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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:10:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
Click to show product description

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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
Click to show product description

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The Genius Guide to the Talented Cleric
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:07:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The so far largest of the Talented class-pdfs released by Rogue Genius Games clocks in at a colossal 91 (!!!) pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1/2 a page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 86 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look at this beast!


Okay, at this point I assume that you are familiar with the set-up of talented classes and will not explain the concept for the oomphteenth time: In short: Breakdown of class features and archetype abilities in two categories, edges and talents, allowing for increased flexibility. If you need a more detailed breakdown, please consult all of my reviews for the other talented classes.


Chassis-wise, the talented cleric gains d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and aura corresponding to deity or alignment and bonus languages. The class begins with 4 edges, 2 talents and gains 2 edges and 3 talents at 2nd level. At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the class gains an edge. The class usually gets a talent whenever it does not gain an edge, with the exclusion of the first 2 levels and 5th and 7th level, where both edges and talents are gained. 20th level provides the Agent of Divinity capstone.


Now, there is a glitch here: The table actually is incorrect: The talented cleric should gain 6 edges and 3 talents at 1st level, as per the text - this is a pretty big hiccup and not something I'd consider negligible. Anyways, this massive book does have something included you may be surprised to see: You see, this actually should be the "Talented Cleric and Warpriest" - it does contain blessings and all the warpriest tricks as well, which probably goes a long way to explain its huge size. We'll get back to this component later.


No as for edges, as established in the series, cleric spell casting (prepared, via Wis) progresses via subsequently taken edges, with 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter unlocking new spell levels. Similarly, domains are edges and act as a prerequisite for a lot of the talents you can find. If you take a blessing and have a domain, it must correspond to it. Blessings can be used 3 + 1/2 class level number of times per day, and the edge can be taken an additional time to unlock 2 new blessings. I assume these do not need to correspond to domains, since the ability does not specifically say so, but having that in print would help. Like domains, blessings act as prerequisites for certain talents. Improved familiar, fervor, flurry of blows, ki pool (available starting 7th level), mounts and orisons, proficiencies and spontaneous casting all fall in the edge category. Similarly, the somewhat notorious vows can be found here, including the vow of poverty, which does not feature "vow" in the ability's name - while obvious from context on how it should work, it still is an oversight. Similarly, you'll notice a relic "warpriest" here and there.


Beyond these components, however, the edge chapter does allow you to play nihilist clerics (unlocking a lot, prereq-wise) (YES!!!), godless ones (similar) or demigods or pantheon worshippers. Pantheon worshippers, with their flexibility of domains and demigods, who may expend spells as immediate actions to force penalized rerolls, may be the two options here that I do consider a bit problematic. That being said, as a whole, the edges do a solid job in enabling various concepts and the pdf even features psychic clerics, which is great if you're like me and plan an OA-centric game.


Now talent-wise, things become interesting: Asterisk'd talents are blessing talents and usually require the corresponding blessing to work, though some can be qualified for via domains. Channel Energy is found among the talents, surprisingly - but here's the thing: The progression actually, analogue to spellcasting, requires additional talents, with a cap of 1/2 class level + 1d6 as the maximum to prevent min-maxing abuse at lower levels. Channel energy is relevant, since alternate channeling talents are codified in an appendix, working as potential substitutions for the talent. Beyond that, variant channeling is detailed in excessive detail. The pdf also features a spell-list, which is pretty important, since a lot of the edges and talents, domains, etc. expand spell availability - and for the most part, that component does make sense.


One should also not fail to mention that e.g. divine commander and thus, mass combat options, can be found among the codified talents. Blessed Fortitude cannot be cheesed into, requiring divine armor and minimum 3rd level. Now, there is a structurally problematic component with the base cleric class that becomes apparent when breaking down the class as a talented class - it is very front-heavy. Much like the better installments in the series, flexibility, ultimately, does come with a bit of a price here, namely a slight delay, though one that ultimately allows for a more rewarding playing experience.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard employed by RGG for these books; the pdf has relatively broad borders, but also a ton of text, making this an incredibly dense pdf to process. The artwork, while I've seen most of it, feels more unified than in the bard book (Plus: I love the black-lipstick-wearing battle-nun) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though individual edges/talents do not have bookmarks, so you'll do a bit of scrolling.


Stephen Rowe is a beast - I can't really picture doing all of this work myself without being utterly burned out on the concept; design like this is capital letters WORK and this pdf certainly does a neat job in codifying the cleric and warpriest within the talented framework. That being said, personally, I am not a fan of the warpriest being integrated herein: The combination options of warpriest and cleric within this book, while certainly helpful for some groups, does actually limit the appeal of the pdf, at least for me. I'm not the biggest fan of the ACG-classes and the combination options of warpriest and cleric options, as a whole, allow you to transcend the power of either class - which may just be what optimizers asked for, but when compared to master Rowe's talented witch, I can actually picture campaigns in which I'd not use it. In short: My rather gritty main campaign will not get to use this book. That being said, unlike the witch, going completely spell-less is less viable due to the chassis, though the combination of both classes would have made that a distinct possibility if the blessing/domain-prerequisite-aspect had come with alternate means of qualification.


Don't get me wrong - this is not a bad book, not at all. But is does groan a bit under its own weight. I do believe that separately balancing cleric and warpriest would have probably resulted in more precise results. I am complaining at a high level here, but this one still ends up being one of my least favorite installments of the series, in spite of its epic scope and cool (often novel!) ideas. For me, the min-maxy aspect is slightly too pronounced in this one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Cleric
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Tides of War: Rogue/X Feats
Publisher: Flying Pincushion Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:05:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page blank, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, the first of which, however, is devoted to the introduction to the subject matter at hand - which would be feats for multiclassing rogues.


I assume you're probably all familiar with multiclassing in the first place, what do these feats do?


-Balancing the Craft: When preparing spells exchange either one hex for a rogue talent you don't have or vice versa; you have to meet the prerequisites. The wildcard flexibility offsets some of the issues with multiclass rogue/witch characters. solid.


-Channel Shift: At the start of the day, you may reduce sneak attack bonus damage to increase channel energy by +1d6; once you reach +2d6 channel energy, you may reduce it to increase sneak attack damage by +1d6; as soon as both reach +3d6, you may move 2d6 around this way. This feat is generally nice idea-wise, but personally, I'd value a channel die higher than a sneak attack die, in spite of it being a limited resource.


-Devious Empathy: Use wild empathy to lie to animals. Cool idea...but not sure if it's worth a feat, considering the penalties that still apply and the pretty circumstantial benefits.


-Dextrous Focus: When making a Dex-enhancing mutagen, you may increase the Dex-bonus by +2, but if you do, you also increase the penalty to Wisdom by 2. Nice!


-Energetic Precision: Expend 1st level bloodline or domain power daily uses when successfully using sneak attack to add +1d6 damage and change the damage caused to the type of your bloodline/domain. I like this, quite a lot in fact, though it should probably read "limited use bloodline or domain power" as a caveat versus non-limited abilities that cause energy damage. I'd also be more comfortable if this actually specified the types of energy, but ultimately, that's more of a cosmetic gripe.


-Enhanced Magic Talent: Replace the minor magic rogue talent cantrip with a 1st level sorc/wiz spell. If you gain major magic as a rogue talent later, you gain a 2nd level spell instead of the 1st level spell. For a FEAT? So, I have to waste one or two rogue talents AND a feat for one lousy 1st level spell? Some sorcerors may go for that, but it's a sucky deal for them. Not starting with wizards...


-Inspired Precision: Add +1d6 plus your bardic performance's morale bonus to all precision-damage dealing attacks by you or your allies while you're remaining bardic performance. The feat should specify that allies have to be affected by bardic performance; RAW, allies beyond reach can be affected.


-New Levels of Daring: Whenever you use Acrobatics or missed by enemy attacks and more than 2 attacks of opportunity miss you, you gain 1 grit or panache. When an attack hits you that round, you don't regain grit. You can only do this either Cha (panache) or Wis (grit) bonus times per day. Reviewer puts away the bag of kittens for now...


-Sneaking Glance: As an immediate action, if a target of your glare is denied Dex to AC and is hit by an ally in melee, you may add your sneak attack damage - 1d6 to the attack, usable Cha-mod times per day. Interesting mesmerist-crossover here.


-Trickery over Training: Add Extra Rogue Talent to the fighter bonus feat list.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock art. I am not a fan of the final page's half-empty state - some sort of stock art (or more content) would have made that look less...empty. The pdf has two bookmarks in spite of its brevity - nice.


Frank Gori's multiclass feats for rogues vary in power and coolness a bit; the witch-feat, for example, completely outclasses the sorc/wiz-feat. and there are some minor hiccups in the finer points of the rules-language. That being said, for the low price-point, this still has something to offer for the discerning roguish dilettante. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars...and while I consider quite a few feats herein pretty solid, they feel a bit less streamlined than in the magus-pdf. In the end, I consider this a mixed bag on the slightly positive spectrum of things, but still have to round down for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tides of War: Rogue/X Feats
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Four Horsemen Present: Monsters Under the Bed
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:32:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what is the intent of this book? Well, first of all, PFRPG assumes that most creatures are defeated by combat, right? Well, if you've been following my reviews, you will note a certain belief of mine pertaining moral values that can be conveyed via roleplaying games. This pdf's first goal, then, would be to provide options to make monsters more suitable for children of ages 8 and below. The first creature in this pdf would be actually a template with a sample being - the option to make baby creatures at CR -3; including mechanical representations for being hard to hurt for even the most cold-hearted of villains and the required mechanics to properly take care of the toddler - so yes, taking care of the creature thus modified can be an interesting challenge during regular adventuring.


The next creature would be the Toy creature, which is entertaining, but also fragile and comes with either a CR +1 or +0 modification for the base creature...which would btw. be as well a place as any to note that the sample creatures with templates applied (as well as the new creatures) do feature adventure hooks spelled out for you - and they are rather creative. Trojan toy ogre? Pretty cool idea! Cooler yet: When a weakened hell hound, always a runt and scaredydog, is looking to finally get some weak-looking sheep...which may well cause a panic. The CR clocks in at -1 and the creature to which this template is applied can be cowardly, a caregiver, comedic, cowardly - this whole template has basically 6 individual weaknesses to take the edge off the critter.


Beyond these templates, the pdf contains monsters - like the CR 3 Closet Creeper that may hide under beds and closets - and, as parents all over the world have been telling their kids...it's more afraid of them than they are of it. If a kid does suffer from fear regarding the "man in the closet", RPing an encounter with a benign and incredibly cowardly creeper may actually solve that. So yeah, kudos! At CR 5 candy golems are vulnerable to...being eaten. Even regular creatures gain bite attacks against them! Less malign than regular gremlins, the CR 1 boogrel gremlins (3 sample traps included) are the tricksters of the gremlins and look the part - they feature a rather cool full color illustration.


More suitable for older children would be the CR 10 haunted mansion - which takes the route of making it basically a less mobile mimic-style critter. This is generally a solid idea, but one I've seen before and one that I would have loved to see done in either a more kid-friendly, goofy version or one that featured full-blown haunt control, a weakness to exploit...the like. That being said, the fluff centering on scaring folks rather than killing them is nice.


The final creature herein would be the being featured on the cover - the CR 7 White Hag: While they can detect thoughts and feature basically the tropes of the fairy godmother/benevolent fey, they also are incredibly gullible and perceive the world in absolutes, where heroes can do no wrong...which, particularly for kids and adults with a finer ingrained and complex concept of right and wrong may make for some truly intriguing adventuring opportunities. The proposed hook about always getting your way and the issues with that certainly sport didactic potential galore!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard established for the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks range from somewhat creepy b/w-stock to nice original full-color for two critters.


Stephen Rowe knows how to write child-friendly material; he has written one of my all-time favorites regarding kids-adventure (and since Gencon, I actually have a signed copy! YEAH!) - so yes, he does know what he is doing. The focus away from potentially lethal combat to being slightly spooky (as in Scooby-doo-levels or below) and the focus on nonviolent conflict resolutions and misunderstandings make the critters herein potentially suitable for even the youngest of players. The surprising highlight of this book, in spite of the neat builds for the monsters themselves, though, would be the treasure-trove of ideas in the adventure hooks, with each being a potentially rewarding experience for players and GMs alike.


For the fair price, the significant majority of critters contained in this pdf do what they set out to do admirably and feature quite a lot of adventuring potential - now if you're looking for truly scary monsters, you'd obviously be wrong here, but if you're looking for ideas and creatures to supplement your games for the youngest players (or just want a change of pace), this delivers - more so than I expected it would. A good GM can easily get more than one adventure out of each creature herein, with the hooks already being great pointers to further develop. Considering the amount of play-time you can get out of this, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Monsters Under the Bed
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Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:30:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The first of Legendary Games' modules to support the simplified Beginner's Box-rules clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Before we do, I should not be remiss to mention that this module features a handy "slightly advanced" spellcasting array of options used by some of the creatures herein - they can be cast as a standard action and are collected one a handy GM cheat sheet. It should also be noted that this module is intended to be kid-friendly; as such, it features relatively straightforward themes of fighting bad guys and doing good; if political intrigue or shades of grey morality are what you're looking for, this may not be the place. I firmly believe in teaching via roleplaying games and kids should not just slog through combat upon combat - and the author seems to concur here, stating the directive that social and thinking skills should be challenged by modules as well.


As for the age-range, well, unless the kids in question are particularly sensitive, this module should be appropriate for kids ages 4 up; in case of very sensitive kids, 6+ would be a pretty safe bet. This does not mean that this module is "kid's stuff", mind you - it very much works for adults, but I'll get back to that in the conclusion. As a quick summary: All but those that want something really dark and gritty should find some fun within these pages.


Setting-wise, this module assumes the kingdom of Threll in the author's Terrallien world, which is a pretty "normal" fantasy world; as such, it is very easy to plug into other campaign settings - in this kingdom, the feyweald is basically a protected area, where the spirits of nature may roam free, unimpeded by Threllish civilization....and this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


...


..


.


All right still here? A strange sickness has been plaguing the Feyweald and the nymph queen Pryhoza has asked for assistance from Threll's king Ambrose I, offering an alliance in return for assistance in this matter, which would in turn render diplomatic relations with reclusive druids a distinct possibility. The problem seems to be gift horse...and hence, enter the PCs, which are assumed to be members or associates of the Zekerian order, as denoted by magical amulets - these amulets also provide a safety net 1/day to prevent death and allow for some healing to further decrease the potential of player frustration. The group arrives at Northrunner Sound, scheduled to meet with the queen and her two advisors ( a leprechaun and a brownie), but an audience with the queen obviously requires the proper gifts - while the king has sent a whole chest, the hustle and bustle of sprites means that the PCs will have to rely on their wits and people skills to present the correct gift to the correct fey. This first social stumbling block out of the way, the feast begins, but as soon as the arboreal banquet is in full swing (and PCs get bored with the interactions), the party is, alas, crashed: Mites riding giant jumping spiders assault the party and it will be up to the PCs to defeat the threat.


After the threat is eliminated, queen Pryozha confides in the PCs: An evil force has taken root in the feyweald, changing it, turning it and its creatures slowly evil, turning it Unseelie. (And yes, if you're using Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary and full PFRPG-rules, you'll have the template used here!) She asks them to seek out the threat and take care of it, but not before granting them a specific oil that is supposed to help them bypass the resistances of some fey - a valuable resource that the PCs hopefully use cleverly.


On their way through the forests, the PCs will have a chance to help awakened badgers from a trap laid by unseelie brownies and fauns navigate where traps and mites await and encounter an aggressive bird that can be calmed down by smart players...and finally defeat a nasty unseelie giant toad...and finally, possibly the first underground complex ever awaits the players: The lost grove, where a sinkhole guarded by mites now speaks of the influence of a nasty, trapped being called Bayaga. In the pit of the grove where the PCs will have to defeat more mites, an unseelie sprite and faun and yaldira, a multiclass forlarren and champion of the evil, imprisoned bayaga. The villains boast in good ole' traditional villain monologue and indeed, during the combat, bayaga creates a crystalline earth elemental as a form to fight the PCs - destroying it takes the unseelie curse from the afflicted fey.


Having defeated this threat, the PCs are hailed as heroes, are granted a blessing from the beautiful fey queen as well as masterwork items as a thank you - not bad for novice adventurers, and yes, PC death can be reversed...and Ambrose's favor/reward is nothing to scoff at either!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' neat two-column full-color standard for the series, though in an odd peculiarity, my readers depict some passages of text in slightly bolder letters than other paragraphs. This is purely aesthetic nitpickery, though. The original full-color artwork by Paul Pederson and Beatrice Pelagatti employed in the book is absolutely gorgeous and makes for cool handouts. Michael Tumey's cartography is similarly nice.


Paris Crenshaw's first kid-friendly module is fun, evocative and has a structure and feeling like a classic fairy tale, which it ultimately is. This renders it not only palpable for kids, it also can be fun for adults and with some rewrites, you can make it as dark as you want to. Structure and diversity-wise, this is pretty cool. That being said, at the same time, the traveling section through the forest and the final dungeon note paths the PCs travel, with letters and numbers pointing...nowhere. You see, the cartography is player-friendly, which is awesome - no distracting keys and hotspots can be found on them...well, all of them but one, which is weirdly inconsistent. But the structure of the module seems to employ a bit of wilderness hexcrawling, some sort of choice regarding the path taken...and the maps provided do not help in that regard at all, which is weird to me; my theory is that the module was supposed to have player-friendly and GM-maps and they have been either mixed up or somewhat confused. Anyways, this is still a minor hiccup that does not detract much from the quality of the module.


One note, though: It depends on the players you have....but kids can minmax and make brutal builds pretty well once they set their minds to it. If your group consists of adults or kids with experience...they'll curbstomp all but the final encounter. So yes, the focus of this module rests on new players and those that have less experience in using the game. Admittedly, this is the very intent of the product line and not every group is as hardcore as my kiddie-group, but it is something other target demographics may want to be aware of.


There would be one more slight complaint of mine, resulting probably from being somewhat spoiled by Playground Adventures: I am a firm believer in teaching children, at least to a certain extent, about morality in games, since it is an easy and unobtrusive manner to do so. Reinforcing good behavior and morals can be easily achieved in games. Personally, I would have loved to see the module actually feature the choice of how the PCs handle defeated unseelie entities more - a bit of interrogation and foreshadowing from prisoners, for example. The module does offer a means of reverting the unseelie transformation, which is a good thing in a kid-related context. This may be controversial, but I do believe that there is a didactic opportunity lost here - if the choice to keep the defeated unseelie alive or kill them was emphasized more, that well could upset some kids, true; at the same time, rewarding players for "doing the right thing" and only knocking the fey unconscious in the aftermath could have been a very educational experience for the players. I once did this in my games and as soon as the kids realized that good deeds would be rewarded, the motivation to be good increased significantly. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is something to consider when running this module, particularly for the younger ones.


Now one final note: This was originally written as part of a girl scout experience and honestly, running this module, with its sequence of civilization, banquet, hike, etc. in the downtime of a family trip to a national park or nature itself can be exceedingly rewarding: Take a break, play for half an hour, eat when the PCs are eating, get to the teensiest bit creepy final when it turns dark - the module very much features a structure not unlike a trip into the wild...and honestly, that's how I'd run it in a perfect world where I had the means.


Ah, right, the final verdict. All in all, Into the Feyweald is an evocative fairy tale to participate in; difficulty-curve wise, it is VERY easy, until the final encounter, where things get tougher. The module assumes a moderately competent GM and features a LOT of read aloud text, so no excessive experience is required on the GM's side - only enough to handle the key/map hiccup sans stumbling and the final encounter; if you can run that one, you're good...and it's not hard to run. The module is beautiful and fun, though it does not reach the absolute apex; its atmosphere is great and playful, but a couple of the finer aspects could have used a bit more guidance or specific rewards for actions. In the end, I consider this a good module for kids with some slight room for improvement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Beginnings: Into the Feyweald
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Cryptics of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:25:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Porphyran class options-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf comes in the A5-size one-column standard, so when printed out, the format would be more of a booklet style.


All right, so let's take a look at the character options in this book, which hit us right after the introductory fluff with the first archetype, which would be the chaos bringer, mainly intended for the classic and evocative erkunae, who have first been introduced to the canon of Porphyra in the Fehr's Ethnology-series. As befitting the theme of chaos, the archetype may add a touch of chaos to any power manifested, changing its parameters in an unpredictable way: Generally, 1 -6 delivers one of two negative effects; 7 -14 delivers the "neutral/none-too-inconvenient" effects (like different target chosen within a splash damage radius) and 15-20 providing the beneficial tricks. That being said, there are a couple of rough patches in the mechanics here - for example, the splash damage: Is an empty square an eligible target or not? What if there is no eligible target in the radius? Similarly, the chance to pay 0 power points or get a 50% damage increase can be pretty potent, considering the array of abilities that can grant d20-rerolls. While this does not make the archetype's base premise broken, it can lead to problems for some groups. This replaces Scribe Tattoo.


On the plus-side that I actually consider pretty well implemented, Pandemonium Disruption changes the creature type choice mechanic when gaining psionic focus, instead randomizing it and allowing for potentially multiple types, alignment types and "none" as well as "all." The interesting component here would be that the cryptic's pattern must be attuned to a creature type and usually, the attunement is an enforced part of the gaining of psionic focus - with this archetype, a lucky chaos bringer has a very good reason to basically keep the psionic focus attuned to all, providing a reason for them to maintain the focus instead of expending it. Which, per se, is nice. On a downside, the ability in no way specifies that the chaos bringer may only use this randomized attunement to a creature type in stressful situations, meaning that gaining focus and expenditure at a given adventuring days' start would be repeated by a cryptic whenever he had the time to do so - basically, as long as the archetype has enough time, he'll end up with "all", which is a pretty severe abuse that could have been mitigated by a simple caveat. Hampering truth-seekers and their spells and power, better saves versus charms and compulsions, control over thoughts read and a chaos-apotheosis-style supreme insight complement an interesting, if not perfect archetype.


Next up would be the enigmatic paradigm for the eventual race, who gains a bonus equal to Int-mod to AC and CMD while wearing no armor, carrying not more than a light load and maintaining psionic focus, thankfully including stacking caveats for monk bonuses and the like. Speaking of which - instead of the trapmaker and proficiencies, we get the unarmed damage progression and feat-wise capability of a monk here as well, setting the tone for this archetype, with Patterned Strikes being gained at second level instead of the usual insight. Similarly, starting at 6th level, these guys gain a flurry, though thankfully the archetype steers clear of combining patterns with that, restricting it to unarmed strikes. You don't know the Patterned Strikes feat? Well, it is one that will not get anywhere near my table - it allows you to add disrupt pattern to all your unarmed strikes, including iterative attacks, thus breaking the usual restriction of disrupt pattern, but while excluding the combined use of both this melee and ranged use of the ability. Here's the problem: Flurry + full disrupt pattern per attack. Nope, not getting near my table.


The underappreciated and delightfully weird Xesa plant-race, who alter their disruption to instead work via strange seeds in the target, causing damage to creatures and healing plants...and there we go, disqualified from my games. Disrupt pattern is a non-limited resource and considering the sheer array of plant races available, this means infinite healing from level 1 forwards, for the whole group if the plant character has a means of sharing hit points. OP and needs a hard whack with the nerf bat, which is a pity, since the floral-themed visuals of the archetype are pretty cool. The Dragonblood Judiciar is damn cool - they can deal nonlethal damage with their patterns and are experts at tracking foes and bringing them in alive. Pretty evocative: Starting at 6th level, when properly sentencing a foe according to the facts, they gain bonuses and better defenses against the foe. As a capstone, the archetype goes Judge Dredd with "I AM THE LAW" (Imagine me going full Stallone here), gaining save-or-suck blasts.


The Qi'tar nightrunner replaces the absorb option of altered defense with scaling miss chances, with better free-running/parkours and proper cat burglar tricks, including the option to mitigate failed Stealth checks 1/target per Stealth attempt with Bluff to create a distraction - very much obliged. I really like this archetype, though this is as well a place as any to mention that editing isn't as precise on a formal level as in some other PDG-releases - lower case "stealth", "verses" instead of "versus" - there are a couple more typo-level glitches in the pdf, though they admittedly do not usually hamper the rules-language.


The Avoodim Purifier increases the damage output versus outsiders (all of them, not only a subtype) and gains several abilities to enhance his knowledge versus outsiders as well as the option to add this variant of disruptive pattern to melee attacks performed with slashing weapons instead of swift trapper...which is pretty potent. Let's take a look: The ability does specify that it is the exception to the 1/round caveat - so far, so good. The problem lies within the contradictory wording, which makes me believe that some sort of balancing caveat was lost somewhere: "A purifier can use his disruptive outsider as part of any or all attacks made with slashing weapons he makes." and "The purifier cannot use this ability as part of an edged melee attack and as a ray attack in the same round." So, what is "edged"? Can it or can't it be used? I thought it was slashing melee exclusive, so why the ray caveat? I think I know what the ability was trying to preotect abuse-wise against, but as written, this does require some clarification. As a capstone, the archetype has an apotheosis, which is relatively cool as far as that type of conventional design goes and the higher levels allow for planar allies.


The pdf also features new feats for the cryptic, 7 to be precise. These generally deal and interact (or are part) of the respective archetypes, with Chaotic Favor allowing for the modification of the chaotic roll as part of manifesting a power to be modified by +/- 1d3, with erkunae gaining +1d4 instead, exacerbating the aforementioned reroll power's strength. The Chaotic Power metapsionic feat unlocks a lesser variant of the archetype class feature for non-archetype adherents, with the same caveat. Enduring Defense has the following benefits: "You can the benefits of the enduring defense class feature that you otherwise would not have." - I am pretty sure there's a verb missing here and while I can guess what this is supposed to mean...it's nonfunctional. Extra Sentencing allows for more sentene uses by the aforementioned Dragonblooded archetype. Floral Growth is a bit like a gardener variety of a psionic Brew Potion - which is nice, though explicitly stating the activation action and mechanics would have helped here - one can extrapolate those, sure, but e.g. the usage of "wearer" does imply that these growths take up slots which they may or may not do. Parkoud Climbing would be a solid take on the aforementioned nightrunner archetype's tricks in feat-form


The pdf provides three new insights, which allow for the upside down change of sequence of iterative attacks regarding their base attack bonus (Interesting!) - though, as a word of warning, in groups less mathematically versed than mine, this could slow down the gamelplay, as the cryptic is thinking which totality of his iterative attacks is more efficient. Also: My group at least rolls atk, damage, atk, damage...not atk, atk, atk, damage, damage, damage... So depending on how you play, this may be pretty useless. The follow up insight provides complete control over the sequence, which sounds intriguing on paper, but will slow down gameplay in even math-savvy groups, while retaining the predecessor insight's issues. Finally, there is a metagaming insight I really dislike on a personal basis: Move action to learn an enemy's AC, CMB and CMD. No range or the like required. IF your group likes these types of abilities, cool - I really don't.


The pdf also provides 10 psionic powers, which include a multi-energy ray, crystalline shackles...the general visuals an intent is pretty cool. Unfortunately, the wording does not always live up to the precision required. Crystalline Shackles, for example, limits movement to "5 foot movements, with an Acrobatics check DC 20 to move at half speed." Does this movement count as 5-foot steps when the Acrobatics-check is failed? Is there a consequence for attempting the check and failing (no movement)? The rules-language could have easily been streamlined to where is did not feature this unfortunate wording. A teleport + distraction-clone-power is imho too low on the level scale, lacks information pertaining the control of the duplicate and lacks the teleport-prevention caveat for ability/power/spell interactions...well, you get the idea. All in all, a well-intentioned array of powers that can be streamlined into properly working...but also a section that misses the precision I would have wanted the concepts to feature.


The pdf does have new magic items as well - gloves that allow for the blending of hidden pocket and containers, jackets of hidden pockets and a torc that makes powers look like they originated elsewhere - pretty neat. The pdf concludes with new materials, the first of which would be godsmind crystals: Holding such a crystal "reduces hit points by 1 per hit die." This NEEDS to be maximum hit points, otherwise sequence, healing etc. come into play. Also, "A character can use the crystal to cause 1 hit point of damage per hit die they have to another creature, but they take the same amount of damage." Untyped damage. No DR-interaction. No range. "In the hands of a psion, they are able to infuse power points into so that the creature takes 1d6 points of damage, while still taking 1 hit die of damage per die of damage they deal." Okay, there is so much wrong with that sentence. To give you a brief impression: Only psions? How much power points? What's a "hit die of damage"? I get what this is supposed to do, but the wording isn't functional even before going into disrupt pattern interaction. The second item would be a godmind crystal gavel...which obviously suffers from the base material being horribly broken.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are a mixed bag - while, in the beginning, the issues pertaining rules-language were pretty minimal, the latter pieces of content did somewhat decrease in quality. On a formal level, the pdf does have more glitches than I am accustomed to in Purple Duck Games books by now. Layout adheres to the 1-column, relatively printer-friendly full-color standard with some nice artworks, though astute readers may know them from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Scott Dillon's Cryptics of Porphyra is not a bad book, let me make that abundantly clear. In contrast to many a book featuring racial archetypes, the book tries very hard (and succeeds) in blending the unique flavor of the respective races with the archetypes associated with them, so that's a plus. However, at the same time, there are a lot of hiccups on both formal and rules-aesthetic levels that decrease the overall functionality of the book to the point where I consider precious few rules-components to be on the level of precision I expect and require in my games. Unlike many a supplement, these can be salvaged by a competent GM/rules-dev/editor, but I can't rate the potential alone here, particularly considering that several of the components herein focus on a rather brutal escalation of cryptic damage-output that may be too much for some groups. As a person, I like this book significantly more than the array of problems would make you believe, but as a reviewer, I have an obligation to my audience. Let's not beat around the bush: This needs work. It has some gems in it, but they do need refinement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars...and unfortunately, I can't round up for this one.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cryptics of Porphyra
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Urban Dressing: Marsh Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:20:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We take a step on the soggy soil of a town in a ague-infested stretch of land -and as we do so, we look at a 100-entry strong table that tells us exactly what we can see and hear: From the dark, we may see red, bulbous eyes watching us, as frogs lend their cacophony to the dismal creaking evoked by the dilapidated state of the town. Boardwalks show signs of charring, speaking unheard tales of strange rites or punishments, as strands of thorny vines seem to move of their own accord just at the edge of one's vision.


Sagging willow trees filter the light of the sun falling through the curtain of branches, as enormous lizards lounge and bask atop piles of rotten wood and townsfolk, under their stern, unimpressed gaze, cultivate gardens of vibrantly colored mosses. Yes, we seem to have stumbled into one intriguing place! Thus, we take a closer look at what this town offers - and indeed, businesses do exist here -a table of 50 of them provides more than ample opportunity to flesh out the unique inhabitants of this place.


If you're looking to make it here, in this frontier, you may want to visit Pylough's deeds, where you can purchase untamed swampland to cultivate...or perhaps, you are looking for fishing supplies? If more adventurous pursuits are what your heart craves, both mercenaries and archaeologists seem to always be looking for your type...just make sure you don't end up in the local jail, aptly called "The Sinkhole." If you risk going there, better visit "Stick in the Mud" before you do - that would be the local legal expert. And if something ails you...well, there obviously is a leecher to be found here!


But, as the old saying goes, it is the people that make a town, and as such, a table with 50 entries provides ample folk to meet: On these drenched streets, you may meet dwarven explorers looking for fabled treasures, traumatized and volatile ex-military half-elves, wanna-be-witches, alchemists who have lost their hair due to some sort of mishap and if you take a while and sit down, that disfigured gent may tell you all about how exactly he has lost both nose and ear.


Now all of this will undoubtedly occupy you for quite a while, but in case you are looking for something more, a total of 20 events and complications can catapult you and your friends right into the actions: See those will-o'-wisps flickering in the distance? Have you heard about the trapper who isn't picky about the meat he sells? Heck, beyond these, the very construction of the town may provide an angle for you - after all, there is a real chance that buildings may start collapsing and sinking into the lightless depths where only the gods know what lurks. On a more lighthearted note: Have you heard the talk? The mud-run is almost upon the town and competing there would be pretty fun...right? At least if someone can take care of this plague of giant mosquitoes that suck people dry and then lay eggs in their corpses...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.


Josh Vogt has taken the Urban Dressing series from being the one of the dressing-series I'd not consider perfect and expanded it far beyond its humble origins. Practically system-neutral, this exceedingly evocative dressing file is one inspiring array of options just waiting at your fingertips, sporting a great blend of the beautiful and horrendous, the mundane and the magical. I expected the whole theme to make this installment rather grim, though there is certainly beauty galore to be found in the marshes.


Well, turns out master Vogt seems to agree and does not fall into the classic issue regarding the trope of the marsh town: There are hints of the dark and horrific here, yes, but the pdf similarly provides enough material to make the places fleshed out not feel like hell-holes; instead, this provides a well-rounded, evocative trip through a marsh town, one that is guaranteed to enhance the game. And yes, basically everything I quoted was adapted directly from the tables herein. What more can you ask of a dressing file that such a broad scope of evocative prose? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out-



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Marsh Town
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The Sighted Seeker
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:19:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This prestige archetype clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Wait, prestige archetype? Well, yeah. In case you're not familiar with the concept, check out my page and a tag/quick search away, you'll get all the reviews for them. Concept-wise, the idea is to basically roll a PrC's features into a core class, making it more akin to an archetype/variant class. Originally invented by Carl Cramér for Purple Duck Games, this concept has been pretty intriguing...so let's take a look at whether it translates well to the psionic context!


The sighted seeker as presented herein is based on the PrC of the same name and utilizes the chassis of ranger and marksman as basis. The class gets d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and begins with 1 power point, scaling up to 99 at 20th level. Powers known-wise, we begin with 1 and scale that up to 13 at 20th level; the maximum power level available is 4th. Powers are chosen from the seeker powers list (with the noted exception of Expanded Knowledge) and the governing manifesting attribute would be Wisdom. Proficiency-wise, the class gets all simple weapons as well as all light, projectile and thrown martial weapons as well as bucklers and light armors. Skill-wise, they get 4+Int-mod skills.


At first level, sighted seekers receive Urban Tracking as well as their first favored prey - against said creatures, the sighted seeker gets +2 to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive and Survival checks as well as +2 to atk and damage and save DCs. They may also make untrained knowledge checks against them. Humanoids and outsiders have the subtype caveat. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the class chooses another favored prey and increases the bonus granted by one of his favored preys by the same amount as above - the save DC-increase is pretty nasty, but in my playtest, the ability checked out, considering the low maximum power level.


At 5th level, a sighted seeker may expend 3 power points as a standard action, provided he is able to unquestionably identify a creature by its deeds - the traget creature becomes a mark and is treated as favored prey with an additional +1 bonus; if the creature is already a favored prey, the bonus increases to +2 instead. This ability, known as "Mark Prey", enhances quite a few class features.


2nd level allows the sighted seeker to read the wind: While psionically focused to expend a swift action to gain a competence bonus equal to Wis-mod to ranged attacks until the end of the round, usable 3+ class level times per day. While I'm not a big fan of two attributes to atk, here this does somewhat offset the MAD component of the class. At 3rd level, the sighted seeker may gather information every 10 minutes while in a crowd, with bonuses pertaining marked prey, making them excellent hunters.


At 2nd level, the sighted seeker must choose one combat style: Finesse, Sniper or Volley are available: These diverge from the usual concept of combat styles quite a bit: At 4th level, they have a style skill: This skill gets scaling bonuses. Also at 4th level, each combat style gains a style technique, which can be activated via the expenditure of the psionic focus: Finesse seekers can use this trick to perform a selection of combat maneuvers at range, sniper can add Wis-mod to damage and volley specialists and volley specialists can grant themselves an additional attack as part of a full attack, but this does not stack with other abilities like haste...until 15th level, when it does. On a nitpicky side, this one does lack a few italicizations, but otherwise is precise.


Cooler and rewarding from a player's perspective: Starting at 6th level, the sighted seeker gets a style mantra - this is a bonus that is maintained for as long as the prestige archetype maintains psionic focus: So yes, there is a reward for keeping and for expending it, making for interesting and valid tactical choices. Kudos! Each combat style also grants style abilities, the first of which is gained at 6th level, with additional ones being unlocked every 4 levels thereafter. Finesse seekers focus on tricks like negating uncanny dodge or adding negative conditions. Snipers can significantly increase the power output of single shots and shoot through creatures - a 10th level sniper (as a nitpick: The ability ought to note the level it's gained, though it's obvious from context) shooting a creature has a pretty high chance of annihilating it, as befitting of the concept...and sans breaking the math. Volley specialists can combine movement and less accurate attacks, split missiles, etc.


At 7th level, a specific array of powers gets a special new augment to make powers last longer and 8th level and every 3 thereafter net bonus feats. At 9th level, the class gets seeker's analysis: Perception is enhanced with two new uses to find evidence and analyze material; similarly, Knowledge is enhanced - yes, this actually does make sense and provides non-combat utility, something often missing from martially bent classes. At 12th level, sighted seekers may expend power points to determine the authenticity of a given source and grant bonuses. 13th level unlocks quarry, 14th level 1/week hypercognition and 16th level provides remote viewing with enhanced potency versus the mark. At 18th level, metafaculty can be manifested 1/week and 19th level provides improved quarry.


The pdf comes with favored class options for blues, dromites, duergar, elan, femanx, forgeborn, half-giants, maenads, norals, ophiduans, qi'tar and xeph -all of which seem balanced and fitting, though there's a cut-copy-paste-typo "unless the you has selected." Cosmetic, though.


The pdf also features a sample character, Tikki Mantracker, a blue, who comes with a level 1, 5, 10 and 15 version.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are the weakest component of the pdf - there are a precious few italicization/typo-level glitches, though these never truly hamper rules-language...which is precise, to the point and well crafted. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard, with the exception of the introduction page, which instead features a 1-column standard. The pdf has no art apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Mark Gedak, master of Purple Duck Games, delivers one of the very best prestige archetypes released so far: The sighted seeker is a truly fun class to play: With combat utility and out of combat tricks, powers and an interesting action economy, balanced and versatile options and a diverse, yet focused niche, the class is very rewarding: The perfect bloodhound/hunter - equal parts relentless huntsman and Sherlock Holmes, the sighted seeker makes for a truly rewarding playing experience that does not fall into the traps such builds could feature. The class is fun, well crafted and rewarding both in and outside of combat, which is a big thing, at least for me.


All glitches that are in this book are cosmetic and while I wished the class had a unique capstone for each style, that ultimately is a personal preference and not something to hold against this pdf. In short: I really like this one - the few hiccups herein are minor and certainly do not hamper the appeal of this cool class. The class, just fyi, should work equally well in high fantasy and lower fantasy contexts, so yeah - nothing of significance to complain about. Ultimately, in spite of the minor hiccups, this prestige archetype is extremely rewarding: Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up and since I really liked it, this also gets my seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sighted Seeker
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Knowledge Check: Last Rites
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:16:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Conclusion:


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


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


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


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Knowledge Check: Last Rites
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Orcam of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/19/2016 08:47:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 31 pages of content, so let's take a look!


After a brief piece of introductory fluff, we are introduced to the Orcam's racial stats: The race receives +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, are medium, have a land speed of 30 ft, a swim speed of 40 ft, low-light vision, cold resistance 5, gain hold breath, are proficient with spears, tridents and nets, gain a +2 racial bonus to Ride checks when riding whales/dolphins and underwater, they may, as a move action, emit an echolocation pulse to locate objects and creatures within 30 ft. - this one can be suppressed by silence. Okay, from the base set-up, we get a powerful race approximately on par with aasimar etc., but one whose benefits are pretty circumstantial - in aquatic campaigns, they obviously excel, whereas on primarily landbased campaigns, the race works pretty well with less powerful races. The race has a unique thing going for it and gets formatting completely right, something pretty rare.


Next up, we take a look at society, alignment, adventuring, etc. - and in the cultural department, the race does have several unique components as well, first of which would be their nomenclature: The race features a "Deep Name", to be pronounced underwater, as well as a airbound name - and this makes sense to me. It may seem negligible, but it is these little tidbits that good roleplayer latch on to and generate whole angles out of. The race features a proper array of age, height and weight tables to supplement it and comes with 7 race traits for your perusal: From slightly better initiative to bulky frames and improved flanking, the traits are relevant, appropriate for their power-level and get the bonus type right.


For more customization options, the race features a total of 9 alternate race traits: These include a primary natural bite attack (which actually is properly codified in every way!), self-only blood rage 1/day, tremorsense while in contact with water and only pertaining creatures also in contact with the body of water, darkvision and light sensitivity, better social skills, better aiding others, Small orcam, natural armor instead of cold resistance or +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha as alternate racial traits. The array of alternate racial traits is well-balanced against the abilities they replace, the rules-language is precise...and once again, I am left with no complaints.


The pdf also offers 7 racial feats - and here, I can finally complain properly about something! Yeah! The Dorsal Fin feat that increases swim speed...lacks the "ft." after the increase. ... Yeah, sorry. The feat also allows for direction changes underwater, just fyi. Longer range echolocation under water (and 20 ft. on land), gaining a gore attack, speak with animals with aquatic creatures, minor DR and bonus to Escape Artist...intriguing. Orcam rangers (or those characters with favored terrain) can take a feat starting at 5th level to change favored terrain and there is a feat that allows for the better wielding of weapons underwater. The race also gets a racial combat style, the Shark Style - the base feat generates bleed damage when you score multiple hits and helps when fighting underwater; the follow-up feats allow for rend bonus damage versus bleeding foes and free demoralize attempts versus foes bleeding - even if you're not interested in the Orcam AT ALL, fans of sahuagin may very well get this pdf for this chain alone...it's pretty damn awesome! There is also an okay teamwork feat that slightly increases damage output when flanking with allies and adds demoralize to crits. The metamagic feat, at +1 spell level, adds splash damage to AoE-spells, which is a nice concept. In a minor nitpick: The feat only mentions minimum damage - which could be read as applying to attribute damage and becomes problematic when combined with fixed damage spells (or maximized ones) - a good GM can easily read the feat as intended, but a tad bit more precision here would have been nice.


The pdf also provides the overdue greatspear as well as the gut razor, which is particularly potent when used in coup-de-grâces as well as the glove-less scaly mail variant of scale mail. Magic item-wise, there is an enchantment for composite bows that allows the wielder to change Str-bonuses - for an applied use of it, a lethal bow can be found here. The ambergris amulet has defensive properties and denotes you as a healer among the orcam. We do get the at this point obligatory electric eel armor, though admittedly, the execution isn't bad. An Octopus shield that can flail its tentacles and fire ink is pretty cool and a water-themed staff complements the section - all in all, a precise, well-crafted array of items.


The spell section is interesting - blood rage grants stacking bonuses to Str and penalties to AC for damage incurred (with a cap, thankfully), variants of scent-masking and a octopus-inkjet-style variant of expeditious retreat is cool. The 4th level spell Land Shark lets you go bulette! Cool!


The pdf also features racial archetypes/class options, 3 to be more precise. The first of these would be the order of naumachy cavalier order: These guys can't issue a challenge against a good or neutral target - which brings me to an issue: What if they do? Is the challenge attempt wasted? What about action economy? Not sure. The challenge bestows a +1 dodge bonus to AC and +1 insight to saves, which increases by +1 for every 4 levels. They may also only issue challenges while wearing light armor and carrying no more than light load - all in all, a very restrictive challenge. 2nd level provides a paladin's detect evil and 10th level 1/day smite evil at 1/2 levels. 8th level lets the order choose a terrain from a limited list and shout orders as a swift action to grant allies within 50 ft. bonuses and 15th level nets the mount the aqueous simple template, which is a bit late.


The Deep Sea Patroller hunter archetype gains an aquatic companion and, instead of animal focus, nets the companion several toughness-related bonus feats and, at 8th and 15th level, the powerful stalwart ability and its improved cousin, respectively.3rd level offers amphibious for hunter and companion, with higher levels providing darkvision. 6th level provides a life bond that allows for limited saving roll rerolls and the means to take excess damage when a companion would be reduced to below 0 hp, instead reducing it only to 1 hp. Instead of woodland stride, the archetype can pass easily through corals, sea weed etc. - though I'd be interested in whether this also applies to damaging terrain. 12th level nets a +3 favored terrain and 15th level provides a continuous freedom of movement for the pair.


The next archetype would be the Searager bloodrager - and here, we have something odd: Tidal Wave Blitz reads "This works as bloodrage, but when a searager charges an opponent he counts as one size category larger for when making a bull rush or overrun attempt." I am pretty sure something went wrong here - does this benefit only apply while bloodraging? I also am pretty sure that there's an excess "for" here. The archetype also gains the woodland stride variant - the same question as above applies. 6th level unlocks cure spells, though the pdf fails to italicize them properly. At 7th level, these guys can conjure forth shields of water as immediate actions.


The pdf thereafter continues to tell us about the orcam's take on respective adventuring classes, including occult classes and those introduced by Purple Duck Games - I like this section, as it provides a better feeling for the culture of the race. This section is btw. also supplemented with a significant array of favored class options, which include the ACG and OA-classes as well as Infinyte, Illuminatus and the like. The section generally is solid. The pdf concludes with a sample level 1 orcam barbarian.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting, for the most part, are excellent in both formal and rules-language departments: The bonus types are clear, the rules-language precise. While there are a few hiccups, these tend to be minor ones. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column layout standard that results in A5-sized (9'' by 6'') books - something to bear in mind regarding the page-count. The pdf sports glorious, original full-color artworks of male and female orcam and comes with bookmarks for each section, making navigation pretty comfortable.


Derek Blakely's Orcam are a cool race - they have a unique trick, are generally balanced as one of the stronger races and are diverse enough. Their culture is intriguing and, unless you're playing a nautical campaign with a lot of water where all other PCs are landlubbers, the race shouldn't unbalance a given group. So yeah, only GMs going for a "airbreathers on the sea/underwater"-style of campaign may want to be a bit careful here - these guys are good in the water! (Then again, if you're using Cerulean Seas' more powerful aquatic races as well, this will fit in just perfectly.


For the most part, the pdf is absolutely meticulously crafted with an eye towards cool options and balance at the same time - the race-section, the items, the fluff - all feels like a project of passion and it shows and translates to that. At the same time, the class options are the weakest part of the pdf: The cavalier order is very restrictive and the other two archetypes have evocative tricks, but also don't reach the level of precision the other content features. They also, conspicuously, are less precise in the formatting-department.


Now that being said, the damn cool Shark Style, the evocative race itself and the nice cultural tidbits included do make this race a welcome addition to environments both aquatic and non-aquatic: Due to the lack of requirement to actually stay wet etc., the orcam make for a viable, nice race to include among the PC-approved roster. One more interesting coincidence: While their culture does not necessarily point towards this and while their nomenclature obviously stems from "orcas", that's only one letter away from orc - so if you're bored by the old green-skins and want something unique and different...why not use these? I certainly have ideas on how to introduce these fellows in my game!


Ah, the verdict. Well, try as I might, I really like these guys and the author shows care and a precise grasp of rules only rarely seen..but considering the minor hiccups, I can't go with an apex-level rating; for that, the jaw-dropping archetype/class option/whatever is missing. For the more than fair price point, this does remain a very good, if not 100% perfect purchase, though. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Orcam of Porphyra
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The Genius Guide to More Bard Talents
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/19/2016 08:45:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This expansion for the Talented bard clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We begin with 3 edges in this one: Enrapturing performance focuses the effects of bardic performance on a single target, increasing the potency against said target - said performance cannot be maintained at the same time as a regular performance. Unfortunately, the ability is pretty imprecise: The ability talks about emulating certain performances with the ability at greater effect, implying that it can use these...which would not be an issue with a vanilla bard, but talented bards do not necessarily get these, so there is some unnecessary ambiguity here. Limited replacement of bard spells with ranger/druid spells and a familiar would be the other two edges.


The pdf also features new talents - and unlike some of the "More"-series of expansions, this one does go into some archetypes not featured in the base product, with hoaxer, silver balladeer, thundercaller, negotiator, etc. having their talents and edges codified according to the talented system, with divas, duettists etc. being covered. NOw, as a metalhead, I couldn't help but smile at Headbasher's Ball - while performing, allies within 30 ft. may use the bard's Perform instead of Bluff or Intimidate to feint or demoralize...which is pretty damn cool. Powerful, yes, but come on! Balanced bardic healing can be found in here as well. Another note that should be relevant to the interests of some of you out there: This book actually does cover the skald's raging songs and unlocks them for the talented bard - from incite rage to song of the fallen.


That being said, organization is not as precise as usual for these books - there is the distinction pertaining advanced talents, which are unlocked at 10th level and usually collect the talents that have a prerequisite of 10th level or beyond - song of the fallen, for example, should be in this category, yet it is listed among the regular talents. While this remains the exception, it was still odd to see. Thankfully, the wall of text organization by theme-box is included in the deal. Fans of OA will be glad to hear that the Phronologist's tricks are included in this deal as well.


The capstones contain the end of the savant's avatars of legend ability as well as immunity to aging and drugs (+ superstar performance) and a pantomime equivalent of imprisonment.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - while not always perfect in formal criteria, there are no significant botches to be found here. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard with okay stock art and the greyish background with pronounced borders, ut pretty high text density. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but not with individual bookmarks for the respective talents/edges.


This is the first book by J. Michael Matkin I've read and it is precise, well-crafted and generally a more than welcome expansion for the talented bard. While, personally, I would have preferred an individual installment for the skald for a slightly more nuanced take on the options of the class, I can live with this iteration of the concepts. In fact, I probably would adore this pdf significantly more, had Stephen Rowe not stepped up the whole game in the "More Witches Talents"-book, which simply ranks among the most inspired witch-supplements ever penned. Compared to that one, this book represents some solid craftsmanship and welcome expansions and it does show some cool, unique ideas...but it does not reach the level of mind-boggling awesomeness.


So yes, fans of the skald, phrenologist and similar archetypes left out of the core talented bard that wanted them integrated into the talented line should consider this as a must buy. As a whole, it is a good expansion, but one that delivers more in the craft and less in the artistry department. I thought long and hard and ultimately, I consider it to be a good file, bordering on very good. Personally, I value artistry more, so, as a person, I'd round this down. As a reviewer, though, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy and tend to be slightly more lenient on the first book of an author I get to analyze...so yeah, my official verdict will round up from 4.5 stars. You'll like this if you're not spoiled rotten like I am from the witch-installment. ;)


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to More Bard Talents
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Occult Character Codex: Kineticists
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/19/2016 08:41:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The (for now) final installment of the Occult Character Codex-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of how-to-use/introduction, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The general introduction of how the series works kicks this off - the characters featured herein utilize the NPC automatic progression championed by Pathfinder Unchained, which makes the NPCs used herein more suitable challenges for the PCs - a decision I wholeheartedly applaud. As always, we do receive a blending of common and less common races in the array of creatures featured in the book, with e.g. merfolk being featured among the less common races and there even is a stone giant, a leprechaun and a fearsome hobgoblin featured.


Somewhat odd - the explanation on how to use does mention regular spellcasting in a book on kineticists...a glitch that is even more jarring when one looks at the tactics-section, where hints for the medium are provided. That being said, the section is still pretty useful, with a helpful table of optimum burn helping in running kineticists - kudos for providing such guidelines for the GM. The respective statblocks, just fyi, do feature an "If at optimal burn"-section in the tactics, which is pretty neat to see.


The kineticist, as a class, prior to 3pp-additions, has been pretty challenged pertaining evocative archetypes, so it should come as no surprise that, in this discipline, there isn't that much variety in this book. A few characters sport a fighter level; there are the uncommon races, but base-class wise, this book is pretty much straight kineticists. The pdf covers the CRs from 1/2 to 19, as always. On a feat-perspective, the book does offer a surprising diversity regarding the feats chosen, considering how few of them make sense for the kineticist, so yeah, kudos there.


Regarding utility wild talent selection and infusion selection, the builds also utilize a sufficient breadth of options. That being said, I did notice a couple of minor glitches in the builds herein - I noticed e.g. minor hiccups regarding the internal rules-language of the kineticist employed in the tactics section - it's "accepting burn", not "gaining burn." Generally, when I could reverse-engineer hiccups, they did tend to be not crucial.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good, though e.g. the cut copy paste hiccups regarding the medium are unnecessary. Similarly, the minor wording hiccups and glitches may not be bad per se, but they do show up. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard for the series, with a nice array of original full color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though oddly the bookmarks are double - there are WIP-bookmarks and the finished ones. Both are functional, though.


Julian Neale's kineticists are an interesting bunch - while their builds provide a relatively broad scope regarding the feats and race-combos employed, the pdf ultimately did feel a bit less refined than the best in the series do. At the same time, the support provided by the book makes running the characters themselves somewhat easier than one would assume, which is a plus in my book. All in all, this is a nice, solid collection of NPCs, though one that is less refined than usual for the series. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up by a margin and in dubio pro reo.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Occult Character Codex: Kineticists
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Master of Forms Expanded - Shadow and Darkness
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2016 04:22:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This expansion for the absolutely AWESOME Master of Forms base class clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


The master of forms class is a genius elemental martial arts system that provides diverging tricks, with each element playing differently...so, how does the new element shadow fare? Well, for one, the master of forms in the shadow stance immediately enters an element's stance when performing a non-shadow form, allowing for the flexible transition from shadow to another element. The pdf contains two secret arts associated with shadow: All-encompassing shadows lets him choose three wild card forms for which he meets prerequisites and perform them as though he knew them. Withdrawing shadows lets the master steal the shadow of a creature within 60 feet, requiring Will-saves to perform supernatural abilities or cast spells - on a failure, the target loses its action! Damn cool!


Beyond that, obviously, the pdf does feature a selection of shadow forms: Blinding dust to be used in lieu of attacks, tentacles of cold-damage dealing shadows that entangle creatures attacking you in melee... pretty interesting. Cobra Strike, as 0 focus required, +1 focus change, is interesting, allowing you to perform an attack that only deals base weapon damage as a swift action, but prevents you from otherwise attacking the target. Form of the Spider enables you to work more efficiently when flanking a foe, but penalizes your attacks against foes you do not flank...and, you may expend focus to perform an attack against a flanked creature as a free action. There also are forms that allow you to copy other forms (at -4 focus change for the bigger one, at +1 for the smaller form, but with a more limited scope, obviously). A form that grants benefits when studying a foe before striking is nice...and there would be a cool gambit form, which makes the next AoO against you automatically hit, but grants you DR equal to half your class level against it...and allows you to retaliate with an AoO if you do take damage...and it does this while increasing focus by +1.


Balanced, short-range teleportation (but only into flanking position!) and freeing your shadow to set up flanking position with you would be another interesting combo move and there is a -1/0 focus change form that allows you to flank a target even if you aren't - it costs 0 focus, obviously, when you're already flanking, but does allow for focus maintenance in such cases. Kudos for getting this one! There also would be a -4 focus change ability that lets you set-up a short-range teleport that automatically causes an attack to miss. this one is pretty complex, but cool and works well indeed. Also interesting in that I have not seen it done before: Repeating an attack that previously missed with all previous modifiers and buffs...which is gold for the instances where you have to hit...and then rolled that stupid natural 1.


The pdf also does provide archetypes, the first of which would be the drifting one: When he performs two consecutive forms of the same element within 1 minute, he loses 1 point of focus, but when he does perform 3 of them within the time frame, his maximum focus increases by +1, with universal forms being treated as their own element. He does pay for this flexibility with stances, though. At 5th level, he may expend 2 focus to gain the benefits of an elemental stance for 1 round, though...and no, he can't be in more than one at a given time. 9th level is truly interesting, allowing the drifting one to change a form's element for 1 focus, replacing the secret art gained there. 13th level nets improved evasion, while 17th level unlocks an element's secret arts while the maximum focus is increased and 20th level provides 1 focus regeneration at the beginning of his turn whenever the archetype's focus is 0. This archetype plays surprisingly different when compared to the base class. Cool!


Elemental Partisans can also be, via a special caveat, be unbalanced masters and chooses an element at first level - though shadow is excluded from the list due to being the unopposed, connecting factor. Elemental partisans may not learn forms or secret arts of the element opposing his own element chosen...but for the exclusion of this one element, they do gain access to a selection of 3 special forms per element: Earth lets you instantly grow a tree (!!), get barkskin or leave entangling brambles in your wake.Fire lets you damage adjacent creatures to your target with fire damage (including a means to bypass resistance for focus expenditure), leave a comet-like trail of blazing fire that damages those nearby or add free 5-foot movements to all your focus expenditure, mimicking the chaotic dance of the wildfire.


Ice lets you name a spell or supernatural ability and hamper a target trying to employ it, end all ice forms in a burst of cold...and the final one is pretty cool: Ice needs a bit of set-up, but when it does hit, it gets brutal: Cause bonus damage on successful saves and render those that critically save shaken? Yeah, that feels like ice, all right. Lightning lets you enhance your defense and generate static electricity...and it gets the awesome grounded ability: Designate a square within 120 ft. as the "ground" - when you move towards it, your base land speed doubles, but upon reaching it, you can't move from it until the beginning of your next turn. Volatile, fast and risky - cool! And yes, you can fire a blast of electricity. Wind, finally, lets you fire unarmed attacks at range, AoE-trip foes via cyclonic air...and there is a form that lets you expand the reach of non-AoO-unarmed attacks by +20 feet.


Now, I already mentioned the unbalanced master: These guys can only learn forms with a focus change of -4 of their primary element, which is chosen at 1st level and all forms with a focus change of +1 of an element other than the designated primary element are treated as though they only had a focus change of 0. However, depending on the primary element chosen, these guys do get a pool dependant on the chosen element and they contain a number of points equal to the class level of the unbalanced master. These points have vastly diverging uses that fit with the themes of the element - earth can, for example, substitute these points for focus points when dealing with -2, -3 or -4 focus change earth forms, but only when below 1/2 maximum health. Fire can utilize the points to pay for secondary effects of forms, etc. - basically, these are modifications of the resource management of the class that depend on the respective element. Very cool!


Walkers in darkness would be up next and while there is a slight formatting glitch with one ability not properly bolded, the archetype is very intriguing. Walkers in darkness are vessels for so-called observers from Elsewhere and these entities tend to change the character - at 2nd level and every 5 levels thereafter, the walker gains a gift from elsewhere, basically one type of new talent the archetype receives - these can range from extraordinary to supernatural and cover both active and passive abilities. Among the passive ones, increase base land speed, rerolls when confused and the like can be found, while the active ones are somewhat different. The walker in darkness begins play with an escalation pool equal to his class level and whenever the walker performs a darkness form that can escalate, the form's escalation score may be paid from this pool. In a unique twist, the pool may be increased: A walker can choose, upon replenishing the pool via resting, to accept a -1 penalty to one saving throw; for each penalty thus accepted (maximum equal to 1/4 class level, minimum 1) he gains a temporary darkness point that stacks and is added to the pool. This replaces stances and stance savant. These points, just fyi, also represent the fuel for some of the active abilities the archetype has, including a damaging gaze...and yes the gifts can also be used to increase pool-size and 17 of them are included in the deal.


Here's the thing, though - this is no mere simple standard archetype - instead, this one comes with a whole array of specific forms exclusive to the walker. For example, the guys can vomit forth acidic darkness with a save to negate...or to halve, when the escalation cost is paid. Basically, the escalation cost is somewhat akin to psionic augments or at higher levels-options in 5e in that they provide further flexibility to the respective forms, which pretty much...well, awesome. What about a form that makes any attack that is successful against you provoke an AoO? Entering a foe's square for +10 bonus to atk in a desperate offense, adding scaling bleed damage to combat maneuvers, staggering foes (with minor, untyped damage) and a save to negate the stagger, temporary hit points, bursts of energy that strike secondary targets...nasty. Have I mentioned gouging a creature's eyes out? Complete with a "takes more uses versus creatures with more eyes"-caveat? Yeah, pretty visceral. Okay, and then there is Mutually Assured Destruction. Not a death effect...but if a creature kills you...well, it is shunted to the nastiest part of elsewhere, obliterated from existence. Oh, and guess what? If you pay escalation and the creature doesn't have enough hp...it doesn't even get a save, but if you do pay this cost, you're erased as well. That's pretty awesome for both villains and anti-heroes. Claws of darkness that slowly degrade are also possible...with escalation, they may even detonate! Corrupting items...what about attacking versus touch AC or getting SR? Yeah, pretty damn cool and flavorful!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are excellent on both a rules and formal level, with one bolding oversight as a cosmetic glitch being my only true complaint. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' clean and easy to read, printer-friendly b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment...then again, I'd suggest printing this out anyways. The book, beyond abstract swirly-like graphics, also features several flavorful b/w-artworks I haven't seen before - nice!


Bradley Crouch's Master of Forms is one of my favorite classes. It's appropriate for any type of game, from high to low fantasy; its elements play differently, with each having a unique feeling, a unique experience and their combinations and customizations make the class extremely rewarding to play. Well, this book not only introduces a very skirmish-y ninja-ish style of gameplay that is very unique, even in the well-trodden arena of shadow-themed classes, it also enhances the customization options of the base class via unique and intriguing archetypes that radically change the manner in which the master of forms plays; better yet, the damn cool walker's escalation system addition may have covered a LOT of ground with the significant amount of cool forms provided, but it's nowhere near tapped out yet and once again, plays differently from a regular master of forms. What you do and don't do, what your forms allow you to pull off, here as much as in the base class, define very much the playing experience; with cool combos, unique stunts and a general feeling of...well, being awesome, suffusing this pdf as much as its parent book.


I am very happy for this book to have seen the light of day, for the system is rewarding and the cool system of the class with its focus-changes, planning and combo-tricks very much feels like playing a balanced version of friggin' Mortal Kombat: Supernatural martial arts that still feel believable in the context of a fantasy world, that have, in spite of being fantastic, a certain grounding. (Meta-pun re grounding form! I'll punch myself later...) Suffice to say, if anything, this book is a shining example of how great such an expansion can be. I absolutely adore it. My final verdict will, unsurprisingly, clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this one gets a nomination for my Top Ten of 2016...excuse me, I have to plan a walker villain for my next game...


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Master of Forms Expanded - Shadow and Darkness
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The Genius Guide to the Talented Bard
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2016 04:19:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Rogue Genius Games' Talented class-series clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!


In case you're new to the concept: Talented classes basically dismantle archetype abilities and base class abilities and codify them according to two categories: Edges for major abilities, talents for less powerful abilities. This does mean that you can cherry-pick exactly the type of class you want, but it also means that you need to be more proficient at creating classes.


The talented bard class, chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and proficiency with simple weapons plus longsword, sap, short sword, shortbow and either scimitar or rapier. They are proficient with light armor and shields and may cast bard spells while wearing light armor and shields sans spell failure chance.


Regarding progression, the talented bard begins play with 2 bard edges and 4 bard talents. An additional bard edge is gained at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Each level that does not grant a bard edge nets a bard talent, with 10th level netting one in spite of also granting an edge - probably since it unlocks advanced talents. 2nd, 6th, 14th and 18th level provide two bard talents instead and 20th level provides the choice of the capstone grand talent.


In an uncommon change from the standard established, there is one ability beyond edges and talents hardwired into the very class, namely bardic performance, with 4 + Cha-mod rounds, +2 per level beyond first. Starting a performance is a standard action, move action at 7th, swift action at 13th level. The talented bard begins play with the distraction performance, allowing for the substitution of the Perform check result for saves versus pattern and figment illusions.


Spellcasting is gained via an edge: The first time it is gained, it grants 2 1st level bard spells (Cha being the default attribute to govern spellcasting). In order to advance spellcasting, the talented bard must expend additional edges, with 4th level, 7th level, 10th level, 13th level and 16th level thereafter allowing for the access of new bard spell levels. Somewhat odd: Cantrips are their own edge and are not a prerequisite for 1st level spellcasting. Expanded spell lists can be gained via e.g. the arcane investigation edge of the detective. Learning a masterpiece also is an edge and similarly, the dervish dancer's battle dance is also an edge. Similarly, taking edges from other classes at -3 levels is an interesting synergy edge, but one you pay for dearly.


Thankfully, the pdf continues to sport the by now classic "Save vs. wall of text"-table that classifies the vast array of talents according to general themes, helping you choose talents.


Now you may notice one thing from the above - if you compare the talented bard with the regular bard + archetype, spellcasting is more costly for the talented bard: For a proper, full progression in this discipline, the class loses almost all of the respective edges. That being said, I do believe that this is very much intentional: Why? Because, let's face it, most archetypes feature some unique performances that double as the primary reasons to take them - this pdf does not take the same route as the talented cavalier - the respective performances do not retain linear sequences and instead opt for minimum level requirements to retain balance, allowing for more freedom in choices when directly compared to archetypes of the base class.


After tinkering for a while with the engine, I do believe that, to a certain degree, this flexibility to cherry pick powerful performances (and accumulate more performances than you otherwise could) is balanced against the spellcasting progression being more costly. In short - I'm fine with it.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' two-column full-color standard with a grey background and pretty broad borders, but also small text - so yes, there is a ton of content in here. Slightly odd: There are some sections of text that look like they are slightly bolder than others. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but does not have individual bookmarks for the edges/talents, which means you'll do some scrolling. The pdf sports numerous full-color artworks, which mainly are stock and do not adhere to a unified aesthetic...but, oh well.


Mark Gedak, master of Purple Duck Games, doesn't write that many books any more - which is honestly a pity. Actually taking the time and effort required to make a talented book...is still something I admire. There is so much work going into these books and honestly, I wouldn't want to design one - in my mind, they are WORK and while I can picture some designers enjoying this...personally, I wouldn't. The Talented Bard as depicted herein was a pretty neat surprise for me, as it actually does feature some interesting balance-mechanisms for the added flexibility: If you'd only go for one archetype, the core bard and the old archetype may actually be better for you due to the spellcasting balancing; at the same time, if you do want to cherry pick via talents, you'll lose a bit in the edge-based department.


Now there is one thing that I'm not 100% sold on here: Masterpieces as edges. Bardic masterpieces are notoriously swingy regarding their power and accessibility; while some may justify an edge, others don't. Their cost hasn't been properly translated to the talented system, which is a pretty big deal to me. The ideal solution would have probably been dismantling them and translating them into talents and edges, but I guess you can't have everything. In the end, the talented bard is a purchase that certainly is worth the asking price, though it falls slightly short of the perfection it could have been. My final verdict hence clocks in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Bard
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