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Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:11:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This item-book clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf was moved forward in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

One thing I really enjoy about 5e would be the assumption that magic weapons and equipment is rarer and more wondrous. Conversely, this does carry some issues when looking at the equipment available for low- to mid-level characters, though, namely that the pretty restrictive array of tools and weaponry available restricts the customization options available and thus, player agenda. the pdf's reply to this conundrum would be the inclusion of special types of items - the first of these would be the succinctly-named "quality" item. Following 5e's pretty hand-waving item creation rules, the pdf does not seek to impose a linear system for the creation of such items and instead suggests percentile chances, narrative angles and the like, emphasizing GM-control.

Beginning with quality armor, we receive a brief table that lists them alongside whether they can be applied only to shields or armors or both - here is also a cosmetic glitch, a ")" that does not belong and should have been caught, being pretty obvious. Now each armor may only have one such quality feature and they actually allow for some interesting operations: Basher shields, for example, may be used to inflict 1d6 bludgeoning damage and, when shoving with them, they can inflict damage. Now, as a nitpick, I'd love to know how this interacts with TWFing and whether shields generally are treated as regular martial weapons or not. Granted, this is only relevant in some interactions, but yeah. Nice: There would be durable items that not only gain advantage on saves to avoid destructions, they also have a 50-50-chance of avoiding destruction, even when they'd fall prey to it.

Armor with a once for day-cycle blessing of good fortune (deliberately not tied to resting mechanics), armor that helps making a good first impression...pretty nice. Taking a cue from mythology, there would be the mirrored shield that nets you advantage on saves versus gaze attacks. Another quality would be nimble, which helps when wearing armors that hamper Stealth and have a minimum Strength score. Resilient armor is one type of armor that a group will either adore or outright ban: You see, you choose one type of physical damage with these upon creation. The wearer may use his reaction to gain resistance to the chosen damage type, but only versus one attack. Now, this is a pretty potent option, but one that taps into 5e's restrictive action economy to work. Furthermore, it is based on the rock-paper-scissors-principle I personally enjoy very much in 5e's mechanics. Still, as much as I personally enjoy this, the matter of fact remains that some groups won't like this - hence me drawing awareness to this one in particular.

Soul armor is similarly an option that will polarize groups: A total of 3 times, the armor can prevent you from being reduced to 0 hp, instead resulting in you being at 1 hit point. The limits are harsh, thankfully: Only 1/encounter (insert all my rants ever regarding how per-encounter abilities make no sense in game...regardless of system)...and once the armor has saved you thrice, it will never do so again. Granted, this would still allow a character to gain another soul armor, so seriously restricting these is very much in the interest of the GM. At the same time, this very much represents a cool take on an ancestral armor that saves the hero while also reducing the potential for player frustration if your group tries to minimize PC death. At the same time, one that will be divisive would be stalwart armor, which allows you to use your bonus action to stay in place for one turn, but which also locks you in that spot, preventing voluntary movement. I am not the biggest fan of such abilities that deal in absolutes, though the cost of the bonus action can, depending on the class employed, be a steep cost indeed. As far as I'm concerned, I think that a scaling mechanic or one based on a save or advantage would have been more elegant. An armor that helps versus no thirst/starvation or supernaturally-caused exhaustion, but helps against the other types on the other side, should have universal appeal. Slight inconsistency: One type of armor is called "tastes bad" in the table, "bitter" in the text.

Weapons receive similar qualities, with ammunition, for example, getting the chance to be particularly accurate: "This ammunition confers advantage, allowing you to attack at long range without penalty, or to attack at short range more accurately." So, does that mean no disadvantage at long range AND advantage on the attack roll? Or does that mean it gets advantage on the attack roll at short range, no disadvantage at long range? The item's benefits are not 100% clear here, alas. The power of these pieces of ammunition is mitigated slightly by them not being able to be scavenged, but still, this one should only be used after careful consideration by the GM - inclusion of this ammunition will further increase the potency of ranged weapons. Very much cherished by yours truly: Dual purpose weapons, which have more than one damage type, allowing for, among other things, the representation of Kyuss' evocative favored weapon, to just note one example.

Macabre weaponry nets you advantage on Intimidation checks, but penalizes your attempts to hide the grotesque weapon. Protecting weapons are VERY cool and add a serious element of tactics to the game play: These allow you to forego your bonus action; if you do, you may use your reaction to impose disadvantage on an incoming ranged or spell attack. Very cool visuals of parrying rays and the like here and the deliberate choice and lost actions mean that player agenda is increased. Two thumbs up! Allowing a character to use his bonus action to attack again after missing with an attack is another interesting option, if one that represents a straight power upgrade.

Now, since I have complained about one piece of ammunition, it is only fair that I also mention one of my favorites herein: Tenacious ammunition is the classic representation of barbed ammunition: After being hit, you shouldn't move too much, for it'll cause damage otherwise...until it is removed with an appropriate Medicine check. I like this one very much.

The pdf does offer more than weaponry and armor: Tools may, for example, be particularly impressive, granting recognition and prestige to those that use them, helping in social situations. Efficient tools decrease the amount of time required for a given task and the good ole' manuals make an introduction of sorts: Instructional literature. Each comes in a set of 6 volumes, and you gain a +1 bonus per volume studied for the skill or tool in question, capping at proficiency bonus - sufficient and long-term studying of the whole set can net you proficiency in the respective skill or tool, replacing the bonuses granted before. The cool component here, obviously, is that the item speaks to the collector and can be used as a nice way of leading PCs to certain tasks...and due to the massive donwtime required to learn the proficiencies, it is unlikely the PCs will ever be able to cheese this item-class.

We can also find notes on toolkits that are particularly feasible for carrying around, and the pdf comes with suggested pricing and selling guidelines as well. The next section is very interesting as well: Between the special quality items and the full-blown magical ones, the pdf introduces so-called charms. Charms allow for a limited specialized benefit, which is, internally consistent, tied to the cycle of dawns. To give you an example: The charm of the defender can be activated as a bonus action when you hit a creature. Said creature must then succeed a Dexterity save versus DC 13 or restrained, with a success yielding halved speed. The restrained condition can be ended by the saves on subsequent rounds, but RAW, the reduced speed has no duration, though one round would make sense to me. Charms require attunement and are added in a relatively simply process to weaponry, armor, etc. and their benefits, unless explicitly stated otherwise, do not work in conjunction with magical items. RAW, more charms can be attached to one item, but the maximum attunement limit obviously still applies, preventing abuse there.

Armor that may change its precise look as an action, a charm that cloaks an item as useless or broken - the pdf has some cool tricks here. I am also really liking the charm that allows for the use of a reaction to teleport 30 ft. in a cloud of mist, negating the attack on a successful save for some nice ninja-action. A charm that negates the Stealth disadvantage on an armor also makes for a cool option...but the charm actually requires that you spend time doing charitable work to recharge it - cool angle! Spell trick charms can store level 1 and 2 spells and tie them to a condition, on which they are triggered, which is pretty amazing, though personally, I would have preferred a hard word-cap for the determining of the condition...but that may be me.

The pdf also sports charms that include the option to temporarily gain access to a skill or language of a vanquished creature and adding an Intimidation upon defeating a foe makes for an interesting option. Also cool: Making a melee weapon behave as a thrown weapon that returns to you or a charm that allows you to recall a nearby weapon to your hand...some nice tricks here!

The engine is pretty nice and is supplemented by 3 magic items: One that allows for charm-recharge (but crumbles thereafter), one for additional uses and a sash that allows you to attune two charms to it, which then proceed to grant their benefits/work in conjunction with all weapons/armor you're wearing. Nice!

The pdf concludes with a brief tour of the fluff-only set-piece of Zagoren's Curios Emporium, a magic shop, if you will, and his interesting shopkeepers alongside sufficient advice on how to integrate this into your campaign.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but slightly less precise on a rules-language level; as noted above, there are a couple of verbiage instances that could be a bit clearer. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ismael Alvarez' item options represent a worthwhile purchase for the extremely low and fair price point. Regarding the quality items herein, the pdf represents a bit of a hit and miss for games - not necessarily because the items are problematic, but because they represent different types of power-upgrades that may or may not be welcome in a given game. I'd strongly discourage allowing all types of quality items in a given game, but for cherry-picking, this represents pure gold.

Speaking of which: The charms as a concept and engine are amazing and definitely need further support: There is so much to be done with the cool concept and as far as I'm concerned, they should not result in issues in any game. While the minor hiccups prevent me from rating this as highly as the amazing gems herein would warrant, when I consider the low and fair price-point into account, this most certainly is worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars and I'm signing off with a definite hope for a sequel.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at an impressive 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a truly impressive 139 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It has been a long time since Castle Falkenstein, beloved by many, has seen any proper support - which is, in itself, a surprise, considering its presence among many a favorite RPG-list...but it is also not surprising: Pioneering high adventure in the Edwardian and early Victorian age of an alternate world, it managed to miss both the rise of grimdark aesthetics and preceded the latter steampunk boom, which provided a slew of ill-conceived fads and sloppy prose - prose that would, had more people taken the time, paled before Castle Falkenstein's merits as a novel as well as a game. Castle Falkenstein's framing narrative of Tom Olam being stranded in this allotopia has always been a great selling point, at least as far as I'm concerned; it made reading the books a true pleasure rather than a just a joy.

This book takes up this framing narrative seamlessly, taking "previously unpublished" accounts penned by Tom Olam and converting them into the respective books - and thus we begin with prose, which represents the journey to find the missing manuscript of none other than Dr. Dolittle. It is hence that Tom Olam comments on the material found and retrieved, his work on the conversion...and fans of Castle Falkenstein will indeed notice the seamless consistence of the whole sequence.

That is, until the introductory rules-section begins. Here, we can clearly see the influence of the current age, and I mean that in the most flattering of ways. If you've read my review of Castle Falkenstein, you will notice that I am very much in love with system and setting...but my criticisms towards the system are profound. I consider myself to be a pretty experienced RPG-player, but the presentation of the rules was at times at obtuse and inconsistent as the prose and setting were inspired. The book, in short, suffered from what I'd dub "90s-itis" - an age where a lot of amazing RPG-books with glorious prose, particularly in rules-lite systems, were released, but often suffered from a less than stellar editing and inconsistencies in the rules. And yes, particularly in relatively rules-lite systems, that can really grind the game to a halt. Castle Falkenstein suffered from exactly this phenomenon, and while it certainly is nowhere near the worst offender in that regard when compared to my gaming library's relics, it did, from a current point of view, suffer in this regard. (Ahem, can we have a new edition? Please?)

Anyways, this book begins with PRECISION. Creatures in the Great Game are categorized as natives, faerie pets and things from beyond the Faerie veil, which can be things from other worlds, darker places...or pretty much any setting/trope you can come up with. Furthermore, we classify creatures in 6 different sizes and a handy table categories damage inflicted by creatures with an easy chart, separate entries for partial, full and high wounds and harm ranks included - including notes that wounds and size must not necessarily correlate. The same holds true for creature health and size, strength and size...and the pdf goes through the Castle Falkenstein abilities and notes how they apply to creatures: Flying/Running/Swimming speeds based on physique, for example, can be found here. Oh, and the book provides 5 abilities for use around, with and by creatures - Animal Handling, Animal Speech, Creature Power, Outdoorsmanship and Poison. All of these abilities are concisely presented and, while precise, still maintain the levity in theme and tone that made reading Castle Falkenstein's rules interesting and...well, less dry than in comparable settings. The book provides quick and easy creature creation guidelines and also spends a whole page talking about the ramifications of pets, sidekicks, animal companions - you get the drift. And yes, since Dolittle, Animal Speech, et al. is part of the parcel here, the book does cover, extensively, I might add, the role of intelligent animals in the Great Game - but only after a nice piece of prose, which keeps the overall flavor of the book consistent and high-concept...which btw. would be a term I'll return to! Have I mentioned the clockwork self-destruct mechanism codified in a side-bar?

Speaking of side-bars: Whenever you would begin considering the array of rules-clarifications provided start becoming dry, you'll find one of them: Like Beth-Ann, San Francisco's gigantic bear that was gifted to Napoleon. So yes, this book retains a very nice and inspiring reading flow, as far as the blend of prose and rules are concerned. I was talking about clarifications: TER (Thaumic Energy Requirements) for creatures are easily and precisely presented, codified by creature type...and both giant animals and familiars not only exist as concepts now - they have actual rules governing them!

Indeed, unlike in most bestiaries for roleplaying games, this is no mere accumulation of critters and stats; rather than that, we have vivid pieces of prose leading into the respective entries of creatures, elaborating upon them: Did you know, for example, that sphinxes are aliens, captured by faerie and thus particularly ill-disposed to their ilk? Did you know that true unicorns not only receive their bestiary entry, but also can act now as proper dramatic characters? And yes, this is still not the bestiary section, but rather the section leading up to it, telling us about the kingdom of Kongo in Castle Falkenstein's world, wild children and more.

Now the book does, obviously, begin a section clearly denoted as bestiary, providing creatures in alphabetical order, but unlike bestiaries provided for other systems and settings, the bestiary here takes its debts and associations with our own real world myths very seriously, retaining a mythology-enhanced plausibility: In a world where faerie is a very real force, it's not too hard to picture the existence of the amphisbaena or basilisks, correct?

Each of the creatures herein is not simply presented as a statblock, if you will - instead, the respective entries come with detailed ruminations on the creature, a brief cliff-notes version of it and detailed ideas for the host to employ the creature in question - often as basically a rather detailed adventure hook. The book's selection of creatures, as a whole, resonates very well with real world myths and contextualizes them properly in the allotopia of Castle Falkenstein.

Now, I have called this a bestiary and the moniker is truer than in pretty much every reference towards any Monster Manual-like book for other systems: Let me elaborate. Back before the period of enlightenment, when superstition and make-belief and the dogmatic realities constructed by the church still held sway over our cultures and science was indistinguishable from fantasy, there was a class of book called "Bestiary" - a zoological treatise on various creatures, both real and imagined: Think of this category as basically a category of literature resembling a blend of zoological encyclopedia and travelogue, one in which the fantastic and real blended into what we'd nowadays consider a form of magical realism, a representation of a form of weltanschauung that is in equal parts informed by a harsh reality and vibrant fantasy, by innocence and grime, if you will.

However, with the advent of a progressive secularization and ever more accumulating rebuttals to the world-views eschewed by organized religions, the scientific method began cleaving apart the previously existent "science" and founded the concept of a rationally definitive reality. Now, one accomplishment of this book is that it exists in the strange intersection between the grand psychological traumas mankind experienced in the transition to its (relatively) enlightened state and a more innocent or ignorant world-view when the world was defined by what we can now consider to be fantasies -in this strange no-man's land of transition that is quoted by Castle Falkenstein's allotopia, the question ultimately remains how this strange world, in this transitional phase, would behave if there actually was magic, if there actually existed faeries. Basically, if the medieval superstitions made the transition into a more enlightened era BECAUSE they turned out to be true...and what would happen if these moved with the times, how they would react to the transitional era in which Castle Falkenstein is set.

This is relevant for this book, because its sensibility is not merely that of a basic monster manual, but of a book that takes the established traditions of bestiaries and logically evolves them in a manner akin to how the core book managed to logically develop the campaign world under its chosen premises and contextualize the culture of these days. The book not only manages to retain the feeling evoked by the original Castle Falkenstein books, it progresses them organically and in a manner that bespeaks a deep and abiding love not only for the concept of the age of high adventure Castle Falkenstein depicts, but also for the magical realism and historicity demanded, nay, required by the setting.

This tangent may sound weird to you, but it carries more significance than me just listing critter upon creature and commenting on how they are well made; sure, I can tall you about hippocampi, hydras and the jabberwock - but what help would that be? We all have absorbed these mythological creatures via our collective canon of literature and media productions over the years - or so I hope. More interesting would be how they are depicted, how they are contextualized - as something more plausible and real than current-world cryptoids, as beings fantastic, yet real. The very existence of one such being can potentially radically change the ways in which aspects of culture and society evolved and it is the book's most impressive feat that it manages to retain the plausible consistency the beings require without losing their mythological impact and significance.

Scholars of mythology will smile, from kraken to mi'raj (also known as al-mi'raj or, more colloquially as "that weird unicorn bunny from myths around the Indian Ocean"), from monoceros to pushmi-pullyu to sapo fuerzo and yale - indeed, if you consider yourself a scholar of myths, even a casual one, you'll recognize many of the creatures...but chances are that several of the more obscure ones will surprise you indeed.

It should also be noted that a ton of regular, less fantastic animals receive their stats...but that, once again, would not even be close to encompassing the book, for there is also a chapter on characters and it is here that the ardent and diligently performed process of myth-weaving is exemplified even better: Obviously careful historic research and similarly careful thought has went into the respective representations of real life persons and fictionalized characters: You can find Black Beauty herein alongside famed naturalist Amalie Dietrich; Dr. John Dolittle is just as real here as Fantomas and Moriarti indeed has reason to fear M, the hidden paw. Dr. Jekyll and Mowgli are very real...and Mendel, understandably, is conducting experiments on faerie pets...with Auberon obviously interested in keeping the knowledge about DNA hidden...but why, what's his agenda? See what I'm meaning? We have a logical, and yet inspiring blend of fact and fiction, but one that very much is indebted to the concise realism of historicity as well as that assigned, constructed array of rules generated by the collective of mythology, literature and Castle Falkenstein's own established cultural pastiche.

Indeed, the research that went into this book is as evident as the obvious care and love that went into these adaptations - from Mme Pauline de Vere to Eliza Carpenter, the book presents a truly amazing array of beings for hosts to employ: And it also has no less than 10 dramatic characters, from true unicorn to paleontologist, from falconer to jockey. They universally are well-balanced within the context of CF's rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, particularly for a book of this size. The rules-language and prose is vivid and I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with the artworks employing public domain stock art...which, for once, does actually enhance the feeling of the book more than original artworks would have managed. The artwork makes it feel...more consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

So, the authors Mister Thomas Stubbins, Captain Thomas Olam and Doctor John Dolittle obviously are legends in our world as well as in others; the transcribing scribe, one mister J Gray may have so far received less universal renown, but one should indeed not remain silent regarding his accomplishments. I have read a lot of RPG-books, many with a quasi-historic context/setting; at one time, you begin to perceive the lines that separate the wheat from the chaff, the books that were made as tasks in opposition to those born out of true and honest passion and love. This book is such a book. From the rules-clarifications to every single entry, the vast array of in-jokes for history- and culture-buffs, the commitment to consistency... to both CF's style and its type of mythweaving, is not only commendable, but exemplary.

The first bestiary of any given setting, by any publisher or licensee, is a risky book and one hard to get right; more so in the case off a setting with such a distinct and hard to properly pull off thematic identity and theme as Castle Falkenstein. This pdf manages to accomplish exactly that feat with flying colors, providing excellence in all categories I can measure. How deep does the thematic consistency go? Well, look at the dinosaur section: Know why there's no T-rex inside? Because the first skeleton was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902. I am SURE that someone is going to complain about that, but me, I applaud this adherence to truth, as it enhances the myths laid upon the history, as it adds a dimension, and, or so I hope, knowledge to those inclined to read...and pursue the handy bibliography included in the back. And yes, this big book is FULL with decisions like that and feels like it is extremely cognizant of its responsibility to the high concepts of the system.

In short: This is a phenomenal continuation of Castle Falkenstein, an excellent addition to this often overlooked gem of an RPG, a book that brings modern precision to the narrative gravitas of CF's mythbuilding and a book that makes me seriously hope for a 2nd edition, for more Castle Falkenstein books. This breathes spirit, love and soul in all the right ways, represents a carefully-constructed labor of love and is an amazing deal, even if you just get it for the purpose of idea-scavenging. In short: This very much represents a gem in Fat Goblin Games' library as well as among the books available for Castle Falkenstein and should be considered to be a must-have addition to any fashionable CF-host's library. Get this. 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Regardless of system, this is the best book J Gray has penned...eh...transcribed so far and sets an incredibly high bar for the product line.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2017 09:52:14

Avery nice collection of art. They are Public Domain, so you can find the same images elswere, but Rick has organized them by groups, and cleaned up the original art. This is a huge collection, and will be guarenteed to save you time when looking for art pieces for your own use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Kristy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:39:28

I'm new to the Castle Falkenstein World (I was only 9 when the books first came out on the market). I feel like it was fate that I began to run my very first game using this system at a time when Fat Goblin Games is bringing Castle Falkenstein back to the role playing community with new material to add to our adventures.

The book is written from the viewpoint of Dr. Doolittle, which gives this book even more value than just being a "monster manual." There is narrative written amongst the rules, as in the tradition of all of the other Castle Falkenstein books. The Memoirs of Auberon covers all of the fairy creatures and player characters you could ever hope to add to your steam adventure, but there really wasn't much in the way of animals or creatures from other magical mythologies present. For creating interesting encounters and battles for my players, I feel that Curious Creatures fills that niche quite nicely with creatures ranging from manitores to unicorns and everything in between.

There are also interesting new player characters available to play, you can even play as a Unicorn and a Beastfolk (hello, werewolves anyone?) The layout and art direction of this book is absolutely beautiful with tons of illustrations, decorative borders, and it is laid out in a very user friendly way. I think it is easily the most beautifully designed books from The Castle Falkenstein canon.

As a friend of the writer of this book, I want to tell you all that his passion for this game is incredibly apparent in all of the historical and mythological research he's done for Castle Falkenstein, in this volume in particular. Please give this game a try if you are on the fence, it is immensely fun to play if you are at all into faeries, magic, dragons, steampunk, Victorian culture, melodramas, and role play heavy gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/28/2017 19:48:47

There are only 20 events in this products. Some of them are great but most things you would see as headlines in the newpaper just replace man or woman with race and a few other descriptors. All of it together it is not worth .50 mabye .10



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
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The Gamemaster's Star Log
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2017 23:25:55

I'm a fan of the fantasy themed product, and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this. This is the book of forms with no tables whatsoever useful for organizing your campaign or novel either electronically or printed out and then put into a binder. What I like about it is that it's very clean. There's lots of space to put data in, there is a an orbital system diagram similar to what Traveller is giving you ..very basic for the old scout style orbit numbers. There is a form specifically for a moon or for a planet so if you want have a terrestrial planet you can have it, or as a moon for a gas giant. Again there are no tables or data other than forms to be filled out. Mostly for the large scale of the game...worlds, moons. No specific maps of cities or continents but they have a sheet of hex paper with larger hexes. If you're the type of person who likes to organize your stuff into a big binder this is perfect and as an extra bonus in my mind they did not put page numbers on it...for the blank forms.
The Web version has page numbers.. also with a nice theme starry background. So you don't have the problem some other products of this nature have where the page numbers are in there...organize the blank forms version how you want. If you want nice color pages...those have numbers. My printer is running now. Thanks a lot to the designers!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gamemaster's Star Log
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Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/23/2017 04:04:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

So, this pdf very much represents a substitution - Castle Falkenstein's default mode to generate magic is obviously that of employing a standard playing deck of cards, which makes sense in two ways: For one, pretty much every household has one. Secondly, and more importantly, dice, in the era emulated by the game, were the common man's playing tool. A proper lady or gentleman would obviously play with cards. It is a cultural convention, much like playing bridge and the gender-divide in "proper" society between drinking brandy and sherry.

Anyways, this, at least in Europe, does present an interesting occasion to watch the changing of values ascribed to cultural artifacts in action: At least where I'm coming from, playing cards lack the luster and glamour of high-stakes poker games. Instead, the first association most people have is that of old farmers and craftsmen sitting down at the rural pub to play a game of Schafkopf or a similarly simply game, while drinking beer and discussing politics, complaining about wives, sons, daughters - you get the idea. The glamour and bling once associated with cards, at least as far as I'm concerned, has not made the transition to our contemporary culture.

Now Castle Falkenstein is a very immersive game once you understand how it works; but the clash of connotations of the cultural artifact employed in play with the assumptions of the game does present the experience of a disjoint. Insert this simple little pdf. Before you start: Yes, I am very much aware that the heyday of the use of Tarot began pretty much at the end and after the era of Castle Falkenstein, but at the same time, the allotopia it represents does feature ample fey and supernatural beings, so it makes sense to me to assume that the Tarot deck gained traction sooner.

One more thing: If you're even remotely interested in occultism, you may know that there are different Tarot decks - this pdf assumes you'll employ the most commonly used and widely dispersed deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. If you have no idea what I'm talking about here, but own a tarot deck, chances are extremely high that you'll have just that.

So, what are the mechanics? The playing card suites are replaced with tarot suites - Hearts with Cups, Spades with Swords - and the emotional harmonics are also included in the table. The minor arcana values can similarly be gleaned from a table and should present no challenge regarding implementation for anyone.

And this is where things get really interesting: As anyone who ever held a deck of Tarot cards knows, the deck does feature the suite of Major Arcana, 22 numbered cards, ranging from values 0 to 21 that have unique meanings and symbolisms. If you've played the fantastic Persona-JRPGs, you'll know these from your social links. There are two ways of handling major arcana - first, the simplest choice would be to treat them as a full draw from the Sorcery Deck, though one that does not provide Power Gathered, and one that results in the usual 2-minute cooldown. This is particularly suitable for games that wish to emphasize the unreliable nature of magic and that aim for a less magical style of gaming.

The second, more chaotic and interesting option would be to allow a sorceror who draws a major arcana card to continue drawing until a minor arcana card is drawn and added to the hand, gathering power. The host may, obviously, limit the total amount of major arcana cards that can be used in conjunction with a given spell. This option is obviously best for games that want to emphasize the somewhat chaotic, but powerful and unpredictable nature of magic. As a slight presentation guffaw: The table noting the effects of the major arcana cards precedes this text, but the text ends noting that the effects are as follows - in layout, that was obviously switched around. And yes, that is, at best, a cosmetic hiccup.

Now, what about those major arcana effects? Well, the fool's effects would be pretty much the most pedestrian, mirroring the effects of a Joker in a regular playing card game. The other cards are significantly more interesting: The magician, for example, grants control over one knot of energy, allowing the sorceror to convert the suit of a card to the suit of the spell. Similar card suit conversions, modifications of numerical values, harmonics entering the deal...very interesting. Oh, and selfish spells may backfire in the face of the justice card, you may attract unseelie (or seelie) farie and quicker gathering can all be found here. Basically, instead of having one unique effect based on cards, you have 22. This very much changes the dynamics of Castle Falkenstein for the better, for it makes casting as a whole more evocative, exciting and versatile - it adds a ton of spice to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - apart from the sequence, hiccup (which is cosmetic at best), I noticed no glitches in either formal or rules-departments. Layout adheres to an easy to read full-color two-column-standard, with the massive major arcana table being one-column. The pdf sports a nice piece of full color art beyond the front cover.

J Gray's Tarot variation is, dare I say, my dear readers, a stroke of genius. For one, we associated Tarot more with the era Castle Falkenstein emulates than regular playing cards, so that, in itself, would already constitute an improvement regarding immersion. However, and that is more important to me, the inclusion of major arcana cards with a ton of unique effects makes spellcasting as a whole infinitely more interesting, less predictable, and ultimately, more fun. Now here's the thing: This costs a single buck as per the writing of this review.

It is perhaps one of the best Dollars you can spend regarding RPGs. This humble pdf is GENIUS. I mean it. In 3 pages you get a system that is so easy to implement, it can be done by anyone. You need one page of those three printed out, that of the major arcana effects. That's it. This little pdf does not only provide ONE really, really good system that not only enhances the immersion in the game, but also represents a glorious expansion of the rules. You actually get TWO. No matter what type of game you're playing, one of them will fit the bill and oh boy, both are extremely interesting and enhance the game in a pronounced and amazing manner.

This is, in short, perhaps the best buck you can spend to vastly improve a single system, to breathe fresh air and versatility into a game, that I have seen in a long, long time. The simplicity is genius, the price can't be beaten, the results of using this and the joy it brings go far beyond what the humble price tag would make you think. This is a true gem of RPG-design and bespeaks the author's palpable love for the system. if you're playing Castle Falkenstein, then this is very much an absolute no-brainer. Concisely presented, thoroughly amazing and exceedingly concise, this receives my EZG Essential-tag for Castle Falkenstein. Moreover, the easy integration, added variety and fun this brings to the table make it one phenomenal offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and qualify this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016 for being exceedingly impressive from a design perspective. Make your game more magical NOW and get this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
by Richard W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/23/2017 03:30:20

I'm a big fan of Rick Hershey's work, and use it extensively in my products. I've already picked up all of the smaller fantasy art packs, and many of them include figure illustrations, which I find to be very versatile pieces (they can be used for archetypes or NPCs, or as general art, and because they don't have a background they don't need to be precisely aligned with the text, which makes the layout work much easier).

This subscription consists entirely of fantasy figure illustrations, and it's slowly filling in the gaps left by Rick's earlier art packs. For example Rick has already released a couple of dwarf packs, but no elves - until now. Similarly, many of the traditional class concepts have been covered in earlier packs, but there was no bard until now.

Overall this is proving to be a very useful addition to my collection (I'm already using five of the pieces in my current project), and I'm looking forward to seeing what gets added next.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
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DNA - The Buried Zikurat OSR Adventure
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2017 09:10:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fat Goblin Travel Guide To Hell
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