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ZEITGEIST #6: Revelations from the Mouth of a Madman (PATHFINDER RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2014 05:13:47
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the second act of what has so far been a ridiculously awesome AP clocks in at 85 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 80 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Now first things first - this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players of the Zeitgeist AP should NOT spoil this saga and instead jump to the conclusion.

...

..

All right, only DMs left? Sure? Well, you were warned.



Apart from advice for adapting the module to home campaigns and eliminating the steampunk fluff, there is, as has become the tradition with Zeitgeist, a LOT going on. It's been 2 months since the PCs managed to lure away the colossus in adventure #5 and the wheels of the conspiracies never stop turning - and now, the PCs may have a chance to remedy that. The constables are briefed to find one (mad?) savant called Tinker Oddcog, potentially one of the people involved in the creation of the titanic construct and quite probably in league with the shadowy conspiracy that has acted as the primary antagonistic force so far. Only problem is - the guy knew when to run and has left the country. Thus, the constables are off to the nation of Ber, including full-blown ship teleportation, to find the gnome before his erstwhile employers do and silence him for good. making matters more complicated would be the mostly humanoid population of the land the PCs are supposed to enter, requiring quite a bit of tact not to offend gnolls, orcs etc..



To make matters more complicated, the PCs are asked to testify at the trial of their old ally Brakken - and yes, proper cross-examination and verdicts - all not based solely on dice, but rather on ROLEplaying - kudos and two thumbs up for keeping the whole affair...well...fair. Oh, by the way, at this point, the opposition has probably made its first move already, their first assassination attempt hopefully thwarted by the PCs. After local politics have been cleared, alliances been cemented or lost, the PCs will be off towards the Summer Court - only to face a massive stampede prompted by tyrannosauruses. Plural. Yeah. Ouch, but also damn awesome! Here, the PCs will have a chance to prove their worth by braving a massive maze for the spectators - in this decadent game, the PCs will both have to survive the *relatively* harmless bears - and the mechanical, very much lethal Battle enhanced animalistic robot - B.E.A.R., all while navigating and hopefully avoiding the teleport traps...



Once the challenge has been won or lost, the true game begins - in something I have never seen in a module before -competitive rail-road construction espionage action. No. I'm not kidding. The level of detail here, including time-line and key-moments with their sabotage-attempts and issues make running this one pretty awesome indeed! Oh, and when I'm saying intrigue, I mean it - mind control, dealing with parasites and optionally, saving Wolgang von Recklinghausen from a particularly bug-affine tribe...quite abunch to be done. Finally, the bruse may let the constables meet Tinker - only to have him be revealed as a suicidal simulacra. Worse, a whole bunch of guards go replicant and start trying to assassinate the Bruse and everyone else in reach. Whether the ruler dies or not, the trail leads to the Isla dolas Focas, where a massive naval battle looms (oh joy, much ship-block stats building to use better naval rules...) -after that, the PCs will have to brave a pump station (preferably without having it blow up in their faces or the faces of the hostages, for that matter) - here, the PCs may, guided by a duplicant's voice, finally receive some information from tinker as they venture down into a volcanic foundry - only to have Risuri steel baron Pemberton show his true face as the mastermind behind Tinker's disappearance...and as one of the last covert-living dragons, hell-bent on taking Ber as his own. Between assembly-lines and magma, the PCs will have to defeat Tinker's power-armor, a draconic robot, Pemberton's duplicant...and save the gnome from certain death - quite a task, even before the Obscurati complicate things further and well worthy of the Zeitgeist AP!



Now beyond the magic items, NPCs etc., parties that manage to retrieve tinker may benefit from his brilliance and guide the development of unique, experimental technology in the campaign - is that cool or what? Beyond player-friendly versions of the maps, we also receive hand-outs and handy tracking sheets to easily run the rather awesome railroad mini-game.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not as superb as in most Zeitgeist-installments - I noticed slightly more glitches and e.g. references pointing to "Page XX" or references to e.g. the "bloodied" condition from 4th edition than usual. Layout adheres to Zeitgeist's unique 2-column full color standard with a mix of original and stock art, the latter always thematically fitting. It should be noted that the pdf is layered, allowing you to remove graphical elements for more printer-friendly results. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is nice and leaves nothing to be desired.



Ryan Nock's sixth installment of the AP, by necessity, is less in your face than #5 - Act 2 needs to be set up, with the interwoven plot-lines building slowly up to something new and different. That being said, the AP manages to retain its strengths - diverse challenges, excessive roleplaying, compelling politics and backstabbing intrigues, all set against a backdrop of importance, of varied challenges - and if my account of the adventure's plot seems convoluted, then only because there actually is so much more going on in these pages. The consequences of old relationships resurfacing and reacting properly, the omnipresent consequences of the PC's actions - all of these conspire to make this yet another superb module. While it is not the best of the Zeitgeist modules and my first reaction was a slight urge to rate it a bit down, that wouldn't have been fair; It still stands triumphantly among its brethren and manages to build up steam after the vast array of legendary things that happened in #5.

When compared to just about every other module, this still breathes iconic ideas, dares to demand smart players and is dauntingly novel and inspired - not losing steam after 6 installments, the massive machinery that is Zeitgeist waltzes on without losing steam - and maintaining this level of complexity and diversity for this long is damn impressive. I'm looking forward to the whole of Act 2 - final verdict: Once again, 5 stars + seal of approval, though this time around, it was a slightly closer decision than before.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #6: Revelations from the Mouth of a Madman (PATHFINDER RPG)
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ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution - Act One: The Investigation Begins (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:09:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive collection of the first Act of the Zeitgeist AP clocks in at 559 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 549 pages of content.



So let's...wait. Let me get this straight - this is the compiled version of the first 5 Zeitgeist-adventures PLUS Crypta Hereticarum, Player's Guide and Campaign Guide; It also includes (with 2 hick-ups) cleaned up nomenclature regarding elves/eladrin high/wood elves that resulted from conversion. All of these components are simply glorious - 5 stars + seal of approval badassery in its truest form. I've also reviewed all of the modules, so if you require details, please check those out.



The book also contains "Seas of Zeitgeist", which provides the quick and dirty (imho VERY BAD) naval combat rules of "Admiral o' the High Seas" for the AP -and constitutes the one component of the AP I don't love o death. In design philosophy quite remote from Pathfinder, it pales before Paizo's naval combat rules and especially before Frog God Games' superb "Fire as She Bears", which I will use to provide proper naval combat rules for this AP. Beyond these, item-cards, a metric ton of maps, hand-outs and supplemental information help running this beast.



Conclusion:

Wait, what? Well, production-wise, this killer tome is a layered pdf that can be made printer-friendly, the maps can be made player-friendly if they aren't already. The writing by Ryan Nock, Matthew J. Hanson, Jacob Driscoll and Thurston Hillman is superb. The book comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

I will cut this review far shorter than the page-count would suggest since I've already covered the constituent pdfs. This is the most ambitious AP you can buy and also the most intelligent - with a focus on a complex weave of narratives, deceptions and espionage, it cannot be compared to any other AP in scope and focus and is ambitious to an unprecedented level. The story is so compelling, diverse and challenging, it is bound to become a legend, far surpassing even War of the Burning Sky and similar epics with its daunting focus on smarts and roleplaying over killing everything that moves. The sheer amount of glorious mini-games and decisions make Deus Ex run to the corner and cry itself to sleep and apart from the subpar naval rules, there is NOTHING on can truly complain about - and honestly, these are easily replaced.

Now if you are a new DM, first master something less demanding - Zeitgeist is intended for experienced dungeon masters and the amount of plots, characters, etc. you have to juggle is significant. However, this also makes the AP exceedingly cool, challenging and SMART. This is a thinking man's AP, one that dares to assume that its audience is intelligent and capable -and I *love* it for that. In fact, the *only* reason I'm not running this AP RIGHT NOW is that I'm waiting for it to finish. This may very well be one of the best APs ever written, depending on your taste, possibly the best.

It is to my eternal regret that I cannot comment on the premium hardback edition in color - my meager funds do not allow me to get this book as per the writing of this review. That being said, this is still a milestone for storytelling in a d20-based system, the first AP to reach the narrative complexity and depth usually reserved for legendary CoC/ToC/etc.-campaigns. If am of the firm belief that this tome belongs into a DM's arsenal and that running this, will one day be a kind of rite of passage. If you thought the "War of the Burning Sky" was good - it has NOTHING on Zeitgeist. My final verdict will come as no surprise, seeing how the first 5 installments were the first ever AP to succeed at such an unbroken string of superb ratings from yours truly; it will clock in at 5 stars, seal of approval, nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 and a shed tear of longing for the physical book. If you can, get this NOW!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution - Act One: The Investigation Begins (Pathfinder)
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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:07:21
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of EN Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 90 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



It's been too long since I took a look at one of the Zeitgeist-modules, but before I do, here the obligatory warning - this review contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

No, really. Jump to the conclusion.

...

Only DMs left? Good.

This adventure is the conclusion of the first act of the epic ZEITGEIST-saga, and as such, provides guidance of running it stand-alone (or the first campaign-act alone - just eliminate the conspiracy elements and there you go!) - which renders it longer than one would have expected. The constables of the RHC will have A LOT on their hands, so better hope they have honed their investigative skills.



A peace-summit is looming between the nation of Risur and Danor, finally bringing peace to the strained relations between the nations - including, btw., a list of the points of contention. In one sentence - there are a lot of elements invested in seeing the summit fail. Beyond a turf-war, a mad fey and radical eschatologists all have their own plots, which means that the constables will have to wrap up no less than THREE threads: In order to cope with this, magical long-range communication and the B-team are provided - the latter being only 4th level characters the players may play...and, of course, as always, characters may very well die.



And yes, on their way to meet the king, the PCs immediately are subject to a well-planned, rather deadly assassination attempt, including carriages, which should make clear the stakes are high - crimelord Lorcan Kell (backed by the two-letter-abbreviated conspirators) wishes to take them out. The king himself briefs them with the severity of the situation (as well as dropping some hints of ravenloftesque ties of rulers to their realm and citizens...) and tells them about the conspirators having some means of access to the Bleak Gate - something the PCs should better unearth as soon as possible.



Now the B-team will be busy with escorting the minotaur-ambassador Brakken - hopefulyl without attacking his dire-bear companion. Meanwhile, the PCs may see an old acquiantance from module #1 show up at the royal palace- the high elf Asrabey Varal asks, veiled, for assistance in hunting down aforementioned rogue fey. The B-team, escorting both the minotaur and the dwarven eye of Drakr at the summit will right NOW have their hands full -a deadly ballet of death is unleashed upon the city by a cadre of deadly dwarven eschatologists - perfectly timed bombs, sniper nests - the B-team will have its hands more than full trying to save what's there to save! Alexander Grappa, the golem-maker, has his mind currently inside the head of a demolished bronze golem and may just be the additional piece of information the constables need regarding the Bleak gate - though a clever geas prevents him from divulging crucial information. Now as an additional mini-game, the PCs will have to generate and train a task force of people to take down Kell et al, which also provides various means for complications - essentially, they have to order a shadow war against Kell and his associates - in a damn fun, cool mini-game. Better - if the PCs have good relationships with the Cipiano, they may utilize Morgan Cipiano's resources against Kell...for a price that will influence further adventures. Speaking of which - if the B-team can ensure that their outgunned fight in a night-club is successful, they can influence this mini-game as well - and actually get Kell's lawyer!



Espionage and counter-espionage very much determine how well the final crackdown on Kell goes -if moles are not exposed, the PCs may find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Now the investigation into the renegade fey with Asrabey turns out to be rather interesting - the haughty elf still vastly outclasses the constables and thus, combats tend to have certain things for him to do - and yes, the fey-opposition of the Unseen Court is rather deadly. While the main group dukes it out with powerful spellcasters, the B-team will have "fun" calming superstitious folk and hopefully prevent multiple lynchings due to the fear of a curse. Capturing and interrogating a gremlin may see the PCs finally in a position where they can confront the fey-lord Ekossigan - in the process of a ritual sacrifice, clearly mad and mumbling about dread things hidden...but more on that later.



If the PCs have made friends with Kvarti in a previous encounter, the dwarf's divergent take on eschatologist philosophy may provide a simple means for them to gain information - Kvarti is unhappy about the radical plan of mass-bombing the sub-railway system and wants to help prevent the unleashing of dangerous beasts bound for the harbor and a hostage situation planned by a particularly cold eschatologist - hopefully also diffusing the deadly bomb in a nail-biting finale.



The massive banquet scene that is to follow the happenings will be just as nail-biting and tense - there is a lot at stake and after the rather exquisitely detailed scene - which unmasks a particular NPC as a telepath and also provides the PCs with a means of maintaining an element of surprise over the obscurati in Cauldron Hill - depending on the means the PCs chose during the module, the finale's assault on the Obscurati base will happen under vastly different constellations. Beyond infiltration, the utterly EPIC boss-fights that reward making allies and smart choices here deserve special mention.



But this is not the end - the titan of adamantine is unleashed upon the city, and while, for now, without direction, it needs to be dealt with - the king assembles a makeshift fleet (plus allies PCs may have made!) and tries to lure the titan to sea, while the king executes a powerful ritual aboard the vessel to banish the titan. The PCs will have to hold off the deadly, nigh-indestructible creature while dealing with the deadly witchoil horrors generating from the titan, for one of the most epic climaxes I've seen in any module.



Pages upon pages of handouts and GM-guidance to running this beast are provided as well.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's 2-column full-color standard with plenty of glorious, original pieces of art. The pdf comes layered to the extent where you can make it easily player-friendly. Cartography is glorious as well.



Thurston Hillman has done it. The fifth zeitgeist-module manages to live up to the utterly INSANE standard the first 4 modules set, all of which manages to score 5 stars + seal of approval, rendering this AP the only one among those I've reviewed that managed to maintain this level of quality. The ONLY reason I'm not playing this AP right now is that I'm waiting for it to finish - I never start APs that are not yet done. That being said, this module is glorious and the first ACT of this AP has more going on, more memorable moments, than many full APs I've read. Superb in writing and ambition, this killer module is simply brilliant and utterly captivating - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
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Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns: D&D 3.5
by Michael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2014 14:13:21
I don't usually do reviews. You'll see why shortly. Basically this product was not worth its cost. It has only a superficial description of any particular game and then a dry list of difficulty numbers. In other words, the easiest thing possible to come up with for a game or tournament. None of the details needed to actually run it in an RPG. Literally a chore to read, it's broad scope is the first clue that nothing is covered in any significant details. Dry, unimaginative and functionally useless. If you really can't come up with a difficulty number for a game, this might be of use to you, but if you want any other flavorful details about how a game is played and how you can use it in a game, you'll have to do all that work yourself.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns: D&D 3.5
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ZEITGEIST Adventure Path Extended Campaign Guide (Pathfinder)
by Ben S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/15/2014 05:08:29
This adventure path sounds very interesting. It gives an outline of the Grand Conspiracy and the Adventure Path itself. Pick this up for free and it will definitely interest you in paying for the Adventures as they come out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST Adventure Path Extended Campaign Guide (Pathfinder)
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War of the Burning Sky: The Complete Campaign (D&D 3.5)
by Sylvain B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2014 11:40:01
Incredible amount of quality content for the price. Great overall value!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
War of the Burning Sky: The Complete Campaign (D&D 3.5)
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E.N. Guilds - Adventurers Guild
by Matt A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/19/2014 14:09:24
Mostly equipment and service price lists, plus the ubiquitous spell-list/magic items/feats/prestige class that have little if anything to do with the topic of the book, and barely anything about the structure and operation of a Guild.

Not entirely without value, but very disappointing if you want to add an Adventurer's Guild to your game.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
E.N. Guilds - Adventurers Guild
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"Zeitgeist" D&D 4th Edition and PATHFINDER Adventure Path Subscription
by Patrick G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2014 20:33:03
I would give this 5 enthusiastic stars if not for the fact that it has been 3 years and counting and they just recently released part 8 of a planned 13 part adventure path. While I don't want a rushed product, it would be nice to see this completed.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
"Zeitgeist" D&D 4th Edition and PATHFINDER Adventure Path Subscription
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Deadly Games
by Micah B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2014 07:24:44
Disclaimer, I adapted this for the Dungeon World rule system, so anything related to the stats of the traps and monsters I cannot speak to.

The book gives you 5 arenas, I have GM'ed a one shots with one of them as well as incorporated one into a larger campaign. They were fun, but I would say that some of the traps are repetitive. I incorporated some traps from Scavenger Studios "14 Traps" to make the games more dynamic which did the trick.

The maps were great to use when I projected them digitally onto my tv from my laptop.

Solid product

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Games
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ZEITGEIST #4: Always on Time (PATHFINDER RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/01/2014 05:03:33
An Endzeitgeist.cm review

The fourth installment in EN Publishing's so far simply superb, investigation-driven steampunk-AP clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 68 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Still here? All right! The intrepid constables of the RHC, i.e. the player characters, find themselves on a reconnaissance mission in this module - they have uncovered the presence of a shadowy conspiracy, but so far know next to nothing about them. Having investigated Caius in Zeitgeist #3, the PC's know he would have been boarding a train in Beaumont at one end of the Avery Coast Railroad and travel its length to the city of Vendrice. Spy Missions are no easy thing, and unlike many a shadowrun mission I've read throughout my DMing career, here we are not left in the dark: By starting the adventure with a planning phase and providing ample options for skill checks to e.g. create false paper trails, establish cover identities and make plans for contingencies. Even risky propositions such as attempting to buy off the spies on their trail, are not off the books and distinct options - though ones that already carry a solid possibility for failure. Better yet: If your players don't like investigations/spywork (then why are you playing this AP, though?), they can jump immediately into the operation, though at least in my opinion, the module looses quite a bit of its charm that way - especially since failures tend to not result in dead-ends, but rather detractions from the degree of the respective success of the PCs.



On the way to Beaumont by ship, the PCs will have their first hostile encounter herein - if you want to go naval combat here, I'd suggest Frog God Games' "Fire as She Bears" instead of the standard "Admiral o' the High Seas"-rules the Zeitgeist AP presumes. Beyond that, enough information is provided for you to run this particular encounter as a more or less straightforward hackfest. Anyways, the PCs should thus have a good reminder that their meddling has made some important people rather giddy. Thus they enter the nation of Danor.



Danor is problematic for especially casters - magic doesn't work well within the wild/dead-magic-zone riddled nation, thus requiring some careful deliberation on behalf of the players regarding their casting prowess. So yes, the PCs will need to be smart when handling this assignment - after all their goal is not engagement with the enemy. hence, they board, among the vast bustle of people, the train - 1st class, of course! The train and its passenger are lavishly detailed and making appropriate observations and conclusion will be hard - even before a stop in Danor's capital Cherage makes tracking the suspects (all of which have something going on the PCs can discover) rather interesting.



On the next day, a passage through the wild lands (including a short safari-break) beckons - as doe new passengers. The city of Orithea, the next stop, will also see complications in the PC's espionage-duties, with interactions between passengers, many a thing to do...and a constantly ticking timer. On the next day, the constables will have a chance to thwart a train heist in a swampy terrain, with aberrations and bandits - and thankfully a nice breakdown of locations, number of spawns and cars for the respective characters, making this encounter complex, but manageable for an experienced DM. Less than an hour after the attack by the gargantuan aberration, the PC's adversaries are notified of them being spied upon, just as the train reaches the lands of Drakr.



Discussing the nature of conflict (and world's end), counter-espionage by the PC's targets, unrelated black market/espionage deals - there is a lot going on beyond the main plot - so much, in fact, that all the characters come vividly to life and can or cannot have serious impact in the future, while remaining optional for the purposes of this investigation. Still, by the end of this part, the PCs ought to know who their primary suspect is, while at the same time having met some characters that will return in future installments of the AP.



Here a massive spoiler is in order - part of the plan of teh Obscurati revolves around magical lanterns, which can draw targets throughout the planes. hence, the villain's goal is to get the PCs in a given isolated locale and draw them into a hostile plane - In Nem, the spirit becomes the body - when no longer close to the approximation of their bodies, the PCs die. Usually, this would be no problem, but the train's movement means that they are on a tight timer. Undead, the ghosts of the murdered - the PCs are stuck in the train's ghost equivalent, fending off the deadly assailants and hopefully finding the lantern, destroying it before their spirits are whisked away. After this supernatural assault, the PCs ought to be VERY paranoid when they reach Sid Minos.



There, a red herring/further assassination attempt, including a cursed island with its own intelligence and copious undead awaits - along-side a chained demoness who offers one last way for the PCs to resume their work, should they have been suckered in. Then, at a private rail station, the mastermind behind aforementioned lanterns is in danger of being recruited by the Obscurati... And said interaction involves someone in the highest echelons of power...



In order to triumph here, though, the PCs will not only have to have drawn the right conclusions, they better also be up to their a-game - if they are, they may have actually gained some important allies.



The appendix depicts in detail (and with maps) the train, provides further filler NPCs and general guidelines for investigation and the tailing of suspects are provided alongside a selection of 8 magic items (one of which is a new quality) as well as a quick-reference sheet of NPCs for the DM, a mission timeline and a nice advertisement-style handout for the scenic railroad route.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed e.g. one instance of part of a DC's number being obscured beneath a relic and I also encountered some very minor typos/wording glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with artworks ranging from superb full color to comic-style mugshots to thematically fitting b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience and the pdf is layered, allowing you to customize the pdf for printing it out, all according to your needs.



Zeitgeist modules are damn friggin' complex beasts, but gloriously so - they involve a lot of moving parts, NPCs, contingencies and options for DM to get the module, proverbially, back on track. This is no exception and while the module is, quite literally, a railroad, it also is surprisingly player-driven with all the suspects, investigation guidelines, etc. allowing for a lot of outcomes, for a lot of different approaches, while always providing options for the DM to get things back on track. Sorry, I swear that was the final railway-pun. So is this a great module? Yes, yes, indeed - author JAcob Driscoll has delivered a complex, cool investigation against a unique backdrop, one that not as complex as CoC's legendary Orient express-campaign, but one that fits seamlessly in with the overall AP. More so than in previous installments, though, DMs should take heed to impress the investigation-focus of teh whole AP: Players seeking primarily roll-playing will eb frustrated by this triumphantly brains-over-brawns module. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - I applaud the sheer guts of deviating from the mostly combat-driven gameplay of most modules towards a rewarding ROLEplaying experience seldom seen in any d20-based system.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #4: Always on Time (PATHFINDER RPG)
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Admiral o' the High Seas: The Naval Combat Supplement for Pathfinder & D&D 4th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/28/2014 03:31:01
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Pathfinder and D&D 4th edition is 81 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page back cover, leaving us with 77 pages of content, so let's check this out!



So, if you've been following the Zeitgeist steampunk-AP by EN Publishing, you may have noticed that the naval combat rules used by the AP are different from those used by Paizo in "Skull & Shackles". Well, that's because this supplement in the basis for them.



We kick off the supplement with general considerations on technology level, availability/feasibility of teleport and similar means of travel before getting into the meatier aspects of the rules, namely ship statblocks. Ships have sizes (D'uh) and a hull integrity - this is the amount of shipboard weapon damage it can take before the vessel sinks. Ships also have a defense value, which essentially acts as a form of DR against shipboard weapons. In Pathfinder, ships have a touch AC of -3 and +0 to all saves, which feels a bit weird, since usually, the size of a vessel should influence the AC, whereas here a single default value is assumed. Ship saves, when called for, usually are rolled versus a fixed DC 10, at times modified, but more on these intricacies later. The Maneuverability-value applies to some command checks and essentially determines how easy a ship can be turned around. The Speed is also a fixed value (like 7) that denotes the amount of 5-foot squares a ship can travel in combat (and the amount of knots per hour it makes). It also applies to some command checks and double the value equals the vessel's maximum speed. Each vessel has a command rating depending on captain and crew, a minimum amount of crew members required to run it and an entry that denotes how many crew members are required for maximum functionality as well as an entry on how many people can make up the vessel's crew.



Height, length, breadth, decks, weaponry and total cost are also displayed in a ship's given statblock. and before getting into battle, hazard pay for crew as well as plotting a course and following it - essentially, via simple skill-checks solutions, the basic stuff is covered. One particular thing you'll have noticed by now is that the system, since it was designed for two systems, teds to provide Pathfinder information in a slightly greenish tint and brackets - which should annoy me, but honestly, it blends unobtrusively in and seriously does not impede the flow of the text - plus, it makes ignoring it easy for 4th edition DMs. Still, I wished the authors had e.g. provided tables for the skills.

Chops, small crash hazards etc. - most minor annoyances in battle can be negated by aforementioned command check, which btw. constitutes a d20+1/2 level+ highest mental attribute modifier...which is a bit problematic. While an elegant way that allows characters to easily command vessels, it also means that ranks in Profession (sailor) and similar skills are essentially wasted - once relative mastery in such a peculiar field becomes so easy and requires no investment from the characters, it takes away from the sense of accomplishment when actually doing something awesome as a captain.



Now Stern chases are covered via an abstract system that approximates different round-lengths for the ships depending on how close they are - per se a cool idea that manages to make the chase per se be more tight - the system per se is simple, requiring only one side to get 3 successes over the other and makes for a nice, fast to play solution...until you start taking it apart: While we are told that failure of a navigator in such a chase might grant the other a bonus from +2 to +5 or allow a navigator to incur a penalty on one round for a bonus in the next, we get no hard guidelines - essentially this is do as you please" - which isn't bad, but also fails to provide a solid framework from which one can glean what would be appropriate. And no, CR-modifications for encounters based on naval hazards are not provided- why? Because, if you haven't gleaned it, naval combat essentially happens in naval rounds...and it follows abstractions. Take counterspell defense - if you have a ship's mage, said mage can briefly ward a ship 3/day, reducing damage of an incoming spell by 10. Only...that's not how counterspelling works. Also: What kind of resources does this shield cost? Why doesn't it scale with the level of the ship's mage? Where things get completely ridiculous is with the dinner plate defense - mage hand + plate =blocked AoE-spells or rays thanks to PERCEPTION? Sorry, but that's just so incredibly NOT how it would work: Mage Hand has a duration of concentration, which means usually maximum one spell in effect per caster, at close range. Worse, even with a readied action, the plate could only be moved by 15 feet: NOT enough to cover a whole vessel... Yes, I guess that this is intended to be a fun countermeasure to spells, but it ends up being ridiculous, Pythonesque even (Sailors of the penetrated plates, anyone?) and also does simply not work as a strategy as presented - the rules directly contradict it.

Where any semblance of dual systems fall apart is with the mechanics of hitting hooks into sea serpents and similar huge creatures to drag them towards the ship - first of all, the sample creatures usually have an array of spell-like and supernatural abilities. Secondly, the whole maneuver may work against "Defense",, but essentially would be a drag/pull-maneuver in PFRPG - don't expect CMB/CMD or the like here and while the system works at least within the proposed subsystem in 4th edition, it also mentions strikes and honestly, just doesn't feel like you could simply insert a given creature into the equation - removing tethered hooks is in no way dependant on the creature hooked (Kraken!) nor are actions given for e.g. servants to remove the hooks. All in all, an abstract maneuver not thought through to its logical conclusion.



Next up would be different crews (and morale categories that modify the difficulty of e.g. command checks) as well as two feats that allow you to take e.g. multiple elite officer roles and optional modifications for ship-shape, crew size etc. to further modify the basic rules and add more variety to the respective components. Mutiny is also mentioned shortly, as are supplies, but it is here that the supplement also fails - supplies, water, disease - essential components when it comes to the well-being of a crew (not to start with superstitions) are basically only glanced over in the most cursory of ways. While I get WHY this was done, the fact is that a lot of people out there, me included, actually DO track water-consumption, food resources etc. -if only so survival means something. In the context of perilous journeys on the ocean, such components should NOT be simply a half-developed backdrop - more often than not, survival may be just as exciting as straight out combat. So in that particular department, the supplement, at least for me, fails miserably - in either system.



Sooo....naval combat. Each round of naval combat consists of 5 phases: maneuvers, location, terrain, bearing and attack. In the maneuver phase, perception-checks are made by the look-outs and maneuvers are being decided upon - it is here that it becomes evident that the aforementioned chase is essentially handled like a naval combat - why don't the chase-rules just mention that? Oh well. Essentially, the maneuver-phase allows for tactics via 6 different maneuvers, which usually pay for a bonus in one phase with a penalty in another and thus allow for some strategy...but also could have used more variety. A total of 10 maneuvers (6 basic maneuvers and 4 situational ones) to choose from may be enough for sojourns to the seas, but in full-blown nautical campaigns, they'd get boring fast. In the Location phase, blocking an enemy, pursuing ships etc. become possible - again, why first list the chase and then, pages later, provide the other rules - the chase rules aren't bad, I just don't get why they've been divorced from the combat rules on which they're based in the first place. In the terrain-phase, hazards are dealt with. In the bearing phase, competing command checks are made to determine whether the ships can outmaneuver one another and bring weapons to bear. I do like that we have multiple degrees of success and failure here, with varying effects and consequences. However, with opposing d20-rolls, much is left to chance and at least in Pathfinder, that's a violation of how such things are done - usually, one would shoot for roll versus fixed value. In the attack-phase, a ship can fire from each of its firing arcs and hit other vessels - each hit hitting one of 4 potential regions of a ship, with varying consequences: Each hit constitutes a STRIKE. One strike means damaged, 2 broken and, as always, 3 and you're out, i.e. the component has been destroyed. This, again, is rather abstract for my tastes and becomes problematic and overly general once exotic materials and enchantments enter the fray: What if components are guarded versus a special damage type? How much damage does a strike cause when applied in regular damage terms? What about weapons used to decimate the crew? There are some significant holes here, and while we get rules for volleys and a simplified alternate way to track crew damage, I still would have liked more diversified rules there and better synergy with the other levels of battle.



Where the system does something RIGHT would be with the officer roles - a ship has a total of 6 officer-roles, all of which allow players (and NPCs) to influence the performance of their ship in varying degrees and phases, allowing for a nice and dynamic experience that feels superior to essentially the "one player versus DM"-experience the default naval combat rules for Pathfinder provide - if your group isn't as large as mine (over 6 players), you'll be fully covered and have things to do for every player. On the magic side, though, we once again get a massive failure, when an "Arcana check (DC 10 + half the level of the target's highest level component)" can be made to bypass the shoddy arcane defense rules on which I harped before. In my opinion, this particular component is overly simplistic and works in neither system. What's nice, though, would the very real possibility for burning boats to sink, though we are not introduced to shipwrecked rules.



Boarding actions, with and without grids, crew templates - there is quite a lot to be found here. Speaking of which: What I really, really love about this supplement are the myriad floor plans for vessels of all sizes - in lavish full color, with grids - there are so many of them, they actually accompanying the respective ship statblocks, it's just awesome - especially since we also get zeppelins, airships and the like. The fluffy write-ups of sailor's superstitions are awesome as well, though actual mechanical consequences would have been neat. Extensive information on real-world ghost-ship legends, some fantasy ports and 4 legendary vessels (which include an undead whale) also feature here, before we get easy to follow design guidelines to create your own ships, including a wide array of additional components, which, yes, even include a time machine. Unfortunately, you won't find Pathfinder rules for these and much like the previously mentioned components, several of them come apart when taken into the design-context of the respective system.



The pdf concludes with 2 pages of sheets for vessels, a short summary on Admiral Lord Nelson's life and a one-page adventure hook/synopsis for you to develop.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting per se are top-notch, I didn't notice any glaring glitches. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column full color standard and the pdf is layered, allowing you to customize it and make it more printer-friendly. The artworks are universally thematically fitting stock art and the floor plans of the ships are awesome and full color. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Ryan Nock has created a system that works in this supplement, and one that perhaps is a bit more fun for the whole group than the default ship-combat of the respective systems. That being said, this pdf has issues, many of which can be attributed to it trying to provide one system for two vastly different roleplaying systems. Instead of working with the rules and design-assumptions of D&D 4th edition and Pathfinder, Admiral o' the High Seas creates its own system, necessitating quite some conversion work on the DM's side. I wouldn't complain about that.



What I do complain about is that the system introduced herein may work on its own, but roleplaying systems are not like computer games - mini-games that suddenly follow radically different assumptions don't work here. If arcane batteries can that easily be countered, why don't fortresses follow these rules? Armies? How does one raise a defense shield on a ship? How much resources does this consume? Can it be raised on land? Why not? I get that the system endeavors to make magic artillery not as overpowering by providing countermeasures, but instead of working with the systems, it jury-rigs an ill-conceived concept together, which, when thought to its logical conclusion, makes no sense within the reality of the game world. Since all rules are connected, taking this system and divorcing it as thoroughly as this pdf does from basic rules assumptions and how things are handled results in an almost jarring backlash.



Worse, while the options herein allow for a more tactical approach, it just doesn't cover enough: With some many moving parts via spells, magic items, smaller vessels, flying animal companions etc., this supplement falls painfully short of accounting for the myriad of options potentially available. Now, again, I understand this is partially due to being system-spanning, but my point is: It doesn't work as well as it should in D&D 4th edition and in Pathfinder, it flat-out fails. The latter ruleset has obviously been an afterthought at best, with A LOT of rules differing completely from how things are done in the syntax and grammar of the rules and many options herein simply lacking PFRPG-equivalent rules.



This supplement shows that its system actually works, is fun and provides something to do for players - but it doesn't fit seamlessly into the given rules-systems (though D&D 4th edition works MUCH better with this than PFRPG) and potentially breaks some of the underlying tenets on how your campaign world works in the first place - hardness, hit points, damage of spells etc. - all that is NOT THAT UNMANEGEABLE. This system could have worked with the rules instead of against them - it has all the makings of a good supplement. But it execution is at times lackluster and it suffers from trying to cater to two audiences, ultimately missing one completely and not perfectly hitting the other either. In the superb Zeitgeist AP, these rules may work - because naval combat is used as interludes. But in prolonged naval campaigns, all those small glitches, all the unaccounted possibilities, all the cracks in the system and the relative few tactical options WILL sink this supplement - I guarantee it.



How to rate this, then? For D&D 4th edition, this is a valid supplement, if not a perfect one - it leaves many small options to be desired, but does provide some fun and a relative easy system - 3 stars. For Pathfinder, this supplement fails - it ignores design-tenets, rules-information seems to have been forgotten for many pieces of crunch and the information provided is barebones and reeks of an uninspired, shoddy conversion at best. For Pathfinder, I'll settle for a final verdict of 1.5 stars. My final verdict will fall in-between at 2.5 stars. I'll round down though, since the huge amount of logic issues this supplement may bring up can thoroughly destroy any sense of immersion and internal logic in a given setting.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Admiral o' the High Seas: The Naval Combat Supplement for Pathfinder & D&D 4th Edition
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The Return of SANTIAGO (Novel)
by Ratimir I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2014 18:15:25
It's a classic Resnick space western. If you know what that means, then you've got a good idea what you're in for. If you don't, then I STRONGLY recommend reading Santiago first (for fairly obvious reasons, this book contains massive spoilers for the original).
Return doesn't quite measure up to the original Santiago, but is still an excellent read, packed with the larger than life personalities that populate Resnick's Inner Frontier, but a few of them come across as repeats of earlier characters. This is clearly deliberate in the case of Dante, who seeks to carry on Black Orpheus' work, but Tyrranosaur Bailey comes across in some ways as a repeat of Manmountain Bates, and Waltzing Matilda's introduction bears quite a resemblence to Mouse's in Oracle.
For me the biggest frustration was inadequate proof-reading. I lost count of the typos: a couple of worlds get their names misspelled, a character mentions the Democracy covering "50,000 words", etc. Ten years since publication, these simple errors should have been cleaned up long ago.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Return of SANTIAGO (Novel)
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SANTIAGO AP #1: A Visit to Keepsake: The Hunt Begins (D&D 4th EDITION)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/10/2013 11:20:22
Designed to embroil the characters in the plotline from the get-go, the opening scene comes over as a bit forced: a group of strangers standing in a completely automated post office decide, apparently on a whim, to team up and go after three very dangerous brothers for the price that is on their heads?

It might be preferable to run an introductory scene of your own that gets the party together and deciding that they actually want to be bounty hunters first! Anyway, once the initial identification of the first targets has been made, the action flows well, with an array of clues to be gathered that will bring them to the right place to catch said brothers as they are about to flee the planet. Provided the ensuing combat goes well, the characters will not only now have some claim to the title of bounty hunter, they also get the reward and a ship...

From then on, the adventure is laid out in such a way that the characters ought not to feel quite so railroaded, with suggestions as to how to get things back on track if they don't decide to visit Keepsake - a good planet on which to relax, apparently - or otherwise ignore what has been prepared for them here.

Throughout, it is clear that characters are going to need to be able to interact, investigate and think as well as brawl. Make sure that the party has a good mix of skills as well as some combat abilities or else they will struggle. That said, they will not be short of opportunities to fight, and groups lacking in sheer muscle will also be at a disadvantage.

Everything is presented clearly, with copious notes about how the folks the party meets will react and what information is to be had from them (and at what price). There is also an appendix with new item and NPC information. Everything is well structured to accommodate the D&D 4e mechanics, though, which makes it very clear what is going on.

Overall a good start, once you are past the initial scene.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SANTIAGO AP #1: A Visit to Keepsake: The Hunt Begins (D&D 4th EDITION)
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SANTIAGO AP #1: A Visit to Keepsake: The Hunt Begins (PATHFINDER RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2013 10:49:16
Designed to embroil the characters in the plotline from the get-go, the opening scene comes over as a bit forced: a group of strangers standing in a completely automated post office decide, apparently on a whim, to team up and go after three very dangerous brothers for the price that is on their heads?

It might be preferable to run an introductory scene of your own that gets the party together and deciding that they actually want to be bounty hunters first! Anyway, once the initial identification of the first targets has been made, the action flows well, with an array of clues to be gathered that will bring them to the right place to catch said brothers as they are about to flee the planet. Provided the ensuing combat goes well, the characters will not only now have some claim to the title of bounty hunter, they also get the reward and a ship...

From then on, the adventure is laid out in such a way that the characters ought not to feel quite so railroaded, with suggestions as to how to get things back on track if they don't decide to visit Keepsake - a good planet on which to relax, apparently - or otherwise ignore what has been prepared for them here.

Throughout, it is clear that characters are going to need to be able to interact, investigate and think as well as brawl. Make sure that the party has a good mix of skills as well as some combat abilities or else they will struggle. That said, they will not be short of opportunities to fight, and groups lacking in sheer muscle will also be at a disadvantage.

Everything is presented clearly, with copious notes about how the folks the party meets will react and what information is to be had from them (and at what price). There is also an appendix with new item and NPC information.

Overall a good start, once you are past the initial scene.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SANTIAGO AP #1: A Visit to Keepsake: The Hunt Begins (PATHFINDER RPG)
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SANTIAGO: A Myth of the Far Future Campaign Guide (PATHFINDER RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2013 10:54:06
Setting the scene for some science fantasy adventuring, the Campaign Guide opens with atmospheric fiction about day-to-day life in the spaceways... which would have been even better if the text had not been printed on a messy background. The Introduction then explains that the characters are cast as bounty hunters on the trail of a near-legendary bandit called Santiago.

And that's where most of you had better stop reading!

The rest of this document is for the GM, with plot overviews and advice on how to make this adventure path come to life for the players. There are also thumb-nail sketches of major characters and outlines of each adventure, to enable appropriate foreshadowing of future events as well as to give you a good idea of where the campaign is going.

The next section looks at the worlds of the far future, an overview of the galaxy in which the adventures are set. Loads of planets, with a brief description of each, which may well be of use for your own adventures as well as in running those of the adventure path.

Section 3 looks at Campaigns in Space, with all manner of advice for running spacefaring games - of general interest and use even if you are not planning on running the Santiago adventure path. This is followed by a brief section on new rules (primarily covering weapons and star ships) and one on Enemies of the Far Future - prinarily the sentient sort rather than 'monsters' although of course those will be present as well. There's certainly enough to keep everyone busy.

If you are intending to run the Santiago adventure path, this is essential reading. It will also be useful if you want to run a Pathfinder game set in a space-faring far future - plenty of ideas to spawn adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
SANTIAGO: A Myth of the Far Future Campaign Guide (PATHFINDER RPG)
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