessarily need to one-up the other options a player has, but you should at least try to be in the same general region.

For example, the publisher may want to look at the Fey Adept from Spheres of Power, particularly their Shadowstuff ability and use of illusions. That kind of flexible utility power - redone with more of an astral touch here, and keeping in mind the expected magical limits of a full-BAB class - might work well if they ever decide to remake this class.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: Astra (New Occult Class)
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