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The Gamemaster's Worldbuilding Journal
by Dark N. K. W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2016 17:41:04

This is a very impressive product. The PDF options, which is what I bought for now, are great for documenting your world in the appropriate level of detail. I prefer the loose pages the most. They allow me to complete them, collect them into a single pdf (player and DM editions) and potentially upload the master PDF to Lulu to print a copy for each of my players.

The physical book is very impressive. If you are on the fence, invest $5 and get the PDF set, then decide if the print book is for you.

Fat Goblin consistently publishes material that make your games more fun, enriched, and with products like this, more ogranized.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gamemaster's Worldbuilding Journal
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The Gamemaster's Worldbuilding Journal
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2016 09:49:26

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this product for the purpose of this review. I did not receive any of the physical versions.

All right, let's dive right into this, shall we? This product is Fat Goblin Games' worldbuilding set, most valuable for Game Masters and anyone else who wants to create their own place for adventures. As a secondary function, it's also good for novelists, scriptwriters, and other people who need to create a fictional land for any reason.

Now, this product contains several files. The first file I opened was the "Form Fill" version, which is basically a shorter version of the main content that can be edited on your computer. (You'll probably want to create a duplicate of the file first, of course.) This is essentially a 57-page notebook that you can fill out and reference as-needed, even going as far as to print it out and reference it at a table or give to your players so they can know more about the world. A do-it-yourself campaign setting book, as it were. The content covers everything from how many hours in a day to seasonal festivals, world history, deities, major geographical features, and more. Basically, it's all of the nitty-gritty details that help bring a world to life.

There's also a blank, non-fillable version if you want to print it out and then write details in.

The other main file is... big. It's an 840-page(!) tome, and so massive as a journal that it actually has its own table of contents. It's broken down into ten chapters. The first is an overview of the world, and is followed by eight blank copies of regions and kingdoms (comprising the huge bulk of the content) before wrapping up with a make-your-own-appendix section, allowing for things like custom maps and random encounter tables. I repeat - this is basically a blank campaign setting book, and you are totally expected to write things into it. The sheer bulk of this is why the non-PDF versions are so expensive - I have other RPG books of comparable size to the physical version of this, and seriously, it's probably going to shake any table you drop it on.

Did you think we were done? Nope! There's one more part to all of this file. In addition to all of the above, the digital version includes single sheets (which are fillable on the computer) for when you only want to discuss certain things. For example, maybe you want to print and bind a journal for your players but take out things like legendary items, adventures and plots, and random encounter tables. These help with that, and they're a very nice touch.

Now, clearly, this product isn't for everyone. Worldbuilding is one of the most challenging parts of creativity, and people have different preferences for how they do it. This is a version for people who like writing things down - or at least typing things into forms and printing it off. Now, I'm going to be frank with you - you probably shouldn't get any of the versions that don't include the PDFs. At the moment, it's a $2 difference (this may or may not change - I don't control the pricing!), and having extra copies of things you can print out is well worth the cost. Even if you don't think you'll need it, it's good as a backup.

For those who are looking to dip their toes into worldbuilding, the digital version of this is an outstanding value. You're getting literally over a thousand pages in PDF form, although in practice, you're probably going to focus on the form-fillable versions so you can write out your ideas, delete them, write them out again, edit them, and come back to totally change them again at a later point when you have a flash of inspiration. It's also a good way to make sure your ideas will actually fit if you ever decide to get the full tome and write them in.

Ultimately, I feel this product is very solid at what it sets out to do, and it's particularly good for GMs who want to pass out information to players or have a hefty sheaf of notes for themselves. It's not the method I personally use - I prefer Realm Works - but I recognize a useful product when I see it. If you want to have stuff printed at your table, this is a good way of doing it. I'm giving it 5 stars because I feel like it does exactly what it sets out to do, but this is fundamentally a creative aid - it does some of the work for you by separating things into sections and encouraging you to think about them, but ultimately, you'll have to invest the time in filling things out if you want to get the full value from this product. Of course, if you're like me and you enjoy worldbuilding, a lot of that time is going to be fun. Basically, it's what you make of it, and you should know that going in.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Last Rites
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:16:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Knowledge Check-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After an introduction to what we'll find within these pages for both players and GMs alike, the first chapter of this book deals with the particulars of death itself: From pallor mortis to algor mortis to post-mortem spasms, this section provides neat information that will prove to be useful, in particular when conducting in-game autopsies and first glimpse assessments, with sensible tie-ins to the art of necromancy featuring among them to account for the dimension of the fantastic.

Similarly, different components pertaining the rites of passing, for both living and dead, are covered - viewing and public display, oratories on the deceased person's life, music and wakes, colors and superstitions - there is a lot to take into account when design such an event for a culture in your games. Similarly, from anointing the dead to transportation of the deceased, the pdf sports a handy list to contemplate. Beyond a plot hook focused on the funeral of a glorious queen, the pdf also mentions magical funeral rites - from the minor to the spectacular and, obviously, taking necromancy into account, this similarly is a solid list to consult. helping the spirit of a deceased wizard complete his own proper farewells is an intriguing adventure hook presented in this context.

Of course, the internment of the body is similarly something to consider and thus also gets a decent coverage...as are potential problems: The fear of being buried alive, cremation (and the fact that non-magical cremation will leave the bones probably behind...), mummification, embalming...a little section on mummy oddities, notes on exposure and burials at sea as well as cannibalism are provided. I particularly liked that the pdf calls out cannibalism as not necessarily the evil act popular fiction depicts it, though that trope is noted as well. Thanatology (scholars of death) and the theme of necromancy are similarly discussed, as are the most common beliefs pertaining life after death. And yes, the pdf also talks about the fact that, in most settings, people may actually know what comes after the big D. So yeah, this would basically be the massive collection of contemplations the pdf lists - and while many may elicit an "of course", having them listed as is proves to be rather helpful. The constant and numerous adventure hooks similarly tend to be rather creative.

So, next up would be the new class options, which begins with the Grave Warden archetype for the slayer class. Instead of a talent at second level, the archetype gains the option to Quick Draw holy water and pour it as a swift action on a held weapon. Until the end of the next turn, the next attack with the weapon will also deal direct hit holy water damage. 7th level nets death ward at full CL, but the application costs 4 flasks and takes 1 minute to perform. All in all, I like the idea of this archetype. It's execution is pretty neat as well. The second archetype herein would be the thanatologist alchemist, who replaces bomb with a sneak attack progression. 2nd level adds gentle repose as a 1st level extract and allows the thanatologist to add deathwatch as a first level extract formula when he learns it. 7th level adds blood biography as a 2nd level extract and 9th level blade of bright victory/dark triumph - though that one fails to specify its extract level, I assume the default 3rd. Again, a solid, if not too outré archetype with a minor hiccup.

The book also has new spells, 2 to be more precise: Memento Mori is a level one spell that lets all creatures who see you lose their next standard action (or ALL actions on a natural one). It doesn't matter that successfully saving versus this spell makes you immune against it for 24 hours, this is a horribly broken spell and needs to die...or moved significantly up in levels. The second spell, grave binding, restricts an undead creature to its lair for a number of days...and has a mythic version that makes it permanent. Both spells, though, suffer from a complete lack of bolding and from the casting time being incorrect, both stating "1 action."

Beyond these two somewhat problematic spells, the pdf also contains 3 nonmagical items, the first of which would be curse tablets, which may or may not have any effects. Ghost money, as favored in e.g. China, similarly is provided and we get rules for bells to counteract being buried alive by accident. A total of 4 magical items similarly are included: Coins of Repose prevent the raising of creatures as undead (or delay it), while preserving coffins, you guessed it, preserve the body of the deceased. Shroud of disintegration can turn bodies wrapped in them to dust on command and sepulchral staves are basically the deluxe, magical version of the accidental inhumation bell. The magic items suffer from a similar formatting glitch regarding their price, slot, etc.-part, though at last spells used in construction are italicized.

The final pages of this pdf are devoted to the ossuary of St. Len, a fluff-only brief on a location you can drop into your game, with an accompanying level 5 monk as supplemental NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are still generally good, though formatting has some serious glitches, as mentioned above. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf sports several nice stock/public-domain artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, one per chapter.

Richard D. Bennett and Jason Wallace's installment on last rites is interesting in that it can be seen as a good checklist when designing last rites and the burial customs of a given culture. The archetypes are okay, if a bit on the unspectacular side and the items generally make sense. The magic items are neat as well...but their formatting glitches are annoying. The spells, oddly stick out as extremely powerful, particularly in combination with the otherwise rather conservative design.

How to rate this, then? Well, here things become problematic for me: On the one side, I consider the check-list aspect and the items etc. useful and nice to have; on the other side, though, I kinda wished this pdf had a bit more in the uncommon-section...pertaining e.g. mummification by magical weather (hey, it works with regular weather!) or similar ideas. Additionally, the glitches and issues with components of the crunch do drag this down a bit. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Last Rites
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The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:10:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The freshman offering of Dark Naga Adventures clocks in at a classic 32 pages, with one page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving 30 pages of content - and no, this does not include the front and back cover, since this book very much does not only hearken back to the classic era in tone - it is saddle-stitched and has a detachable color cover that sports maps on the inside - of course in the classic blue/white!

This module was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. The review is based on this print copy of the kickstarter premium print edition.

Okay, before we dive into the nit and grit of this book's actual plot, let's talk a bit about the dual-system format of it, shall we? The module itself does feature the OSR stats in the respective entries and the module does not assuming an additive AC - i.e., you'll see THAC0s and the like. As for combat purposes, the final 3 pages feature the statblocks for OSR and 5e as well as the 2 magic items and special effects introduced herein. One of the magic items is basically a plot-device evil grimoire for the GM to utilize as she sees fit; the second would be a mace+2 that mentions disadvantage, but at the same time lacks the scarcity-entry of 5e's magic item statblocks...as well as whether it requires attunement or not. In the OSR-version, it is but a single line in the wielder's statblock that casts blindness on each hit.

Hiccups like this, unfortunately, do extend to the builds provided for the 5e stats, with e.g. the town drunk noting "STR", but no score. Similarly, if you expect from the 5e stats more than the basics, like unique abilities or straight class progressions, you won't necessarily find that - what's here suffices to run the module, but nothing beyond that. The statblocks also have glitches like a magic bonus from aforementioned mace not featured in atk. So, if you do have the luxury of choosing with which system to play the module, I'd suggest OSR over 5e for this one...though, at least for the weapon, you should probably at least read the 5e-section. The adversaries in the module tend to have an ancient ability called "linking" - in 5e, this allows a character to use their reaction to give an ally they can see +2 to atk, spell DCs and saves...which can be extremely brutal when played smart by the GM. As a nitpick, reactions usually require a specific trigger. In OSR, they can grant +2 attack, defense and a 2 point bonus to saves "and all party saving throws have a 2 point penalty" - at least in the OSR-systems I'm familiar with, I'm not aware of party saving throws. I assume that should refer to the saves of PCs targeted by the linked creatures.

In short: On a formal rules-language level, this is not the most precise of books. That being said, this adventure does have its merits and plays significantly better than it reads. Let me elaborate: For one, the cartography of three villages provided by none other than Alyssa Faden is excellent and player-friendly for these components; similarly, the regional map of the Boldon region in which this module takes place is nice as well. The region as such is lavishly detailed - it can easily be plugged into just about every fantasy gaming world and the relative lack of elves etc. means that the module works pretty well even in human-centric settings. 4 settlements (Boldon, Ponto, Maria, Sumer), all with maps, will be visited by the PCs and the module actually takes heed of consequences...

...and this is pretty much as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still here? Great! It starts, as often, with a tavern and a tale - on a full page, the local drunk and erstwhile productive member of the community, Fredu, has a tale to tell for sufficient alcohol - a tale of a temple forgotten from a bygone age, when evil reigned. The tale itself is a massive, 1-page read-aloud text in a module that otherwise requires the improvisation of the like. The drunkard, plagued by visions and blackouts, has stumbled upon a place dedicated to none other than Hastur and ever since, he has tried to quench the nightmares...saving him from certain death at the bottom of a glass is but one potential action the PCs may take. However, he also mentions having told more people about it - a retired wizard, for example...and then there is that fletcher, who is fashioning a map.

Beyond the tale, the module is very much a free-form sandbox, as the PCs follow the leads of Fredu's tale and try to find the hidden complex...which isn't that hidden, after all: The servants of Hastur have taken residence and the timer ticks: The dread statue contained within is fed continues sacrifices and its cultist-enhancing aura extends further and further. On an organization note, the aura's effects should have been noted in the overarcing chapter and depiction of its progression, not only in the room where it actually stands...considering the SERIOUS power it conveys to the cultists. That is a nitpick, though - there are a lot of things I absolutely adored in this module: For one, the old-school design-aesthetic. In an age where practically every puzzle and obstacle can be "rolled away", notes on how PCs have to be extremely lucky, regardless of level or doors that require you to find their combination due to the gazillion possible combinations feel very much refreshing.

Similarly, a highlight of the module, as strange as it sounds, may well be the legwork - PCs can be heroes and save old apothecaries from angry peasants, duke it out with loud-mouthed cultists and end on the wrong side of the law - whether due to their own actions or due to corrupt officers standing in their way, the module manages to evoke a sense of consistency and a feeling of being alive that you only rarely see. Similarly, the fact that there are A LOT of beautiful b/w-artworks, all with the same style (AND quality!) as the cover, lends a sense of consistency and continuity to the proceedings and makes for great hand-outs for the players to enjoy.

The sandboxy section here is pretty "realistic" in that it manages to convey exceedingly well and illusion of a group of mercenaries planning an excursion to a forgotten temple, while dark forces stir and try to stop them. Similarly detailed, notes on air quality, illumination and the like can be found for the complex itself. The intriguing component about this temple itself would once again not necessarily be the set-up - that's as classic as it gets; it's the focus on cultists and a dynamic environment, with entries on what cultists are doing when featuring in the respective rooms helping to keep things flowing. Regarding terrains and traps, this module is a bit on the weak side in this section, though. Ultimately, the temple is a pretty straightforward attack on the hide-out of a well-organized cult...and it is extremely deadly. Not kidding, if the PCs are dumb, they will die HORRIBLY in this complex. On a nitpick: The unique demons featured in the book could have used a detailed description - as provided, they remain a bit opaque. The cultists receive significant benefits here, particularly within the sphere of influence of their idol, and should not be underestimated - saves at disadvantage, cultist attacks at advantage. And no, this does not have an OSR-equivalent; familiarity with this component of 5e- terminology is assumed for that aspect of the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-level, it does have a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard. As mentioned above, both the copious number of artworks by Rick Hershey and the great cartography render this module rather beautiful and contribute a lot to its atmosphere. The print copy I have is certainly a module I am glad to have. I can't comment on the electronic version.

Kevin Watson's first part of the "Haunting of Hastur"-series is a module that is honestly significantly better than I expected it to be. You see, the set-up of the module isn't the most evocative and I tend to be a bit weary of dual-system books. That being said, whatever system you end up using, you won't have paid for a lot of content you won't use; the emphasis of this book is pretty much on the roleplaying aspect and the expert-level atmosphere this one manages to evoke. Were it just for the atmosphere, this undoubtedly would score higher, but the fact is that the dual-system approach doesn't always work too well in the book; OSR gaming seems to be the default assumption and then, suddenly, 5e-terminology seems to be featured in the default assumptions. It is my honest belief that the module would have fared better with one carefully crafted OSR-version and one for 5e, instead of this blending, but that may just be me. If you do not mind this, however, you pretty much get a module where you can mix and mash the two.

Sooo...do I recommend this? It ultimately depends. If you're looking for a challenging, atmospheric module with an old-school aesthetic in design and presentation, then yes, this may be a nice addition to your library. If you expect more new school handholding, preset DCs for actions and a bit more guidance, then you may end up disappointed. Similarly, this module should best be run by experienced GMs, since there is, beyond the beginning, no read-aloud text: You need to improvise that/know what's where and while e.g. conversations with NPCs provide an astounding depth of guidance via bullet-points and consequences of PC-actions, there is still quite a bit left up to the GM. How to rate this, then? Well, here things get a bit tough for me: You see, I really liked this module, but it does show a bunch of the freshman offering-hiccups that can tank the game for less experienced GMs.

In the end, for OSR, I consider this to be a 4 star module; for 5e, I'd rather consider this 3 stars, since the system's skills, proficiencies and similar components could have used more direct consequences within the module. Since this is a freshman offering, this gets the benefit of the doubt and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5th Edition Fantasy- OSR)
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Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/26/2016 09:32:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second Player's Guide to the disturbing regions of the Shadows over Vathak setting clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After an excerpt from the journal of Yarick Eastermann - which, as another, handout-style piece of parchment elucidates, is not in as happy a state as he should be. After a brief introduction for players, we get to know Ina'oth - situated at the southwestern corner of the continent, is protected by the Black Sky mountains...isolated, one could say. Before madness came upon the Bhriota, they settled, breeding with the romni stock - and, in fact, Ina'oth may almost seem like a paradise, compared to other regions of Vathak. The land has seen its fair share of death, though, and as the vindari enacted the genocidal "great cleansing" in the name of their One True God, the land took a breath; of particularly foul miasma, for the Plague of Shadows eliminated 2/3rds of the population, leaving plague villages and ghost towns behind, only to abate 13 years ago...though its specter remains, as bhriota once again rally and quarantine and xenophobia remain...after all, every stranger could bring a new strain of the horrific pestilence that almost ended these lands...

The pdf goes on to pose questions that help players with the character creation in the context of Vathak, while also explaining the mindset regarding death and disease in general. The pdf then goes on to explain the details of places of interest - the settlements of Ina'oth, for example - with notes on approximate population, but without SPOILERS. After all, Auld's efficient death squads that hunt the diseased are a known fact there...Beyond these flecks of fragile civilization, the majestic landscape and its most commonly known legends are detailed next - from aforementioned mountains to the ruins that remain of Redfort. A total of 11 complex whispers and rumors you may have heard can also be found herein -and whether as red herrings, background knowledge or material for the GM to develop, they are great.

A total of 15 traits, correctly associated with their respective trait-subtypes (you'd be surprised how many files get them wrong...) can be found in the book...and they are awesome. Beyond the usual minor bonuses (with correct type!), always with some neat prose, they also have some very unique ones: 1/week acting in a surprise round as though you weren't surprised,, since the spirits warned you? That may well be the difference between life and death, with the restriction helping to balance it and damn cool fluff as well. Better healing capacities for devotees of the One True God, lingering madness that increases the DC of your mind-affecting spells (but at what price in the future??), being the friend of a priest...the traits are flavorful, unique and actually for once do their originally intended job: Facilitate roleplaying from the get-go.

The book also features a total of 6 feats: One renders you immune to exactly one disease (more important in a horror context...at least if the GM doesn't suck), temporarily granting bonuses to fort-saves to those affected by your channel energy, better social skills with the undead and a chance to live longer when reduced to negative hit points - all fitting, power-wise okay and flavorful as choices. The pdf also sports two metamagic feats: One allows you to add fear-based effects to spells and the other allows the undead you create to spread plagues - both are precisely crafted and solid, though, in an odd and purely aesthetic glitch, the second half of the latter feat seems to have slightly bolder letters - not fully bolded, though.

Now lineage feats have pretty much been one of the coolest things to come out of the new SoV-books from a mechanical point of view. Well, guess what? We get a new lineage, namely spirit. In case you didn't know: These basically grant you the wonderful roleplaying gold (and damn cool character option) of having a bloodline of power...which also comes with a curse. When you embrace your lineage via these feats, your power increases...but you also pay a price. The spirit lineage here can be likened a bit to the ghost-haunted Godefroy of Ravenloft, with a stronger emphasis on becoming more ghost-like (including, at the end, incorporeal stints). Two thumbs up - great for the horror context!4 types of cool, mechanically viable incenses can also be found in this book...and yes, they are very cool: There is, for example, one that makes it much easier for the consumer to perceive invisible creatures...

The magic items introduced in the book feature a flair of talismans and resound with lesser folkloristic traditions and lore - necklaces from corpse hair supposedly keep the living dead at bay; consuming ghoul teeth may delay the frequency of ghoul fever, granting you precious time; murderer's hands can continue to draw blood even after the demise of the killer (add bleed damage to attacks a limited number of times per day) and skin masks, a staple not only since Skinsaw murders, help you navigate the living dead...and animate them. Candles containing the toe and nail clippings of a hanged thief can help you outline secret doors and valuables...the items breathe a sense of the occult, of the twisted and make for perfect additions to horror and dark fantasy games. Two weapon special properties, maddening and penetrating are both aptly priced at +2 and welcome addition to the arsenal of PCs.

A total of 7 spells are next - with spectral hands attempting to drag targets to hell, the level 9 druid forest fire, the One True God's Hoy Word (perhaps not perfectly named) causing sinners to bleed from their orifices, Fortitude-enhancers, permanent aging (appropriate for a horror game!) and snakes of water, the visuals of the spells are great and their position within the spell-levels well chosen. No complaints whatsoever. The pdf also provides the Ancestral Armaments incantation, a ritual that binds bloodthirsty spirits into spectral weapons that guard you or attack other creatures...but, as always, failure to perform the ritual properly comes at a price...

The pdf also sports a new archetype, the Hellfire Evangelist, who only gets one domain, but may also choose Fire. As a full-round action, these preachers may use channel energy to bolster their silver tongues, converting the unbelievers. The rules for this signature abilities for this roleplaying heavy archetype are rock solid and it can easily be combined with other archetypes. Two thumbs up!

The pdf has one final, meaty section: The Plague Mage PrC. The PrC needs to be able to cast 3rd level arcane spells, is pretty easy to qualify for, gets d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-progression (interesting choice!) and full spellcasting progression, but only 2 + Int-mod skills per level. At 1st level, these beings can sacrifice spell slots of 3rd level or higher to spontaneously convert the spell into remove disease and they may prepare that spell without a spell book...however, here's the catch: The disease is cured as usual...and transferred to the plague mage. If he makes his save, the disease is stored within him and can be transferred to victims with a mere touch, ignoring onset time. 2nd and 7th level increase the DCs of such diseases (and spells et al. dealing in them) by +2/+4, respectively. Starting at 3rd level, the plague mage may lace carried diseases into his ranged touch spells. At 8th level, plague mages may expend spells to deal physical attribute damage to foes a ta mere touch. Finally, as a capstone, the plague mage may lace diseases into cone- and radius AOE-spells. Both PrC and archetype come with roleplaying tips.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed not a single relevant hiccup in either formal or rules-language. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' full-color two-column standard and the pdf features a lot of stunning artworks I haven't seen before. This is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

John Bennett's Player's Guide to Ina'oth is basically the perfect horror gaming player's guide; the book offers flavorful options that marry a crunch functionality with a LOT of roleplaying potential. The focus here is not to engage in the min-max-mathfinder game; it's to tell stories of unique and captivating characters in a rather disturbing land. This is a book for the roleplayers and horror-aficionados. Crunch is precise and well-priced for horror games and the quality of the prose is excellent. Beyond that, the book manages to paint a vivid picture of the region without spoiling crucial truths t the players - not even between its lines. Even more so than the colonies, this one is simply superbly written, fun and truly evocative.

The last time I have read a regional sourcebook I enjoyed reading this much was a long time ago. When even paltry little traits offer cool options and you can practically see the modules coming, the creativity blazing forth...well, then you certainly realize that you stumbled over something awesome. This book, in short, is absolutely excellent, evocative and inspiring. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any inkling of doubt or hesitation. Fans of horror and dark fantasy should consider this a must-have addition to their library. (Yes, my fellow Ravenloft-fans - that includes you; this is the best regional sourcebook for the genre I have read since the end of the Doomsday gazetteers.) Oh, and if you want a module that thematically fits with the more savage and less sophisticated components of Ina'oth - may I suggest adapting TPK Games' "The Reaping Stone"? It hits the right notes and is sufficiently brutal...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Ina'oth - Player's Guide
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Vathak Terrors: Horrors of Halsburg
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2016 08:03:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Shadows over Vathak clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (which looks a bit sad with only 4 lines - probably would have fitted on the editorial-page), 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's dive in!

After a brief introduction to the matter at hand, namely monsters: We begin with the CR 1 Poxivum, which has a rather cool description: The tiny plant looks like a grotesque cross between a big onion and a human heart, scurrying around on artery-like appendages. The powerful plant seeks to attack itself to a victim, being surprisingly powerful for its size, an starts feeding off the target's Constitution, gaining regeneration while sated. Hard to kill, these creatures nauseate their victims...but on the plus-side, they are susceptible to positive energy and their stench actually repels vampires, so there's that. On a nitpicky note, one of the abilities refers to "Dex bonus" instead of Dexterity modifier, but that's basically a cosmetic complaint. On the plus-side, a disturbing artwork-montage is provided for the critter - think "heart with spider legs sticking out". The critter is cool in that it can go both ways - apocalyptic means of survival, threat or calculated risk...pretty cool. And I can see nobles and tyrants forcing their slaves and subordinates to stagger around with these parasites attached...grim and creepy!

The Vaquire is a particularly nasty water-undead that can form vortices under water, energy drain foes...and drown them. If it succeeds at the latter, it also possesses the target. OUCH! The vampire skull/water artwork provided here is also rather nice. Compared to the other two creatures, this one feels significantly less inspired; it's not bad, mind you...but it's also not too awe-inspiring. A somewhat amorphous possessing undead; with a water theme. Not as common as athe air-theme...but yeah.

The final creature would be the CR 13 nightsun, a Huge orb of grey plasma that emits a desecrating light and infuses the area with the minor negative-dominant planar trait (cool idea!) - instead of being healed by its own aura, it gains fast healing depending upon the number of undead it shines upon. Oh, and it does get channel negative energy, just fyi. At the same time, the nightsun can actually help undead weakened by the sun...though at a price: Undead leaving its light suffer Charisma damage - an idea for a kind of undead sun cult? A deadlight drug? Pretty damn cool. The sun-themed SPs of the critter are modified and the creature even modifies the Strength damage of unholy aura, instead inflicting blindness. However, at the same time, these lethal aberrations are susceptible to water. Okay, this one is a pure winner. It works well as a boss, as a story-monster...or simple as something to dread.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and a rules-level - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games' beautiful two-column full-color standard for Vathak-supplements and the pdf comes actually with bookmarks, in spite of its brevity - kudos! The artworks in full color deserve special mention - with an almost photography-like style, they feel...pretty real. rather impressive for a pdf of this low price point!

Christopher Wasko's Horrors of Halsburg were a pretty positive surprise to me - Fat Goblin Games, I and monster books don't have the best of track records, but this one pretty much delivers. While I have not completely picked apart all three statblocks, the functional basics were correct where I picked the critters apart - kudos! Apart from the one hiccup in an aesthetic gripe, I found no significant problems here. More importantly, though, would be that 2 out of 3 of the creatures herein are killer. 2 out of 3 ain't bad indeed and for the low and more than fair asking price, that quote is pretty good. In the end, I will hence rate this one 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo - a cool supplement with some unique, horrific beasts.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak Terrors: Horrors of Halsburg
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vs. Ghosts
by Faggianelli L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2016 19:22:45

Un ouvrage de l'équipe de Fat Gobelin Games que j'ai commandé pour ma boutique, vivement l'essayer et le faire découvrir à mes joueurs qui sont fan de scénario mettant en scène des équipes de "ghost hunter". Voici mon avis préliminaire qui risque d'évoluer après ma lecture finale de l'ouvrage. Je conseille vivement !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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vs. Ghosts
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/13/2016 09:17:25

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

vs. Ghosts is a full-color 64 page PDF - with 1 page each for a cover, the credits, the table of contents, a request for reader feedback (Give it if you get this product! It really does help them improve future releases!), and the back page, leaving about 59 pages of content. The product itself is based on the vsM Engine trademarked by Phillip Reed, and has been released under the Open Game License (although certain elements of material - art, characters, etc. remain Product Identity - so, basically, the usual).

In a nutshell, the idea behind vs. Ghosts is "Ghostbusters: The Roleplaying Game". This should not be a surprise to anyone, given the theme. XD If I had to guess, it's because of the redone version of the movie coming out - but as explained early on, the point of this product is to suit up and go confront ghosts anywhere they're going to show up. It recommends at least two players, plus a Ghostmaster, in order to properly run the game - plus paper, pencils, and a deck of cards.

After that little bit, we get into the section on the characters. We're asked to come up with a name, a bio (a few sentences will do, and this helps decide what you can do in the game), your attributes (Offense, Defense, Mental, Physical, and Investigation), your Gimmicks (both good and bad), your Health, and finally any Traits (basically, personality quirks and the like that won't have an effect on the game). The system is fairly straightforward, and characters are simply given an array of points for their attributes (no dice-rolling) and a list of options for the Gimmicks. Basically, it's pretty hard to break the character creation system, which may come as a relief to GMs who worry about power playing.

From there, the game moves on to explain the core mechanic of the game - your deck of playing cards. When players perform an action, they get to draw a number of cards matching their attribute score, comparing the highest card drawn to the number they're trying to beat. Being better in a given area specifically gives you more chances to overcome a problem, so it'll probably help if the party diversifies their focus. Face cards increase in number (from 11-14), with Aces normally high but dropping down to 1 for dealing damage (this is a good thing in the game).

vs. Ghosts suggests limiting challenges of their actions to things that could determine the success or failure of the game (i.e. can they actually jump between buildings to catch a fleeing ghost?), with anything less important assumed to succeed. Characters can work together (which provides an extra card drawn for each player assisting) or oppose each other (highest attribute wins). The game provides target values for each challenge - this is left to the Ghostmaster's discretion, but an Average challenge has a target value of 6, while a Very Hard challenge requires drawing a King. (Remember, players could draw six or more cards per-challenge, so their odds of success can actually be pretty good.)

Here, I should add a note - in most games, the technique of card counting (trying to figure out what's left in the deck and what the likelihood of drawing something is) happens to be illegal. However, it's specifically allowed here, and players are encouraged to try and keep track of the odds of their success. It's also possible to play this game with dice (a d12 and a d4), but it really will go better if you can use playing cards.

At this point, the game dives into the combat system, and it will be easy to learn if you've ever played an RPG before. Each turn, characters can move, attack, and do miscellaneous actions (talking, drawing weapons, etc.), taking place on six-foot squares or hexes. Melee attacks, unsurprisingly, are fairly easy to land, while ranged attacks use the higher of the target's defense or a number based on their distance. 24 feet is about the maximum for most normal ranged attacks, but the GM is permitted to double, triple, or even quadruple the effective range of a weapon when it would be sensible to do so (like using a sniper rifle).

Taking damage does affect a character's performance - at half their health, they take a penalty to all attributes, and at one hit point, they take another penalty. Zero HP means you're dead (or, optionally, unconscious). Characters can regain health by getting a full 10 hours of uninterrupted rest, and if a physician tends to them, drawing a Heart card heals an additional point.

Next, the game explains the equipment. Players can buy a maximum of four pieces of equipment each session. Some equipment is free and they can just take it, but other equipment has to be drawn for - if a player fails, they can't get any more fancy equipment at all, but they should have at least four pieces with a cost of 0. Equipement is mostly just for flavor and fluff, and includes things like clothing, living space, work space, and transportation. The most important equipment is probably your weapons - well, that and ghost-hunting gear, anyway. Drawing particularly well can lead to things like mystical tomes of knowledge or special weapons, but it's more likely their gear will be fairly mundane. (Don't neglect having stuff that can actually hurt ghosts, though... seriously, that's important.)

At this point, we're only about halfway through the PDF - fortunately, the rest is easier to summarize. After talking about the equipment, the game offers advice for the Ghostmaster on running games, rewarding players, creating important NPCs, and so on. A few examples are given to make this easier to understand. The game also explains how to create the ghosts that the players will be hunting (which is, of course, a little more challenging) - there's an entire separate section of the book, with a different art style and everything, dedicated to the ghosts and offering samples the GM can use in their first few games. Ghosts are divided into 7 divisions, which loosely correlate to their level of power and the threat they can pose, and have various spooky powers like possession, telekinesis, or coming back over and over again.

The game wraps up with about two and a half pages of adventure hooks that you can use to start planning out a game. You will need to do at least a little planning and preparation in order to make your game succeed, although experienced GMs will be able to wing a lot of what happens. Since the amount of preparation needed will vary by group, I have no universal advice here - although you may want to look into Realm Works if you enjoy adding a lot of detail.

Anyway, as this game was based on another system, it looks quite solid to me. Play seems like it will go fairly quickly once everyone knows the rules, and people are encouraged to have fun and work together in order to succeed. I did notice a few typos throughout the document (fortunately, nothing serious or confusing), but overall, I think this looks like a pretty good game for a family or group of friends that wants to go hunt ghosts. I'd give it a 4.5/5 overall, rounded upwards.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Codes & Cyphers
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/02/2016 11:53:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Fat Goblin Games' Knowledge Check-series clocks in at a massive 34 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief section of introductory prose, we delve right into the subject matter: The age-old problem of how to convey a message to a target without any other being realizing it or being capable of understanding it. In order to understand the content herein, we first need to define a couple of basic cryptology terms; the book differentiates between the following: A code is a system that uses letters and symbols as stand-ins for other concepts- thus, for example, "Ash" may be a stand-in for lord. Real life medieval arcane texts tend to be written in such analogues, often drawing upon mythology, most famously likening e.g. Jesus Christ with the unicorn or pelican.

Cyphers would be more delicate, using symbols, numbers or other letters as stand-ins for certain numbers or symbols - e.g. the word "Reviewer", when run through a cypher I used in my games, looks like this: "Zalxacaz". The original, unchanged text is defined as "plain text," the process used is known as "encryption" and getting to the real message is known as "decryption." Cryptography is the study of making such codes; cryptanalysis is the study of how to break encrypted texts and cryptology is the hyperonym, encompassing both disciplines.

We begin this supplement with a brief history of the nature of cryptology in real life; from Mesopotamia to ancient Egypt, we get a brief history of codes and cyphers within our history, spiced up with some adventure hooks and already pointing towards potential problems. Interesting, btw. - any form of literacy, to a certain extent, from the FuÞark to Latin or more arcane scripts, language and the written word have, for a long time, been used to convey meaning only to the initiated. Two sample, lesser known such scripts are highlighted as exemplary ones - Ogham and Enochian, which are pretty nice...and you can find fonts with a brief internet search, should you care to write texts in them.

Beyond that, we are introduced to the difference between encoding the message to be encrypted (steganography) and the means to encrypt the meaning of it, which is generally known as encryption. Beyond the historical means, the obvious means of concealing messages via shrink item is mentioned. Short texts can be easily concealed with transposition, with letters arranged to be read as a spiral as a sample. Depending on the size of the text, you can make pretty awesome hand-outs via this one - I used this once as a means of making a vortex-like message, concealed in the insane scribbling of an asylum inmate. The Spartan scrytale is mentioned as a similarly simple means of employing this type of concealing messages. The most common means of generating a hidden code employed by roleplaying games would be the substitution, where letters are listed and either inversed regarding their position in the alphabet (with c corresponding to x, for example) or similar changes. While frequency analysis can crack such codes, it nonetheless should provide an easy means for PCs to potentially decipher. The Vigenere Cypher would be even more famous and thus, the book also covers this one - and correctly identifies Ultimate Equipment's cypher book's source, misnamed though it may be, as an item that probably was supposed to confer to the variation of the substitution cypher known as Bablington Plot. The, at this point, pretty well-known One Time Code, a pretty much randomly determined number-based code. From the alchemical alphabet to the witch's alphabet (again -one google away from getting the fonts), we get two more, unique secret writing styles.

The second chapter sports secret rules and basically goes through a few of the more common classes (excluding those introduced in the ACG and OA), to then provide a new archetype, Courier Rogue, who is particularly adept at Bluffing and Sleight of Hand pertaining secret messages. Courier's Pockets, at 10th level, allows for a container to conceal messages as though it were magical, which is a nice modification. Linguistics as a skill receives a minor expansion in its uses to pertain to encryption/decryption. The pdf also sports a collection of 3 different feats, the first renders formulae less expensive for alchemists due to using the script, while Cypher Magic increases the CL of casting from scrolls. Cypher Script is similarly less expensive and makes spell transcription quicker.

Absolutely awesome: The book sports two new teams for the rules presented in Ultimate Campaign, the cryptologists and the espionage cell, including events that range from double agents to coups and shadow wars -awesome! Both aforementioned scytale and a cypher book for one-time codes can be found among the mundane items and we get three simple codes as samples - keyword substitution codes, keyword substitution and the classic straddling draughtsboard are used as samples to what you can do with properly used cryptography.

The third chapter of the book sports two new magic items and two new spells - with a monocle that allows you to read languages and lenses that scramble texts by passing them through protean souls (!!!), we get some pretty cool, high-concept items herein. The spells arcane cypher and discern encryption are somewhat less flashy by necessity, but they are well-placed regarding their level-range and provide neat options regarding their placement within the spells available. The pdf then concludes with a smattering of sample NPCs - the prismatic chamber, a small organization of code-breakers containing a total of 4 fully stated NPCs, running the gamut from investigators and rogues to a disguised axiomite. The characters generally are nice, though, in a somewhat annoying formatting peculiarity, the statblocks, while using italicization perfectly, don't seem to spot the bolding for some words that usually are standard and help read the statblocks - minor formatting glitches, sure - but glitches nonetheless.

Conclusion:

Editing is top-notch and marks this as a product of the newer direction of Fat Goblin Games, of the age where the company began excelling and publishing with care. Formatting does sport some hiccups on a cosmetic level, but none that really would break the game for you. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard with a mixture of thematically fitting full-color stock art and public domain pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Richard D. Bennett's knowledge check regarding Cyphers and Codes can be deemed an success - the book provides an easy to grasp, concise introduction to codes and cyphers for the uninitiated; if I had had this book 20 years ago, it would have blown me away and greatly enhanced my game. For GMs who already are using codes and cyphers in their game, chances are they'll find some new material herein...unless they have already spent time researching the subject matter on their own.

My personal highlights herein would be actually the additions to the Ultimate Campaign-systems provided in this book, with the rest of the crunch ranging from awesome (items + spells) to okay (archetypes + feats). Personally, I think it would have been quite a coup to get the fonts of the languages cited herein included in the deal, but I get why that wasn't done. What I don't get, though, is the obvious lack of alchemical writing and material based cryptology. Using e.g. silk worms to eat the true letters in a given missive, written with invisible, but edible ink? What about a chemistry-based alchemical subsystem for making diverse arrays of invisible ink or the like? I'm aware that this belongs to the field of steganography, but I still felt that this book could have used a section providing more details here.

In short: For novices, this is a great introduction to the subject matter; it's well-researched and concisely presented. Pros, though, may derive slightly less use from this pdf. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Codes & Cyphers
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Basilisk Goggles & Wishing Wells
by Joseph C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2016 17:33:03

(NB: An even longer version of this review originally appeared at http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2016/06/almost-review-basilisk-goggles-and.html)

Basilisk Goggles and Wishing Wells is a big book full of new magic items: over 570 of them, apparently. It should be compatible with almost any flavour of OSR D&D, largely because it's pretty light on rules: so light on rules, in fact, that it sometimes don't bother to provide any game mechanics at all for the effects which it describes. The reason it's so light on rules is because most of the items it describes barely interact with the rules system at all: the point of them is not to give you mechanical benefits, but to open up new possibilities. They are the kind of items that a character, faced with what Arnold K. calls 'OSR-style challenges', might find themselves describing as they mutter to themselves: 'You know what would really help, here? A __ that would let us _____....'

How about this for an example: gloves that allow you to swim through cloud and fog (although not clear air) as though it was water. I love this magic item. It opens up an obvious benefit (movement in three dimensions), but with an obvious limitation (only if there's loads of water vapour in the area), and consequently with an obvious risk (if you're five hundred feet up when the cloud you're 'swimming' in dissipates, you're going to go splat). This combination thus challenges the players to engineer situations which will allow them to exploit the opportunities it offers to best advantage. Will the gloves let you 'swim' up through the air to get that valuable gem off the cavern roof? Yes, but only if you can figure out a way to fill the cave with fog, first: got any ideas for how to do that? Or switch it round, give them to an enemy, and watch the PCs wrack their brains for ways to get rid of all that mist while their foe is swimming around in mid-air: temperature alterations? Giant fans? At every point, the limitations places on the item open up opportunities for ingenious and intelligent play which would simply not exist if you'd just handed out a ring of flying instead.

Here's another one: 'shadow dust' which, when sprinkled on a surface, makes the affected object insubstantial to a depth of 10' while in total darkness, but solid again when light falls on it. The description mentions the possibility of using it to trap people inside the ground: put it on the floor, lure people onto it in the dark so that they fall through the now-insubstantial floor, then shine a light on it and leave them entombed within the rock, at least for as long as the light keeps shining. But they don't die in there, they just can't move... so how long can you keep that light on? If you interpret 'surface' more liberally, then the uses multiply further: throw the stuff all over your enemy's armour and weapons, then douse your lanterns and fight them in the dark, leaving them unarmed and unprotected! An item like this turns something which is normally just an assumed background element - the presence or absence of light in each location - into a tactical consideration with new relevance, potentially leading to some tense and/or comical scenes in which the PCs stumble around in pitch darkness, waiting for their enemies to fall afoul of the shadow dust traps they've just laid...

Items like this - and there are a lot of them in here - show Basilisk Goggles at its best. Bracers that let you stretch your arms like Mr Fantastic. An item that lets you catch bolts of lightning with your bare hands and then wield them as crackling, electrical whips. A cloak which brings your shadow to life to run errands for you. A stone which explodes into a huge wave of water when exposed to great heat. What I love about them is that their usefulness depends primarily on the intelligence of your players, which means that they'll feel really pleased with themselves when they come up with some bizarre and ingenious way to put them to work. There's no satisfaction to be gained from working out that your sword +2 is better in a fight than your sword +1, and only slightly more from deducing that the potion of gaseous form is meant to be used as a way of gaining access to the vampire's hidden room, which you can see but not reach through its spy-hole; it's too pre-programmed, too predictable, too much like a 'puzzle' in a CRPG. But just giving players a whole bunch of weird tools to use, and a whole bunch of weird obstacles to overcome, and trusting them to figure out something is one of the things that's truly unique about tabletop RPGs, something that they can do which Warcraft and its ilk really, really can't.

Other 'items' listed here are really encounter ideas. Huge heavy mushrooms wielded as clubs by goblins, which release a cloud of confusion-inducing spores whenever they're used to hit someone; that's an encounter, a way to spice up an otherwise-dull bout of goblin whacking. Iron violets, which look beautiful, but whose petals are as sharp as knives; that's an encounter, too, an obstacle that the PCs need to first identify (hopefully without the loss of too many fingers), and then work out a way to navigate without getting cut into chutney. In both cases, though, there's also a resource to be gained: and there's no reason that the PCs can't take the mushrooms and harvest the knife-flowers for themselves, for use in some suitably devious fashion later on. Honestly, the things that could be done with knife-sharp flower petals hardly bear thinking about.

As is probably obvious, I like Basilisk Goggles a great deal, but it would be misleading for me to suggest that it simply consists of 136 pages of items like this; I've just picked them out because they're my favourites. What it really is is a miscellany, a huge heap of magic item ideas, which gives me the strong impression that very little has been left out; there are items here both strange and obvious, some silly and some sensible, some well-thought-out and some rather less so, some clearly defined and some willfully vague. Take the Amulet of the Turtle God; when used during a rainstorm, it allows the wearer to turn all the resulting mud within 100' into 'monstrous fish and reptiles', whom they are able to command until the rain stops falling, at which point they collapse back into mud. That's a nice idea for a scene... but how many monsters? How big are they? How dangerous? Can you call up alligators? Velociraptors? Godzilla? All this is left to the GM's discretion, based on their 'storytelling needs'; that's fine as far as it goes, but means that this isn't so much a 'magic item' as a suggestion for a scene you might one day like to include in a game. Others are joke items (a coin that grows to huge size when stolen, squashing the thief flat), story ideas (a food moss which grows anywhere, on anything, causing massive population explosions among nearby animals and monsters as they now have an effectively unlimited food supply), or just odd (a spiral which makes you grow to 10,000 times your normal size, which would make the average human about twice the height of Mount Everest and something like four miles across at the shoulders). Some seem very powerful, like the adhesive armour which makes any weapon or monster that hits its wearer stick to it (no save) until the command word is uttered; others seem oddly low-powered, like a broach which lets you grow horns (not magic horns, just regular ones) for three rounds once per hour. Different things appeal to different people, and I'm confident that just about anyone will be able to find some magic item ideas they really like in here somewhere; but it's very likely that you'll need to do a bit of digging first.

Is it worth the $5 asking price? If you're the kind of person who likes having big lists of old-school-style ideas to pick and choose from, and doesn't mind doing a bit of work to fit them into your campaign, then yes, I think so. It's a very bloggy sort of book, the kind of book that you might end up with if someone ran a blog where they posted a magic item idea every day for two years and then published their collected posts; a mixture of the inspired and the random and the clever and the funny and the just plain odd. Sometimes it runs off on weird tangents, like when it details seven different kinds of magic collars you can put on your alchemical homunculi. Some of the items are homages to other media, like with the demonic funnel-shaped hat that's clearly based on the ones in Bosch's 'Cutting the Stone' and 'The Temptation of St Anthony', or the amulet that lets you re-enact Forbidden Planet by calling forth monsters... from the Id! There's a decanter of endless water whose only setting is '11'. There's a Rolling Stone. There's a shiny parasitic insect which protects you from gaze attacks, but only while it's currently eating your face. A game which tried to use all this stuff would be surreal and bizarre and probably borderline unplayable, but I think that almost any game would probably benefit from using some of it. I almost never use other people's magic items in my games - whenever I see a bunch of magic items in a book I immediately start skimming past them to get to the monsters - and even I scribbled down notes on about fifty of these as ideas I might want to use at some point. Personally, as RPG books go, I think ten cents per useable idea is a pretty good rate of exchange!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Basilisk Goggles & Wishing Wells
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8-Bit Adventures - Welcome to the Fungal Kingdom
by jelle M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2016 03:21:36

nice looking, the references are good, the maps are a bit simple but a good idea none the less



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - Welcome to the Fungal Kingdom
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Astonishing Races: Dog-Faced Kobold
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/08/2016 03:52:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Astonishing Races-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving su with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As in the installment on gripplis, we begin this supplement with an extensive amount of fluff that properly sets up the race - and yes, this basic set-up divorces kobolds from the dragon-angle, so if that is what you've been looking for, it's a nice alternative. Takes on alignment, nomenclature etc. are covered.

Racial stat-wise, dog-faced kobolds get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, are Small goblinoids witha base speed of 30 ft. and gain darkvision 60 ft., scent and the swarming ability, meaning that two can occupy the same square. They also get +1 to Stealth and Survival and may use said skills sans penalty while moving 20 ft. Overall, this makes them a pretty solid race on par with core and not a penalized issue like the default 5-RP-kobold. (though playing such a character has its charm!) Age, height and weight tables are included and do not deviate from those of the standard kobolds.

The pdf also includes a significant array of alternate racial traits for your perusal - hatred versus gnomes, Beast Trainer, a 1d3 bite (As a cosmetic complaint: This one's not noting damage type, but gets, and that's more important, primary/secondary classification right!), a rash-inducing skin, better initiative or tripping...some cool customizations here. Similarly, better darkvision at the cost of being automatically dazzled in bright light can be found. And no, I did not list all of those.

"Wait", you'll be asking, "where's the dog-faced aspect coming in?" Well, that would be via the racial heritages. These basically constitute alternate racial feature-packages: Golden Champions get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int and +1 to AC and Ref versus larger foes instead of swarming. Flat-faced kobolds get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int and +2 to select skill as well as Craft (traps) and Stealth as class skills instead of ambusher. Seaborne kobolds get Str and Wis +2, Int -2 and a reduced speed of 20 ft, but +1 Profession (Sailor) and 10 ft. swim speed instead of ambusher. The house kobold, finally, gets Dex and Int +2 and Wis -2 as well as proficiency with snare poles and nets instead of swarming. These packages universally are balanced, solid and I see no issues with them.

The pdf, as the first one, also contains a TON of favored class options: And unlike in most publications, you actually want to read them for more than the mechanical benefits, as they have some nice fluff that grounds the class in the context of the race. The favored class options, just fyi, are VERY extensive and cover the ACG and Occult Adventures classes as well as the classics. Mechanics-wise, there also are some uncommon choices: More channel damage to creatures caught sans Dex-mod, for example. Interesting and fitting. Slightly weird, though: The format is slightly inconsistent: Usually in these Astonishing Races-books, you get the flavor in plain text, the mechanical benefits in italics. The bard lacks the italicization and Shaman and Slayer lack the flavor-text, which is something that should probably have been caught - their absence is apparent at a single glance, the rules-text there, obviously, not italicized. I'm not complaining hard here, mind you - just stating that this inconsistency wasn't necessary.

The pdf also provides racial archetypes, the first of which would be the Guerrilla Leader (Brawler), who gets proficiency with simple weapons and thrown weapon fighter group weapons and light armors. They may use Brawler's Flurry with spears and thrown weapons, but not monk weapons or those from the close group. This ability does NOT grant Quick Draw (erroneously called "Quickdraw" here), which means that, for full functionality, we have a feat tax in the ability. It should be noted that pretty much all follow-up abilities of the archetype build on the concept of swarming, so that racial trait is locked in as well. The unique shtick of the archetype, just fyi, is entering the space of a creature as a quasi-combat maneuver, thus causing both the brawler and the creature to receive the entangled condition. Later, they can drag allies into the same space, which is pretty funny in my mind. This is kinda cool in theory, but in practice less useful, considering the archetype pay for the scaling improvement with maneuver training and the awesome blow abilities. Additionally, it leaves me with the question whether e.g. single-target effects that move one target in the square now move all three or not - since moving through squares occupied by hostiles is problematic. Basically, this is a cool idea, but needs some clarification - as written, it is a can of worms waiting to be opened. Using martial flexibility for teamwork feats is interesting, though.

The second archetype, the trapster rogue, is, you guessed it, a trap specialist - relatively nice: The archetype has a couple of rogue talents with which he can steal portable traps and even add the effects of select rogue talents to traps and add additional triggers. Not bad, but neither too novel - and some sample weights for traps that are carried around would have been useful for the GM.

The pdf also sports a selection of mundane items - from bird netting and feed to territory markers in 2 variants, trapped cages and whistle traps, the selection here is solid.

The pdf also sports 5 racial feats: Expert Trainer allows for the quicker training of animals (and is named like a Paizo feat that does something completely different), False Trail lets you put down, you guessed it, a false trail. Hidden Ambusher is a sniping feat for moving from concealment to concealment, while Swarming Expert and Swarming Sacrifice provide means to exempt kobolds from AoOs of foes and 1/day force a foe to roll twice, take the lower result and hit your ally. The feats range from useful to should have been a feat-use to, in the latter case, should scale regarding daily uses - 1/day reroll when having a kobold share a square with you may be cool...but on its own, it's not worth a feat.

The pdf also sports 4 magic items: Scepters of Subject Summoning allow you to whisper into them to have minions, cohorts or followers hear your message. Pricey, but an item that, due to lack of range limitations, can be very useful...or at least flavorful for the villain. Incense of Creature Location lets you determine the distance and direction of creatures or subtypes. Swarm Collars net animal companions the swarming ability and allow them and their master to be considered flanking when attacking the same foe from the same square. Wild Growth Grit can make difficult terrain...or even impassable terrain; it can also be thrown to ineffectively entangle targets. As a nitpick: Imho there should be a work-intense way of clearing impassable terrain - I can't see overgrowth withstanding a meteor swarm and retaining its impassable nature...then again, at 10 K and with only 10 applications, this is a costly means of delaying pursuers and one mostly appropriate for campaigns with a somewhat fairy tale style bent.

The pdf closes with a massive dressing table of 50 random dog-faced kobold features: From loving the moon and sometimes howling at it to considering oneself to be a miniature worg, hiding from everyone...or worshiping the squirrel lord, this table had me smile, drips with humor and roleplaying potential and ends the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - there are some hiccups among the finer rules-interactions and, as mentioned above, some minor formatting inconsistencies and typos - not much, mind you. But they can be found. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for this series and the pdf comes with bookmarks. Artworks are nice and full color, as we've come to expect from master Hershey's company.

Taylor Hubler's dog-faced kobolds are a nice alternative for the default kobold-PC-race: While generally, one could conceivably blend the two and not lose too much, it's nice to see a 10+ RP variant of the kobold. The alternate racial traits are varied and fun and the subtypes similarly make sense, with none being overpowering -the base race material herein is suitable for even low fantasy campaigns - which is a good thing in my book. As in the first Astonishing Race-pdf I reviewed, I was positively surprised by the favored class options in this book.

A more mixed bag would be the archetypes and feats - both vary in potency a bit and while I like the swarming-trick as such, it also opens up a couple of issues in the math and rules-interactions: Special size modifiers, really big foes, interaction with movement forcing effects...While these instances are rare and the rules that are here are concise, I still consider that component problematic. On a plus-side, the alchemical and mundane items are flavorful and the dressing table at the end is gold.

How to rate this, then? That depends - if you're in it for the feats and archetypes, you probably will be a bit disappointed. Similarly, if you wanted a more thorough emphasis on the dog-aspect or more variety there, you may end up wanting more diverse heritages and/or more "doggy" traits and tricks. This pdf will also not blow you away with crunch innovation...but that isn't its goal in the first place.

If you were looking for a balanced take on the kobold on par with core races and a slightly different, generic, yet sufficiently distinct fluff that still feels "koboldy", then this may well be for you. All in all, I can see purchasers either considering this a 3 star or 4 star-file, depending on what they're looking for and how one weighs components. Since I really can't decide, I will settle on a verdict in the middle - 3.5 stars...and will round up due to my policy of in dubio pro reo. I can see people enjoying this book and considering it good, even though, personally, the crunch didn't blow me away.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Races: Dog-Faced Kobold
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More Feats! Compilation - Volume I
by Elexious C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/07/2016 11:21:02

First of all, a big thanks to Fat Goblin Games for gifting this product.

Abandoned Arts is a publisher that puts out some decent product. Not great but not terrible. But they are consistent in putting out their material that has a lot of crunch per page and not really wasting time on fluff or art, so you get quite the bang for your buck. However I'm not one to start picking up tons of little books, mainly because I don't want players (or myself) to go file hunting for just the right options by digging through a bunch of small titles. When it comes to player options I like my fat books or at least fat pdf that I can print out into a fat book, so the only Abandoned Arts book that I actually use is The Class Acts Compendium. Otherwise the company has drifted into obscurity for being fairly low profile crunch that I can honestly live without. Lately Abandoned Arts has started publishing under Fat Goblin Games, who I didn't really pay attention to until after their Fantastic Technology book, and most of the products I've seen after that book has been miles better than what I had purchased before so I see this as a huge step up for both companies. Here we have More Feats!: Vol 1, which is a compilation of Abandoned Arts More Feats! line.

This pdf is only 38 pages long but true to Abandoned Arts tradition it doesn't waste much space or time. These are a truckton of feats with seven pages being just the feat tables. The document promises another compilation as they put out more More Feats! books with two more compilations showing up sometime this year culminating in over 500 feats.

The feats here cover themes of Agility, Alchemy, Athleticism, Charisma, Courage, Dexterity, Endurance, Fellowship, Fury, Horsemanship, Intellect, Leadership, Marksmanship, Secuction, Speed, Strength, Style, Subterfuge, Wisdom, and Witchcraft.

The downside of wanting a fat book of feats is that I can't talk about every individual feat and how I feel about it so I'll just bring up my general feelings. Another downside is that this product is a bit difficult to judge. The feats inside are totally not equal. Some are pure gold that I want to take and are evocative and useful, granting you something new to do. Some are basically situational trap options that I'll never take. As far as I can tell not even one of them will break your game and they are written clearly enough for me to understand on the first try (Although I noticed a few typos and wonky language like gaining 'a bonus equal to the highest level spell..' not specifying spell level.), so do I judge it for the bad stuff or the great stuff? I guess judge by how much value I get for $9.95 it takes to purchase this product.

From that point you actually get quite a bit of value. I'm noticing some really cool feats for fighters and monks like one that lets you use Str for Initiative and a series of style feats that let you be really dangerous while mobile. There's also some really interesting social feats like distracting a room full of creatures enough to allow observed creatures to make stealth checks. The useless ones are situational but if you known what kind of campaign you're getting into they can be pulled off regularly. I would say that overall the feats are about as good as you'd expect from Paizo's Ultimate books with a large swath being ignored due to the abundance of feats you need for particular builds but the ones with good flavor and great usefulness peeking through, even producing new kinds of builds.

It does tend to mess up a bit less, where a number of the feats aren't bad but make me wish characters got more feats because really they do new things but will get crowded out by hyper-optimized combat focused builds needing feats to be way more aggressive. This is kind of a result of the product not exactly rocking the boat by revolutionizing the game or generating new subsystems or changing power dynamics but at the same time the tendency kind of keeps it playing safe and not messing up by completely bungling what its trying to do and wind up being completely useless or overpowered. Its the kind of thing that you wouldn't seek out with any real enthusiasm except for about a dozen feats and more of something that you're really happy to have when you have it. Its a dose of diversity that doesn't rock the boat that can be a really nice treat for casual games that have a particular kind of game in mind and giving a few new reasons to build in a weird way. From a powergaming grognard point of view there's only a couple of gems to break you from the core rulebook and is about as useful as your average Pathfinder Player Companion. That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it to a powergaming grognard because in context the same price is less than your average Player Companion and the density of the product does lend to it more actual content to sink your teeth into so it actually comes out as being as useful as a really good Player companion so I can deem it as well worth the price.

For the rate of traps per gems I'd have to lower my final score to somewhere between three stars and four, as that just adds more choice paralysis to anyone that has trouble finding feats, but I get more value out of it than others because I run and play a huge range of types of campaigns so my personal feelings lean it more towards a 4 stars out of 5 and call it a day.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
More Feats! Compilation - Volume I
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Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Magical Beers, Tankards, & Other Inebrious Items
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2016 09:23:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This tome detailing the latest in inebriation-themed objects and concoctions clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this tome with basically a rehash of the basic "how to get drunk"-rules from the last tome, though the approach has been streamlined with more precise rules - and yes, the hangover now comes with a proper duration, which renders these rules, overall, more concise. Additionally, the section now sports game-mechanics for a general alcohol addiction as well as three sample addictions for other spirits - though these suffer from a formatting glitch (or unfortunate decision), wherein their headers are white letters on a grey background, rendering the headers a bit hard to read. Beyond that, a sidebox notes Profession (Brewer)'s interaction with the creation of magical ales before diving right into the collection of magical ales the book provides.

And they are, generally, interesting: Acidblood ale, for example, not only grants acid resistance 5 - any bite attack dealing damage to the target also results in the unfortunate attacker being subject to the acidic blood. Altbeer of vareless travel increases overland travel speed, while drinking a brett of softened bones fortifies the imbiber against massive damage and provides a bonus to Escape Artist checks. Beer of Sobriety would be THE drink IRL - drinking it removes one drink from your system. SO AWESOME. Very cool for complex investigations - Blackout Brew: Upon consuming this beer and reaching a certain level of drunkenness, you'll lose all memory of the events transpired. Yep, this can make for a superb narrative tool. Bloodbeer can instill vampiric hunger in you, while a proper Doppelbock can grant you natural AC and DR, but also make you susceptible to fire. and reduce your movement. (Btw.: The reduced movement rate is accurate - give me a couple of Doppelbocks and I'm much slower... ;P) Potentially problematic can be the happoshu of ki recovery, which allows you to regain ki, usually a limited resource - so depending on the amount of ki-based options, that one may make some trouble in your campaign.

Absolutely evocative - imperial stouts of teleporting toasts - you drink these with multiple people, each toasting to a location. The one that got the most toasts is the destination. Similarly cool - a delicious Schwarzbier that allows you to scry on the target of the toast. Once again, we get a gender-reversing beer and there is also a disgusting one with zombie bits in it that nets you undead anatomy I... and a taste for corpses...

This pdf also contains a whole smörgåsbord of magical drinking containers - from cups that help you with social interactions to a drinking horn that grants you increasing benefits, the more you drink from it in one go. I'm not a big fan of the flagon of healing brew - any alcohol consumed from it heals 1d4 points of damage (slightly annoying, btw. - instead of "1d4", the pdf often uses "d4" in a minor formatting glitch) - while this should not break any game (you still get drunk, thus limiting the use of the item...), it's still exceedingly inexpensive healing that can wreck havoc in some low fantasy settings - so take heed here. A jug of everflowing beer...is pretty much many a person's dream come true. Obviously. And in connection with the aforementioned item...well...does provide infinite healing...Q.E.D. That being said, it has a no-selling-caveat, which is very much awesome. A tankard that can untie ropes and improves saves is nice, though the formatting did overlook the italicization of a spell referenced in the item's text...still: Cool.

Beyond tankards and mugs, the book also contains an assortment of diverse miscellaneous items - a bag of cheap ale (that the text calls bag of infinite alcohol) allows you to draw forth okay ales...which is cool. But why is there no non-selling caveat this time around? The brooch of slowed metabolism is interesting - it doubles the duration of any magical item or drink with at least one drink of alcohol in it when drunk by the wearer...okay, got that. Sooo...how does this interact with extracts and mutagens? Do these contain alcohol? On the cool side - what about an enchanted coin that makes any drink bought with it a potential agent for charming the drinker? VERY interesting. Gloves that grant you 3 brawling-related feats also should be considered to be intriguing. Oh...and there is a staff that can turn water to ale....which can drown aquatic creatures. Not the worst way to go, I'd wager... Really intriguing: armor enchanted to make creatures swallowing the wearer intoxicated! Can you see the drunk and hungover purple worms barfing in the desert? I can! Oh, and a weapon that inflicts drunkenness on targets can also be pretty funny...

The pdf also sports cursed items - ales that result in instant addiction or that teleport you into very odd locales, flagons that provide a false sense of confidence, curses that deprive you of sleep...quite an assortment here. The pdf also sports an array of alchemical items, including basically an alchemist's version of AlkaSeltzer, bricks that can be dissolved in water to turn to ale or powdered alcohol. Cool array! The final section of this pdf is devoted to an assortment of alcohol-themed spells, with various inebriation-causing spells, a versatile panacea, a nasty spell that turns beer to poison (what many large breweries IRL cast on their whole supply...)...some nice ones here. I also consider the low-level spell that transforms poison for the duration into inebriation actually not only potentially fun, but also very useful. Magically modifying the drink limit of the creatures targeted is also covered. All in all, a fun selection of spells.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules level - while there are a few hiccups here, they are scarce and show Fat Goblin Games' increased prowess in these fields. The pdf sports a two-column full-color layout and has several gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Gomez' take on a Sir Reginald Lichlyter-book is interesting - this book is less than its predecessor like a Call to Arms-book: It does not feature the same epic scope and amount of fluff/supplemental rules. That being said, the base rules for being drunk are significantly streamlined, which is a good thing in my book. This book, in essence, is pretty much, for the most part, a nice equipment book that should prove to be fun for many a table. While not all items herein are bereft of problems and while there are some hiccups in the details to be found, for the most part, this is a well-crafted, concise equipment book with some pretty nice ideas that deserve being recognized. While not as streamlined as e.g. the current CtA-books by Fat Goblin Games, this should be considered as a valid and fun addition to many a table. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sir Reginald Lichlyter's Magical Beers, Tankards, & Other Inebrious Items
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8-Bit Adventures - Welcome to the Fungal Kingdom
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/29/2016 09:42:11

Rich Hershey's 8-bit page design and art are fantastic.

The conversion of monsters from game into Pathfinder creatures looks very good. Them magic items are simple, but well thought out.

The final section of the book lays out a simple progression that follows the idea of the video game very well. Maybe it's not enough for a full campaign, but, it's more than enough to get you started on that path.

At 86 pages total, this is well worth the investment for any GM looking to add a little (or a lot) of pop culture to their game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - Welcome to the Fungal Kingdom
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