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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:49:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first adventure for Vs. Dragons clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content. It should be noted that, much like the main-book for the system, the layout is a 3-column-standard in kinda-landscape, with 8.5’’ by 11’’ as the size; this means that there is quite a lot of text per page.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! About a month ago, strange things began to happen in the quiet village of Hazelmoure, beginning with a three-beaked chicken and escalating to iridescent clouds, etc. The strange happening have the townsfolk concerned, seeking shelter in the temple by day, the tavern by night. The tavern is operated by the elf Eldwind (full stats provided) and may act as a start of the adventure – though just finding weird occurrences will do the trick as well: A full page of strange occurrences, governed by simple draw, can be used to establish a sense of weird magic. Drawing a Spade is suggested as a means of scene progression, though personally, I’d suggest only employing this after a threshold of a certain number of such occurrences. The effects include spontaneous out-of-season blizzards, reverse gravity, or the whole town being reduced to 1 toughness AND extreme pain – ouch! (Minor complaint: “is reduce” should probably read “is reduced.” – unfortunately not the only such glitch; we e.g. have missing “as” and similar minor hiccups accumulate throughout the pdf.)

Now, the village is obviously the focus of a strange font of magic and the pdf provides rules for this, allowing for a fluctuating amount of magic. The rules here are nice, though I was a bit puzzled by the chance of taking points of pain when tapping into the font – RAW, pain is not tracked in points in Vs. Dragons, but in steps. Just as the PCs are investigating the strange phenomena, a “hero” comes into town: Dracom pretty much immediately ends the weird phenomena, stealing the PC’s thunder, big time. He is, unsurprisingly, hailed as the savior of Hazelmoure, immediately instated into power, outlawing magic and non-authorized weapons. Yes, the PCs will not be happy, but hey, they may be hired as village guards.

Dracom then proceeds to call for taxes and the PCs will have their hands full, as a random creature table suddenly sports an influx of strange and dangerous new creatures the PCs will have to handle. Things will become personal at the very latest when Dracom sends villagers to collect the vanquished monsters and, worse for most players, the loot! The PCs, at one point, will have to confront Dracom – who is actually a magic eater dragon in disguise – and the PCs should take care, for collateral damage is very real, considering the power of the dragon. The pdf provides suggestions for Good of Bad outcomes of the adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not bad, but sport a couple of unnecessary glitches, some of which influence the rules-integrity of the chaotic magic rules in minor ways. As mentioned before, the 3-column layout is elegant and the pdf sports thematically-fitting b/w-public domain-artworks. The pdf comes with bookmarks.

Kiel Howell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, weaves an interesting, brief yarn here: The module can easily be expanded to the desired length: Due to all important aspects being pretty modular (occurrences/combats), this can work equally well in the context of a convention slot or for a longer game at the table. The strange occurrences in the village are nice, though the Ace-effect can be pretty lethal; similarly, the monsters are not easy – there is a definite chance of death here. The adventure is fun and delivers, considering its limited page-count. All in all, this is a pretty nice scenario. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2018 04:01:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, it should be noted that this module was originally released for season 1 of Vs. Stranger Stuff; I will look at it within the context of season 2’s significantly expanded and refined rules, which means that you should consider this to be retroactively designated as an easy mode adventure. It should be noted that it’s very easy to integrate recurring characters from other Vs. Stranger Stuff modules within this adventure as NPCs – they accompany the PCs at their task and could, depending on how you wish to run this, meet unfortunate fates…or, for a more family-friendly interpretation, just add to the scare factor.

Anyway, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local philanthropist Travis Hart has purchased a picturesque location and the PCs have scored a sweet deal: School’s out and they can earn some serious bucks for fixing up Camp Hope! Yeah, well, sure, that place saw a couple of grisly murders in the 60s, but that’s in the past, right? I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, for one, school bully Chad Helms is also working the site, potentially making the PC’s life miserable. Chad is picking on Jessica, one of the recurring class mate characters, and the PCs may well want to intervene. This would be a good place to note that we get stats for Travis, Chad and Jessica, with Chad getting the pretty potent headlock ability. It should be noted that this Good Gimmick has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 as far as rules-language is concerned; I strongly suggest using the rules of the new edition. (Something that btw. holds true for, well, pretty much any such rules-component; Season 2 is a vastly superior game.)

Anyways, before the PCs can knock out Chad, they’ll see strange lights in the distance, which the bully will use to skulk away. Now personally, I am not a big fan of this type of railroading; it should be up to the PCs or at least, offer a chance, to let him get a proper comeuppance. But that may be me.

Travis, in a nice play against the conventions, has seen the lights as well and suggests scouring the campgrounds, which is, coincidentally a good way to split the party and make some PCs share the company of Jessica and Chad. Nice: The mini-investigation yields results based on the suite of the card drawn: At the entrance, dime-sized scorch-marks and a destroyed entry gate loom; bright lights and a faint siren make the water treatment plant easy to spot and the bathhouses contain a family of raccoons. If the PCs investigate Chad, they’ll find a stash of nudey mags…which may well change dynamics here.

Smart PCs attempting to sneak around will be found by Travis, unerringly…and some might say, creepily. Over the next couple of days, the weird lights will reappear; electronics are found dismantled and tools go missing; if the players don’t put it all together, an Ace Mental (use Brains in Season 2) challenge can yield the solution, with every day decreasing the required target.

Beyond the obviously hilarious speculation your players may engage in, the module provides a variety of entertaining false leads: Ghosts from previous campers! Devil worshipers! Merpeople in the lake! Chad is a psychopath! Travis is the original serial killer! Te creepy counselor is an undead maniac! Rabid, mutant raccoons run the fields! All of these have in common that they are more detailed in the book…and that they’re wrong.

Ultimately, the PCs will find the truth…a dog-sized spider-shaped robot! Badly damaged, trying to rebuild itself. The thing is, surprisingly, non-hostile and seems to be hiding from another robot, which seeks to destroy it. It can barely communicate with broken voice module and charades, making it an interesting NPC to interact with. And yes, the module mentions the reactions of NPCs to being shown this secret camper. Suffice to say, the PCs will probably want to keep it hidden from Travis and Chad…and after a few days of hijinx (come on, we all have seen enough secret friend movies for inspiration…) of trying to keep the robot hidden, the hunter will appear – basically the evil version of the PC’s new robot friend. While this potent machine can’t kill humans, it can hurt them…and its directive is to destroy the friendly DSR (damaged spider robot) – something the PCs should definitely want to avoid!

If they best the brutal hunter, they may well wave their new DSR-friend good-bye, as it scampers off into the woods just before the inevitable military clean-up crew in hazmat suits arrives to make the debris vanish. The PCs are in no danger, but the presence of these folks is still concerning. In the end, the PCs may have a ton of money from the job…but whether DSR lives or is destroyed ultimately decides whether they’ll leave this module with a new Bad or Good Stuff –seeing your robot friend being killed by a robot can be traumatic, after all. If DSR lives, they’ll have an ally for life, though!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice artworks in color. The pdf has no maps of camp hope, which is a slight comfort detriment. The pdf also sports no bookmarks, which is another minor comfort detriment.

Ben Dowell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, delivers in this book – pretty big time, I might add. If you’re like me and always had a fascination with see SPOILER-section, if you recall all those classic movies, you’ll smile more often than not while running this. The ally the PCs can gain here is nice and the module is, as a whole, a warm-hearted and nice adventure with a bit of tension, a bit of investigation, detailed false leads…you get the idea. While the module could be a bit meatier regarding the false leads and investigation itself, while I would have loved to see a couple of fully fleshed out scenes pertaining the kids trying to cover for the new friend, this most assuredly is a worthwhile offering that can work for both adults and kids equally well. While use with season 2 requires a couple of minor modifications, this remains a very much worthwhile adventure to check out. Considering the low and fair price-point, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
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Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 10:15:06

A free character to use in your games, the artwork provided is high qualiyt and very clean, ready to use with no modification.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
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Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:24:31

Excellent art with a tragic backstory, the files are high quality, high resolution, and very clean. These images are ready to be used as character art in any of your games, as is.

Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
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Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:18:15

Two high quality, high resolution skeletons to use in your games. The images are great, clean and ready to use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
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Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:17:10

The image itself is high quality, with very eye catching contrast. Gary would be proud, and any reference to the D&D cartoon is awesome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:51:42

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

This is a 13-page, black-and-white product. It is NOT a standalone release - as an adventure, you'll need the (quite affordable) vs. Dragons ruleset to go with it. Each section of the adventure is about two pages long (hey, it's vs. M - fast and easy is the goal here), featuring the weird things happening in the village of Hazelmoure. Each section consists of a few scenes (specific conversations/events for the players to interact with), culminating in the hopefully-epic last battle. Three different endings are given, based on how successful the heroes were.

This is a solid adventure for game night in its own right, as well as a good sample if you prefer to make your own adventures but aren't sure how to build them in this system. Either way, it's a worthy companion for vs. Dragons.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Dragons
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:43:39

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

By this point, Fat Goblin Games is getting pretty darn good with the vs. M Engine. As with the other 'vs. X' releases, you don't need anything else to actually play the game. Character creation is simple and only involves a few choices from a limited number of options, though this version has a bit more stuff in the way of equipment and valuables than some of the other choices.

After character creation, we get into the specifics of the system, including the core mechanic of drawing cards to overcome challenges, taking damage, and so on. This release also comes with quite a few monsters to throw at players - it's not a full-on bestiary, but there are enough foes for at least two or three games, mostly featuring iconic fantasy creatures like goblins, dragons, and an assortment of demons.

There are also a number of magical items, which are less about giving "bonuses" to numbers and more about providing options that weren't previously available.

All of this, of course, is just in service to the main point: putting on your shiny armor and going to give some mighty lizards what-for. vs. Dragons gives an example of good gaming structure on Page 49, which supports the quick-and-easy style of the system. Keep in mind that this is NOT a game intended for two years of solid adventure with the same system - it's a short, fun game to help pass the time at parties, when a group has time to spare, or as an intermission between other things.

Past this, quite a few sample locations are given, with enough detail to spark some creativity. It doesn't include a pre-made adventure (though you can get one of those from Fat Goblin Games, too) - but it doesn't really need it, either. This product is easy for Gamemasters of all skill levels to use.

I did notice a few places with awkward grammar and word choice, but nothing too significant for a product of this length. Overall, it's a solid release. It's not something every game group will like, but if you're in the mood for a fast and easy fantasy system, vs. Dragons is definitely worth considering.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2018 21:35:28

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday! Product- Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide System-Starfinder Producer- Fat Goblin Games Price- $3.95 [here]( http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/223749/Alien-Evolution-Cosmic-Race-Guidebook?affiliate_id=658618) TL; DR-Jack Kirby does Starfinder! 96%

Basics-Tired of just the core races already? Need some more classic 70’s ancient aliens artwork? Then I’ve got a book for you! The Cosmic Race Guide has an impressive amount of new species to plop into any Starfinder game.

Mechanics or Crunch-Starfinder, when it launched, didn’t have a lot of races. None of what was there was bad, but it was a limited picking. This book opens up the floodgates. Nothing here is all that crazy. The races do follow a pretty predictable formula, but its not a bad formula as everything is balanced. I would have liked a few racial feats for each race. But, there are over 10 new races here, so It’s a great place to look for an impressive assortment of new races for any space game. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff- Here is where the book shines. Every page of this book feels like Jack Kirby wrote it as the art is completely New Gods or crazy space Thor 3 on every page. Everything feels right. You get a full color art picture of each race and its homeworld. The art mixed with the flavor of the races just belongs. Starfinder is already a mix of magic, machine, and the future, so adding the proper amount of crazy Kirby makes me extremely happy. 5/5

Execution- I am really pleased with this book. First and foremost, it's a hyperlinked PDF. Next, the art is great. I would have liked more, but it's enough to break up any monotony. The layout isn’t cluttered. My one grip is the price. It’s a tad high, but if you want a ton of new races, this is the book you need. It’s a well put together book that's fun to thumb through till you find your favorite race and dig in. 4.5/5

Summary-I really like this product. I read this book the week after seeing Thor 3 in theaters, and it feels like an honest extension of the movie. You get Kirby, you get aliens, and you get your magic. Starfinder feels like the 70’s comic vibe will fit better than any serious game play as you have the elements of more space opera than space drama built right in, and this book takes that banner and runs hard with that idea. I wouldn’t consider this the most serious book. This isn’t Lord of the Rings, but it is an amazing romp in the galaxy showing you all the crazy kids at the cantina while giving you the rules to play each of them in turn. Get this book, crank your Flash Gordon soundtrack, and find your next favorite character to play in the galaxy. 96%



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
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8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:55:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit Adventures-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, unless you haven’t noticed, this is basically a Legend of Zelda toolkit for Pathfinder, with Nintendo IP filed off. As such, I think I should comment on my own history with Zelda: I liked the games, but I wouldn’t consider myself to necessarily be a fan – I have played them all up until Twilight Princess, with Majora’s Mask, unsurprisingly, being my favorite. They are good games, but don’t scratch the story-itch I look for in games beyond excellent gameplay.

So, if you are a rabid Zelda-fan, well, then this will probably already be in your shopping cart at this point, right? Anyways, the pdf begins with customization options for the kingdom of Hyrule, erh, pardon, Highland, which btw. comes with a nice full-color map, which, however, sports no scale. Alas, no key-less version for handout purposes has been included either. But I digress. We first begin with basically a critter-by-critter reskinning/modification process. Grippers are upgraded to Large size and based on chokers, with the modifications suggested noted; Robed Wiz (CR 9) is based on a more limited clockwork mage. The rocktopus is based on the Tome of Horror’s mudman. The CR 4 bladed trap (comes with creation notes) represents a new creature, and the section also features the CR 8 burning skull, the CR 11 cactus worm, the CR 1 Treenut and, of course at CR 16 Cursed Warrior Droch-lann, the Gannon stand-in, who is realized as an orc cursed warrior magus 18. I noticed minor hiccups, but nothing serious – the section is usable as provided.

That would, btw., be a new archetype herein who gets diminished spellcasting and may sacrifice a prepared spell as a swift action to create a shadowy armor. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, the archetype gains 60 ft. darkvision or increases an existing darkvision to 120 ft. – solid, if unremarkable.

Okay, so far regarding the bestiary-side of things. We move on to 8 new feats: Bomb shot lets you expend a bomb as part of jumping to add its damage to your Acrobatics-check – which results, obviously, in hugely inflated Acrobatics-results. I would not allow this anywhere near my game usually, but in the context of this supplement, it makes sense. Minor point of critique: While the feat is fully functional, its verbiage is a bit clumsy. Shaped Charge lets you, as a full-round action, expend a use of a bomb a ranged touch attack against a door, lock, wall, etc., ignoring hardness – the attack is always successful against unattended objects and the bomb’s splash damage is negated. There also would be the Luminous Metal feat, which lets you expend 30 gp to make metal objects you craft cast light as though they were candles – no, that is NOT a reference to the spell. Minor complaint: Why not note the range of the light produced? Looking it up is somewhat inconvenient. Improved Luminous Metal lets you upgrade that to 60 gp cost and torch-equivalent light. Would I spend feats on these usually? Heck no. In the context of this supplement? Why not. Shield Ally lets you block ranged attacks with your shield – when using a full attack, you can forego one attack, making an attack roll equal to the foregone attack. If you win the swingy comparison of attack rolls, you deflect the incoming projectile. Shielding allies is possible at -4 to atk, and you may not deflect boulders and must be aware of the attack. My loathing for atk-comparison mechanics is well known at this point; suffice to say, it is a decent representation of the Zelda-game-mechanics.

Reflect Shot builds on Shield Focus and Shield Ally and lets you reflect an incoming ranged attack as an AoO against any creature whose ranged attack you successfully block, provided it is within range. Okay, what constitutes range here? I assume the range of the incoming attack, analogue to the games and taking e.g. Shot on the Run etc. into account…but it would have been nice to see that stated. Reflect Ray does the same for rays, with the same minor range-snafu. Shield Rider is a concession to the game aesthetics and may well be a drawback – when riding with your shield, you lose the shield bonus to AC, but movement rate increases by 10 feet when riding downhill, but only when not wearing medium or heavy load…which is closer to a trait than a feat in power-level. The lack of choice for the character is also puzzling – RAW, the feat locks you into this behavior.

The pdf also sports three new spells: Retriever enchants a weapon to steal with its next attack (strangely using Sleight of Hand instead of the steal maneuver, which is a bit wonky); freezing ray is a variant of scorching ray which adds paralysis at 7th level…which is WEIRD, for the new ability is not based on caster level here, deviating from PFRPG design tenets. Magnetism is a pretty complex one with various appliances, and is based roughly on telekinesis, which is unfortunately reflected in the rules-integrity, e.g. specifying violent thrust spellcasting attributes for wizard and sorcerer, but not for the other classes eligible to use the spell. Not bad per se, mind you, but in such instances, you can see that a bit more polish would have been neat.

The pdf also sports new equipment: The diseased goblin poo stick simple weapon and the spring spear exotic weapon, which is a very potent weapon that is flexible in a way usually only magic items provide – it can be used with and without reach and may be thrown – in the context of Zelda, I’d give it a pass. We get 5 pieces of magical equipment: The leaf mask is a plant shape I spell in a can, usable 1/day. The miniscule cap works 3/day as reduce person. Soup stones provide nourishment, while saga stones reincarnate the possessor for a paltry 600 gp, being basically a kind of extra life. Trapfinder torches can be used once and net a bonus on Perception to spot traps and hidden doors, but at the same time, they do not denote how long they last. One could default to the acute senses comparison, but yeah…a bit rough. Aquatic armor (+1) nets swim speed; lava armor nets fire resistance 10 and allows the wearer to execute short-range free action touch attack fire blasts as retribution – it is also somewhat low on the price-scale for that. Dazzling weapons (+1) autodazzle light sensitive creatures or those made of shadow or shadow conjurations.

Now, that would be the rules-section – this pdf, however, also doubles as a campaign kit, providing angles to draw the PCs to Hyru…eh, Highland, as well as a fluff-only write-up of the cast of characters. We get a fully spelled-out prophecy of the legendary hero as well – which is pretty neat, for it taps into the suggestions that this could be run as a 1-on-1-scenario. While the suggestions are basic, their inclusion is very much appreciated. The role of the Triforce (here called Tetrahedron Quadriad) as a McGuffin is explained (and is used for an interesting if simple, optional puzzle that can be extremely helpful) and the first quest focuses on saving steeds – the structure of the encounters and their basics are noted in the tradition of Campaign Kits; from there, we move on to the shrines – Lake Highland, the Skull Dungeon and the Mountain of Fire, for the final showdown at Castle Highland. Suggested creatures are noted and APLs for each chapter suggested. More advanced rules, if any, are hyperlinked. We also get a few DCs and the skeleton of the sequence is all ready to be fleshed out by the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is really tight – no complaints there. On a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few rough patches here and there, but retains its functionality. Layout adheres to a happy and colorful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are loving bows to the franchise. Cartography of the land is nice, though I wished we got a key-less version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell’s bow before the Zelda franchise does what it sets out to do – it translates the somewhat wonky concepts of the Zelda games to PFRPG. It provides a toolkit for playing Zelda in PFRPG. Mission accomplished. Now, if you’re no rabid Zelda fan, then this will have significantly less appeal for you: There are a couple of rough patches in the rules-integrity, and while they don’t sink the pdf, they are enough to disqualify the material for my regular PFRPG games. They are also, system-immanently, as they’re translating very basic concepts, not world-shaking. I am also a bit puzzled by this pdf starting off with monsters, moving to player material, and then once more going for the GM-content in the campaign kit-section – starting off with a player section, then moving to the GM-section would have made much more sense.

On the other hand, this pdf’s demographics are the fans of Zelda – and if you count yourself among them, you will quite probably sport a broad, nostalgic smile while reading this. Similarly, this may well be a good way to bring younger kids into the roleplaying fold and teach the game o them: While the GM should have some experience under his/her belt, the whole scenario is pretty child-friendly and thus suited for even young kids, provided you guide them regarding mechanics.

How to rate this, then? Okay, to be honest, this did nothing for me – I am simply not the audience of this book. I am neither prone to nostalgia, nor a fan of Zelda per se. For me, the rough patches weigh heavy on this supplement and if you feel similarly, then you should probably skip this. I’d be a sucky reviewer if I’d rate the pdf according to these observations, though – I have to take into account that many of the things I consider jarring are directly based in trying to adhere to the franchise as faithfully as possible. While there are still a couple of instances where some rule-component is a bit wobbly, and while I wished e.g. the Gannon-archetype was more interesting, the book does a solid job at what it sets out to do. Not a superb one, but one that will probably warrant fans of Zelda getting this. You should be aware that videogame aesthetics trump those of Pathfinder here, and I strongly discourage using the content herein in regular games, but for what it is, it works – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
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Rick Hershey: Art Rates 2017
by John R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2018 11:50:18

I got in touch with Rick about a small logo I needed and some basic ideas of what I had in mind. Rick was very responsive and had some useful input. The rate was very reasonable, he communicated well throughout the process, and he delivered quickly. I highly recommend his services and his talent. -Ross



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rick Hershey: Art Rates 2017
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2017 12:17:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This second and vastly expanded iteration of „Vs. Stranger Stuff” clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 108 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so first things first – this is obviously inspired by the AMAZING series Stranger Things – while I can still argue about why the D&D-name analogues in the series don’t work too well and that the kids should know better, I adore it and have rarely had this much fun with it; the original iteration of this game was pretty much a quick and dirty adaptation of the VsM-engine, with the primary focus on some easy gaming inspired by the hit series, or pretty much another form of weird 80s-inspired adventuring.

Fast forward and we get this massive expansion of the system. Beyond a list of inspirations that can be helpful, you don’t need much to play – a playing card deck will do the trick (minus Jokers) and, should you want to, there is actually a custom deck you can get; it is by no means required to play though! Big kudos here for not going for the cash-grab option and locking the system to a custom card deck.

Anyways, the first crucial difference to e.g. Vs. Ghosts will be evident pretty much from the get-go: This system comes in 3 modes: In Easy Node, the Kids are basically superheroes and PCs don’t die – they are just knocked out, which allows you to tell kid-friendly stories sans frustrations. Normal Mode lets PCs only die if they do something really dumb and the Kids are above-average in power. Finally, there would be Hard Mode (preferable setting for experienced roleplayers, whether they’re kids or adults) – in this mode, PCs die when their Toughness falls below 0 and the attributes of the Kids are as bad as everyone else’s. Season One adventures are retroactively classified as Easy Mode scenarios, just fyi. (It should also be noted that the Easy Mode is available as a FREE pdf and at-cost PoD!)

Character generation is simple: The player character is the Kid, and is defined by two attributes: Brains and Muscles. You either have 3/5 (strong Kid), 5/3 (smart kid) or 4/4 (balanced Kid) in these. These values determine how many cards you draw when you face an obstacle. 7 is usually mortal peak, 13 is basically “god”-level. These are the normal mode rules – easy mode nets 6/4 or 5/5, while hard mode nets a 4/2 or 3/3-distribution.

Much like vs. Ghosts, these can be modified by good and bad gimmicks. Some of these represent attribute increases, while others are what you’d expect: A cool older sibling nets you a reliable older buddy; being popular or schooled or rich; these similarly are pretty self-explanatory, I assume. They also include increased Toughness (hit points/health of the system), etc. – but while you have a good gimmick, you also have to pick a bad one: Broken homes, poor depth perception, nosy siblings – they are pretty much as self-explanatory as the good ones. Every character starts play with 10 Toughness, basically your hit points, which may be modified by gimmicks.

Vs. Stranger Stuff usually doesn’t track equipment – the system has you draw a card and compare it to the equipment value of the desired equipment. Cool: There is an optional rule for groups seeking to track money etc. and there are plenty of sample values and items. Cool: There are optional rules for off-brand equipment, which has a chance of malfunctioning and causing even injury…but at the same time, it’s less costly.

The core mechanic of the game is incredibly simple: When you e.g. have a challenge to Muscles, it sports a TV – the target value. You draw the associated attribute number of cards and succeed when you draw at least one card of the TV value. Opposed checks have two characters draw their attribute cards; the one with the highest card wins. Teamwork is emphasized: The character with the highest attribute draws cards, plus one per assisting character! This means that players will want to help each other out.

Okay, so, reading cards: Red suits are generally good, black ones generally bad. The sequence of suits is Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs > Spades – so yeah, cue anguished looks and Motörhead when you draw the “ACE OF SPADES”! …Sorry, couldn’t help myself there. A simple draw is an easy decision facilitator for the game: Hearts = something very good happens, Diamonds something good…you get the idea.

Okay, so how does fighting work: Each character can act once during a Turn; Turns have a variable duration, not a fixed frame of time – so, in one combat, a Turn could be a minute, in another a couple of seconds. Attacks and actions are usually resolved when the character takes then, unless a delay is in order and determined by the GM. Initiative is simple: The player left to the GM goes first, then the next, etc. NPCs and monsters act last. In Hard Mode, an alternate system for drawing for initiative makes things more interesting and causes less potential for bickering about seating order at the table- I strongly suggest using it, even in Easy Mode. Surprise is handled by providing a free Turn.

Movement in combat is similarly abstract per default, with drawing based on brains or muscles as an alternative to the freeform; if you prefer a more crunchy solution, hard mode bases movement on muscles: move muscles units of measurement and act, or move twice that amount but don’t act. This, once again, is easy to grasp, but makes the game more tactical…and, at least to me, rewarding. Melee is based on Muscles, ranged combat on Brains – so, either way, you’re automatically competent at what you do. Melee requires you beat the opponent’s Muscle value to hit, ranged attacks require that you beat the RV – Ranged Value. Some monsters may have a Defense Value that overrides these; weak monsters that are hard to hit. Hard Mode does provide optional values for tougher damaging of foes, basically a confirmation; otherwise, it’s fairly easy to damage targets, but not necessarily to kill them – attacks only inflict 1 – 3 damage, typically. That being said, incurring damage matters: 5, 2 and 0 toughness are thresholds that impose penalties to the attributes due to pain; -2 is the threshold for being dead. Wimpy kids are more susceptible to pain, while certain NPCs can be less susceptible. Furthermore, you can make bad gimmicks based on injuries – broken limbs, concussions.

Now, per default, there is NO HEALING. When taking basically a long rest, you regain 1 toughness; short rests reduce pain levels. There are rules for first aid, pain killers and long-term treatment that allow for the regaining of functionality, though, as a whole, characters will want to avoid serious injury. From basically video game logic to unreliable healing and drugs that require draws, the customization options presented for the system are impressive here as well.

Notice something? Customization is the name of the game and this book has more for you. Need rules for damaging objects? Included. Rules for fire, fireworks and explosives? Right here. Rules for Fear Challenges (including negative repercussions for (failing to) sleep)… really cool. Now, the GM gets some serious array of tools here: Hazard-wise, we get rules for falling, light/darkness, rules for sneaking through the shadows, water as a hazard, drowning, hazardous weather, endurance required by long-term tasks, food, air and water – these are simple and fun; the leitmotif for the GM is “keep it simple, make it fun” – as such, the GM section provides advice on the creation of 4-act adventures, reward bonus draws, reward good gimmicks, earned bad gimmicks…and we actually get downtime rules between adventures: These include ways to add/remove gimmicks, bonus draws, equipment or attribute increases; playing games within the game (The PCs are Kids, after all), is also handled – and sidequests can be either used as a story-facilitator, etc. The pdf provides examples for specific games, from whack-a-mole to pinball, including easy examples. Tickets can be turned into rewards – though here, something went wrong in the table – there are strike-through boxes placeholders where card-icons should be, which is somewhat odd…but since the basic resolution mechanic is simple, you can deduce the symbol meant). Oh, and if you’re lucky, you can perhaps get ninja throwing stars, switchblades, basically a Commodore=64 with serial numbers filed off…( As an aside: If your German is passable and/or you enjoy good Synthwave – check out Welle:Erdball, one of my favorite bands…they actually make music with them.)

Really neat: Locations have a cost to hang out there and rules that provide restrictions; they also have a cool rating; the higher the rating, the less likely bad stuff will happen there. They usually have points of interest, NPCs – you get the idea. It’s a simple, easy to grasp system to codify how you think about locales. Beyond generic NPCs, GMs also get a premade NPC babysitter as a nice example on how the rules can be employed.

Oh, and there, obviously, is the eponymous Stranger Stuff: We get enthralling recorders, a sentient build-your-own robot toy, tomes, x-ray specs that work…and there are strange powers; from astral projection t being forgettable (which comes with a nasty scenario-suggestion earlier) to parasitic rejuvenation and the classic pyrokinesis, these powers run the gamut of the iconic classics. Once more we get a sample character – 13, who is, surprise, wanted by the MIB…

The monsters presented in the next section fall in 4 general categories – Aliens, cryptids, humans and supernatural threats – from maniacs to aliens and sentient ideas, the basic tools here are nice. Cooler yet: The year is 1984, so we get a list of highest grossing films, TV programs (with network), full moons notes, billboard year-end Top 10 songs and important events. The town of Crestview Hills comes with some sample NPCs and locations and serves a brief backdrop and default setting for the adventures for the system, with a small town named Slim River being close to it, though it is less detailed.

Okay, so the pdf also provides an adventure by Kiel Howell – “The Mask Behind the Make-up” – it is intended as a Normal Mode scenario and sports a bullet-point break-down: At one glance you can see “Adolescent Mischief”, “Crude Humor”, etc. – in short, at one glance, you can determine what could be problematic if you use this for kids or sensitive folks, allowing for instant awareness and an easier customization…on the other hand, if you’re into horror and/or have hardened players, these can just as well act as bullet points to make the respective aspects more extreme. I really like this and hope that further season 2 scenarios will employ it as well! The adventure is pretty well-made (though it doesn’t sport maps or the like) and enjoyable – and it ties in well with the other Vs. Stranger Stuff offerings, which I will cover in due time.

A random generator for adversaries, their motivation, etc. allows you to quickly come up with adventure frameworks. We also get a neat full-color character sheet, a full-color location sheet…and a b/w-map of a town, which you can use as a coloring prop…or, you know, color unlocked/pertinent locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good; on a rules-language level, I have no complaints; on a formal level, there are a couple of relics where card-suite symbols should be and use/us-level glitches can be found here and there. Not too many, but if you’re picky, it may come up. Layout adheres to an album-style and the pdf uses graphical elements from 80s’ gaming/videos/etc. in subtle ways – it’s not obtrusive, but it is a nice touch and shows the extra care that went into the gorgeous layout of this game. Artworks depict e.g. collectible playing-card paraphernalia, poster-facsimiles, “photos” with strange stuff inside…the overall aesthetics are really neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari, with additional content by Rick Hershey and Kiel Howell, has really stretched his design muscles with this modification of the VsM-engine. My main issue with vs. Ghosts, in comparison, is that it is very reliant on the ghost-hunting equipment. The acquisition of these isn’t linear, so planning longer games isn’t too easy. Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 eliminates that component – it emphasizes different aspects of the game. The locations and their cool rating, and, more importantly, the versatility of the system, deserve a big round of applause: With this game, you can conceivably play a Scooby-doo-type of wholesome kid-mystery…or you can basically go Stephen King-grimdark smalltown-dystopia.

The more detailed and simulationalist hard mode rules add a SERIOUS amount of potential for longer games; while the VsM-engine isn’t perfect for epic tales and massive character progressions, the hard mode options allow for well-made and enjoyable “mini-series” – you know, half-year/year campaigns. The emphasis on roleplaying, the dead simple rules – what makes the system work well is still here; this is very much a rules-lite system, even with all optional hard mode options included. However, it is my firm conviction that this works infinitely better than vs. Ghosts to tell stories that are not just a few sequential adventures; in sort, it lets you tell “bigger” stories, with more nuances. The fact that it allows for kid—friendly entertainment and darker stories for adults (or for kids that are like yours truly was…I always had a penchant for the dark and macabre…) in equal measure is another HUGE plus for me. The modularity provided allows you to customize the game according to your preferences and it works well in all scenarios. What more can you ask for? This succeeds triumphantly at its intended vision and most assuredly represents the VsM-based game to get. While the pdf does have a few cosmetic rough edges, I thoroughly enjoyed this system and look forward to playing through scenarios for it. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
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Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
by Kane D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2017 09:27:18

As someone who is attempting to fit the wonderful Castle Falkenstein system to a homebrew world, these variations are heaven sent. I've fallen in love with the CF system and find it easy to use and exciting to play. The Ability variation has answered a lot of questions and given me official advice on how to tweak the game to my group's individual needs and I truly appreciate that.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
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The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:54:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so this is a nod to a cartoon show. I am not familiar with that show, so please bear that in mind. This pdf begins with an overview of the crystalline world of Scintilla, talking about places like the Halls of Memory or the Arena of Shards – flavorful and well-written so far!

Chapter 2 deals with the Mineralites – they are basically sentient, polymorphic gemstones that create a holographic, physical form – this unique premise influences the premises of the society of the planet, which is really intriguing – with a lack of a need to eat, sleep or breathe, their society and relations take these unique components into account and weave a surprisingly captivating yarn. The mineralites, racial trait-wise, come in 6 castes – each caste comes with a +2 attribute bonus and a Hardness value that ranges from 8 to 12. Mineralites are half-construct monstrous humanoids with the minerality subtype, normal speed, Medium size, darkvision 60 ft. and two forms: The gemstone form is a Fine object with a hardness that sonic damage ignores and hit points equal to twice the Constitution score and a Break DC equal to twice the Strength score. It has blindsense 5’, and may not move. A gemstone reduced to half hit points, is broken; upon being reduced to 0 hit points, the gemstone is “wrecked” (Basically the equivalent of dying/unconscious). The projected form behaves as a light-based force effect akin to a shadow illusion. The mineralite has a constant, at-will disguise self (italicization missed – not the only one) for visual aspects and voice alterations, though the bonuses granted are reduced to +5, since the mineralite always has monochrome color shades. Mineralites suffer a -4 penalty to saves versus darkness effects and are slowed by being affected by them, with a Will-save to negate. As beings of force, negating that also dissolves the projection.

Mineralite sorcerers with the earth elemental bloodline treat their Charisma at 2 points higher. They may fuse with other mineralites to create fusion forms, but more on that later. They take +50% damage from sonic effects and gain +2 to saves versus diseases, mind-affecting effects, and those that cause exhaustion/fatigue. Darkness effects suppress these bonuses. Mineralites don’t need to breathe, eat or sleep, but must rest for spell preparation etc. Being born into adult status, mineralites are naïve and take a -4 penalty to Charisma-based skill checks and may, as a full-round action, project masterwork weapons from photons. Cool: SR can dispel these weapons.

Mineralites don’t treat damage as other races: The projected form gains hit points (vigor) normally, but winks out of existence upon being reduced to 0 hp. Excess damage affects the gemstone form and the pdf thoroughly and concisely explains the interaction between the different forms, inckuding the aforementioned broken/wrecked/destroyed condition sequence and the explanation of healing etc. The pdf also sports a ton of potent alternate racial traits: 20% miss chance while in bright light, low-light vision, an alternate penalty to Strength-based checks instead of the naiveté penalty, bonus feats at the cost of losing the ability to fuse, concisely codified natural weapons to replace the projected weapon, perfect sight in darkness… interesting.

There is also a Small variant of the race, who is less naïve and slower. Gem Hybrid is an inherited or acquired template that nets CR +1, minimum 2 and represents a hybrid between a living creature and a mineralite. Okay, now, regarding fusion: That would be a full-round action, which may be interrupted as though it was a spell: This form is basically a gestalt of the members, using the best skills, attributes, saves, combat bonuses and the pooled hit points of the participants. A creature can’t end the fusion with more hit points than it had as it entered it, preventing healing-abuse. Similarly, ability score damage/negative levels/etc. are divided among the participants. Conditions apply to all participants, providing a detriment to offset the buffing-advantage the form provides.

Damage is divided evenly upon the fusion’s end and gear is absorbed and does not work while in fusion form. The form is treated somewhat akin to an eidolon with a biped form and 2 evolution points per contributor. The summoner level for variables of these effects is based on the lowest HD of the contributing creatures and the actions of the fusion are determined in sequence by the contributors: Each players gets to control the fusion in alternating sequences. Vetoing an action can be done, and is, rules-wise, concisely presented. There is also a new evolution that blends held weaponry – in a surprisingly concise manner.

Cool: We get a ton of flavored class options, which actually come with flavor-text and cover some ACG classes, the kineticist and even the vigilante. Nice. The pdf also features new class options: the crystallized bloodline for sorcerers nets crystal shard missiles with bleed-inducing shards, chances to negate crits/precision damage and mineralite-apotheosis. The crystal lasher magus must be one of the Small mineralites and is basically, bingo, a whip-magus specialist. The future warden is an interesting brawler – the archetype replaces martial flexibility with the option to gain temporary focus, which can be used to grant basically advantage (roll twice, take better result) – interesting twist of the engine. Harmonic savant bards gain diminished spellcasting, but also lingering performances (thankfully with anti-stacking caveats) as well as AoE-sonic damage etc. Solid. The servant of war is better with teamwork feats and, as an archetype, enhances multiclassing options.

We gain new materials, namely shaped and grown crystalline and 10 types of memory storing crystals – really cool! Cool: there are crystal wyrds and roving bottles as familiar candidates – while not brief familiar stats are provided, we get proper stats for them and they’re both interesting and have unique tricks. Beyond these, we are introduced to crystalline locations, from anchorstones to prism pads and superclusters…speaking of the latter two: Prism pads transform mineralites into light, fire them in space, at a supercluster, and from there to the target destination. NEAT! There are also new weapon qualities. Gembound provides projected weapon synergy at +1, while formbreaking can be particularly nasty versus the projected form of the mineralites. Pressure Suit and Starfaring Robes help with interstellar travel; gem bezel aegis reinforces the gem form of mineralites.

The pdf also sports a ton of Projected Form feats, allowing for e.g. beats shape I forms and a ton of other modifications to the form projections. There also would be feats that e.g. add Extra Arms to the forms, additional uses of class abilities, quicker fusions, improved projected weapons, etc.

The penultimate chapter of the pdf is devoted to new spells – protective bubbles around gemstones, high-level reconstruction of destroyed gemstones, 9 variants of projected holographic constructs – and interplanetary versions of some classics – as well as greater make whole and reprinted classics like planetary adaptation.

The final chapter is devoted to roleplaying advice for playing mineralites.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles some VERY complex and unique concepts and does so with panache. On the downside, the same can’t be said regarding formatting: The pdf sports A LOT of missed italicizations, bolded lines that aren’t properly formatted, etc. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice blend of unique, new full-color artworks and some nice stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kristopher Cruz and Lucus Palosaari deliver a book that I loved more than I figured I would: The mineralites are extremely unique, creative and surprisingly well-executed, considering the complexity of the tricks the race employs. That being said, I STRONGLY suggest playing an all-mineralite party. Mineralites are very, very strong character options and the strong, cool fusion tricks require multiple characters – internal balance is pretty tight, but compared to regular races, the mineralites will come out on top. That out of the way, it should be noted that they are so different, so creative, that this pdf is very much worth checking out. It’s not perfect, but it oozes that the authors actually CARED, that they wanted to do something creative and new. They succeeded.

This is a selection of very powerful options, with the added toughness of mineralites and the focus on cooperation making the supplement particularly suitable for younger audiences: Death is less likely and the fusion can generate some remarkable scenes, particularly among players that are familiar with the intricacies of PFRPG. And yes, kids can and do grasp PFRPG. For novices, this may be a bit too complex, but as a whole, this deserves being picked up. If there was a scaling option included and if there were less formatting hiccups, this would be a 5 star + seal of approval file. As presented, I can’t go higher than 4 stars for it. I will remain with a heartfelt recommendation for everyone looking for something thoroughly different, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/31/2017 22:09:23

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

This full-color, 112-page product is a definite tie into Stran- Ahem, I mean, this is a totally independent product that is definitely not taking advantage of a certain spooky but popular franchise! ...But nobody would believe me if I said that.

More seriously, this is not just a simple tie-in. Rather, this is a new and improved version of the game, complete with all of the rules necessary to play under the vs. M Engine. In keeping with the theme of kids-vs-supernatural stuff movies, this product includes three sets of rules (Easy, Normal, and Hard) to help customize the flavor of the game. This makes it suitable for anything from a light-hearted romp to some serious terror... though a lot of that is going to come from atmosphere, since the card-drawing and character-creation system is simple and straightforward.

My overall feeling about the entire vs. M system remains. This isn't something you're going to be playing for ten, twenty, thirty sessions over a bunch of months with your friends. It is, however, fun and fast enough to play at a party, after marathoning a show, while some movies are playing, or when some people from your normal group are missing and you don't want to play a longer game without them.

There aren't very many adventures included here - you'll want to buy those separately - but it does come up with a random adventure generation system that can provide a creative Game Master with all the inspiration they need to run a variety of unique games with this system. It's a nice touch - maybe not for people who haven't run these sorts of games before, but it definitely adds some value to this product.

At the time of this writing, this product was listed with a standard price of $19.95. I think that's a fair price for the amount of content you get, and the system itself has been well-tested by now. I have no problem with recommending this to anyone looking for a fast, fun game to play with friends.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
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