RPGNow.com
Browse Categories
 Publisher Info













Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2018 06:26:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Okay, as always with these modules, you don’t necessarily need Mists of Akuma to run them – all necessary information is provided, though personally, I definitely recommend them within the context of their setting. In this book, we get the stats for the Adeddo-oni. As far as other stats are concerned, we get two wielders of portable cannons, a powerful cursed shikome (hobgoblin, armor covered in prayer slips, who can broadcast radio waves and comes with notes on the Kodoma-Tachi chapter!) and more. As an aside: I have no idea what a leap speed is supposed to be – and the hobgoblin write up doesn’t specify. On the plus-side, we get 4 new tsukumogami, and the Fukō oni, who comes in two iterations. Once more, we also get a pretty potent legendary item, which. Once more, is sentient…and potentially thus rather troublesome. All in all, quite a bunch of new material!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Once more the powers-that-be recruit the PCs via a missive found in an unlikely place; with autumn in the air, the PCs must travel to Kyusokuna, and there, find Hanashichū Grove – preferably without running afoul of the local taboos regarding tech. To reach the grove, the PCs will have to cross a massive suspension bridge, where they will, of course, have to deal with rather potent adversaries (serviceable map included) – and they should better not tary. Becoming lost or falling off the bridge may end up being late…something that is rather frowned upon in Soburin. (As a German, I can relate…)

Once they have arrived at the designated spot for their clandestine meeting, the PCs met the nature-wielder, here on behalf of Lord Sukochi. The task sounds simple: End the troubles at Shibai. It’s not. All the monks of the titular temple have been found dead or missing, and an oni is haunting the village. The famous, cannon-wielding Mubō Brothers have been hired to deal with the issue, but they are deemed to be heretics and too incompetent to solve the issue. The PCs also hear that the settlement was founded by a potent wu-jen and yamabushi, and is considered to be a safe haven from the feared mists of akuma – loss of the area is not acceptable. (As an aside, yes, we do get random encounter suggestions.)

Once the PCs arrive at Shibai, they walk into chaos – a full-blown adeddo-oni attack must be thwarted, which is also the first chance to interact with the rather unpleasant cannon-wielders. Once the chaos has been subdued, the PCs will have a chance to start to loathe the brothers before talking to the mayor, who, after being initially dismissive, warms considerably to them once the PCs flaunt their mission. The fully mapped settlement is at the slope of a steep hill, with heights noted on the map – kudos! The mayor tells the PCs over tea (somewhat of a lost chance for Culture-checks…) about the situation – and indeed, the constant monster assaults represent a ticking timer…the PCs should better hurry!

Ultimately, they will have to investigate Róbai Shita temple – and worse, the brothers will try to smear their names when they set out for the temple. Speaking of temple: The place is fully mapped (2 levels) and, while the maps sport no scale, it is easy enough to assume the default 5-ft.-grid. The maps are rather detailed and can be cut up and used as hand-outs, which is a big plus. Somewhat odd, though: The ground floor of the temple has the functions of rooms noted, while the basement is wholly spoiler-free. Just an observation, mind you – I’m good with the presentation. While the exploration of the temple requires a bit of GM panache (in the absence of room-by-room-read-aloud text), the exploration should elicit a bit of creepiness nonetheless…and upon their return from the temple, the brothers will attack, trying to secure their spot as top dog problem solvers.

The battle will rage, but before one side can claim a decisive victory, the monstrous ukō intercedes with a whole array of deadly creatures in tow. In the chaos, the brothers should manage to get away…and even if bested, the monster seems likely to return. Thus begins a bit of an investigation, which comes in two difficulties – simple and hard; the added difficulty version in particular is something I’d recommend to add a further sense of urgency to the investigation; turns out that an ambitious couple has taken the yūrei-fū wind chimes from the depths of the temple – and, well, they are not necessarily going to just give up on them or their ambitions….and the brothers may pose further issues.

In order to stop the troubles that have beset the village, the PCs will have to venture down into Róbai Shita’s dungeon, which is as much dungeon as it is a colossal accumulation of tsukumogamis! Once more, we get basic room descriptions (no read-aloud text) as the PCs venture through the dungeon to the catacombs. (Once more, the dungeon has room names included, while the catacombs don’t; once more, the maps are pretty detailed and scale-less, but perfectly usable). Placing the wind chimes back where they belong will have the PCs duke it out with the undying monster once more – if they succeed, they’ll have saved the town, hopefully with proof regarding the plot behind the wind chimes and their theft!

It should be noted that the pdf does come with a handy 1-page list of local rumors, which add some local color to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good, I noticed no big problems regarding the rules and structure of the module. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s busy 2-column full-color style, which manages to fit quite a bit of material on a given page. Artworks are a combination of nice full-color pieces and public domain art, which, in combination, has evolved into a rather distinct style I personally rather like. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is probably the best in the Mists of Akuma-modules – the maps are detailed, interesting and can be used as cut-up hand-outs.

Mike Myler’s “Scourge of Róbai Shita Temple” is perhaps the most easily plug-and-play module of all the Mists of Akuma-adventures I’ve read so far; it can be used in other contexts without major reskinning, which is certainly somewhat helpful. That is, however, also the weak spot of the adventure: While distinctly belonging to Mists of Akuma in style, themes and aesthetics, it is a slight bit less unique than my favorite, “Fangs of Revenge”, which I consider to be my personal favorite among the Mists of Akuma adventures.

That being said, I am not judging these modules by my taste, at least not exclusively, and this adventure is well-crafted…and easy to run. Where “Fangs of Revenge” can feel daunting at times and is aimed at experienced GMs, this one is much easier to run and represents a nice investigation with creepy locales, antagonists that the PCs will love to hate, etc. – in short, this is a very well-rounded module. The alternate suggestion for a more difficult investigation is very much appreciated as well and shows a level of extra thought that I certainly appreciate.

While this adventure doesn’t reach the tension of “Fangs of Revenge” or the covert-ops-assignment against the scorpion samurai, it is a module that should work well as an introduction to core tenets of Mists of Akuma, horror-gaming and, well, the leitmotifs of the setting. In short, I don’t have much to complain about here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. (Experienced GMs should definitely check out “Fangs of Revenge”, though – That one has potential galore and could be the start of a mega-adventure/series…it may be a bit too ambitious for its scope, but if you can write sequels, it’s amazing…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2018 04:28:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with 5 new traits, which include being a supporter of a rebellion against an occupying force (and a +1 save bonus to one save chosen), having the ear of a powerful individual (tie-in with Fame-rules), knowing particularly much about your home (translating into skill-bonuses to two Knowledge skills), +1 skill rank and a bonus to Profession (soldier) for being a true shield of your people…and there is one trait that makes you a regional symbol and hence allows you to request small sums in goods and services. All of these traits are well-crafted, meaningful and have proper roleplaying tricks. No complaints.

Beyond these traits, we also get two different story-feats (YES!): Ambassador nets you Knowledge (local) & (nobility) as class skills and with a bonus, with a further bonus if you already have them as class skills; the goal is to broker a major treaty or accord and, yes, this is very much a feat for the faces and similar characters who strive to lead not only by force of weaponry. Cool: We have Skill Challenge Handbook synergy for verbal duels and influence skill challenges!

The second story-feat would be Patriot, which nets you a 3/day +2 morale bonus on ability checks, atk rolls, initiative, saves, skill checks or weapon damage rolls while in the chosen region. The goal is to save the region chosen or supporting it with a hefty donation – upon completion, the bonus increases and becomes more potent versus overt enemies of your nation. Oh, and additional uses. I assume that this self-granted bonus is not an action and that it must be announced before the roll is made, but clarification here would be appreciated.

We also receive two new vigilante social talents. The first would be Patriotism, which requires that you choose a nation you lived in for 5 years; in that nation, the vigilante’s social identity can mix and mingle with government and military, improving their starting attitude to friendly if at least indifferent. The vigilante identity may be loyal to the nation chosen or oppose it, which determines the bonus gained by the vigilante. The second talent would be the Improved Patriotism, which nets social skill bonuses and Knowledge bonuses. On the vigilante identity side, we have diplomatic immunity for loyalists or an escalation of skill-boosts for those opposing their nation – interesting material that reminded me of plenty a masked diplomat/symbol in various forms of media.

The final piece of crunch herein would be the turncoat vigilante archetype, who is locked into loyalist as the 1st level social talent, choosing home country and feigned country – the latter is the opposed country. Instead of unshakeable, 3rd level yields the option to change the feigned country 1/month. Instead of the appearance ability tree, the archetype provides startling betrayal at 5th level: When attacking a creature that considers the turncoat an ally, the creature gets a Sense Motive check: On a failure, the target is so baffled, he becomes flat-footed against the vigilante for a minute, with all attacks against the turncoat penalized. At 11th level, helpful NPCs, instead of having a higher DC, automatically fail this check and the effect gains a 30 ft.-radius range of outrage…indeed, even a whole crowd could thus fall to the betrayal of a turncoat. At 17th level, creatures with an attitude of unfriendly or better may be affected, making it really hard to not be suckered in by these guys.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal level and the rules-language is tight. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s nice two-column standard with a white background and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s patriotic options are cool: While the social tricks are not necessarily world-shaking, they are interesting and made me recall a long-time plan of a campaign focusing on fantasy warfare and diplomacy that I’ve been wanting to run for ages…but I digress. This is a well-made, interesting supplement, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars – well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:49:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This NPC-collection clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, so, first things first: Not all goblins herein are regular goblins; instead, some employ rules from the Moar Goblins-pdf by Dire Rugrat Publishing. It should be noted that all rules taken from that book that are employed herein. This makes the goblins significantly more diverse and interesting and no, you won’t have issues using this book sans Moar Goblins. This book does provide a bit of a teaser for it and provides stats for the Tokoloshe snare trap, the nacht kabouter and the grindylow…and harpoons.

Now, as far as challenge-range is concerned, the material herein ranges from challenge ½ to challenge 12. The presentation of the numerous goblin NPCs herein is detailed: We get the name at the top of the page, a brief summary of the character (like “Goblin Exile, self-imposed”), a brief quote and then, extensive notes on the background-story of the respective NPC – so no, these are not fire-and-forget NPCs, they are proper, fully developed characters. The characters are presented by ascending challenge, beginning with the lowest challenge and moving up the scale.

What type of character can find herein? Well, the first fellow (aptly described by the summary mentioned above) is a goblin who a) is not much of a fighter and b) despised the lack of civility in goblin society; a survivor with boundless optimism, Zazutk Grimheap is anything but grim and sports something I really like about Dire Rugrat’s books: The lack of cynicism and generally…sense of a latent optimism suffusing their books. Sure, the fellow is basically an information broker, but he wants manners and is a pretty happy fellow.

That should not mean that the goblins here are all looking for a hug-party and acceptance, mind you: Take Wottle Skrimjaw, grindylow chief. This fellow is NOT nice. Then again, he is somewhat lazy, which makes for a nice roleplaying opportunity/rewarding of legwork done right. “Yeah, you shouldn’t go in that territory…but if you do…” It’s small bits like that, which make characters feel alive. It should also be noted that quite a few NPCs herein come with suggestions on how to use the character, but that as an aside. While we’re at the topic of tribal leaders: Grunko Whitemane would be one such fellow, one who is particularly adept at felling larger foes…oh, and if the name was no indication, he is a tundra goblin. And yes, the modifications to create rank and file tundra goblins have been included here. A dreadlock-wearing Pukwudgie chieftain, Tiponi, is a strong woman, the first to lead her tribe, in fact!

Next up would be Neeha of Banga Pracira, a rather charming gudro bonga lady…which brings me to another point that may be of interest to you, particularly if you’re new to Dire Rugrat Publishing’s supplements: The NPCs often sport their own signature abilities, often ones that go beyond the obvious defaults, which can add an interesting angle even to characters which usually, challenge-wise, would not pose much of a threat. Speaking of gudra bonga: Vaishikof Gartakara Rupa (challenge 2) (the place is once incorrectly called “Gartaka Rupa”) is an interesting specimen, as his protectiveness and stout build may make him seem almost a bit dwarf-like, while his uncommon heritage and the abilities granted by it add an interesting angle of the supernatural. While we’re on the subject of these, perhaps one of my favorite goblin subspecies: Eakogs Clutternugget is AMAZING. But let me explain: Each goblin herein gets his/her own full-color artwork, which is impressive in and of itself. The goblin merchant’s artwork rocks. However, it is his FUNCTION, which is the draw. Are you running an extensive wilderness/dungeon-campaign and the PCs can’t restock sans 2 sessions of traveling/running? Enter this fellow! Much like e.g. the merchants of Resident Evil 4, for example, he can show up at opportune moments and help out with just the right tools…which he obviously may have stolen somewhere, so potential further trouble can be set up thus as well.

Of course, aforementioned level of playfulness can take a potentially sinister tint – take Royce Mapplethorp, the mighty (challenge 2) goblin herald, whose fightsong is really potent for his allies. Minor quibble here: Only being able to hear as a limitation for its benefits is pretty strong – personally, I’d include a maximum number of targets affected or range-restriction here…otherwise any halfway decent group will get him a magical megaphone sooner or later… But I digress. This fellow may be basically a potent mascot, but he is not necessarily a nice guy… Speaking of which: Know what happens when a rather psychotic goblin kills a cosmonaut that has just injected him with a nanite solution that links him to a central computer? We get a really smart psychotic goblin, who goes on to make a blade that returns to him…and urns mercenary…after all, this vast knowledge at his beck and call can be applied creatively to all manner of topics…Yeah, shades the blade (challenge 6) is a creepy, creepy fellow.

Sometimes, folks are born that are different; most of us have felt that way at one point and for a few of us, this experience of otherness has changed our trajectory in life. Rilidyx Fastbutton is surprisingly good-looking by the standards of most folks…other than goblins. Her mother did not have an easy time, basically being slutshamed for ostensibly consorting with an elf…and after she vanished, Rilidyx ventured forth to find her place in life, charismatic, alluring and surprisingly deadly. Speaking of deadly (and much less pleasant): Fargrakle the despised, at challenge 5, would be a goblin necromancer who specializes in…animating crawling claws. Yeah, this fellow is creepy…

At challenge 3, N’tambu would be a tokoloshe, who is rather unique and no longer bound to serve vengeance seekers. He can drink water to become invisible and is exciting as a redemption story of sorts, one that celebrates the triumph over what one could consider being doomed to be evil. A child of nature and the representation of an almost obligatory trope, Wrelx would be a Wolfrider. Yes, he comes with stats for his wolf. Know what the name of the wolf is? “Grr.” Yes, they have unique synergy tricks. And yes, that name put a smile on my face. Picture it: “What’s the name of your companion?” “Grrr!” “No need to become aggressive, I just asked what his name was!” “Grr!” XD

Call me juvenile, but I can see that in my mind’s eye and it makes me smile.

Also something of a tale of just desserts would be that of Mekan (challenge 7), a former goblin guinea pig for his cruel master, who managed to turn the tables, becoming a fearsome fire specialist in his own right. Oh, and he can delay his magic in a type of spell-like bombs. Ouch.

The trope of the possessed godhand can be found in Flubboks Hugemitt, a goblin, whose right hand has grown to an enormous size and demonic sentience…oh…and Strength 20. Your PCs won’t be laughing about this goblin… Nix takes the idea of the blue (the blue-skinned psionic goblins known from previous editions) and takes a bow to the concept without requiring the introduction of psionics per se, as the mighty Nix behaves as a self-styled deity of the local goblins, with mind blade and potent defenses. Nice nod! She is not alone: Her sibling Zub makes for a deadly second half to the duo, only that his talents manifest as powerful spellcasting…

And then, there would be the final NPC. Koning. King of the Nacht Kabouters – legend to most, doom to many. He comes with no less than 3 lair actions, multiple (properly formatted!) legendary actions and the challenge 12. Oh. And, you know. He knows everything every single nacht kabouter on the same plane knows. Yes, he does have means to be defeated and weak spots – but PCs will probably have to be pretty clever to best this potent foe! As an aside: His missing cap, his weakness…the character’s stats made me immediately come up with an adventure sketch, where woefully underleveled PCs have to best him with brains, rather than brawn…it’s always a good sign when reading a critter makes me immediately have an idea for a whole module…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as a whole, are very good, though not perfect on formal and rules-level. As a whole, you should not encounter serious issues here. Layout adheres to a printer.friendly two-column standard with a white background; the statblocks sport parchment-style color-backgrounds to differentiate them. The artworks deserve special mention: There is a ton of them and I haven’t seen most of them before, which is a big plus. There are some original pieces within as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I’ve really come to like Kelly and Ken Pawlik’s style. There is a positive core to their writing, something deeply human that manages to elicit a sense of joy without being naïve or bland. The characters herein are diverse and feel plausible. They are not just soulless fire-and-forget statblocks and they steer clear of the clichés…and even when such tropes are used, they are employed in a sympathetic manner. It’s hard to properly describe, but it could boil down to a sense of empathy with their fictitious creations. You can relate, in some way or another, with quite a few of them, with their motivations and characters. The NPCs herein are relatable and diverse…and frankly, I enjoyed them much more than I expected. There are a couple of real stand-out NPCs in these pages and the price-point of 5 bucks is really fair for the amount of content you get; the bang for buck ratio is rather great here. So yeah, this comes highly recommended, particularly in conjunction with the slightly less impressive Moar Goblins-pdf, if only so you know about the unique goblin-subspecies the Dire Rugrats have dug up! (without it, the pdf loses a bit of its appeal – not much, but a tiny bit of it.) My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval; a well-made NPC-codex and hopefully, not the last!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Now, it should be noted that the module does not per se require the Mists of Akuma setting book, though it most assuredly is recommended; the adeddo-oni stats used are reproduced here, alongside new material, like the stats for the penanggalen (challenge 6), the challenge 4 scorpion ninja and, of course, the eponymous scorpion samurai. The legendary odachi scorpion’s tail is also included and is both really potent and really evil…it should not be too hard to make PCs not want to use the blade, in spite of its definite allure.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

We begin this adventure in Yukinokyū, in the Kizuato prefecture, forced to the area by the uncommon spring weather. It is here that the PCs receive a secret missive from the benegoshi of Fuson on behalf of the emperor. (The missive is btw. represented as a nice, potential handout – though you have to cut it out of the page – having it on a single page would have been neat.) Anyhow, the missive is pretty peculiar, in that it requires that the PCs travel to the town of Kakasu, with the request and presence of the PCs needing to remain unknown. Thus, the PCs are supposed to take Hidaretei pass, which is a known hunting ground of ogres. Really cool: We get several nasty hazards for crossing the pass, from microstorms to stinking crevasses, this adds a bit of detail, and we do get a couple of random encounter suggestions. And yes, there will ultimately be a showdown on a nice little battlemap. (It has no scale, but I assume default 5-foot-squares.)

But wait! What if your players are smart and prefer forging travel papers to reach their goal? That option has similarly been covered in a sidebox – kudos! When arriving at Kaksu, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as the mists of akuma are approaching. The hustle to the settlement (which comes with a solid map) can once more include some nasty battles, and, as they arrive in town, the PCs need t be careful: They have to find Fūmiyutakana without alerting anyone – they’re sworn to secrecy, after all! (And yes, failure has consequences here!) Sooner or later, the PCs will find themselves at a restaurant, facing a test of their cultural knowledge – not showing the proper knowledge of etiquette may cast an unfortunate light on them – but ultimately, they will get a map concealed under dumplings, one leading into the forest.

Following the trail into danger once more, the PCs meet Yukari, who tells them about the deaths of various former servants of the Fuson family – and how they all had in common that they were part of the banishment of Hinjuku Nagaro, the titular scorpion samurai. The remainder of folks on the scorpion samurai’s death list, are currently enjoying the hospitality of lord Gabiru Fuson in Shinjitsu on Shōjiki Island. Secrecy is tantamount, for the trap is pretty obvious and the scorpion samurai has many allies – which is why outsiders, an unknown party, is required – secrecy must be maintained as the PCs are tasked to eliminate the disgruntled samurai – preferably before he completes his revenge-driven blood ritual.

Alas, as the PCs either travel on or try to return to civilization for the night, they’ll have to first face down deadly threats (once more with a solid encounter-map) – fun here: Terrain does matter and the bamboo squares can make for nice tactical tricks. Getting to the island has obviously more than one solution, and, indeed, more than one is mentioned. The mists do not let up – briefly after the PCs have landed on the island, the mists roll in – and with them, danger galore, as the populace barricades their doors and windows, leaving the PCs to fight in the tiny (mapped!) hamlet. Oh, and the PCs still have to maintain their secrecy…

Worse, once the PCs, hopefully disguised, ask around, they’ll soon realize that the scorpion samurai is pretty much a local hero here, which complicates matters further. Yukari has set up 3 targets as bait, three chances to catch the scorpion samurai…however, depending on how the PCs fared, one or more may already be dead…so let’s hope they didn’t blow their cover! Ultimately, the PCs should definitely manage to prevent the final sacrifice, for its none other than Chijmatsu, lord Gabiru’s daughter, that will cement the power of the scorpion samurai once and for all – in order to stop her sacrifice, the PCs will have to venture to Ikatteiru cave and stop the dread ritual before the woman’s soul is ripped from her body. While the cave is mapped, in an odd choice, the actual cave floor lacks a grid otherwise present on the map. There are further complications: A penanggalen hell-bent on revenge; a draconic ally…and the significant power of the deadly scorpion samurai. Suffice to say, the finale is challenging indeed...and it has some serious potential for further adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the first two Mists of Akuma modules and the stats are solid – not much to complain here. Layout adheres to the somewhat cramped 2-column full-color standard of the series, but manages to fit a lot of material on a given page. We get a blending of original and public domain artwork and the cartography is in full color and solid, though the final map’s glitch is a bit annoying. Plus-side: The background story of the scorpion samurai is presented, hand-out style, on two pages – nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler’s yarn here is a great example on how to make a high-octane railroad that doesn’t feel like one. The module is, structure-wise, pretty linear, but still provides means for the PCs to jump off the rails. The espionage angle adds further complications to the PC’s task and can be played up for some rather remarkable scenes, all while enhancing the themes of mistrust and paranoia that work so well in Mists of Akuma. In short, this is a great example on how to do a good, rewarding linear scenario that doesn’t feel constrained. Frantic, busy and intentionally opaque in some regards, the scenario, as a whole, is certainly well worth playing, particularly for the low asking price.

It is also a scenario that works rather well on its own: Unlike the (imho superior) “Fangs of Revenge”, this one is less steeped in the peculiarities of the setting. We don’t have a revolution, a vast cadre of NPCs, etc. – while this makes this module less unique, it also renders it easier to run than the somewhat challenging yarn of Fangs. They are two different breeds of module, but ultimately, both are steeped in the themes and atmosphere of the setting – and both are better off for it. In short: This is a well-made module for a fair price-point. It is easier to plug and play it than Fangs, but also doesn’t carry the same level of oomph and impact. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Éndzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:31:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th – 8th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

It should also be noted that the pdf contains a wide variety of stats for creatures; from the Mists of Akuma CS reprinted would be the hebikontorōra, the adeddo-onis, the tikbalang and the gaki – though the latter has a name and is called “chief”, the stats of that individual are identical to the standard gaki.The pdf also provides the stats for the oni bengoshi Xiqzoxix. It should be noted that the stats for the eponymous sovereign of storms are new and that a particular, new tsukumogami can also be found within. In short: While there is some overlap with the campaign book, this makes handling the module more convenient.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! It is a dark and stormy night as the PCs are traveling the haunted landscapes of Soburin to be contacted by xiqzoxix, who holds a blade to one of the PC’s throats. Despite of the, oni-typical, rather hostile introduction, the creature actually has a quest for the PCs, namely to travel to the remote settlement of Tuskisasu, which has recently been taken over by Obiemashita, who is growing in power. EDIT: Once more, I was not aware of a gender-neutral pronoun employed herein. My apologies if anyone has taken offense. Anyway, the oni offers quite a hefty reward.

At first, the intruder seemed like a feral child, the entity soon grew and has since elevated the bakemono and shikome to unbecoming status…and in Soburin’s rigid hierarchies, that alone should elicit a gasp. Anyhow, in order to find the village cloaked by ancient magics, the PCs will have to travel 100 pages North, and throw a handful of rice over their shoulder after every 25 steps, and that’s only the first part of the ritualistic approach to unveil the village – it is small details like this that make the module feel more organic – nice means to highlight the strangeness of magic.

When within the settlement (which comes with a small map – I wished we’d get one in proper hand-out size), though, the PCs must exert caution – while they get an item, which, when affixed to the yai lord, will influence the future of Yōna, the local oni warlord, currently firmly under the yai sovereign’s control….so yes, some subterfuge will be required. As the PCs approach the settlement, they will have a chance to save two inhumans from the hidden village from the ravages of a tikbalang, thus allowing the PCs to get some potential information and help…while leaving them to die has consequences of its own.

Filled with pretty much a who is who of the more monstrous and not too popular races of Soburin, the settlement may once have been considered to be a jewel – but the chaotic rulership of its new sovereign. The PCs get to witness the local issues first-hand, with (hopefully!) the saved individuals at least deflecting some level of scrutiny. They will need a place to stay low and an abandoned machineshop may provide just that…and if you have that component to drive home, a particularly brutal storm may help you. It should be noted that the shop is pretty free-form apart from the 3 traps provided for it. Once the PCs have secured the place, they will have a nice place to base their further operations on...and, more importantly, take a long rest, which they probably require at this point.

Here, the main meat of the module begins – we get an interesting vista of the strange settlement, but the fully mapped fortress of the oni lord is where the true showdown will happen: There are 7 circles that the yai sovereign uses to control the storms, and the downside of his chaotic edicts is that the guards show less discipline than they should. The PCs will have to destroy the 7 magic circles, as they explore the de-roofed fortress with its bone doors, poisoned railings, etc., all while harried by Obiemashita, who harries them in attempts to learn their tactics as they dismantle his circles. Whether or not the rightful ruler of the settlement is reinstated, or a new lord rules, defeating the yai sovereign will net the PCs some leeway…and the option to acquire an amazing blade, the Katana of Rizushi Kentaro, actually a spiteful takara tsukumogami, which is, in itself, already a nice angle for a subsequent adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. While there are a couple of hiccups, they don’t necessarily compromise the atmosphere of the module. Layout adheres to the pretty busy 2-column full-color standard of Mists of Akuma, which fits a surprising amount of text on each page. Artworks are a combination of full-color pieces and modified public-domain-art, the latter fitting on a meta-level really well with one of the themes of Mists of Akuma. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This module, ultimately, makes for a good convention scenario: The brisk pace the module sports and its pretty linear structure lend itself well to such environments, with particularly the final reminding me, in a good way, of the Onimusha-franchise. That being said, I found the adventure to feel, ultimately, like a hurried piece that suffers from its self-imposed limitations. The PCs are expected to do some investigation while in the wondrous city, but that aspect is somewhat underdeveloped – on the one hand, the module implies the need for a homebase to gather information from; on the other, RAW, there isn’t that much to be found here; the investigation per se is an afterthought, when it could have been a really rewarding part of the module.

As written, the PCs can explore a series of cool, but mostly fluff brief vignettes that ultimately don’t contribute much to their goals. This feels like it could have carried, you know, PCs facing a difficult mission; with the unearthing of clues, gaining allies, etc., all so they could gain advantages in the final assault. Instead, the investigation and the biggest strength of the module, the unique and wondrous settlement, become basically backdrops on the way to a challenging and per se fun boss fight. With 10 more pages, and consequences for how they tackle the investigation, this could have been an amazing module, but, in its current form, it leaves me somewhat disappointed at a high level.

The module sports a cool finale and unique backdrop, but it falls short of what it easily could have been. As presented, I’d consider this to be worthwhile as a convention scenario. Beyond those confines, it can use some GM-work to flesh out the way to the finale and locale. In the end, I consider this a somewhat mixed bag, with my final rating clocking in at 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for a convention scenario, round up. Otherwise, round down. My official verdict will reflect the latter rating, since I assume that most GMs are looking for material for non-convention contexts.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:27:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 6th – 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

The adventure contains a rather extensive stat-section, providing full stats for the adeddo-oni and the hebikontorōra from the Mists of Akuma book, but also stats for potent factory workers, a hengeyokai ninja and two true hebi hengeyokai – as well as the template to create more of these fellows. As an aside, the picture on the page depicting the template, while a bit cheese-cake-y, is up my alley, in that it looks very Conan-like; scantily-clad woman + threatening serpents = win (sorry, I just like my Sword & Sorcery…)…but I don’t think it fits Mists of Akuma that well. That just as an aside, though!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The city of Samon is an important industrial center, and when the PCs are summoned by the benegoshi, they’d better heed its call – to do otherwise would equal a death sentence. But things are less simple than what the PCs may expect to find – as much can be gleaned from the NPC-section provided for the GM: We get 3 pages of bullet point motivations, goals, etc. (as well as pointers towards which stats to use, if in question), allowing for an easy way to get an overview of the plot. Similarly, a nice, isometric map of the city (looks like a modified public domain source and is thus surprisingly atmospheric!) and a brief overview of the city help contextualize the proceedings for the game – for Samon’s architecture is very much defined by foreign influences (allowing you to dive into the (fear of) progress/xenophobia angle and the railroads that the city sports make for a great way to have players into Japanese history (or, well, history as a whole), capitalize on the fear and superstitions surrounding that invention.

Anyways, the PCs are summoned to a rather disgruntled lord, powerful only in station and overshadowed by the importance of both the Taizuki Rail Company and the fudōsoge training facility nearby…and, as the posters the PCs probably saw highlight, a worker’s rebellion certainly won’t help his status…To add to the heap of issues, animal trickery is on the rise, so hengeyokai, kami, etc. may also be at work. He also mentions nine arrows, perverts…and falls promptly asleep, being addicted to black smoke, leaving the PCs with a rather daunting task ahead. (It should btw. be noted that the pdf sports a nice handout of the summons!)

Ultimately, the PCs must investigate the proceedings in the unique city – which sports a rather cosmopolitan populace due to the demands of the heavy industry. There is an easy point-based mechanic for the Gm to track the potentially favor with the Fangs, as they go into deep cover – and here, we get the cool and diverse investigation that matters that I wanted to see in the yai sovereign.

Remarkable, btw.: We get a semi-isometric sideview of the rail company’s base, with the outer walls partially cut open; a really nice picture that does an excellent job at highlighting why I actually comment in a positive manner on how Mists of Akuma books employ the public domain assets in really cool ways. The module here, both regarding investigation and strategy for infiltration, are btw. really varied: there is more than one way to get into the good graces of the Fangs and infiltrate them…though PCs may well end up having to cause some havoc. Similarly, tailing suspects is covered and the pdf does cover several individuals…which may well act as foils as well as targets when the PCs start asking questions.

In the end, the PCs will be led to Chujiang gardens in the middle of the night – which btw. come fully mapped and here, the PCs will probably have a fight on their hand – one in a rather cool environment. EDIT: Here, I botched. I wasn't aware of one of the gender-neutral pronouns, sicne my professional environment uses a different solution. Mea culpa if anyone was offended!! On the plus-side, if the PCs botched their investigations, the aftermath of combat is a perfect way to fill in as many blank spaces as you’d require.

Let’s recap here: The PCs may quite well be fugitives at this point, considering their deep cover; the lord’s addiction makes him useless regarding support, unrest stirs and the mysterious 9th Arrow seems to have an alliance with Harold Itrikasu…oh, and guess what, rebellion is bound to strike! The PCs need to hurry to Tazuki Rail Company, as the streets are suddenly less than safe, courtesy of the uprising…and at this point, the true stakes should be somewhat clear: Unbeknown to most, there once was a serpent hengeyokai race (hebi), particularly vile and nasty; these had been mostly purged in the Kengen occupation, courtesy to a being from the Utamara bloodline absconding with a scroll containing names and guises. Well, guess who’s back and looking for revenge? Oh, one interesting component: Hebi can become stronger – requiring just a horrible sacrificial ritual, one that may well see the last descendants of the Utamara bloodline slaughtered.

The finale has the PCs enter the Tazuki Rail Company’s basement for a truly complex and interesting finale, with a ton of terrain features noted…and while the disruption of the sacrifice ends the module per se, it leaves Samon in shambles…and the PCs in a unique position: They may well be the only individuals who get what happened…and they may well have the tools to negotiate the future of the city and unearth more – the module is a perfect set-up for a sequel and modules to come, while remaining sufficiently self-contained.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, pretty good. Layout adheres to the slightly cluttered 2-column full-color standard of the Mists of Akuma supplements, which cram a surprising amount of content on a given page. The artworks sport a blend of historic, public-domain works and the aesthetics of the series, making the visual style relatively consistent. Original artworks, as for example for the NPC-role-call, are somewhat more comic-like and not that great. On the other hand, there are some amazing pieces herein as well. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I would have enjoyed another battle-map style version of the map for the final battle, but the other maps are neat, particularly considering the fair price point.

Fangs of Revenge is superior to “The Yai Sovereign of Storms” in pretty much every way; it’s smarter, more complex and makes truly excellent use of the unique Mists of Akuma setting. The investigation and plots are grand and require a somewhat experienced GM to portray, but it is fascinating how much cool content is crammed within these pages. The book reminded me, in some way, of the Shin Megami tensei Devil Summoner games, of Vidocq through the lens of Mists of Akuma; this module highlights social tensions, racial struggles, complex intrigues and a snapshot in history, where things change, generating a sense of an evolving world where the PCs may be catalysts or motors of change. In short, this is a really nice module that is modular, interesting and sports serious potential for further expansion – it’s a module that can sell experienced players on the setting. All in all, very much worth checking out, my final verdict for this one will be 4.5 stars, with the map for the finale and the none-too-strong editing being the downsides of what may otherwise be one of the best modules Mike Myler has penned so far. Considering how enjoyable I found this module, I will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 07:33:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This is an adventure for 1st level characters and it should be noted that it comes with a second pdf that contains its two full-color maps both with and without grids in player-friendly versions – kudos for providing these! This being an adventure-review, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, we begin this module pretty much in medias res, as the adventurers arrive at the village of Mossdale, only to find it overrun by spiders – the village does not come with a sample map, but there isn’t necessarily one required. The PCs will pretty much immediately be thrust into combat with the first of MANY arachnid foes – while the main force of arachnids seem to have retreated for now, the search through town will pit the PCs against pretty dangerous foes, including spider swarms – but thankfully, one of the aforementioned mapped locales would be an alchemist’s home, where acid and alchemist’s fire can be procured…and where one of the few survivors can be found. For such a detailed and well-mapped locale, I did wish that that encounter sported a bit more options to creatively use the lab in combat, but that may just be me. As provided, care should be taken, but there are no exceedingly weird things that can happen. Among the supplies provided by the grateful alchemist, there are moss ropes that somewhat enhance climbing capabilities, representing a new item here.

Ultimately, the PCs will have to venture into the woods, where a list of random encounters can spice up things. Credit where credit is due: The woods are interesting and sport only few squares of light undergrowth, with the spider population making climbing to canopy levels rather easy (and feasible) for level 1 characters. Venturing into the woods, the PCs soon happen upon a wererat, who asks to parley – his rats have just been slain by the spiders and he wants them dealt with – he can also point the PCs to two potential sources for the strange incursion: Mites and an ettercap. He can point them towards both. Arriving at the ettercap’s lair, the creature is actually baffled, sad and somewhat innocent – it did not send the spiders to attack and was abandoned by its flock. The mites, meanwhile, are being slaughtered when the PCs arrive, making them also rather poor suspects. There is a 3rd encounter that may be one of the deadliest herein, one with a rather nasty druidess – who is not responsible either, but unlike aforementioned monsters, she is perfectly willing to ambush and slaughter the PCs…and Conrad the wererat only warns the PCs of her if they’re really nice…

Ultimately, the trail leads the adventurers towards a circle of stones left by the Drothic people – here, defeating more arachnid foes will allow them to proceed into the depths (provided they can make their way past the giant spiders and the fiendish trap door spiders) – and ultimately find a giant assassin spider that behaves rather uncharacteristically: The veil to the ethereal plane has thinned, allowing an entity called “The Grand Hive”, a being of pure thought, access to our world – well, it can control spiders. It seeks to expand its dominion…and it cannot really be slain in this module: While its potent host (CR 4, stats provided) may be defeated, the bragging entity can only be sent back to its domain, preferably before all of Mossdale meets a rather nasty fate. Minor complaint here: It would have been really nice to get a map of the arena where the final boos is faced – only the above-ground battle-ground with the giant spiders is mapped.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level, good on a formal level – I noticed a few minor typos, but nothing grievous. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series. The interior artwork is generally rather impressive and the full-color cartography is detailed and nice, where provided. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joel Flank’s “Along Came a Spider” is a solid critter-theme module; the foes employed are pretty deadly for first level characters, making this a challenging, but fair module, particularly if the PCs don’t try to murder-hobo everything. I absolutely love the BBEG of this module and how it can be used as a great recurring villain that could theoretically carry a whole campaign – a tie-in with Fail Squad Games’ Fosc Anansi (or any drow-book) would e.g. be very much possible. That being said, while I enjoyed the module for the unpretentious offering that it is, it does suffer a bit from the village not being mapped and from the final boss fight having no map – here, some could terrain features and a creative arena would have added this cool final oomph to make this stand out.

Speaking of the BBEG – it may well be a bit too cool for its own good. Personally, when reading this, I figured that it read mostly like a prologue for the big saga, for the tough fight against the entity – an establishing shot, if you will. You may like that (I certainly do!), but be prepared to have your PCs focus on thwarting the entity afterwards – you will pretty much need to deliver a follow-up here, making the module potentially less self-contained than what some GMs are looking for. Personally, I would have also enjoyed the book making more use of its unique wood backdrop’s terrain features, but that is just me complaining at a high level.

That being said, structure-wise, this is a very vanilla adventure – it is pretty linear and while it delivers a good blend of challenges, you should not expect to be utterly blown away by what you’ll find here. All in all, this is a solid adventure, slightly on the positive side, which is why my review will clock in at 3.5 stars…but ultimately, I feel that I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

The Vikmordere: Player Primer
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:41:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of sheets for notes/ancestral appellations, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreons.

First things first: This is basically the Player-friendly, SPOILER-less and system-neutral version of Ancestral Appellations; it deals with the known fluff etc. and allows a Gm control over which items and abilities to allow/use. I wholeheartedly applaud this strategy.

So, what are the Vikmordere? As the nomenclature used in the introduction makes abundantly-clear, they are a culture of various indigenous peoples, steeped in the nomenclature and cultural trappings of Nordic myth, something I find myself inexorably drawn to. However, unlike pretty much all renditions of fantasy vikings, the Vikmordere are more than that: Basically, picture what would happen when you’d replace the (amazing!) fatalism and mythology with a mysticism that is, theme-wise, more in tune with Native American aesthetics. The Vikmordere, as such, employ a thoroughly unique blending of tropes that set them distinctly apart from both the depiction of pseudo-Native Americans or Vikings; they worship the ancestor spirit and still use observe the Old Ways, but in their remote and rugged valley, they have since dwindled in numbers…though, ultimately, they are very much feared beyond.

Their home, the rugged Vikmordere valley is depicted with notes on clime, flora and fauna painting a vivid and wondrous picture. Vikmordere society centers around the use of natural resources, and while they may once have worshipped petty and vengeful gods, they have, in a surprisingly enlightened and encompassing stance, since then resumed a form of ancestral worship that should resound with quite a few contemporaries. The clans and tribes do not sport a centralized government, though a sort of Þing-equivalent does exist around Serpent Lake, with the Northern Fury Council.

Does that sound too friendly for your tastes? Well, the Vikmordere in Aventyr (AAW Games’ default world) are basically surrounded by the Klavek kingdom, which seeks to exploit their natural resources; much like medieval Vikings, their ships are superior and they have a pronounced tradition of raiding and capturing individuals; while these captives may be considered to be slaves by some, the enlightened notions suffusing the culture also mean that these individuals are treated fairly, allowing them to gain freedom and integrate into the respective tribe, another notion that resounds with historic themes, while changing them in an intriguing manner.

Okay, at this point, you should have a good idea why I consider these fellows to be pretty much an amazing addition to a given world, but that is not where the pdf stops: In the lavishly-depicted map of Serpent Lake (included as a pretty glorious one-page version as well), we learn of the wondrous locales in the valley – from the Everflame Isle that houses a forest of red-leafed Everflame Trees in its sunken interior to Ighdenholm, the top of the world, ostensibly seat of mighty evil unvanquished to the snowfields of sorrow, where a particularly warm summer may well unearth artifacts of conflicts long past, the little write-ups are excellent.

Beyond that, we move on to something particularly important for the Vikmordere – their names. A d20-table with two columns allows you to create a spiritual name, with the first being a descriptor, the second a noun; in the aesthetics of Native Americans, you could thus end with a spirit name of “Sulking Sky” or “Ghost Shadow”; as per Norse/Icelandic nomenclatures, Vikmordere also often introduce themselves as “X, son of Y”, where Y would be the father’s (or mother’s!) name; in light of that, the massive 100-entry-strong table of sample names for males and females is certainly appreciated.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard for “Into the Wintery Gale”-supplements. The pdf sports excellent full-color artworks, though fans of AAW Games may be familiar with a few of them; same goes for the neat map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Justin Andrew Mason, with contributions from Jonathan G. Nelson, delivers something I have been keen to see for a while: More information on one of my favorite cultures in current fantasy roleplaying. The Vikmordere have, even during the humble beginnings of AAW Games, been something that set world and modules apart; their culture, practices etc. feel plausible and fresh in a way that we don’t get to see that often.

You see, in many Tolkienesque fantasy (or non-Tolkienesque fantasy, for that matter), the depiction of cultures most often employs a construction-paradigm alongside the line of least resistance:

“Like culture x, but with twist z.” This twist is then thought through to its logical conclusion, with different degrees of success. Sometimes, something amazing comes from that procedure. However, most of the part, we end up being…well. Bored. Okay, so elves, but Egyptian. Got it. Okay, so dwarves are Scotsmen, got it. Elves that are touched by fire/abyss/etc.

Notice something? Those tropes, in and of themselves, have become cliché in the games we play. It is my ardent belief that they are responsible for the tendency often bemoaned by old-school gamers, that races are just stats in more modern games. And know what? Thinking back, I can relate. When I started playing, the German AD&D supplements about races talked about gnomish roby wine, about elven funeral customs, etc. and painted a picture far beyond “You get +2 to two attributes”; The cultures, while Tolkienesque, were WONDROUS, because they felt like more than an accumulation of stats. It is from this solely number-based design aesthetic, that soulless “template” racial variants sprang. If I had a dime for every lame desert-x variant of a race I had to read over the years…but I digress.

As a result of the customization-demands of modern gamers, many racial supplements have simply lost the means to make a culture/ethnicity/race feel plausible…and as a result, gamers skip the ever shortening flavor-texts; it’s a vicious circle and most folks that have encountered it are probably not even aware of it. So, back in the day, when I was tearing through AAW Games’ first offerings, the crew asked me what I’d consider to be their greatest strength.

I replied that it’s hard to grasp, and frankly, it took me a while to enunciate my feelings properly. As someone with a basic grasp of cultural anthropology and social sciences, it dawned upon me that one crucial, undeniable strength was that they managed to tap into a sense of wonder, while remaining plausible. I could picture this strange culture that never was…and in another world, it may well have been. Beyond just a blending and twisting of tropes, the details elevate the culture beyond a mere blending of themes, to something that is separate, but thoroughly distinct from its parents.

While the elevator pitch for the Vikmordere would be “Viking Native Americans”, that ultimately does not do them justice; I find myself excited, always, for new adventures set in the Vikmordere valley, always in the hopes of learning something new…and that is something only precious few cultures have managed to accomplish in the last couple of years.

It should be noted, that the similarities to parent cultures, while only running skin-deep, also allow the Vikmordere to be easily and seamlessly plugged into pretty much any fantasy world; it is only slowly that they transcend the connotations of their parent cultures, becoming something different…which may, in and of itself, generate a sense of tension and excitement at your table.

In short: This is a really good, system-neutral first look at the Vikmordere, one that does not SPOIL any of the modules featuring them, while giving players a good first grasp of these peoples. That being said, for maximum fun, I’d urge you to use this differently: Make the PCs part of an expedition; have them encounter and interact with the Vikmordere, separate fact from fiction…I used that particular strategy in my own campaign to great effect.

…yeah, I think I like these fellows. In fact, I find myself hoping that AAW Games will continue to craft their thoroughly and unique races and cultures, above the ground and below. My final verdict? Well, have I mentioned that this is FREE? As in “costs $0.00”? Yeah, I’d strongly suggest downloading this – well worth checking out! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Vikmordere: Player Primer
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Everyman Minis: Esoteric Implements
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:38:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we are introduced to the concept of esoteric implements; In case you’re not familiar with the idea, here goes: Basically, they capitalize on the amazing roleplaying potential ingrained in the occultist class (easily one of my favorite classes, btw.) – implements, per default, can be exchanged, but ostensibly are supposed to have some deeper narrative meaning/connection. This is not only a great adventuring catalyst, it also allows groups and GMs to generate meaning and mythology and ultimately represents one of my favorite concepts in Occult Adventure’s class design, one that has been overlooked by quite a few folks since the occultist, as presented, is less flashy than his brethren.

But I digress: Esoteric implements, as depicted herein, would hence be special implements that grant specific powers when invested with mental focus. As such, the items herein do come with brief background stories as well as prices, construction requirements, etc. Basically, these are items that represent specialist replacement resonant powers and as such. Blur the line between item and class option. We get a total of 4 such esoteric implements herein, the first of which would be Gorduin’s Obscuring Cap, which is particularly useful to those with the illusion implement school; mirroring the former wearer, an assassin overexposed to illusions, the cap grants occultists with that school of at least 7th level the ability to form a blanket guise that may conceal a whole array of magic items from detection´, though this is a resonant power that replaces distortion. Furthermore, at 9th level, with at least 6 focus invested, the wearer can gain the benefits of misdirection.

The Hypnotizing Pendant was once worn by a failed bard, who used her powers to convince the audience she was any good; as such, it is an implement for occultists with the enchantment implement school. The power is also unlocked at 7th level, though this time around, it is a focus power and lets the occultist duplicate either hypnotism or lock gaze via mental focus expenditure, with higher levels yielding more targets affected. Slightly weird, but only on an aesthetic level: While unlocked at 7th level, the determining level for more targets s based on 6th, which may be an anomaly or a minor hiccup. Power-wise, I don’t mind the presentation as such and the rules are intact.

Revenge of the Unknown Mercenary would be a robe for occultists with the necromancy implement school; it is the robe of a mercenary’s soul, fused with his fabrics during a horrid expedition into the negative energy plane; as such, it should surprise no one that it is a necromancy implement. The required level for the power would be 9th. The robe grants the focus power to expend 1 point of mental focus as a standard action to grant yourself a shroud of negative energy, which bestows a temporary negative level on those unlucky enough to hit you with melee or natural attacks. The negative level lasts 24 hours, the activation of the power 1 minute or until it is discharged thus, at which point it requires another activation to replenish. 13th level provides the option to activate it as a move or standard action.

Finally, there would be the Dangersight Goggles, which sport a bit of a weird inconsistency: They are obviously intended for divination specialists (7th level requirement), representing the semi-sentient goggles of an ascended samsaran, but they note enchantment implement school as a prerequisite. (The correct school is noted in construction requirements.)(Also: The focus power they grant is formatted in italics, when it should have its name bolded.) The focus power granted is pretty brutal: Expend 1 point of mental focus for +1/2 occultist level to initiative when rolling it…or act in a surprise round in which you usually wouldn’t be able to act as though you rolled a 1, excluding all bonuses and penalties. After the surprise round, you get to properly roll initiative. The powers are mutually exclusive, since the implement has a 1-minute cooldown. This implement can be very potent in PF’s gameplay and should get close GM-scrutiny; initiative boosts can be very, very potent…particularly in mythic gameplay. Personally, I’d increase the cost of the item’s use…particularly since its flavor mentions wearers over-relying on it…sounds like me like a cool angle to nerf this, which is just what I’ll do.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good. As noted, the final item has a few minor hiccups, one of which can cause a bit of confusion. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard of the series and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jen McTeague’s esoteric implements are fun,. Interesting and left me wanting more; while the minor hiccups in the final one detract a bit from the pdf, I ultimately still consider it to be a great and inspiring resource for occultists and GMs alike; in fact, I’d love to see a bigger book (or more minis!) that provide such unique implements; sky and creativity are basically the limits here! All in all, a mini worth getting, which is why my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Esoteric Implements
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:37:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of this experimental series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

So, in case you’ve been wondering – yes, this is just as experimental and weird as the previous two installments – instead of a standard RPG-supplement, this should be considered to be part poetry, part prose and this time around, it is thoroughly concerned with concepts, not any rules – this is essentially system neutral and should be considered to be a glimpse at a disturbing, psychedelic post-apocalyptic and surreal world. We begin this installment with an expansion of splotch-like overview map of the regions covered so far in the series, with the new locales added.

We move from the forest of dead electric, to the waxy green swaths of rocks, with no plant-life, just sparse rain, naked stone and terrible crystals, an emerald wasteland of poisonous salts – the serpentine stretches as depicted in the prose here is a hostile environment par excellence. Within it, there is “The Only City” – the second strange geography.

“There is only one city. They know this. […]” – only braving death in the wasteland may revoke this hypothesis…and there is not much food; soil is mostly poisonous and so, all inhabitants are both skinny and gourmands…the repercussions, though, are left between the lines… And a brief piece of poetry complements the life there atop an eerily captivating image of a city raised atop a tower, overhanging like a flat disc growing on a treetrunk, with escalators or feeding tendrils hanging low, reminiscent of a deep-sea creature from another world. Those condemned have arsenic bronze locked into their hands, sent to mine in the poisonous crater lake, with lethal poppy as the reward for cooperation – basically, the sword & sorcery forced labor trope, through a shade both weird and familiar. 6 sample and obscure reasons for being arrested in the city (including “Displaying unkind eyes”), and mention that horses aren’t real – in spite of there being a horse fountain. It’s small tidbits like this that generate a whole cascade of ideas in my mind – and that you may well enjoy as well.

Beyond the city, there is also the Burning God. The pdf notes: “Some need to see the face of god, and will accept nothing less than suffering.” - a faded sign beckons in the desert and a strange fire awaits beneath air thick with ozone and religion; it is an AI, a strange thing, pondering a question for ages,a question that led to solipsism and made it evolve into what it pondered, at least to itself, and what else matters? Expectations of generations of pilgrims expecting to suffer has twisted any and all notions of divinity; the entity knows many things and is bad information, filtered through not enough logic circuits – it is, in short, a rather scathing satire if you read between the lines…or, well, you could make it just a literal form of adversary, you know?

So, the third of Evey Lockhart’s pdfs of this series also has no bookmarks, sports the neat, disquieting and weird experimental artworks. It sports the same style of information as the previous pdfs – it is an exploration of weird geographies and as such, it is pretty inspiring…though to me, #3 does not reach the full-blown wonder of #2. The concepts here, both the city and the burning god, are well-executed and interesting; their details are intriguing and smart…but the pdf still doesn’t reach the thoroughly inspiring genius of #2, as both are variants of classic tropes, while #2 was just pure, unbridled creativity. For PWYW, this is very much worth checking out, though! And since it is less weird than #2 and more palatable than #1, it may be the best pdf to check out the unique brand of weirdness this offers for people less familiar with experimental fiction. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:34:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of this series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

This series should be understood as experimental – it is in part artwork and visualized, experimental poetry/prose as well as an almost system-neutral kinda-regional setting. The first pages provides a page, with graphs and splotches of color – these note the locations of #1’s places as well as new ones; the first of these would be the radian forest[sic!] – no, that’s no typo. We get three pictures of a forest, with shifted colors, creating a surprisingly effective, unsettling visual experience that underscores the poetry of the write-ups – take e.g. the outskirts:

“Just outside, living trees still

Hide. Sprouting bodies.

Leaves grasp at the sun.

Generation and Degradation.

Metallic sings grass yellow-

Green, springing

Underfoot.”

If this inspires you, then chances are good you’ll like this pdf, as it goes on to note green fleeing from the forests, orange ascendant; Rain hates and breaks and jumps circuits, unearthing filaments of old gods and dead alike.

The wire slime, a bio-metallurgical processing colony, is next; the tale of its spread and genesis is covered in a one-page prose-section that is supplemented by rudimentary rules for weapon and tech-degradation. From here, we move to 4 system neutral forest tribes – one has the custom of purchasing adulthood with the willing removal of a body part; another consists of radical nudists; another is led by a stoned space-cadet shaman…and there are people sans eyes and ears that communicate via smells…6 armaments are provided and range from ancestral laser guns to hardened vine spears or weaponized slime. There is no differentiation between damage types, fyi.

And then, there is the cabin & the TV. Why and How is it still here? It is a watertight plastic room with a thin plastic TV. “DO NOT” and “Turn Off” are gouged into the frame; the bullet-point notes of the room paint a puzzling, stark image. Ancient sitcom issues amuse people whose realities include electric slavery and warlords; “Perhaps despair coalesces along certain frequencies. Perhaps secret wishes for an ending manifest physically in two dimensions. An X axis of canned laughter. A Y axis of inchoate sorrow.” – that is powerful prose right there, and it leads in and pertains to the reason the TV must be turned off when broadcast ends – in the visuals of two artworks, it can be found, lurking in the signal, waiting to emerge – the static dragon, impossibly sharp. It gains HD while static persists. It may quickly become unstoppable. It is pretty damn amazing.

Much like its predecessor, this supplement is highly experimental, but it is imho better in every way – it does not require shock value to sell its psychedelic, savage strangeness, instead providing a level of original imagination that felt as though Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle had written an RPG-supplement; this borders the line of art and gaming supplement and I’m frankly not sure where I’d put it. It is more immediately usable than the first installment and the prose, similarly, has improved in quality. I thoroughly loved the weirdness and otherness of this supplement. If you’re looking for something inspiring (and/or enjoy weird poetry/prose), then check this out right now. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 05:03:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the cool Letters from the Flaming Crab series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of editorial, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

All right, we begin this pdf, as always, with a great little letter dropped from the planes- and worlds-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, found and faithfully transcribed by J Gray – and we begin this pdf with a brief recap of the institutions of libraries before defining it – for the purpose of this book and fantastic contexts, a library ultimately is a collection of information and similar forms of entertainment, composed most often, of written words. This definition, as the pdf acknowledges, is rather technical, though – ultimately, a library is more. If you have ever walked the hallsof a proper university library or perhaps even the thoroughly impressive ancient ones out there and felt the sheer awe they inspire, you’ll know what I meant. The nature and composition of the books, its building and nature all thoroughly influence the character of the place, a notion that can be easily amplified in a fantastic context, while knowledge even more directly translates to power than in our world.

Now, the pdf begins with a general step-by-step guideline regarding the creation of libraries – first, one should determine the type: Whether public or private, and then we move on to take a look at accessibility – after all, pretty much all governments, particularly those inclined towards totalitarian modes of operation, have a tendency to restrict access and information…same goes, obviously, for religions: Heresy, false information – the propaganda conflicts of the medieval ages once more sound pretty contemporary these days, in our brave new world…so yeah, society, groups and persons that established the libraries will ultimately define the accessibility and themes of a library. Similarly, circulation is a potential issue – curators, librarians and assistants, organization and audience should be taken into account. Nice: The effects of the various starting attitudes of curators have been noted, with extensive behavior guidelines for the GM – and yes, friendly curators can have pretty nice tangible benefits for the PCs.

Now, the pdf employs Ultimate Intrigue’s nice research rules to provide a vast variety of different libraries – these come with several research thresholds each and sport interesting ideas that rang from the obvious adventure angle to the more fantastic – there is e.g. the Dwarven Mining College Library, which can yield important notes on hidden veins of ore…and there’s a wagon of children#s books, some of which cannot be deciphered by adults and only make sense to children reading them…who curiously never tell what they read. If you wanted an excuse to employ Everyman gaming’s cool Childhood Adventures-rules…there you go! Mistress Sandwind’s unfinished magnum opus’ trail can be found beneath the desert sands. Another interesting example would be a national library (minor complaint here: One line is missing blank spaces – a little layout hiccup, I guess…) and, following the pretty loose definition of “library”, the court of Lishaz, sage of winter, is provided as an interesting example of an unconventional library.

Within a sunken city, last remnant of a once resplendent civilization, beckons – all those that can reach it. Reading rooms can be found…and the medical collection of a temple comes with a rare disease that only very few are susceptible to…and notes on how it could be caused. So if you’re looking for a Dr. House-like story to tell, there you go. Speaking of plague: Pcture a metropolis, wrecked, like clockwork, every 150 years by a plague – and holds e.g. a hidden mummy…and ancient pictographs may well hold the secret to end this scourge. Oh, and yes, there is a virtual library, remnant of a crashed starship, so if you’re enjoying a bit of sword & planet/science-fantasy, this has you covered.

Okay, after this pretty diverse and inspiring chapter, we move on to defining and discussing a variety of different document types – from tablets to codices to the virtual, this section is nice…and then, we move on to one aspect of PFRPG near and dear to my heart. As a polyglot and language-nerd, I always hated how most d20-based systems, including PFRPG, handle languages – one skill point per language?? Seriously? Anyways, this trivializes many of the cool scenes and hooks I enjoy in horror literature, sword & sorcery, etc. – hence e.g. the elimination of common in my games…and some house-rules. The pdf proposes a rather simple and elegant system here, one that is focused on gradient fluency. There are 3 general levels: Competent, fluent and proficient – if you ever took a language test, you should be familiar with the meanings, right. For each skill point in Linguistics gained, you assign two fluency points. This makes mastering a language a bit more complex and allows the GM finer distinction between proficiency-levels…and allows for more complex roleplaying situations. The benefits and limitations of the respective fluency levels are concisely defined, with proficiency providing minor benefits to award specialization – I really, really like this solution! Huge plus for the pdf here and what I’d consider to be a selling point – if you’re planning an occult, horror or intrigue-based campaign (or one with a more sword and sorcery-esque theme), then this should be considered to be mandatory reading. And yes, the rules are simple and rewarding enough to not overly complicate any book-keeping required – I’d suggest a superscript C, F or P noted with the languages. As a final aside here: Knowing a few words to get around is covered – really helpful!

Really cool, btw.: The pdf has collected a whole page of class options, items and spells that tie in with the concept of libraries – helpful and neat…kudos for going the extra mile here.

The pdf also sports some class options, the first of which would be the library subdomain, which is associated with Community and Knowledge, replacing either calming touch or lore keeper, respectively. The ability granted is narrative gold: Mind palace lets you read a tome as part of your morning prayers, allowing you to nigh-perfectly recall content, reflected by a bonus to Knowledge checks that scales with levels. This is gold for detective scenarios and sports a really nice imagery; it is also convenient for narrative games, as the quicker study can be helpful indeed. There is also a new oracle mystery, the words mystery, which nets Linguistics and Perform as class skills. Bonus spells range from the usual suspects like comprehend languages to spellcasting contracts, being a bit more vanilla than the notably cool replacement domain spells provided by the cleric subdomain. (Which include, just fyi, psychic asylum (library only) – which made me recall one of my favorite scenes from the Hannibal franchise. But I digress. The revelations available in the mystery are interesting – there is e.g. automatic writing that is prophetic and later upgraded to commune (spell-italicization missing)…which is interesting, but I consider it cooler to learn about an author by analyzing a text written – this makes for a pretty cool tool, which, at higher levels, also duplicates spell-effects. Here, the italicization’s correct, just fyi. Countering effects based on written or spoken words a limited amount of times per day is cool, but I am not 100% sold on how it works – you see, it references countersong as how it works – but countersong is based on bardic performance rounds, while the ability instead has a daily use array, which you’d expect from e.g. an immediate action counter ability and which makes it quite hard to decipher how this is supposed to work. Clarification would be appreciated here. “Esoteri Research”[sic!] is utterly broken. It lets you research spells from one class list of your choice as though they were two levels lower. Once you complete research of the spell, you gain it at +1 spell level as an oracle spell. Notice the issue? Well, oracles are limited by being spontaneous casters and their limited spell array – this allows you to basically use research to not only poach in another spell-list, it also eliminates the limit imposed on the spellcasting of the class. Not cool.

The next revelation is not properly formatted and looks like a continuation of the previous revelation, having its name indented as well. It is written has a terminology issue: Once per day, you can write a spell in air, earth or paper. (Oddly specific – why not in water?) The spell then is treated as not having verbal or “cheap material components” - okay, what is cheap? No cost? Anything below 1 gp? No idea. This is not proper rules language. Gaining access to symbol spells is nice and I really like the idea of swift action enlarging pens, quills, etc. to act as longswords, with a bit of class-level-based bonus damage. The ability only allows for one attack before reverting to standard size, though, and with a swift action and limited daily activations, is unfortunately rather weak. I really like the visuals of wall of text: You yammer on, creating a wall that deflects arrows, etc. – basically a variant wall of sound…and once more, the interaction with the referenced base are what sinks this. You see, it can be maintained for 10 (!!!) minutes per class level and you may spend them in 10-minute increments; unlike the spell, you do NOT RAW need concentration to maintain it. I am also not sure if it cause wall of sound’s damage…or not. Instead of the damage, the wall seems to be able to STUN targets on a failed save for ridiculously long times. Even stranger – the ability has a separate stun chance when near the oracle, which implies that the oracle needs to be directly behind the wall…which contradicts the range of wall of sound and leaves me utterly incapable of determining of how this should work. All in all, a promising mystery that is severely hampered by its rules-issues.

The final component of the pdf would be a magic item, the bookring, whose gems can hold non-magical tomes – which ends the pdf on a high note and with some cool, inspiring ideas.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as good as usual for the series – I have noticed a couple of typo-level glitches and the rules-language hiccups I found are pretty obvious and left me a bit puzzled. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf employs neat, thematically fitting artworks – some from public domain and some really nice books with landscapes on their pages, visualizing the imaginary process.

June Bordas, Lindsey Shanks-Abel and Margherita Tramontano deliver a per se really cool installment here: I absolutely adored the section on libraries, the GM-guidelines and the fluency-section is gold – personally, I’ll employ an even finer distinction, but the rules are simple and concise enough to allow a GM easy modification: I’d suggest, for example, paying off of competence penalties and/or gaining proficiency benefits on a point-for-benefit-basis. I pretty much liked everything about this book apart from the formal hiccups and the disappointing oracle mystery, which represents a weird dip in overall quality; it is more vanilla than the subdomain and falls e.g. short of R.O.D.’s (Read or Die for non-Otakus – an anime classic) extensive tricks…or the more down to earth research tricks. Balancing of this one is really wonky as well and it drags, alongside the smaller glitches, down what otherwise would be a truly excellent supplement. As written, I cannot go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down, as I have to rate the whole book as a reviewer. If you can look past a couple of minor glitches and the mystery, then you should consider this a 5 star + seal file instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Fighters of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2018 04:06:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised and (significantly) improved version

The revised edition of Fighters of Porphyra clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, which are laid out for use as a digest-size (6’’ by 9’’ or A5), which means that you can print this out and fit up to 4 pages on a page, making it pretty printer-friendly.

The revised pdf sports V.1.1. on the cover, just fyi.

All righty, after the original pdf took a sound beating from yours truly, the Purple Duck crew didn’t just shrug and move on; instead, they sat down and made this upgraded version, so how does it hold up?

Well, first of all, you’ll note that the original pdf’s proposed global rules-changes have been modified: We get 4 + Int mod skills per level and Perception becomes a class skill. A fighter’s Intelligence, if below 13, is treated as 13 for the purpose of prerequisites, representing a workaround for the annoying ability tax. Furthermore, fighters in Porphyra gain good Will-saves. Helpful: All of these proposed rules-changes are explained, including ramifications, making it easy for the GM to determine whether or not to implement them.

The pdf also sports two proposed, new skill uses: Craft gets basically a no-hassle version of its mechanics, which, while not perfect, should be suitable for less simulationalist games. Knowledge (nobility) is expanded to include knowledge of the lore of the land, fighting styles, etc., which makes sense.

One of the issues that combat maneuver specialists will encounter would be the steep feat tax – the pdf suggests the option to merge a couple of them for the purpose of using them: E.g. Improved Bull Rush and Improved Overrun constitute a set; Succeeding on a check with a 10+ margin allows for the application of a feat in the same set as well. This works surprisingly smoothly and significantly better than the somewhat ill-advised original concept of halved feats – kudos for salvaging a very much worthwhile concept.

Okay, the first massive surprise comes in the archetype-section – the Doppelsoldner. (Purely aesthetic nitpick – it should be Doppelsöldner; Söldner being German (Singular and Plural) for mercenary/ies.) These fellows are usually not good or chaotic and modify their proficiency-list to encompass simple and martial melee weapon, simple ranged weapons as well as all armors, but not shields. Instead of the bonus combat feats gained at 2nd, 6th, 12th and 18th level and the lost proficiencies, these fellows gain a linear series of abilities called doppelsöldner drills, focusing on using two-handed weapons. At 1st level, when charging an enemy provokes AoOs, that is double damage for the attack; combat maneuvers instead ignore size restrictions – this still can only be used with brace weapons, but makes for a potent tool; 2nd level nets an AoO triggered, but only 1/round. 4th level adds brace/trip to any two-handed melee weaponry wielded and may substitute melee attacks for a distinct set of maneuvers. Penalty-less attacks versus foes within a weapon’s reach and using weapons as though the item had various qualities, adding reach to regular two-handed weaponry…all in all, interesting, particularly, since the archetype gets the interaction with magical movement codified right. Interesting 2-hand-weapon-specialist.

Next up would be the Elusid, who must be good, gains a modified class skill list and for each skill rank they put in Intimidate, they also gain a rank of Diplomacy…but ONLY for the purpose of making moral arguments. Evil creatures are unfazed. Putting actual ranks into Diplomacy lets them use these as usual – basically, it splits Diplomacy…and is a cool way to depict a rhetorical specialist. This replaces the tower shield proficiency. At 2nd level, elusids gain morale reserve, measured in morale points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier. As an immediate action, an elusid may spend 1 such point to grant himself and all allies within 30 ft. a +1 morale bonus on saves. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the ability codifies multi-target effects properly. 3rd level nets the ability to use this bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks, while 7th level allows for something rather cool, namely penalizing a variety of actions by moral reserve while a foe’s threatened by the elusid; kudos: The pdf managed to cover rules-behavior for actions that constitute as multiple triggering conditions. 11th level lets the elusid use morale reserve to bolster himself against spells and effects with certain descriptors, while 15th level nets the ability to affect multiple targets, while the capstone prevents changes of alignment, as well as being disarmed. The archetype comes with a nice code of conduct…and is a winner. It is interesting, provides meaningful options, has a strong leitmotif and makes for a great mundane, good fighter-face – think Roy from OOTS: The moral compass of the group, with tactics, minor buds, etc. – still very much a fighter, but one that is beholden to ideals without becoming a divine-themed pala. In fact, in a deity-less campaign, I’d consider these guys to be e.g. perfect stand-ins for enlightened humanist martial artists. As a neat plus: Palas that fall can trade in their levels for elusid if they’re still good – in a campaign where the deity turns out to be evil/is corrupted, that can make for an amazing angle.

Giant killers lose medium and heavy armor proficiency and are immune to fear effects caused by humanoids with the giant subtype. Instead of 3rd level’s armor training, these fellows gain scaling bonuses to AC and Reflex-saves while only wearing light armor. Now,, 7th level’s rock evasion interacts with that and also mentions a house-rule I’d strongly suggest pretty much everyone should adopt in one guise or another: 3.X/PFRPG vanilla Rock throwing is wimpy as all hell; either via items, mythic tiers, feats or templates or as a houserule, make them touch attacks that act as ranged bull rush maneuvers. Usually, I’d be weary of such a suggested houserule, but in this case, I can only wholeheartedly applaud it – not only does it make the already pretty wimpy PF-giants more potent, it also enhances the impact of the archetype…and makes sense in game. Oh, and I’ve been playing with basically this by slightly different rules-basics in my home-game forever, so yeah – works!

11th level lets the giant killer move sans provoking AoOs from giants and 15th level nets free overrun, regardless of size, with the scaling bonus added. Additionally, giants felled take damage and 19th level lets the giant killer redirect attacks against adjacent Large or larger creatures. Cool take on the anti-giant specialist.

The immortal would be a racial archetype and must be zendiqi or one of the genasi-races (infrit, oread, sylph, undine); the immortal may not be chaotic and loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. They begin play with the special weapon and tiarah of their brotherhood; the weapon and tiarah are upgraded later and focus the honor of the character; loss is problematic. The weapon allows for pretty early bypassing of a variety of DRs, while the tiarah nets a save-bonuses versus visual, audible, sonic, and language-dependent effects and occupies the head-slot. 1st level immortals are locked into Old Porphyran as a starting language, representing the insular and xenophobic outlook of the champions of the elemental lords. Starting at 5th level, immortals start inflicting bonus energy damage depending on race (genasi) or bayit (zendiqi) with a chosen weapon group, which is later enhanced, while new weapon groups are unlocked. 7th level nets Leadership with another immortal as a cohort.

Janissaries would be up next; slaves trained and conditioned for war, they lose heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gain one firearm proficiency. They treat scimitars as light weapons and may use Weapon Finesse to apply +Dex-mod to damage instead of Str-mod. Additionally, we get Amateur Gunslinger. Instead of bravery, we get save-bonuses representing conditioning. Instead of 7th level’s potential for full movement in heavy armor, we get the option to immediate action attack with specialized weapons when moving in and out of being adjacent to an enemy.

The Itsukami (aka Lone Wolf) is all about using blades as an aggressive means of defense – foes that roll natural 1s may see their weaponry (or bodies) damaged and the archetype nets improved uncanny dodge as well as the option to add weapon enhancement bonuses to AC, with higher levels pulling off the delimiters of blocking edge without breaking it. Next up would be the Meirger’s, who represent mystic warriors. The editing here is a bit weaker than in the rest of the pdf, they can’t decide whether they’re meiriger, merigers or meirgers. The archetype gets a modified class skill list and at 5th level, adds a chosen energy type as bonus damage to attacks with a chosen weapon group. Cool: The ability differentiates between easier resisted and less common energy types – kudos for that and not lumping them all into one group….though I have a rather big issue with positive and negative energy dealing damage to both living and undead, since RAW, vanilla options provide no means to resist either…and there are ramifications for these suddenly affecting creatures that would usually be immune to them on a cosmology-level…so yeah, not a big fan of that decision. The upgrade component of this component has been properly covered.

Next up would be the pawns, who gain decreased starting wealth and only training with light armor and simple weapons as well as regular shields. These fellows begin with a trade (represented by Craft/Profession) as a means to gather information as though using Diplomacy. They also gain an additional trait and may choose more at higher levels. Interesting: They gain bonuses against targets whose CR exceeds their HD – while this is a bit meta-gamey for my tastes, it does convey the idea of the underequipped hero triumphing against the odds. Pawns have good Will-saves – if fighters already get it due to using the global rules, they get more skills per level. We also get a scaling AC bonus instead of armor training and mastery and at 5th level, the option to treat simple weapons as their own weapon group.

Primevals lose martial weapon and heavy armor and shield proficiency, and are only proficient with simple melee weapons as well as dart, javelin, sling and shortbow. They gain claw attacks (properly codified) that scale as monk unarmed attacks – nice: The limitation of iterative attacks for natural weapons is noted. The primeval may add combat maneuvers to crits via immediate actions and later increases the threat-range of the claws; basically, we have a claw/maneuver specialist here, one that makes most sense in conjunction with the suggested maneuver-set-rules, though it does work without them.

Spellfighters get a modified class skill list and gains proficiency in simple and martial melee weapons as well as simple ranged weapons and light armor. The archetype can cast arcane spells sans failure chance in light armor. Kudos: Only works for the archetype’s spells, which are btw. Cha-governed and are drawn from the wizard list, but only abjuration, evocation and conjuration (creation) spells may e chosen and all other spells are not on the spell-list. The spellcasting progression extends to 6th spell level – basically spontaneous spellcasting. These fellows get +2 to concentration, but MUST deliver spells with a range of touch via a mandatory form of spellstrike…and as a balancing tool for full BAB, the archetype can only deliver such spells when hitting regular AC, making touch attack spells behave as basically regular attacks. The archetype also gets the touch spell weapon group and higher levels provide the expected medium and heavy armor upgrades.

The varonis, the final archetype herein, would be a representation of the wandering folk hero: As such, the archetype loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency in favor of an exotic weapon and may use Handle Animal, Survival and Profession to gather information – you know, working and getting info, as noted in many a tale. We also get bonuses to a few skills and initiative while near roads, dodge bonuses while wearing light armor or none and 5th level rewards skirmishing by adding combat maneuver tricks to standard action attacks, an ability that is expanded at higher levels for an actually working combo engine – nice.

The equipment section provides a variant of the healer kit that allows for multiple daily deadly wound treatments (nice); a second variant allows for substituting Fort-saves for Heal, but provides scarification and Wisdom damage…which makes all kinds of sense to me. You know, the drug-heavy field-medic-style kit? Cool! A helmet that can be used for bite attacks (a s a secondary natural attack) and acts as an exotic weapon can also be found; Tinderclubs that may ignite and we get a weapon particularly associated with janissaries, the trench gun. Then, we get weapon modifications…and, as you know, I’m a huge fanboy of Bloodborne, so yeah: Banghammer with gunpowder? Hybrid weapons? That section is really cool and could have carried a pdf of its own, at least in my book.

The feats are interesting: Combat Prudence acts as Combat Expertise for the purpose of prerequisites and allows you to take a -4 penalty to initiative for +2 AC for one combat. Charge/grapple-combo, better bracing, bypassing DR when inflicting unarmed damage in grapples (not a fan of not differentiating between DRs here, scaling ignoring based on HD would have been more sensible)…but I particularly like the feats to make tower shields Pavises, requiring no longer a hand to hold them when thus set up. Crossbow and firearm specialists will relish the option to add Dex-mod to damage with their chosen weapon – kudos: The feat has a neat anti-abuse caveat. We also get Quick Sheathe as a concept done well. No, that is not all here, but yeah – nice section.

The final part of the pdf contains magic items: There would be a longsword that nets you a lesser globe of invulnerability while drawn; we get an interesting special weapon quality to attack foes with cover or shields…but which may only be applied to very light weapons (2 lbs. or less) as a balancing tool and reason to use such weapons. Mass-produced janissary shields are here as well, and we get a quality for AoOs when an opponent rolls a natural 1 on an attack against the wielder, missiles that quell energy…cool. An armor that unveils nearby Stealth-ing/invisible targets and a particular type of immortal tiarah complement this section.

The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good on a rules language level and similarly, for the most part, very tight on a formal level. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks, etc.

The revision of Aaron Hollingworth’s “Fighters of Porphyra” is a vast improvement. Bringing Carl Cramér on board was obviously a good idea: You see, the original file sported a significant assortment of really cool IDEAS, but the execution was pretty problematic; the rules had issues and didn’t manage to capitalize on the concepts. This pdf, then, would be a case study in why I consider developers and rules editors to be the unsung heroes of the roleplaying scene: I checked the original pdf back to back with this one and the improvements, in many of the small components, are MASSIVE. It’s often with minimal incisions, but suddenly, there are properly working, meaningful engine-tweaks that emphasize the concepts of the archetypes. The most significant improvement, beyond the numerous small tweaks that make stuff, you know, work, would be the complete rewrite of the elusid (now one of my favorite archetypes herein!) and the feat-set-concept. Big kudos! The weapon mod section could carry its own book, just fyi.

How to rate this, then? Well, it’s not on the same amazing-levels as Witches of Porphyra, but it is now a proper addition to the series, on par with the quality we’ve come to expect…and it is fun, diverse and makes for a worthwhile set of options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fighters of Porphyra
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Orphic Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2018 04:02:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid of psychic and barbarian clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The orphic gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Starting at 4th level, they gain Charisma-based spontaneous spellcasting, drawn from the medium’s spell-list. They begin play with knacks (I assume drawn from the medium list as well.) and fast movement (+10 ft. movement while not wearing anything heavier than medium armor and not carrying a heavy load) as well as mindcasting and mindrage. Mindcasting allows the orphic to cast spells while mindraging, also allowing explicitly for defensive casting and concentration and overriding the issues that may spring from the emotion component.

Mindrage can be entered as a free action and may be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level gained; temporary increases do not increase the rounds per day. While in mindrage, the orphic gains +4 Str and Con, +2 to Will-saves and -2 to AC so far, so good – bonus types make sense. While in a mindrage, an orphic may use skills and abilities that require concentration. Upon ending the mindrage, the orphic is fatigued, and it is treated as rage, bloodrage and soulrage for the purpose of feat prerequisites, etc. This can potentially result in somewhat weird situations regarding feat-choices and items – personally, I’d strongly suggest limiting that to the barbarian’s rage, unless you’re prepared to make some tough calls. The bonuses are increased to +6/+3…and provides a strong ability: Upon entering mindrage, the orphic may apply the effects of a 2nd level or lower spell with a range of ouch or personal to herself upon entering mindrage; if the duration is greater than 1 round, instead only lasts for the duration of the mindrage – this, however, thankfully still requires spell-slot expenditure. Potent, but the lack of cycling the trick and limited spell levels keep it in check. At 17th level, the orphic is no longer fatigued after mindraging, allowing for novaing spell/rage-cycling – at 17th level, that’s okay, though. The capstone upgrades the benefits to +8/+4 and removes the 2nd level or lower limiter of the mindrage.

2nd level yields uncanny dodge, 3rd level a phrenic pool with ½ class level + Cha-mod points. 4th level nets Logical Spell as a bonus feat, 5th improved uncanny dodge and 7th level provides DR 1/-. This DR increases by 1 at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level nets +4 to Will-saves while mindraging, which explicitly stacks with other bonuses.

6th level nets a phrenic amplification, with another gained every 3 levels thereafter. 12th level unlocks major amplifications.

Where’s the player agenda, you ask? Well, at first level, the orphic chooses a discipline, gaining a discipline power at 1st level, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. These powers may only be activated while mindraging and 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter up to 16th provide a spell dictated by the discipline chosen. Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 9 disciplines for the class.

The first of these would be abomination, which nets dark half as a mindrage modification – this nets a bonus to damage caused with attacks. Minor complaint: You also can choose to inflict bleed damage with spells cast, which scales – while it is evident from the context that this only applies bto spells, the first mention of extra damage does not refer to spells, which makes this slightly harder to grasp than it should be. That being said, the ability is still clear and functional and thus gets a pass. It should be noted that this discipline eliminates the ability to use concentration-requiring tricks while mindraging – so yeah, this tweaks the base playing experience of the class! Nice one!

The discipline also features the option to applying certain spells while mindraging (minor complaint: This does not state that it’s gained as the 4th level discipline power), gaining chaotic resistance to a damage type (you roll a d% and check a small table) and high levels provide rolling twice, SR and finally, fusion with your dark half. The dream discipline has an interesting modification – you lose the AC penalty and become pretty much asleep while mindraging – which is interesting. I do have an issue with the base ability, though: Once per mindrage, you can completely negate any damage taken from a received hit. That’s insanely strong and could allow a level 1 character to negate a hit from a frickin’ deity. I strongly suggest taking a cue from 5e here and instead rolling a die with a scaling bonus, subtracting the damage rolled from that taken. 4th level yields better awareness, with 8th level providing either dream shield or thought shield II when mindraging. Higher levels yield Tiring/Exhausting Critical – minor complaint: The 16th level ability does not properly capitalize the reference to the feats…but the ability is interesting: Foes suffering from their effects are treated as asleep for the prpose of your spells etc. and you may phantasmal killer one such target per rage. The capstone yields illusion and fear immunity and subjective reality while mindraging. Apart from the problematic base ability, this is easily my favorite piece of crunch by Wayward Rogues Publishing so far – the visuals are strong, the theme is excellent and the abilities are mechanically interesting.

The faith discipline requires a deity to be chosen and 1st level nets “the ability to enhance your weapon as a paladin or warpriest.” – which is frankly confusing, for both classes have other abilities that deal with this concept – the orphic treats weapon attacks having either her or her deity’s alignment – that’s it. The reference to other classes muddles the rules-integrity here and should have been eliminated. 12th level provides the alignment-based qualities, with 16th level netting brilliant energy or ghost touch. Interesting: The class gets spontaneous conversion into cure and inflict spells, but may only convert one such spell per spell-level per day, only while mindraging, and they’re not treated as psychic spells, preventing abuse there. Furthermore, such a conversion nets a regain of 1 phrenic pool point. 8th level nets a +2 bonus to saves while mindraging, which increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 8th. At 12th level, 1/day, when reduced to below 0 hp, you can cast heal (italicization missing) on yourself as an immediate action. 16th level nets a prayer-based aura when mindraging and the capstone nets a DR based on your alignment. The wording here is slightly wonky, but functionality is retained.

The lore discipline nets Knowledge skills and Int-mod to atk, CMD and combat maneuver checks, which is bad overkill at 1st level and makes that one much too dippable – double attriute modifiers to attacks should always be treated VERY carefully and this disicplien thus disqualifies itself. 4th level nets the ability to regain a limited amount of phrenic pool points when using divination spells. 8th level nets studied combat at -3 levels, with the limit of one target per mindrage. Cool: While mindraging, you can, at higher levels, counter abilities based on written text and language. 16th level provides limited symbols and 20th level nets free use of spell-trigger and spell-completion items as well as immunity to language-dependent effects…or “written spells effects” – not sure what the latter means.

The pain discipline nets a cool ability: Use swift actions to further damage foes you damaged since the previous turn. Sufficient damage dealt nets regained phrenic pool points – and yes, the ability cannot be cheesed via bags of kittens! Higher levels yield Clarity of Pain and Exorcising Mutilation; 8th level nets lay on hands at -3 levels as well as mercies, but may only target yourself. Beyond that, reflexive damage for mind-probing. 16th level’s agonizing wound has an issue – it allows you to heap debuff conditions on foes, but suddenly references “uses of the ability” for better debuffs – the ability doesn’t have uses per se, though, making that aspect non-functional. The capstone nets immunity to nonlethal damage and pain as well as bonus damage on critical hits.

The Psychedelia discipline is once more very interesting – you “assume”[sic!] – I think that’s supposed to mean “take/ingest or assume a state akin to a drug” a drug upon entering mindrage, decreasing negative effects. Cool: Upon entering a mindrage, you can exude drugs you have at one point consumed; depending on ingestion methods, foes may the be affected by it. Higher levels yield nausea for foes that influence your mind; after that, we get poison/drug addiction immunity at 12th level and at 16th, a hallucinogenic aura. The capstone nets drug-based at-will spells (should be codified as SPs). The discipline may be weaker than others, but its theme and execution are creative and fun – like it!

The Rapport discipline nets basically a collective based on Cha. 4th level nets at-will share memory, 8th and 16th net teamwork feats and 12th level allows you to redistribute damage of those in the emotional bond collective, with a level-based limit. The capstone also nets the option to redistribute a condition. 16th level lets you share Int- or Cha-based skills with your bonded allies. The capstone lets you geas crited foes 1/day and makes the bond permanent, i.e. present even when not in a mindrage.

Self-perfection nets Cha-bonus to AC and CMD while unarmored and unencumbered and lets you regain phrenic pools points when successfully attempting Strength-, Dexterity- or Constitution-based skill checks, which also gain a bonus equal to Charisma-modifier, but only once per mindrage, preventing abuse. Cool: 8th level nets a pool of healing dice, which may also be employed at higher levels to negate afflictions – as an aside: In my own campaign, I used a similar engine as a benefit for the few survivors of Vorel’s Phage – and yes, the plague was MUCH more deadly in my game. I digress. 12th level nets evasion, which upgrades to improved evasion at 20th level and 16th level provides immunity to poisons and diseases. The capstone nets immunity to damage and drain to the physical attributes as well as SR.

Finally, tranquility modifies mindrage to instead provide a +4 bonus to one ability score of your choice, or +2 to two of your choice. Kudos: The ability gets the scaling and bonus distribution options for mindrage upgrades right. 4th level nets Peacemaker as a bonus feat as well as a fitting, expanded spell-list. 8th level nets calm emotions (italicization missing) as a 1/mindrage SP; 12th level nets you the ability to focus on a single foe, gaining bonuses to weapon attacks and damage rolls. 16th level nets immunity to fear and confusion and lets you suppress those effects with allies nearby or in telepathic contact with you. The capstone nets immunity to fear and emotion spells/effects and 1/day psychic asylum. The verbiage here is a bit clumsy.

The pdf concludes with favored class options for the core races, drow, aasimar and tieflings – these generally are okay, though e.g. the drow’s entry is broken: “Gain ¼ resist vs. mental control and fear effects.” – that is not Pathfinder rules-language. The dwarf gaining a full round of mindrage per FCO taken is also pretty strong in comparison.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are much better than what I am accustomed to seeing from Wayward Rogues Publishing – while there are a couple of missed italicizations etc., these issues are not as prominent as usual. The rules-language, for the most part, is intact – there are a couple of instances where a dev could have helped and some balance concerns here and there, but, as a whole, the class is functional. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogues Publishing’s nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. We get basic bookmarks, which is nice…but be prepared for some teeth-gnashing in the comfort-department. Unlike any other 3pp I know of, you cannot highlight or copy text from the file, which means you will have to extract the information by hand, which sucks.

Margherita Tramontano delivers the best hybrid class by Wayward Rogues Publishing I have read so far. The orphic could have easily been an uninspired bloodrager knockoff; in fact, that’s what I kind of expected at first when reading the base chassis. Then, the class actually won me over. While linear, the disciplines allow for meaningful differentiation between orphics and ooze passion: They tackle complex concepts, sport really cool visuals and concepts (Sleepwalking mindrage? Sweating drugs? Come on, those are character concepts just waiting to happen!) and with a few exceptions, the execution is spot-on. I really, really like a lot this class does!

At the same time, the review-bot in me points out that the class does sport a couple of issues in its balancing, has a few components that can be abused...and ultimately, these shortcomings should make me rate this 3 stars. However, what works, and this is the majority of the class, mind you, is really, evocative, fun and shows both care and passion. None of the glitches really are gamebreakers that cannot be taken care of by a good GM. Fixing the few issues the class has is literally a task of 5 minutes for a competent designer.

Which brings me to my final verdict – I really wished that a picky developer or editor had ironed off the rough patches and snafus – the orphic has 5 star-potential and constitutes one of the hybrid classes that has its own identity and playstyle. With the flaws herein, some of which influencing rules-integrity and balance, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars for this – consider the verdict here to be a conglomerate of 5 stars for the effort and concepts and 3 stars for the issues that haunt the pdf. If you are confident you can handle these hiccups, then give this a shot! The orphic is well worth taking a look at! Which is why, for the purpose of this platform, I will round up here, in spite of the comfort detriments.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Orphic Hybrid Class
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Mountebank
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2018 04:34:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class of mesmerist and unchained rogue clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The mountebank gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, kerambit, rapier, sap and sword cane as well as light armor. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves and begins play with consummate liar and hypnotic stare. 2nd level nets Weapon Finesse and finesse training with one weapon group for using Dex-mod to determine bonus damage. 2nd level also nets patter: The mountebank begins prattling away as a move action (maintaining it is a free action) and may maintain patter for class level + Charisma modifier rounds – all spellcasting and SPs within 30 ft. of a mountebank using this ability requires concentration checks to cast. 5th level penalizes this check by -2 and 8th level allows the mountebank to focus on a single target, potentially confusing it.

3rd level nets sneak attack, which increases by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. At 3rd level, the mountebank also gets a variant gaze that causes the target to lose Dex-mod to AC being flat-footed versus the mountebank, and the mountebank only, though this stare needs to be maintained as a move action. 8th level nets a suggestion stare – with a caveat that prevents abuse. At 10th level, the class becomes superb at lying and requires CL-checks from those using magic to coax the truth out of them. 14th level provides slippery mind and 16th level allows the mountebank to not be remembered by those he interacts with. The capstone nets permanent concealment and the ability to target two creatures with a mountebank trick.

The class begins play with one trick and gains another trick every 3 levels thereafter and may implant ½ class level (min 1) + Charisma bonus such tricks per day. The mountebank can implant them at a range of 30 ft. as a standard action, which a Charisma-governed Will-save DC. Trigger range is medium spell range, just fyi. These allows the mountebank to make targets suffer half damage inflicted, for example – big kudos for getting the rules-language right here! Heavily penalizing Sense Motive, causing instant paranoia, fear of the dark, telepathic interrogation, causing the target to be addicted to the mountebank’s presence (!!), implanting hatreds or trust, disguising the target or adding additional damage to the damage the target takes – these are complex rules-operations that handle evocative, really cool tricks and feature e.g. variant mirror images that don’t disperse when hit, etc. – really, really amazing array of options here!

At 7th level, those tricks may be implanted when sneak attacking foes, imposing a penalty to the saves versus the tricks…and even cooler, at 14th level a trick thus implanted does not count against the mountebank’s daily maximum of tricks implanted OR towards the maximum number of tricks that may be maintained at once.

At 5th level, the mountebank may use more concurrent tricks, upgrading the limit to 2, which increases further at 9th level, 13th level and 18th level, though each creature may only be affected by one trick at a given time.

Beyond the tricks, the class has more player agenda to offer, namely the chicaneries – at 1st level, the mountebank chooses one of the 4 chicaneries provided. These represent linear ability gains and provide a combination of bonus feats (with retrain caveat!), 1/day spell-like abilities that are governed by Charisma and act as psychic spells and unique abilities. 6th level provides the option to advance in the chicanery path, unlocking the next ability…or to choose a new chicanery, gaining the level 1 ability there. The paths provide 4 steps in advancement (minor, moderate, major, supreme) and the mountebank gets further advancement options at 11th, 17th and 20th level, which means that full-blown specialization in one chicanery is not expected. Liar’s gambit provides alignment masking and further inscrutable tricks; the grifter’s hustle nets negotiation and intimidation options; cat’s paw specialists are all about Sleight of Hands and Stealing in combat, while those that choose dodger’s strike are Stealth specialists.

Among the feats, there is one option to advance a chincanery, but only if it is one level lower than your maximum advancement – no abuse possible. Exluding allies from patter, gaining an additional trick or selecting from unchained rogue talents complement the meaningful feat options.

The pdf also sports two archetypes: The cardsharp is locked into one chicanery path, but changes its benefits to instead provide Profession (gambler) boosts, fast fingers and the option to form a deck of cards into a +1 keen magical weapon, which may later be enhanced. Instead of finesse training, we get 1/day forcing a target to roll twice and accept a result (+1/day use at 12th and 20th level). Instead of the 7th level trick, the archetype may 1/day as an immediate action roll 1-3 additional dice when making an attack, save or skill check, using the highest die roll, but at the cost of being forced to use the lower ones for a number of consecutive rolls equal to the number of dice chosen – cool!

The second archetype would be the mentalist, who is locked into cat’s paw or liar’s gambit, casting the SPs granted by the chicanery at +1 CL. Instead of consummate liar, they get a boost to Perform and on Bluff/Sleight of Hand checks used as part of a performance. The archetype may use patter to instead sow thoughts, with 8th level allowing for the focus on a target to daze it. Instead of sneak attack, trick attack and improved trick attack, the mountebank gains the option to cast spells as a mesmerist of his level, but only divination, enchantment, illusion and transmutation spells. 4th level nets Psychic Maestro and 10th Psychic Virtuoso, replacing the tricks gained at these levels. 16th level replaces incognito for an illusory double that may perform a physical ability-or skill check – basically a Schrödinger’s situation, where you determine which was real afterwards.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in either formal or rules-language criterias. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color images. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested, detailed bookmarks.

Kendra Leigh Speedling delivers with panache aplomb! The mountebank is a fantastic class – it manages to be recognizable as a hybrid class, while still sporting its very own and distinct identity AND playstyle. The class tackles complex concepts and remains easy to grasp and play while doing so. It sports innovative and fun rules and tricks that no other class can pull off. It plays really well, in spite of the notoriously difficult to fill skirmisher/debuffer role. In short, this represents one of the best, perhaps the best hybrid class I have reviewed so far. The only class I’d consider to be on par regarding this amazing offering would be Purple Duck Games’ Vessel. Yes, that good!

The mountebank is a glorious class; it is inspired, interesting and, most importantly, fun – 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class - Mountebank
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 3421 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG