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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp (5E)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2017 09:45:27

Great stuff. Pathfinder version is excellent; 5E is of course the same stuff and very good. There's parts where there's stuff that appear left over from the change from PF, so that's a bit weird, but not too distracting. The best parts of the DO books are kinda non-rulesy: maps, characters, quests, that kinda thing. So no biggie, just weird. Neat if you have the DO adventure or if you just wanna use the stuff inside for your own thing.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp (5E)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp (Pathfinder)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2017 09:33:17

Its huge, like really big. Crazy detail. I have this and the do1 adventure and theres a lot thats duplicated if you have that other stuff. But the npcs have pix now, and its all in the outside of the city which is even bigger and more buildings than inside.

Crazy good addition to the adventure if you have it already. If i didn't have the DO adventure i'd still mine BB for ideas and characters; really neat on its own too I'd gues.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2017 09:30:16

These atlases are amazing. Yeah it's just the same maps from the book but the colors much better. Cool to have a book just for maps, makes dming way easier with players looking at their own map. I put the PDF on a ipad and just have it on the table; works awesome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte Basecamp: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
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Artifacts & Artifice: Abhorrent Naginata
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2017 12:06:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content. It should be noted that 5 of these pages are used to highlight the mission statements of Infinium Game Studios and the peculiarities of the massive adventure books and supplements the studio creates.

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

All right, so the first thing you'll note would be that the weapon itself, the abhorrent naginata, is depicted in a quadded version - that is, the weapon comes in basically 4 different iterations - ranging from +1 to +4. The lavishly-illustrated weapon (amazing full-color artwork there) sports rings of color, and each is tied to a specific race - RAW, the GM retains control of whether the PCs automatically get to know which band corresponds to which race - which is relevant due to the dynamic bane special weapon quality the naginata offers. As a formal complaint: This special weapon ability is bolded/not-bolded here, when special weapon qualities usually are italicized in PFRPG.

As a swift action, such weapons may change their bane type. The general special weapon quality is depicted in two iterations - as a +2 and as a +3 equivalent. From the abhorrent naginata, I could extrapolate that the lesser version is supposed to grant a +2 bonus to attack and +1d6 damage versus the target, whereas the greater version provides a bonus of +3 to atk and +2d6 damage - the lesser quality has been applied to the two less costly weapons, whereas the greater version has been applied to the two more pricey, high-level iterations of the weapon.

I'm saying "extrapolate" here, since dynamic bane as a generalized effect, in its explanation reads "dynamic bane weapons inflict an additional 2d6 points of damage if wielded [...] they also receive an additional enhancement bonus of +2." - for the greater version, however, that should be +3, which may generate some confusion there, as there is just one explanation in the box summing up the effect, even though the box lists the two variants. Cool: The pdf does note the weapon's notoriety and potential quirks of ownership, which makes me expect more in that regard from the final book. A nice bit would be the table that allows for the random determination of preset enemies.

Another issue I have with the item would be that, in particularly the naginata's higher iterations are underpriced - while the pdf notes that this is by design, it really, really annoys me. The naginata is priced at 36K in its third (+3 enhancement bonus), 54K in its 4th (+4 enhancement bonus) iteration - to this, we'd add the +3 equivalent of the very powerful greater dynamic bane, which would place the weapon at 72 K for the +6 equivalent 3rd version and 98K, respectively, for the fourth incarnation. I'm generally good with specific weapons being less costly than general ones, but in one case LITERALLY half the price of the crafted item...is brutal. Particularly considering how dynamic bane makes having a regular bane weapon generally a dumb and obsolete proposition. Personally, I'd have placed the lesser version with its flexible, untyped damage boost at +3. UNLESS, and that would be an easy way to limit this item and bring it in line with the pricing suggested, it actually had a cap of how many different modes it has - if e.g. the second iteration had 3, the 3rd 5, etc., I'd consider the pricing well-done depending on the modes it has...but since RAW, we have free and unlimited selection of types, I think it could use a higher price.

Really cool and developed would be the lore-aspect: In a quadded rumor table, a whole page is devoted to unearthing rumors and information about this weapon and its origins. This attention to detail and commitment to placing the weapon in a proper context extends to class-based hooks and general hooks that may be employed to integrate the item within the context of the game - a brief, fully-depicted quest, included a quadded rogue statblock of a wielder of the weapon has been included. Now this wielder is rather squishy at the higher levels, but considering the assassin-y angle and serious damage output the NPC can pull off, I can see the idea behind the NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good on a formal level and, for the most part, on a rules-level as well. They need to extrapolate the lesser/greater distinction is a nasty glitch, though. Layout adheres to Infinium Game Studios' two-column full-color standard with color-coded blocks, etc. The pdf comes with a backgroundless, second version that is more printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks -kudos! The artwork of the weapon is really cool.

J. Evans Payne's abhorrent naginata is a cool and promising magic item: In particularly the commitment to detail, lore and instant usability with a pre-made mini-quest should make this a feasible addition to the game. That being said, we do have a couple of hiccups in the mechanics that detract a bit from this item - both pricing and formatting could be tighter as far as I'm concerned - while I applaud the hyperlinks of e.g. the bane quality, seeing it bolded just rubs me the wrong way, big time - there is a reason we have formatting conventions in PFRPG and this is particularly baffling since the pdf gets it right most of the time.

That being said, I am a total prick here - I am, after all, complaining about a WIP-teaser for a massive compendium of magic weapons - and the teaser is FREE, ladies and gentlemen. FREE is hard to beat and while I disagree vehemently regarding the pricing, there is still time to play with the balance-screws there. The contextualization within the world that the item presentation format showcased here most certainly has serious potential and the lore aspect's emphasis is similarly a significant strength that makes me interested to see the final book. In the end, taking the FREE-bonus into account, my final verdict for this FREE teaser will be 3.5 stars, rounded up - worth checking out and you have literally nothing to lose...and as a nice benefit, after this review, you'll be well-equipped to deal with the one aspect where the rules may have you stumble for a second.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Artifacts & Artifice: Abhorrent Naginata
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2017 07:53:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive first installment of the ambitious Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a thoroughly impressive 497 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 5 pages of ToC, 4 pages blank, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 483 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was move up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and I received a print copy, further moving this up in my review queue.

Now, at this point, I have already talked about several of the unique properties of this AP - reward stars, quadded statblocks and attitude trackers. I explained those in the reviews of the books where they are most relevant. As a brief refresher regarding the helpful layout:

The book explains its unique presentation: Taking a cue from AAW Games' playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

As you can glean from my review of the Dramatis Personae and Bestiary book, the quadded statblocks are not in the adventure book, nor are the highly detailed fluff notes for the vast amount of NPCs in this book. These can be found in the Dramatis Personae-book. That being said, this adventure does contain statblocks - though they a) are rudimentary and b) violate PFRPG-formatting conventions left and right. Honestly, that's one of the most serious complaints I have regarding this mega-adventure/first part of the Dark Obelisk AP. I cringe whenever I see one of these nonstandard statblocks. And yes, alas, these have hiccups, so no change from the crunchier books for Dark Obelisk.

It should also be noted that the superbly-written prose for the NPCs and complex attitude-tracker-system from the Dramatis Personae-book SIGNIFICANTLY enhances the experience of running this book. I strongly urge any GM waning to run this to use them in conjunction with one another.

However, there is another innovation in this book, an interesting peculiarity I have not yet discussed in the other Dark Obelisk reviews, mainly because it did not come up: The concept of attitude trackers, which I explained in the Dramatis Personae book, is applied globally in a unique twist on the sandbox trope. You see, a lavishly-detailed sandbox like this all too often gets bogged down in the details - something particularly likely to happen in a book that has the lofty ambitions of this tome, namely to create a wholly immersive and dynamic environment. Hence, the module introduces a so-called catalyst tracker. The first thing a GM should do, hence, is to decide what the catalyst for Act 2 would be - 4 sample ideas are given, but any halfway decent GM can generate variants thereof.

Once that primary catalyst is determined, we have three values we can potentially track; Law and Chaos (mirroring the theme of the religious conflict between the lawful church of Zugul mainly worshiped by the upper class and the fatalistic, more chaotic church of Sheergath worshiped by the less fortunate majority) and Love - the latter determining more the heartbreak and sheer emotional charge, positive or negative, generated by the acts of the adventurers. Starting values are included, but there are definitely enough catalyst impacts in the literally hundreds of quests herein to start them off with 0, if you prefer slower-paced games. Once the catalyst has met the respective value, sh** gets real. This, in conjunction with the various FlexTables for random encounters, lavish detail for NPCs (when used in conjunction with the Dramatis Personae book) and sheer amount of detail for every single locale mean that no two experiences of this adventure will be alike. Additionally, some quests are particularly suited to act as a story-trigger, as yet another alternative. Oh, and the module does come with railroady tracks, if such a wide-open sandbox seems to daunting for you.

If the sheer amount of NPCs and locales and quests seem daunting to track, note that codes (like BC-1) for places and sub-locations make finding the proper places easy. Quests denote the exact page in the case they require information found elsewhere.

But to go into the details of how the adventure plays out, I need to go into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around here? Great! So, I could sum up the plot of this module in one sentence. No, I am not kidding you. If I did that, though, I'd be doing this module a disservice.

You see, the first Act of this massive adventure would consist of the PCs familiarizing themselves with the town of Berinncorte. This is a massive sandbox, where the PCs can meet the tough Lady that acts as a major and may be a bit overzealous regarding law; they can butt heads (and blades, if they choose to) with a local tough guy; they can get to know the local churches and their doctrines. They can find mundane books in the library, which actually enhance skills. They can investigate missing folks and just generally have a nice time. The whole of act one, in short, consists of small, personal quests, local color and tiny favors. These quests are not necessarily world-shattering; they are almost painfully mundane and idyllic. This is done intentionally. You see, for one, as mentioned before, these all represent ways to increase the catalyst tracker. Even if your players don't know it yet, even via these mundane quests, they're advancing the plot. The quests also generate a sense of the mundane, the almost-realistic, basically the fantasy equivalent of a small town-villanelle.

That being said, there are aspects of the fantastic to be found here, even within this relative calm that precedes the storm that inexorably will tear at the town: Go down the right cellar for a less than legit meeting and you may find yourself looking at the river, held in check by a semi-permeable membrane that allows folks to potentially fish by simple stretching out their hands! Similarly, a dastardly villain/serial killer is slowly feeling the need to escalate his cycle, so catching that person may make for a rewarding quest for PCs and players looking for a more heroic task. Still, I'd actually encourage the GM and players to engage with the "normal" folks and their tasks - the more of these folks and their daily struggles you can introduce and endear to the PCs, the more effective the second part of the module will be. This is also why I'd strongly suggest getting the Dramatis Personae companion book - the more detailed the NPCs are, the easier it'll be to endear the town to the players and the excessive amount of detail provided makes the settlement come to life much more organically.

At one point, whether by catching that serial killer, finding out about the forbidden love of a cleric or by a vast array of other scenarios, powered by the catalyst tracker, the second act will begin. One more thing: Just ignoring quests won't help either - NOT taking a quest is also a decision...and similarly, influences the tracker! Anyways, act 2 begins...literally, with a bang.

You see, this module, in essence, is a catastrophe movie or event book disguised as a massive sandbox. Once your individualized tracker has hit the threshold (or once your PCs have tired of the place), the market place will erupt and the disturbing, purplish-black, light-corrupting eponymous Dark Obelisk will break forth in an epic explosion, killing most folk in the market square and plunging the town into chaos - literally, for, from the invincible monolith and the bottomless chasm that has spawned it, a horde of undead, demons and worse creep forth. Acidic pools of goo litter the streets and the encounters suddenly become a fight for survival.

Here, the FlexTale random encounter-mechanic becomes important - if you're escorting maddened folks spouting eschatological ramblings to safety, you'll face more powerful foes more often. And yes, folks will die - including the powerful mayor, who'll give her sword with her dying breath to the PCs. Not everyone can be saved...but many folks can. The more the PCs like a given person, the more likely it is that they survive, if the GM chooses to employ fate rather than his own decisions to make that choice.

Basically, where act one was the "everything's all right"-version of the town, act 3 would be he hell on earth iteration: Walls are crumbled, temples invaded; the dead litter the street; grieving women search for their lovers. Sanctuaries need to be defended against lethal waves of enemies with the help of the militia...only to notice that, ultimately, the price in lives is too high. Indeed, the GM is encourages to use "villainous" and "unstoppable" monsters to make abundantly clear that the PCs won't defeat this monolith right now - no one knows anything about the invulnerable monument to chaos and death and even these "bosses" may well be beyond the PC's capabilities to deal with, requiring flight and the smart use of the completely mapped city to avoid.

In fact, in the hands of the correct GM, this can be a very Dark Souls-like experience in tone and the way the PCs have to slowly and deliberately choose their actions. Pretty much every character also has a quest (or multiple ones) in this chaos - escort-missions, securing items left behind, rescue missions, searches - there is a ton of stuff to be done here as well. Where before, these small quests were integrated in favor of establishing a homebase, a sympathetic town, the third act's quests are more combat-centric and more like walking through a warzone or a Walking Dead outbreak chaos scenario: You see small destinies all over the place and narrative threads from act 1 are continued and developed. When handled properly, this will make act 3 feel frantic, somber, frightening and apocalyptic, but all of that hinges on how well act 1 went. Again, this is why I consider the detailed NPC-prose from the dramatis personae book to be this incredibly important. If the players don't care enough, then the impact of this act is lost, so make use of those attitudes, those excessive fluff-notes.

Whether just a day or a whole week, sooner or later, the PCs will have to concede that talking down the elite gate guards and escaping the town, for now, is the only chance they and the besieged survivors have...and once that has been accomplished, once the town has been cleared/abandoned, the module ends....leaving me honestly wondering how that whole sequence will proceed.

While the VTT-jpgs etc. are included in the premium atlas and the GM-maps where they're needed in the module, the book does come with all the player-friendly, well-made and properly redacted maps in the appendices, so if you want the player maps, you don't need to get the atlas. Speaking of indices: Factions, quests, catalyst impacts, items, dead NPCs and maps all are covered in their own indices, which makes navigating this module significantly easier than you'd expect from such a tome. The three-letter codes etc. also help: Search the code, there you are. Big kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are impressive for a freshman offering AND a one-man-outfit. While I noticed a few instances of a sentence missing, that never pertained rules-relevant material and instead was in a designer's commentary, etc. The one component where this module makes me cringe is with the rudimentary statblocks and their nonstandard formatting. They are enough to run the module, yes, but why not include the properly formatted ones?? Quite a few GMs won't care there, but similarly, that may be really glaring for others. Layout adheres to a nice, two-column full-color standard with a parchment-like background. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless version. While originally, the electronic versions were missing their bookmarks, a properly bookmarked version has been uploaded to my knowledge. The full-color hardcover I have is a massive tome of a book - in conjunction with the dramatis personae book, they exceed Slumbering Tsar in page count. The inclusion of player-friendly maps herein is a big plus, as far as I'm concerned. Big, big kudos - particularly for redacting secret tunnels etc. on the maps.

J. Evans Payne's "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte" is AMBITIOUS. Some may say "insane", but what's more important to me, at least, is that it tries to do something NEW. I have literally never played a module like this. The staggering detail of the coverage of the sandbox that is the town of Berinncorte is impressive. The fact that it does not read like a gigantic snorefest, in spite of act one's pretty mundane and harmonic atmosphere, should be considered to be a testament to the quality of the author's prose, particularly in conjunction with the companion book's NPC-write-ups. Now, I can't speak about how this would fare sans its companion tome - I can only speculate, and frankly, I think it's possible, but harder for the GM to make the players care about the locals without this amount of detailed prose on ALL of them.

This stands and falls with PCs and players caring. A good GM can make this an incredibly memorable module, but, in spite of the details, NPCs, maps, etc. stacking the deck in the GM's favor, this requires a bit of skill to pull off. Roleplaying heavy groups will gravitate to the personal tales of the NPCs; combat-focused ones to the carnage in act 3...and most, probably, will gravitate to both. The impressive achievement here would lie in the massive flexibility of the plot and the attention to detail. In this module, the "small quests"-angle worked perfectly, and I am interested in seeing how this will progress beyond the confines of this installment of the AP: After all, there needs to be a plot and the trackers most certainly can be used in more ways to render future modules just as dynamic. How that'll work with a more pronounced plot will be intriguing to see.

Now, I know, that all sounds a bit strange. here's the thing: Due to the book being so entwined with its companion and due to the sheer scope, it's hard to properly describe the book. In fact, this adventure is one of those that plays much better than it reads. There's a reason I try to play as much as I can. All that preparation, all that consideration in advance? All those quests? here is the biggest plus of this book: You can basically run it with next to no prep time.

"Okay, endy has gone off the deep end." No, I actually haven't. The searchable codes help. And the level of detail. Throw PCs in, they go to location xyz - you have read-aloud text. You have NPCs. You have quests. Instantaneously. Everywhere. This can be a pretty big thing for some of us. I mentioned in my reviews of this series how obsessively detailed my campaign is, right? I noted how other GMs I know also like that approach, right? Heck, perhaps you had such a campaign, perhaps while in college or university. You know, a campaign with ridiculous details, hundreds of quests? And then, at one point, you didn't have the time or drive or creativity to provide this level of information. We've all been there. I've been using a metric ton of modules, since I have a pretty darn good memory and only have to read a module once to run it, even years later. But, well, perhaps you went another road. Perhaps you went to APs and similar new-school modules. And they do a great job telling their story. I love them and collect them religiously. But players used to sandboxing don't take kindly to railroads and at one point, you'll be craving this wide-openness, this level of detail. You can go rules-lite for quicker details and material generation, but the crunchy guys and gals will miss the combat options. That's where this book comes in, at least for me.

I'm not a nostalgic man and the sentiment is alien to me; however, I do believe that this book scratches exactly that itch. That craving for a world that feels fully realized, that feels like a concise, deliberate vision. The GM's task, to a certain degree, is to generate the illusion of a believable world beyond the perception of the players, a world with all the details, that has "always been there" - pay no heed to the man behind the curtain...äh...screen. When PCs go off the rails, that illusion suffers and, in such hyper-detailed environments, chances are that this did not happen.

Because you had it all planed out. This book and its dramatis personae companion tome, used in conjunction, simulate that level of preparation - successfully, I might add.

That is a big unique selling proposition as far as modules go. Now, the module is not perfect. As mentioned before in the atlas-review, I consider the overview map to be not up to the quality of the other maps herein. The non-standard statblocks are slightly annoying and, as mentioned in the review of the dramatis personae book, there are some aspects of the formulae used in the creation of these books that need refinement. However, in this review, I'm judging the adventure, not the rest. I do feel the need to explicitly state that, sans the dramatis personae companion book, flawed though that may be, this book loses some of its appeal. I strongly suggest using them in conjunction.

I can see this working exceedingly well, perfectly in fact, for some groups, and I can see this being a dud for others. If you want an elaborate, highly complex metaplot, then this may be not for you. If atmosphere and immersion, if urban sandboxing and an epic payoff is what you're looking for, however, then this delivers. In the end, my final verdict for this adventure, taking all into account, will be 4 stars. With the caveat, however, that you need to be able to see past the copious flaws in statblocks etc. - if that stuff irks you, then you may want to carefully consider this one... Part II of the saga will have a tough act to follow here, for the trick used herein only works once. If you're looking for something completely different regarding design-philosophy, this is definitely worth checking out.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/28/2017 07:51:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive TOME of a book clocks in at 487 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 478 pages of material, so let's take a look!

Well, before we do, let us pause for a second and recap the unique aspects of Infinium Game Studios-releases that we've covered so far, all right? In my review of the Player's Guide and the pregens, I talked briefly about the alternate character progression system via reward stars. (It can be easily ignored in favor of XP, just fyi.) In the pregen-book, I noted the quadded statblocks. Basically, we get 4 iterations of every NPC and creature featured in these tomes, which, in conjunction with quadded challenge blocks generally means that you could run the adventure Berinncorte for higher level groups. I'd strongly advise against that, since not all challenges are quadded and due to the tone of the first half of the module - but more on that in my review of the Berinncorte adventure book.

It should also be noted that this was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review and further moved up due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

So, first of all, what is this? This is basically the crunchy expansion, not entirely required, but definitely recommended, for the Berinncorte adventure. Which has redefined "overdelivering" on a KS. 128 pages promised. The end-result is a 1K+ page moloch. If you put adventure and this book back to back, they're bigger than frickin' Slumbering Tsar. So yes, there is a LOT of material in this book.

Now this book introduces another innovation for the game, namely FlexTale. FlexTale, alongside catalysts and attitude trackers, represents the means by which this tome tries to simulate a dynamic, vibrant environment and, as far as I'm concerned, these aspects on the GM side of things are resounding successes. Let me digress a bit.

I'm a pretty obsessive GM regarding world building, consistency and lore. My own campaigns have their own private BOARD, where I post updates during downtime, NPC-vignettes ("Meanwhile in...") for allies and cohorts, summaries and meticulously track creatures and NPCs encountered in a massive compendium. My farmers tend to have names, even if I made them up on the fly or took them from a dressing book - and thereafter, the farmer will always be known by that name. He'll have relatives, etc. I know a couple of GMs who take that approach or at least took it at one point. The downside here is that you have to track all those NPCs...and not even I am obsessive enough to stat all those non-combat relevant folks. This massive tome tries to do exactly that - give a name to pretty much everyone. Seamstress? Named. Butcher? Named. And all have their own agenda, daily lives and the like.

In this vast flood of information, it may seem daunting, borderline impossible to keep track of all those NPCs. The aforementioned aspects, though, help immensely with this and are one of the reasons I consider this companion tome to be pretty non-optional. Let's take a step back and return to the FlexTable - these tables have multiple columns - sometimes, these columns are based on the attitude to PCs, sometimes on outside circumstances. When escorting an obnoxious, loud drunk through hostile territory, you'll e.g. roll on the nastier columns for random encounters than when you're being relatively covert. Makes sense, right? Similarly, NPCs with a good relationship to the PCs are less likely to die off-screen, as the PCs and players have invested in them. This, as a whole, creates a dynamic and slightly random element that sounds capricious at first glance, but actually keeps the playing experience rather interesting for the GM as well.

In case you haven't deduced that by now: Berinncorte is a massive urban sandbox, so expect no railroading here. In fact, in that way, it's closest to how I run my main campaign: I have a metric ton of adventures and my players always have the choice to play or ignore a given module, go elsewhere, etc. Similarly, none of the quests in this book have to be completed per se.

Now, the true reason I consider this book to be utterly non-optional when running Berinncorte would be the attitude trackers. Think of these as a band of numbers, ranging from 1 - 29. Each NPC herein has his or her own attitude tracker. A value of 1 - 6 denotes a starting attitude of "hostile", 7 - 12 "unfriendly" etc. - in short: This allows for a surprisingly easy and nuanced depiction of NPC attitudes towards the PCs and provides a more nuanced and rewarding way to reward roleplaying interaction: Engaging in conversation with a grieving person and lifting heir spirits could result in +4 on the attitude tracker; some folks have prejudices and as such, they may react less (or more!) favorable towards certain races or groups that contain certain professions. The system is elegant, easy to grasp and the one I ended up using all the time. I'm a big, big fan of this one.

Now, this tome has two basic chapters, denoted by the color-coded fore-edge: One for the NPCs and one for the creatures. Once again, we have characters using PFU's Artistry skill in their builds.

All right, let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first.: Much like in the pregens, we have errors in the statblocks - spellcasting DCs, for one. There are hiccups here. Then again, these are NPCs and as such, these are slightly less jarring than in statblocks for PCs. PC and NPC classes are used in the builds.

On the big plus-side, the builds use weapon and armor qualities in the higher level iterations and generally are...better made than the statblocks in the Pregen-book. We even get multi-class characters this time around. While there are a few typos and the like "bullrish", for example), they show that more care went into them. I may be mistaken, but I have pretty sensitive antennae when it comes to the like and the builds look and feel more like there was personal attention devoted to them to make sure they make at least some sense.

Now, that would, as a whole, still leave the massive NPC-section as a mixed bag, but this is also where the attitude tracker aspect once again comes in: You see, each NPC comes with a MASSIVE (and I mean ~1 page per NPC-massive!) summary of how you can improve attitudes via actions, conversations, etc. Arrested PCs, failed bribes, racial familiarity, certain confrontational aspects, purchases made at vendors - all of that can influence the attitude. (And yes, if that's too much tracking for your liking, you can always ignore some - though simple marking the current attitude on the respective tracker with a pencil worked well for me.) The big plus here is that this, much like conversations in video games etc., simulates an organic growth of relationships in a rather impressive and organic manner.

"But endy", you're saying, "I don't care about that!" Well, there is another aspect to these NPCs that is a reason I consider this book to be highly recommended for Berinncorte. And that would be the fluff. Each NPC herein comes with a rather long section describing them and their personality; after that, a similarly long one depicting the appearance of the character in question. Combat tactics are also covered and finally, faction-allegiance, if any, is elaborated upon. However, this is not where the obsessive attention to detail stops - in fact, we've just started. Beyond these, lists of known spells for spellcasters and the like, we get notes on logistics - when and where the character can usually be found. Further background notes are also part of the deal.

Now, at one point, a calamity will befall Berinncorte - each NPC gets information on how that calamity is experienced, how it affects the character, etc. Oh, and beyond even that, we get read-aloud text for conversations with the respective NPC on likely topics like the strife between two churches, the rule, the profession...etc. These also include skill check notes to determine lies, further information or to engage, for example, in an informed discussion. The amount of detail provided for each NPC allows the GM to easily, on the fly even, bring the respective characters to life, further emphasizing the intention of creating a plausible and dynamic environment for the PCs to explore.

While the basics of these NPCs are included in the adventure book, these detailed notes and attitude modifications add significant value to the experience of running/playing Berinncorte. Beyond a vast array of named NPCs, unnamed ones gain the same treatment - clerical staff, militia, common thieves, hired goons...etc. The militia receives its own attitude tracker, as does clergy staff and the mayor's guards or common townsfolk, though other unnamed ones don't get that. While the named NPCs get a handy indexing table, the unnamed PCs and bestiary seems to be missing its index - where it should be, there's only [...] on an otherwise mostly blank page.

The bestiary section once again features the quadded statblocks, but alas, the statblocks suffer from the same issues the others suffered from - we oddly get a line for "class" of a critter, reading e.g. "Undead 10" - which is NOT how creatures are formatted. There is no "undead" class. We have typos (sometimes hilarious ones - like "Neuter" instead of "neutral") and, once again, while the base statblocks tend to generally be more functional, in the upgrades to higher levels, we have serious, serious glitches - like AC not checking out and the like. The particularly powerful boss monsters get their own sub-chapter, once again missing the index. On the plus-side, the monsters herein often diverge from their standard PFRPG iterations - the lowest CR babau herein, for example, has better initiative, different feats, etc. - so no, this book did not take the easy way out there.

We end this book with a final section that covers animals...and, oddly, base skeletons, which should probably be in the regular bestiary section.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good...and seriously flawed. On a formal level, it is impressive to note how precise this book was crafted; there are significantly fewer formal glitches in this tome than I expected. This does not change, however, that the missing sub-indices and glitches hamper the overall usefulness of the book. It's an impressive feat for a one-man outfit, sure - but I wished this had a dedicated second set of eyes for the stats. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard for text, with a parchment-like background. Quadded statblocks and attitude trackers are all color-coded, making their use rather intuitive. The pdf comes with a second, backgroundless and thus, more printer-friendly version. The book sports a couple of nice, well-made b/w-artworks for some of the key-NPCs. The hardcover is massive and icons + text on the spine make it easily stand out on the shelf. I'd strongly suggest getting the hardcover over the electronic version. Why? Because the pdf has no bookmarks, which is a SERIOUS comfort detriment when using such a tome. Additionally, the option to scribble on the attitude trackers is surprisingly helpful, so the physical version is definitely the way to go.

J. Evans Payne's Berinncorte is extremely ambitious. This book and its companion are pretty much inseparable as far as I'm concerned and what we have here is an attempt to reach for the stars, something I wholeheartedly applaud. We have enough boring "kill gobbos, ogre boss at the end"-scenarios. We need books like this. The fact that this, apart from the artwork, is the work of one man, is stunning and truly impressive to me. In fact, all my complaints nonewithstanding, the book is significantly better than I expected it to be, some may say, than it has any right to be.

Reviewing this, alas, is HARD. You see, this book is the companion to the adventure and hard to analyze on its own. If you take away that connection, you're not doing the book justice. At the same time, even in conjunction with the adventure, it left me torn.

One side of me is gleefully taking stock of all those details, of the lovingly-crafted dressing, of the trackers and the like. At the same time, this book leaves a part of me disgruntled. Why? The justification of this book's existence lies in two factors: 1) The incredibly detailed attitude tracking system, read-aloud text etc. - the attention to detail for the respective NPCs. 2) The quadded statblocks, providing a wealth of crunch for GMs to pursue, far beyond what the adventure book could offer.

And herein lies the crux: You see, in the adventure book, we get only rudimentary stats. Heck, they don't even adhere to proper PFRPG-statblock formatting conventions. They make me cringe whenever I look at them. So, if we want the proper stats, we need to get this book. I'd usually say that the quadded statblocks provide a significantly increased value for the GM regarding the sheer material this offers, but, while better than the pregen-book, but therein lies the problem: If they'd be precise, creative and to the point, I'd praise this book to the high heavens. And there are some builds in this tome that certainly show some care. But, as a whole, I also noticed a lot of the higher level statblocks with issues. And we're not talking about "one skill too much", but about wrong AC and the like. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect super-duper stats with x templates - we have series for such NPCs out there. But I expect the base functionality to be there and that cannot be claimed for all of them, particularly for those beyond the levels in which you'd usually play the adventure.

This, thus, leaves the quadded statblock concept, amazing as it is (big fan - seriously!), requiring some serious refinement in future offerings. And it generates this disjoint. Because, you know, we want the base stats and the lavish detail for each NPC...but we also get 3 iterations of stats we won't be using - not even for reskinned characters and critters. This makes quadded statblocks, as presented here, as much a feature as a bug. Personally, I couldn't help but wish that attitude tracker and awesome, detailed fluff for the NPCs has been included in the adventure book, alongside the proper, low-level stats.

Thing is, I only found myself contemplating this due to the rough edges of the quadded statblock implementation. If this concept worked as intended, it would add a TREMENDOUS amount of value to this book and totally justify the adventure book's rudimentary stats. But...it kinda does not.

Which eliminates at least a significant part of one of the big arguments for this book. It doesn't help me much regarding a verdict, though. Why? As flawed as the execution may be, this book still features a ton of material and a lot of detail. I adore the attitude tracker system and the hand-crafted prose for the NPCs, their interactions and information VASTLY enhances the adventure. In fact, you could well pull that out of the context of the adventure entirely. Still, as a stand-alone book, I'd consider this a mixed bag. Whether you find value in this tome depends on two aspects: Do you want the obsessive, amazing detail for the NPCs, the simulationalist, highly nuanced tapestry of NPCs? Or are you in primarily for the crunch? If your group is focused primarily on combat, considers interaction with NPCs boring, then this may not be for you. If, however, you're looking to run Berinncorte and your players love talking with NPCs, getting immersed in the environments, if they enjoy lavish details and the feeling of having fallen into a world that is as detailed as can be, then the NPC fluff and read-aloud text, the attitude trackers and peculiarities of the folks will make this very much worthwhile.

In short, I can see people really loving this as well as people considering it a waste of time. I could find reasons to smash this down to 2 stars for its flaws, and I could argue in favor of its virtues and arrive at 4 stars and both would be viable; in fact, depending on the priorities I set for myself, on what I look for, I can understand both. If I were to rate this one its own, as separate from the adventure book, I'd probably arrive closer to the former; in conjunction with the adventure book, I'd arrive closer to the latter verdict.

There is a ton of neat content in this book and it is intended as the companion to the adventure book, though - which is how I will rate it. As a stand-alone, it does seriously lose some of its appeal, so beware in that regard.

In the end, I can't rate this as high as some of its aspects deserve, but neither can I bash it as thoroughly for its flaws as a part of me would like to. Because, in the end, in such tough cases, I revert to my own rule zero for reviewing: Did this provide fun and joy for me and my table? Yes, it did. In spite of the pronounced flaws, the wealth of roleplaying information within made this worthwhile for me.

It is also part of the author's freshman offering, so it does get a bit of a leeway there. Still, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars for this book, rounded up by the tiniest of margins - because it does significantly enhance its companion adventure and holds within its pages one of the most rewarding aspects of the Berinncorte adventure. It should be noted that this verdict ONLY is viable in conjunction with the adventure.

Those looking for immersion, roleplaying information for the adventure and the like should definitely round up, provided you can stomach the imperfections. If you want precise stats, a pure crunch book, however, look elsewhere - in that discipline, the book would barely make 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/27/2017 07:42:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The premium atlas for the first part of the excessively detailed Dark Obelisk AP clocks in at a massive 139 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page mission statement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with132 pages of MAPS.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy of it and due to being chosen as a prioritized review via my patreon.

Yes, you read correctly. 132 pages of maps. Now, first things first - what kind of maps do we get? The book is roughly separated in 4 different chapters: Two featuring maps for Act One of "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte", two representing the changed circumstances that can be found in Act 3 of the massive module.

As you may have deduced, one such chapter each contains the respective GM-maps, one the player-maps. The GM-maps feature keys on them, secret doors and the like - and the player's maps can actually be used as handouts as is: The deceptive numbers and secret door/trap notes have been completely purged from those iterations - which is a COLOSSAL plus as far as I'm concerned. Heck, even crawlspaces, noted on the GM-map, have been redacted - on the player map, a solid wall separates the two connected caverns. That's going above and beyond. Big plus!!

Now, let's talk a bit about the maps within, starting with the least pleasant component. The overview map of Berinncorte is easily the worst and only map in this atlas I'd consider bad. The city is almost quadratic and a bit claustrophobic - it's only an overview and not the most impressive one at that. HOWEVER, that is about as much negative things I have to say about this book. You see, the atlas contains maps for EVERYTHING.

No, that is not a hyperbole. If it's within the walls of Berinncorte, it's mapped. Little militia hut? Mapped. Cryptkeeper's shack? Mapped. Cellars? Mapped. In subterranean environments, you can see the barely visible outlines of buildings above, in case your PCs want to do a bit of digging. In short: The attention to detail is impressive indeed. The full-color maps show benches, columns, barrels, wood - basically, they show every non-dynamic object/creature, providing significantly more detail than what you'd expect. While made with software, they look much better than pretty much all computer-generated maps I've seen before. Heck, you can see the symbols on rugs, the textile shop has differently colored rolls of cloth on the counter - it is rather impressive to see this amount of detail.

Now, something to be aware of regarding the town of Berinncorte, would be an architectural peculiarity that may or may not irk you and may or may not be due to the limitations of the software used to make these maps: The lower residential area and upper residential area do not consist of free-standing houses, but, at least from what I gathered, look like multiple folks live under the same roof in a kind of apartment-like situation. In the case of the upper residential district that could be explained by guest rooms and the map could make for ONE big, nice mansion - but the overview map and the holistic coverage of the rest of the town make it look like this is the totality of the district. Now, granted, that is NOT unheard of - in fact, it was more common than most folks would expect, at least according to the chronicles of cities I've read, but it represents a departure from how most folks picture a fantasy city, so that's certainly something to bear in mind. Personally, I'm good with this decision, mind you. Still, if one such building indeed is all there is, then the beds as opposed to the characters, including militia etc., even when taking barrack beds into account, don't check out. (And yes, this will not come up in 99.9999% of games and should tell you something about how obsessive I can be...thus, it will not influence the final verdict.)

Now, I have already mentioned that there is a cataclysm in Berinncorte at one point - and thus, the Act 3 maps may depict the same environments - but they are radically different from what we've seen before - bloodsplatters, shattered columns, smoke, ash...and worse. Corpses litter the streets and buildings and nary a place has been left intact, with walls incinerated and STRANGE things popping up on the maps - they may depict variants of the maps we already covered, but they do so in the best of ways. Now, on some of the player maps, fixed monsters appear, denoting enemies that constitute living "no trespassing" signs - but since these critters are tied to the respective locales, I'm good with that. Still, personally, I would have preferred these tokens to be omitted - or added on their own token-page for the GM to cut out and move around. Oh well.

Conclusion:

Obsessive level of detail. That's how I'd describe "Dark Obelisk I: Berinncorte" in a nut-shell. The hand-crafted maps contained in this atlas perfectly encapsulate this philosophy, providing the attention to detail and sheer amount of maps I wanted, all in full-color! The pdf version comes with a second, background-less printer-friendly version and the respective maps sport their own scales, another plus. The electronic version did lack bookmarks, but as per the writing of this review, bookmarked versions have been made available - kudos for the quick response/fix there! The color hardcover is definitely the way to go, if you can afford it.

J. Evans Payne went above and beyond and even redacted crawlspaces, secret doors and the like, adding some serious value to the book at hand. Speaking of value: This massive map-material is also included in a massive (300+ MBs!) archive, which contains all the maps as high-res jpgs for VTT-use. These individual maps are properly named "-GM" or "-Players" and are further organized by Act for your convenience. That's going above and beyond, as far as I'm concerned.

It should be noted that these maps, while obviously intended for use with the adventure, may well be worth the investment if you're looking for a fully mapped fantasy town.

So, how to rate this? Well, I really, really like this map book. It delivers everything I wanted from it, with only minor flaws: Tokens on a precious few maps; the overview map is not nearly on par with the cool maps of the individual buildings/environments. Still, as a whole, I feel justified in rating this 4.5 stars, rounding up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2017 11:06:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The biggest collection of pregens ever to come my way clocks in at an impressive 407 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page studio-introduction, 2 pages SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 398 pages of content. Yeah. Ouch. That's a TON of statblocks.

This book was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy and furthermore, it was prioritized by my patreons.

Now, included among these would be the standard pregenerated characters, available as their own separate pdf for PWYW, so consider that file to be an excellent teaser/first look of what to expect from this gigantic tome.

You will notice that there is some overlap between this review and that of its smaller brother, since the principles on which they operate are the same, only the scope is different. This is a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'm not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and enjoy like playing against the trope, particularly the archetype'd ones. That is not to say that they are not...ehem...geared towards their pursuits - you'll see serious dump stats, where appropriate. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus.

Now, as before in the smaller pdf, we have PFU's Artistry skill included in the deal. Much like in the smaller book, we do not get the information which point-buy was used or scaling information for other point-buy standards. Similarly, while you do get generally solid builds, you will find that the spell save DC is universally off by 1 (this book assumes 11 + attribute modifier + spell level) and the magic item and equipment selection will probably not blow you out of the water with its creativity. Particularly at higher levels, you'll find magical armor and weapons to be the default, with only lame plusses - the book does not use much wondrous items, special weapon or armor qualities or the like. That being said, monks etc. do get amulets and bracers...but only the minimum.

In fact, the high-level builds are pretty squishy and under-equipped. There are a few examples, where the statblock doesn't list the precise armor type in the AC-line and only the AC-bonus it conveys, while in others, it lists the magical armor. So yes, unfortunately the weaknesses of the smaller pdf have found their way into the big book as well. The difference is the vast scope of this book: Whereas the standard PWYW-book covered only the core classes and one barbarian archetype, this one also covers the whole APG-roster + Antipaladin, Magus, Gunslinger, Samurai and Ninja - and yes, summoner and witch get quadded eidolon/familiar statblocks and the samurai comes with mount - cool here: A camel, of all things! Unfortunately, the ranged touch attack of the spitting lacks its bonus in the statblock, but on a plus-side, animal tricks are noted.

Beyond these "standard" classes from the APG, we get so much more: Barbarians get a sample build for the armored hulk, breaker, brutal pugilist, drunken brute, drunken rager, elemental kin, hurler, invulnerable rager, jungle rager, mounted fury, raging cannibal, savage barbarian, scarred rager, sea reaver and superstitious archetypes. Weird: On page 162 of my pdf, the icons of the quadded statblock seem to have a glitch...but that's cosmetic.

Bards are also covered - namely the animal speaker, arcane duelist, arcane healer, archaeologist, archivist, buccaneer, celebrity, court bard, daredevil and demagogue. This is as good a place as any, btw., to mention that each section on a class is headed by a brief general breakdown of competences and a designer's soapbox that talks about the classes - which is a nice segue into the respective sections. Cleric-wise, the cloistered cleric, crusader, divine strategist and evangelist are included in the deal. I am still annoyed by the statblocks for clerics not specifying the domain chosen. A weird peculiarity in that regard: Builds tend to use inquisitions, rather than domains, which is generally, considering spells and powers, not the smartest idea for clerics.

We do get 3 druids - ape shaman, aquatic druid and arctic druid. None of them use companions and, bingo, when a domain was chosen via nature's bond, it was not specified. Also odd: The spellcasting mentions (+1 domain per)[sic!] under the spells per day. It's clear what's meant, but...well. You get it, right? Fighter-wise, the archer, armor master, brawler and cad are included. The archer would be a nice way to showcase what I meant with the builds not necessarily being very lethal at higher levels. At 14th level, the archer here has a base damage of 1d8 +6 with a +3 longbow. Not bad, sure...but neither is it impressive.

Monks may select the drunken master, flowing monk, hamatulatsu master, hungry ghost. ki mystic,. maneuver master, martial artist or master of many styles. Which would be yet another chance for me to nitpick: The ACs partially note "+X misc" in their specific bonus-lists. That does not exist. The proper formatting is "+X monk." The ki mystic build is...interesting...or a joke, depending on your definition .At low levels, she is fragile, but at level 14, the poor sod has AC 24 and a whopping 28 hit points. Con as a dumpstat. No, her damage output does not make up for that and so, there is no amazing item/ability combo that makes the character nigh impossible to hit. She wouldn't have lived through melee with a single mook in my game. Another sad victim of a build would be the Master of Many Styles presented here. Yay, he a has a ton of style feats! And none of the follow-up feats that are the reason you take crappy style feats in the first place. Sorry, there's an exception: Monkey Moves. On the plus-side, the monk builds do take maneuver training etc. into account, so CMB etc. is correct and it's been a while since I saw a tiger fork as a preferred weapon. Still, equipment is not nearly up to par for the levels. +3 amulet of natural armor is all the poor level 14 build gets. I consider myself to be stingy regarding magic items, but herein, the high-level builds suffer big time, coming not even close to the WBL suggested. The maneuver master also is...really wrong. A halfling monk with movement rate 15 ft. (no idea from gear etc. how that happened) and a wrong AC in all builds. Not the only character with such glitches, mind you.

We get the combat healer squire paladin and the battle scout, beast master, deep walker, dungeon rover and falconer ranger next, and yes, the beats master gets a boar companion, the deep walker a dire rat. A slight peculiarity I should mention here: The races use names like "dusk elf" or "dwarf (deep delver)" in brackets - these denote alternate racial abilities, not unique races...just in case you don't have the same array of useless PFRPG trivia lodged in your brain that I do. ;P That being said, I do welcome the use of alternate racial traits. And yes, the falconer gets an...OWL companion.

Rogues are covered as acrobats, bandits, burglars. Cavaliers represented by the beats rider and gunslingers by buccaneer ad gunner squire. I was a bit surprised by the lumping of the cavalier in with these two chapter- and discussion-wise - typically, these guys are armored and fulfill a radically different role than slingers and rogues. Similarly, gunslingers and rogues play nothing alike and gunslingers DON'T have a lot of options, contrary to what the discussion claims. They, much like the cavalier, are not a class with a wide feat array, many meaningful choices or a pronounced player agenda. Regarding the builds: I do cringe a bit when a rogue wastes a precious feat on Acrobatic. The beast rider does not have the correct mount for its archetype. Plus: Buccaneer gets familiar stats and Cha-mod-governed grit right.

The final section covers the following: A crossblooded sorceror, a primalist transmuter, 5 alchemists (beastmorph, chirurgeon, clone master, crypt breaker, internal alchemist), 2 inquisitors (cold iron warden, exorcist), 2 magi (bladebound, greensting slayer), one oracle (black-blooded oracle), one summoner (blood summoner) and a beast-bonded witch. At this point, however, you have a good idea of what to expect here.

The book concludes with an alphabetical index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are at the same time impressively good and problematic; when there's a glitch, it's consistent; if not, then we get, formally a rather impressive book, with stuff bolded that should be bolded and only very few italicization hiccups. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard for text, or the quadded statblock, as applicable. The background is yellow-ish parchment-like and the pdf does not feature any artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version, which is a big plus. The massive hardcover in full color is, well, massive and makes for a hefty tome at the table that is comparatively inexpensive for its massive page-count. A bookmarked version of the pdfs has been uploaded to my knowledge.

J. Evans Payne has crafted the single biggest book of pregens I have ever seen for any gaming system. And at first level, these guys and gals can be pretty solid. The higher level builds, however, are severely under-equipped, to the point where they are basically impotent and don't even measure up to NPC WBL-guidelines. So that's a pretty nasty downside for GMs. On the plus-side, if you're concerned about too many PC deaths and an inflation of magic items, well, these guys most certainly won't present you with that problem.

The sheer amount of statblocks in this book is impressive, yes, but, to put it bluntly, the sheer volume is paid for with the detail and quality of the statblocks in question, particularly when it comes to the strategies of the builds, the feat-selection and the extremely subpar magic item array. Don't get me started on combat gear etc. Now don't get that wrong: I am actually pretty surprised by the relative precision of the builds herein. This is not sloppy in the craftsmanship in the traditional way and probably powered by some piece of software. For the most part, the numbers check out with surprising frequency. Still, they don't always check out and often feel very rough and not necessarily founded on the principle of making a character with a decent chance of survival.

At first level, the level of potency and relatively barebones item array the characters exhibit is okay, but the higher level versions show painfully the lack of the required gear and their deviation from the suggested WBL for NPCs, and don't get me started on PCs. I tried to find a way to sugar-coat it, to see the positive about this, but failed miserably, so there it goes: I wouldn't use the high-level versions as a PC.

That is not to say that there is no value herein; quite the contrary. By definition, the book, while certainly not perfect, does offer quite a lot of stats that can make for a ton of easily dispatched mooks for the GM to throw at players. (Never mind the hiccups - mooks are there to die anyways...) Similarly, at first level, for the most part, if you ignore minor hiccups, you get a metric TON of characters. Finally, as a base to build upon, this may have some serious value for the time-starved, but crunch-savvy GM: Replace some feats and select magic items on the fly and modify the base-chassis and there we go.

That being said, I consider this book to be worthwhile for the comparatively fair price, yes, but also very flawed - and unlike the adventure itself and its companion tome's NPCs, the crunch for PCs MUST be on point and it has no other virtues by which I could judge it.

So, for who is this book? GMs looking for base-lines to build on; players who want 1st level pregens. (With a bit of oversight by someone rules-savvy...) It also depends on how neurotic you are regarding statblocks - if you're like me, you may get a bad twitch. If general functionality is what you're looking for, if you don't have the same level of perfectionism I do, then this could be a treasure trove for you.

The fact, however, remains that this massive book falls short of what it could, and, more importantly should, be.

For me, personally, this did not deliver what I wanted. While I can see some groups deriving a lot of mileage and fun from this, and while I understand that, system-immanently, this cannot present the same precision as significantly smaller books, I still expected more from this. I did not expect inspired builds à la Faces of the Tarnished Souk, but I expected precision and functionality and that is, alas, not always there. While I don't count myself among the folks who can ignore such shortcomings, my final verdict will respect this distinct possibility. Hence, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo and its sheer size as well as the fact that it is part of a freshman offering.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:57:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of PWYW-pregens clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, leaving us with 56 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this would be the small "Pay what you want"-companion tome to its massive extended brother, a colossal pregen book for the Dark Obelisk AP, or, more precisely, its first chapter "Berinncorte" - in my review of the Player's Guide, I briefly talked about the optional reward star character progression mechanic, so let me be brief: You award those for quest completion, defeating key bosses etc. - it's basically an XP-less advancement method. I'd not the biggest fan, but thankfully, easy conversion mechanics are provided.

Since the Player's Guide was system-neutral, I did not comment on another peculiarity of Dark Obelisk that very much becomes relevant here: Quadded statblocks. Instead of one statblock, each statblock in this pdf comes in 4 iterations, color-coded for your convenience: Low-level stats (level 1 - 4, up to CR 4), moderate level stats (levels 5 - 8, CR between 4 and 10), advanced stats (levels 10 - 15, CRs ranging from 10 - 15) and elite stats for levels 15+, with CRs ranging from 12 to 20. Now thankfully, these quadded statblocks retain PFRPG's subsections - i.e. you'll still have CR/XP first, then sex race class, initiative, etc. - in short, they require no getting used to.

The levels for the characters herein would be 1, 6, 10 and 14, respectively and the book does feature a bit of insight into design philosophy - while these characters work, they are not necessarily minmaxed or the like and they enjoy playing against the trope. Special abilities are listed for your convenience, meaning you won't have to switch books, which is a nice plus. What's bold is bolded, magic items are italicized - the formal criteria are surprisingly solid. While we do get e.g. Gronka Hackbang, the half-orc barbarian with Int 6 and Cha 8, e.g. Antagonize as a feat choice makes surprising sense when paired with an Intimidate that does not suck. So yes, I do believe that there is some story within these statblocks per se, which is a good thing since, unlike many a pregen-collection, we don't actually get roleplaying notes or extensive background stories - these are the crunchy mechanics and that's that. And yes, the pregens are effective at their respective roles, so min-maxers probably won't have too much to complain here.

Beyond aforementioned barbarian, we get an elven bard, a half-elf cleric, a dwarven druid, a tiefling fighter, a hafling monk, a dwarven paladin, a halfling ranger, a human rogue, a gnome sorcerer and an elven wizard. gender-wise, we have a solid mix here. The builds per se are relatively solid, though they are not free of glitches - while I did not reverse-engineer all of the builds, e.g. the spell save DC is universally off by one: It was calculated with 11 as a base-line before adding the key attribute, when it should be 10 + attribute modifier + spell level. Similarly, the cleric e.g. does not state the chosen domain, which is puzzling, considering that e.g. the sorceror comes with the full bloodline info. It should be noted that the builds use PFU's Artistry-skill, but not the Lore-skill.

The pdf closes with a sample, non-named quadded armored hulk barbarian statblock, including some nice ideas regarding how to play the character, how to use dressing, what the strengths and weaknesses are from a crunch-perspective - you get the idea. This would be basically a teaser for the expanded pregen book, where more such sections can be found. The pdf closes with a brief index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - while the formal criteria and formatting are surprisingly good, some minor build glitches aren't so cool. Layout adheres to a full-color standard that puts either two columns of text or a quadded statblock in the center - there is no overlap between characters, which means that the final pages of some have a bit of blank space. Still, preferable to overlap. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly, backgroundless version. EDIT: As per the posting of this review, a bookmarked version is being uploaded.

All right, so this is the PWYW-version, the freebie pregens for those who want them...and they are solid enough. While we get pretty much pure crunch and not much else, that's as advertised and the statblocks for higher levels mean that GMs will have some nice stats for NPCs as well, if required. That being said, the glitches that I found do drag this down a notch. It also hits a big pet-peeve of mine: We don't actually get the point-buy values used in character creation. Considering that plenty of groups use 25-pt. or 15-pt.-buy for high or gritty fantasy, respectively, getting that precise info and scaling advice would have been very much appreciated.

...I think I may have reached a whole new level of prickishness, complaining about a pretty hefty PWYW-pregen collection, but there we go: We also only get core classes here and one archetype'd character. Considering the wealth of options available for PFRPG, I know that my players refuse to play vanilla core characters. That may be a feature or a bug, depending on how you look at it, but at least some APG-support would have been more than expected - now, of course, those can be found - in the extended book! The high-level versions also tend to be pretty challenged regarding gear, usually sporting somewhat level-appropriate magical weapons/armor with the usual +1/+2/+3 bonuses - so expect nothing too creative there. In fact, the high level versions are SEVERELY underpowered.

Sooo...how do I rate this? Here, things get tricky. You see, the draw here would be the stats and they are plentiful, yes. And no, I don't expect them to be flawless or anything like that...but frankly, I expect them to be a bit more transparent for the GM to modify. They are not totally bad, but neither will they blow you away. This is a decent pdf, and at PWYW, it certainly is worth checking out...but it is not a particularly artful collection of pregens, sporting several hiccups and issues - if you'd like to know which, I went into much more detail in my review of the extended pregenerated characters tome. Even taking the PWYW-nature into account, I can't go higher than 3 stars on this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2017 11:00:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's Guide for the first part of the massive Dark Obelisk-saga clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/KS-thanks, 2 5 pages blank, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of explanations of the peculiarities of this game studio (more on that in other Dark Obelisk-reviews) leaving us with 43.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This was moved up in my review queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

First thing you'll notice: The first content-bearing page pretty much provides quick: "Determine in 10 minutes" basics: Berinncorte is a typical fantasy city of 100 -200 citizens, has library, butcher, etc. Why are the PCs there? up to the players. What do they know? Easy - there's a rumors table! And there even are 3 quick notes on how to get the action going from the get-go.

So, first of all, the book explains its unique presentation, which may be more relevant for the GM than the players, but it's still interesting: Taking a cue from AAW Games' playbook and similarly well-presented adventures, we get handy, color-coded boxes: Obstacles are e.g. in an orange/yellowish box; loot can be found in blue boxes and icons clearly denote the respective components for what they are. When a random roll is required from the GM, a handy dice-symbol denotes the action as such.

Books and knowledge are power: Mundane texts come in their own boxes, with value, weight, etc. and can provide bonuses. Relevant for players: The adventure saga uses skill challenges. Before PFRPG purists start booing - these are not 4E's "Make x unrelated checks to succeed" type of challenges, but instead codify e.g. persuasion, complex traps and the like: First check catches the target in a contradiction, second presses forward, third nets compliance, for example. The example uses falling timbers: Perception to note, Acrobatics to avoid, and on a failure/to help others, Strength to dislodge - basically, they represent sequential, more complex skill interactions, some of which can fail, while others can send you back a step on a failure, etc. Basically what we have in other modules, only codified more stringently.

An additional thing that sets this apart would be that PCs can be replaced with NPCs - if such a replacement, due to death or the like, would be required or feasible, it is denoted as well in the text. The Player's Guide also explains the notion of Reward Stars or Candy XP as an alternate means for the tracking of character progression - these basically consist of a variant, non-level-dependent means of tracking character advancement, emphasizing story more over hard numbers. If you're like me and not a fan of the reward star mechanic, fret not, for the pdf does offer the means to use regular XP instead without much hassle. This is about as much as players necessarily have to know about this, so from here on out, we look at the second chapter, which deals with how to use this.

The town comes with a settlement statblock and suggested hooks for the core classes (but not for those from more esoteric sources). Berinncorte can be used in pretty much every fantasy setting sans big hassle, though the default campaign world assumed would by Aquilae. Theme-wise, we'll be looking at high ability, low tech NPC capabilities - i.e. there will be PCs with some solid PC levels, but not necessarily troves upon troves of magic items - something I personally enjoy. Another aspect, which doesn't necessarily feature in the meat of the module, but makes for an interesting feature of the world, would be the tithe: You could call it accurate or cynical or both, but gods in Aquilae demand a tithe and everyone pays - usually 1% of the income, which is more lenient that real life's tenth. You pray, you pay - the tribute directly ends up at the god's place, btw. Gods are immortal and wield power, but are not omnipotent or all-knowing - and while the churches of two gods feature in the module, all of these unique characteristics, from the precise nature of the deities to the tribute, can easily be discarded by the GM.

The same goes for the excessively detailed array of factions and organizations that matter: They are depicted with general influence notes, resources, etc., common traits and include strange guilds like the Meatsmiths that want to raise meat prices and have their craft be recognized as an art to the more mundane like Berinncorte's militia. The factions depicted here go btw. far beyond what actually transpires in the module, featuring private military, bard's guilds, couriers, divination guilds and the like, adding some detailed information regarding the movers and shakers of the world.

That's not much on what to actually expect from the AP? There's a reason for that and you'll see it in the review of the module. Suffice to say, that's intentional. On the plus-side, the pdf does something I very much enjoy: It provides a player-map of Berinncorte and also presents the read-aloud text of the "public zones" - like temples, market square, etc. - basically, if the PCs have probably visited the place, they'll know the lay of the land. The overview map of the settlement (the weakest among all the maps) represents the locales via self-explanatory icons as well as numbers; the detail maps of the locales instead come key-less, just as player-maps should come.

Particularly useful for PCs who are from Berinncorte would be the third chapter, dramatis personae, where the excessive NPC-fluff descriptions and appearance of the more important NPCs of the town have been duplicated for the PC's edification. These also are often supplemented with well-drawn, original b/w-artworks I very much enjoyed. This would be as well a place as any to comment on the fact that I very much enjoy that Berinncorte is not a heteronormative environment: One NPC angle could have PCs help a gay man come out, homosexual characters exist as both regular folks and badasses...nice plus here! That being said, this also brings me to a gripe I have with this Player's Guide: You see, while a bit of the material herein HAS been redacted, there is a character in the city that ostensibly is a male, but in fact, is a female in disguise. The text of the NPC in question has been redacted to not spoil this potential reveal. However, another NPC's text blabbers on and on about how this character is in truth a woman. Not cool. Another aspect to be weary of here would pertain the fact that the descriptions of the NPCs feature information that should simply not be known by the PCs. While quest-relevant information has been redacted, knowing e.g. that a specific character is secretly infatuated with another character should...well. Be secret? In short: there is some information that does not belong in player hands here. Better redacting of that chapter would have been prudent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a one-man outfit: J. Evans Payne (who has used variants of his name in all functions in the adventure - nice hidden gag) is surprisingly good at controlling his own output, something I really respect. (I suck at editing my own material.) Layout adheres to a relatively no-frills two-column standard with yellowish background. The color-coded boxes help orientation. It's not a gorgeous layout, but it gets the job done and allows you to see relevant material at a glance. The pdf version comes with a second, printer-friendly version with a white background instead. Nice: Each chapter is marked on the fore-edge of the paper - if you flip through the book, you can thus immediately see the chapter. This is nice, but if you flip in reverse through these marks, you'll notice that the left-hand side text in these is not perfectly centered. A purely aesthetic complaint, of the otherwise superior dead tree softcover. As per the one day after the release of this review, I have been notified that a fully bookmarked version has been uploaded - now that is an impressive response-time! We get a few nice b/w-artworks, all original, all enjoyable.

So, the first player's guide by J. Evans Payne does a LOT right: For one, the angle of the module is not spoiled; the public maps/public knowledge section of the city is AMAZING and should be standard for PGs and the lore-sections on factions etc. adds further dimension to the book. I also really like the idea of fluff-only NPC-profiles of well-known characters, if not the precise execution here. If future books redact more sensitive information, that is most certainly amazing.

In short: This sports a few beginner's hiccups, but also features aspects I consider well-crafted and worthwhile additions to the Player's Guide formula. This is not a perfect player's guide, but it most certainly is a worthwhile addition for any group embarking on the Dark Obelisk AP. How to rate this, then? Well, for me, the dramatis personae section, which would have been a perfect way to provide a mnemonic to players (we all know they'll forget some names, no matter how memorable your NPCs are...), fell flat due to too much information, which represents a pretty big strike against the book, but even taking that into account, this still can be considered to be worthwhile. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price point ($1 pdf, $5 print + pdf).

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Players' Guide (Unisystem)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2017 07:30:48

Super for what it is. PWYW for a bunch of pregen pcs is pretty neat. The quad stat thing is new--not sure if it makes sense for players unless your gm is starting you all off with bonus levels or something--but I can see how it would be hella timesaver for a gm. Here's an npc for an 8th level adventure, boom, done, all the stats are there. Really really nice having all of the feat and special abilty stuff spelt out in the descripton of each char too; saves time looking it up on my phone.

This sold me on the bigger huge version Extended Pregens from the same company; that one's def not PWYW but it's HUGE and totaly worth it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Standard Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2017 15:21:14

Wow. I'm only like 50 pages into this thing and it's nuts. So much crunch. I'm more a player than gm so overkill, but I'm def running a PC from this book next time my group plays. Gonna try and get some XP credit from our gm by showing him this book; can only imagine how much time its gonna save him in figuring out npc stuff.

Crazy detailed and super useful!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Extended Pregenerated Characters (Pathfinder)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2017 14:26:20

NOthing new here its just the crazy amount of maps copied from the adventure book but damn it sa lot of maps. Every module should have gm-only and also player maps and this one has like 60 of each. maybe too much to have a map of each building inside--like who cares about the clothing store right--but the advetnures a sandbox so its cool to ahve all that if the players decide oh well were gong in here now.

Print versn is a bit pricey but the pdf is nice now theres separate map files which are great an pretty hi res



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Premium Atlas (Unisystem)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (5E)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2017 14:23:43

Its a shame the adventure is awesome and massive and well done with lots of detail. but the 5e switch is not finished. There s a piece in the start with a bit explaining how to change stuff but lots of the pathfinder blocks arent 5e so you have to do some work as a gm. Disappointed but in the adapting not in the adventure itself. Hope they do a better job next time tho



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Adventure Book (5E)
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Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (5E)
by Thizz M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2017 14:22:05

Feel bad marking it 4 when its a ton of good crunch but i wasnt too keen on how they finished the adventure to 5e and so this suffers the rating



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Obelisk 1: Berinncorte: Dramatis Personae & Bestiary (5E)
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